Best of What’s Around

December 30th, 2005

best of fragrances
I love perfume. I’m obsessed, really, and my collection would embarrass most people. It’s weird. I know. I can’t help it. The bottles, the juice, the scent, the EVERYTHING.

I can see most of you thinking that you’d rather poke your eyes out than meet me, for I likely waft a cloud nine feet thick around me, right? Wrong. Because I like perfume so much, I respect how it should be applied: LIGHTLY and carefully. Sillage is one thing, but pre-announcing one’s arrival with a viscous vapor of scent is the surest way to ruin a lovely fragrance and terrify your friends and neighbors.

Last summer, a bunch of my fragrance blogging buddies did a circle of their Top 10 Fragrances for Summer. Because I was so busy moving to the tropics, I couldn’t participate. However, I’m thrilled to report that we’re doing our top 10 scents of 2005! Hoo-rah!

I should note that these are not scents that launched in 2005, nor are they those that I even discovered throughout the year. Rather, they are those scents that either captured me during the year, or continued to be an important mainstay above all others (and there are many, many others to compete with!). So, without further adieu, my top 1o favorite fragrances of 2005 :

1. Clinique Wrappings. In many ways, this is a summer scent – the cool notes lend a bright, refreshing glow to the fragrance that is wonderful on hot days. However, it’s limited holiday availablility demands that it be worn in winter: Clinique, in a moment of sheer insanity, discontinued this fragrance in favor of more insipid, yet likely better-selling offerings such as Happy, Happy Heart and Simply. Commence vomiting at any time. After what I can only imagine and/or pray was an uproar, they opted to bring it back each Christmas in a limited edition holiday set. Wrappings is neither insipid, nor typical – it’s green, crisp notes are refreshing, yet appropriate for the holiday season – think ice-cold fragrant pine needles fallen on a forest floor on a cold snowy night. The result is a wonderfully unique, cool and wintry scent that is perfect for any occasion. Stock up each holiday at your local department store or at Gloss.com.

2) Dinner by Bobo. Yes, yes, the name is ridiculous. Big deal. And yes, yes, the risky inclusion of cumin makes this a precarious wonder, subject to the mysteries of skin chemistry. On the wrong wearer, this has been observed as a sweaty man eating a taco, post-workout body odor on an obese horse, and other truly appetizing olefactory images. On me, however, it’s marvelous, and one of the few winter scents that doesn’t make me feel like puking in the perpetual Florida heat (remind me to tell you of playing tennis wearing Ambre Sultan. GROSS). It starts off with a blast of cola with citrus – like a slightly warmed Coke with Lime with some cloves floating on top. While that sounds disgusting, it’s actually lovely, if too sweet. The sweetness quickly disspates, however, to the briefest moment of violet – dry violet, not candied violets – mixed with incense. This is by far my favorite phase, and it’s terribly short-lived. In the end, it morphs into a warm, soft skin scent touched with sweetened spices, amber and incense. I never tire of this, and it’s one of the few scents I’ve gone through multiple bottles of.

3) Chanel Allure Parfum. The lovely Debra B is going to have my head for this, for I’ve fought a somewhat tenuous, good-spirited battle with her over the beauty of Allure in its many concentrations. I was firmly in the EDT camp, insisting that EDP and parfum were too rich for normal people to wear, while she was adamantly pro-parfum. Upon first sniff, I found this to be way too heavy and rough – powdery, like a snootful of talc, with a sandpapery quality that felt a little like having a low-grade headcold. Mmmm. However, after obtaining a proper-sized mini of the parfum, I was able to test this extensively, and found that it really is as stunning as D. has insisted for all this time. Chanels have a wonderful quality that always feels sparkling and slightly aldehydic, even if aldehydes aren’t present. The Allure parfum has that odd, lovely quality, but it’s warmed with a non-foody dry vanilla tempered by warm vetiver and what smells like a crisp, slightly unripe peach. While the other concentrations smell similar, they lack the softness and subtlety the parfum affords. Available everywhere.

4) Serge Lutens’ Fumerie Turque. Not all of Serge Lutens scents do it for me, but I really do appreciate all of them, if only as strange little works of liquid art. The man does some seriously complex compositions, with notes that seem bizarrely out of context in a personal fragrance. Fumerie Turque is a mix of smoked leather, tobacco, honey, candied rose, patchouli and a ton of other things I can’t smell, but add to its loveliness. On my skin, it’s a rich, smoky leather mixed with loukhoum, a rich almondy-rosy candy – like edible, candied leather with a dusting of powdered sugar. I realize that sounds kind of gross, but trust me, it’s amazing. And, perhaps most unfortunately, Fumerie Turque is only available at the Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido in Paris. They will not ship outside of Europe, alas, so pick one up on vacation, surf eBay for overpriced bottles, or find a friend who’s heading there who will pick one up for you (that’s what I did!).

5) Chanel Coco Mademoiselle. It’s ubiquitous, yes, but that does not diminish its beauty. The wonder of Mademoiselle is that each of the different concentrations affords a wholly unique and gorgeous experience. The EDT is crisp, fresh and fruity, with an air of creamy citrus, while the EDP is a journey in fruited vanilla and patchouli. Do not fear the patch! This is not your local stoner’s patchouli – It’s friendly, soft and lends an important grounding element to the rich fruit. Unlike other Chanel creations, Mademoiselle was not originally designed in parfum, and the formulation launched earlier this year. Also unlike most Chanels, Mademoiselle parfum is not its best showing. They took the fruit notes and amplified them to a dangerous degree, and the overall composition is far too sweet and chewy, reminiscent of an overripe cantaloupe. Go for the lotion, EDT or EDP. And, as with all Chanel products, the bath products are beyond divine, so pick some up at your next trip to the department store!

6) Robert Piguet Fracas. Pronounce it however you like, Fracas is one incredible, classic scent. Many claim they can discern other notes such as jasmine, gardenia and musk, but I am simply clubbed into submission by the buttery tuberose, where it maintains the starring role it so richly deserves. If you’re not familiar with tuberose by name, I’m fairly certain you would be by scent. It’s a rich, sweet, heady flower with a creamy, buttery quality that prevents it from poking you in the eye and driving white-hot needles through your frontal lobe. Fracas takes advantage of its natural butteriness, and mixes it up with cream. The result is a soft, creamy tuberose milkshake without a hint of candied yuckiness. Here the parfum is essential, as it clings close to the skin and prevents one from wafting mad Fracas everywhere and screaming “HI, I’M WEARING TUBEROSE!!!” to everyone who comes within nine feet of you. I got mine on eBay for a song, and I’m sure you can, too – it’s perpetually available.

7) Serge Lutens’ Bois de Violette. Perfumers who work with violet have a tendency to destroy it by preying upon its natural melancholy sweetness and turning it into a candied nightmare. Violet is a sad little flower, for most perfumers believe that she needs to be dressed in vanilla or sugar to be palatable, and in no way can she stand on her own two stalks. My first experience with violets was with Frederic Malle’s Lipstick Rose, followed shortly by the dangerously sweet Bond No. 9 Broadway Nite – both cloying, tooth-rotting compositions evocative of candy, and I wrote off the little flowers as pathetic little wanna-be pretty girls. Mercifully, Lutens’ interpretation is simple: fresh, clean, dry violets on a bed of cedar and soft leaves. Nothing more than the beauty of the flower with a little help from nature. Simply elegant. I dare you to feel frumpy wearing this. Like Fumerie Turque, Bois de Violette can only be found in Paris at the Salons, but unlike Fumerie Turque, I do not own a bottle. So if you’re in Paris and feeling benevolent, give me a ring. I’ll pay you.

8) L’Artisan Tea for Two. Cardamom’s most shining hour. Perfumer Olivia Giacobetti created a stunning blend of cardamom, spices, black tea and honey blended with milk for a truly incredible chai latte experience. The ultimate comfort fragrance, the composition is warm, soft and spicy without being overpowering. To prevent it from being too sweet, a touch of smoke is added to the opening, like the vaguest hint of clove cigarettes. But it’s the cardamom that really glows here: blended with tea, honey and milk, the spicy warmth of the pod is evident, with none of the greasy, meaty weirdness that many cardamom-based scents fail to conceal. Pick it up at LusciousCargo or Aedes.com.

9) Coty Wild Musk. My Aunt Anne Marie wore Wild Musk when I was growing up, and I loved it then, but I adore it even more now. Musk is hit or miss for me, and too much can smell overly bodily – like animals having sex in a dark alley. Here it’s just perfect, and the overall effect is of soft flowers in the woods, with incense burning somewhere in the distance. Interestingly, a friend and I noticed, through literal and repeated side-by-side comparisons, that it is a dead-ringer for Lorenzo Villoresi’s Musk, which is infinitely more elusive and expensive. And at less than $10 a bottle, you can afford to pick this one up on your next trip to Target.

10) People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo body cream. I’ve owned the parfum concentration of this for about a year. While it’s lovely, it’s difficult to truly deconstruct and appreciate consistently. A perpetual chameleon, one day it could be stunning semisweet black cherry incense, and the next, Play Doh. Just Play Doh. The body cream, however, is consistent, pure perfection. Sweet hay mingles with grass, fresh cherries and incense, while a small, non-sweet vanilla comes late to the party to help the scent last all day and into the night. The lasting power is truly amazing for a body cream, and the strength, quality and astonishingly long-lasting moisture help to justify the $95 pricetag. I was lucky enough to score this one on a sale at BeautyHabit, but would gladly shell out the $95 when this one is through.

Want to see more Top 10 Lists? Visit our blogging circle o’ perfumistas.

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33 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Atreau  |  December 30th, 2005 at 6:08 am

    Dinner by Bobo also smells wonderful on me! Maybe it’s a thyroid thing?

    High five for Bois de Violette – I NEED this fragrance in my collection! Please Serge, show some pity toward us and let it be sold here! Also, please let us have bell jars!

    POTL Cream is fabulous and divine, worth every cent!

    I couldn’t agree more about Chanel products being devine! I’ve yet to try Coco Mademoiselle in parfum but after your review I really don’t want to!

  • 2. Robin  |  December 30th, 2005 at 8:13 am

    Great list, J, and so happy to see my beloved Fracas. Have never tried the parfum & now I’ll have to.

  • 3. winterwheat  |  December 30th, 2005 at 8:30 am

    Where’s Escada Collection? Did it fall out of favor in 2005?

    I have both Lipstick Rose and Broadway Nite and agree that they candy their violets in high fructose corn syrup (though I still like them). Have you tried KM Genie des Bois? It’s KM’s knockoff of SL Bois de Violette. I bought it but gave it away because it’s a bit too heavy on the cedar for me, but the violet is nice and green. Also, don’t forget Aimez Moi, a beautiful fresh violet with some sweetness but not too much. I was also surprised to find Demeter Violet fresh and plantlike, not sweet and candied. It dries down nicely, and since it’s a Demeter and therefore (a) not too strong and (b) evanescent, it might make a nice first-perfume gift for a certain someone in my near future… 😉

  • 4. Tania  |  December 30th, 2005 at 8:35 am

    Bois de Violette: I must be losing my mind, because out of nowhere, I’m loving violet. Ooh, I fell in love this year with the insanely discontinued Caron Violette Précieuse, the other anti-sugar violet. You gotta try it.

    The weird thing about your list is that of the three of yours that I love, I *really* love them (Fracas, Tea for Two, Bois de Violette), and of the rest, I can’t *stand* them. Dinner by Bobo, of all things, aka The Sweaty Fist of Cumin! I’m convinced now that you have magical skin, because Coty Wild Musk smelled like a poo in a barber shop when I wore it. I want to ship you up here so I can conduct experiments on your epidermis.

    Much love for the Floridian new year (no whammies, no whammies, no whammies), best wishes, good luck, and keep on blogging, babe.

  • 5. Marina (Colombina)  |  December 30th, 2005 at 8:57 am

    I have never tried Clinique Wrappings, what is *wrong* with me?! On to my To Try list it goes. And I am so glad to see Fracas (Fra-cah!) here, I completely forgot to include it and I love it.

  • 6. annieytown  |  December 30th, 2005 at 9:27 am

    I love the new look of the blog!
    This is the 2nd rave I’ve read about Pottle cream and now I want it all over again. I have really avoided the lemmings on this one. I think when you described it as “hay mingling with grass” is when I might have weakened.
    Have a great New Year J!

  • 7. risa  |  December 30th, 2005 at 10:53 am

    Bois de Violette is definitely not your usual violet. it does come off as candy on my skin, as all violet leaf does, but the cedar makes it unquestioningly unique. when i got the little book of perfumes from them, back in 2k, it was Bois de Violette that i first fell in love with.

    and again, i SO wish i could wear POTL cream! *cry*

    have a wonderful New Year, J, and here’s hope that the next year is quiet and unassuming, weather-wise! *knocks wood*

  • 8. Victoria  |  December 30th, 2005 at 11:37 am

    J, I absolutely love your list (save for a couple of fragrances which I just cannot pull off). You managed to convince me that I do need to try Allure parfum. I assumed that it would be heavy, but I see that I was wrong.

    Clinique Wrappings proved to be elusive, and most Clinique SA have never heard of it. I will track it down nevertheless. Your review gives me a fresh impetus.

    Moreover, I am very slow, because it took me this long to figure out that Hrmph is your blog. Off to add to my list.

  • 9. Victoria O  |  December 30th, 2005 at 1:16 pm

    Great List! I love Dinner too. I love its coolness. Clear and aloof. Smells great on me too. And I love the applicator dropper. Just yesterday I tried the POTL cream, it is indeed heavenly.

    May you have a fragrant New Year!
    Victoria O.

  • 10. Trina  |  December 30th, 2005 at 2:39 pm

    As always, your descriptions leave me chuckling and lemming! I *wish* my nose could get past that ubiquitous aldehyde aspect of the Chanels, to smell all these wonderful things you (and apparently the rest of the world too) get!

    Have a Happy New Year :~D

  • 11. kyahgirl  |  December 30th, 2005 at 9:12 pm

    I love Dinner by Bobo. Great list J.
    Happy New year!

  • 12. debra_b  |  December 30th, 2005 at 9:52 pm

    My dear J, i will not even whisper an i-told-you-so, and in fact, since you have been so gracious, i promise to track down Coco Mlle parfum and like it (even though the EDT kills me). And i’m delighted to see both Bois de Violette and Fumerie Turque on your list – my two fav SLs.

    Wishing you a magical, fragrant New Year!

    d.

  • 13. Patty  |  December 31st, 2005 at 4:57 am

    Great list! so agree with you on many of these, I do The SLs you mentioned. Bois de Violette is perfection. Happy New Year!!!

  • 14. Lucia  |  December 31st, 2005 at 9:41 am

    Hi! Happy New Year! Love your list! I am inspired to give a few of your favorites a try. I was delighted to see that the POTL body creme is on your list (too). Isn’t it incredible? Best body creme EVER on the market. Love, L

  • 15. Cait  |  December 31st, 2005 at 1:15 pm

    This blog is great looking. I always enjoyed your input on MUA and now I have another way to hear your impressions. I still need to try the Allure Parfum, thanks for the reminder. Happy New Year!
    Cait

  • 16. Katie  |  December 31st, 2005 at 3:55 pm

    Oh yay! I know that somewhere or another around here I have a sample of the Dinner lotion. Perhaps I’ll dig it out today as you’ve inspired me to finally try it.

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  • 18. barbarafromcalifornia  |  January 1st, 2006 at 7:34 pm

    You have always liked the Bobo. I totally respect you for being true to your own nose, and the consistency for this scent.

    Wishing you a very Happy New Year.

  • 19. Jen  |  January 2nd, 2006 at 12:36 pm

    Wow. That’s quite a list of descriptions. I used to be a big fan of the Allure- need to get back to that. Oh, and I’m going to Europe (France, to be exact) in May, so if you need me to pick anything up for you, just let me know! Happy New Year.

  • 20. Parisjasmal  |  January 2nd, 2006 at 1:26 pm

    Dearest J-

    I love most of the things on your list–however, I am skeeered of Bobo. I have a full bottle in the box, still in shrinkwrap and I am literally scared to open it. I have heard so many scary things about the cumin! I am also a little scared of Fracas. I love it in theory, but am scared of what it would smell like on me. I do not believe I am enough of a vixen to pull it off.

    I adore Allure Parfum and Fumiere Turque.
    Also–I am with Winterwheat—where the heck is collection–you fickle pickle!

    xo
    Love your list!

    Jen

  • 21. jonniker  |  January 2nd, 2006 at 10:11 pm

    ParisJ and Winterwheat –

    Yes, Collection has fallen only slightly out of favor. It really doesn’t do well in perpetually warm weather, is the kicker. Don’t ask me why Fumerie Turque does, but for some reason, it holds up better than Collection.

    Jen: ARGH! Paris! Where are you going, and why? Lucky, lucky girl :)

  • 22. kristen  |  January 2nd, 2006 at 11:04 pm

    I think the universe is speaking to me, telling me to order that POTL body cream. I swear it’s been on every list but mine! :)

    Happy New Year!

  • 23. Jen  |  January 3rd, 2006 at 8:31 am

    I’m traveling for work to watch some show jumping competiitions (horses). I’m going to La Baule, which is on the West Coast, but I’ll have a few days to roam around Paris first. So excited! I’ve never been to the city, only the terrible airport. Have you been there? Any suggestions of what is the best way to spend time visiting?

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    I’m a HUGE fan of Stella McCartney’s blend, as well as “Island” by Michael Kors, and Brit by Burberry.

    Right now, my perfume drawer is pathetic…and completely outdated. Escape (Calvin Klein), Maybe Baby (Benefit), Happy Heart (Clinique), Liz Claiborne Classic, Weekend (Burberry) and Glamorous (Ralph Lauren). Most of which are too sweet and make me smell like an old lady. Commence public stoning.

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