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Friday, December 30, 2011

Best of 2011

It's that time of year again, where we look back at the scents that grabbed us by the lapels in 2011!

This year was a year of classical perfumery. My persistant favourite, my alter ego, my holy Grail of perfumery is Chanel No. 22. It was already the fourth time that I celebrated my birthday with it. Every year I'm being amazed by this permanence, almost abnormal for parfumista. This year I wore a lot of Caron, Guerlain and Vero Profumo. Along with the long-beloved Tabac Blond, I discovered An Avion. And added Vol de Nuit and Mitsouko to the pantheon of beloved Guerlains. It was a good year!


My favorite perfume of 2011 was undoubtedly Tom Ford's absolutely delectable Violet Blond. Yes, it's a throwback to the big blowzy scents of the 80's, but I loved those times,partied hard during them and lived to tell the tale! Violet Blond manages to be incredibly sexy and ladylike at the same time and just so much fun! Think Jerry Hall draped all over Bryan Ferry or Lisa Taylor modeling a Halston sheath and you've got the vibe. Notes of Violet leaf, Orris butter and suede (among other things!) make this perfume stunning and original with plenty of hedonistic arrogance to spare. You owe it to yourself to try it, but be careful. Whereas a little bit of Violet Blond is fabulously intoxicating, one spray too much is the olfactory equivalent of an opium infused hangover!


My favorite new perfume launched in 2011 is Mona di Orio's Oud. At 375€ this is steeply expensive, but after smelling it just once, I was immediately moved to buy a bottle (and split it later, a girl's gotta stay real!). But Oud captivated me in an instant.

Oud, the fabled rotten wood, so ubiquitous and therefore fake in so many fragrances these days, is real in this perfume and treated so ingeniously, I couldn't resist its allure and power, although I normally count oud among my least favorite notes. Oud is paired with osmanthus, the sweet apricot- smelling white flower from China, and together they sing a duet of sublime clarity and beauty that stays with me for the entire day.

Mona di Orio tragically passed away on December 9, the entire perfume community was shocked and saddened and is still grieving for her. We are glad for the legacy she left in the form of her perfumes, and Oud especially stands out for me as the one perfume that bewitched me most, with its masterful structure and sublime beauty.

Oud is a masterpiece that, for me, is worth every cent.


My choice for best fragrance launch of 2011 is actually two – the delectable duo of Nectar des Îles and Vents Ardents from En Voyage Perfumes. This might seem like cheating, but they were actually formulated to complement each other; Vents Ardents, composed by Shelley Waddington, is a rich blend of tropical fruits, bay rum, tobacco and woods while its companion is a tropical style white floral that was created using a range of musks that were selected for their known ability to enhance fruity notes, according to perfumer Juan M. Perez, so that blending them together would result in a something greater than the sum of its parts, and that is exactly how it turned out. Each one is wonderful on its own, but when they are layered on the skin, true magic is made as the exotic notes in Vents Ardents amplify the radiance of the florals in Nectar des Îles and that one in turn brings out the luscious fruitiness of its counterpart. I don’t usually do much perfume layering but these two were literally made for each other and I just can’t get enough.


My favorite from 2011 (not sure when it came out but it was new to me) would have to be C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries Lemon and Orange Flower No.1807, eau de parfum.  This is a simple concoction of Italian lemon and neroli.  No, it doesn't last that long but I get a couple of hours from the eau de parfum.  It is so sunny and fresh and natural smelling that it was one of the few things I had to buy after smelling it for the first time.


Thai Encens by Oriscent

2011 saw the birth of dozens of oud “perfumes” but the scent that won “Best in Show” is Oriscent’s Thai Encens, a limited artisan distillation from incense grade plantation grown wood- proof that oils extracted from cultivated trees can be every bit of good as their “wild” counterparts. Many women dismiss pure oud as being too masculine or over-the-top funky. Thai Encens could easily be mistaken for a blended natural perfume in which fruit, flowers and woods vie for wearer’s attention. The scents of juicy apricots and heady champaca, the warm spiciness of Sumatran cinnamon, and the soothing, sublime and elegant aura of illustrious green  kyara, combine to create a perfume that is as sensuous as it is other-worldly. The seductive bouquet wafting from the ‘Joy perfume tree” effortlessly fuses with the soothing calmness of sacred woods.  An ethereal, breezy, almost minty lightness drifts between and fuses these distinct yet complimentary accords. Hats off to Oriscent, not only for producing such a mesmerizing perfume, but also for supporting businesses that seek to provide a sustainable source of agarwood while enhancing the quality of our environment.

And best wishes to you, too, for a very Merry Christmas and a happy productive and dream-fulfilling coming year.


This year, I felt I have come full circle in many aspects of life, and most certainly in regards to fragrances. When I starting on the path of perfume obsession, Farnesiana was the first scent I Loved. Not liked, not loved, but Loved. And, paradoxically, it might have been its harmonious beauty and the way it resonated with me, which sent me on the search for smells just as beautiful. And you know what? There were plenty. But none touched something in my soul the way Farnesiana did. I should have remembered the words of Meister Eckhart, "when you come to the One that gathers all things up into itself, there your soul must stay." On the other hand, had I realized back then I already had my Holy Grail or my Signature Scent or whatever one could call it, stayed with Farnesiana and looked no further, I wouldn't have discovered Chanel No 22 or Diorama to name just a few. And probably wouldn't have ended up being where I am, doing what I do, knowing what I know. So here is to Farnesiana


There were several tough contenders for the top spot this year, and I find myself torn between two--Mona di Orio's glorious Oud Eau de Parfum Intense, and Andy Tauer's freaky yet comforting Pentachords White. This was a year of too many new perfumes (officially, 2,000, but probably more like 3,500), yet there were some truly original standouts, and these are my two favorites. They are both gorgeous and unique.


While there were quite a few "best of" contenders this year that ranged from the pricey but irresistible Puredistance M to smell bent Debonair Eau Dandy which is the way I remember Eau Sauvage smelling in the seventies long before I was born.  You're buying that, right?  In any case I think I have to give the tip of the chapeau to Fleurage in general and in particular to their scent Salamander.  It might not have been created in 2011, but that's when I discovered it.  I reeeeaaalllyyy hope that LuckyScent starts carrying this brand in the States.  It's that good. 

Of course. like the rest of us I hope that all of you have a wonderful 2012 and will chime in on your Greatest Hits of this past year.

For more looks back at 2011 please visit  Perfume Posse, Bois de Jasmin, Now Smell This, The Non-Blonde and Grain de Musc.


Anonymous lady jane grey said...

Marina, Farnesiana was my beginning with PST (back in 2007 ?) - I just started to read your blog, which made me turn more & more to niche perfumery. I still remember how I first bought a sample of Farnesiana and then I went to a "perfume shrine" in Lyon ( a tiny shop choc full of the best scents ever...) to buy the "real thing" (decanted from one of those enchanting amphoras from Caron)...
Thank you, dear !
And all the best for 2012 - love & peace.

5:08 AM EST  
Blogger carmencanada /Grain de Musc said...

I'm embarrassed to say I've smelled almost none of these selections, my excuse being that none of the brands seem to be available in Paris... But I'm with Marina on Farnesiana, which was my signature scent more years ago than I care to say. It stands firmly between Habanita and Une Fleur de Cassie in my hall of fame!
A happy New Year to you all!

11:28 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

I remember you when you loved Farnesiana! Wish I could see you (and the growing young man) sometime soon. Happy New Year, in any case!

And I seem to be stuck on Ormonde Woman, Tabac Blond, Tauer L'Air.

1:13 PM EST  
Blogger Alyssa said...

As always, a gorgeous and unusual list from you wonderful people. And I STILL haven't smelled Farnesiana. Must. Rectify.

3:51 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm ashamed to say, I still have not smelled Farnesiana either. At least I'm in great company... (Hi, Alyssa! ;) )

It was lovely to read about all your favorites.

Marla, I suspected we'd choose the same one this year. :)

4:58 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Birgit, we are scent twins for sure, and I'm happy about that.
Marina, Farnesiana is a goddess and bless her- I remember when I took my first sniff of the vintage version in Roja Dove's boutique!

6:50 PM EST  

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