This past year in perfume was a great one. One of the best since I have been writing about perfume. Part of the reason is what I wrote about in the prologue yesterday. It was the best year ever for independent perfumery. I tried 734 new perfumes in this calendar year. When I look at the bottom of my spreadsheet to see that number it kind of chills me to realize I smelled that many. I knew it was a great year when I put together my first draft of perfumes I wanted to consider for these columns. I ended up with 75 fragrances on that list. 10% of everything I tried was memorable. It speaks to the quality that is out there to be found.
When I say this was the best year for independent perfumery it does not meant that it was a bad year for the mainstream. On the contrary there were some amazing releases from the big brands. Regular readers are tired of my extolling Gucci Memoire d’une Odeur for its fearlessness, but it deserves the recognition. Hermes Un Jardin sur la Lagune stood out for the change in style as Christine Nagel created a more introverted garden which appealed to me. Olivier Polge extended the Les Eaux de Chanel with Paris-Riviera. Thierry Mugler Angel Eau Croisiere is the kind of crazy summer flanker I wish we saw more of. Finally, Guerlain has their yearly reminder they aren’t a spent creative force with the magical Embruns D’Ylang.
To my great pleasure Comme des Garcons laid down a fantastic reminder of why they haven’t lost their innovative style after 25 years of doing fragrance. The fall saw six new Comme des Garcons releases under the creative guidance of Christian Astuguevieille. They were a reminder of everything this brand continues to do well. From the collaboration with Monocle for Scent Four: Yoyogi. To the neon pink of Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet. The three new Series 10 Clash perfumes, each a study in synthetic contrasts. Ending with the metallic chameleon of Copper. So many of the brands which sparked my interest in artistic perfume have lost the plot I am thankful M. Astuguevieille hasn’t.
This year saw the ultimate transformation of bloggers into creative directors. I think it is easy to convince yourself that if you write about perfume it is a small step to creating it. There have been a few examples this year of how untrue that is. The three who succeeded put in the hard work necessary to see their vision through to a perfume. Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes released four in 2019 all wildly different. Barbara Hermann evolved her brand Eris Parfums into her best release to date Mxxx. Arielle Weinberg has made the transition from blogger to store owner to creative director putting in the time to make each endeavor succeed. Arielle Shoshana Sunday was part of a new breed of gourmands for 2019.
The new gourmands all seemed to be inspired by hot beverages. Arielle Shoshana Sunday by matcha horchata. Floral Street Ylang-Ylang Espresso is an exotic drink of dark coffee and exuberant floral. Ineke Jaipur Chai finds the gentle harmony in the blend of ingredients in chai as a perfume. Cocoa plays a starring role in Curata Dulceo and Eris Parfums Mxxx.
I met fantastic new perfumers for the first time through their work. Caroline Dumur did two of the new Comme des Garcons; Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet and Clash: Chlorophyll Gardenia. Along with her work for Masque Milano Love Kills she has become one to watch. Scottish perfumer Euan McCall impressed me with his work for Senyoko. La Tsarine is a perfume unafraid to go deep into carnality. Contrast that with his work on Migration de L’Arbre which captures the outdoors vibrantly. Shawn Maher of Chatillon Lux was another new name who impressed me with his skill at evoking all that his St. Louis home can give to perfume.
Of everything I experienced this year it was a book which has altered my perspective most. Michael Edwards released Perfume Legends II in September. I devoured it over a week. Mr. Edwards has spoken publicly that the revered perfume houses like Guerlain, Chanel, or Dior were the niche perfumes of their day. Though the 52 perfumes covered in the book you realize the era of modern perfumery from Fougere Royale to Portrait of a Lady has always reflected the best of what perfume has to give. It made me view perfumery with a new foundation. It is why I think 2019 has been so good.
Join me tomorrow as I name my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year.
Sunday, I make a list of my favorite non-perfume things of the year.
Monday, I will have the Top 25 new perfumes of 2019.
Tuesday, I look forward to what I hope to see in 2020.