Friday, December 27, 2013

Best of 2013 in Perfume & Style: A Year in Retrospect

2013 has been a rather good year for perfume though the ennui with the average perfumista is rising, mainly due to the avalanche of perfume launches with no real meaning. This is none less evident than in the state of perfume blogging where business and politics reasons obscure the genuine passion for fragrance. Still, this is a positive post where a bunch of us (you can see them at the bottom of the post linked) team up to list our discoveries of the year, to do a -hopefully helpful- round-up of 2013 in retrospect and highlight what needs to be praised.

The tsunami of releases and the decades in which I'm immersed in the perfume hobby mean that I have not sought out to test out just any perfume release, despite my professional implication in fragrance writing. On top of that there's a difference between respecting vs wearing a specific perfume as we discussed on these very pages and I felt that for once it was important to highlight what really took skin real estate again and again, rather than what was merely wetting my blotters.

So fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be an (interesting, I hope) ride!

Extravagant Splurge of the Year, Decked Out in Swaroviski Crystals No Less

Hedonist by Viktoria Minya. Forget the bling. Forget the brand out of nowhere. Forget everything and concentrate on the juice. It's gorgeous.

(Everyone is praising Amouage Fate, but I haven't gotten round to sampling it just yet!)

All around seal of accolades

Neela Vermeire Creations. Exactly because I am what one can call dyed in the wool, perfumista since the cradle, I never have the urge to try what everyone else is talking about when everyone else is talking about it. This slowed me down in trying out what is one of the most worthwhile perfume lines in niche right now. The fact that its perfumer, Bernand Duchaufour, is spread awfully thin across niche, was another deterrent. Gross miscalculation, though, for all the reasons stated. These are true gems, the latest Ashoka, no less so than the previous Trayee, Mohur and Bombay Bling.

Most Beautiful Niche Scent, Limited Production

Tauer Perfumes Phi, Rose de Kandahar is everything you would want in a unisex niche perfume and more. Soft, silky, balanced in sweetness versus plush, with a suede and almonds background to the limited supply rose de Kandahar essence and a resinous base that sustains itself for eternity, this is a seriously good perfume.

Most gorgeous spicy rose

Majalis by Parfums de Rosine. Rose is not usually my thing, though I appreciate a good blend when encountering it. This is so spectacular, it changed my mind for good. A bottle is in my future.

Brand Discovery of the Year

Sammarco out of Switzerland. You heard it here first. You will remember it when you come up with the wonderful creations and the prized raw materials offered by this small artisanal perfumery.

Honorable Mentions in New Brands

Grand Cuir by Parfums Retro. Although the experience with this didn't go beyond a sample (for practical shipping reasons, not for lack of wanting!) I was impressed by the chameleon quality of this aromatic leather which oscillated between lathery lavender and butch, tough hide. I say, it has legs!

If Grand Cuir is only the first fragrance in the Parfums Retro brand, Scent of Canvas out of Spain has several fragrances all worthy of consideration for the dedicated fume lover. They even do oud in a novel way (imagine that!)

Quirky, Brainy Niche of the Year

GS03 for Biehl Parfumkunstwerke. Very wearable, very intellectual, a modern spin on the idea of eau de cologne which bypasses the usual tropes to reveal something resolutely contemporary.

Intense Florals Lovers Unite

Le Labo presented not one but two worthwhile florals to add to your collection. Lys 41 and Ylang 49 are what the doctor ordered for bouts of white floral hypoglycemia. (Reviews linked.) Lovely!

Best All Naturals

Tie between Moon Bloom by Hiram Green and Cuir de Gardenia by Aftelier. You can read the reviews linked and see. Honorable mention goes to Roxana Illuminated Perfume Figure 1, a really dark opus of patchouli.

Dead Celebrity Harvesting Advertising of the Year

Chanel unearthing the previously unpublished sound document and transcript of a Marilyn Monroe interview to Marie Claire, confirming what had first circulated in Life magazine, namely that No.5 is all Marilyn wears in bed. (Well done, Chanel, you just one-up-ed Dior for their transgression)

Curio News of the Year Vaguely Related to Scent

Air de Montcuq. If you know French, you'll get the joke. If you don't, well, it's toilet humor. :-)

Breakthrough News of the Year as Related to Perfume Authoring

Christine Nagel will (eventually) succeed Jean Claude Ellena at Hermes. But that's not all. Olivier Polge will (eventually) succeed his father at Chanel. Let's see…

Disappointments of the Year

I expected more. I got less than I bargained for. They're not bad (If you want butt-clenching bad, just try Repetto eau toilette!). Just not thrilling enough.

Armani Si
Penhaligon's Vaara

Revealing Interview of the Year

A perfumer divulges just why your favorite niche brands are raising prices all the time and why there are a hundred releases around vying for your attention. It all boils down to perfume marketing (which is not necessarily a dirty word).

WTF? Image of the Year

The prize goes to LM Hard Leather. Need I elaborate?

Artistic Homage of the Year

Passport a Paris by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz (DSH) is a spectacular homage to (vintage, civet-rich) Jicky and the orientalized  mood of the fin de siecle. I'm itching to get my own full bottle.

Valuable Reading of the Year

Without doubt the extremely helpful and elucidating book by industry professional Karen Gilbert, Perfume: the Art & Craft of Fragrance. (There's also an insightful perfume anecdote by Karen posted concerning fragrance budget for the formula, plus I conducted an interview with Karen on this link).

What else I wore this year? (oldies but goodies) 

I wore a hell of a lot my Narciso for Her eau de toilette and Musc Oil ("vintage" version, so good!!), Etro Gomma, Guerlain Parure, Jasminora and Tonka Imperiale, Mohur by Neela Vermeire (the gift of a lovely person), L'Ambre des Merveilles by Hermes, Poivre Samarkande (Hermessence), Impossible Iris by Ramon Monegal and lots of Limon Kolonyasi in the heat of summer!

And on to YOU: What did you discover in 2013? What did you wear most in 2013? What did you hate? 
Let me know in the comments!

Please visit the rest of the participating blogs for more best 2013 lists (the links will be updated wherever they're non specific later on; you can still consult them as they point to the Home page):

Ayala's Smelly Blog
I Smell Therefore I Am
Olfactoria's Travels
The Candy Perfume Boy
The Fragrant Man

Although Portia hadn't been initially included in the project (for reasons of mushy-minded unpardonable negligence) she has posted a Most Worn list I would like to link to. You can find Portia's post on Australian Perfume Junkies here.

And best of all, that's YOU, my dear readers. Although not everyone is commenting all the time, I know you're there and I thank you for enriching my life with all your wise, thoughtful, inquisitive and all around intriguing commentary and emails. I hope that we will be seeing each other through 2014 as well and that the New Year will bring you nothing but joy, love and creativity!


  1. Sniffeuse16:45

    I am mainly thankful for your blog which taught me so much in 2013. I will be visiting regularly in 2014 to shift through all the lovely articles.
    From your list I was pleasantly surprised by PHI. Mr.Tauer gained another fan!

    Thanks for sharing with us all so much of yourself.

  2. Thanks for your list, Elena. Thought-provoking, as always. And yes, it'll be fascinating to watch developments at Hermès and Chanel.

    All the best to you!

  3. I am a big fan of Perfumshrine and never miss a post. You not only write well, E, but also have a unique voice and point of view, so thank you for your hard work. One of my favorite discoveries this year has been the Imaginary Authors line, which is a fun concept with solid scents at a reasonable price. Not earth shattering but Memoirs of a Trespasser has been worn often since September.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Thank you so much Elena! I think your blog is fantastic and am so honored to be chosen in your 2013 Best All Natural!
    xo Mandy

  6. I did not buy so many new perfumes in 2013, I wore Black Cashmir, Bulgari Black, Escada Collection and Vanille Noir, as usually.

  7. Thanks Sniffeuse for your comment and compliments.
    I do hope to see you around!

    Phi really stood out, it's in a league of its own. I also highly recommend Hedonist. ;-)

  8. D,

    thank you for playing and for commenting with such a lovely comment too.

    Well, there is a predetermined course at at least one out of two. But still it will be interesting to watch. ;-)

    I hope that the releases will puff out of gas and that only the worthwhile brands continue to exist. There's hoping!

    Best to you and yours.

  9. Rosarita,

    you're the very embodiment of loyalty, a virtue I prize above others. I sincerely thank you for it.

    Now Memoirs of a Trespasser is a great name too, so the perfume definitely goes on my sample list!

  10. Perfumista,

    if you're not a member of the blogging cotterie come sit by me. You're automatically included in a future project (drop me a line in an email so we can communicate, please). :-)

    I think that after all is said and done, in 15 years' time, we will be still discussing Chanel, Goutal, Guerlain etc. and many of the niche players will be but a far, far memory….Some deserve the Lethe.

    happy new year!!

  11. Mandy,

    high praise from a seasoned professional, thank you!

    I don't usually get excited by renditions of gardenia because the flower is so very beautiful and most fail to capture it satisfactorily, but your composition is so beautiful. It's tropical, happy, dusky too, soft, radiant, all rolled into one….

    HOpe you continue doing what you do and looking forward to the B&W opus.

  12. Hilde,

    as people in previous decades used to say "it's not what you have, it's who you are".

    I believe you have excellent taste and you're right in doing your own thing. Pray continue! And thanks for reading and commenting here, obviously. :-)

    And happy new year!

  13. I loved Parfums Retro Cuir! It's the strangest thing in ways - sweet but feral, a roaring beast of a leather but with a pleasant lavender nod to masculines past? I'm still lemming for a bottle. And the Hedonist, of course. Thanks for inviting me to join the list making.

  14. My perfume passion increased exponentially as did my sample boxes. What I wrore the most was Santal Majuscule, L'Oiseau du Nuit, L'Ombre Fauve, Feminite du Bous, Bois et Musc, MdO's Ambra, Impossible Iris, and Ambre Precieux. I feel a bit bad that I didnt like Hedonist. all my beloved bloggers did but I just have to take a shower every time I am near it.
    Happy New Years darling Elena.

  15. oh goodness, I am so very sorry for my faulty paragraph above. Misspellings, misconstrued sentences, a whole lot of finger mind idiocy.

  16. MIss Heliotrope05:16

    Goodness, I think as one quite new to perfume play I spent this year learning (thank you) & studying those I already had. I think I am becoming more specific about when & why I wear particular scents, although have found myself taking a fridge-cold bottle of 4711 to bed with me when I have a migraine - dunno if it helps, but I feel elegantly fragile.

    Otherwise, the recent purchase (per your review) of a sample of the Tom Ford Black Violet has garnered praise from my long suffering husband in response to the almost daily "what do you think about this one?"

  17. Thank you for inviting me to this blogfest closing 2013. It's been a memorable year and I'm particularly happy to see that Viktoria Minya's perfume is garnering attention. I've met her when she was fresh out of perfumery school in Grasse back in 2009. It must have been quite the journey to get deliver this baby :-)

  18. Heya,
    One of things I most love about the end of the year is everyone's list. It has been super fun running around all your blogs and seeing who I agree and disagree with, why you all thought what and who got the accolades.
    Love how broad you fave list goes.
    Portia xx

  19. Anonymous14:27

    Dear You, so curious about many of your mentions .... Neela's, Phi and Rose de R which I figure I can sniff out sometime, love that you found rarities and Cuir de Gardenia, my personal fave ....... Be sure to take a peek at Barbara Herman's Scent and Subversion, I think you will appreciate it! Xxxx and Bonne Année!

  20. Giovanni19:16

    Thank you very much Elena for choosing me as brand diacovery of the year.
    I'm very honoured from your mention!
    I wish you a wonderful 2014, hoping to meet you somewhere in the new year.

  21. The Sammarco range sounds good enough to waft and drink! If I drink vetiver juice and raise my body temperature will I distill and then waft vetiver from my pores? I guess it would have to be a very hot day.

    Missed the Polge news entirely. I know that I have Bleu buyer's remorse from this crumbling house but I am always happy to climb the Sycomore tree.

    Wearing Moon Bloom right now and still reading across all these lists. They are great holiday reading. Interesting how few 'fumes made it across more than one list.

  22. Helg - you got me a "Jicky" - I am going to see if they will send perfumes to Australia!!! Emailed them already! Ha!

    I got your card - thankyou !!!

    Happier New Year 2014 :)

  23. PHI Rose de Kandahar is my pick for best perfume of the year. I tried Hedonist and it is really well done but it just wasn't my thing.

  24. Anonymous06:23

    I am utterly thrilled for Passport a` Paris to be among your top picks for the year, Elena! Thank you so much for this honor. I hope that you and Perfume Shrine have a wonderful 2014.


  25. Great list Elena and I'm happy to see that we agree on some of our choices.

  26. Brian,

    you're most welcome, your viewpoint is always interesting and I appreciate your candor.

    You know, I want to experiment with Grand Cuir a lot more than I have. I wore it twice while lightly jogging in the sunshine and it bloomed into the most delicious barbershop lavender, very aromatic. In cooler conditions it's hard, tough as nails leather (none of the orientalized vanillic "leathers" around). It's a fascinating beast!

    Ah, Hedonist. I'm lobbying for a travel edition spray for the purse. ;-)

  27. WFTG,

    happy new year honey!!

    Looks like you had a mighty spectacular list of "worns" this year! Chapeau! :-)
    Hedonist for all its brilliance might deter those who do not like rum "stewed fruit" notes, as I got a very boozy vanilla-lactonic quality from it. Your likes leaned more to the ambery side with a side of starchy powderiness, so.…

  28. And no need to apologise! I make typos and small mistakes all the time, rushed as I am when writing with never a checker in place.
    (This is what a good editor is for, I suppose)

  29. MH,

    so glad to hear you have been learning from this site, it warms my heart :-) (I suppose I have the eternal teacher -and eternal student- ingrained in me)

    As to your suggestion of chilled 4711 for a migraine, that hadn't crossed my mind, but now that it has I will definitely try it. I love bracing sharp citrusy scents when feeling any sort of ill.

    Last but not least, I'm EXTREMELY happy the Tom Ford was a success. It's an unsung hero that Black Violet and I'm glad it received the most cherished accolade of them all: the acceptance and cheer of a significant other. :-)

  30. Ayala,

    you're welcome, I wouldn't want you feeling that since the year was adventurous in less than happy directions you didn't have many valuable contributions to make!

    How fun that you two have met. She's a delightful woman and I know you're a delightful individual yourself and it must have been a great occasion. Her Hedonist is definitely a great thing and I can only imagine with how much love and how much care she has directed everything around it. Now, let her know we need a travel purse spray that is less bling too! ;-)

  31. Portia,

    thanks for stopping by!

    I hadn't remembered to invite everyone I respect in this and so I'm holding out to properly doing this jointly with you another time. I did enjoy your list of "most worns" and your humor.

    Seeing how much cross over there is and how few things make it to more lists is an interesting exercise. I bet it should teach niche brands a thing or two too.

    Thanks for the nice words on my list. Something for everyone, eh? :-D

  32. W,

    I think something is in order then! ;-)

    Curios are the salt and pepper of my existence.

    And thank YOU for your nice gesture which was much appreciated.

    Une bonne année a toi aussi! (if only I could do the accent grave properly without having to copy-paste it, I need to learn to do this manually)

  33. G,

    you're very welcome. Now that the word is out, I know you will get the attention your line deserves.

    We will certainly meet one day, I bet we would have countless stories to share. ;-)

  34. Jordan,

    funny you mention that. I don't know if you had read my Musk in Food article from long ago, but Chinese concubines were actually fed musk in order to do just that; waft the scent off their pores.
    So, yes, it's definitely possible. Vetiver can be imbibed (as in vetiver water) though the dilution is high enough that I doubt the sweat and other secretions would be aromatized. It's an interesting experiment to be sure!

    I think the tsunami of releases (even -or should I say mostly- in niche) is to blame for the few perfumes making it to multiple lists. It's statistical reality.

  35. Μ darling!

    So good to hear the post hasn't failed us. :-)
    I meant every word I said.

    I think you should definitely mail Dawn directly (through her site) and let her know that you need this in your life. (Yup, I think you do). She might devise a way to ship to Oz and not charge too high shipping costs.

    Lots of luck and love (you got that latter one already, you're blessed) in 2014!
    All the very best to my favorite trooper!

  36. R,

    it's a glorious perfume, that rose. I think Andy has a smashing commercial success in his hands and I'm seriously bummed it's a limited production only and the Swiss post doesn't allow him to ship big bottles directly.

    No need to love Hedonist! It's great, but no one should feel obliged to love something just because. ;-)

  37. Dawn,

    hello there!

    You're most welcome, I was most impressed. It's lovely, I need to get a bottle.

    Have a happy, creative new year! :-)

  38. Lucas,

    thanks for stopping by. I will drop by and see your own list.

    You know, I hadn't invited everyone I respect this time, maybe we can collaborate on a project in the future, what do you think? :-)

    Happy new year!

  39. But, I did not discovered any new perfume so much I want to buy a FB, but my mum gifted me white Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor, and I love this stuff. I am a sucker fro chypres and aldehydes For me White Diamonds is JPGaultier Classiques diertier big sister.

  40. This is my New Year's Eve celebratory gift to myself: reading you. And it is the best gift I have gotten in ages, as you are fascinating, funny and know everything!
    I bought myself Red by Taylor Swift in January because I liked the bottle and had an Amazon gift card from one of my sons. I loved it as it was "sort of from" him. Hiwever a person who had been kind to us liked it and so I gave it to her. The only other scent I had the chance to discover was The Enchanted Forest by the Vagabond Prince. I loved it and I would love more of it. I would love more Red too.
    Perfume is a special luxury for me and I find everything about it fascinating.
    If you have the chance to see the film American Hustle, look for the part where Jennifer Lawrence discusses the smell of the top coat of her nail polish. I wonder if this will be as entertaining to you as I found it. Maybe it has be said before. But it hasn't been said so bluntly and so amusingly. She is one of the new greats, I think.
    Thanks so much for everything! Epharisto!
    jean xox

  41. Hilde,

    I believe that something with such a great following as WD must have something going for it, beyond the star cachet, I mean. So, enjoy!!

  42. Jean,

    awww, such a wonderful compliment! I thank you most sincerely for it. I promise to not let you down :-)

    Yeah, there's something about Jennifer Lawrence, I like her myself. I am noting down to watch American Hustle (which is news to me, so thanks!). Must be an amusing quote all right.

    And, parakalo (you're welcome)!! (the proper reply to your lovely Efharisto, so sweet of you)

  43. And Jean, how sweet of your son to gift with with an Amazon card. The perfect gift, isn't it? (such selection at the tips of one's fingertips)

    Happy 2014!

  44. I'm a little late to reply to this thread, but I ordered and have been sampling some of your recommendations over the past week. So many good things! I'm new to niche perfume so I'm having a blast branching out. It's a rainy miserable day but I'm loving gs03. Other favorites from the week are Ashoka, Hedonist, and Impossible Iris.

  45. Katherine,

    welcome to the Shrine, one is never late (I check all comments at all times) and thanks for this amazing compliment, this is exactly the kind of comment that encourages me to write. Suggesting things that are actually helpful is a great reward in itself. :-)
    Welcome on this fragrance magical carpet, it's a memorable ride! Enjoy your GS03 and all the rest!


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