This is our 13th annual "Perfume: the best of" post. The industry has changed over those years, and so have my sampling efforts: as I noted last year, the more fragrances they make, the less I try. We're sticking with the usual title for the sake of tradition, but it would be more accurately called "random things we liked among the random things we managed to try", and this year, I personally outdid myself to the point where I had to delete a number of my usual categories due to the lack of viable contenders. If you tried most of the 2017 fragrance releases, do comment and tell us what was best — this blog has always been a community venture, and so I will also take this opportunity to thank all of our readers for sticking with us for another year, and for being so kind to us, and each other, in the comments section.
Best mainstream: Nothing from the department store counters stands out for me this year, sadly, but it is also true that I spent very little time shopping in department stores this year. Gucci Bloom was good, that's all I got.
Best flanker: Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Black Perfecto. (And if I could have one free mainstream bottle from last year, it would probably be my choice.)
Didn't: As always, too many to list, but Jean Paul Gaultier Scandal annoyed me enough that it comes to mind right away.
Favorite 2016 fragrance I did not smell until 2017: Maria Candida Gentile Lankaran Forest.
Best packaging: I like everything about the presentation of Twilly d'Hermès, including the advertising. Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Black Perfecto also deserves another shout out here.
Collector bottle I'd kill for: a tie between Cartier La Panthère Etincelante and the peacock edition of Guerlain Shalimar Souffle de Parfum.
Perfumer of the year: Jérôme Epinette. You might not know his name, but he is single-handedly responsible for some of the most popular niche brands on the market today.
This year, I sought comfort. Sure, I appreciated surprising and innovative fragrances — some show up in my choices below — but I found myself reaching for comfort perfumes more than ever. So, at the top of my list this year is Ormonde Jayne Vanille d’Iris. Robin gave it a ho-hum review, and I admit that Vanille d’Iris doesn’t blaze any new trails. It’s a conventional, ladylike perfume, but it’s so rich in soft iris and delicious vanilla, all buzzing with bergamot and never getting cloying (at least, to me), that wearing it is like eating brioche toast with lots of cultured butter on a cold, wet day. I’m spritzing through my bottle at top speed.
Other picks this year:
NEZ magazine. The writing and art direction in NEZ are terrific, and every article bears a couple of rereads. Get a copy if you can.
Papillon Dryad. A green, spritely chypre, both modern and classic at the same time.
Naomi Goodsir Nuit de Bakélite. A shapeshifter of leather and tuberose that really does smell like skin-warmed bakelite at one point.
Comme des Garçons Concrete. A strange yet easy take on sandalwood. A great contender for a signature perfume (if you’re that sort of person).
Mona di Orio Dojima. More comfort, this time in the form of rice pudding and wood.
Mainstream Highlights: After a good showing in 2016, several mainstream brands went AWOL this year — Hermès and Cartier come to mind first. Thierry Mugler, normally one of my favorite companies, irritated me no end by not releasing their new Aura in my country before the year closed. I did, however, quite like Mugler's most recent addition to the Les Exceptions series, Wonder Bouquet, a white floral with eccentric touches of beeswax and warm bread. Bottega Veneta released their "new" limited edition Eau de Velours, essentially a fine flanker of their original feminine fragrance. Otherwise, I thought it was Dullsville at the counters.
Niche Highlights: My two star niche scents of the year are oddballs: Naomi Goodsir Nuit de Bakélite and Masque Milano Times Square, the former a humid, herbal take on tuberose and karo karounde and the latter, a bizarre urban mix of vinyl and candied nuts with osmanthus. Over on the more subtle side, cult candle company Cire Trudon released a well-crafted set of five perfumes; in particular, I recommend Bruma and Deux (II). Firmly in the category of "Very nice, but Dislike Your Branding and Won't Pay" is Le Labo Mousse de Chene.
Indie Highlights: Indie perfumery ruled 2017. Unlike Robin, I don't wear many iris-focused fragrances, so it was a lovely surprise to fall in love with Bruno Fazzolari Feu Secret, likely my favorite scent of the year. (And it was a double hitter for Fazzolari, since Ummagumma was good, too.) Other independent gems this year included Vero Profumo Naja, Papillon Perfumery Dryad, Dusita Le Sillage Blanc, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Tsukimi and Zoologist Dragonfly.
Best 2017 Flanker: Gucci Guilty Absolute Pour Homme, although (luckily) it bears no resemblance to its pillar scent. Signs of life again at Gucci!
Best Catch-Up from 2016: I knew I would love Sarah Jessica Parker Stash SJP and I was right.
I can only echo Robin's sentiment from last year's best-of round-up: "Every year the fragrance industry's output grows more prodigious, and every year, I try fewer new fragrances." With that caveat, here are a few of my very subjective choices for 2017:
Favorite new niche fragrance line: Gallivant
Favorite mainstream release: Elizabeth and James French Grey
Most disappointing mainstream release: Chanel Gabrielle (and just too many insipid white florals in general)
Favorite new rose fragrance: Tadashi Shoji Eau de Rose
Favorite bath and body products: Buly 1803 (especially the fragranced body oils, flavored toothpaste, and facial moisturizer)
Favorite visuals with fragrances that disappointed me: Jo Malone English Oak collection
Most Prix Eau Faux-worthy promotional materials: Philly & Phill
Favorite home fragrance for the one percent: Cire Trudon Scented Cameos (basically, very fancy wax melts)
Ongoing frustration: most websites' and magazines' uninspired, clichéd fragrance coverage (even when they try to get it right, they often don't; see my rant on Perfume Professor!)
Most pleasant surprise: Comme des Garçons Olfactory Library, reissues of some discontinued cult classics (Sticky Cake is finally mine!)
Favorite innovation: Lush Wash Cards (a cross between solid perfume samples and bar soap)
Wishing you happiness, health, and many beautiful smells in 2018!
Before starting this post, I asked myself “What were the memorable new perfumes of 2017?” I didn’t look at my old posts…I did not peruse my “sampling notes.”
Several fragrances came to mind due to:
1. a strong aroma next to my bed (Naomi Goodsir Nuit de Bakélite… a scent so powerful I’m convinced it can be smelled easily through glass);
2. compliments — I enjoy Vilhelm Parfumerie's style of fragrance and Dirty Velvet was a hit with friends and strangers; and
3. purchase — Gucci Guilty Absolute Pour Homme (I see the bottle every day).
Considering the hundreds of perfumes I tried this year, “memorable” was … missing.
Still, when I looked at my reviews for the year (and I reviewed all new perfumes I liked), there were many that I was happy to recall.
(Cire) Trudon released a great line of perfumes and Olim was my favorite of the bunch. Amouage is hit or hate for me, but most years one of their perfumes stands out enough to make one of my seasonal or year-end posts: this year it was the weird Figment Man. I like the Zoologist line and one of my favorite animals got the spotlight: Rhinoceros. Vero Profumo Naja was a beautiful perfume creature, too. Plants? I enjoyed Etro's ManRose and the “mythic” plant represented in Stora Skuggan Silphium. Two gourmands make my list, Hilde Solani’s Hot Milk and Kerosene Follow.
Honorable mention: Frédéric Malle Superstitious, not my style (too old-school feminine) but well done.
Tons of perfumes released in 2017 never reached me to sample, and not smelling them didn’t keep me awake. Since the world right now is so full of negative EVERYthing, I’ll refrain from disparaging any new perfumes or perfume bottles or trends. Here's to a HAPPY 2018 for us all.
Note: image at top of post is Bottles & Reflections (Revised) [colorized] by dvaires at flickr; some rights reserved. Lower image is Camellia Bonsai [cropped] by nycbone at flickr; some rights reserved.