Best of the Best 2011 – Worn and Adored

Being the true confessions of a dedicated perfumoholic

The problem with being a perfume blogger – apart from the fact that most of your surroundings think you’re certifiable -  is that you by necessity wear a lot – I do mean a LOT – of perfume that you sometimes may love and sometimes…may not. It will inevitably happen that you encounter your own brand of philistinism when you introduce your skin to a highly touted house and your chemistry flips you the bird as this much-marketed brand turns into either a hydra on your skin – sprouting another head of awful the more you scrub – or else…that you’re falling in love with juice that will entail selling off your seven-year-old to pay for it.

The things, the monsters, the hydras I have endured…I rarely wrote about. It just didn’t seem the polite thing to do. But surely, some day I should write about that infamous rite of passage for any hardcore perfumista…sitting out the duration of three whole dabs of Etat Libre d’Orange’s ‘Secretions Magnifiques’ on my skin without scrubbing. It was a bit like Anthony Bourdain drinking venomous snake blood in Vietnam because he wanted to be that guy who could brag about it with impunity…Well, I wanted to be that gal, and if Katie Puckrick had the ovaries to do it, then by Golly, so did I!

I did. I also turned green, then purple, then blue from holding my breath among other things. I dare say Anthony of NKDMan now owes me a bathtub sized drink…;)

On the other hand are the ones I simply…loved. Loved for their beauty, their peerless construction, the heart-rending drydowns and mood-enhancers and sex-me-uppers and just. Plain. Loved.

Aftelier

Cepes and Tuberose was my gateway into all things Aftelier. So compelling, so stunning, so simultaneously earthy and divine, spicy and sweet, it’s now become one of my Great Immortals, and on most days, there will be a tiny dab of it on my person somewhere. My Goddess Freya ‘fume. Sophia, another goddess in my novel Quantum Demonology, would surely love Fig. Something about jasmine sambac gets me. When it gets with fir and turns to fig, I’m done for. I’ve loved it – that much! I take Tango and Candide with me wherever I go just to breathe in their wonder. Whether it’s the completely seamless opulent bouquet of heaven that opens it or the perfectly balanced animal drydown of yes! Civet! Yes! Castoreum!…my little vial of Secret Garden is going fast. My ex hates it, which makes it a classic right there!

Atelier Cologne

Call me a philistine, but I have yet to meet an Atelier Cologne I haven’t loved, worn and killed off completely. I want one of each in those big, glorious 200 ml bottles. But for now, I’ll settle for a small bottle of Trefle Pur. Because it’s lucky! I just know…

Amouage

Ah, the many perils of Amouage. I first fell in love with Ubar – fatally and forever – and next with Epic Woman, although that took a while longer, but it crept up on me. Then, I met Memoir Woman. That took five tries and I was…toast. An instant love was the outrageousness of  Opus V – a slam dunk for this iris lover which will soon be reviewed – and then, Suzanne sent me a sample of Jubilation 25. “If this isn’t you…” she wrote ominously. I’m terrified it is…me! The good news, from my perspective, is that Lyric Woman is gorgeous …and hates my skin. I now eye that sample vial of Gold somewhat askance…and I don’t want to hear anything about Memoir Woman in extrait. I’ll wait until the day I show up in Knightsbridge, smoking plastic in tow, and they can tell me anything they like, so long as they tell me they take Amex as I take one of everything!

Aroma M

I’ve drained my sample set of Aroma M d-r-y. Geisha Blue (a verdant sanity saver for total stress-out days), Green, which is my other favorite absinthe, Violet, a deliciously subversive chocolate violet, Rouge, the spice fest to spice up anything at all, or the newest, Amber Rouge…Aroma M perfume oils are stunning, beautifully packaged in their Yuzen paper wrappings and they last and last and last. So will our love affair, I just know it!

Balmain

When I need a break from p-e-r-f-u-m-e, when all I want is to get on with my day and not worry about what I wear, when I get hit by acute indecision in the morning, Balmain’s Ivoire is what I reach for. A seamless, perfect dream of a green floral chypre that does everything a perfume is supposed to do – make me feel beautiful. It always does.

Caron

SuperMario Jr’s favorite perfume on his mother is Caron’s Bellodgia, one of the greatest carnations ever made. I make a point of wearing it when he’s sick to cheer him up. (His own, to his mother’s horror, is Amouage Memoir Man. He has sometimes insisted on wearing it to school…) Maman, meanwhile, has become addicted to the bad-gal leather of Tabac Blond extrait, thanks again to Suzanne. Yes, it’s the current formulation. I’m sure it was better before. But this is now and this is it and Tabac Blond is surely one of the sexiest scents I’ve worn this year? Wear wisely. I never did hear back from the guy I was with last I wore it to such stunning effect!

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Ah, Dawn…she breaks my heart. First, there was…Vert pour Madame, and I have maybe three drops left, it’s such a perfect throwback to those Great Green Chypres we loved and adored. Then, I received a tiny vial of 1000 Lilies, and lilies don’t get any better, no matter what they say. Next, I discovered Sampsuchinon, which really puts the sass to my spice, and finally, she slayed me with Pandora and Paradise Lost. I love all of them when I can. Which is nowhere often enough for my liking.

Etat Libre d’Orange

Yes, I know. I know. But Etat Libre also gave us Like This…and I did indeed, like that, so much it’s all gone…as is Rossy di Palma, a thorny, spiky, green rose I also dearly loved.

Guerlain

In my year of revelations, two Guerlains – both from the L’Art et La Matière line – have converted me into a huge fan of Thierry Wasser. I haven’t yet tried Shalimar Parfum Initial – although I would like to – but Spiritueuse Double Vanille and Iris Ganache have made it into my regular rotation, and I’m so not a gourmand gal. I blame Carrie of EyelinerOnACat. That’s right. My nose had nothing to say in the matter at all!

Histoires de Parfums

There is no justice in this world if I don’t get my grubby hands on at least a decant of HdP 1740 – Marquis de Sade. Should be classified as a drug of a most lethal kind, so naturally, I’ve gotta have it!

ODIN NYC

I’ve only ever tried ODIN NY-04 Petrana (although I’ve heard so many great things about the others!), but for an iris lover, it doesn’t get any better, or classier, or chewier, or cooler. Then, I had the inspired idea – no such thing as too much iris! – to layer it with Iris Ganache. Petrana cuts some of the white chocolate overload of IG, and they dance in such beautiful tandem all day and well into evening…

Opus Oils

SInce I was done in by a dangerous bloom, my Flapper perfume oil from the Les Bohemes collection has seen a lot of action in my neighborhood, and never fails to land me compliments. So does Giggle Water. And Absinthia, my other favorite absinthe. Does this mean I’m dangerous? No. It means you must run, not walk, straight to Opus Oils and try them for yourself! You know you want to!

Ormonde Jayne

Linda Pilkington, how do I love thy genius? Let me count the ways…Tolu, a golden, glorious wreath of resinous perfection, Orris Noir, the world’s richest, warmest, thickest, sex-me-up iris got me into a flirt…five hours after I’d applied it and it was still going strong! Taïf, a dark, rich, red desert rose…Frangipani, Osmanthus and Champaca when life’s a bowl of cherries on a flawless summer’s day…oh, yes! Genius!

Penhaligon’s

Once upon a time, I received a Penhaligon’s Scent Library..and then proceeded to murder Malabah and Blenheim Bouquet. That’s love! Amaranthine’s utter strangeness and so-wrong-it’s-right-ness was stolen by a colleague. That’s purloined love!

Puredistance

There is no right way to say this, but say this I must – yet again. If you have the kind of skin that cozies up to green, then you must surely adore Puredistance Antonia. It is a masterpiece of a perfume – at once a reference to all those Great Greens of old and yet totally modern, too. It makes me happy and grateful beyond belief to know that Anne Bezantian felt as I do – and created what is – or what should be – a Classic with a capital C. Sigh. A forever love!

Robert Piguet

I never expected to conjure up the ovaries to fall for Fracas this year, but I did. With a vengeance. But there’s more intrigue from Piguet…since back in my Badass Days (when I was a good deal younger), I wore Bandit extrait…So I ordered a sample of the EdP from First in Fragrance, so I’d have something to complain about, only to find it was only slightly softer and not too changed these days, and that thrilled me no end. Bandit is another of my Great Immortals. Next I knew, I ordered a decant from TPC, because I’m still that kind of badass…and then, things got a little…weird. For this Bandit was not MY Bandit, with its bitter leather-violet-galbanum vibe and ashtray undertone (which is precisely why I love it, something only perfumistas can understand), but rather a fluffed-down, muskier version. Not even the color of the juice was the same. Came to find out that the US version is markedly different – why, I don’t know – and also, that I want that Euro ashtray version, so bad, I can taste it! On the other side of February 1st, I foresee an order…My sample is almost gone. I will cry my bitter isobutyl quinoline tears.

Serge Lutens

It gives me an evil amount of pleasure to state that I have managed to turn four of my friends and acquaintances into diehard Lutensoholics. Now, there are five of us where I live. I lured them in with Fleurs d’Oranger (best orange blossom ever created!), hooked them with Boxeuses, and wiped them up with Ambre Sultan. The Arabie is m-i-n-e. (and Suzanne’s! Cumin lovers, unite!) The Vitriol d’Oeillet I can share. If L’Eau Froide is half as good as I hope, this town is toast. Meanwhile, I have an inexplicable craving for the glories of Encens et Lavande…and want to try De Profundiis very badly. Cèdre I’ve loved for a quite a while, and thanks to JoanElaine, it can love me right back!

Skye Botanicals

The boy of the household – whatever Hairy Krishna, the ginger fiend thinks to the contrary – is a bit blasé about the amount of sample vials in different locations around our apartment. “Argh, Mom…why do you always smell of something?” he asked me yesterday. Nevertheless, he’s being indoctrinated by proximity. A seven-year-old who wears tiny dabs of Memoir Man to school has, I foresee, a very bright future. But one he loves beyond all reason is the one I spray on his pillow every night – Skye Botanicals Fuzzy Blue Blanket. It has replaced the lavender/neroli blend I used to use to get him to sleep. It works! He sleeps, if usually a half hour later than his mother would like…

Mainstream hits and misses

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t like very much of what came out this year at my local shops…Chanel no. 19 Poudré was such a massive disappointment for me, Prada Candy hated me with a fury. These two words should never occur in the same sentence: Caramel and hairspray. Gah! Bottega Veneta made my best of list. There are a few Guerlains I need to investigate properly – Insolence among them, and yes, you may shoot me! But the closest thing to a mainstream find – and I can’t even find it here – that I loved was a flanker to one I do like: Mugler’s Alien. I said it – I’m a sucker for intergalactic jasmine sambac. When Aromi of IlMondodiOdore sent me a sample of Alien Liqueur de Parfum, it took me no time at all to decide I. Just. Have. To. Have. It. It’s Alien but better, smoother, richer, with a smoky, satinwood, resinous amber drydown to die for.

Ah, we perfume bloggers have it rough. So many ‘fumes, so little time. The ones we had to wear to review, the ones we wanted to love but couldn’t, the ones we loved so much, we couldn’t review them, and the ones we love so much, we wear them even on the days we claim we’re wearing nothing at all! These were mine in 2011. What were yours?

Image: The Queen’s Crown, made for Queen Sophie Magdalene by court jeweler Frederik Fabritius, 1731. Royal Danish Collections, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen.

The Best of the Best 2011 – Phrases, Friends and Facilitators

Without you, I’m nothing!

Here’s a confession for you. In the real world, I’m a newly divorced single mother of a seven-year-old who works a decidedly unglamorous job for a minimum wage that just barely pays the bills. I do not own a credit card except for very dire emergencies, and I live in the Niche Empty Quarter of northwestern Europe. Several stores in Aarhus and Copenhagen do carry a few niche lines, but I get there so seldom, they might as well be located on the moon. It really is…that bad.

So I’m in deadly earnest when I say that without the staggering, stupendous, mind-blowing generosity of my fellow bloggers, friends and facilitators in several locations on both sides of the Atlantic, this past year of exploration and this past writing would never, ever have been possible. I’m so poor, I can’t even send them anything back to reciprocate. The samples I have already reviewed I pass on to a dear friend in the US who is battling cancer right now and who should surely have access to the kind of beauty that inspires hope and a will to survive, because she needs that more than anyone else I know.

OK, guys…you can put down the Kleenex now! ;-)

Instead, I try to pay my facilitators back with what I do have to spare…my words. Words in my reviews, words in emails that have kept me going through a very challenging year, Twitter conversations, retweets and whatever else I can do to express my abject gratitude…for the friendships I’ve forged, the connections I’ve made, the inspirations I’ve found and my hopes for possibilities and a future I couldn’t have imagined just a year ago. Whatever else I’ve achieved in this past year, my own words have carried me out into a world that really does want to read them, and for that, I’m grateful, too.

I was asked to be a guest blogger for Penhaligon’s ‘Adventures in Scent’ blog, and inadvertently channeled Agatha Christie by way of Amelia Edwards, Oscar Wilde, Robert Hitchens and Jane Austen. My review of Puredistance Antonia will be featured along with a few other bloggers’ in Puredistance’s new PR material in 2012, and that floors me, too. Last but not least, two august houses in particular have been more than kind to an unknown perfume blogger by spreading the word, retweeting me and even in one case posting a link to a review on their official Facebook page, which in my world view was a bit like receiving an encouraging postcard from, well, God!

But the biggest compliments I’ve received have been from my readers, who have kept reading in spite of it all. If not for you, if not for those emails and hotly anticipated padded envelopes, if not for the many postcards, cards and notes on my Wall of Fame behind my desk…none of this could ever have happened.

Back in the day, I began writing about perfume on the premise that if I could write about that most ephemeral of art forms, I could write about anything. Below are my personal favorites, the ones where the genie really did talk back and even I was surprised…

¤   Amouage, “Silver and Black” of Memoir Man, “Becoming Violetta” of Lyric Woman. When the story and evolution of an entirely fictional love affair makes even the writer reach for the Kleenex…

¤   Aftelier, “The Union of Heaven and Earth” of Cepes and Tuberose, “The Best of All Possible Worlds” of Candide

¤   Puredistance, “An Eternal April” of Antonia

¤   Opus Oils, “A Swell Party”“Did We Evuh” of the Les Bohemes collection, “Eau de Perdition” of Dirty Sexy Wilde

¤   Aroma M, “Sailing Through Byzantium” of Geisha Amber Rouge

¤   Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, “Reclaiming Eternity” of Paradise Lost, “Vertesimilitude” of Vert pour Madame

¤   Maria McElroy & Alexis Karl, “A Philter Perilous” of Immortal Mine

Friends, Facilitators and the Fellowship of Fumeheads

No best of list would be complete without a big, fat thank you hug to those who made everything possible…the words, the discoveries, the shared laughter, the emails, the acute indecision in front of my perfume cabinet, wondering who I’ll be today…

Lucy of Indieperfumes

When I was just starting out into the perfumosphere, Lucy of Indieperfumes was among the first to sense I might have something to say about perfume that might be worth reading. This was very high praise from such an exceptional writer. Without Lucy, I would never have been introduced to the world of indie perfumers, would never have met Mandy Aftel, Maria McElroy, Alexis Karl, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz…and my life as well as my writing would have been infinitely poorer for it. Without Lucy, I wouldn’t have participated in the Clarimonde Project. As for the rest…we’ve forged a soul friendship that means yours truly is planning a trip to New York in 2012, and if I ever need a literary agent with exceptional promotional skills, I’m hiring Lucy in a heartbeat!

JoanElaine of Redolent Of Spices

JoanElaine and I just…clicked. There’s no other way to say it. Both diehard chypre lovers, both a bit iconoclastic, both of us united in our love of a few great Immortals. When she located a vintage mini of one of mine, Guy Laroche’s Fidji, I about died. As it is, I wouldn’t want to live without her!

Carrie of Eyeliner On a Cat

I had been reading Carrie for a long time when she loudly rebuked me last spring for a reference to someone we both hold very, very dear. Since then, we found we share more than a few things in common, besides a love for cats, black metal and Christopher Lee. Carrie turned me on to gourmands. And Opus Oils. Her generosity of heart and spirit is legendary – for a reason. So is her writing!

Vanessa of Bonkers About Perfume

Vanessa and I could not be more polar opposite in terms of our personal tastes. She prefers understatement, whereas I’m a walking testament to sock-it-to-‘em sillage. Nevertheless, somewhere between her irreverent blog, many emails and a lot of laughter later – and generous decants of Roja Dove’s Scandal and Lucifer no. 3 among others – I’ve found a friend I truly cherish.

Suzanne of Perfume Journal

In the perfumista world is a term called a Scent Twin. Suzanne – an exceptionally gifted perfume writer herself – is mine. A Scent Twin is that rare creature who tends to love what you love, who will know something about your tastes and inclinations, and can often point you in a few directions you might otherwise not know. Suzanne and I met through my first perfume story of Amouage Ubar, whereupon she sent me a decant for my birthday. Since then, she has introduced me to many other wonders, and since then, she’s become not just a scent twin but also a soul sister. We’ve cheered each other up and made each other laugh and shared much else besides perfumed words since. I sincerely hope we always will.

Dee of Beauty on the Outside

It was Mugler’s Womanity – and my own snarky remarks about it on last year’s list – that brought Dee out of hiding to say hello, and what a ride it’s been since then! Devious Dee, I call her, since she tends to know things before I do, or should I say, know things I do before I do them! – has done so much to keep me going in this momentous year, and both she and I know…it ain’t over yet!

Olfactoria of Olfactoria’s Travels

Anyone who can manage to blog daily with two small children in situ and also be such a giving, generous soul as well as a spectacular perfume writer earns my undying respect and profound admiration. Should I ever get to Vienna, which isn’t my least favorite city on Earth, B will surely get me into all sorts of plastic-scorching trouble…and a Viennese cake, or two!

Ines of AllIAmARedhead

Last march, Ines was the very first to bribe me with that ultimate perfumoholic bribe…a Serge Lutens Palais Royal exclusive…a decant of Boxeuses. It has been much adored ever since! As has, gotta say it, the very redheaded Ines herself!

Aromi of IlMondoDiOdore

Aromi’s group blog,Il Mondo di Odore, was one of the first blogs I followed a long time ago, and I’ve read it faithfully since. He was also kind enough to send me a care package that included my favorite mainstream find of this year – Mugler’s Alien Liqueur de Parfum, and a sample of another line so exceedingly rare and off the radar, I’ve only seen it reviewed exactly once. It’s on my shortlist of up and coming attractions…which leads me to…

Favorite Avoidance Actions…err…blogs!

In a year that led to so many connections and so many cherished friendships, more discoveries in the blogosphere expanded my horizons and inspired me, too. On the right, you’ll find my blog list of favorite reading material – what I consider to be the very best in perfume writing. These are the ones I read myself. My one regret is not having the time to comment as often as I’d like, but I mean it when I say I read all of them. Many are mentioned above as Fragrant Facilitators, but I’ve made some new finds and located kindred souls, too…

Memory of Scent

Lyrical, rhythmic prose and thoughtful reviews don’t often go together quite so well in one splendid package as with Christos of Memory of Scent. If you don’t know him, start reading. He’s that good!

TheCandyPerfumeBoy

If not for Twitter and the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, I would have missed out on an absolutely indecent amount of fun – and another fan of Big, Bold, Beautiful Florals in Thomas, a.k.a The Candy Perfume Boy. I’ve decided to adopt him as my wayward kid brother. If we were ever in the same room, we’d be so much trouble…And speaking of trouble…

Persolaise

Once upon a time, there was a frequent reviewer and Basenotes commenter who decided to create his own blog. Since then, he’s become so awesome, he’s been justly nominated for a Jasmine Award for best perfume blog and received all sorts of exposure for his unquestionable expertise. Make no mistake, Persolaise is…trouble! Irreverent, funny, very intelligent and an inveterate tease. There was that running gag one night that involved a pink shirt, an August Personage, rumors of a fabled extrait, rope, a chair, Britney Spears Circus Fantasy, Covent Garden and “Bring me back my oakmoss!” While we’re on the subject, Persolaise, I’ll happily sign that oakmoss petition, too!

Jen of ThisBlogReallyStinksPerfume

In the unlikely event I should ever need a Conanna the Grammarian, Jen is hired in a heartbeat. Her blog – of course highly articulate, funny and grammatically perfect – is as unique as her perfume perspectives and indeed her beautiful self, and with a name like that, you know it’s special!

Ari of The Scents of Self

Ari is a relative newcomer but she’s no newbie when it comes to writing about perfume – or even her highly entertaining and well-planned series of interviews with perfume bloggers! She loves cats – indeed, has a cat named Zelda after a hyperfamous Fitzgerald – literature and Guerlain, probably not in that order.

Nat of AnotherPerfumeBlog

Nat should rightly be listed as a Great Facilitator for being the one to arrange a split of an Ormonde Jayne Tolu travel set that also involved yours truly, but I also love to read her! Whether instigating a poll to decide on her wedding perfume or recounting her adventures in London, she’s always an excellent excuse not to do what I should be doing, which is writing another blog myself!

Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass

I’m not entirely sure what it is Undina does for a living, but I’m relatively certain it involves things like statistics, mathematics and other things that make my eyes glaze. She’s so organized, her monthly lists of perfumes she wore are sorted into graphs and spreadsheets after percentage! That, my friends, is dedication! Here’s my system…reviewed and should be sent to Lily (small pile in red brocade makeup pouch). Received and needs review (large pile in turquoise cakebox). Check inbox. Did I say thank you? Yes. Good. Later. Love! Turquoise pull-out organizer. Will get to later…assorted tangled mess in blue cakebox. Guilt trip – in black voile bag…What I wore this month…what was it again? So you can see why I am speechless with admiration!

Gaia of The Non Blonde

Not content with being named for a Goddess of Earth and origination in Greek mythology, Gaia the Non Blonde is also one of my personal goddesses. My admiration for this ultimate authority on makeup brushes as well as vintage perfumes knows no limits, and even less so when I posed a difficult makeup question to all those beauty bloggers I follow on Twitter, and Gaia gave me what amounts to the winning lottery ticket – a tip about Dutch makeup artist Ellis Faas. Three samples, two emails and a rather expensive concealer later, I no longer have to look my age, never mind act it! From nine+ feet away, I don’t even need Botox! Grateful is not the word…

Joey of Beauty, Bacon, Bunnies

Once in a blue moon, temptation will slink in sideways when you least expect it and before you know it, you have a Devil on your shoulder, egging you on. “C’mon! You know you want to!” Indeed I do, and when I doubt it, I have that devious Devilette named Joey on my shoulder egging me on to ever-more perilous adventures in perfumes that sometimes involve Tiger in his natural habitat…When I do get to New York and finally meet her, Manhattan will never be the same…

The Postcards from God Department

In a year where I’ve written so much, stretched my horizons to silly putty and beyond, met so many mind-blowing people and flirted hardcore with a rock star legend and his bass player, two more stars of a different order appeared on the firmament of social media…and no thank you will ever be enough!

The social media/PR department of Parfums Serge Lutens have been unfailingly kind, encouraging and promptly retweeted any Lutens creation I posted as my Scent of the Day, as well as posted some of my reviews on their Facebook page. This is my fifteen milliseconds of fleeting fame, my postcard from God – and this, too, has made this year one I won’t forget in a hurry, since Serge Lutens perfumes put me on this fabled road to perdition to begin with.

And then, there was a very important August Personage of a Very August Perfume House, who lost his luggage on a promotional trip, whereupon I wrote him I’d keep my eyes crossed it was located safe and sound. I did. It was. Since then, whenever I felt myself flagging, the occasional – and sometimes very prompt – tweet from Christopher Chong of Amouage has either galvanized me right out of my rut or made me laugh until I cried. Until such time as I can get to London and say thank you in person – and rest assured I will, even if I don’t have a thing to wear! – his encouragement and support of one iconoclastic perfume blogger/nutcase/writer wannabe has meant – and spoken! – volumes. Epics! Opera, even!

Because…isn’t that what has been the theme of this year? To connect, to find likeminded souls with likeminded passions and the joy of sharing it, to pass it on and pay it forward and make it real and make it happen?

Without all of you, nothing would have happened. Without all of you, what would be the point? The year of 2011 was the year I laid the groundwork for everything I just know will happen in 2012, the year I began to believe…and for that faith alone, no thank you will ever be enough!

Just remember, guys and gals – our common adventures are just beginning, because now, we can see the road before us, and who knows what wonders lie ahead and what marvels we may find?

Image: The Coronation crown of Christian 4th of Denmark, made by goldsmith Dirich Fyring in Odense, 1595-96, from the Royal Danish Collections. 

Best of the Best 2011 – Perfumes and Perfumers

If anyone had told me what kind of year I would have just three hundred and sixty four days ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. I would have believed it even less if I had known what magic carpet rides I would encounter, what places I would go, or what marvels I would breathe.

This has been an impossible list, impossible because there have just been so many discoveries and so many perfumes, perfumers and fellow bloggers I would have loved to have on my list, but if I wrote about them all – and surely, I’ve tried? – we’d be here until next year.

Instead, I’ve split my best of the best into three – this one, to celebrate the perfumes and perfumers I was introduced to in this momentous year, second, to celebrate my favorite reading material/avoidance actions/friends and facilitators, and third, a tribute to the ones I wore with a passion and loved with a fury. The perfumes I mention in this post have been without exception released this year, which meant omitting others that were released previously, but they’ll receive their own mention in Part Three. It also means that in spite of other important releases issued, I’ve only mentioned those I’ve had the opportunity to try.

Indie Love!

My heart belongs to the indie perfumers of the world. With a few notable exceptions, the idea of handling a perfume bottle that has been touched by the hands that made it, the mind that conceived it, the perfumer who wrote me, wrapped it up and sent it to me, Ms. No One In Particular, makes it that much more…special.

All the indie perfumers who have made it to my Best of list put the ‘mano’ in the Italian phrase ‘fatto à mano’, made by hand, made with love, care and ‘ àl ‘onore della m’arte ’ – “in honor of my art”, an art that mainstream releases all too often ignore in their mercilessly commercialized hunt for the Next Big Thing.

It is a dedication I have rarely found until this past year, a dedication I had all but given up on ever finding again. When you support the indies, you support the artists themselves instead of filling the already overstuffed coffers of Sanofi, Proctor&Gamble, LVMH…

Support your indie perfumers, and you support a commitment to quality and artistic vision that even the Fragrance Foundation itself has now acknowledged with a category all its own. For a reason – the indies are…that good! They do it without much advertising, but only simple editorial write-up (if they’re lucky to get it), reputation/word of mouth and a little help from the blogosphere.

The Perfumers

This was the year I discovered the staggering creativity of American artisanal perfumery. Granted, I had a lot of help to point me in that direction, but geez, Louise…the scope, the breadth, their sheer jawdropping, sleight-of-hand artistry…

Each has their own personal signature, that singular touch and aesthetic vocabulary that makes them instantly recognizable.

This being my own year of Great Epiphanies, I’ve decided that rather than single out one of them, I’ve put them all up on the Number One spot. Ladies – you have all won my heart and undying loyalty to my dying day, and I can’t ever imagine a perfumed life without any of you!

Mandy Aftel, Aftelier Perfumes

The early morning I found an email from Mandy Aftel in my inbox redefined that lovely Yiddish word…’plotz’. Yes, I did. I had read reviews, I had perused her website, I had some intimations of what to expect…so I thought. Nothing could have prepared me for the olfactory shock treatment my Jacobsens’s organ had in store. Mandy’s perfumes redefine sensual shock treatment. Mandy had an amazingly creative year – with Haute Claire in her collaboration with Liz Zorn, with Oud Luban for the Clarimonde Project, and with Secret Garden, her tribute to the classic florals of yore in collaboration with Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. Heaven help me, I love them all. Mandy herself has been a constant encouragement and inspiration for me this past year, and for that, I love her, too!

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Parfums de Beaux Arts

Where does Dawn Spencer Hurwitz quit? I mean…where does she quit? First, she blew my mind with Vert pour Madame, a throwback to my most favorite ever perfume family, the green floral chypre, and next, she created the Cities of Splendor collection in a unique collaboration with the Denver Art Museum, and then…she gave us Pandora, her staggering ode to Mousse de Saxe, and to top it off, she also gave us Paradise Lost for the Clarimonde Project. Not one I couldn’t love, not one I couldn’t rhapsodize about until the cows came home, not one misstep. Dawn’s perfumes will surely be the death of my borrowed credit card. Or me, whichever comes first.

Maria McElroy, Aroma M

Maria is someone who somehow manages to bridge the gap between the time-honored art of Japanese perfumery and thoroughly modern Western scented sensibilities. Her Geisha perfume line of eaux de parfums and perfume oils is incredibly diverse and heart-rendingly beautiful, and therapeutical, too! She outdid even herself when she gave us Geisha Amber Rouge, a thick, heady, all-out outrageously opulent take on her famous Geisha Rouge (another favorite of mine), but she also created Immortal Mine for the Clarimonde Project with Alexis Karl, with whom she makes Cherry Bomb Killer Perfumes. Maria has become very dear to me and she is as lovely in person as her breathtaking perfumes.

Kedra Hart, Opus Oils

I have reasons to suspect that Kedra Hart conjures up an imp for every perfume she makes, because in every Opus Oil perfume I’ve ever tried, it sneaks out and makes me write things or imagine things I never dreamed I could. Mischief and mayhem, time travel and Tiger, and I never know where I’ll end up, but it will certainly… be so much fun, I have to do it again. And again. Kedra, too has had a banner year…with her soliflore collection of good-time gals Les Bohemes, with her Wild Child that won the Patchouli Summer of Love award (and put the POW! in patchouli), with Starfucker for her house model, Tiger the Tempter, and with her latest amazing creation, the world’s first perfume for anosmics, Eau Pear Tingle, which I can’t wait to try. Had I but known that perfumed perdition could be so much fun…and I suspect, there will be…many more imps to come! And a Tiger. And other hazards to my sanity…

Honorable Mention:

No slight is intended to either Liz Zorn of Soivohle/Acoustijuice or Neil Morris, except to say I have been thrilled beyond measure and compare to explore two more lines I had never had the opportunity to try. Expect to see reviews of both Liz Zorn and more Neil Morris in the coming year!

Best Mainstream Niche:

The three that made it to this part of my list are both made by houses that hold a special place in my heart – Amouage and Serge Lutens. What’s worse is that I’ve only reviewed one of them, which will be amended shortly. My opinion is definitely in the minority, but I don’t care – they are each of them the reason I love what I do.

Vitriol d’Oeillet, Serge Lutens & Christopher Sheldrake

Serge Lutens released Jeux de Peau, Vitriol d’Oeillet and De Profundiis this year, and much as I liked Jeux de Peau with its burnt toast, melted butter and delicious sandalwood drydown, I loved Vitriol so much, I arranged for a decant…and drained it. I’m no stranger to the old-fashioned splendors of carnation, but not many carnations have surprised me so consistently as this one, from its pepper punch opening to its silky-smooth drydown and its hourglass shaped development.

Honour Man & Honour Woman, Nathalie Feisthauer, Alexandra Carlin, Violaine Collas with Christopher Chong, Amouage

One thing to love about Amouage is how their perfumes tell two sides to the same story from a masculine and a feminine perspective. Inspired by the final act of ‘Madame Butterfly’ as a filial tribute, they both represent something new – the resinous, black pepper explosion of Honour Man, and the love letter to the big, white floral feminine that is Honour Woman. Both beautifully rendered, both surprising, both stunning. As for the ex who drained my sample of Honour Man to the last drop…he can buy his own!

Favorite Indie Trend:

Once upon a time, I gave up hope that anyone, anywhere would ever love the Green Fiends of yore as much as I did. Was I ever…wrong! I came to discover the marvels of Puredistance Antonia, Aftelier’s breathtaking conciliation of galbanum and ylang ylang, Haute Claire, and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ Vert pour Madame and Pandora. Green is the color of hope, and all of these give me just that. If I were to look into a magic mirror and predict what might lie ahead, that rediscovery of green would be one trend, but more importantly, I believe that indie perfumers are rediscovering the inherent challenges and thrills of the all-out, opulent florals…as we saw with Aftelier’s Secret Garden, or the opulent Oriental, such as Aroma M Geisha Amber Rouge.

Worst Mainstream Launch of the Year:

Chanel no. 19 Poudré

I had such high hopes for this one, was so excited to try it, and was so unbelievably let down. What on Earth were Chanel thinking when they decided to give Chanel no. 19 a makeover? Yes, it’s difficult, yes, it’s different, and yes…it’s an icon for a reason. So they took my beloved no. 19, which I’ve worn for almost thirty years without fail, filleted it, flattened it, and added an overdose of baby powder to make it more palatable for the mainstream consumers who might be intimidated by the original. I was hoping for a no. 19 Eau Premiere. What I got was a pale, wan, semi-starved seventeen-year-old who photographs well but is very vague in person. Me, I’ll take intimidation any day of any year.

Worst Advertising Idea, Ever:

Nothing against the lovely Natalie Portman, you understand, but I am…in an outrage of epic proportions when I see that Dior has now dropped the ‘Cherie’ from Miss Dior Cherie and is now promoting it as simply Miss Dior. Now, an entire generation will equate this hot, synthetic strawberry mess with the perfume that made Dior famous. This is superbad in the worst possible way.

Best Mainstream Launch:

Bottega Veneta

Color me surprised. When a fashion brand best known for its hyper-luxe gloves and woven-leather handbags launched its own eponymous perfume, I had no expectations whatsoever. So I was in the perfect place to be taken aback by the restrained, elegant and very ladylike Bottega Veneta, which is nowhere so restrained it’s boring, but also so consistently well-made, it’s easy to love, even for this cranky leather fan. I might even buy it, so long as I get a handbag, too.

Coolest Fusion of Fumes and Phrases:

When Lucy of Indieperfumes asked me to participate in the Clarimonde Project in time for Halloween, thrilled was not the word to describe my reaction. A vampire story unlike any other, an immersion into the netherworld of dark and light, faith and passion – what wasn’t to love about that idea? Seven bloggers, six perfumers, one story and a kind of synergy I have a hard time describing, but some kind of magic occurred along the way, something very special was created in both perfumes and words, and in several compelling ways, I’m not quite what I was that day I wrote her back to say I’d love to be a part of it. Monica Miller of Perfume Pharmer, Mandy Aftel, Ayala Moriel, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl all rose spectacularly to the challenge of being inspired by Théophile Gautier’s 1836 story, and it was all this blogger at least could do to hope I was up for doing each of their creations the justice they deserved. Certainly, Monica, Trish of ScentHive, Lucy, Beth of PerfumeSmellin’ Things, Jade Dressler, Deana Sidney of LostPastRemembered and I pulled no punches each in our own ways to dive into the vials and wrest their interpretations of the story from them. All  – the words and the perfumes – happily coalesced into a special kind of magic I will always feel proud to have been a part of.

Most Dangerous Perfume of the Year:

Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl, Immortal Mine for the Clarimonde Project

I have reasons to suspect that on occasion, not even the perfumers involved in creating a perfume are entirely aware of just what genie they’re unleashing upon an unsuspecting world. The term ‘mortal peril’ is a bit of a cliché in perfume terms, but in the case of Immortal Mine, take my word for it – it’s no cliché here! I broke that dripping, blood-red wax seal and my blood immediately ran icy cold and scorching hot. Even now, I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Magic, mojo, that blood of a slayed Wyvern, the soil from an unmarked grave…whatever else they put into Immortal Mine, it is, hands down, the most dangerous thing I’ve smelled all year, and likely ever in my life. They will have to wrest this one from my cold, dead hands if they can…or bury me with it, so I can haunt my descendants!

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part Two – and more favorites of the year! And tell me, what were your best and worst of 2011?

Image: The Coronation crown of King Christian V of Denmark, made in 1670-71 by goldsmith Paul Kurtz in Copenhagen. This is the crown depicted on all DK coins and it is known as ‘The Crown of Absolute Sovereignty’. Image from the Royal Danish Collections at Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen.

A Light for the Dark

- a review of the Amouage Epic Woman candle

Everyone past a certain age knows that love – the kind of love that changes you forever, the kind of love you never expected – will some day creep in on stealthy feet when you least expect it. Some day, maybe a rainy day, you will look up, your heart will stop for five breathless beats and …wham! Pow! You have been hit by that coup de foudre, that punch that knocks you sideways and never leaves.

Perfume, too, is no exception. In a year full of revelations, I’ve stuck my nose in marvels I never knew existed, been taken on journeys I could never have imagined. Opportunities have opened up for me, connections have been made and friendships distilled in the virtual alembics and fertile crosswires of perfumes and phrases.

It all began that night I decided to invest in a few samples of all those wonders I was tired of reading about, because really, nothing could be so wonderful, so fabulous, so much the epitome of everything that makes me literally incensed enough about perfume to write about it and share that passion.

I have never been so thrilled to be proven so wrong in my entire life.

In that sample pack were two Amouages. I had read about them, read about that maximalist sensibility, the very best of absolutely everything, the all-out opulent swoonability of them all, and the time had come to see if one post-punk attitude problem had grown too old and too jaded to swoon.

No.

What happened was no less than astonishing. Ubar was first since I had a hunch about it, a hunch that it might be perfect for me. Except that instead of writing a straight-up review, I wrote a story of a courtesan and a conjuror perfumer in ancient Alexandria, the captured essence of a life told in a perfume, and I don’t know where that came from, either.

Next I knew, it happened again. Only this time, it was Epic Woman. And it was…an epic story of an immortal rose that traveled from East to West and from Samarkand to a hidden, secret valley in Oman, where it blooms to this day, exhaling all its storied past if only you are lucky enough to find it.

Since then, my Amouage reviews have been told as stories, not because I want to write them out that way, but because they want to be written out in narrative form no matter what I do. I suspect it’s meant as a compliment, but it’s a hard way to write.

Epic I did love, and I did wear, although at times, it seemed to wear me. Glorious stuff, but maybe I just wasn’t…Epic enough? Too mundane, too ordinary, too short, too…blonde?

Other marvels, other wonders wandered in and out of my cabinet and into my treasure boxes, and sometimes I wrote them as stories and sometimes I didn’t.

One day, I frightened several small children at my local post office when I came to collect a package I only knew came from London. This was before I saw the box. The second before I screamed.

It contained a candle and a note and the scent inside that emerald green glass was…Epic Woman. I’ve kept it on my desk, which is where I write and sometimes on my nightstand when I want to feel decadent. As I would write, even when it wasn’t lit, I would catch a trail of something so haunting, so beautiful, it would remind me why I love what I do, even as I tear out my hair trying to get my words to fit the page.

It would burn when I wrote, and many things I’ve written since have been accompanied by that emerald glow and the scent of Epic Woman, and somehow, it crept all the way into my synapses and all the way into what I need and aspire to be. In this year of reinvention, when I’ve started over on so many levels and in so many ways, that trail of fiery spice and burning flower and glowing incense and oud was the New, Improved, Intrepid edition, the trail of that woman who banishes the ghosts and conjures genies and transforms them into possibilities and hopes in a half-darkened room, lit only by a desk lamp and an emerald green glow.

The scent is thicker than the perfume, with more of the glorious, opulent base, but it’s perfectly true to the scent. I think my wick had a bad hair day the day the wax was poured. It flickers, despite being kept trimmed and draft-free, stationary and carefully burned in the ‘Fame and Reputation’ section of my Feng Shui-ed desk. The only mishap was when a moth somehow landed in the unlit candle. Hairy Krishna was all over it in an instant. He scratched the glass but he caught the moth.

My living room no longer smells like little boy and the orange pomanders I make with ribbon, cloves and oranges. Now, I breathe as I type…the possibilities I create, the hopes I now have, the connections that I treasure and the many inspirations that find me.

I’ve been a woman for quite some time, have become rather good at it, even. In a momentous year, I have become intrepid, audacious, daring.

Thanks to a flickering, emerald, hyperfragrant glow, on this darkest night of the year, I look up and I discover…that I’ve become Epic, too.

The Epic Woman candle is available from First in Fragrance and the Amouage website.

Disclosure: The candle was sent by Amouage for my consideration.

Epic Woman and Epic Man were created in 2009 by perfumer Daniel Maurel and Amouage Creative Director Christopher Chong.

Image of Winter Solstice sunrise: Paleocave

Image of candle: Amouage.

Shadow Play

-  a review of Montale ‘Boisé Vanillé’.

Have you ever noticed how your perceptions change in the dark? Somehow, everything except your sense of sight is heightened, sound and smell take on a new significance, and what you can see shapeshifts into other, more ominous things that almost seize a life of their own in the shadows that recede into the darkness. Even your thoughts morph into other forms and patterns, and what seems preposterous in daylight somehow makes far more sense in the witching hours after midnight. Those daytime stories of crystal-clear delineated form and logic fade to darkest gray like old Polaroids, and instead, the mind opens to myths and magic, to all the primeval elements that make us what we truly are and feed the dreams and stories we create, and so we grow, if only we will dare to look into that dark.

I think of all of these things, I think of that interplay of shadow and light, logic and dream, and I think of a perfume that somehow also exhales on the borders of light and shadow, its form shifting and changing into something otherwise and other ways unexpected, and that is another reason I love what I do – to meet the unusual and follow where it leads, even if it takes me further into the shadows. That perfume is Montale’s ‘Boisé Vanillé’, surely one of the most unique vanilla-themed perfumes I have ever encountered.

Until now, I have never tried any of Montale’s perfumes, kept away by other olfactory distractions and hesitant because of one note in particular that gave me serious pause for thought. Montale is a house known for its use of oud. With a few exceptions, oud and I do not get along well. That note of medicinal and apothecary puts me off in a bad way, unless it’s so seamlessly blended with other notes I hardly notice it’s there, or of such an extraordinary quality I can appreciate its other facets.

No oud smolders in ‘Boisé Vanille’, but ‘smolder’ is the operative word here…this is a perfume that pulses in the shadows, that changes and evolves, and is surely one of the moodiest perfumes I’ve ever had the privilege to sniff.

Vanilla, that glorious cured pod of a jungle orchid, can be interpreted in so many ways. From the cupcake ubiquitous of celebufumes and tweenie scents to the star player in the famous ‘Guerlainade’ of Guerlain, who used it to such stunning effect in Shalimar, or focused on the pod itself to effect no less stellar in Spiritueuse Double Vanille, or to Serge Lutens’ olfactory candied dream of Un Bois Vanillé – in all of them and countless more, vanilla lurks to evoke memories of childhood and a sweet-toothed comfort against the vicissitudes of life, or else to seduce with its likewise aphrodisiac pleasures. The scent of vanilla has been scientifically proven to heighten all other sensory impressions, something every perfumer knows who attempts to bottle seduction and succeeds.

‘Boisé Vanillé’ is not that kind of vanilla. This isn’t sweet in the slightest, has no associations with food or childhood comfort scents, and as I wrote before…it’s moody, shifting the ground and the expectations beneath your nose whenever you think you understand it to something else and otherwise and very, very different.

Many perfumes start out on a bright, soprano note of hello before they take you away on that magic carpet ride, but ‘Boisé Vanillé’ has other plans and another kind of ride in store. I read of notes like lemon, geranium, bergamot and lavender and conjure up luminous green, fougère ideas, but here, those ideas are subverted almost immediately by a darker heartbeat…cedar leaves, dark and smooth and bitter. A fiery tendril of allspice glows, intertwined with a patchouli so velvety plush and rich it pulses in the halflight that surrounds you, a suggestion of iris adding its own air of intrigue. This perfume is not short on intrigue.

Vanilla even I can detect above, below and throughout it all, but this vanilla is all base and all basso profondo, it chooses to show another earthier, woody face. If there were such a thing as vanilla machismo, I offer Boisé Vanillé as Exhibit A, although I think it should wear equally well on both sexes, so long as you have the attitude it seems to demand.

After a long, long while, as it leads you through its twilit dark, a magnificent tonka bean makes itself known. Combined with the basso profondo vanilla, the smouldering embers of allspice and that velvet-black patchouli, it evokes certain types of incense, yet no incense is listed, and that, too, is astonishing. Like all the Montales I’ve ever read of, it has the half-life and staying power of radioactive isotopes. When I wore it last, I could detect it quite clearly over twenty-four hours later, even after a bath and a shower.

I can imagine anything with the right kind of cattle prod and very slight provocation. Yet I could never imagine in my wildest, phantasmagorical dreams conjure such a thing as Gothic vanilla, Gothic in the sense of melodrama, of shape-shifting intrigue, of those tales of the Mahabharata enacted by the Wayang shadow puppeteers of Bali. Tales that shift the ground beneath the audience’s feet as they watch, when heros prove to be villains after all, and villains another kind of unexpected hero, changing loyalties and evolving in the dark beyond from light to black, playing out their archetypal tales that lurk in the shadows that make us all encounter what we truly are or dare to be.

Notes: Lemon, geranium, bergamot, lavender, cedar leaves, allspice, iris, patchouli, vanilla, tonka bean.

Montale is available in many locations online, including Luckyscent, and First in Fragrance.

A big, fat hug and thank you to the very devious Dee of Beauty on the Outside, who made this review possible and once again put me on the primrose path to perfumed perdition!

For other reviews of ‘Boisé Vanillé’, I highly recommend my Scent Twin Suzanne’s, and Dee’s, too.

Image of Balinese shadow puppets: Wayang2u

Mount Rushmore in twill on a beach

- a review of Tiger Powers’ ‘Starfucker’

Once upon a time, it took merit to become famous. To become famous, you needed either the merit of a happy genetic accident, the merit of talent and accomplishment, or else just the undeniable merits of a perfectly matched pair of 34DDs.

These days of course, it takes nothing at all. These days really is the infamous age Andy Warhol (pretty celebrity-obsessed himself) foretold, of fifteen famous minutes for everyone for absolutely nothing at all, although it usually helps to be good-looking, whether or not you’re able to back that up with some other…talent.

Don’t believe me? Two words: reality and TV. Feel free to insert your own horror stories here. I rest my case.

And yet. And then. And then again, there’s Tiger Powers, Hollywood fetish model, musician and face of Opus Oils, and who is one of only two exemplars of the masculine gender whose mere image is enough to completely distract me from whatever it is I happen to be doing at the time, despite being neither short, balding, over the hill or from New Jersey.

I first encountered the chameleon charms of Tiger during a fit of serious indigestion indecision of a kind unique to fumeheads and perfume bloggers – when I browsed Opus Oils’ website looking for samples to order. Mind you, this was well before I even sniffed Kedra Hart’s marvelous creations, and as if indigestion indecision weren’t enough, suddenly I had to open my windows, because either my geriatric PowerBook was overheating or I was.

Certainly I was by the time I reviewed ‘Dirty Sexy Wilde’ and as if the perfume weren’t quite indecent incandescent enough, Tiger channeling a devilishly delicious version of Oscar Wilde was no help. At all.

So I next really put my laptop in it when I concocted the idea of a perfume story for the lovelies known as ‘Les Bohemes’ and made Tiger the star attraction and instigator of a time-travelling night and Hollywood party to remember. In not one, but two installments!

Some time later, I received a garish envelope from Tiger containing his new, signature release…and lo and behold, it’s named…Starfucker. Not only does this new scent have about the coolest name ever (because I’m that kind of post-punk arrested development imp), it brings with it absolutely no associations of any kind of night that starts with free champagne, access with a VIP and a limo ride and ends with a brutal early morning reality check in the far reaches of condo hell in Marina Del Rey.

Tiger Powers, let’s not forget, is so much classier than that and would surely never do such a thing. Call me a dreamer, but I know I’m right!

This little sample vial is instead Essence de Tiger, down to and including – so the press release states – samples of Tiger’s DNA…blood, sweat and tears. Fancy that – a Tiger you can clone!

So how is it? Is it rock’n’roll and sin and perdition? Deviously devastating? Is it outrageously good-looking, packed with illegal quantities of feline charm and urban jungle camouflage stripes under the Klieg lights? A weapon of mass seduction?

The short version: no, yes, yes and absoeffinglutely! Arrange them as you please!

The long version is a long, drawn-out sigh of…oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! If you have fond memories of the former glories of such immortal classics as Dior’s Eau Sauvage, which was a summer staple for me (too) long ago, or Acqua di Parma, which my late beloved stepfather wore and I will forever associate with class, wit, and all arts manly, then Starfucker is so easy to love, it’s ridiculous, precisely for not being what you might expect from an icon like Tiger Powers.

Instead, it sashays out of the bottle on a California sunbeam of effervescent fragrant fireworks, the kind that smiles a mile wide and shines down upon you as you bask in that summery glow…well hello how are you, it seems to say, and suddenly, your heart skips a beat and you really, truly do believe – in spite of all your lifelong cynicism has taught you otherwise –that anything at all can happen, and whatever happens, it will always, but always be good, even if you have other ideas.

Should you have other ideas, they’re not too far behind, either, when that swellegant lavender, jasmine and sandalwood make their star appearance and turn in the spotlight, and by the time some long hours later when life’s a beach and that’s all you need, that’s precisely where you’ll be, dipping your toes in the sunset Pacific wrapped in the beachiest, sexiest kind of happy drydown. You, yes, you too can devastate the diehards and slay the unsuspecting with Starfucker and they’ll never have a chance to do anything at all but surrender to your charm.

C’mon Tiger, ‘fess up. You did that on purpose, right? ;)

Meanwhile, as I frantically reassemble my neurons into something resembling a brain and a readable review, I’m, well, sold. Sold on the idea of wearing this with a vengeance, like so many other of Kedra Hart’s fragrant fabulosities, sold on the teenaged thrill of telling people what I’m wearing since I haven’t evolved that much past the age of tongue-in-cheek, and utterly sold on the vicarious thrill – truth? Fiction? – of wearing someone else’s DNA…so long as it’s DNA worth wearing. I won’t do that for just any ol’ Joe Schmo…

So long as I try not to think of that PR photo that makes me think…

Mount Rushmore in twill on a California beach.

I can dream. Oh, can I…

Notes for ‘Starfucker’: Lime, green mandarin, lemon essence, Italian bergamot, orange flower water absolute, Seville lavender, jasmine, sandalwood, Iso-E Super, Amber, Vetiver, Black agarwood and oakmoss.

Tiger Powers’ ‘Starfucker’ is available as Eau de cologne, bath and body oil, body lotion, body butter and bath salts from the Tiger Powers website. At mind-blowing reasonable prices for something so good!

Image courtesy of Tiger Powers, used with permission.

An Alchymistic Veil

- a tale and a review of Aftelier Perfumes‘Secret Garden’

Tonight would be a night to remember. Tonight, she had decided, it was time to move past those effervescent champagne conversations that somehow lasted until the waiters began to close the restaurant. Time to move past those promising goodnight kisses at her door.

It was time to show him what he had yet to learn about her, that other woman who hid waiting just beneath her skin, that woman he had yet to know. That woman she wanted him to know and not forget.

So here she stood in her bathrobe and her dizzying state of anticipation, preparing to be picked up at 7:30. Her seduction kit was laid out in order on her bed – her luckiest, laciest garter belt, the 10-denier stockings, the sinful silk satin slip and the perfect little black dress to give just enough of an intimation of the wonders beneath it, nothing more nor less than her skin…and a perfume, but which one?

All her bottled divas clamored for attention. The ones she wore for her own pleasure, the ones he said he’d liked, the ones she had yet to find the courage, the audacity to wear with him.

Audacity would have to wait until some unsuspecting, rainy Sunday afternoon, when it would be so much more effective.

No. She wanted something different, something new, some other perfume he had yet to know, something…like that woman who would peel off all that sultry lace and satin to reveal the volcano underneath. Yet it had to be a little less …obvious, a little mysterious, a breath of that clandestine self she so wanted him to find.

There was a purple box stashed among the divas, a purple box with a beautiful orange and purple label and nestled inside in yet more purple-printed orange tissue paper, another bottle full of possibilities and a name containing anticipation, and what could be better for a night like tonight?

She sprayed the air and sniffed. Oh, yes. This was the one. ‘Secret Garden’ it was called, and it was perfectly named for a perfect night.

This green, fruity, woody startling shock of beauty and bergamot and a satin touch of orange would be the light she knew she would see in his eyes when she opened her door, it would be that lift of his eyebrows, that tug at the corner of his mouth and that widening of his pupils that told her he liked what he saw, but that wasn’t all she was and certainly not all this perfume was, either, for an electric heartbeat of otherworldly animal pulsed below it, pulsed with promises and moonlight under a wild midnight sky.

It beat through and around a floral heart as peerless as the charmeuse skin that soon would hide her heat, so seamlessly blended it was a thankless task to tease the bouquet out beyond a helpless shrug of surrender to a floral otherworld. They might have been rose, a rose to inspire a legend, an idea of some forbidden fruit, jasmine, that most devastating of blooms, and ephemeral flowers opening up just beyond a garden gate in some eternal Eden.

In her more cynical moments, she sometimes thought the perfumer’s art was dying out, replaced by facsimile approximations of what perfume could be, should be, had once upon a time always been…a way to breathe in and be inspired by the divine.

Every time that threatened to occur, she was surprised in her soul again, surprised that somewhere, a perfumer’s master hand created yet another marvel, yet another fervent promise that beauty still lived and all one had to do was breathe with an open heart and a burning soul.

She did that now, and that suggestion of animal twitched its tail and purred its furry purr against her senses. Could this really be civet, this mischievous wink that tugged in her mind? This, ah, how could it be…castoreum that added so much velvet deep and devilishly rich, a sweet-scented fever touch of desire? Patchouli…ah, no one did patchouli like this any more, no one at all, this was the purple soul of patchouli, this was simply all in all an unapologetic, decadent, thick, vanilla-tinged, superheated sable pelt of a perfume.

She had to sit down for a moment on her bed. Her clandestine skin, captured in this bottle. Anticipation and promise, wonder and fire, caught within the weightless liquid filigree of essence and absolute, animal and anima and all she wanted only him to know at last.

She knew what would happen, she knew that later, she would be wrapped in that anticipation and promise lurking underneath its sheath of silk and satin skin, and he would breathe in this alchymistic veil of perfume that would utterly transmute this woman he only thought he knew.

Notes:

Top: Bergamot, bois de rose, geraniol, blood orange

Heart: Jasmine sambac, raspberry (compound isolate), Turkish rose, blue lotus

Base: Civet, castoreum, vanilla, deer tongue (a plant), benzoin, aged patchouli.

‘Secret Garden’ is available as an Eau de Parfum from the Aftelier website. A sample was provided for review by Mandy Aftel.

Image: Katarina Silva. Used by permission.