Mid-2014 Best & Favorites List

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

We’re more than half way through 2014, so I thought it would be a nice time for a mid-year look at some of the perfumes that caught my attention. I used to do a list of favorite things that I had tried after every 100 posts, but that practice has fallen by the wayside due to the demands of my schedule. A few weeks ago, I was thinking of some of the fragrances I have covered since the beginning of the year, and the ones on my personal list of things to buy, so it seemed like a good time for an updated list.

Perfume reviewing is subjective and personal by its very nature, so winnowing fragrances down to a list like this is even more so. My criteria for selection varied. Some of the fragrances were not really for me, but I think they’re good examples of their genre and done very well. Others are on the list for the most subjective reason of all: I either bought full bottles for myself, plan to get them, or would love to do so, if their high price were not a consideration. Ranking things is an utter nightmare, but the Top Four are firmly placed in accordance with my feelings. The remainder of the perfumes are generally ranked within one to two slots, plus or minus, of where they are in my wholly subjective estimation. None of the 25 fragrances on this list are based on their date of official release, but on what I’ve covered since January 1st through to the end of June. And all of them are current releases, not vintage fragrances.

FAVORITES OF 2014 THUS FAR:

  1. Photo: stonehousetiles.co.uk

    Photo: stonehousetiles.co.uk

    SHL 777 BLACK GEMSTONE is my favorite fragrance that I’ve tried this year. An opening of black, smoky, tarry darkness is pierced by an astonishingly vibrant, bright yellow beam of concentrated, juicy, tangy lemon. The rest of the scent is a superb blend of shape-shifting notes, dominated by spicy patchouli, incense, and rich amber. Cedar, myrrh, saffron, tonka sweetness, and a touch of eucalyptus all dance around before the perfume transitions to a smoky, spicy, ambered richness in the drydown. It is layer upon layer of goldenness upon a deep base that feels like the darkest resins have turned to velvet or satin. Black Gemstone was love at first sniff for me, and a fragrance which I adore from start to finish. My black bottle is one of the treasures in my collection, and something I turn to whenever I want to be transported away by a really powerful, potent darkness.

  2. Source: whoniversefanon.wikia.com/  Original artist unknown.

    Source: whoniversefanon.wikia.com/ Original artist unknown.

    TIE. ROJA DOVE NUWA & SHL 777 O HIRA. Roja Dove’s NUWA is not a scent that I’d recommend to most people, as it is a fiercely concentrated cumin bomb. Galactic levels of cumin, in fact. (Plus, it has an astronomical price tag that puts it firmly out of most people’s reach, including my own.) I’ve always respected the luxuriousness and high-quality of Roja Dove fragrances, but none of them moved me enormously or passionately until Nuwa. It is a Fallen Angel whose demonic, blackened, smoky, tarry, leathered opening reminded me of the darkness of Black Gemstone, but with the addition of an avalanche of spices. That powerful, intense opening slowly makes way for a spicy, skanky, ambered but also mossy chypre heart which is beautifully opulent. The two things together make Nuwa slightly different than Rochas’ vintage chypre, Femme, which it definitely resembles on my skin. Similarities notwithstanding, I loved every bit of Nuwa and its stupendous richness. It was my Waterloo when it came to the Roja Dove line, and I would buy it in a heartbeat if I didn’t have to sell an organ (or two) to do so. I have to repeat, however, that Nuwa is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

SHL 777‘s O HIRA is the Incredible Hulk of ambers, in my opinion, and in a class all by itself. A labdanum monster, O Hira has far more elements than the mere, umbrella description, “fossilized amber,” that is given on the official one note list. Its labdanum is seamlessly blended with darkened woods and treacly, sticky, blackened resins. The end result is a civilized veneer of baroque, bronzed opulence which hides animalic, smoky, musky, and leathered elements, as well as a strongly blackened, slightly dirty heart. I think it’s absolutely stunning, drop-dead sexy, an utter beast, and it would be at the top of my “To Buy” list if the price were not so terrifying.

  1. Photo: my own.

    Photo: my own.

    PARFUMS MDCI CHYPRE PALATIN. A truly spectacular chypre with jaw-dropping amounts of oakmoss, thanks to Bertrand Duchaufour‘s use of a technique that takes out the regulated, EU/IFRA restricted atranol molecule. The result is an  endless sea of true, green mousse de chene in a mix that is as baroque and opulent as it is seamless. Yet, there is far more to Chypre Palatin than mere oakmoss. It opens with bright, sun-sweetened tangerines, zesty lemon, and tons of smoky sweetness from styrax resin, but slowly takes on a subtle animalic tinge through the use of costus root (a big part of Kouros‘ legend) and castoreum. The multi-faceted mix is finished off with delicate florals, a touch of vanilla, boozy touches, spicy patchouli, and a definite streak of leathered darkness in the base. It’s a stunner, one that defies simple characterization in a mere paragraph, and it is going to be the next fragrance that I buy for myself.   

  2. "Ophelia" by Arthur Hughes. Source: preraphaelitesisterhood.com

    “Ophelia” by Arthur Hughes. Source: preraphaelitesisterhood.com

    HIRAM GREEN MOON BLOOM. Moon Bloom would definitely have been on my Best of 2013 list had I tried it at the time. I’m a sucker for the BWF genre (Big White Florals), and tuberose is my absolute favorite flower in nature. Frederic Malle’s much-beloved Carnal Flower has never impressed me much, but Moon Bloom is simply spectacular in its delicacy, richness, and depth. There is greenness that feels like dewy gardenia, along with blackness from the deconstructed tuberose, and perfectly calibrated milkiness from coconut that is never — not once — unctuous, buttery, gooey, or something resembling sun tan lotion. Moon Bloom is a masterfully created mix of lightness and darkness, richness and delicacy, that evokes a Pre-Raphaelite’s Ophelia. Those of you who have always been terrified of tuberose fragrances may be surprised by Moon Beam because is it not a divaesque Fracas white bomb that assaults you. (I adore vintage Fracas, but it definitely is a Maria Callas fragrance!) Instead, Moon Beam is a romantic beauty that is incredibly smooth, well-calibrated, refined, and polished. One thing that is astonishing is the fact that it is an all-natural fragrance; it doesn’t feel like it with its depth, body, and longevity. As a whole, I cannot rave about Moon Beam enough. Truly lovely, masterfully done, and another one that I will one day purchase for myself.

  3. Source: drawingforkids.org

    Source: drawingforkids.org

    MASQUE MONTECRISTO. A brilliant, animalic fragrance that is positively feral at times, in the best way possible. Montecristo evokes a dry jungle where a leather and fur-clad warrior travels through fields of tobacco, spices, dusty woods, and lemony florals, all drenched with honey, booziness, and golden, musky warmth. Cumin, a powerful urinous note, and a distinct raunchiness make Montecristo a scent that is not for everyone, but it’s rather magnificent, in my opinion, especially because of the multi-faceted river of leather that runs through it. The golden drydown evoking the feel of heated, warmed skin is particularly splendid, far outweighing anything in the lighter, significantly tamer MKK from Serge Lutens. Montecristo is enormously bold, quite fascinating, very powerful, and masterfully done, in my opinion.

  4. Photo: my own.

    Photo: my own.

    PARFUMERIE GENERALE COZE. A patch head’s dream, but also far more, Coze is an incredibly rich, resinous oriental with beautiful warmth that straddles the line between an oriental and a gourmand in a perfectly calibrated mix of spices, warmth, dryness, and sweetness. It opens with a fierce, concentrated explosion of nutmeg and cloves, then black pepper, chili flakes, and patchouli. In their trail is the sweet aroma of dried tobacco that smells like tobacco leaves drizzled with honey after being soaked in rich vanilla extract. The whole thing is lovely, but becomes even better when the cocoa arrives. It resembles rich slabs of semi-sweet chocolate, as well as dusty cocoa powder. As the Madagascar vanilla and chocolate infuse the top notes, the spicy patchouli turns earthier. Tying the whole thing together like a bundle are sweet grassy notes, presumably from the hemp. Coze has apparently been reformulated and weakened, but I loved it enough to I succumb to a bottle for myself

  5. "Yellow jag" by Nancy Simmons Smith. http://simmonssmith.com/gallery/abstracts/

    “Yellow jag” by Nancy Simmons Smith. http://simmonssmith.com/gallery/abstracts/

    SHL 777 KHOL DE BAHREIN. I’m generally not one for iris scents, but Khol de Bahrein is special. A study of light and dark, of coolness and warmth, Khol de Bahrein takes the stony aspects of iris and marries it to the warmth and richness of amber, then dusts them off with heaping mounds of sweetened heliotrope and vanillic tonka powder. I’m a sucker for heliotrope, so I fell for the perfume’s coziness and quasi-gourmand flourish, but Khol de Bahrein is first and foremost a study of cool elegance and sophistication. Its enormously rich notes are blended seamlessly, are perfectly balanced, and are held in check by a discreet softness that feels very refined. Khol de Bahrein is the very first (and only) iris fragrance that I’ve ever liked, but hardcore iris lovers rave about it even more. I personally would recommend it for fans of heliotrope as much as those who love iris.

  6. Source: Normann Copenhagen. (Link to blog site with recipe for mousse embedded within photo.)

    Source: Normann Copenhagen. (Link to blog site with recipe for mousse embedded within photo.)

    PROFUMUM ROMA ANTICO CARUSO. Antico Caruso is a stand-out in a line that specializes in rich fragrances. It opens with a retro, barber-shop bouquet centered on powerful, aromatic fougère notes with bright citruses, aromatic herbs, and lavender. The whole thing is dusted off with soapy lather, and is far too clean for my personal tastes, but it takes a mere 75 minutes for the opening to fade to a deluge of creaminess that is truly special. Almond custard, equally creamy, soft woods, and airy vanilla mousse lie at the heart of Antico Caruso, pulsating out with silky smoothness for hours to come in a way that is really delicious. What a drydown! I can’t rave enough about that almond-vanilla duet. I thought it was compulsively sniffable.

  7. Source: dragonw.wikia.com

    Source: dragonw.wikia.com

    AMOUAGE JOURNEY MAN. Journey Man grabs you from the very start with a fiery boldness that feels like a Chinese dragon roaring at you. Sichuan peppers with a definite bite are tossed into boozy, lightly fruited cognac that pulsates a golden warmth. The rich spiciness is countered with very dry woods, smoky incense, dusty cardamom, and a definite streak of blackened, leathery resins in the base. It’s a spectacular opening! However, I must be honest and repeat what I wrote in my review, which is that the drydown that begins at the third hour is much less special. The boozy, spicy boldness eventually fades to a soft tonka creaminess flecked with abstract woods and a touch of amber. It’s pleasant, but not as appealing for me personally as that spicy debut (with its distant kinship to some other perfume favorites of mine). Still, Journey Man is definitely one of the better fragrances that I’ve tried this year and very well-done, so it fully deserves a place on this list.

THE NEXT 15 FOR THE LIST OF THE TOP 25:

  1. Source: creativity103.com

    Source: creativity103.com

    SHL 777 SOLEIL DE JEDDAH. Soleil de Jeddah is a supernova of ultra-bright, glowing citruses, tangy fruits, green touches, and richness, all countered by a darkened, smoky streak of leatheriness in the base. I’m not generally one for citric or fruity fragrances, but it’s hard for one’s jaw not to drop at the concentrated richness, sunniness, and brightness of this perfume’s opening. On my skin, Soleil de Jeddah opens with juicy apricots that are tangy with jamminess, followed by very tart, sour, zesty lemon, and something distinctly resembling green mangoes, followed by iris, more iris, a light dusting of iris powder, chamomile, and a touch of woodiness. The whole thing is set upon a smoky leather base made up of styrax, birch, and isobutyl quinoline, with a wisp of smokiness, and a hint of animalic civet. Yet, despite the dark undercurrent, the overall impression you get from sniffing Soleil de Jeddah is of brightness. It is a glowing orb of citruses and golden warmth, all infused with incredible richness. It is beautifully done.

  2. Photo: Wanna Be A Country Cleaver, Megan Cleaver, via Tastykitchen.com

    Photo: Wanna Be A Country Cleaver, Megan Cleaver, via Tastykitchen.com

    PATRICIA DE NICOLAI AMBER OUD. If I were to choose things solely on the basis of how much they stick in my head and beckon to me, Patricia de Nicolai’s Amber Oud would probably be in my Top Five. This extremely simple, utterly uncomplicated, misleadingly named lavender-vanilla-patchouli perfume became a small obsession of mine. Whenever I was stressed, frazzled, or upset, this is the perfume that I wanted to wear. Whenever I was fed up with thinking and analysing perfumes, this is the cozy comfort that I sought. I really don’t think you could get anything more simple than lavender ice-cream which is really what Amber Oud is, despite the claims in its name. (No, there is not an ounce of actual agarwood in this scent. Not one.) I’m on the record about my decades-long issues with lavender, but what gets me in the case of Amber Oud is the vanilla, tonka sweetness, and light touches of spicy, brown patchouli. A minuscule sprinkling of golden amber is the final touch to this scent that envelops you in endless coziness and sweet warmth. It is like the best parts of Jicky‘s lavender-tonka heart, only without its animalic civet touches and with the benefit of tons of deep, warm, lightly spiced, golden patchouli. It is also like a much sweeter, more vanillic, less ambered Fourreau Noir (Serge Lutens), but without the latter’s incense smokiness. Far before I actually bought a full bottle, I couldn’t get Amber Oud out of my head. Its effect on me defies logic, but I’m telling you, something about this seamlessly smooth, elegant mix lowers my blood pressure and makes everything seem like it’s going to be all right.

  3. Photo: Andrew Yee for How To Spend It Magazine via FashionGoneRogue.com

    Photo: Andrew Yee for How To Spend It Magazine via FashionGoneRogue.com

    GROSSMITH SHEM-EL-NESSIM. Originally issued in 1906, Shem-el-Nessim is heavily influenced and inspired by Guerlain’s legendary L’Heure Bleue, which came out a few years before. There are definite differences, however, most noticeably in Shem-el-Nessim’s more overtly floral mix that is sweeter, and not peppery, woody, or melancholic in any way. Rich neroli orange blossoms swirl together with geranium, roses, deep bergamot, orris, and plush patchouli greenness to create an opulent, luxurious floriental worthy of a queen in a bygone era. I find it truly beautiful, carrying the full weight of its 108 year old history in its powdered floral start, but ending with a very timeless, perhaps even modern, finish of creamy neroli-vanilla mousse. Shem-el-Nessim is not for everyone, and most definitely not for modern tastes. But for women who bemoan the loss of the vintage greats, it is a fragrance that they must try. Luca Turin loves it too, and recently awarded it Four Stars.

  4. Painter: Henry Asencio, 1972. Source:  http://www.tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica.com/2013/02/Henry-Asencio.html

    Painter: Henry Asencio, 1972. Source: tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica.com

    TIE: SHL 777 OUMMA & ROSE DE PETRA. Yes, there is a lot of SHL 777 on this list, but it is a brand that thoroughly impressed me this year with its superb quality, intense richness, seamless blending, and sophistication. Oumma and Rose de Petra are two very different takes on roses. The first, Oumma, is a blackened, smoky, oud fragrance that is strongly middle-eastern with only a tiny kernel of a smoked, withered rose nestled deep under the veneer of dark woodiness and smoke. The second, Rose de Petra, is a stunningly spiced, rich, smoky rose that begins with similarities to Malle’s Portrait of a Lady (but far better) before transitioning to an Amouage-like LyricEpic combination. I’m not one for rose-centric fragrances at all, but Rose de Petra really caught my attention with its spiced, smoky, slightly dusty, and really elegant nature. And Oumma is an incredibly complex, quite masculine, wholly Middle Eastern scent that, on my skin, was dominated more by the smoke and oud woods than by the roses. Yet, it is also a shape-shifter that changes from wearing to wearing. I recommend both of them for different reasons.

  1. Photo: my own.

    Photo: my own.

    ROJA DOVE CREATION-E OR ENIGMA POUR HOMME. The best way I can describe Creation-E is with the introduction to my review: “Rivers of brandy and tobacco flow out like tributaries to a sea made of spicy, crystallized ginger and dark plum molasses. An ambered wind blows, making the waves froth white peaks made of vanilla mousse, while the sky rains down cardamom, more ginger, and soft cocoa. Eventually, the brandy river dries up, leaving a sea of Christmas plum pudding that crashes onto shores of pure tobacco in a land called Enigma.” It’s a profoundly rich fragrance with a distant kinship to such scents as Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanille, Kilian‘s Apple Brandy, and Serge LutensFille en Aiguilles, all rolled into one. I would have absolutely adore this scent had it not been for a streak of aroma-chemicals in the base, probably from the tobacco, that I struggled with when I applied less of Enigma. As a whole, though, it’s a very opulent, regal fragrance that makes you feel like dressing up in a velvet smoking jacket, putting on a silk ascot, and taking out a pipe. In short, it makes you feel a little like you’ve suddenly turned into Roja Dove himself. For some crazy reason, however, Enigma doesn’t move me personally, perhaps because it is a little too much like boozy Christmas plum pudding and Tobacco Vanille at times, but there is no denying its richness and quality.

  2. Photo: my own.

    Photo: my own.

    LM PARFUMS ULTIMATE SEDUCTION. Ultimate Seduction is meant to be a gourmand fragrance with a praline-vanilla heart amidst a sea of juicy fruits, sweet roses, dewy violets, and jammy patchouli, lightly flecked with a touch of dry woods. On my skin, though, it was primarily a rich rose scent with strong cassis and jammy fruitchouli that later turns into an abstract fruity-floral with a lusciously silky, airy, vanilla mousse, and only occasional whispers of green tartness. It’s a very soft, discreet scent whose middle phase evokes a sea of petals, all pink, white, peach and cream, with a touch of lingering fruity redness, and endless creamy vanilla. In its drydown, Ultimate Seduction is primarily just a vanilla scent, lightly infused with a pink rosiness. The whole thing has a seamless smoothness that is genuinely impressive. I personally may not be drawn to rose-patchouli fragrances, or those with a hazy or discreet nature, but I think Ultimate Seduction is a high-quality fragrance that is extremely well-done. 

  3. Mata Hari, 1905, via Pinterest.

    Mata Hari, 1905, via Pinterest.

    LA VIA DEL PROFUMO TAWAF. Perhaps the best jasmine soliflore that I’ve tried in a while, Tawaf has a truly spectacular, heady, and completely narcotic opening of floral richness and sweetness, all infused with a touch of  skanky, indolic, blackened naughtiness. The overall effect feels like something wickedly voluptuous. If ever a jasmine were so fleshy that it amounted to a courtesan’s pillowy breasts heaving above the top of a tight corset, it would be Tawaf. There is a decadent excessiveness, overt carnality, and lush ripeness that positively oozes fleshiness. The white togated courtesans of Nero’s Rome would have drowned themselves in Tawaf while the city burned and he fiddled. And it definitely feels like the perfect scent for one of the greatest seductresses of all time, Mata Hari. Tawaf is a true beauty that rather took my breath away, but the problem is that all that headiness fades on my skin after 90 minutes or so, though the drydown is pretty with its soft floralcy, creamy myrrh and beeswax. If the gorgeous opening lasted and if Tawaf didn’t have generally weak sillage, it would be far, far, far higher on this list.

  4. Source: brookstone.com

    Source: brookstone.com

    LA VIA DEL PROFUMO MILANO CAFFE. An incredibly bold, dark scent with expresso coffee, spicy patchouli, rich vetiver, and dry woods, Milano Caffé made me do a double-take from the first sniff.  It is a visual plethora of dark colours from the blackness of bitter expresso and licorice, to the mahogany of deep woods, the green-blackness of patchouli and smoky vetiver, and the darkness of black chocolate. Subtle hints of goldenness flit about from amber and vanilla, but on my skin, they are mere fireflies in the dark forest. Mentholated peppermint lingers in the air, while myrrh emits tiny puffs of smokiness. Touches of burnt resins and birch tar or cade run through the base, adding to the chewiness of the bouquet which is heavily dusted with cocoa on my skin. Milano Caffé’s concentrated darkness might make it slightly challenging for some, but perfect for anyone who loves really bold, intense fragrances centered on patchouli, coffee, and vetiver.

  5. "Romance" by Jaison Cianelli at cianellistudios.com

    “Romance” by Jaison Cianelli at cianellistudios.com

    AMOUAGE EPIC WOMAN. Epic is a lush, deep oriental rose fragrance with great spiciness, a veil of black incense, dusty oud, and velvety richness. Smoky dark orris, tea, jasmine, rich patchouli, geranium, and an increasingly prominent streak of vanilla custard are some of the other elements. Epic carries its name well, in my opinion, and is beautifully done. In truth, this would be far, far higher on the list if my personal skin chemistry didn’t make the guaiac wood take on the smell of pickles. It’s not powerful, but it’s noticeable and constant enough to ruin things for me personally, especially in conjunction with some of the dustiness and the touch of soapiness at the end. None of those things appeal to me personally, but it’s hard to deny that Epic smolders with richness and complexity. (It was created by the same nose, Daniel Maurel, who did Lyric Woman, and the two share a distant kinship, though Epic is considerably darker, spicier, and drier, in my opinion.) Most people trying Epic do not experience pickles or the other issues that I’ve mentioned, so those of you who enjoy very oriental, rich, rose fragrances may want to give it a sniff. As a side note, I think Epic’s profound spiciness, incense smokiness, and dryness make it very unisex in nature.

  6. Source: lewallpaper.com

    Source: lewallpaper.com

    LOREE RODKIN GOTHIC I. A beautiful, deep vanilla fragrance touched lightly by the warmth of spicy patchouli, Gothic I (as in the roman numeral) is an incredibly cozy scent. I’m not particularly one for vanilla, but the richness of the note here vaguely resembles that in Profumum Roma’s much beloved Dulcis in Fundo, but without any excessive sweetness or heavy waffle cone tonalities, and with the addition of patchouli. Gothic I is a scent that you can find at rather affordable prices on eBay, and one I strongly recommend to those who like deep, smooth vanillas with spice and golden warmth, but without cloying sugar. It’s definitely one that I have on my list to get for myself sometime. As a side note, I tried Gothic II which I had expected to love much more, as I’m a huge “patch head” and this version is supposed to be smokier and spicier. They are more similar than unlike, in my opinion, but something about Gothic II is not quite as appealing. I haven’t figured out why yet, but Gothic I is the one that I’d recommend.

  7. "Rush" movie still, via developersaccomplice.co.uk

    “Rush” movie still, via developersaccomplice.co.uk

    SANTA MARIA NOVELLA NOSTALGIA. Nostalgia is a motorcar leather, birch tar, and vanilla fragrance that I keep thinking about, thanks to its truly race-car elements from burning, rubber tires to a surprisingly addictive touch of gasoline. You’d never imagine that a whiff of gasoline could smell so good, but it does. (No, really, it does!) Never fear, though, that fantastic race-car opening doesn’t last long (alas), and the vanilla steps in to create something that has often been compared to the much-beloved Bvlgari’s Black. I found Nostalgia to have faint, small similarities to Andy Tauer’s Lonestar Memories, but with a slightly more classical approach. As a whole, Nostalgia evoked everything from Mario Andretti and F1 races, to classic Steve McQueen and Paul Newman cool. It is very well-done, and with an excellent price, so it’s a shame that this fragrance doesn’t get the attention than it deserves, especially amongst guys who like leather, birch tar fragrances, or some of the darker scents mentioned here.

  8. Natalie Portman by Mert & Marcus for W magazine, 2006. Source: photochronograph.ru

    Natalie Portman by Mert & Marcus for W magazine, 2006. Source: photochronograph.ru

    DSH PERFUMES EUPHORISME D’OPIUM (The YSL Retrospective Collection). Euphorisme d’Opium is perhaps the best bet amongst modern, recent creations for those who miss vintage Opium. There are differences, however. The goddess’ daughter is more restrained, more lady-like, though it doesn’t give up all of the original’s sultriness. The best part of Euphorisme d’Opium is its opening which bursts forth with cloves, black pepper, pink pepper, and the bite of fiery chilis. They are followed by orange and bergamot, both of which have been infused with patchouli and incense, and the whole thing lies on a base of golden amber. The perfume soon turns more floral, beginning with delicate pink roses, trailed by hints of jasmine and ylang-ylang. The most prominent thing, however, is a dark, blood-red carnation which practical swaggers into an arena dominated by bold spices and black incense. It’s an absolutely gorgeous opening, but DSH perfumes are incredibly discreet and soft on my skin. If Euphorisme d’Opium had greater strength or sillage, it would be placed much higher on this list.

  9. Cigar humidor room. Source: fivepalms.com

    Cigar humidor room. Source: fivepalms.com

    LA VIA DEL PROFUMO TABAC. Tabac is a multi-faceted exploration of tobacco which opens with its floral and green, grassy facets before turning into a woody, resinous, slightly smoky, and very chewy tobacco fragrance with serious heft in its notes. It made me think of Cuba, or of humidor rooms with shelves of boxed Monte Cristo or Cohiba cigars. However, the beautiful drydown takes you to a Southern plantation and centers on the gingerbread aroma of tobacco leaves drying in the sun, a rare thing in a sea of sweetened, fruited pipe tobacco fragrances which may be why Luca Turin loves it so much, rating it Four Stars in his Guide. Tabac is well done and intriguing, from start to finish.

  10. Pink meringues. Source: misslemon.eu

    Pink meringues. Source: misslemon.eu

    GUERLAIN CUIR BELUGACuir Beluga is a cashmere cloud of cream and pink, with the soothing comfort of Mary Poppins telling you take a spoonful of sugar at bedtime. There is no medicine to go with that sweetness in this case, only marzipan treats, powdered heliotrope meringues, and vanilla milk. It’s an absolutely addictive spoonful of deliciousness that, alas, fades away to a lingering whisper all too quickly. Were it not for Cuir Beluga’s weak sillage and iffy longevity, it would be much higher on this list, as I think it’s lovely. Fellow fans of heliotrope really should try this one. Just don’t expect an actual leather scent, because this is most definitely not one, in my opinion. 

Source: Zedge.com

Source: Zedge.com

Honourable Mentions: Oriza L. Legrand‘s Muguet Fleuri (a softer, more floral, dewy, lily-of-the-valley cousin to Chypre Mousse, and a Spring scent that evokes fairy forests of green); Oriza L. Legrand‘s Foin Fraichement Coupé (a beautifully classic aromatic fougère with green grasses, spicy star anise, hay, citruses, a vetiver-like note and cleanness, all over a creamy base); Guerlain Jicky EDP (Modern Version)(the legendary aromatic fougère which takes lavender, gives it a skanky, civet edge, and then dusts it with tonka vanilla); Frapin 1270 (a gorgeously boozy, amber-cognac fragrance with lush, caramelized oranges, stewed fruits, a dusting of cocoa, and a touch of woodiness that eventually turns into a rich vanilla-tonka scent); DSH Perfumes Le Smoking (YSL Retrospective Collection)(a gender-bending chypre-oriental whose green galbanum opening quickly turns into a darkly balsamic fragrance centered on tobacco drizzled with honey, intertwined with leather, and then nestled in plush, rich oakmoss); and Caron Poivre Extrait (Modern Version)(a clove-pepper-spice bomb that starts off feeling almost like a classical cologne before it turns warm, rich, and soft with a touch of florals and powder).

So, that’s the round-up for the first half of the year. I look forward to seeing what the rest of the year may bring.

53 thoughts on “Mid-2014 Best & Favorites List

  1. Wow, what a line up, Kafka.
    And you know how much I love (top) lists… 🙂
    SHL 777 seems to be a clear winner! (I yet have to try any of them, but now it seems unavoidable.)
    Nice to see Amouage Epic Woman, PG Coze and SMN Nostalgia as well, some of my long time favorites.

    • Heh, you and your love of lists. I had forgotten about that. 😉 I had no idea you loved Epic Woman! It doesn’t surprise me though, as it is far from a purely feminine rose scent and has a lot of spices, not to mention the smoke and oud. As for Coze, it is purely thanks to you, my friend, in urging me so repeatedly to try it. So, thank you!

      • Yes, Epic Woman is really amazing indeed; one of my favorite “feminine” perfumes in general. I’ve never tried a fragrance that sticks to my skin – and my nostrils – quite like Epic Woman. (Speaking of which, Majda Bekkali’s Mon Nom Est Rouge is another beauty by Cecile Zarokian, very similar to Epic Woman.)

        As for Coze; you are very welcome. 🙂 I am so glad it worked for you. An amazing scent.

        • Epic is “feminine”? Lol, Bruno. I swear, if a fragrance has a single molecule of something floral in it, it’s “fem” to you. 😉 I truly think it is unisex, but I am happy agree to disagree, my dear friend. Perhaps on your skin, it is not as smoky, woody, dry and spicy as it is on mine. In any event, I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of the SHL 777 line. And, yes, you really have to try a few of them.

          PS — finally got a sample of SMN Patchouli and, naturally, thought of you immediately. Haven’t tried it yet, but hope to soon. Patch Heads of the World, energize…. heh.

          • You make me sound so…conventional? 🙂
            But I am not the only one who labels it feminine; it seems Christopher Chong seconds that opinion as well – hence the “Woman” part in its name. 🙂 🙂

            For some reason (SMN Nostalgia) I was going to mention SMN Patchouli in my previous comment! Cannot wait to read the verdict. 🙂

          • I was teasing you. But I don’t think Christopher Chong’s labeling means much, given that he puts out duos and SOMETHING has to fill the supposedly “feminine” slot. In any event, I was teasing you for the most part.

            Speaking of SMN, I got a few others from the line including the tobacco and Cuba ones, if I remember correctly. One of them (cannot remember which one now) had a lovely opening in the very brief, cursory test I gave of it. Such a nice line as a whole, and it’s such a shame that they’re so under-appreciated!

            Have a super remainder to the rest of your week, Bruno. 🙂

  2. Awesome read K. How does this list compile with your previous one? Is there somewhere (or will there be) an all time ever list? xo

    • Hey Vlad, nice to see you. 🙂 In terms of this list, it is limited just to those things that I’ve tried from January 1, 2014 to the end of June 2014. There is no overlap with the prior lists. I used to make much more abbreviated ones after every 100 posts or so, occasionally mixed in with stats or other things applicable to each milestone period, but I lost track somewhere after #300 and never did a post for #400 onwards.

      You can find most of those lists, along with the lengthy 2013 Year in Review Favorites/Best Of list under the “Best & Favorites” heading. That should be at the top of every page, and part of the 2nd row of categories that go across the bottom of the black banner.

      PS — I don’t know about doing a comprehensive, All-Time list of favorites. There are so many perfumes (especially vintage or discontinued scents), and I certainly haven’t written reviewed even a fraction of them. But, mostly, there would just be so many perfumes on the list that it might physically kill me to compile them into a list with a description for each. lol 😉 🙂 But a tiny portion of some of the favorites are in the “About Me” section, with stuff from 24 Faubourg to Habit Rouge, Bel Ami, Kouros, etc. (all in vintage form, alas).

  3. Yeah, wow, that’s a killer list of scents! Thank you for pulling it all together in one place.

    Summary pieces like this help me keep up and are covert easily to a personal Try List, subject however to certain strikes which are mandated by budget!

    • You’re very welcome, James. I’m glad it could be of some help. I’d be very curious to know which ones caught your eye. Most of all, I hope you’ll get the chance to try at least one or two SHL 777 fragrances, as it’s really a rather remarkably high-quality line.

      In answer to your other question, posted in the comment below, I don’t know about Gothic I and the sweetness issue on your particular skin. I know it amplifies sweetness quite a bit, and Gothic isn’t a dry vanilla at all. However, with the spicy patchouli and definitely no candy floss sugariness, it might possibly work on you. Possibly. Honestly, I fear taking a guess because your skin chemistry makes it up in the air, not to mention how subjective each person’s individual baseline or yardstick is in terms of defining “excess sweetness.” Since Surrender to Chance carried samples the last time I looked, I’d advise taking that route and ordering a vial.

  4. That is a fantastic list. I have not tried many of these so now I have a new test list. My must tries from your list are Moon Bloom and Khol de Barhein. As a tuberose and iris lover I am very excited about trying these. I gather the Moon Bloom is only available in Europe? I’m sure I can order from their website or find a perfume retailer that handles this brand. I see a few more I’d like to try from the “second tier” list also.
    Thank you as always for a very knowledgeable and articulate explication of these fragrances.

    • Moon Bloom has come to the U.S. since I wrote that review, and is now exclusively available at Indigo Perfumery. I updated the review with a link, but here it is for easy convenience: http://www.indigoperfumery.com/moon-bloom1?ReturnUrl=LwBoAGkAcgBhAG0ALQBnAHIAZQBlAG4A . The 5 ml travel spray costs $40, the full bottle is $165, and samples are sold for $4. I hope that helps, Rickyrebarco. If you’re a tuberose lover, I suspect you will LOVE Moon Bloom! And the same for Khol de Bahrein if you’re a fan of iris. Let me know what you think of both, when you try them, as well as any others that catch your eye. 🙂

    • Thank you, my dear. I suspect it would take a small miracle for me to ever get O Hira and Nuwa, but who knows? Maybe I shall buy a lottery ticket. heh.

  5. What a pleasure reading your list! I love Cozé, Cuir Beluga and Nüwa, I like Moon Bloom, Jicky and Frapin 1270 and am curious to try Soleil de Jeddah and the La Via del Profumo ones. Do you know, when they reformulated Cozé, since my sample is from winter 2012?

    My favorite discovery has been the Vero Profumo line, I am absolutely crazy about Mito!!! Other favorites have been Jour d’Hermès Absolu, Cédrat Enivrant and Tango from Masque Fragranze (from 2013 but, like the Profumo ones, I discovered it this year).

    I have a sample of Ultimate Seduction and whenever I wear it, I get compliments, which is funny becaus it rarely happens with other scents, and I don’t really care for US. My sample of Sensual Orchid, however, has only two tiny spritzes left…

    • I love Sensual Orchid. It was in my Best Releases of 2013 list, as well as my Personal Favorites of 2013 list. That is the perfume that began my interest in the LM Parfums line, so I fully understand your feelings on that one. Interesting that Ultimate Seduction doesn’t really move you either. Why do you think that is? As a side note, I’ve gotten compliments when I’ve worn that one, too, and I think it’s because it’s a very approachable scent with a more common profile, thanks to the proliferation of fruity-floral roses scents with vanilla. (Still, I get the most remarks when I wear my favorite from the line which is Hard Leather, and they’re always positive, to my surprise.)

      With regard to Coze, it’s hard to pinpoint the date of the alleged reformulation. My guess is that it is 2012 or just after, as that is around the date on some of the comments that I recall seeing. Your sample from 2012 may have come from a bottle that was put together that year, or earlier, depending on where you obtained it. My guess — and it’s just a guess — is that the perfume was reformulated by 2013 onwards. You can read the review for the details, but I have a friend who swears that there is at least a 25% or more reduction in darkness, density, and, if I recall correctly, something about a “syrupy” richness. Comments that I’ve seen elsewhere seem to mirror that claim.

      BTW, I have a sample of Tango and it should be coming up for review sometime in the next week. 🙂 Oh, and speaking of green or green floral scents like some that you mentioned, if you’re going to look into the Via del Profumo line, you should look at his Gardinia Venezia (or something to that effect). You may like that one. The review should be in the Abdes Salaam Attar/La Via del Profumo category.

      • Hm, I guess I am literally moved by a fragrance if I’ll be able to commemorate it and think of it without wearing it. In a slightly negative way, this is the case with your favorite, Hard Leather. The first hour is too much for my nose, it overwhelms me, but I can immediately release or recall the smell. (After an hour, when it gets more in the direction of iris and vanilla, I can appreciate it, too).
        So, Ultimate Seduction doesn’t move me, because for me it’s not distinctive enough, I get an iris-patchouli-chocolate-combo with some fruit on top (a bit wishy-washy), which is nice while smelling it but forgettable, once it’s gone.

        Now, I am very much looking forward to your Tango-review!

        • No, I didn’t think Ultimate Seduction was distinctive either, but it is well-done and a good take on its general genre. As for Hard Leather, I had to smile. That first hour can be very tough on a lot of people from what I’ve read. It’s certainly not a fragrance that is for everyone, but at least it stands out and is different. Ha, that much is for certain. lol

    • No, thank YOU for a wonderful year of companionship on this shared journey, as well as for the discussions and so much more.

  6. I woke up this morning wanting to wear O Hira and figured there simply must be some left in my spray sample vial. No spray left, but enough for one small application by opening it up, banging on the sprayer and the vial itself. . . .a simple act of desperation.

    It’s my favorite of the year thus far, and I can’t imagine anything beating it. I can’t justify spending that kind of money on perfume, nor can I afford to, so all I can do is say I’ve tried it a few times and loved it!

    Great list. Yes, much SHL 777 on it, but I do believe they deserve the praise.

    And “hello!” dear Kafka. I’ve missed leaving comments and being part of the virtual conversation!

    • I’ve missed talking to you, too. Have you had a good summer thus far, Jules? You must be keeping busy, as it definitely has been a while since I’ve seen your sunny face around here. (Not that I’m criticizing or implying anything!)

      I understand how you feel about O Hira’s cost, and share it fully. I don’t even dare use my little sample. In fact, my occasional hoarding tendencies are in full swing with this one. lol

      You know what I wonder if you’ll like? Coze and Rose de Petra. I can’t recall how you feel about spicy patchouli, so perhaps not the former. But I think you’d find the latter to be lovely since I know you love rose scents. It’s one of the “cheap” ones in the line, so look into samples at perhaps Osswald or Luckyscent if you can.

      • I’d probably adore Rose de Petra. I got a few samples in swap (lucky me!) but neither of those.

        Now, you ought to use your sample! What is perfume for if not for wearing?!

        I’ve been busy with deadlines and still am, so I’ve not been wanting to get too involved online. Come September, though, I’ll probably be babbling away (so to speak).

        Cheers!

          • I can fully see Black Gemstone as being up your alley! I hope your deadlines are over soon, and that the work passes smoothly. But stop by when you can. It’s always a pleasure to see your cheery face. 🙂

    • That must be a true perfume-obsessive moment, taking apart the sample sprayer to get to the last few drops! (I’ve certainly done it, and it reminded me a bit of the behavior of friends obsessed with other, um, substances in my youth.) And Kafka, I second the advice not to hoard the last bits of samples. I only started acquiring samples a little over a year ago, and have found that some of them have disappeared without warning, particularly the spray samples.

  7. Wow, so many great scents. I love a lot of the ones you mentioned (Coze, LR Gothic, Montecristo, Epic Woman, Cuir Beluga – and I can’t wait to try the 777 line (that is slated for when I am in San Diego in September). I have a sneaking suspicion that several of those will be joining my collection.

    • I wish September would come around already! 😉 And, yes, I am ruthlessly sacrificing your summer for the sake of my personal curiosity as to your reaction to SHL 777. *grin*

      (I have a small bet going on in my head as to which one(s) you will like the most, but I won’t tell you until after September gets here and you’ve had a chance to try the scents. But, dammit, the suspense is killing me.)

      • Personally I am betting on Black Gemstone and O Hira, but a few of the others sound lovely too (I am an iris fan). Will give a full report after Labor Day! 🙂

    • Ha, my litigation days are behind me now but, I must say, I wore some rather fierce, heavy, POTENT powerhouses back in the day. And I didn’t give a damn what anyone thought about it, either. 🙂 Not during actual trials, though. That’s too tricky a situation.

  8. I have ordered samples of at least six of the perfumes mentioned above, thanks to your glorious reviews, Kafka. 🙂 They come in this week and I can’t wait… 😀

    • How wonderful, my dear. I really hope you find a few new loves amongst the lot. Dare I ask what tempted you? 🙂

      • The SHL 777 line sounded so good that I had to try your fave(s), even though I know a full bottle is a dream (O Hira’s price tag is crazy!). 🙂 And I also ordered a sample of Coze, and three of the Grossmiths (including Shem-el-Nessim). Can’t wait to sample them…

  9. My darling K,

    I have just read your list and drooled over the keyboard like a teeth-less infant. I want to try almost all of them, except, as you know, anything with mandarins, too much lemon, or too much sun for my shadows 😉
    I am not really looking forward to returning to the big, wet, muggy apple yet life must go on and a host of scents awaits my return. O Hara, Black Gemstone, Amber Oud, Creation E and others are raising my heart beat. I may very well just have a little heart attack and is all because of your words 😉
    Many hugs from the South of the world!

    • It’s selfish of me to be delighted that you’ll be returning to this part of the world soon, especially as I know you dread the humidity and stickiness of NYC in summer, but I *am* delighted. I’ve missed you, my dear. So a big Hurrah at your upcoming return! As for the perfumes, I hope you’ll find a few you like. Osswald NY will definitely have to be one of the first places you go to once you finish unpacking. Enjoy what’s left of your “Winter” down South, and come back to us soon. xoxoxo

  10. ..and now I have at least 7 new scents to try. Part of the fun will be scoring a great bargain on eBay, or taking advantage of the next big STC sale. Perfumes are like books for me..I need them daily & just when I bemoan the fact that I don’t have something new to read (or wear), something different is brought to my attention. Thanks.

    • I’m glad I could bring a few to your attention. I would love to see what you thought of something like Chypre Palatin, though I know that chypres aren’t your natural comfort zone and favorite category as a whole. There is one scent that I tried recently which is in that favorite zone of yours, and which actually made me think of you, Edward. An amber that you may want to try. That will be covered next week, so keep an eye out. 🙂

  11. Incredibly interesting (I was happy to see some of my faves on the list 🙂 ) – but now I’m off to look for Gothic I & Milano Coffee…

  12. Your list is an embarrassment of riches in every sense. My to-try list is getting unmanageable, and I will have to cut it down, or at least subdivide it. Thank you for your always honest and evocative reviews, even though they contribute greatly to the problem.

  13. Quelle surprise that Cuir Beluga made it to your “best of” list, albeit at #25. I thought that Aftelier Cuir de Gardenia would surely make it. In any case, this is a great list. Our tastes intersect at: Chypre Palatin, SHL 777 Khol de Bahrein, Milano Caffe, Cuir Beluga. Perhaps, I will grow to love a few more of these beauties as I actually get to try them!

  14. Guten morgen Kafka, fantastic review and what a nice fragrance collection. Sofia is flying to USA in August, perhaps I can try one of the 777 line. Lemon and eucalyptus sounds wonderful. Sofia loves Sensual Orchid so far the best perfume for her.

  15. I like the sound of Moon Bloom, and maybe Khol de Barhein though I’ve been over doing iris recently. I’m always on the look out for evening or ‘event’ perfumes – something special and elegant, I find those the most difficult perfumes to find because I usually prefer subtler scents so I have loads that are ideal for daytime. Moon Bloom definitely sounds worth a try. My favourite recent discovery (though it came out a while back in 2009) is Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Lumiere Noire Pour Femme – so elegant, subtly animalic, it feels contemporary yet classic

    It’s refreshing to read that someone else wasn’t blown away by Carnal Flower – I found it an uncomfortable perfume – the eucalyptus made my eyes water and the floral aspect just seemed a bit predictable and quite clean. I feel envy at all these people who are in raptures about it!

  16. This is not the first time I’ve considered Moon Bloom, but somehow I’ve never quite been impelled to purchase a sample. Rose de Petra sounds lovely too, but I seem to remember that there was something in the notes list that gave me pause – not to mention the price point for it.

    Everything else on the List Proper (oh, all RIGHT, every now and then I also contemplate a sample of Cuir Beluga) I wouldn’t touch with a 40-foot pole.

    Heh.

    Looking forward to reading more, however.

  17. Hello Kafka,

    Are you alright? I quite miss your blogging.

    I have tried to make friends with several Stéphane Humbert’s 777, but I just can’t.
    Somehow they are a bit too dry on me, I miss the “royal rot”.

    As I think you like honeyed scents, have you had a sniff at Vero Profumo’s
    Rozy? The voile d’extrait version appeals the most to me among this year’s releases.

    I am still waiting for Amouage’s Journey to be on offer here, though.

    Best regards

    Petra

    • You’re very sweet to ask, dear Petra. I’ve had some personal issues to deal with and it’s been a difficult few weeks, so I needed some time, but I hope to be blogging again soon. I’m incredibly touched that you asked. As for Rozy, I ordered a sample of the EDT yesterday, but not the voile version which is substantially more expensive and not available on the main decanting service that I use. I’m not particularly a fan of rose scents, so I’ll start with the EDP and then see. In all candour, the Vero Profumo EDPs that I’ve tried thus far have not inspired me to spend the significantly greater amount on ordering the voile or extrait versions, as they are extremely costly for a small sample. I know a lot of people adore the Vero Profumo style, but it hasn’t been my thing thus far with the exception of Onda EDP.

      Which Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 scents did you try? Some of the oud ones are dry and quite intense, especially the Oud 777. By “royal rot,” did you mean oud (aka “noble rot”)?

      • Oh, I wish you (and the Hairy German) all the best, like Petra I already missed you, too!
        No matter how long your break will be, I am 100% sure you won’t lose a single reader, dear K, so take your time.

      • Dear Kafka,

        It’s good to have a sign of life from you. Hopefully you will recover soon from your personal stress, which can be so painful.

        As for 777: I tried Oumma, Khôl de Bahrein, Black Gemstone and Oud 777. Maybe I’ll give Qom Chilom a try, there’s finally a tester bottle within reach; sampling O Hira will be a bit difficult, though.

        Of course it’s called “noble rot”, only “royal” alliterates more.

        It’s a funny expression either way, but I am quite a fan of the
        a bit more stinky stuff. What put me off Tola’s Gulbadan or Shazadah were the loads of musk, not the Indoles.

        Now I’m really looking forward to reading about your opinion
        concerning Rozy. I still don’t know what to make of vero.profumo,
        as e. g. Onda I cannot wear at all. But what in my opinion distinguishes Mrs Kern’s perfumes is that they are actually niche and do have a distinctive character.

        Best regards

        Petra

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