If I could characterize 2016 in terms of scents to which I gravitated, the main themes would be of comfort and pleasure. Whatever reasons I have to wear perfume, this year I wanted fragrances that soothed, delighted and entertained. I wore plenty of old favorites like Annick Goutal Duel, Papillon Anubis, Serge Lutens Bois de Violette, Frédéric Malle Lipstick Rose, Kenzo Amour, Lolita Lempicka L, Perles de Lalique, and newer discoveries like Azzedine Alaïa.
The perfumes below aren’t “the best of 2016” in an absolute sense, mostly because I didn’t smell all of the new releases and compare them. They are my highlights, fragrances that stood out on the crowded store counters and that I wore enough to learn their nuances and quirks. I’m sure I missed some gems, but in that case I look forward to discovering them in your lists. Please share your favorites of 2016 with us.
Also, Andy and I couldn’t help sharing some of our favorite teas.
Victoria’s 2016 in Perfumes and Blue Teas
An elegant rose with a touch of saffron and dark woods. Galop was the first major launch from the new Hermès in-house perfumer Christine Nagel. If that’s the start of a new phase, then I anticipate more interesting things arriving in 2017.
Hermes Neroli Doré
Another Hermès I fell in love with, but this time it’s a Jean-Claude Ellena creation (the original in-house perfumer at Hermès.) On the face of it, Neroli Doré is a simple orange blossom cologne, but a bitter green twist with a touch of spice gives it color and energy. It also lasts for several hours without losing its vibrancy.
Honey, woods, leather and patchouli. The curious aspect of L’Envol is its transparency and radiance. In spite of such a rich palette, it soars.
Not a novel perfume in itself, but this Eau de Toilette version is the closest to the original J’Adore. And that’s a good thing.
Antonio Alessandria Fleurs et Flammes
Some of the most interesting niche perfumes this year came from Italy. I wrote about Rubini and Antonio Alessandria Parfums for the FT (Italian Perfumes That Are Wearable Art), and I wore Alessandria’s Fleurs et Flammes obsessively. It’s an old school grand parfum, and those are an endangered species today. It’s the olfactive equivalent of a Baroque painting–saturated, dramatic, with numerous layers, from white flowers to smoky woods. (Fleurs et Flammes was created in 2015, but it finally reached my shores this year.)
Kilian Moonlight in Heaven
An utterly comforting blend of rice, coconut milk and toasty notes. The idea was to recreate the creamy richness of the famous Thai dessert of mango and sticky rice. It’s more abstract than edible, which makes it even more intriguing.
I liked Boy less because it was “a new fougère for women” (not such a new idea), but because it had an airy, bright presence. A delicate perfume with a bold sillage sounds like a contradiction, but Olivier Polge succeeded with such a challenge.
Shalini was created in collaboration between perfumer Maurice Roucel and fashion designer Shalini Kumar several years ago, but in 2016 this bright tuberose was relaunched. It gave me a chance to revisit it and recall how wonderful big, opulent florals can feel on a cold winter day.
Mariage Frères Yuzu Indigo Tea
Green Japanese tea leaves mixed with blue butterfly pea flower and yuzu zest. The taste is seaweed like, with a piney-citrus note, and the color is the vivid shade of turquoise. One of the most unusual and visually beautiful teas I have tried. A complete sensory experience in a cup.
Estonian Blue Lagoon Tea
Do you see a blue pattern here? I have been mesmerized by sapphire tinted drinks ever since I sampled the blue mallow tea in Tallinn two years ago, and I was happy to discover the source. The Estonian brand Põhjala Teetalu has several mixtures, but their Blue Lagoon, a mallow and mint combination, is my favorite. You can approximate it by blending blue mallow flowers and dried spearmint. My choice for an evening tisane.
Andy’s Year in Scents and Tea
This year, my perfume tastes leaned squarely in favor of the scents that could bring me immediate comfort and reassurance. This meant frequent wearings of Prada Amber Pour Homme, with its tasteful soapy tones, and Clinique Aromatics Elixir, my top pick for a potent dose of beauty. Following me throughout the entire year, Houbigant Iris des Champs revealed itself as easy to wear and elegant, a must try for lovers of fragrances with a strong iris note that occupy a classical vein. And while I can’t claim to have kept up with new releases this year, I appreciated Diptyque’s new Eau des Sens, an orange blossom cologne with a twist that projects well on me.
Tea and Bath
Some of my very best fragrant discoveries this year came in the form of new teas and other sundry pleasures. Its absurd name aside, Kusmi BB Detox is a delightful, grapefruit scented mix of green tea, rooibos, mint, maté, and other herbs. Aztec Spice, an Art of Tea pu-erh blend with a deep cocoa flavor and a surprising hit of chili pepper, was an unconventional, unexpected favorite as well. Of course, the best discoveries are serendipitous, so I was delighted during a recent hit of kitchen inspiration to create a tea that reminds me of Guerlain Mitsouko, with little more effort than a rummage through my tea and spice collections (a discovery I plan to share, for any curious readers).
And in the shower, I loved using Panier des Sens Tubereuse Étoilée soap, followed by a slathering of Kiehl’s Original Musk Body Lotion, a moisturizing formula that works well for layering under many fragrances.
Elisa’s 2016 Favorites
All my favorite purchases this year were vintage, not ancient vintage but old enough to feel special –Annick Goutal Heure Exquise, Chanel Bois des Isle and Cuir de Russie, Estée Lauder Knowing, Hermès 24 Faubourg, and Yves Saint Laurent Paris and Opium. These older perfumes with their pronounced aldehydes, galbanum, and oakmoss have been some of my most worn this year. (I wrote more about these retro classics here.)
As for new releases, once again, I hardly kept up, but my favorites were all on the affordable side, either indie or mainstream: Elizabeth & James Nirvana Rose is a dry and earthy rose that doesn’t change the game but smells very niche; it’s the kind of rose you don’t usually find at Sephora. Sonoma Scent Studio Equestrian is rich, golden, slightly boozy, and has quickly become my favorite apple scent.
The insanely affordable Sarah Jessica Parker Stash is (I got a gift set at Ulta that includes a 30 ml bottle, a 2 ml rollerball and a body cream for $40!) is an intense woody-musky unisex scent that would be right at home on the Serge Lutens counter; it smells surprisingly dirty and delicious (I can really pick up on the pistachio note).
Theirry Mugler Angel Muse is another great nutty scent, adding citrus and Nutella notes to the basic Angel structure. And Tom Ford Orchid Soleil is another mainstream release that really surprised me in context. Tropical florals are a dime a dozen, but this one is seriously funky in the top notes, with aspects of menthol and wintergreen that remind me of Andy Tauer’s recent tuberose and gardenia scents, and a super-warm and inviting drydown.
Patricia’s Chanel Themed Year
My mirror-topped tray covered with my Chanel collection of bottles, decants, and minis saw heavy action this year. I took advantage of the 20% off Sephora sale this fall and bought a 35-ml. bottle of Chanel No. 5 L’Eau. It was the only 2016 release I purchased this year and arguably has both feet firmly planted in the past, albeit with a modern twist.
Another Chanel purchase this year was Coco EDP. The EDT was a signature scent of mine for several years straight in the nineties, and its warm spicy richness is just starting to appeal again.
On the other end of the warm to cool spectrum, I acquired a new bottle of Cristalle EDT and scarcely recognized it, as it has none of the oakmoss and galbanum goodness of the pre-reformulation. It is much closer to the tamer Cristalle Eau Verte, a summer staple. Fortunately I still have some of the old Cristalle to remember her with.
Another 2016 favorite has been Geisha Vanilla Hinoki by Aroma M. I’ve already almost finished my second small sample and may have to spring for a full bottle in 2017, for the beautiful bottle design if for no other reason. This perfume starts out large and fruity. Someone compared it to a citronella candle, and I can see the similarity, but it quickly settles down into an abstract, woody, nonedible vanilla with a haunting quality that keeps me coming back for more. As I’m not fond of sweet, sickly vanilla fragrances, this one is a perfect fit with its zen-like ability to calm during the stressful holiday season, and I’ve worn it often this December.
Best wishes for a happy holiday season. May 2017 bring peace to the world and to all of the Bois de Jasmin family.
Please share with us your 2016 highlights! We wish you a wonderful New Year.
Photography by Bois de Jasmin