Monday, July 14, 2008

Top 25 Contemporary Perfumes

This weekend, I was asked by Helg of Perfume Shrine to come up with my list of top 25 perfumes that we can still enjoy today. Perfumes that were not discontinued, are not limited edition (sorry, Fleur de Shanghai, you can't be part of this list!), and the trickiest part – were not reformulated. Well, I have to say the task was not easy. Not because it’s difficult to find 25 perfumes that I love. But because what I consider masterpieces are for the most part chypres and have been reformulated at least recently (and if they haven't yet they are more than likely destined to reformulation or discontinuation in the near future).

So, I’ve set to create my own list. And I’ve decided to go a little bit on an impulse. This list includes many different perfumes from different houses (mainstream, designer, and niche). Some of which are easily wearable, some are classics, and some are downright odd but charming and really special in my opinion - and I hope you will be daring enough to try them for yourself!

Creating this list was challenging not only because it’s so difficult to pick one perfume I love over the other (yes, even when I'm allowed to pick 25!) – but also because the whole concept of reformulation is a bit tricky. It is very difficult to tell which perfume has been reformulated since it was made and which wasn't as some reformulations happen very gradually, and others are performed precisely for the purpose of making sure the perfume smells the same even though the scent of some of the materials has notably changed. There is an entire article coming up soon on SmellyBlog, dedicated to the mischief of perfumers reformulating your beloved scents and why on earth do we do that…

For this list, I felt forced to leave out all of the chypres I love except for ones that have been released very recently and I have a feeling were not reformulated (i.e.: Le Parfum de Therese). Favourites such as Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit and Miss Dior had to be left out of the list - although they always will have a place of honour in my heart, on my skin and in my collection (as long as my skin and nose don't get too greedy!).

I also tried to stick to contemporary fragrances as much as possible – the oldest perfumes you’ll find here are Diorissimo and Farnesiana (none of which were reformulated to the best of my knowledge – at least in a noticeable way).Interestingly enough, many if not most can be easily worn by men and women alike.

Another guideline I followed for this list is to represent the different movements in the perfume industry today - mainstream and designer fragrances, niche, independent and natural perfumers. For that latter I have included a link to their site where you can find the fragrances.

The following are non-reformulated, non-discontinued, non-limited-editions yet great!

In alphabetical order:

1. After My Own Heart (Ineke)
Modern and classy, pretty and melancholy. This is when lilac flowers meet summer showers. The heady inhale of realistic lilacs is followed by dewy raspberries over a dollop of heliotropin.
Nose: Ineke Ruhland

2. Agent Provocateur (Agent Provocateur)
Dirty and sassy, old fashioned yet with an abstract, contemporary musk base.
Nose: Christian Provenzano

3. Arabie (Serge Lutens)
Quirky and mysterious, reminiscent of tamarind and spices in an ancient Arabic city, Arabie is one exotic oriental that I will always have to have some around if not for wearing than at least for catching nostalgic whiffs off the vial.
Nose: Christopher Sheldrake

4. Burnt Amber (Neill Morris)
Amber is a popular theme, but here it is treated in such a delicious and original way with hints of burnt caramel. It is so well done and always enjoyable to wear without ever being too sweet.
Nose: Neill Morris

5. Chinatown (Bond No. 9)
Odd and unusual, Chinatown is one of the few modern renditions of patchouli, fruit and flowers that I can appreciate. Beware of over-applying, especially in the heat. When worn sparingly, it is sexy, original and sophisticated.
Nose: Aurelien Guichard

6. Diorissimo (Christian Dior)
If there is one perfect perfume in the world, Diorissimo it is. I may not wear it often but I can’t imagine my life without it. It’s pure fragile beauty locked up in a glass bottle since 1956. Here’s hoping it can protect it forever.
Nose: Edmond Roudniska

7. Dzing! (l'Artisan Parfumeur)
Of all the leather perfumes I know, this is the most playful and kinky. Rather than taking itself seriously, it soars above tigers and elephants in a flying trapeze, caged in colourful leather straps and mingles with sawdust and fireworks.
Nose: Olivia Giacobetti

8. Farnesiana (Caron)
Another floral beauty, from way back in 1947. It is so modern it’s hard to believe it’s been around for so long. A gourmand take on the fleeting, airy scent of mimosa – caught in a dollop of marzipan and vanilla and encrusted with candied violets.
Nose: Michel Morsetti

9. Feuilles de Tabac (Miller Harris)
Bold and unique tobacco in the most intriguing way imaginable and the most perfect leather fragrance I've ever smelled.
Nose: Lynn Harris

10. Kyoto (Comme des Garcons)
Mastic ice cream meets Japanese incense and ancient wood furniture. Kyoto is serene and seemingly aloof, like a kodo ceremony practiced in an ice cream parlor. It sounds weird but it works.
Nose: Bertrand Duchaufour

11. L (Lolita Lempicka)
The most delicious of all modern gourmands, L is sweet without hurting my teeth. On the contrary – it is comforting and soothing, albeit not in the least complicated.
Nose: Maurice Roucel

12. L’Antimatière (LesNez)
The most abstract of all abstract perfumes. Perfumes are always invisible. But this perfume is invisible even in the olfactory world. It is the closest thing I’ve ever smelled to pure ambergris tincture.
Nose: Isabelle Doyen

13. Le Parfum de Thérèse (Editions de Parfums)
An old masterpiece that was only made available to us recently. I think I’ve said enough about my endless love for this cheerful perfume where jasmine, basil, melon and moss live in harmony, happily ever after. If I had to wear only one perfume for the rest of my life this might just be it.
Nose: Edmond Roudniska

14. Muscs Kublai Khan (Serge Lutens)
Not particularly wearable, but all the same it has to be mentioned as one of the most daringly dirty perfumes of our time. If you ever miss the smell of goats roaming freely on the mountains and your boyfriends’ armpits this might serve as a temporary substitute.
Nose: Christopher Sheldrake

15. Narciso Rodriguze for Her
The most unexpected perfume to be on any lists of mine – it finally won my heart after a long period of resentment. This perfume pretty much sums up everything that is opposite of my personal taste in perfume, as well as my approach to perfumery, and I’d be surprised if there is even a minute amount of natural essences in it. But it is the sophisticated simplicity, the abstractness in it that I find most appealing, and at times of chaos simplicity can be a relief.
Noses: Francis Kurkdjian & Christine Nagel

16. Parfum Sacré (Caron)
This very un-90’s perfume was indeed made relatively recently and as far as I know haven’t been tampered with. Wearing it in the winter, especially when it gets below zero is a bliss.
Nose: Jean-Pierre Bethouart

17. Philosykos (Diptyque)
My summer staple for as long as I have known it, Philosykos is simple and refreshing with its minimalistic composition of fig, cedar and coconut milk.
Nose: Olivia Giacobetti

18. Poivre Samarcande (Hermes' Hermessences)
Like a good cup of chai, Poivre Samarkand has the clarity of tea and pungency of pepper over top musk, moss and wood. It is warm yet uplifting and fresh and although I don’t wear it often, I just feel lucky every time I smell it on someone else.
Nose: Jean-Claude Elena

19. Pure Turquoise (Ralph Lauren)
The one quality that is most admirable about Pure Turuqoise is that it is not sweet. It is so unsweet it is surprising. Aside from the grapefruit (which is more tangy than fruity) there is nothing in it whatsoever that suggest sweetness, prettiness or anything else that the perfume market is so saturated with. It is clean, refreshing and with the most clean, dry base. At the same time, while I do enjoy and appreciate its dry synthetic woody patchouli base I am still praying that this is not going to completely substitute the real true Chypres.
Nose: Annie Buzantian

20. Shiso (Aftelier)
Mysterious and sophisticated, this mélange of all-natural spices and herbs and woods (agarwood, borneol and shiso leaf among others) is haunting. It may not be as easily wearable as Orchid (which contains shiso and orange blossom) but is has a most complex and enduring composition that I find most suitable for personal wear and meditation.
Nose: Mandy Aftel

21. Songes (Annick Goutal)
Luxurious floriental yet with the signature elegance of the Annick Goutal house. Songes is dreamingly tropical and very easy to wear.
Nose: Isabelle Doyen

22. Un Jardin Après la Mousson (Hermes)
I would have never thought that I would like a perfume as soon as it comes out like I did with this one. In fact, there are many things about it that made me think I don’t like it. For instance – the initial sweet cantaloupe note that brings to mind an overly ripe cantaloupe on the verge of rotting in the garden in the heat of the sun. Yet 4 sample vials later, worn to the last drop and with no regret or a single moment where I even considered washing it off – I’m convinced it’s a favourite.
Nose: Jean-Claude Elena

23. Vetiver Tonka (Hermes' Hermessences)
Vetiver with a twist – accentuating the sweetness of it while not losing any of its clean, earthy woody simplicity. Vetiver Tonka won my heart instantly with its fuzzy coumarin and toasted hazeluts warmth.
Nose: Jean-Claude Elena

24. Waterflower (Soivohle')
The most beautiful, complex and unusual all-natural floral that I’ve ever experienced. Waterflower is an ode to the lotus flower, and is perfectly balanced.
Nose: Liz Zorn

25. Yerbamate (Lorenzo Villoresi)
Bold and at the same time quirky and mysterious, this coumarin-rich mélange of bitter and green notes. The tomato leaf adds a particular oddness at the soapy beginning which is what I think makes it most original, especially when leading to a powdery-fluffy sweet coumarin base.
Nose: Lorenzo Villoresi

Click on the following links to read the entries of the other participating blogs:
Perfume Shrine
The Non-Blond
Savvy Thinker

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At July 15, 2008 2:22 AM, Blogger Perfumeshrine said...

I am so glad you're well :-)

Great list and with many diverse scents. I cheated a bit and listed some reformulated ones (such as Mitsouko or Diorling) which at least haven't been completely ruined *hehe*

I also battled with myself whether to include some of you favs or not: Poivre Samarkande (my second fav in the Hermessences after Vetiver Tonka), Muscs Kublai Khan (restricted myself to one exclusive Lutens only), Arabie (ditto, on the exports), Dzing!, Kyoto (settled for Avignon), Diorissimo....

Say, do you think Farnesiana has not been significantly tampered with? My experience with it is not as vast as yours.


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