Every year I test a smaller percentage of new releases — and every year, I mind a little less. So, as always, add "of what I managed to smell" to all of my picks. Still, 2013 was a good year for perfume, and I had no trouble at all coming up with favorites in our usual categories. (And I'm including a few older releases that I didn't manage to smell until this year.)
My choices for the year are just below. Scroll down to see what Angela, Erin, Jessica and Kevin thought was noteworthy in 2013, or click over to Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Perfume Posse or The Non-Blonde for more opinions. And of course, do add your own thoughts in the comments.
Best celebrity fragrance: Rihanna Rogue, with my usual caveat that I didn't smell even close to all of them.
Best fragrance commercials: Wes Anderson for Prada Candy L'Eau, with kitsch+abs-fest Paco Rabanne Invictus a close second. Plus Marc Jacobs Honey for the cute factor, Chloé Roses de Chloé for the pretty factor, and Jean Paul Gaultier On The Docks (Classique & Le Mâle) for the intense Jean-Paul-Gaultier-ness factor.
A PR line I never thought I'd hear: "Pink Sugar meets Oud" — really, was that absolutely necessary? From Aquolina Black Sugar.
Best print ad: I really liked Perry Ellis Spirited.
Best packaging: A tie between Marni and Balenciaga Rosabotanica.
The We-Just-Can't-Stop-Ourselves Flanker Name of The Year: Lalique Encre Noire Sport. No, it isn't as long as Victoria's Secret Sexy Little Things Noir Tease Temptation, but hey, Encre Noire + Sport are two concepts that just don't belong together. Runner up is Beyoncé Heat The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour Limited Edition.
Cheap thrill of the year: Lush Furze.
Clive Christian award for aspirational pricing: Lalique for Bentley Crystal Edition, although at$4,650 it was still a bargain compared to the $35,000 asking price for Lancôme's La vie est belle L'édition Féérique.
You can't make this stuff up: Philip B Oud Royale hair products. Seriously, enough with the oud already.
Perfumer of the year: Mandy Aftel of Aftelier, who continues to surprise us with what can be done using only natural materials. (And by the way, if you're a perfumista who cooks and you haven't yet tried her Chef's Essences, you really should.)
Angela's Best of 2013
Looking at NST's list of new perfumes, it's shameful how few I've tried. So take my "best of" list with a grain of salt. I'm looking forward to seeing your favorites.
2013 releases I'd actually buy a bottle of: Le Labo Ylang 49 and Aftelier Cuir de Gardenia. Both of these fragrances are engaging, complex, and moody, and neither has an easy doppelgänger at the perfume boutique. Tom Ford Private Blend Tobacco Oud is an almost-buy for me.
Best perfume trends: The Coach Leatherware series gives me hope that mainstream perfume houses will venture away from screechy musks, loud fruit, and generic white flowers into slightly more challenging territory. I'm also thrilled that Jean Patou is reissuing some of its old fragrances. (Hurry up with Moment Suprême, please!)
Best rediscovery: Earlier this fall I spritzed on some Guerlain Shalimar Eau de Toilette, and it really came alive. In the past I've simply thought, "Shalimar, got it" and not really stopped to appreciate its fusty, sweet beauty. Now, smelling it is like looking at a Flemish master's painting with darkened varnish. So much detail, so much romance.
Erin's Best of 2013
This was the year I officially gave up on trying to get samples of everything through the mail. So, I've missed some newer releases — sorry Tauer Perfumes PHI Une Rose de Kandahar and Hermès Épice Marine! — and maybe that's why 2013 seemed a bit dull to me for fragrance, especially in comparison to last year. In January, I grabbed some small bottles of Lush Flower's Barrow and Sikkim Girls, which were released in the UK in late 2012. Since then, I haven't felt moved to buy anything new, even though I liked Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin, Dries Van Noten par Frédéric Malle, Kerosene Pretty Machine, Juniper Ridge Caruthers Canyon and Etat Libre d'Orange La Fin du Monde... I just didn't love any of them enough to buy a bottle. Amouage Fate Woman, the year's most blatant bid for greatness, might have tempted me, but not for $310 for 50 ml. Comme des Garçons Black is great fun, the best fragrance from the brand in a long time, and I might have purchased it, except I don't need 100 ml of almost anything anymore. My Hermès cologne needs are likely met by Concentré d'Orange Verte, so I skipped the very cheerful Eau de Mandarine Ambrée. And I can't decide whether I enjoy Neela Vermeire Creations Ashoka or not.
A quiet perfume year for me, then, after my budget-busting 2012, and I'm not complaining. My favorite recent discoveries, and the scents most likely to haunt me in 2014 if a coupon code appears in my Inbox, are the extraits of Slumberhouse Pear + Olive and Sova, which were released, again, in 2012. Throughout this last year, though, I continued to revel in the comments and fellowship of the NST readers and authors. Thanks, as always, to Robin for this amazing community, and I wish you all happy, fragrant days to come.
Jessica's Best of 2013
Is the holiday season over yet? Almost! I'm unaccountably cranky this time around, so I'm glad that Robin has reminded us to spend some time pondering our favorite fragrances of the past year. As usual, there were quite a few disappointments, but enough bright spots to enjoy and share.
In some cases, my favorites come from fragrance houses that I've known and loved for ages: one is Dries Van Noten par Frédéric Malle, the most elegant comfort scent ever, and another is the thorny rose bouquet of Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin. There were also some newer niche offerings that suited my tastes perfectly, including Terry de Gunzberg Ombre Mercure and A Lab on Fire Rose Rebelle Respawn.
I didn't do much mainstream fragrance sampling or shopping this year, so I don't know whether I missed anything wonderful at the department stores. I did like Agent Provocateur Pétale Noir, and its bottle was one of my favorite packaging designs of the year.
I was really more comfortable, as usual, at the independent and hard-to-find end of the spectrum. I was very impressed by the exclusive collection Requiem for the Immortal by indie perfumer Alexis Karl of Scent by Alexis. And LUSH, which has managed to maintain an indie feeling despite its global reach, released a new Gorilla Perfume collection in very late 2012 — I didn't have a chance to try it until early 2013, and I've enjoyed nearly every scent in the line, especially Flower's Barrow, Sikkim Girls, and Furze.
LUSH also made me happy in the bath-and-body product category, by re-releasing its limited edition Rose Jam shower gel. I hope this won't be the last time we see it. L'Occitane's holiday collection of hand creams in pretty floral scents was another easy pick for me. I also luxuriated in richly fragranced oils from Aroma M (for the body) and Aftelier (for the face).
For home fragrance, I purchased a Diptyque holiday candle for the umpteenth year in a row — I always love the incense one, which was this year's Encens des Indes; and at a more affordable price point, I enjoyed Blackbird incense cones (especially their Sofia blend).
In NYC shopping news, I enjoyed making trips out to Brooklyn to visit the new Atelier Cologne location and Parfum1's spin-off niche boutique, Twisted Lily. For 2014, I'm looking forward to an Annick Goutal boutique opening in downtown Manhattan and to the Ormonde Jayne line arriving at SoHo's Osswald.
Wishing you all good things in 2014!
Kevin's Best of 2013
When Robin reminded me about this end-of-year post, my mind went blank. What fragrance announcements or products were truly memorable for me in 2013? Uhhh. (I will say 2013 kicked my a##; I had lots to ponder besides perfume.) Since I’m writing a “Best of Men’s Fragrance 2013” article soon, I’ll save my favorite perfume picks for later and concentrate on one thing I did notice in the fragrance sphere all through 2013: insane pricing. Many people must buy a product based solely on exorbitant cost…paying scant attention to its worth: “It’s EXPENSIVE…that means it must be GREAT!”
Though not really perfume related,Tom Ford for Men Skincare and Grooming got my attention for two reasons: its bearded model proudly showing us his furry arm pits and its pricing (read the ingredients of this line and convince me the pricing is reasonable). A half-ounce of eye cream? $75. A 0.35 oz. tube of “hydrating” lip balm (“hydrating?”…what other type of lip balm is there? “Drying”?): $25. Concealer stick? $40. A 50 ml moisturizer? $190. Intensive Infusion Concentrate Extreme: 30 ml for $250. Watch the Tom Ford for Men video and laugh (or feel slightly “unsettled”).
I was also appalled at pricing for the House of Sillage line with its ugly, “cupcake” bottles full of nondescript scents for…ta! da!...$600 (50 ml Eau de Parfum of the limited edition holiday scent) or $350 (for 75 ml “Parfum” of the regular line — items like Cherry Garden or Emerald Reign). Le Labo keeps pricing exorbitant for city exclusives like Limette 37 (in my opinion, not worth $440 for 100 ml of Eau de Parfum). Ramon Monegal? You’ve gotta be kidding me…these artificial-smelling Eaux de Parfum retail for $185/50 ml. And with an ego to match (or surpass?) Tom Ford’s (a trip for two to a rustic Buddhist temple or Indian meditation retreat might be helpful for them), there’s Roja Dove, self-proclaimed KING of PERFUME, with “Roja” (yes, named for himself) — 100 ml of gold-leaf-infused juice for 2,500 pounds sterling ($4,086! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!)
Other annoying pricing issues? Why does a bell jar of a Serge Lutens perfume cost $115 more in New York than it does in Paris? And what about the reissues in the Jean Patou Collection Héritage line? I was looking forward to owning Jean Patou Pour Homme again. Back when I loved it, it cost around $85 and came in an elegant bottle; the recent reissue comes in a generic bottle and costs…$245! And don’t even bring up Puredistance Black; am I the only one on earth who thinks it’s ludicrously priced at $590 for 100 ml of extrait? Insanity rules!
I’ll stop there (but many other pricing “scandals” exist). For those of you who purchased any of the above-mentioned/above-disparaged items, I expect your retort to me would be: “I LOVE XYZ and to me, it’s worth it!” Fair enough. And who am I to judge? Me…the one who buys expensive candles.
Happy 2014 to all!