In general, I thought 2009 was an excellent year for perfume. There was, once again, way too much new product (both niche and mainstream) and there was plenty of generic dreck if you wanted it, but there were also lots of wonderful new fragrances.
My picks and pans for the year are just below. Scroll down to see what Angela, Erin, Jessica and Kevin thought was noteworthy in 2009, or click over to Grain de Musc to see Denyse's take. And of course, do add your own thoughts in the comments.
And my picks for best mainstream fragrances: John Varvatos Artisan, Hermès Eau de Pamplemousse Rose and Prada L'Eau Ambrée, plus two fragrances that straddle the line between niche and mainstream — Van Cleef & Arpels Bois d'Iris and Hermès Hermessence Vanille Galante.
Did what they were supposed to do: Versace Versense, Yves Saint Laurent Parisienne, Annick Goutal Matin d'Orage, Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte, Gucci Flora, Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss, Guerlain Idylle, Issey Miyake a scent by issey miyake.
Didn't do what they were supposed to: as usual, too many to list, but my biggest personal disappointment was Prada's Infusion de Fleur d’Oranger.
Best commercials: I suppose it ought to be the expensive Audrey Tatou production for Chanel No. 5, but personally I did not find it as engrossing as I expected. The magic of perfume was better captured by the 2009 FlowerbyKenzo campaign. Sienna Miller for Boss Orange was just plain fun, and props for weirdness go to Loewe's ad for Aire Loco.
Worst commercials: there are always tons of silly perfume commercials, and most years I don't even think them worth mentioning. La Prairie's multiple videos for Life Threads (we only posted two of them here, but you can find them all on YouTube) were so consistently cringeworthy I feel compelled to give them a special category of their own.
Cheap thrill of the year: Crazylibellule and The Poppies Chère Louise.
Clive Christian award for aspirational pricing: honors to the Eau de Sisley trio, Viktor & Rolf Eau Mega and the Tom Ford White Musk collection. They were not the most expensive perfumes of the year, but they all stuck in my mind for the impressive disconnect between the product and the price.
Perfumer of the year: a tie between Isabelle Doyen and Daniela Andrier. Doyen's work at Annick Goutal and Andrier's at Prada have placed these two houses firmly on my "must try everything they make" list.
Angela's Best of 2009
Looking back at 2009, I'm surprised to see I only bought four new bottles of perfume. But I did have a few revelations and a few reminders:
Buy Used: This year I found Guerlain Mitsouko Parfum de Toilette ($12), a full bottle of Creed Fleurissimo ($12), Rochas Femme parfum ($8), Patou Eau de Joy ($8), Keiko Mecheri Passiflora ($10) and more by thrifting.
Expensive Candles Are Worth It: I never used to think paying over $10 for a scented candle was worth the cash. I mean, you burn it up and it's gone. Then Kevin's seductive review of a Cire Trudon candle enticed me to shell out for the Roi de Soleil candle, and I'm hooked. I need at least three more. Those things are gorgeous.
Perfume People Are Fabulous: This year I've met so many funny, smart, generous, fascinating, creative, inspiring people thanks to writing for Now Smell This. They are people I hope I know the rest of my life. Thank you!
Erin's Best of 2009
Despite the copious bad news the year brought us — IFRA restrictions, the closing of the B Never Too Busy brand, the further defacing of Diorissimo and, oh, the IFRA restrictions — I thought 2009 was a good year for perfume. There were a surprising number of superior multiple releases, starting early in the year with the North American availability of three fabulous 2008 additions to the Humiecki & Graef line: Eau Radieuse, Geste and Askew. All three scents were created by perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, who by now surely counts as my perfumer of the decade. For me, other than oud, the trend of the year seemed to be surprisingly juicy top notes: see Parfums DelRae Emotionelle, Hermès Eau de Pamplemousse Rose and Diptyque L'Eau de Tarocco for reference. Other favorite 2009 scents included Hermèssence Vanille Galante, Issey Miyake a scent by issey miyake, Comme des Garçons Daphne, Eau Divine by Divine and Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire Bois d'Iris and Gardénia Pétale. I've sampled a lot of the buzzed about fragrances this year, but I'm still lemming Ormonde Jayne Tiare and (especially) Christian Dior Ambre Nuit.
Jessica's Best of 2009
Even in a rough economy, fragranced body care somehow seems like an allowable small luxury, and 2009 brought some good choices at various price levels. I enjoyed sampling Diptyque’s new L’Art du Soin (The Art of Body Care) line; it’s a well-designed group of products, with evocative scents and lush textures. For a more wallet-friendly simple pleasure, I was happy to find out about Wembé Soaps, chunky little all-natural bars with scents and ingredients inspired by the Amazonian rainforest. I feel very practical when I use my multi-purpose Rose Hydrosol from Enfleurage. It smells like slightly bruised rose petals, and it works as a gentle facial toner, a mid-day facial refresher, and a bedtime linen spray. And falling somewhere between luxury and simplicity, Wash With Joe Coffeemint Invigorating Body Wash has become part of my morning shower routine; it never fails to perk me up (pun intended).
For perfume, some of my new favorites were affordable fragrances that also happened to have charming packaging. Crazylibellule and the Poppies’ Les Garçonnes line was destined to be a hit with me, just because of its women-of-the-1920s theme, and I really fell for Josephine Jonquille and Rose à Saïgon in particular. Tokyo Milk made me smile with its sweetly labeled and reasonably priced scents, especially Waltz; and Bath & Body Works lured me back to the mall with P.S. I Love You. In a more upscale vein, my vote for the most impressively consistent high-end fragrance launch, from its promotional literature to its range of products to the scents themselves, goes to Maison Francis Kurkdjian. And for the most glaring discrepancy between style and substance, I’ll name Dolce & Gabbana, for The D&G Fragrance Anthology collection as well as Rose The One. Lastly, one mention of a big name in niche perfume who has reintroduced us to his makeup-artist roots: Serge Lutens Makeup Remover Pads priced at $35. If I need to cut corners, something like this is very easy for me not to buy.
Kevin's Best of 2009
I’ve been bellyaching to Robin this fall that 2009 was not a great year for perfume, but as I put together my “favorites” list, I realized the year wasn’t so bad after all!
First, a wish I made in 2008 came true in 2009; Anya’s Garden made a perky cologne version of its Kaffir Eau de Parfum (thanks!) Nasomatto makes my Best of 2009 list with two drug-inspired perfumes: China White and Black Afgano. In spring, I enjoyed Hermès Eau de Pamplemousse Rose and Eau de Gentiane Blanche. (Eau de Gentiane Blanche was one of my few full-bottle purchases this year.) Humiecki & Graef Eau Radieuse and Olivier Durbano Turquoise jolted me out of the summer doldrums with their cool and clear notes. I love oud, and this year saw the debut of my favorite oud perfume (so far): Le Labo Oud 27. I also love vetiver and I’m still kicking myself for not buying a bottle of the sensational, sold out, LesNez Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1. Parfum d’Empire Wazamba is a bold take on pine-y incense with fruit (a great combination). Two orange blossom fragrances make my list this year: John Varvatos Artisan and Ineke Field Notes from Paris. Pacifica lost my soap business (no suds!) but keeps producing fun, high-quality-smelling (and inexpensive) fragrances like Malibu Lemon Blossom. The D.S. & Durga line created some interesting fragrances this year; my favorites: Cowboy Grass and $. Tom Ford Private Blend disappointed me with its White Musk Collection, but did release the great mossy-resinous Italian Cypress. Finally, there’s Terre d’Hermès — in parfum.
My favorite scented candle of the year? Jonathan Adler’s sweet-smoky-sweaty Hashish. Diptyque’s perfumed soaps and its L’Art du Soin line of body care products are wonderful, especially the Rich Butter for the Body (Crème Riche), scented with rose, Peru balsam and myrrh. Happy New Year everyone!