I love preparing my best and worst perfumes list at the end of each year. To me, it isn’t as much about naming best and worst as it is an opportunity to consciously view this year’s perfume experiences from a longer-term perspective: How much did I keep up with new perfume releases this year? What stood out at the time? What remained memorable half a year later?
My first “best of” list came in 2011, and I named Mon Parfum Cheri par Camille my pick for best perfume of the year. I still agree with that choice, and my choice not to name a “best” in 2012, because there were no releases that I liked a lot and also thought were truly innovative.
This year, I am providing a partial list of all the perfumes I tested, for your information. Thus, when you see that a well regarded perfume doesn’t appear on my list, you will know it is because I didn’t try it, not because I tried it and didn’t think it was so great.
So, let’s go!
Incomplete list of 2013 launches that I tested
- Neela Vermeire Creations Ashoka
- Jean Patou Joy Forever
- Molinard Habanita Eau de Parfum
- Puredistance Black
- Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin
- Byredo 1996
- Amouage Fate
- Envoyage Zelda
- Viktoria Minya Hedonist
- Penhaligon’s Iris Prima, Vaara
- Bottega Veneta Eau Legere
- Atelier Cologne Silver Iris, Gold Leather
- Hermes Eau de Narcisse Bleu, Epices Marine
- L’Artisan Parfumeur Caligna, Skin on Skin, Amour Nocturne, Deliria
- Aedes de Venustas Iris Nazarena*
- Lolita Lempicka Elle L’Aime*
- Carven Le Parfum*
- Dries van Noten par Frederic Malle
- Tory Burch*
- Aerin (entire line)*
- See by Chloe
- Rihanna Rogue*
- Katy Perry Killer Queen*
- Taylor Swift Taylor
- Valentino Oud Assoluto
- Kerosene (entire line)*
- Terry de Gunzberg (entire line)*
- Le Labo Limette 37*
- Tom Ford Sahara Noir, Cafe Rose, Jonquille de Nuit, Lys Fume, Ombre de Hyacinth, Oud Fleur,* Fleur de Chine,* Shanghai Lily,*
- Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Cashmere,* Oud Velvet,* Oud Silk*
- Reem Acra
- Chanel 1932*
- La Via del Profumo Milano Cafe
- Agent Provocateur Petale Noir
- Sonoma Scent Studios Cocoa Sandalwood, Rose Volupte
- nu_be (entire line, *some not tried on skin)
- Estee Lauder Modern Muse
- L’Occitane La Collection de Grasse
- Crabtree & Evelyn Oriental Collection
- Mark Buxton (entire line, *some not tried on skin)
- Lush Gorilla Perfumes (various, *some not tried on skin)
*Not worn on skin.
Best Perfume of 2013
Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin
La Fille de Berlin smells wonderful, but is also creative and unique. I wouldn’t consider any perfume for this category if it didn’t tick all those boxes. I also have a runner up this year, which hasn’t happened before. Byredo 1996 (review to come) is creative, unique, and smells great.
Best “It Just Smells Good” Perfume of 2013
Viktoria Minya Hedonist
I am adding this category as a place for perfumes that I think are really great, but perhaps less challenging or cutting edge than those in the “best” category. Hedonist is the winner, and Envoyage Zelda was a strong contender.
Worst Perfume of 2013
Terry de Gunzberg Terryfic Oud
Terryfic Oud is derivative, uninspired, commercialized … it is purely awful. I have nothing good to say about it. There are whole groups of fragrances — including the latest Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s oud trio, a lot of offerings from Tom Ford, and these from Terry de Gunzberg — that simply “smell like 2013.” And it isn’t just the oud trend. These identiscents are the high-end fragrance world’s version of the fruity floral formula for celebrity fragrances, and I find them no less annoying. Terry de Gunzberg’s line epitomizes the copycatting on all fronts, as not only the fragrances are copied, but also the packaging (from Armani Prive).
Most Underrated Perfume of 2013
Molinard Habanita Eau de Parfum
I am surprised that this more accessible but still fairly full-on revitalization of Habanita didn’t get more attention. Perhaps this is because fans of Habanita don’t need a more sedate, more powdery version? For me, the new Eau de Parfum might be a gateway to the original. I also thought Reem Acra’s fragrance deserved more notice.
Most Overrated Perfume of 2013
Most Disappointing Perfume of 2013
Penhaligon’s Iris Prima
When I first heard Penhaligon’s was launching a ballet-themed fragrance, I didn’t get my hopes up. Most ballet-themed products are too much tutu, not enough iron will for my taste. When I learned the brand had collaborated with the English National Ballet, and that the perfumers had attended classes and rehearsals, I started to hope. I should have remembered that hope is the beginning of disappointment. Iris Prima is indeed far to fluffy and tutu-y for me. My connection with ballet is more about drive and mettle. But what really earned Iris Prima this dubious honor is that it rips off Bottega Veneta quite a lot.
Best and Worst Perfume Marketing of 2013
Penhaligon’s Iris Prima
I debated for some time about whether the Iris Prima fanfare was the best or the worst marketing of the year, and in fact it’s both. From the awkward acting of the ballerinas at Saks to the bottle of Iris Prima that is vomiting pointe shoes, it is cringe inducing (the worst), but probably effective at luring in ballet-crazed teenagers (the best).
Idea Whose Time Has Come
Fragrance Republic brings out exclusive perfumes each month, and basic-level subscribers receive a 15 ml bottle as well as some other benefits. What appeals to me about Fragrance Republic is that the perfumes are new creations, and Fragrance Republic seems to be trying to create a community where subscribers give feedback and help shape the kinds of perfumes that are released. At $29 a month (about $350 a year), it isn’t dirt cheap, but it’s cheap enough that I wouldn’t be disappointed if I didn’t love every perfume. For me, it is more appealing than sampling programs like Olfactif and Bergamot, because I live in a place where I can sample niche and indie perfumes in stores.
Best Perfume Writing
I considered ODOU Magazine, Perfume: The Art & Craft of Fragrance by Karen Gilbert, and Scent & Subversion by Barbara Herman. All of them were good, but none truly wowed me.
Best Perfume Gift
Miniature bottle sets
Neela Vermeire Creations, Tocca, Tom Ford, By Killian, and several other brands are now offering sets of miniature bottles for sale. I love this! Now if they would provide all their fragrances in miniatures and allow us to assemble our own sets, I would be completely content, but I know that would be expensive and logistically impractical.
Perfume Highlights of 2013
For me, some of this year’s highlights were sampling La Via del Profumo, Fleurage, and Mark Buxton’s eponymous line for the first time. I was very excited for a new release from Byredo, and thrilled when it didn’t disappoint me. Bottega Veneta came out with a second perfume that didn’t tarnish its perfect track record. The Barney’s perfume collection, so far including L’Wren Scott and Greg Lauren, showed a lot of promise (separate post to come). And I think Christine Nagel is a great choice to work with Hermes, now and when Jean-Claude Ellena retires.
Looking Ahead to 2014
As I look ahead to 2014, I have two main goals related to perfume. One is to continue blogging, which has been tough in the past year. The other is to master the art of the negative perfume review. I have come around to the view that my blog is not as useful as I want it to be if I don’t post negative or mediocre reviews. Please wish me luck!
What were your best and worsts of 2013? What are you looking forward to in 2014?