Just to keep this all in perspective. I tried 734 new perfumes since January 1, 2019. That is about a third of all new perfumes released in the same time frame. It is impossible to try everything although I keep trying. The list of perfumes below represents the best of what I encountered this year. If you want to read more on any of these, the link to the full review is in the name for each perfume on the list.
The Top 10 (Perfume of the Year candidates)
10. Comme des Garcons Copper– The best of the six perfumes released by Comme des Garcons. Perfumer Alienor Massenet created the most mutable fragrance of the year. It never seemed to smell the same from minute-to-minute but all of them were memorable ones.
9. Rubini Tambour Sacre– Andrea Rubini has assembled an incredible team of Italian creatives to make perfume. Tambour Sacre captured a night of drums in the Horn of Africa by the Perfumer of the Year Cristiano Canali.
8. Marc-Antoine Barrois Ganymede– M. Barrois asked perfumer Quentin Bisch to modify the leather accord they used in their first release B683. Ganymede is one of the best lightweight leather perfumes I’ve ever encountered. The use of immortelle is as eye-opening as the perfume itself.
7. Zoologist Squid– Victor Wong had a spectacular year for his Zoologist Perfumes brand. Squid was his take on a deep-water aquatic. Perfumer Celine Barel would find a new way of experiencing the ocean as perfume in the inky depths. In a year of groundbreaking aquatics this was the best of them.
6. Zoologist Bee– No you’re not seeing double it just shows what a great year this brand had. Mr. Wong worked with perfumer Cristiano Canali on a perfume that flowed like no other perfume I tried this year. To work with the notoriously difficult honey while keeping it from falling into its well-known fallibilities is top-notch perfume making.
5. Nishane Ani– Creative directors Mert Guzel and Marat Katran allowed perfumer Cecile Zarokian to continue to push at the boundaries of gourmand perfumes. Together they produced the best perfume this brand has ever produced by making vanilla the centerpiece of something new.
4. Hiram Green Lustre– Hiram Green has been assembling a collection of rare beauty. That he can wring presence out of an all-natural palette is part of the reason. The other part is a jeweler’s eye when he makes a soliflore rose like Lustre. It glistens like the finest diamond as every facet gives you something new to admire.
3. Providence Perfume Co. Drunk on the Moon– Charna Ethier has dissected tuberose. Then she puts it back together as pieces floating on top of a cream sherry accord. Every time I wear this, I admire the audacity it took to do this with the queen of white flowers. Stripped down to her essence she displays even more beauty through the subtlety of it all.
2. Talc d’IUNX– Olivia Giacobetti is the ultimate independent perfumer working from a single storefront in Paris; releases are infrequent. At the beginning of the year Talc d’IUNX reminded everyone who started this whole transparent thing before it was a trend. She also reminded everyone there is no other perfumer like her working today. Talc d’IUNX is mesmerizing in its will-o-the-wisp fragility darting through transitions each more beautiful than the last.
1. Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse– The larger reason for why I named it the Best Perfume of 2019 can be found in Part 2. The shorter version is; it is the best perfume based on a wine that I own from the best new independent perfumer, Shawn Maher, I’ve tried in years.
The Rest of the Top 25 in alphabetical order
Aftelier Perfumes Embers & Musk and Forest Bathing– Okay I’m cheating but these two perfumes are actually 11 & 11A on my list. Mandy Aftel made a diptych of night (Embers & Musk) and day (Forest Bathing) in a pine forest.
Arielle Shoshana Sunday– Arielle Weinberg follows up her debut perfume, collaborating again with Cecile Hua, with a next-generation gourmand based on a mixture of matcha tea and horchata. Cue up Lionel Richie and sink into it.
Bogue Douleur!– Antonio Gardoni collaborated with Freddie Albrighton to turn the metallic nature of rose oxide into something that deserved that exclamation point at the end of the name.
Chatillon Lux Admiral– Shawn Maher makes a freshwater river aquatic inspired by an Art Deco riverboat. If that sounds different it’s because it is.
Cognoscenti Warrior Queen– Perfumer Dannielle Sergent spent 2019 composing perfume differently than she has. Warrior Queen is a multi-layered fragrance which shows Ms. Sergent also has some more layers as a perfumer.
Eris Mxxx.– Barbara Herman and perfume Antoine Lie use last year’s Mx. as the foundation for a trio of exquisitely chosen ingredients. It transforms what was good into something great.
Guerlain Embruns D’Ylang– My yearly reminder of why I shouldn’t give up on Guerlain. This time it’s a smoky ylang-ylang that shows me the creativity at the Grand Maison de Parfum may be buried under a pile of mediocrity; but it still remains.
Les Soeurs de Noe Jardin de Macarons– Creative director Nadia Benaisa worked with perfumers Pierre Wulff and Jerome Epinette on her debut collection. This one stood out because is smelled like what I imagine an orris macaron would be.
Masque Milano Kintsugi– Creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi had another fantastic year. The first release was a reconstructed chypre from perfumer Vanina Muracciole. The clever concept was by leaving the seams showing they made a contemporary chypre.
Masque Milano Love Kills– Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi asked of rising star Caroline Dumur to make an elegiac rose. She delivered a perfume composed of the fragility of a dried rose in a memory book.
Monsillage Route du Quai– Perfumer Isabelle Michaud gave me the other perspective on a freshwater river aquatic. She captured the colder flow of the St. Lawrence river where she summered as a child. Another reminder that the most creative perfumers can make the most boring styles vital again.
Rasei Fort Kolonya– Rasei Fort is one of the most inconsistent independent perfumers I have encountered. When he is at his best, the perfume he creates is also one of the best. Kolonya is his remarkable combination of memory and classic cologne into something magical.
Roberto Greco Oeilleres– French photographer Roberto Greco worked for two years with perfumer Marc-Antoine Corticchiato to create an “anti-flower” perfume. It goes back and forth between old school and contemporary in a way which makes it seem equal parts of both.
Senyoko La Tsarine– The best release from a brand I discovered just this year. Joseph and Emilia Berthion have collaborated with perfumer Euan McCall on a remarkable collection with breadth. La Tsarine is inspired by the carnal adventures of Catherine the Great. Rare is the perfume that lives up to that. La Tsarine is unafraid to delve deeply into the concept. A perfume not for the timid.
Strangelove NYC fallintostars– Elizabeth Gaynes and Helena Christensen along with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel have created a memorable collection of perfumes which have always enthralled me. fallintostars is the best of them because they use everything they have learned to create a transcendent perfume.
The Next 25 Just Because This Was Such a Good Year
Aether Arts Perfume Burner Perfume No. 10 Chrysalis– Amber Jobin created a perfume of transitions.
April Aromatics Vetiver Coeur– Tanja Bochnig finds the serenity within vetiver
Ariana Grande ThankU, Next– Best bang for your buck perfume of 2019.
Arquiste Misfit– Turns patchouli from head shop to elegant.
Bruno Fazzolari Zdravetz– A unique source of geranium leads to a singular perfume.
Chanel Paris-Riviera– Another fun travel with Coco.
Curata Dulceo– Another evolution of gourmand from a new independent brand.
Floral Street Ylang-Ylang Espresso– Sometimes a perfume delivers what it promises on the label.
Francesca Bianchi The Black Knight– The scent of a noble knight no matter what the color says.
Frapin If by R.K.– An homage to India featuring Mysore sandalwood.
Gucci Memoire d’une Odeur– Best mainstream perfume of 2019.
Hermes Un Jardin sur la Lagune– Christine Nagel turns the Jardin series inward.
Imaginary Authors Telegrama– Modern masculine barbershop.
Ineke Jaipur Chai– The smell of a cup of chai while looking out the picture window.
Maison Violet Tanagra– Heritage brand which gets it right.
Marlou Poudrextase– Another musky NSFW perfume.
Memo Winter Palace– The best Oriental from Memo in years.
NARS Audacious– Olivia Giacobetti’s stealth mainstream release.
Phoenicia Perfumes Dark Musk– A truly fascinating musk accord.
Puredistance Gold– A luxurious perfume which lives up to its name.
Rogue Chypre-Siam– Chypre as composed in a Thai restaurant.
Ryan Richmond Rich Mess– Crazy kinetic perfume.
Sarah Baker Charade– Old school elegance in a modern setting.
Thierry Mugler Angel Eau Croisiere– The only perfume which should have had a little umbrella in it.
Zaharoff Signature pour Homme– A great perfume for a man who wants only one on his dresser.
I close all of this with the same phrase I began it with. 2019 was the greatest year for independent perfumery ever. I hope 2020 will be even better.