I'm not quite sure about these 'best of' posts. Everyone has got in on the act this year, collaborations flying left, right and centre. So, in the spirit of the blogosphere, I'm jumping on the bandwagon too, with a slight difference. As I looked back at my posts this year and also at others', I quickly came to the realisation that I hadn't tried that many of the new releases of 2011, niche or otherwise.
I was slightly surprised at first, but after ruminating for a while, I realise that I've got past that compulsive phase of having to try every new release. Some of that is down to sheer economics and geography. My local stores don't stock that many niche lines, and in actual fact there are plenty of mainstream releases this year that haven't got to my neck of the woods. Secondly, I just don't have a wallet resilient and rich enough at present to buy a lot of perfume, including samples. Oh, I have my ways and means of sampling, and at this point, I just want to thank some of my fellow bloggers and perfume lovers out there who have generously sent me perfume this year. You know who you are and I appreciate the effort you have gone to! While on the subject, I also want to thank some of the ladies at my local department stores for giving so generously and I've enjoyed the perfume chats. Again, one fine lady knows who she is!
So, instead of listing my top 10 releases of 2011, I shall simply mention some of the perfumes I have tried in 2011, in no particular order or preference, and not necessarily of 2011 vintage.
Christian Dior Leather Oud - I fell in love with this raunchy fragrance and a good sign of its quality was that I probably wore it more than any other perfume this year.
Francis Kurkdjian Absolue Pour Le Soir - mmm, mmm, mmm. Sex in a bottle and while raunchy, sophisticated too. My favourite of his line by a proverbial mile.
Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminalle - the most beguiling and innovative take on tuberose I have encountered and possibly the most unisex one too, I might add.
Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore - a superior Jeux de Peau. Not exactly the same of course, and released many years before, but is an absolute stunner.
Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan - need I say more. An honourable musky mention goes to Kiehls Musk.
Sonoma Scent Studio Incense Pure - I've tried a lot of incense fragrances and love most of them, but this one is beautiful. Actually, most of what I've tried from SSS is great.
DSH Cuir et Champignon - a genius combination of notes. Leather and mushroom, seems almost obvious, but I haven't personally encountered anything else that smells like this beauty from Dawn. There's a lot of good stuff coming from DSH.
Puredistance M - suave, sensous smoky leather. A beautiful creation by Roja Dove. I know I have mentioned Puredistance a lot on this blog and no, I am not in their pocket, but this is a genuinely good perfume.
L'Artisan Al Oudh - this line takes a bit of flack on the boards, but personally I like a lot from L'Artisan. Al Oudh is a complex and challenging perfume, but I love it.
L'Artisan Fou D'Absinthe - I teeter between loving and hating this one, but it is interesting to say the least.
Bottega Veneta - this has been mentioned all over the shop and yes, it is very good. More of this sort next year, please.
Guerlain L'Instant Pour Homme - I own a bottle and it is one of the best men's mainstream perfumes out there, in my humble opinion of course.
So, I could prattle on and on and part of me wants to. However, for the sake of sanity, I shall stop here. Is there a perfumer of the year, or a favourite of mine? I'm tempted to say Bertrand Duchaufour. I know he is like a fungus, everywhere at present, but I have to say there is very little of his that I don't like, which speaks volumes for his skill.
Finally, I just want to thank all the bloggers out there that give me inspiration. I could not possibly single out any, but look at my blog roll and you will get an idea. In recent months I've detected a bit of negativity among some bloggers, people moaning about nasty comments made, etc. I can't say I've encountered any of this personally, but as a wish for 2012, let us all remain friends and always put our love of perfume at the forefront, not our egos or personalities.
For what it is worth, I forgot to mention that I did wear some perfume on Christmas day. It took me a while to work out what I felt like wearing. In the end I went for Amouage's Tribute Attar. To my mind it suited the day and mood perfectly. It is smoky, incense-y and rosy, with a slightly animalic edge just beneath the surface. What astounding intensity it has too. One or two smears with a wand lasts a good eight hours!
There were two things I disliked about this Christmas. The commercial lead-up to the day and the commercial aftermath the day after. Yes, I know this is the real world, and commerce is the big daddy, blah blah blah, but I am sick to death of pre-Christmas sales, post Christmas sales, sales, sales and more sales. I'm not thick. There might be bargains to be had, but how about a few days where we stay at home and actual enjoy the things we do happen to own already. And while we're at it, how about enjoying the people we live and love with too?
Rant sort of over, we had a lovely Christmas. There were a lot of presents involved, bought with money, in a commercial way of course, but it was a day where we simply sat at home, enjoyed the time with each other and ate good food. After returning from the Christmas service, my wife and I cracked open a bottle of champagne and ate smoked salmon with black pepper and lemon juice. Later we cooked a large rib of beef, with port and stilton gravy. It was kind of inspired by Nigella and it worked very well indeed. And the kids ate it too, which is always a bonus! Dessert was a much simpler affair - no Christmas pud, but rather jelly and custard. The kids loved it and we amped it up somewhat by having some Panettone as well.
Santa treated me rather well this year. I received two perfume-related books. One was Roja Dove's The Essence of Perfume and the other was Perfume, The Story of a Murderer, by Patrick Suskind. I also received the updated version of Bob Dylan No Direction Home, by Robert Shelton. Music and perfume, my two great loves - I couldn't be happier! My wife also knitted me a wonderful jumper (no Christmas reindeer, I promise).
On Christmas eve we spent about 4 hours putting together a bloody Playmobile hospital clinic for the kids. The box said it would take two hours. Bloody liars.... We got to bed at about 1.30 am, exhausted and emotional wrecks.
So, Christmas is over, but we enjoyed it. I hope everyone who is reading this enjoyed it too, and most importantly, spent the day with people they love, need and who in turn, love and needed them too.
Here's wishing all my fellow blogger friends and perfume lovers a wonderful Christmas. Whatever you do, I hope its time spent with the people you love and care about, and if it includes some good-quality perfume as well, then all the better!
In the interest of mundaneness, I thought I would let you know how my Christmas party went. As far as these events go, it was a moderate success. I only got moderately inebriated and managed to leave with my dignity intact. I often find office parties surreal. Perhaps it is because I work with these people day-in-day-out that it is strange to see them let their hair down and become sort of normal people, as normal as people can be at an event as contrived as office events tend to be.
Oh by the way, if you were interested, the perfume I wore to the event is Mona Di Orio's Cuir. It's a hard core leather on my skin and teeters between compulsive and repulsive. Typically, it is one of those perfumes that takes time to appreciate.
Those of you who have read my blog for more than a year may recall my aversion to office parties. I've been to a few in my time and while some have been good, I've found that the larger the party, the less enjoyable it is. Now, this might be down to my character - I'm the sort of person who prefers more intimate dinners and get togthers.
Anyway, today is our Christmas party and it remains to be seen how it turns out. To help soften the blow, I am going to have to select a perfume to comfort, provide confidence and a sense of joie de vie.
To write about Mitsouko with any degree of authority is pointless. So I'll cut to the chase and state that while I have tried the EDT (presumably the most recent formulation) on numerous occasions, I haven't tried any others. I like the EDT and have always found it very unisex actually.
Recently Cymbaline sent me a sample of a vintage formulation. I'm not sure which, but wearing it for the first time today I am struck by how strikingly different it is to the EDT. The EDT is dry, almost dusty, with the faintest hint of peaches. The version I'm wearing today opens with a fat, rich peach and rose note. It is bigger, bolder, richer and more feminine than the EDT. I'd liken the affect to be like full fat milk versus semi-skimmed.
As the vintage perfume develops, it starts to reveal characteristics in common with the EDT, but has a more old-style feel of oakmoss and is never as dry, and more sweet than the EDT.
I can see both having their place, on my skin. The EDT is definitely more man-friendly, but the vintage version I have is more voluptuous and complex. Fascinating....
My third perfume curiosity is an oddity I only smelled today for the first time. It shot to the top of the oddity charts, at least in my book, because it smells like soap. The most realistic soapy note I've smelled in perfume.
I'm talking about Stephen Jones by Comme des Garcons. The soap is Dove. Yes. I can't do this perfume justice by writing about it in detail after one wearing, but when I first sprayed it on I was flabbergasted. Ostensibly this turns out to be a fresh, green floral, I suppose, with some incense. But it isn't fresh really, and it has some serious lasting power I might add.
I've seen others do it, so today I decided I would do it too. Yes, a list of what I am currently enjoying....
Cymbaline recently very kindly sent me some lovely perfume samples. I haven't tried most of them yet, but two that have given me cause to celebrate are Ormonde Jayne's Ormonde Woman and 1000 Flowers Reglisse Noir. Ormonde Woman is a stunner and as unisex as they come. Reglisse Noir is fascinating. I've never smelled anything like it.
Got my eye on:
L'Artisan minis of Timbuktu, Coeur De Vetiver Sacre and Fou D'Absinthe. Currently marked down to about £45 at Fenwicks, but I'm hoping they'll drop further after Christmas, if any are still in stock. The ladies set includes Nuit De Tuberose and part of me wishes I could include that too.
Thinking of ordering some Neil Morris samples - I've wanted to try his stuff for some time
Candles - I'm suddenly obsessed with candles, but they cost a bomb. Wouldn't mind treating myself to a Carriere Freres or a Cire Trudon
It's bizarre, but I'm reading the first in the Twilight series and am strangely enjoying it. I was told this is chick lit, and maybe it is, but still, I like it, so wah.
Just finished reading Donna Tartt's The Secret History for the second time. It's ten years since I last read it and it is as compelling today as it was previously. A magnificent work of fiction.
Got my eye on:
a number of perfume-related books, including Roja Dove, Michael Edwards and Chandler Burr
No Direction Home Life and Music of Bob Dylan by Robert Shelton
Nigella - any of her books (call me a sucker for sexy Jewish women with er, large bossoms! say no more....)
I could list loads here. Over the last 12 months I have got massively back into music.
Recently I've listened a lot to Laura Marling, Bob Dylan, Fleet Foxes, The Band, The Black Keys, Mavis Staples, Nina Simone, Devendra Banhart, Calexico, Florence & The Machine, Jonathan Wilson, Bon Iver, Joni Mitchell, Josh T Pearson, The Kinks, Ron Sexsmith and The Stone Roses, to name a few
I've got my eye on everything. The only downside with having an Ipod that can store almost a lifetime of music is that it is so much more difficult to listen to whole albums with the passion and intensity that I used to back when I was a teenager.
TV, DVDS, etc
A bit late, I know, but recently I've got into Mad Men in a big way. I don't watch a lot of TV, but I recently loved the latest series of Masterchef The Professionals. It's the one TV reality show that I actually enjoy. X Factor sucks in a big way these days.
I've got my eye on The Wire. I've only read good things about this series.
For Christmas I've ordered myself The Beatles Anthology DVDs. I can see myself wasting a good few hours of my life watching this!
So that's it for now. I could list a lot more stuff, I'm sure.
I got round to sampling no 5 in Six Scents Series 1. Labelled 'Illicit Sex', in all honestly it doesn't remind me of sex at all, illicit or otherwise, but even so, it is one of those perfumes I would call 'odd'.
A few months ago I wrote about the first in series 1, no 1, here. It smelled like candied pineapple to me! No 5 is perhaps not quite as strange, but I also found it less interesting too. Boiling it down to basics, it is a peppery incense fragrance, but having said that, it didn't really smell that peppery or incense-like to me. It did smell quite synthetic, in a style that I could see Comme des Garcons doing. I was going to try describe what no 5 smells like, but honestly, I don't know if I really can.
When searching for reviews, I came across a particularly scathing review of this by PereDePierre, here, if you're interested in reading another take on it. For me, I thought it was different enough to write about, but am not sure if it is something I would wear regularly. I prefer the pineapple!
Ok, so one person's meat is another's poison. I guess the title of this post is just setting myself up to fail, perhaps.
Today I wore Bond No 9's Signature for Men. I've worn it before, but for the life of me couldn't remember what it smelled like. Wearing it today, I'm struck by how odd it is. I haven't tried many in the Bond line, to be fair, but Signature just smells... strange. Reading a few reviews, it seems like it is meant to contain an oud note, but frankly it takes a lot of imagination to actually detect it. Perhaps in the very late dry down I detect an accord that sort of hints at that found in, say, M7, but only just.
The thing that has me most baffled about Signature for Men is that I don't dislike it. Strangely, it smells quite good. It is a very synthetic creation, but not generically synthetic. So there you have it. I wouldn't buy a bottle, but sampling it is certainly no burden.
This weekend we stayed over with our closest friends at their flat in Limehouse, which is adjacent to Canary Wharf in London. It was with great sadness that they told us they are leaving the UK in April next year, after spending ten years here. After much thought, they feel that they aren't happy here any longer and are returning to Melbourne in Australia. For us it is a blow, of course, as we are very close and have spent a lot of happy times together here in England. However, we want them to be truly happy and I hope this move home will be good for them.
On Sunday we all met up with some other friends of ours, formerly from London but now living in Bonn, Germany. They had a little baby girl a few months ago and it was great to see them all. We visited a German Christmas market on the South Bank and generally had a good time, despite the dreary grey weather.
I didn't wear a lot of perfume this weekend, but somehow it felt appropriate not to. When I don't feel especially happy I also don't feel like wearing perfume...
I've had a soft spot for Mona Di Orio's perfumes for a long time. I wouldn't say they are easy to appreciate at first. Challenging and slightly offbeat are words that come to mind, but irrespective of taste, I don't think I could ever argue that they aren't interesting and ultimately, they reward the perfume lover who looks beyond the easy hook. Which possibly reflects the character behind the perfumes. Sadly, Mona won't be around to continue that legacy and passion directly, although I do hope her perfumes continue to be enjoyed and appreciated and here's wishing her spirit lives on in her wonderful perfumes.
I know this is getting boring, but today wherever I walked in town I saw further evidence of a mad desperation to sell merchandise at a discount in the run up to Christmas. Without wishing to come across as a scaremonger, I really do feel that we are living in desperate times. I truly have not felt this sensation quite so vividly before.
Onto happier themes, my perfume today was M, by Puredistance. I'm not going to elaborate, save to say that on a cold, blustery day, as autumn slips away to winter, M wears smooth, sophisticated and beguilingly. It's a brilliant perfume.
I can't help but notice how each year the sales start earlier than before. Traditionally, we used to get the New Year sales, then they started on Boxing Day and then last year I noticed sales in the fortnight leading up to Christmas.
This year lots of retailers, particularly online ones, started all sorts of sales in November and to be honest, thinking about it now there have been sales on during almost every month I can think of. This is clearly indicative of the dire state of the UK and EU economies and for all I know it might be just as bad in the US and other parts of the world. I find it quite depressing really. While I know these retailers are simply trying to move merchandise and kick start their stalling financial results, I'm not convinced it does anything other than paper over the all-to-obvious cracks in our economy.
Well, this has absolutely nothing to do with perfume really. Interestingly, a lady I work with emailed us all with vouchers from The Body Shop offering 50% off all their stock before lunchtime, or something to that affect. It boggles the mind, while for the last two weeks Amazon has been going crazy over Black Friday, Cyber Monday and God knows what other days that deserve some faintly disturbing-yet-catchy name.
I'm waiting for some samples to arrive from a generous friend, but while I wait, I'm wearing perfumes I've worn before. Today I tried an interesting layering combination of Ambre Precieux and Leather Oud. I thought the animalic take by Dior might work interestingly with MPG's softer, powdery amber. Sadly Leather Oud (and I only lightly touched it to my wrist) overpowered everything and it didn't quite work. Generally I'm still not convinced by Ambre Precieux. I find it a little too sweet and powdery for my tastes, although I know it has its ardent fans, which is great.
Well, I'm off to watch Celebrity Masterchef now, sad being that I am!
I mentioned yesterday that we were going shopping for Christmas presents. So we set off at sparrow fart for Bluewater, which is a very large shopping centre/mall in North Kent. For those of you not familiar with the UK, and Kent for that matter, Bluewater is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, stranded between major motorways such as the M2, with a 'tantalising' view of the Queen Elizabeth bridge, otherwise known as the Dartford crossing (over the Thames river). I stand corrected, but I think Bluewater is built in a hole (a very large one mind you) that was once a quarry, and is shaped like a triangle, with a major department store at each corner (House of Fraser, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer).
Anyway, enough about the history and geography of Dartford and north Kent. The shopping itself turned out to be less tortuous than I had feared. We got there early and managed to escape before the real crowds arrived at lunchtime. And we managed to come away with real presents! Yay!
While I was trying to find a loo in John Lewis I passed the Kiehl's counter and decided to try Kiehl's Musk. (Original Musk). I've tried this one a few times before and have come to the conclusion that it is the second best thing to Muscs Koublai Khan, which is no mean feat. While it is not as overtly animalic and complex as MKK, it does have a bit of skank, at least on my skin. It is possibly more floral and less dry than MKK, but in my opinion definitely shares the same gene pool, perfume-wise.
Basenotes list the notes as bergamot, nectar (what?!), orange blossom, neroli, ylang-ylang, rose, lily, tonka, white patchouli and musk. I must confess that on my skin I don't detect a lot of these notes, individually, especially the orange blossom and neroli. Musk is definitely the dominant note, from start to finish.
At £45 a bottle, I am sorely tempted to buy a bottle of Kiehl's Musk. I think it is a very good perfume indeed and very reasonably priced.
I know its December when I get my first cold of the winter. I woke up this morning with a tight chest and a slightly sore throat. I hope it doesn't develop into something more serious. I hate to talk about health, but since I had pleurisy last year my chest has never been quite the same and I tend to get chest infections a lot easier than I used to. This coming from someone who for about ten years between 1996 and 2006 could count the number of colds he had on one hand!
Anyway, so far my sense of smell hasn't been affected so I happily wore L'Artisan's Al Oudh today. I know this one tends to divide opinion. I personally love it and as someone who likes cumin, I have no issues with Al Oudh at all. It is a deep and complex perfume that felt just right for today.
Tomorrow we are off to start doing some Christmas shopping. Wish me luck!
So, it's the first of December already. I can't believe how quickly this year has flown by. Sometimes I wish I could hit that pause button on the remote control of life and just slow things down!
Today I wore Bois Blond by Parfumerie Generale. Luckyscent lists notes of cereals, grass, galbanum, cedar, hay, blond tobacco, musk and amber. Bois Blond is instantly recognisable as a PG creation. For example, if you have tried Coze or Aomassai, you will recognise that Bois Blond is part of the same family, albeit a toned down, slightly less gourmand version.
Bois Blond really does live up to its name. It is woody, grassy and hay-like, infused with slightly sweeter musk and tobacco notes. It really is a very good fragrance, but for some reason I don't feel particularly inspired or moved by it. I can't deny that it is well done nevertheless and it could just be my own tastes that lead to me reaching this conclusion.