Monday, December 25, 2006

Perfumista's Top 10 Countdown 2006!

Happy Holidays! Thank you for being here to share my many passions with through the year! Well, you know I'm not the traditional type by any stretch of the imagination, but there's one tradition I'm more than happy to keep and that's the perfumista's year end Top 10 countdown! So, here goes...

Sali's Top 10 Perfume Picks of 2006 (in no particular order, and they're not necessarily ones I've been wearing):

1. Revlon Charlie (1973)--This legendary New York-born creation should be Perfume of the Year. The drugstore classic saw popularity again with the '70s punk trend. Charlie is one low-end perfume that'll always have a place in my heart. Firstly, it smells pretty good: a Green Floral with Chypre nuances (it's actually fresh and not too mossy-damp, which you know I don't like in a scent). Also, after Estee Lauder Youth Dew, it's only the 2nd perfume to feature ads that sent messages to women that it's all right if we want to buy perfume for ourselves (as opposed to how it was in the past when women were supposed to wait for their men to buy them perfume). Empowerment is good, and besides, the groundbreaking vintage ad with "Charlie" wearing pants to work ROCKS!

2. Caron Rose (1949)--Caron Rose is one of the exclusive urn fragrances at Caron (EDP is more widely available online than parfum). I thought I'd found my rose match in Clarins Par Amour Toujours but Caron Rose came into my life and showed me what a real woman's pretty pink rose perfume is, and I'm so smitten I think I'll elope with her instead. Caron Rose is peppery sharp at first but get past the thorns and it's all delicate softness tempered by down-to-earth richness. Romantic, soft, dewy and mild yet substantial, warm, comforting and always appropriate--like fresh pink tea roses on a subtly sweet vanillic bed. It's a clean skin scent to me, of highest quality.

3. Caron N'Aimez Que Moi (1917)--What a perfume. Imagine Caron Rose in a Chypre mood, with a pronounced soapy-sharp violet note, almost one part Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps and one part Vivienne Westwood Boudoir. Multifaceted and slightly disturbing for such a traditional, all-out flowery, romantic scent, I think the woods mixed with rose and vanilla make it more sophisticated and suggestive than Rose, and yet there's nothing sexy about it. It's densely powdery and smells more like antique soap than a man magnet perfume. I used to think it was awful but it's become a comfort scent of sorts.

4. Guerlain Insolence (2006)--A violet perfume never smelled so good, so lush, sensual and new! It's hypersweet with berries in the mix, like a Gourmand Floral with a woody-creamy base, and reminds me of the sensuality of L'Heure Bleue or Samsara, only much more floral and contemporary. Among the mainstream launches, Insolence is one of my favorite launches of the year. It's intensely sweet and seems to be a love/hate scent. Now and then, it smells too much like detergent which is the one turnoff. However, that's one of the aspects that differentiates it from, say, Meteorites, which is lovely but probably would not fly if the same actress fronted the ad with the same frosted pink lipstick. I'm not sure how well this is actually selling but I'm glad I bought mine this year. OK--maybe I'm still a Guerlain lover.

5. Frederic Malle Carnal Flower (2005)--So many people have suggested this to me and I finally see why: it's like a gardenia perfume to me, more so than a tuberose one. I think it's more gardenia because there's an openness, or brilliance/brashness (depending on your preference), to this tuberose which blooms on a "clean" White Musk base, with sharp (spicy-herbaceous) wintergreen weaving through. It's not the same type of gardenia I smell in my Pink Manhattan, which is light and watery--Carnal Flower is way punchier and actually beachier than PM, like nostalgic suntan lotion scent, especially with the additional coconut note. I like it but only in small doses or it overwhelms me. It's a very strong scent, and yes, I think it's a sexy perfume like most white florals, if they're as low-pitched, sweet and sensual as this. For me, it's also worth watching to see how the industry continues to market this tropical Floral.

6. Burberry Brit Red (2004)--It's a very well-blended patchouli-based fruity vanillic Gourmand, a popular genre oversaturated with aggressive base-heaviness (for my light Floral taste). It's youthful and sweet (borderline too sweet--a little goes a long way) and structurally resembles my PM (red fruit-white floral-vanilla). I like that it smells like toffee but this is a composition that's got fresh lift and unexpected nuances, not just like candy (you don't need perfume for that--you can wear a single note body spray). I'm a big fan of Werther's candies, and Brit Red reminds me of them. However, the dry down is a bit too patchouli-based for every day (for me--I usually prefer less obviously woody scents, although it depends on the perfume). I only have a mini in this scent but I may upgrade to a full size since it seems to really be limited edition.

7. Estee Lauder White Linen (1978)--I can't believe it! I used to despise this scent until recently. I still think it's a super-old-fashioned mossy Aldehydic Floral, meaning a perfumey, powdery, abstract-flowery scent that has a certain "makeup" smell, or like makeup remover, lotion or skin cream. I don't know why I've suddenly taken to it but it makes me feel mature in a good way. The dry down turns slightly more carnal than I want: at that stage, I get lots of dried rose. A disturbing classic, one I'll be wrapping my mind around to try to figure out for a long time--and yet, there's a stark simplicity about it that I think is chic. It's understated unlike Chanel No.5 which it resembles; No.5 in comparison is much more densely powdery whereas White Linen is crisper and more streamlined. Decidedly unsweet and unsexy, it's perfect for work.

8. Revlon Intimate (1955)--I'm so happy to have had the chance to discover this tuberose-hearted Floral Chypre. The vintage cologne was actually easier for me to test; the newer juice made by Jean Phillipe is a bit spicy and heavy for me. It's still a great buy, especially because it's so affordable and it reminds me of Caron Montaigne which is hard to find now. Intimate is another drugstore perfume like Charlie, and although I probably wouldn't make a habit of wearing it, I'm happy to know what New York women might have worn in the '50s-'60s besides unsweet, powdery-mossy Green Aldehydic Floral Chypres and heavy, powdery-sweet, spicy, ambery-woody Orientals which seem to have dominated the market. Intimate is old-fashioned and on the sweet, warm and heady side, but it's also rather stylish with a leather note in the base.

9. Vera Wang Princess (2006)--OK, I know it's rather synthetic-smelling but I think it's more pleasant than the wildly popular Juicy Couture and all those generic celeb scents and Victoria's Secret frags combined. To me, it's like Burberry Brit Red light, and Brit Red is unfortunately discontinued. The bottle is not really my style but I have to admit I wasn't letting this purple princess get away without testing it this year. Was it worth it? I haven't bought it yet but I'm enjoying my decant when it's cold enough so the generic aqueous quality isn't as obvious. What's it smell like overall? Cake with fruit and frosting, laced with dark chocolate; cake, only daintier and airier than the heavy, rich Gourmands which are most popular today. In the end, it's still a patchouli-based scent, like Juicy Couture and a thousand others. Aforementioned aqueous (sporty) note is annoying, but it's one of the most memorable mainstream launches of 2006.

10. Annick Goutal Songes (2006)--The exquisite new launch from Annick Goutal is the Queen of White Florals. I would put it in the same family of narcotic florals as Jean Patou Joy and Caron Narcisse Noir. There is none other that manages to be so intoxicating and yet so soft, so intense and yet so dreamy and ethereal. It's beautifully blended. It's the sexiest tropical Floral that comes across in a gentle and graceful manner. The moon bottle has also won my heart, complete with its crescent-shaped stopper. It's quite potent and animalic so I can't see everyone liking it; however, for me, this is very close to what I think heaven would smell like--a tropical paradise with blue skies and sunwarmed plumeria breezes--my hedonistic mind getaway. For those of you who feel this is too intense, Jo Malone Vintage Gardenia or L'Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse aux Papillons (my long-time fave) might be easier to wear.

Waft subtly and beautifully into 2007! Please feel free to share your beloved Top 10...or 50...1000...or just your favorite one!

Looking forward to lots more talks with you next year. -Season's Greetings from Sali and staff @ and Pink Manhattan blog!