Amazing! Another year has screamed by and we’re here again reviewing what made 2011 a stand out year for us. This year was filled to the brim with diverse projects and more exciting events than I can even recount but there are some highlights I’m happy to share. As a perfumer and not really a ‘blogger’ in the sense of being a writer about perfume in the way so many of my friends and colleagues participating in this joint blogging event are, I always find it a bit challenging to come up with a ‘Best of” list. So, I hope that you will enjoy my funny little list. But before I begin, I’d like to thank so many who have made a huge impression on me this year; who have supported my work and others who are producing wonderful works of art and love. This past year a much greater sense of community has grown up in through my own work / creative life and I am eternally grateful for that. I look forward to 2012 and beyond with this new community and feeling of sharing. I felt a tremendous amount of love this year and I just want to say thanks.
So, here’s my Best of 2011 list:
*best natural perfume I smelled this year: Riverwalk by Liz Zorn for the PLAP project. To me, Riverwalk was a lusciously rich and deep chypre creation more so than a patchouli… but who cares? It’s fabulously long-lasting, sensuous and just what I would have expected from my first Liz Zorn experience. ( I loved it ).
*perfume I wish I’d had the chance to sniff but didn’t in 2011: Mona di Orio Oud. Everyone, but everyone(!) loved this perfume and I for one will be on a mission until I get a sample or a decant to enjoy what has been called the ‘end of the story: perfect oud’ perfume.
*vintage perfume discovery of the year: Golliwogg de Vigny. I know… it’s horribly un-PC. It took me YEARS to get over the name and all, but I ultimately came to terms with my discomfort and dove in for the sake of my little museum. I’m so glad I did. While Heure Intime is probably the best known from this house, Golliwogg is the most surprising. It is a wonderfully, *delicately balanced* fougere – eau de cologne with the kind of herbal twists and turns in the topnote that made Francois Coty famous. My apprentice Amber and I have been exploring the variations of this design to our heart’s delight and it never ceases to please. It has that perfect balance of naturals and synthetics mixed with modern and classical elements that make it a sadly forgotten classic. I *love* this scent.
*most fascinating accord of the year: The Osmanthus / Tuberose concept devised by Mandy Aftel and myself for our “Letters” series. When we started out, we were both less than enthusiastic about our choice, but by the end of the design, I found a real simpatico between the notes. The leathery aspects of Osmanthus are coaxed out when paired with the heady, green waxy Tuberose note and if you wish to play on this field, it’s magic. The trick is, as is so often the case, in finding the perfect balance.
*best fragrant flashback moment: Candid by Avon. My mother used to wear Avon’s Candid when I was a small child. I didn’t understand it AT ALL when I was little but I did understand that it was ‘perfume’ which meant something sophisticated, grown up and beyond me. I think it is actually the only green, aldehydic (sort of) chypre my mother ever wore and it made a huge impression on me, although I didn’t realize it at the time. After that, my mom seemed to quickly move on to (and stay) at the fruity – floriental which I did, somehow, understand and with that move *her* perfumes lost all mystery for me.
When I saw and bought this little vintage bottle of Candid for my museum this summer, it was like I was propelled back to that mysterious land of ‘grown-ups’ and what perfume really meant. This time I knew what I was smelling and it solidified in me that love for ‘true perfume’ and the unseen magic that it portrays. (**disclaimer: Candid by Avon is NOT, in any way, a long lost masterpiece of true perfumery. This sense of it’s being “true perfume” is purely idiosyncratic and based on my childhood impression. I think that most might find it, well, lacking. My nostalgia is based on the imagination of a 4-5 year old).
*best new line of perfumes I came across in 2011: Nobile 1942. I had the pleasure of sampling these perfumes at MiN in NYC at the Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2011 and found them all lovely; very traditional and palpably “Italian”. I love that! I loved the traditional use of citrus / fresh eau de cologne topnotes that sometimes moved into leather, others into spice and others staying right there on the Sicilian Coast. So often I shy away after a few samples of a collection finding something that turns me off (hey, I’m picky!) but I really enjoyed each of the scents I tried from start to finish.
*the most fun I had this year with fragrance: creating the bespoke design for Carrie Meredith. I have been creating bespoke perfume from my beginning in 1991 so you wouldn’t think that creating a bespoke design would necessarily be on a list of superlative experiences some 20 years later. But working on an idea forged from the creative mind of Carrie Meredith (of eyeliner on a cat blog) and expressed so beautifully on my blog when she entered my anniversary contest, immediately transported me. So, I was thrilled when random.org chose her as the winner of the perfume creation. Her concept was perfectly designed for a synesthete: a sense of texture was always there and of color and tone. Something sensuous like silk, and a little gauzy, blue-violet-grey, a little melancholy in tone; with dominant violet / orris notes as well as gourmand and animalic underpinnings. The result is launching in January, so you won’t have to wait long to try it. The perfume design came in only a few adjustments because working with Carrie was like having the ‘Vulcan mind meld of Spock’. I felt like I could read her mind and she could read mine; like the perfume alone was a language and we both understood it perfectly. This doesn’t always happen with a client or even a friend for whom you are designing. This experience was easily the most fun I had all year in perfume.
* most disappointing line I tried this year: Jovoy, Paris. I had such high hopes for this collection, as an amateur historian and burgeoning curator of a perfume museum. There are such great historical pieces from this line from it’s former glory days. Sadly, the resurrection of the name and (sort of) bottle are about all that’s fabulous about it. I thought that for the price that they are asking for their perfumes, they could have spent some cash on good materials. The fragrance designs themselves are not bad but it was so evident from smelling these that they would be immeasurably improved if some costly (or not so costly) naturals had been used instead of plasticky synthetics. The presentation is still very beautiful but the juice… not so much.
*best perfume experience of the year: a tie: the PLAP (Peace, Love and Patchouli) and the Clarimonde project. Both Monica Miller (of Perfume Pharmer) and Lucy Raubertas (of indieperfumes) outdid themselves this year in creating two of the most wonderfully creative and enchanting projects of the year.
First came the ‘PLAP’ project, as it became known, in the Summer with a full on competition as to which perfumer could come up with the most creative and enjoyable all natural patchouli fragrance using at least 25% patchouli in the mix. No small feat. And what came from this was a host of incredibly diverse patchouli designs as well as a full fledged community of perfumers and supporters. It was miraculous and something that has stayed with us.
Next came the Clarimonde project in October and as the seasons changed, so did the mood. We got the ‘brief’ which was the short story “Clarimonde” by Th. Gaultier filled with luscious imagery, color, texture, gothic themes, opulence beyond all measure and an otherworldliness that Lucy herself manages to embody in her 21st Century person. Creating for Clarimonde was atmospheric and delightful (even though the perfume itself is quite rich and oriental).
For me, the PLAP project was earthy and sun-filled and Clarimonde was like walking on clouds. Each was pure pleasure and some of the best perfume experiences I’ve had this year or at any other time.
* greatest perfume sadness: the loss of Mona di Orio. I was not fortunate enough to meet this great artist in person as I had wanted to but she has left a legacy of grace, immense creativity and beauty behind her. I am very grateful to at least know her work and hope that she is flying with angels as I write this. Rest in Peace and know you are missed.
Thank you Trish at Scent Hive for organizing this blog event and inviting me to take part. I am glad to continue to be welcomed into the community of perfume bloggers with another wonderful joint blogging adventure:
I hope that 2012 will be an exciting, creative, prosperous and health-filled year for everyone! I am looking forward to incredible new things! oxoxo
Thank you Roxana Villa for the gorgeous image! <3