Saturday, December 29, 2012

PINK MANHATTAN Top 20 Fragrances 2012: The Year End List of Perfume Favorites

Dear Pink Manhattanite,

First of all, I adore you! Thank you for another year of online exchanges of ideas. Thanks also for just being there as a reader. It took a year for this to dawn on me, but I forgot to do a Year End Top 10 Fragrances list last year! I don't know *how* that could've happened! In order to remedy this, I've decided to do a Top 20 for my 2012 Year End list. Hopefully, I'll have included some of your favorite perfumes that should have been on that 2011 countdown. I'm sorry if you looked forward to the tradition every year since my blog got rolling in 2006. As a disclaimer, I've never been very traditional...

So here we are, and here we go! My favorites, new launches and not, as discovered, rediscovered and worn by me throughout the year are (drum roll, please...):

1. Les Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Iris Poudré: PINK MANHATTAN 2012 Perfume of the Year. Launched in 2000, here's my favorite scent of 2012, a sophisticated spicy iris, one with a sensuous ambery-vanillic character supported by the famous bold woody signature base, a creation par excellence by perfumer Pierre Bourdon (Christian Dior Dolce Vita, Shiseido Féminité Du Bois (with Christopher Sheldrake), Davidoff Good Life and Cool Water). This is an Aldehydic Floral in the same family as CHANEL N°5 and Lanvin Arpège, but it smells like a modernized vintage a la Laura Biagiotti Venezia among others I'd describe as "sexy, spicy, perfumey-sweet powderies." It's pretty dry but warm, like a verrry high end Lady Stetson with less dry desert heat, and a little respite of cool, dewy green not so far away. For someone who has loved CHANEL N°19 and Dolce Vita, this is a perfect match. If there's a celebrity perfume equivalent, it's the second coming of the original Givenchy L'Interdit created for Audrey Hepburn, nothing less.

2. Creed Spring Flower: This gorgeous, amazing, fresh green appley Fruity Floral (fruits and flowers as equal partners) has made my Top 10 list many times before, and it's here to stay. Spring Flower is the most versatile scent I own, as it's always appropriate, no matter what season, time, place or occasion. This is the little black dress for every elegant fragrance wardrobe, and as it is written in The Bombshell Manual of Style, it goes to sporting events.

3. Marc Jacobs Oh, Lola: Ohhh, yes, now I remember what happened last year; I was on a "signature perfume" kick! Obviously it was a short-lived phase, but it was worth the experiment for me, just to find out yet another year later that my then-signature turned out to be my daughter's favorite perfume on me. I'm glad I kept it light so I didn't have to hear her say "Phew, mama, that's a strong smell." too often. This 2011 launch is a lovely aqueous floral with a fruity "fruitchouli" backdrop that doesn't overwhelm the fey notes with the ever-popular, charismatic patchouli element.

4. Lancôme Trésor Midnight Rose: This is my current favorite perfume in the aqueous (modern) floral category. It is a bit fruity, and rosy for sure but also woody gourmand to me, only light and ethereal. I love it so much, and like Oh, Lola, it garners positive comments, especially if I take care not to overspray, so easy to do because it smells lighter at first, drying down to a pleasant but palpable depth reminiscent of the texture / density (not the scent) of oakmoss. This was a 2011 launch, and if I'd known about it sooner, it could have been crowned Best Perfume of 2011 on PINK MANHATTAN along with Oh, Lola - heck yeah!

5. Tom Ford Neroli Portofino: How I love this classic citric-sweet orange flower scent! How much of it I wore this summer...and how many times I spritzed 4711 hoping it would last as long as Neroli Portofino so I could save a fortune!

6. Paco Rabanne Metal: Vintage '80s (born in 1979) perfection is this iris and rose perfume, a clean Aldehydic Floral that's as innocent and youthful as its green and soapy sister Calandre was perceived as being, just a decade before Metal's (and Eau de Metal's) time. Powder is not the central motif, neither the iris nor rose, but the dewy freshness of the overall un-perfuminess (without soap) that I find so unique and memorable. Reminiscent of Laura Biagiotti Laura, it conveys a similar simplicity but with a touch more sophistication, with less discernable notes. Recently, I thought one of the Emilio Pucci Vivara Variazione smelled similar to it, so I must go seek it out again. The bottle design by Pierre Dinand is more my style, however.

7. Guerlain Vetiver: Such a cool, crisp green fragrance, in the most beautiful pale green color...I really love wearing this men's scent which I could describe as a woody-citric aromatic with a lime top note. I wish more fresh, unfussy and un-floral eaux could find their way onto women's fragrance counters soon.

8. Fifi Chachnil: This classic-style Oriental that smells sweet-spicy-everything-nice with a lively citrus opening, is surprisingly wearable because it's not too tenacious--and the bottle's so sexy. It has all the elements of the most romantic perfumes of yesteryear a la Shalimar loved by Rita Hayworth or Vol de Nuit, an Ava Gardner fave, but without a retro musky dry down that won't leave your skin and clothes for days, if not weeks, months, years. You get the dramatic Empress Eugénie aura for as long as you feel like committing to it...and that's it. It's a low maintenance diva.

9. Serge Lutens Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido Chergui: I had the sample vial for some time, but didn't think I'd love it based on the first heavy whiff of it. Well, IT'S THE PERFUME OF THE PERFUME GODS. It's a unique scent, like a very rich and ambery sweet classic spicy parfum fourrure from the 1930s (or the '80s), only modernized with a touch of herbaceous post-Dior Addict gourmand, but without any aqueous quality, pink pepper, excessive patchouli, etc. This is an anti-Pop gourmand, which is ironically one of the more pop scents in the line, but please ignore my pretentious opining. Here's what's important: It's royal olfactive silk for your exalted skin.

10. Jean Patou Joy: An eternal treasure born in the year of the Great Depression, the marriage of Grasse jasmine and Bulgarian rose that makes up the heart of JOY is a storybook legend. Best worn in parfum, the eau de parfum and toilette versions are also something to experience. If diamonds had a scent, this would be it: scintillating, one-of-a-kind, a sublime scent memory to live on forever.

11. Guerlain Jicky: Best worn in parfum, the eau de parfum and toilette versions are true to the timeless androgynous beauty of this spunky lavender-based aromatic. Like traditional herbes de Provence, notes of rosemary and thyme give lively, fresh spikiness to the air around its wearer like brisk autumn air. A pillowy cloud of powdery vanilla makes intimacy with Jicky worthwhile. Wait for the's naughty and nice, a bit animalic like Musc Ravageur in a quieter form.

12. 4711: I like to give cheapies the chance to get on a Top 10 list. This is a truly iconic cologne, and masterfully reinterpreted as Tom Ford Neroli Portofino, which smells almost identical to it except where 4711 lacks in tenacity, Tom Ford makes up for it. 4711 wears on hot, sunkissed skin like cool and sweet lemon squash, but the olfactive pleasure lasts for less than half an hour. It's a good thing one can always respritz the stuff liberally.

13. Loris Azzaro Azzura: A derivative of Clinique Happy and born in the same year (1999), Azzura, which couldn't compete in Happy's limelight, smells great from first sniff: orangey, herbaceous, fresh and not too sweet but pleasantly floral, in that tropical-Mediterranean white floral way. It's an invigorating scent that can go all season long, and can be had for a fraction of the original price from discounters and wholesalers. The silver refillable bottle makes a handsome "perfume art" display.

14. Serge Lutens Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido Fumerie Turque: I don't know if I've ever listed this as a Year End Top 10 favorite, but it surely belongs on my list every year. Probably my favorite Serge Lutens (although Chergui and Un Lys are currently the strongest contenders), the spicy ambery leather rose should spawn many post-Habanita and post-Tabac Blond copycats for eons, as difficult as it is to match the ultra niche high quality of Serge Lutens.

15. Chloé Eau de Parfum by Chloé: It's a musky, fresh sweetish floral, not my usual style, but it's really grown on me, and I can see why it's popular, on its way to becoming a new classic. The synth bouquet of mixed flowers smells so pretty in the air, creating a sillage as flowery as the inside of a futuristic flower shop where the flowers live forever and emit the same linear scent forever and ever, too.

16. Chloé L'Eau de Chloé Eau de Toilette: Like a blood red rose that blooms at the spa, it smells like clean towels and someone's idea of goth. It's a great newbie along the lines of the "clean" scents that will likely lead fragrance trends in 2013 (what with CLEAN perfume maker developing 1D's fragrance next year)--but don't let "clean" turn you off just yet; this actually smells posh, also a bit deep, like a proper perfume.

17. Ralph Lauren Big Pony #2: This is one of my favorite 2012 launches. The whole collection of 4 is pretty awesome, very easy to like if you're new to fragrance. #2 in the pink bottle is a cranberry-based fruity floral; it's quite sweet and candyish, but not anywhere within the range of Ralph (circa 2000--remember how penetratingly berry-sweet that was?).

18. Lady Gaga Fame: Celeb scent of the year award goes to Gaga with this way-better-than-sophomoric-debut-perfume. It smells fantastic, like a bodacious berry-based candied fruity floral, a mall scent with an overall feel that's more classic Floral than either expected or suggested by the monstrosity that is the FAME bottle. It's one of the strongest launches of the year, and my pick for best celeb scent, but its olfactory strength actually pales in comparison to Lancôme's brick house of a 2012 launch, up next on the countdown.

19. Lancôme La Vie Est Belle: PINK MANHATTAN blog's Launch of the Year 2012 Award goes to this spectacular new perfume by Lancôme. Yes, it's a Thierry Mugler Angel descendant, and it smells a lot like many others in this family, but no other Woody Oriental (gourmand patchouli) has come close to its velvety iris butter texture. Did I mention it's strong? The eau de parfum is strong enough to wear as parfum; I can only use a few drops at a time, lest people want to go sit next to someone else in public transit. Tenacity? It lasts all day like a good perfume should. I will most certainly review it soon.

20. Lorenzo Villoresi Teint de Neige: This musky, sweet, densely powdery scent is so far from my usual type, but I ended up falling in love with it anyway. You just never know. It just so happens we have snow in New York as I compile this list, and the mood wouldn't be complete without this rosy-almond-maquillage-confectionary-comfort-skin-scent niche classic (though put in simpler terms, it's sort of like a high end Love's Baby Soft), my white-hot December 2012 love affair, most likely the perfume I'll be sporting this New Year's Eve.

Honorable mentions (with a nod to Countess Jan Moran whose books, Fabulous Fragrances I and II, had started this and many other perfume-related trends): Demeter Blueberry Muffin, Gabriele Strehle Strenesse, Hermès 24, Faubourg, Serge Lutens Gris Clair, and many others I enjoyed wearing and sampling this year. Deepest thanks to my perfumista friends around the globe who kindly offered to help me sample some new beauties this year. I admit I haven't done a whole lot of sampling, but next year, I look forward to Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin, and trying some nichey-poo incense scent or two.

Hall of Fame: Clinique Happy (1999)

Best Home Fragrance: I'm not the biggest interior scent user, being more focused on perfume, but I'm a fan of Bath and Body Works Cotton candles...and I'm still looking for that ultimate "clean cotton / linen" perfume, so stay tuned for my adventures in 2013! Thank you again for keeping me company throughout the year. Have a safe and happy weekend leading up to the ringing in of the New Year.