I'm told 'busy' is now the word we most commonly use in response to 'How have you been?' (apparently just saying 'Very well' smacks of some kind subversive, trouble-making, rat-race-denying laziness), but it's difficult for me to find another way of describing the last 12 months. Still, as I always point out to friends, there's 'good busy' and there's 'bad busy', and I like to think that I've had more of the former than the latter. Certainly, Persolaise.com and all its satellite activities have kept me occupied. In addition to all the reviews and articles here, I created a channel on YouTube, I started a series of broadcasts on Facebook Live and I even managed to take my love of perfume and movies to BBC Radio 4's Film Programme.
I find all this particularly interesting in light of the fact that there seemed to be fewer fragrance releases about which to get excited this year. Generally speaking, most brands continued to play it safe in 2017 (look at how many high-profile, independent names chose not to release anything) with much streamlining of collections and consolidation of portfolios. It's still a tough world out there.
However, this is the post where we put negativity aside and we celebrate all that's wonderful about our obsession with scent, so without further ado, here come the 10 best perfumes of 2017 (with a sneaky +1) according to yours truly. The usual caveats apply. I cannot claim to have sniffed every single creation released this year - and many of the scents I tried for the first time in 2017 actually hit the market several years ago - so it's worth bearing in mind that the list below has been put together based on what was new to me.
I can't let the year end without thanking each and every one of you for all your support and encouragement. I continue to enjoy a tremendous level of interaction with the readers of this blog, but it's also been amazing to meet and chat with new followers through Facebook and YouTube, and I want all of you to know that your enthusiasm makes all the long hours I spend on Persolaise worthwhile. Thanks very much for being the best audience in the world!
Here comes the list...
Nuit De Bakélite from Naomi Goodsir (Isabelle Doyen)
Just when you thought there was nothing more to be done with tuberose, along came Isabelle Doyen to work her magic and convince you that you were smelling the tempestuous flower for the very first time. Creamy, bitter and green in equal measure, Bakélite was one of the year's undisputed spellbinders.
Guilty Absolute Pour Homme from Gucci (Alberto Morillas)
This rocket-fuelled combo of patchouli, cypress and leather was the last thing I expected to find in a mainstream masculine this year, but there it was, beneath the double-G logo, daring us all to doubt its power. A wholly unexpected triumph.
Une Amourette from Etat Libre D'Orange (Daniela Andrier)
In her first fragrance for the brand, Andrier proved that she still possesses tremendous range by stroking various wood materials into submission and arranging them into an unmade bed of lusty indulgence. I guess the mix of her talent with ELDO's inherent naughtiness was bound to make sparks fly.
L'Eau from Tauer Perfumes (Andy Tauer)
The aptly named L'Eau is like a steam bath on skin, using delicate citruses and enveloping musks to surround the wearer in a cloud of lung-filling optimism. Deceptively simple and almost impossible to dislike, it's one of Tauer's best for years.
Elements Of Man - Strength from Ermenegildo Zegna
Tobacco may be an easy sell for scentusiasts - all that delicious, honeyed, hay-like earthiness - but it's showcased exceptionally well in Strength, with a clever injection of tart apricot at the top and square-jawed woods in the base. Italian sophistication at its best.
Naias from Sammarco (Giovanni Sammarco)
It's never easy to evoke vintage glamour and retain a clear, 21st century relevance, but Sammarco pulls off the feat with aplomb in Naias, an endearing take on fruity violets, rooted in sandalwood, amber and an all-embracing enjoyment of life.
Naja from Vero Profumo (Vero Kern)
Seemingly incapable of putting a foot wrong, Kern delivered yet another winner with Naja, her olfactory meditation on shamanistic rituals through the centuries. Centred around an almost hypnotically clean tobacco note, it shows the perfumer at her gutsy best, not least when that perplexing marine-melon note keeps appearing. Suitably mind-bending stuff.
Wolfsbane from Parfums Quartana (Philippe Paparella-Paris)
Quartana's concept of basing perfumes on poisonous flowers reaches its most bewitching heights in Wolfsbane, a cackle-dry brew of absinthe, tuberose and leather. Wearing it, you realise with absolute certainty that this was the last smell in Snow White's nose before she bit into that apple.
Hot Cologne from Mugler (Jean-Christophe Herault)
In keeping with the Exceptions' mission to skew familiar forms with a novel twist, Mugler and Herault took the age-old structure of the eau de cologne and brought it straight into latte-sipping hipsterville territory with a shot of coffee. A striking piece of work, but be warned: its full effect is discernible only on skin.
Bruma from Trudon (Antoine Lie)
With Lie's characteristic expertise, Bruma summons an array of binary opposites - hot/cold, soft/hard, light/dark - and turns the territory where they all meet into a mysterious zone of iris, labdanum and vetivert. A gorgeous study in contrasts.
In addition to the above, a special mention of...
The Night 'الليل' from Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle (Dominique Ropion)
I still feel guilty about the fact that this never made it onto its rightful Best Of list (ie the one for 2014) so I decided to give it a mention here. Yes, even an anaesthetic-free tooth extraction wouldn't match the painfulness of this stuff's price tag, but money matters aside, it is without question one of the finest marriages of rose and oud I have ever had the pleasure to wear. A genuine tribute to Arabian perfumery, it sees Malle and Ropion at their most intelligent, their most respectful and their most inspired.
As 2017 saw my perfume writing take me back to one of my first loves - cinema - I thought I'd also share my favourite films of the year (in the order in which I saw them):
Silence (dir. Martin Scorsese)
Lady Macbeth (dir. William Oldroyd)
Frantz (dir. Francois Ozon)
Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan)
God's Own Country (dir. Francis Lee)
The Work (dir. Jairus McLeary & Gethin Aldous)