Friday, 28 December 2018

The Best Perfumes Of 2018 - Nostalgic Defiance


Last December, while composing my usual list of the best perfumes of the year, I wrote that most brands chose to play it safe in 2017. I don't think 2018 presented me with much cause to change that assessment. If anything, it was the mainstream sector - rather than the indie world - that permitted itself to cultivate a few buds of bravery, granting marginally larger budgets to some releases and making a tentative move to abandon certain exhausted cliches. That said, the perfume world remains in the grip of the same forces that maintain a restrictive hold over many global business operations and, consequently, compel decision-makers to follow the path of least resistance towards the easiest options on offer.

Some would argue that those restrictive influences aren't making their presence felt at the very top: according to many reports, sales of the most 'high end', most expensive fragrances displayed healthy growth this year. And if that's true, then it's yet another neat reflection of the wider picture: the gap between the two poles of 'western' society continues to widen, prompting fears about the collapse and disappearance of what once felt like a safe middle. Certainly, the fragrance industry remains fascinating to watch, and even though 2018 didn't give us any headlines about high-profile acquisitions or brand bankruptcies, I would say a few interesting developments aren't too far away.

But what about the perfumes themselves? As ever, once the year's olfactory plonk was dismissed and poured down the drain, the number of commendable creations left standing was more than respectable. Olivier Polge brought a sense of streamlined ease to Chanel with Paris-Biarritz. Quentin Bisch added a new chapter to the tale of modern chypres with his endearing Nomade for Chloe. The folks at Acqua Di Parma bottled an irresistible Italian sun in Chinotto Di Liguria. To mark the twentieth anniversary of the original Cartier Declaration, Mathilde Laurent presented a suitably more statesmanlike, parfum version. Tom Ford offered a chuckle-inducing time-warp to the past with Fougere Platine. The irrepressible combo of lime and verbena sparkled with Mediterranean vigour in Goutal's Bois D'Hadrien. And the re-invention of Miller Harris entered a delightfully spiky phase with the appearance of the nettle-infused Wander Through The Parks. Excellent creations all... but they haven't made it onto my Top 10.

I'll leave you in peace to read the list in a moment, but if I had to sum it up in a few lines, I suppose I'd say that it's defiant. For one reason or another, all the scents on it feel like a statement of intent: a refusal to descend into the soup of banality. Tellingly, in many cases, this means resorting to retro styles. But not in all. Some of the compositions below feel like a genuine gaze into the future: a desire to capture and pin down a glimpse of what hovers in the distance and might one day come to be.

And that seems like an ideal note on which to say a sincere, heartfelt and joyful thank you to all of YOU - my dear readers, viewers and followers - for your wit, encouragement and support this year. I learn so much from you and I am always touched and grateful when you take the time to contact me, either through this blog, or on social media or by email. Long may our conversations continue.

I wish you nothing but good health and happiness for 2019. Oh, and plenty of perfume too, of course.

Here comes the Top 10... as ever with the caveats that: a) I did not smell every single thing released in 2018, and b) the list was drawn from what was new to me in the last twelve months (ie pre-2018 creations I first tried last year were eligible for inclusion).

[NOTE: The 'live' video version of this list will be added to this post as soon as it's available on YouTube. UPDATE: Scroll down for the video or click here to watch it on YouTube.]

Cardamusc by Christine Nagel for Hermès
When Christine Nagel revived the Hermessence range, she did so with all the style and elegance for which she’s rightly renowned. The finest of the quintet she added to the collection was, without doubt, Cardamusc: a time-slowing, heart-capturing embrace between the vivacious coolness of cardamom and the come-hither glow of modern musks.

We’ve come to expect a riot of multi-sensory stimuli from Neela Vermeire, but with Niral, she outdid herself in that particular regard, presenting iris and violet against a rosy-sandalwood backdrop of the most vivid hues this side of Juhu Beach. With scents like this, who needs tinted sunglasses.

The fact that this is unashamedly an update of Almairac’s own Gucci Pour Homme from 2003 doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be allowed on the list, because encountering - and then wearing - its precision-engineered balance of incense, pepper, cedar, amber and oud was one of my most memorable olfactory highlights of the year.

The greens, mosses and narcissus-like florals of classics from yesteryear made their presence felt in the summer-in-a-forest delights of Dryad, Liz Moores’ most assured and confident composition so far. A dream-laden sunset you wish you could relive for days.

Proving that modern chypres can be commanding, sophisticated and surprising at the same time, The Tycoon presents an agenda that ranges from galbanum to castoreum - with brief items on magnolia and oakmoss - before throwing it all out of the window and insisting that everyone takes the rest of the day off. Assertively fun-loving.

The trend towards futurertro aesthetics in several recent releases found its most endearing and satisfying form in Creative Director Christopher Chong’s Imitation duo. The male version dressed up a hairy-chested patchouli with a gloriously weird leather-violet accord, while the feminine iteration channeled candle-wax aldehydes through blackcurrant and a delightful, vintage-inflected ylang. Despite their name, these are two of this year’s true originals.

With characteristic disregard for fashions and popular tastes, Tauer waited years before giving us his take on oud. But unsurprisingly, when he did, the result was notable for the integrity and lack of ostentation that have won the Swiss perfumer so many fans. Like a back-to-basics primer, L’Oudh ignores all alleged competitors, showcases its star material’s key facets (minus pungently fecal notes) and then throws down the gauntlet to most other scents claiming to contain agarwood.

Inspiration, name and execution all align in this suitably angelic presentation of leather, wherein the material is lifted up to some distant comet’s tail thanks to the help of pepper and ambrette. Plus, it proves that Bisch remains a talent to watch.

Perhaps the most heartwarming of Ostens’ deliciously geeky releases is this take on nostalgic comfort from Dadier. Using tobacco to form a bridge between galbanum and cedar, it is part a trip into a freaky, Hansel & Gretel fairy tale, part a magical day spent at your favourite grandparent’s. In other words: enchanting.

Although its Burj Khalifa price tag may mean few end up smelling it, The Dawn could possibly turn out to become the final word on modern perfumery’s insistent use of woody-amber materials in masculine scents. Here - beneath the canopy of a leathery oud - they’re presented with finesse, restraint and more than just a hint of danger. It may be The Dawn, but I’m not sure it’s inviting anyone to get out of bed any time soon.

Happy new year!

Persolaise


Sunday, 23 December 2018

Christmas Wishes 2018 & Persolaise Love At First Scent Episode 24 Now On YouTube - featuring Opus XI from Amouage and Vero Kern Tribute


The 24th episode of Love At First Scent - originally broadcast on Facebook on 21st December - is now on YouTube. You can watch it below or by clicking here. In this instalment I covered:

Opus XI from Amouage (at the start of the video)
Impression Cedarwood Heart from Ostens (at the 18:00 minute mark)
Cuir Celeste from Ex Nihilo (at the 42:50 minute mark)

and the classic scent was
Onda from Vero Profumo
in order to mark the sad passing of Vero Kern (at the 33:30 minute mark)

Finally, if you celebrate Christmas, please accept my sincere wishes for a joyous, peaceful and tranquil festive season. And if you don't... well, I'm more than happy for you to share in the wishes.

Please try to tune in to Facebook Live on Friday 28th December at 3:30 pm UK time (10:30 am New York, 8:30 pm Dubai) in which I present my list of the top 10 perfumes of the year. This will immediately be followed by the publication of my traditional 'best of' post here on Persolaise.com

Enjoy the feasting!

Persolaise



Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Persolaise Review: Niral from Neela Vermeire Creations (Bertrand Duchaufour; 2018)


In recent weeks, I’ve had cause to think about Apres L’Ondee and the famously heartbreaking manner in which it combines iris and violet. With that seamless magic peculiar to perfumery, the Guerlain classic sees both materials augmenting each other’s characteristics and concealing some of their more dubious traits: the iris becomes less austere thanks to the youthful exuberance of the violet, which itself becomes less cloying because of the seemingly magnified woodiness of the iris. It is, without question, one of the most compelling interplays in scent creation. So it was with great delight that I discovered it in Neela Vermeire’s new Niral, composed by Bertrand Duchaufour.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Persolaise Mini-Reviews: August to September 2018 [part 2]


For more mini-reviews, please click here.

Mr Burberry Indigo from Burberry (Francis Kurkdjian; 2018)*
When you’ve spent 10 days crawling through a desert, even the muddiest water is refreshing. Enter: Mr Burberry Indigo - a modest oasis in an endless Sahara of masculine perfumery. Understated, cucumber-saline opening. The minty-lime-leafy air of Fahrenheit 32. A (relatively!) well-judged base of ambery woods and mosses. Nothing we haven’t seen before. But asking for originality in mainstream scent creation for men feels like utter lunacy at the moment, when you can rarely even find pleasantness. Drink the water wherever you find it.

Luna Rossa Black from Prada (Daniela Andrier; 2018)*
When you’re a person of the male persuasion and you don’t have access to a wide range of fragrance releases - or your budget is a touch on the restrictive side - you take your scented blessings where you can find them. Cue: the new Black version of Prada Luna Rossa. Let me be clear: this is yet another variant of the citrus-woody-amber theme that has become more ubiquitous than pouts in selfies and threatens to plunge the whole of masculine perfumery into the corner of hell reserved for those tree-shaped air fresheners so beloved by car wash companies. That said, it tries to inject some vitality into the genre in the form of a liquorice note - perhaps achieved by a combo of angelica and tonka bean - which lends proceedings a suitably saturnine air of darkness. It’s an idea reminiscent of the now discontinued Kokorico from Jean-Paul Gaultier (2011), a scent whose influence I’ve detected in a few recent releases, as it happens. I daren’t allow myself to see this as a sign that brands have finally decided to shake things up a little on the boys’ side of the shop floor. But we live in hope.

Eau De Givenchy from Givenchy (Francois Demachy; 2018)*
The kind of optimistic, orange-blossom-and-neroli cologne that makes you think maybe global warming isn’t such a terrible thing. Endless summer everywhere and people easing themselves into permanent smiles. Lovely work.

Friday, 7 December 2018

The Complete Persolaise Perfume Gift Guide - Christmas 2018


While putting together my 2018 list of Christmas perfume gift recommendations, I discovered that Storify is no longer with us, which is a bit of a shame, because several of my previous lists had been stored there. So, to try to prevent the ill effects of any social media disappearances, this year’s selection is going to be presented as an old-fashioned blog post - a compilation of tweets bearing the #PersolaiseXmas18 tag - complete with links for more info on the various goodies that ought to find their way under your trees.

Enjoy finding out what they are... and happy shopping!

Monday, 3 December 2018

Persolaise Love At First Scent Episode 23 Now On YouTube - 190 Years Of Guerlain - Anniversary Special


On Friday 30th November, I broadcast the 23rd episode of Love At First Scent: a special instalment celebrating the 190th anniversary of Guerlain. It's now available on YouTube and you can watch it above or by clicking here. If you'd like to see the original FacebookLive version - with comments from viewers - please click here. In this episode I covered:

Vol de Nuit extrait (at the start of the video)
Vol de Nuit Evasion (at the 26:00 minute mark)
Shalimar Eau Legere (at the 38:00 minute mark)
Iris Ganache (at the 55:00 minute mark)
Habit Rouge edt (at the 1:00:00 minute mark)
and a very special version of Apres L’Ondee extrait
(at the 1:12:00 minute mark)

Enjoy!

Persolaise

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