The Best of 2012 – Worn & Adored!

sophiemagdalenecrown

 – Being the true confessions of a hapless perfume writer…

Ah, the perils of a perfume writer’s existence. So many perfumes – according to Basenotes, 1366 new fragrances were launched in 2012 –so very little time! Without being able to sometimes club flotsam and jetsam reviews together – meaning I review more than one at a time – I’d be toast.

As it is, my ghost will probably be typing away in the afterlife long after my hopefully timely demise just to catch up on the backlog, wondering if Stygian WiFi is reliable…;-)

I also try to have a perfume free day every week to recalibrate my nose, which makes it easier to delve into the ones I do review.

Some of the perfumes I wore most in 2012 are repeats from my other two lists, for no other cause than I couldn’t live without them, others I have yet to review but I wore them anyway. Yet for all those new and/or newly discovered perfumes, sometimes, all this girl wants to do is wear a familiar favorite, and I’ve certainly done that, too.

These are the ones I have wafted and adored beyond all reason. For as surely as my readers know, reason had nothing to do with it!

Aftelier

Few things are more fun than scenting some of your favorite characters in books. It doesn’t get any cooler than to perfume the characters of your making, as my own project proved. Yet I suspect that Sophia – one important character who appears in my book Quantum Demonology – would wear Aftelier’s Fig, and whenever I’ve needed to borrow some of her own earthy grounding, Fig was a perfect fit. I loved it in an instant when I found it, and I love it dearly still. I hear Sophia’s Flatbush twang whenever I put it on. “C’mon, hon,” she seems to say, “just cut the bs already, whydoncha?” I do try.

Amouage

Some days, nothing but an Amouage will do. I’ve had a few of those this past year, especially with Memoir Woman, Beloved, and certainly Opus VI. I also came to discover that bone dry, bitter cold – as we had in late January last year – turns my Cloak of Invincibility, Epic Woman, into a very moody, oud-y creature. I suspect that’s why my sister hates it. Considering some of the stink bombs she’s hit me with over the years, it’s only fair.

Aroma M

It’s said that the scent of Artemisia – which we sometimes know as wormwood and also as absinthe – furthers creativity. Who am I to argue with the Fée Verte glories of the Belle Époque? Aroma M’s Geisha Green is one of the most beautifully rendered absinthe perfumes I know, and whatever it takes ‘to further creativity’, I’ll do. That I received it as a present from a very dear friend makes it even more special.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Ah, the lovely Dawn, she breaks my heart. For creating such stellar works of beauty as indeed she always, always does, and for making me cry, as I did when she so sweetly sent me her YSL Retrospective Collection made in collaboration with the Denver Art Museum’s Yves Saint Laurent exhibition. Those lucky enough to see it were treated not only to some of the most seminal – and spectacular – creations of my all-time favorite designer, they were also tempted with Dawn’s olfactory reinterpretations of some of his designs – and perfumes. La Vie En Rose – her tribute to one of my own Great Immortals, vintage YSL Paris, was so flawless, it made me cry. To be hit over the head by a massively packed suitcase of Guilt Trip for not reviewing that collection yet. The best defense in the face of Major Procrastination is an attack. Dawn, darling, yours will be my first review of 2013. As for the rest of you – read all about it!

Editions Frédéric Malle

Last year was my year of The Tuberose. It was a note I approached with some trepidation – one does not mess with this floral diva – only to find just how much I adored it, especially when it’s as stunning as the justly celebrated Carnal Flower by Dominique Ropion. I suspect that the equally lovely Lys Méditerranée won’t be too far behind its sister in the Flawless Floral department. I am so doomed.

The Ex (Dev) Factor

I’m single now, so alas I don’t know a lot of (willing) masculine lab rats for when I needed to skin-test assorted testaments to Thermonuclear Testosterone Bombshells – also known as the Devilscents. For this reason and several others, mainly his resigned-to-the-inevitable sense of humor, I recruited Super Mario Sr. He then proceeded to ruin the female wait staff one night at a local Italian trattoria by deviously dabbing their boyfriend chefs in the kitchen with House of Cherry Bomb’s Dev. Those ladies  – usually quite clearheaded and competent in a busy, popular restaurant – were useless that night. Resistance was futile. The next day, so he told me, everyone showed up with Epic Night To Remember grins on their faces. The guys all demanded to know, as only red-blooded Italian males can – “WHERE can we buy that stuff prontissimo???” He never told them. Some things – and some secrets, apparently – are just…too good to share! Some time later, Monica Miller of Perfume Pharmer was sweet enough to send me a liquid decant of the scent of her own Dev massage lotion bar. I had just enough time to sniff it, before he declared this was his new liquid definition of awesome, and stole it with that elegant sleight-of-hand Geminis so excel at. I never saw it again.

Exotic Island Aromas

Here comes Guilt Trip suitcase no. 2. Monica also flattered me this past year by requesting my dubious services for her Primordial Scents Project. As part of it, I received Juan Perez’ – the creator of Exotic Island Aromas – two contributions, and never in my life was a sample vial drained faster than his utterly unearthly Flor Azteca. You can therefore imagine how happy I was to win a roll-on of this wonder in a draw. Full review forthcoming or I am so dead, but this feral phantasm of a tuberose is to breathe – and die! – for.

House of Cherry Bomb

As if the devastation wrought by their Dev weren’t enough, the Awesome Twosome of the House of Cherry Bomb also made Lilith, and as opportunity would have it, on one of two dates I had last year, I wore it to see a former boyfriend I hadn’t seen in eighteen years. I really don’t know what came over me. Or him. Let’s just say the reunion was a happy one. I blame the perfume. It couldn’t possibly have been me.

Neela Vermeire Creations

When your preconceptions are blown to smithereens, when you’re blown to dandelion fluff on a high summer wind by beauty, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to wear it again as often as you can. In the case of the truly spectacular Trayee and Mohur, this could never happen often enough, and I’ve worn both of them frequently in 2012 with no end in sight. On those dire, far-too-early mornings when I told my reflection despairingly that Attitude Is Everything, I’ve worn Bombay Bling. I dare anyone to wear it without a smile on their faces! All three NVC creations have been plastered all over almost everyone’s Best of 2012 lists, and I’m not about to argue with splendor.

Neil Morris Fragrances

Among perfumistas, the astonishing Neil Morris is one of those great cult figures of American perfumery, far too cool to be a household name, much, much too talented not to be. No one was more flabbergasted than I when he chose to participate in the Devilscent Project – with alacrity and an infernal amount of glee, I might add. It pains me more than I can say to know that I only have two more Neil Morrises to review for the DSP, but on the other hand, it thrills me beyond compare to know that Neil,my darling, I’m not letting you get away! Rumi, made for his Vault Collection has become a signature I never want to be without, but I could certainly say the same for all five of his creations for the project. The good news for the rest of Planet Perfume is I understand they’ll soon be made available to the general public. Be afraid – in all the most perilous, perfumed ways…

Niki de Saint Phalle

In the Bad Old Days of the Eighties, when I wasn’t wearing my usual sock-it-to-‘em wonders, I was a definite green chypre kind of chica. No one was more thrilled than I when the opportunity to acquire this oft-overlooked gem came along. Niki de Saint Phalle is a softer, mossier and more approachable sibling of my beloved Bandit, and today, it is so unusual among the usual fruitchoulis in my vicinity, it always gets me noticed.

Olympic Orchids

One of my favorite things about inspiration is I never know in advance where it will take me. I suspect my partner-in-crime Ellen Covey would agree. So far as I’ve been able to tell, our notorious little project has redefined quite a few of her own sensibilities, and it’s certainly shown a far more dangerous, if not sinister side of her as a perfumer than anyone could have expected, least of all this longtime fan on the other side of the world. Labdanum – one of the oldest, most sacred perfumery materials – was a leitmotif of the DSP, and her opulent, labdanum-rich Dev #4 puts labdanum front and center in a whole new, peerless – and heartbreaking – light. (Ellen, I’m saving those other Devs for the (unlikely?) event I find a testosterone bomb to put them on…😉 ) Her Lil unnerved my colleagues many times this past year, before I swiped them off the floor in a photorealistic rosy swoon with her glorious Ballets Rouges.

Opus Oils

When I get rich, I want of everything Isis by Opus Oils. Because blue lotus – one of my favorite floral notes – really, truly doesn’t get any better than this. And when I want to bring out my inner hell-raising bad-gal, Opus Oils and Michelle Kredd Kydd’s M’Eau Jo no. 3 is the best intoxication to be found this side of a bottle of Jack D’s. In no time at all, I’m backstage again on a sofa in a green room with a libertine, cleavage-loving guitarist, sharing the filthiest jokes we know…

Ormonde Jayne

When a line has more hits than misses with me, I know I’m in trouble. Or I am trouble. Which is precisely what I am whenever I’ve worn Orris Noir, and that happens often with this luminous, rich and decadent iris. This past summer and early fall – or just whenever I’m in the mood for bluer skies and warmer climes – I’ve added Frangipani to my Ormonde Jaynes, simply for being the embodiment of everything tropical and happy and positively perfect, which is how it makes me feel, although I really should know better. Do I care? Not in the slightest.

Puredistance

If there is a celestial location where the epitome of spring is kept on tap, where Green reigns serene as well as supreme, then surely, it smells like Annie Bezantian’s masterpiece for Puredistance,Antonia? If there isn’t, there certainly should be.

Parfums Serge Lutens

2012 was the year I delved quite a bit deeper into the nefarious doings of Mssrs. Lutens and Sheldrake thanks to the interventions of a few perfume fairies. I’m not sure whether to thank them or curse them for that…but I’ve worn a lot of Lutens this past year, among them Rousse – I come from a long, long line of redheads, or at least that’s my excuse, De Profundis, which was everything in a chilly green kiss I could possibly have hoped for, and the breathtaking Sarrasins, which shot to the top of my jasmine exosphere in a flash and sank me to the floor in a heartbeat, overcome by this outrage of night-blooming jasmine so stunning, my world twirled, tilted and has never been quite the same since.

The Japanese Zen masters have yet another word for that instant when suddenly, all those random little factoids and odds and ends of things you know – or thought you did – fall into place as if by magic, and everything becomes as obvious as breathing, as clear and as sparkling as Baccarat crystal. That heartbeat when suddenly you get it, you get it all – the beauty, the peril, the earth, the sky, the air…the art? Zen wrapped all of it into one word and called it…satori.

Aren’t those the very moments we live and breathe for?

With thanks to all the perfume fairies!

Black Satin Bloom


– a review of Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Orris Noir’

With all the flowers used in perfumery and aromatherapy, there is one flower I truly worship and adore.

Not orange blossom for its instant-happy vibe, not the endlessly elegant lily with all its fragrant glories, not tuberose for its come-hither siren song, not jasmine sambac or grandiflorum, beautiful as they are, not rose in all its infinite variety, nor even violet, although I love violet, too.

Of all the blooms I love, there’s something about…iris. Some element of mystery, some near-indefinable cool I can never quite grasp and find eternally fascinating, and I own not a few irises. Chanel no. 19 in EdT and EdP, Dior Homme and Homme Intense, Guerlain’s Iris Ganache, Serge Lutens’ Iris Silver Mist, Odin NY 04-Petrana, Miller Harris Terre d’Iris…oh, yes, I love iris!

Orris butter, which gives us that haunting scent, tends to add elegance as well as a touch of restrained, chill aloofness, never more beautifully than in Chanel no. 19 and Iris Silver Mist. The point is – both of these immortal irises are cool, distant, even a touch intimidating.

Still another iris has made it into my iris-centric Hall of Fame, an iris – or should I say, an orris – neither cool nor intimidating, and yet…it has to be one of the most sublime iris perfumes I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

May I introduce you to Orris Noir by Ormonde Jayne.

The first time I tried it, it was indeed swoon-worthy, so I did. I was not completely discombobulated until a few days later, when I was about to wash what I dub the Holey Cardigan of Alexandria – an ancient, gray wool cardigan that has been part of my lucky/superstitious writing uniform since I began to write in earnest. As I was about to toss it in the washing machine, I noticed a trace of scent so utterly haunting, it stopped me, well, cold. That chilly finger of perfumed epiphany raced down my spine and made me shiver in my laundry room, trailing goose bumps of a kind dedicated perfumoholics will know.

Orris Noir is that rarest of rhizomes – a warm, decadent, sensuous, come-closer kind of iris. It starts out spicy, warm with davana, coriander, pink pepper and a bright burst of bergamot that keeps everything suspended in air, before it settles down in to the main attraction, an iris so sumptuous and opulent with the added touch of jasmine sambac, pimento berries and bay, so plush it might as well be olfactory silk velvet in a singular hue somewhere between purple and black. The heart of this orris continues to sing well into its dark, smoky drydown of incense, myrrh, patchouli, Chinese cedar and gaiac wood, and if those notes read like a recipe for the very best kind of trouble, you would be right.

It takes a certain level of confidence and experience to wear Orris Noir, or I could easily see it wearing you. This is not a perfume for shrinking violets or demure demoiselles. It’s a purple-black velvet aura, or if you prefer, a thick, voluptuous swathe of midnight-black satin that glows on your skin like a hint of anticipation, a spicy suggestion of promises you might want to keep. Orris Noir will most emphatically get you noticed, but what you do with it is up to you! No other iris I’ve encountered is so warm, so inviting and so all-out seductive, not just to your surroundings, but to you as well. Wear it to make an impression, wear it for a special night out, wear it when you need just that little bit of extra oomph, wear it when you want to feel…fabulous, warm, spicy and above all else, when you want to feel feminine with a capital F, or woman with a capital W!

On a big night out a few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to road test Orris Noir. How well would it hold up under the harrowing, sardine conditions of a very hot, humid rock concert with about eight hundred metalheads, rockabillies and Gothaholics? Would it last long enough to make any impression if I did manage to make it backstage?

I applied half a sample vial, just to make sure. I wore Orris Noir in my hair, my pulse points, a few more I invented just for the occasion and my clothes. My companion mumbled something about not being responsible for the consequences if I got too close, which could explain why he spent most of the show at least nine feet away. But last it did and beautifully so, through the opening act and the headliner and through eighty loud, glorious minutes, blooming all the way on to a tour bus with four flirting testosterone bombs who definitely noticed the perfume a certain blonde in red and black was wearing. A woman knows how to tell. The blonde meanwhile – that would be me – felt audacious enough, sexy enough, even confident enough to flirt right back.

Thanks to Orris Noir, which forever after will have associations of a night to remember. If that’s not the right kind of association to have with such a haunting, seductive perfume, then, pray tell, what is?

Notes:
Top: Davana, pink pepper, coriander seed, bergamot
Heart: Iris, sambac absolute, pimento berries (allspice), bay
Base: Incense, myrrh, patchouli, Chinese cedar, gaiac

Orris Noir is available from the Ormonde Jayne website.

Disclosure: Sample provided by Ormonde Jayne for review.

Image: Black Iris Publishing