This year I tried 680 new perfumes which wasn’t even half of all the new perfume that was released. The Top 25 below represent the top 3.7% of all that I tried.
Alessandro Brun, Me, and Riccardo Tedeschi (l. to r.) of Masque Milano
The Top 5 (Perfume of the Year Candidates)
5. Thierry Mugler Angel Muse– Two of the most iconic landmark fragrances ever took it upon themselves to re-invent themselves for a new generation. Perfumer Quentin Bisch didn’t just change the gourmand template begun with 1992’s Angel he sent it off in an entirely new direction with Angel Muse. It is easy to see Angel Muse as a softer unplugged version of Angel with its vetiver and hazelnut cream core. If you look at it that way you miss the complete transformation of the pyramid without ever being anything less than a relative of the original.
4. Faths Essentials Green Water– I love the original Jacques Fath Green Water it is one of my favorite perfumes no matter what year. I worked hard to find as pristine a vintage bottle as I could. Which was why when I sat down to try the Cecile Zarokian supervised re-formulation I expected a watered-down shadow. Instead I found probably the best re-formulation of a classic vintage perfume I can recall. It started with the simplest of choices not skimping on the concentration of neroli oil; matching the percentage in the original. This was not economical but Mme Zarokian convinced creative director Raina Naim it was necessary. In many ways, the fresh snappy quality of the 2016 version is more appealing than the well-aged and macerated vintage versions. There is a time and place for both but there is no embarrassment having them side-by-side on my shelf.
3. The Different Company Adjatay– Simple was the by-word with the 2016 release from The Different Company. Creative Director Luc Gabriel had gone on a trip and left some actual tuberose in his well-worn leather traveling case. When he took it out again he realized that smell he encountered needed to become a perfume. He asked Alexandra Monet to find the balance between tuberose and leather he had experienced. It is an ever-evolving battle through the early going with tuberose on top at first before the leather gains the upper hand finally achieving a balance between the two. If it wasn’t for Adjatay my luggage would all have tuberose inside.
2. Zoologist Perfumes Bat– Almost literally the first new perfume I tried in 2016. From that point every one of the successive perfumes I tried had a very difficult bar to hurdle. Owner/creative director Victor Wong continuing his efforts of working with the best artisanal perfumers collaborated with Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids. Dr. Covey had done some field studies of bats in the wild and had a good idea what should be in Bat. Mr. Wong creditably allowed Bat to evolve into a perfume which was true to both of their visions. I have had the most fun handing Bat to people throughout the year. Most gravitate to it immediately; but it is the ones who at first are unsure and over time keep returning to the strip before finally picking up the sample and spraying it on that make me smile widest. Bat is everything Independent Niche Perfumery should be about.
1. Masque Milano L’Attesa– For a more detailed description why see Part 2 of my year-end review. L’Attesa was another example of a creative team and a perfumer willing to risk pushing boundaries and succeeding wildly.
Here are the rest of the Top 25 in Alphabetical Order
Aeon 001– Another early year release all about a unique take on smoky vetiver. The name of the perfumer was held back until it sold out. When it turned out to be Bogue Profumo’s Antonio Gardoni it wasn’t a giant surprise.
Amouage Lilac Love– I have lauded creative director Christopher Chong for defining the boundaries of perfumery. Working with perfumers Nathalie Lorson and Elise Benat he turned Lilac Love into a gentle lilac tinted nudge towards the greater Amouage collection while maintaining that DNA.
Arquiste El & Ella– My only cheat this year but I couldn’t separate the two new releases from Arquiste. Creative director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux take us back to 1970’s Jet Set Acapulco for a hot night contrasting chypre, Ella, and fougere El, all reflected through a mirror ball of cardamom and honey.
Atelier Cologne Citron D’Erable– Jerome Epinette’s twenty-third perfume for Atelier Cologne finds creative directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel saluting Canada with a mixture of maple syrup and citrus. It makes Citron D’Erable a citrus cologne for cold weather.
Atelier des Ors Iris Fauve– This probably should have been number 5A on this list; that’s how close it was to being in the Top 5. Creative director Jean-Philippe Clermont continues his collaboration with perfumer Marie Salamagne to create the best of this very good brand, to date, with this musky iris that warms the soul.
Byredo La Botte– The Night Veils Collection within Byredo was begun late in 2015. This year the three releases explored the different versions of leather. Creative director Ben Gorham and perfumer Jerome Epinette turned the one celebrating the leather boot into a real kick.
Cadavre Exquis– There were many interesting collaborations in the indie artisanal world this year. Antonio Gardoni and Bruno Fazzolari did a trans-Atlantic examination of the gourmand. It provocatively reminds you that camphor is a gourmand note. Everything I love about the artisanal mindset is on display here.
Chanel No. 5 L’Eau– Scariest press release line of the year “Chanel No. 5 re-interpreted for a younger generation”. Olivier Polge showed me my fear was misplaced with a fresh take on the grand parfum that lost nothing and maybe gained a generation of new admirers of the brand.
Dasein Winter Nights– Another artisanal collaboration between Josh Meyer of Imaginary Authors and Sam Rader of Dasein. Making an evolution of Ms. Rader’s first release Winter in to a Holiday bonfire at Big Sur was a triumph.
Diptyque Kimonanthe– 2016 was deep in great osmanthus perfumes. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin took an opulent osmanthus and dusted it with the Japanese powdered incense, zukoh. Kimonanthe was the best osmanthus perfume of 2016.
DS & Durga Radio Bombay– Perfumer David Seth Moltz deconstructs sandalwood in a compelling way. As the entropy takes place on my skin I kept trying to tune the signal back in which is why this was one of my favorites.
DSH Perfumes La Belle Saison– Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s work with the Denver Art Museum on their Monet installation last year led to this. La Belle Saison is Ms. Hurwitz’s version of an impressionistic lilac perfume.
Eris Parfums Night Flower– Barbara Herman is another who has successfully made the leap from enthusiast to creative director. All three of her debut Eris Parfums with perfumer Antoine Lie were excellent but it was Night Flower which really reminded me of how they used to make ‘em.
Galop D’Hermes– Even though it was the second perfume Christine Nagel released in her new post as in-house perfumer at Hermes Galop D’Hermes was where she planted her flag in the ground. By retaining the lighter tone the brand has been known for while changing it to her style made Galop the place where generations changed at Hermes.
Hiram Green Arbole Arbole– One of the best all-natural perfumes I’ve encountered in a long time by one of the most talented young independent perfumers, Hiram Green. The smell of being high in an olive tree next to a fresh-faced girl wearing powder. I have spent hours enjoying the places in between in this perfume.
House of Matriarch Kazimi– Christi Meshell has made the courageous move with her independent brand House of Matriarch bringing it to Nordstrom’s all over the US. With Kazimi she is leading with some of her best work ever. Fingers crossed some of the mall shoppers agree with me.
Jul et Mad Secrets du Paradis Rouge– The continuing story of Jul et Mad co-founders Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard continues into their honeymoon with this perfume of travel and love composed by Luca Maffei.
Laboratorio Olfattivo MyLO– Creative director Roberto Drago working with perfumer Luca Maffei creates a carnal lily more in keeping with O’Keeffe than the funeral home.
Olfactive Studio Close-Up– I have long worn this brand’s Lumiere Blanche as my favorite. Close-Up has replaced it as creative director Celine Verleure and perfumer Annick Menardo combine cherry, tobacco, coffee, and patchouli into something I want to keep close-up all the time.
Puredistance Sheiduna– I appreciate brands which are willing to change a well-known architecture. Creative director Jan Ewoud Vos and perfumer Cecile Zarokian take the traditional Oriental and dry it out with abandon. Never has the Orient seemed so modern.
The Final Cuts (The 20 perfumes which just missed the Top 25)
Aedes de Venustas Greandille D'Afrique– Fabulous woody fougere
Aftelier Memento Mori/ Amber Tapestry– The most dynamic yin and yang set of 2016
April Aromatics Agartha– Peace and harmony in a bottle
Aroma M Vanilla Hinoki– Geisha at rest
Comme des Garcons Blackpepper– Reminder of the old Series collection
Elizabeth & James Nirvana Bourbon– Best Buy of 2016
Gabriela Chieffo Maisia– Chiaroscuro fig
Homoelegans Quality of Flesh– Francis Bacon lives!…in a perfume
Jo Malone Basil & Neroli– Amazing callback to the origins of the brand
L'Envol de Cartier– Honey coated soap bubble
Le Galion Cologne Nocturne– This is what modern men should smell like
Mona di Orio Bohea Boheme– Monaesque survives and thrives
Parfums de Marly Layton– Most approachable Parfums de Marly ever
Parfums MDCI Fetes Persanes– A Persian feast of the senses
Philippe Starck Peau de Pierre– The smell of wet stone done with panache
Providence Perfume Co. Love-in-a-Mist– Best from this brand since Moss Gown
Salvatore Ferragamo Uomo– Best mainstream masculine of 2016
SJP Stash– Sarah Jessica Parker returns with a bang.
Tauer Lonesome Rider– A perfume for the wide-open spaces found in the soul
Xyrena Dark Ride– The most unique perfume of 2016 capturing a day at the water park photorealistically
That is it for my look back at 2016.
If you missed them Part 1 was my broad overview of the year
Part 2 was where I revealed my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year.