December has been a whirlwind for most of us, and I’m still reeling over how fast it went. Fortunately, there were moments of quiet calm this month, and several of them were spent revisiting perfumes from this last year. Throughout 2010, I enjoyed testing and reviewing an abundance of beautiful, newly released botanicals, and was very pleased that the natural perfumers themselves received a lot of positive press via magazines and blogs. With all my heart, I hope this trend continues as it is so important to support independently owned, artisanal businesses, especially when they are creating such gorgeous works of olfactory art.
The following are my favorite naturals from 2010, (as well as two non-naturals I fell for) but it’s truly just a sampling of what I enjoyed. I did decide to make a list though, so I have chosen the ones that will become lifetime loves.
Bed of Roses by Velvet & Sweet Pea. I don’t want to over-analyze this gorgeous fragrance too much, but Bed of Roses is like a study of contrasts. It’s vintage-esque but also modern. It’s powdery, but at the same time fresh and vivid. I give huge kudos to Laurie Stern for her expert hand and for creating such a dynamic and interesting rose perfume. Her skillful blending of aged sandalwood and cognac (vintage) with green mandarin and rose leaf absolute (fresh) allow different facets of rose to be present at the same moment. At its heart, Bed of Roses is a perfume that contains nine different rose distillations, so it’s richer and lusher than any other rose perfume I have experienced. Rose lovers, you will not be disappointed.
Mejica by A Perfume Organic. Mejica took me by surprise. I was not expecting anything new from this vanilla based fragrance as I thought I had pretty much smelled all that the bean could offer. Clearly, I was wrong. Mejica is smooth and spicy with cloves and hints of orange in the opening. It has a rich vanilla heart and a drydown made of sweet resinous musk. It’s been lovely to wear through the holiday season, and I eagerly anticipate what it will do on my skin when the days become warmer.
Bancha by DSH Perfumes. Bancha came along early in 2010 when it was still cold outside and I was craving a soothing balm. Bancha slipped into my life and provided just what I needed. Bancha is very grounding, and I liken it to scooping up limes or lemons that have fallen into dark, minty soil. Basil, rose and jasmine sambac add an herbacous floral quality while sandalwood and cedarwood round out its base, giving an aura of woods, like heat rising off a sauna’s walls. I loved Bancha last winter and have worn it frequently throughout the year. In addition to the perfume, I have the Bancha scented oil which is an exceptionally restorative balm for the skin and soul.
Mecca Balsam by La Via del Profumo. Mecca Balsam received rave reviews throughout the blogging world, and they were much deserved. Mecca Balsam revolves around labdanum, frankincense, benzoin and tobacco which suffuses the air with a gentle suggestion of incense. It never becomes overwhelming because it is so well-blended and subtle. Tobacco balances nicely with the labdanum, making it soft and cozy. For an all natural perfume, it has striking sillage with impressive staying power. Another excellent fragrance for the winter months.
Wildflowers by Aftelier Perfumes. Mandy Aftel released (at least) four fragrances this year, all of which I adore. But Wildflowers made this list because it’s centered around a note that for me, is crazy-making…in a good way. Hay. Yes, hay drives me a little wild. It gets up in my scalp and makes it tingle. Its scent generates the desire to frolic in a meadow of wildflowers and twirl until punch-drunk dizzy. Not all hay notes do this to me, just the ones that smell golden and have honey dripping from their stacks. Wildflowers is all about this kind of sweet, sunkissed hay and begins with a tart burst of lime and ends in a glowingly honeyed drydown.
GreenWitch by Roxana Illuminated Perfume. GreenWitch is unquestionably a chypre as oakmoss, galbanum, violet leaves and rose petals greet you from its start. After a bit, it gets a nutty, salty air from vetiver and tonka with floral nuances like boronia and honeysuckle. Honeysuckle is not in the notes, so I’m guessing the mimosa, ylang ylang and beeswax create a hybrid honeysuckle accord on my skin, and I love it. It smells like a day at the beach when you are blessed with warm skin, salt in your hair, and suntan lotion that barely lingers on your body. Green Witch has incredible sillage and staying power which lengthens the fragrance’s evolution, and it might well be Roxana’s most multi-layered perfume yet.
The Purple Dress by Ayala Moriel Parfums. Technically, The Purple Dress was released in December 2009, but for all intents and purposes, it was a 2010 perfume. The Purple Dress is a black tea based fragrance, steeped in a tannicy anise that is dark and smoky, moody and sexy, and has a gorgeous honeyed-wood drydown. Champaca is the featured flower in this beauty, but is tempered by the lightheartedness of magnolia and an easy touch of honey. According to Ayala’s website, this fragrance is a salute to Alexander Argov, who composed the famous Israeli song, The Purple Dress. You can hear an excerpt of it here and enjoy its evocative melancholic beauty, similar to its namesake perfume.
Guerlain Arsène Lupin Dandy. As I mentioned, there are two non-naturals that I fell in love with this year, and Guerlain’s Arsène Lupin Dandy is one of them. Dandy is being promoted as a masculine fragrance, and it does smell incredible on my husband, but it also smells pretty darn good on me. So let’s not cramp Dandy’s style with labels. Dandy begins with a nod to the legendary guerlainade brew which for me is sadly short-lived but for others, that might be preferred. Regardless, it grants Dandy an opening of distinctive familiarity that segues beautifully into a spicy, woodsy, violet tinged fragrance. Cardamom and an ultra-smooth sandalwood comprise the spicy woods while Dandy’s violets infuse a supple leather note that weaves its way through the fragrance’s entirety. The drydown finishes with a leathery-sandalwood-cedar musk that takes Dandy from its guerlainade opening to a modern finish.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Traversée du Bosphore. Here’s the other non-natural perfume I could not pass up, and it happens to be another violet-leather fragrance, albeit a very different one from Dandy. Traversée du Bosphore’s opening is full speed ahead leather and violet. It’s a dry leather, nearly heat cracked and edgy and you can feel the little violets struggle against the unyielding hide. The opening is interesting, but not entirely likable and it’s not until a softness emerges that I find myself succumbing to this uniquely compelling fragrance. Once the leather allows the dewy violet to soften its parched surface, it becomes more full and welcoming. The heart continues to expand upon the iris-leather accord but incorporates a gourmand aspect which on my skin is a delicious vanilla-almond confection. It’s quite an evolution when one considers Traversée du Bosphore’s arid beginning evolving into a gentle, sugared and musky rose at the drydown.
Don’t forget to visit the other participating blogs. I can’t wait to read what their favorites have been!