My usual disclaimer: I managed to smell only a small portion of the fragrance industry's prodigious output this year. If it was a fantastic year for fragrance, perhaps I tried the wrong perfumes — I thought it was generally a so-so year, and most of the Now Smell This contributors seemed to agree with me.
My choices are just below. Scroll down to see what Angela, Erin, Jessica and Kevin thought was noteworthy in 2015, or click over to Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Perfume Posse or The Non-Blonde for more opinions. And of course, do add your own thoughts in the comments!
Best from the mall chains: L'Occitane Pamplemousse Rhubarbe
Best from the indie houses: I thought it was a very good year for indie. I really liked Kerosene Unforsaken, Providence Perfume Co Provanilla, Tauer Sotto La Luna Tuberose, Aftelier Vanilla Smoke and the Eau de Parfum version of Aftelier Bergamoss
Did what it was supposed to do: Alaïa Paris by Azzedine Alaïa, Ferragamo Emozione, Penhaligon's Ostara, L’Artisan Parfumeur Noir Exquis. Bvlgari had three solid launches this year with Aqva Divina, Omnia Paraiba and my personal favorite Eau Parfumée au Thé Bleu
Why do you build me up Buttercup: Dior Sauvage
I've already forgotten what it smells like: Versace Eros Pour Femme
Most impressive eyeliner, plus a special award for best use of a buffalo: Johnny Depp for Dior Sauvage
Absolute favorite PR nugget of the year: the CEO of Ferragamo Parfums stating at the launch of Signorina Misteriosa that women are "multifaceted and polyhedral"
Best packaging: Miu Miu
Kitsch fun-fest of the year: Moschino Fresh Couture
Clive Christian award for aspirational pricing: Serge Lutens L'Incendiaire
You can't make this stuff up: Roja Parfums Tutti Frutti Aouds
We celebrated our tin anniversary this year: thanks for the memories (and the excellent shelf life), Fendi Theorema
Perfumer of the year: Olivier Polge. Misia was an excellent debut for Chanel's new house perfumer (and Chance Eau Vive, whatever, I admit I don't care what they do to Chance). Over the years, Polge has developed any number of excellent mainstream perfumes, from Balenciaga Paris to the original Dior Homme to Spicebomb, and I look forward to seeing where he takes Chanel next.
The Highlight: At last, Chanel No. 5 makes sense. Oh, sure, I thought I knew what No. 5 was about, and I thought it simply wasn’t for me. Finally, after all these years and a fortuitous purchase of vintage No. 5 Extrait, I get it. And I love it. For Christmas I bought myself a big bottle of the Eau de Toilette and have been sneaking spritzes between the fragrances I’m supposed to be wearing. Why now after all these years? Search me. But I’m grateful.
The Good: Two fragrances that launched this year — Bogue Profumo Maai and Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendré — draw me back for repeated trials. I love Maai for its take-no-prisoners gutsiness, a cross between Maria Callas’s elegant roughness and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Austrian muscle. Iris Cendré is a warm, welcoming scent to me. It’s brainy with iris, but approachable with its whiff of hearth. Other fragrances from past years that only just found their way to me, but that I’ve enjoyed, include Pretty Woman (if you love incense and wood, you really need to sample this one); Estée Lauder Knowing (my candidate for the ultimate grand American fragrance); and Ann Gérard Perle de Mousse (spring in an abandoned mossy chateau on a river). Also, I really enjoyed Luca Turin’s Folio Columns for the thinking they’ve inspired on perfume, art, living, and writing in general.
The Bad: Dawn dish detergent in Pomegranate Splash. Dawn is famous for cutting the grease, and this version brags that it gives you softer hands. But it smells like an alcoholic punch served at a sorority party. Despite its alluring petal pink, it hurts me to wash dishes with it.
It was a weaker year than 2014 for releases, I thought, and particularly on the mainstream side of things, but that left me more money for other indulgences, so... no harm done.
Favorite Mainstream Scents: Thierry Mugler Cuir Impertient and Alaïa Paris by Azzedine Alaïa (If you hated it, more for me)
Best Flanker: Hermès Equipage Géranium
Very Nice, But Not for $400: Amouage Sunshine Man
Favorite Brand of 2015: Zoologist Perfumes. Finally, a great niche line from Toronto! Adorably packaged and reasonably priced, Victor Wong's scents are the most fun I've had sniffing this year. Besides the brand new Bat, try Panda and Rhino.
I have a feeling that I tried fewer new releases this year than I usually do, due to changes in my employment (specifically, location) and the resulting lack of regular access to department stores and perfume boutiques. However, I did come across more than a few new perfumes that I genuinely enjoyed, and not one of them was oud-centered.
Mainstream Favorite: The Body Shop Smoky Poppy, a limited edition collection (of course!)
Favorite Trend: Lipstick-inspired fragrances like Chanel Misia, Maison Martin Margiela Replica Lipstick On, Prada Tainted Love and Anatole Lebreton Incarnata; not a new idea, of course, but still appealing
Favorite Perfume News: L’Artisan Parfumeur’s reissue of Oeillet Sauvage and other discontinued or hard-to-find scents; the arrival of Le Soft Perfume, created by the founder of the dearly departed Crazylibellule and the Poppies
Favorite Perfume Ad: Miu Miu’s namesake fragrance (the image with the kitten!)
Favorite Edible: Aftelier Organic Tea Orange & Cardamom
Favorite Fragranced Body Products: If I had to survive with nothing but LUSH shower gels (Lord of Misrule, Don’t Rain on My Parade, the holiday reissue of Rose Jam, etc.) and a basic unscented body lotion, I’d be fine.
Favorite Home Fragrance: Not new, but new to me: Enfleurage Amber oil, burned in a tealight diffuser
Wishing you health and happiness, and many good smells, in 2016!
How did 2015 treat you (perfume wise)? The image above provides many options: orgasmic (great year!), bored (same old mess) or incredulous (how much higher can prices rise)?
When Robin Here at NST™ asked me if I wanted to contribute to the “Best of 2015” post, I petulantly said: “no.” She laughed and responded with something like: “I didn’t think so…not a great perfume year for you!” Over the weeks since that exchange, I’ve thought about 2015 (and perfume) a lot.
First, a year of perfume means discoveries of fragrances past and present. Second, all “perfume years” are punctuated by frustration; no one can try all new releases (there’s too much time, effort and expense involved). Finally, I’m scent-shy; I know major disappointments always lie ahead — scents like Dior Sauvage, Acqua di Parma Colonia Club, Serge Lutens L’Incendiaire, Byredo Mojave Ghost, DSquared2 Wild and (worst of all for me) Hermès Le Jardin de Monsieur Li.
But there WERE positives in 2015: Aedes de Venustas Palissandre d’Or, Maria Candida Gentile Elephant & Roses, the well-made, great-smelling Fiele Fragrances line, Carven Vétiver and Pour Homme and the beautiful Salvatore Ferragamo Tuscan Soul perfumes (Vendemmia being one of my favorite discoveries of 2015).
No doubt, 2016 will see the launch of a zillion more niche lines and perfumes whose price tags make me laugh out loud. But I bet we’ll all come across at least one fragrance that brings a smile to our lips, ignites “bottle lust” and makes us spend money, even if we already have cabinets full of almost-unused perfumes staring us in the face each day. Me? I've been pining for an old friend for about eight years now, so come my birthday in January, a bell jar of Serge Lutens Miel de Bois will take up residence in my home. Come to papa, you most-detested Lutens fragrance...I'll be splashing you on liberally!
Wishing you all happy-smelling days ahead in 2016!