My love for Byredo is unrequited. They don’t sell samples. Their perfumes aren’t sold in very many stores, and they don’t list stockists on their website. They don’t respond to emails about distribution. They don’t respond to tweets about distribution (or anything else). Their perfumes go “out of stock” on their website for weeks at a time. They are pretty much a silent black void that periodically spits out perfumes that I love. Yet I remain loyal, because I think Byredo is making some great perfumes.


1996 is the latest launch, and finding it was the usual song and dance: my local stockist didn’t have it yet, and Byredo ignored my pleading email about ordering a sample. I eventually tracked it down at Barney’s in San Francisco last month, where the SA took pity on me and made me a sample. Had my luggage not already been full of perfume, I would have gone back for a bottle the next day. The fragrance was originally a private commission by photographers Inez & Vinoodh, and was partially inspired by their photograph Kristen 1996 (above).

The initial top notes are strongly reminiscent of cherry Chapstick. If you know what’s coming, you can detect notes of wood and smoke underneath, and within about 30 minutes, those notes are dominating over the cherry wax accord. The fragrance really begins to warm on the skin at this point, and there are lashings of leather, iris, incense, vanilla, patchouli, and carmelized butter spiraling through it. As it dries down, it becomes a comfortably inviting cherry leather incense.

The manner in which 1996 unfolds is really masterful. From an offbeat, wink-and-a-smile opening, it evolves into a fragrance that could inspire all kinds of different stories. Without assuming this is what Ben Gorham and Inez & Vinoodh had in mind, it does seem appropriately paired with the image of a young girl whose story is just beginning.

1996 was my runner-up for best fragrance of 2013, and a close runner-up it was. If you can get your hands on it, I would. I presume it was created by Byredo’s frequent perfumer, Jerome Epinette.

For a review of Byredo 1996, see The Candy Perfume Boy.

Image courtesy Style.com. Sample provided by Barney’s. Reviews are never compensated, and posts are never sponsored. See my Media & Disclosure policy for details.

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23 responses

  1. I love Byredo! I have purchased several of their scents. I have found them very gracious with information and samples from Stockholm. Being uber polite helps. 1996 will be my next purchase!

    • Wonderful they are so gracious in stores. I have never had the chance to visit their boutique, unfortunately. I hope it didn’t sound as if I was criticizing them as being rude – I have never doubted they are quite polite once you get in touch with them! – I simply can’t get in touch with them. :)

      Anyway, now that’s out of the way, and sorry for the digression – thanks for chiming in! Really glad to hear you like 1996 as well, and plan to purchase. It’s on my list, for sure.

      • Oh Natalie you didn’t sound critical at all and I love your blog! I’m so glad you take the time to feed our obsession. I have collected a library of hard to get scents. When searching for samples that you can’t buy I sometimes have a really hard time getting responses from the perfume houses. Not sure if they are having a bad day or my emails go straight to junk mail. I keep trying, it make the search fun!

        • Oh good! I was worried I had been too harsh. :) I should adopt some of your persistence and keep sending emails. Eventually, they will have to respond to me, right? :)

  2. I have mixed feelings about this perfume: I like how it smells but I do not like the name and the image they used as an inspiration is too disturbing for me (it reminds me of JonBenét Ramsey).

    • Her mouth does look like JonBenet Ramsey’s! That is a bit disturbing, now that you point it out. However, I think the photograph, while unsettling, doesn’t bother me as much because it seems as if the photographers were trying to make a statement about childhood. There are other photos in the series that are called “Kristen’s War Paint”, which I guess I read as a semi-ironic social commentary. But that is just my interpretation.

      On a semi-related note, I thought this was interesting: I read that the photographers make it a rule that they don’t photograph models under 18, because they have seen the damage done with young girls becoming popular models, and then being told they are “fat” when they are done growing. I thought that was a positive stance for them to take.

      As for the name: was 1996 a bad year? :)

  3. I guess living in Europe helps. :) Byredo’s been available in Zagreb forever (and still is).
    So if you’re ever in need of something Byredo, I might be able to help (Top sells it, where we smelled the L’Artisans last summer).

    • Yes, you are lucky to be on the mainland I think. I definitely saw more of it in Europe than in North America, and Tara reports it isn’t that readily available in London. That said, thank you for the offer!

  4. Byredo is pretty rare in London too. I only know of it being stocked at Liberty but couldn’t find it last time I was there. How strange they aren’t communicative on Twitter- i thought that was the point!

    I’m very curious to try 1996 as you and Thomas love it so much. The notes you get sound wonderful (I’ll refrain from judging the cherry chapstick till I try it) and the whole thing seems very distinctive. I also admire that the photographers don’t work with girls under 18.

  5. Man this sounds good. Haven’t tried it yet. I do kind of feel like Byredo is similar to Bond No 9 — annoying, overpriced line with some really great perfumes.

    • I hope you get the chance to try it, and let me know what you think if you do. Byredo is nowhere near Bond in my mind, but I can understand the comparison. They *are* expensive.

  6. “They are pretty much a silent black void that periodically spits out perfumes that I love” – this made me chuckle. I am on a bit of a leather/iris/hay/tobacco/honey kick at the moment, so this could well fit the bill, assuming I get on with the cherry facet, which is not a note I care for or a food I like (other than fresh).

    nd I know just what Undina means about that poor little girl – she was the pageant queen who was murdered, right?!

    • I have to admit I cannot see you liking this, but you might surprise me! And no one else has mentioned any cherry chapstick, so this could be a case of my mind playing a trick. Yes, JonBenet was the murdered little girl.

  7. Pingback: Best Perfumes of 2013 « another perfume blog

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