2015 in Review: Best New Releases & Personal Favourites

Source: World in a Bottle Facebook page. Photographer unknown.

Source: World in a Bottle Facebook page. Photographer unknown.

As another year draws to a close, it’s time to look back at the best of 2015. For me, this was an iffy year for brand new releases because there weren’t a huge number of fragrances that stood out from start to finish. The exceptions to the rule were impressive or lovely but, when I went back over all the fragrances that I covered, I found the vast majority fell woefully short.

One reason stems from the hot new trends of the year. Leather was a major compositional note in 2015 or, to be more precise, the tarry, woody, forest-fire smokiness that purports to recreate the sense of “leather.” Another hot trend seemed to be a deluge of black pepper. Neither one is appealing to me, particularly since their chemical nature was usually so intrusive as to be front-and-center. Yet, that sort of excessive darkness was, in and of itself, the most common stylistic approach, one that was frequently juxtaposed next to shapeless white florals, amorphous spiciness, or some sort of limp “freshness.” The end result was that a lot of new releases smelt far too similar for me to find them distinctive, interesting, or compelling. In addition, many of them lacked the quality to warrant the higher prices that we’ve been seeing across the board.

Year-end reviews often list a minimum of ten fragrances, but I refuse to simply include things for the sake of round numbers. I didn’t do so the first year that I began making such lists, and I won’t be doing it this year, either. I have four new 2015 releases that I think were truly good perfumes with very few to no caveats. There are, however, a large number of fragrances that had either great openings, impressive parts, or technical brilliance, and those I’ll include as Honourable Mentions. In total, we’ll be covering about 25 fragrances, so I’ll try to be as succinct in my synopses as I can manage.

We’ll get to that as soon as I explain how or why I chose certain fragrances. Perfume reviewing is subjective and personal by its very nature, so winnowing things down to several favorites is even more so. My criteria for selection varied. A number of the fragrances on the Honourable Mentions list were not really for me personally for various reasons (a particular note or element that I struggle with, discreet sillage, or something else), but they were included nonetheless because something about the particular scent was either complex, interesting, evocative, and/or an extremely good example of its genre that also happened to be done in a very polished manner. A handful of perfumes are quite simple but they’re on the list for the most subjective reason of all: I love them enough to wear them myself or buy full bottles.

Ranking things is always a nightmare. For the 2015 New Releases list, only the Number One slot was unequivocably and absolutely incontrovertible to me. The remainder of the scents are ranked within one slot, plus or minus, of where they are in my estimation at the present time, though keep in mind that perfumistas are a fickle bunch who can change their mind from one month to the next, and I’m no exception.

Finally, some of the fragrances that I enjoyed the most this year technically debuted before 2015, so there is a second and separate list of my personal favorites at the end of this post. They’re all things that I’ve covered this year, but without regard to their official launch date. There is some overlap between the two lists, but not completely. This section also has its own Honourable Mentions. So, let’s get started.

BEST NEW FRAGRANCES OF 2015:

  1. Helmut Newton, Catherine Deneuve. Source: toutsurdeneuve.free.fr

    Helmut Newton, Catherine Deneuve. Source: toutsurdeneuve.free.fr

    Papillon Perfumes Salome. Salome is unquestionably and absolutely the very best new release of 2015 for me. In a nutshell, it is the smell of sex, seduction, and skin. Salome’s eroticism is classical, bearing an old-school, divaesque floriental glamour, but it’s also beautifully balanced in its boldness, and extremely evocative. There is real talent in the way the scent smoothly transitions from being fearlessly confident in its overt sexuality and sophistication in the opening into a cozy drydown that is addictive with its snuggly, golden recreation of warm, musky skin. What a drydown! Superb. But, also, what an evocative perfume from start to finish as well. I wasn’t the only one who was impressed. Luca Turin, the famed perfume critic, awarded it Four Stars last month in his Style Arabia column, writing, “there is far more to Salome than mere shock value: once the fragrance settles down, it is in fact a beautiful floral oriental, rich and luxurious but with a surprising freshness and clarity of structure that is the mark of genuine talent.” I think he should have given Salome Five Stars, but he almost never does that any more. Having said all this, I must emphasize that Salome is NOT a fragrance that I would recommend to everyone, and especially not to anyone just starting out in niche perfumery. It is also most assuredly NOT a scent for those who dislike animalic muskiness, cumin, or skankiness. For some, that raunchiness will smell “dirty” or “filthy” by the standards of what they’re used it. It is also NOT for anyone who dislikes either the very classical or heavy style of perfumery. For a select few, though, Salome will be a joyous return to the days of intentionally lusty glamour. I’m one of them. I think it’s fabulously sexy. Soft porn in a bottle, and I mean that as a huge compliment.

  2. Photo & Source: Slumberhouse.

    Photo & Source: Slumberhouse.

    Slumberhouse Kiste. At first glance, Kiste looks like a simple boozy tobacco fragrance with peaches and spices. I think it’s more complex and interesting than that, thanks to a clever, deliberate, and thoughtful contrast between the genteel themes of Gone with the Wind, and the darker, grittier elements of the American Old South. There is symbolic symmetry to the carefully restrained and beautifully balanced contrasts where decorous sweet tea and honey-drizzled peach cobblers are met by the rawness of tobacco, ruggedly masculine booze, smoke, and even henna’d dark earth. Its rich opening is deeply evocative; its creamy, soft finish is deliciously cozy and soothing. In the past, I’ve admired a number of Slumberhouse fragrances, but I didn’t find them to be the easiest scents to wear with their high-octane nature or occasional heavy-handedness. For me, Kiste is the most approachable fragrance to date from the brand, and turned my head right from the start. It shows off Josh Lobb’s enormous talent with a new deftness in balance and intensity, but without ever sacrificing his signature style or aesthetic. I thought it was marvelous from start to finish.

  3. "Passion," by Jaison Cianelli at cianellistudios.com (website link embedded within.)

    “Passion,” by Jaison Cianelli at cianellistudios.com (website link embedded within.)

    Hiram Green Voyage (Limited Edition). Imagine a passage to India that begins by sailing through a billowing cloud of fragrant, exotic spices that capture the dusky, dusty, earthy heart of the country. It’s a trip that makes a long stop to sample the lushness of Indian desserts that have been fused with suede, cream, and spicy patchouli, then wrapped up with tendrils of smoke. The journey ends at sunset when darkness creeps over a warm, golden haze of balsamic resins. I ended up buying a bottle of Voyage for myself. I’m still not crazy about the first 40 minutes due to the nature of the citruses drizzled atop the spice bouquet, but that is an issue of personal note preferences. I succumbed because Voyage stayed in my head, beckoning to me with its opulent orientalism, cozy creaminess, semi-gourmand elements, spicy patchouli, and dark resins. It’s an evocative perfume with a deceptive simplicity, its complex nuances lying beneath beautiful smoothness, balance, richness, and a bold scent cloud whose strength is quite different from other all-natural fragrances. Only 250 bottles of Voyage were made, and I’m so glad I have one of them. If the fragrance sounds appealing, you may want to sample it while it’s still available.

  4. Source: thestylespy.com

    Source: thestylespy.com

    Aftelier Vanilla Smoke (Parfum). Forget your typical caramelized or sugar-laden vanilla gourmands, Mandy Aftel’s latest release is something completely different. This vanilla is built around the heart of a winter fire that is cleverly recreated by way of smoky Lapsang Souchong black tea. At times, Vanilla Smoke smells more like a woody fragrance that simply happens to include some lush, oak-barrel Bourbon vanilla, rather than the other way around. What I loved most of all was the quiet smokiness of the fragrance and its deeply evocative nature. Instead of smelling like tea, the Lapsang Souchong recreated one of the most authentic olfactory representations of a crackling indoor fire that I’ve encountered in a while, and it instantly conjured up happy memories of lighting that first winter fire when autumn leaves are replaced by a nippy frost in the air. A good slug of Bourbon is drizzled on top of the woods and dark vanilla to really bring home the cozy comfort aspects. It’s a beautiful scent, and one that I would gladly wear myself but Vanilla Smoke is too diffuse, sheer, and discreet for my personal tastes. Still, I thought it was one of the standouts of the year not only because of its coziness but also because it was a completely new or different take on a genre that is all too often glutted with virtually indistinguishable vanilla clones.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

There were a lot of fragrances that didn’t work for me all the way through but had parts that I thought were either lovely, impressively done, or both. In no particular order, they are:

Source: voyageenbeaute.com

Source: voyageenbeaute.com

Penhaligon Ostara. Ostara is an ode to Springtime and daffodils which took my breath away in its opening hours, leaving me wishing I had poetic talent in order to convey its beauty and the multitude of images which it inspired in my head. Bertrand Duchaufour captured every nuance of the daffodil’s natural scent, then amplifying it with the heady, liquid floralcy of purple hyacinths. The result transported me with its photorealism and its rare sense of luminosity; I felt as though I were in a field of flowers amidst radiant light. Unfortunately, the rest of Ostara isn’t as captivated or spellbinding as those first few hours. The fragrance turns intensely green and leafy, not to mention sharp and clean with a deluge of white musk. Still, the opening was magical enough that I bought a bottle for myself. There aren’t a lot of truly authentic daffodil fragrances, but this is one of them. The degree of photorealism is also technically brilliant; it takes a truly masterful hand to use such a complex range of olfactory nuances like fine brushstrokes to create an utterly poetic, almost Impressionist portrait of Spring.

Gardini Giusti, Verona. Source: wild-about-travel.com

Gardini Giusti, Verona. Source: wild-about-travel.com

Teo Cabanel Lace Garden. Speaking of Spring, one of the prettiest and freshest white floral bouquets this year came from the old French house of Teo Cabanel, once the perfumers to French high society (and the Duchess of Windsor). Lace Garden’s first few hours are exquisite: an endless vista of green is covered by a powerful but translucent web of embroidered lace made from fresh white petals. Magnolia flowers drip a milky juice that smells like figs. Orange blossom buds have just started to unfurl and waft a delicate scent that is as green as the tuberose and jasmine that encircle the garden like tall statues. Ylang-ylang hovers in the shadows, while creamy white trees stand as sentries in the distance, shedding benzoin and a wisp of delicate, warm powder like their equivalent of pollen. The wind blows little puffs of vanilla over the gardens, but this is not a tale of sweetness. It is a rhapsody of spring. Lace Garden’s  fluidity feels both effortless and really chic. Its greenness gives the scent a sophisticated crispness, but there is just enough warmth and sweetness to avoid hauteur. At the same time, the lack of indolic, lush, skanky, or ripe elements ensures that the bouquet never tips into the sensuous realm. I suppose one could consider the scent “romantic” by virtue of the flowers it has chosen to use, but Lace Garden is too fresh, natural, and bright to feel that way for me. It’s not a complicated fragrance and it has its flaws, but I think it’s a lovely, good quality, reasonably priced fragrance that is a better white floral than anything put out by far more prestigious, expensive brands this year. (Amouage, I’m looking straight at you above all others. Profumum, your attempt to do something similar with Tagete failed utterly. Lutens, your white floral Religieuse was depressingly bad.)

Source: Eau du Coq on Instagram via http://instidy.com/eau_du_coq

Source: Eau du Coq on Instagram at http://instidy.com/eau_du_coq

Guerlain Habit Rouge Dress Code (Limited Edition). Habit Rouge Dress Code (or just “Dress Code”) is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of scent, but it is also the best thing that I’ve smelt from Guerlain in recent years. For this 50th anniversary tribute, Thierry Wasser cleverly opted to create a completely separate fragrance than Habit Rouge, one that gives only the faintest nod to parts of the original while also including modern elements consistent with the current Guerlain aesthetic. This is not a masculine, citrusy, or old-school cologne by any means. Instead, it’s a dusty, withered rose blanketed with spices and then placed atop smoky leather that is gradually coated with praline caramel. Parts of the fragrance are very appealing, especially from a distance, and its appeal grows the more one wears the fragrance. I’m less fond of other parts, particularly up close, like Dress Code’s gourmand sweetness and the synthetic nature of its leather. Nevertheless, the fragrance’s balance between modern and old elements was impressively done, and I appreciate that Thierry Wasser didn’t simply make a tired, stale copy of Habit Rouge with only a smidgeon of difference. Dress Code has some bold, intriguing, and appealing bits that I think would manifest themselves beautifully on the right skin. It also feels very unisex, thanks to the emphasis on roses and gourmand elements. It is definitely worth a sniff by people of both genders.

"Mimosa" ball gown created by Leonid Gurevich. Photo: Miss Aniela Photography. Source: leonidgurevich.blogspot.com

“Mimosa” ball gown created by Leonid Gurevich. Photo: Miss Aniela Photography. Source: leonidgurevich.blogspot.com

Unum Opus 1144. Speaking of Guerlain fragrances and mixed bags, Opus 1144 was a fragrance that left me feeling quite torn. I absolutely loved the parts that felt like vintage Shalimar parfum on steroids, mixed with a solid dose of vintage L’Heure Bleue. Other parts, however, completely repelled me: the acrid nature of the citrus at the opening; the cloying intensity and almost suffocating thickness of the vanilla; and the fragrance’s utterly bombastic nature as a whole. This isn’t just a divaesque fragrance; it feels like an actual diva is wearing you (or dragging you by the collar), rather than the other way around. Still, the sheer opulence of the behemoth bouquet, its old-school glamorousness, and its overwhelming resemblance to my two favorite Guerlains in their best, most concentrated, vintage form really wowed me at times. Bottom-line: if you ever wanted vintage Shalimar amped up into a force field and given an intense gourmand sweetness, then you should try Opus 1144.

Neela Vermeire perfume flacon.

Neela Vermeire perfume flacon.

Neela Vermeire Créations Pichola. Pichola has a gorgeous opening centered on the sweet floralcy of fresh orange blossoms, encircled by neroli, mandarin, and jasmine. What stands out is the brightness, intensity, and concentrated nature of the fruit: they’re green, tart, tangy, and imbued with the zestiness of fresh oils squirting from the rind. It feels as though Bertrand Duchaufour has bottled every part of an orange tree: from the headiness of the flowers to the multi-faceted aroma of its fruit, the green leaves which surround them, and the wood which bears them on the tree. The opening is mesmerizing in its brightness. Later, custardy ylang-ylang joins the mix, along with vetiver, sandalwood, a spice mix dominated by saffron, and driftwood. After a few hours, though, Pichola flattens and dissolves on my skin in its notes, complexity, and body, turning into a simple and very translucent citrusy white floral that often smells a lot like an orange creamsicle from afar. If it didn’t, Pichola would probably have been one of my choices for best new releases of the year.

Provanilla via Twisted Lily.

Provanilla via Twisted Lily.

Providence Perfume Company Provanilla. If Captain Jack Sparrow and the pirates of the Caribbean ever wore a vanilla fragrance, it might be Provanilla, a boozy, quietly smoky, dark, but surprisingly tropical scent. I loved the opening stage which is centered on a rich, dark, vanilla extract laced with small streaks of booziness and spirals of incense smoke, then splattered with a quiet, cool, refreshing wetness that smells of cantaloupe melon. To my surprise, that melon note was my favorite addition to the vanilla, made the scent for me, and also made Provanilla stand out from more typical vanilla fragrance. Provanilla wasn’t as interesting once the cantaloupe departed, and the scent later became far too sweet for my personal tastes despite the presence of myrrh and woodiness, but the fragrance was one of the nicer vanilla releases of the year.

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. IV," 1930, via studyblue.com

Georgia O’Keeffe, “Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. IV,” 1930, via studyblue.com

Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendré. I was blown away by Iris Cendre’s fascinating, brilliant opening which juxtaposed olfactory and symbolic contrasts one upon another in a way that felt like cool, modernistic minimalism with so much more. Elegant, sophisticated, restrained, with deceptive simplicity that masks great depth and an astonishing range of contrasts, this was a soft, floral, suede-like iris covered with autumn’s ashes, tobacco, smoke, woody cinders, then nestled amidst Spring’s fresh green sprouts. It was the iris version of Naomi Goodsir’s cult-hit, Bois d’Ascece, only softer, gentler. I’m not an iris lover, but I thought the opening was magical. Unfortunately, things went significantly down hill from there, thanks to a deluge of sharp violet greenness and overly clean, synthetic white musk that thoroughly squashed the interesting, unique, and appealing parts of the fragrance. In essence, Iris Cendre becomes a green twist on the basic floral, woody musk genre. Or, put another way, a generic fresh floral woody musk cocooned in a green haze. Still, Iris Cendre is worth trying for yourself. Others experienced the ash-smoky-tobacco part at the end of the fragrance’s development, not the beginning, so you may want to keep that in mind if you give it a sniff.

Monet's gardens at Giverney. Source: scpdcaclubs.com

Monet’s gardens at Giverny. Source: scpdcaclubs.com

DSH Perfumes Fleuriste & Giverny in Bloom. I absolutely loved the opening of Fleuriste, a carnation-dominated fragrance that perfectly captured the scent of a florist’s shop, right down to its chilly freshness. And Giverny in Bloom impressed me beyond belief with the technical skill and intellectual symbolism shown in recreating every aspect of Monet’s gardens at Giverny. Land, water, and misty air; from Monet’s ponds to his flowers, moss-laden trees, and (vetiver) grass, it’s all there. Ultimately, neither fragrance worked for me over the course of its development, but I still think of Fleuriste’s beautiful liquid floralcy and spicy carnations in its first few hours, and of the intellectual brilliance of Giverny in Bloom.

Source: crazy-frankenstein.com

Source: crazy-frankenstein.com

Aftelier Perfumes Bergamoss. Bergamoss harkens back to the chypres of old, except this is the sunny, always approachable version that never bears the haughty aloofness or austere coolness of many of the classics. The fragrance essentially encapsulates the feel and smells of a walk through the country on a summer’s day. You start in the morning in a small forest glade where moss creeps up ancient trees and their gnarled roots. Leaves lie damp under your footsteps, crushed into earth that is dark, loamy, and a little sweet. Slowly, you segue to the meadow beyond as the sun rises and adds a golden warmth to the hay, grasses, herbs, earth and woods that now surround you. As a whole, Bergamoss is a pretty fragrance that feels inviting but elegant at the same time. I reviewed the solid version, and found it far too intimate and short-lived on my skin for my personal tastes (and for the price). However, there is now a limited-edition eau de parfum that probably has greater power. Both are all-natural fragrances. If you are looking for a warm, sunny, and discreet chypre, Bergamoss might be one for you to consider.

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

By Kilian Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi. Forget the silly name and its blatant attempts at sexualised marketing, this is actually a fantastic, lush, and rather delectable feminine floral that I’ve strongly considered putting in the top category of Best New Releases of the year. If the fragrance was not so basic or simplistic, there would be no question about it because I think it’s the best thing that Kilian’s put out in the last few years. Contrary to its lusty name, I thought Voulez-Vous verged practically on the bridal with its white floral bouquet composed of their fresh, delicate petals, all coated in satiny cream. What I appreciated was the well-executed balance between headiness, fresh greenness, and vanillic creaminess. It’s never indolic; it’s always inordinately smooth; and it’s an extremely grown-up, sophisticated treatment of white florals that is thoroughly enjoyable to wear.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

M. Micallef Akowa. In contrast to the Kilian, Micallef’s latest is neither easy nor particularly wearable, but it is the most original fragrance I’ve tried in years. In fact, I’d call Akowa authentically, genuinely unique, thanks to an unnamed, secret ingredient from the roots of an African plant (supposedly used by a tribe in Gabon in their mystical ceremonies). I have no idea what it is, but it smells like nothing I’ve ever encountered before and it has a huge range of nuances that unfurl over the long course of Akowa’s development. That development is an utter rollercoaster, veering from one genre to the next through six stages. The mystery note dominates from start to finish, and has an otherworldly strangeness that can be quite fascinating. Yet, other parts of Akowa verge on the repellant and nauseating, often being loud to the point of almost being garish. Wearing Akowa was one of the most perplexing scent experiences I can recall, making me feel as though I were practically stuttering in bewilderment and beset by a push-pull set of opposing, contradictory forces. I don’t really like Akowa and I don’t think it’s actually a “great” fragrance but, as I wrote in my review, it’s wildly creative. It’s also completely unconcerned about being immensely bizarre, it’s intentionally in your face, and it smells like absolutely nothing else out there. The first, initial encounter with that mystery note is absolutely compelling. I was riveted by the alienness of Akowa, and almost couldn’t get enough of it in the first 30 minutes. In a world where more and more fragrances smell as though they might as well have been created on a factory line, where “distinctiveness” is a subjective concept that is usually relative to the just how generic the other fragrance is, Akowa is objectively “distinctive” or unique. How can one not acknowledge, admire, and applaud that?

MY PERSONAL FAVOURITES:

Roja Haute Luxe via rojaparfums.com

Roja Haute Luxe via rojaparfums.com

As I noted at the top of this post, a number of the fragrances that I enjoyed the most this year came out before 2015. One of them I shan’t include on this list for reasons of fairness. Roja Dove‘s 2013 Roja Haute Luxe is in a special category of its own, created without regard to cost and with a price tag that reflects that. Any of the perfumers on this list could have created something utterly sumptuous with the freedom of an unlimited budget, but they faced normal, practical limitations or constraints. Yet, that didn’t stop them from making some utterly wonderful fragrances, many of which average $150 in price.

In the case of the rankings below, the Number One slot was not unequivocal and absolutely incontrovertible to me this time. It was close, but I ended up going with my gut for reasons I explain below. The remainder of the scents are again fluid in rank, again placed within one to two slots, plus or minus, of where they are in my estimation at the present time. Some of the fragrances are the same as in the first list, but not all. (I won’t repeat the synopses for anything previously listed up above, only for the new ones.) So these were some of my personal favourites.

  1. Photo by Daniel Fox. Source: petapixel.com. (Website link embedded within.)

    Photo by Daniel Fox. Source: petapixel.com. (Website link embedded within.)

    Rania J. Ambre Loup. Ambre Loup narrowly edged out Salome as my personal favorite of the year for two reasons. First, orientals (or ambers) will always be my comfort zone and happy place above a chypre, every single time. Second, every year, there is one fragrance to which I become almost compulsively addicted, reaching for it again and again whenever I have the chance to wear something for myself (as opposed to testing for the blog). This year, it was Ambre Loup. I’m genuinely obsessed. The more I wear it, the more I love it, though not always for the same reasons. At times, it reminds me of the base of vintage Opium. Recently, it evoked a non-honeyed version of Fumerie Turque. In all instances, however, Ambre Loup smells like tobacco above all else to me. It’s tobacco that is simultaneously dark, chewy, quietly smoky, sweet, and spicy like the real gingerbread-smelling tobacco of a Carolina plantation combined with Turkish or hookah tobacco. Then, it’s slathered with labdanum amber, dark resins, spices, and a wisp of vetiver. On occasion, I feel as though I were wearing what I imagine actual opium (the drug, not the fragrance) to smell like, perhaps because the tobacco bears a resemblance to the hashish I smelt in my youth in Europe. Whatever the actual olfactory bouquet, the result certainly has a drug-like effect on me because I find Ambre Loup utterly intoxicating and I can’t get enough of it. The fragrance has monster longevity on my skin (almost exhaustingly so), Slumberhouse-like richness, and a $149 price tag that is very reasonable for everything involved. I simply love it.

  2. Papillon Salome.
  3. Slumberhouse Kiste.
  4. Source: abc.net.au

    Source: abc.net.au

    Arabian Oud Kalemat Amber. Contrary to the company’s name, there is no oud in any version of Kalemat which is a molten, rich, honey-slathered amber with a large scent cloud, sweetness, woody/incense aspects, and varying amounts of rose as well. The concentrated oil version called Kalemat Amber is even better, and it’s utterly magnificent in its richness. It is also more opulent in feel and better quality than many a famous niche scent that costs much more. Kalemat Amber is reasonably priced at £90, and I think it’s worth every penny.

  5. Sculpture by Janet Echelman for the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Museum. Photo source: smithsonianmag.com

    Sculpture by Janet Echelman for the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Museum. Photo source: smithsonianmag.com

    Maison Francis Kurkdjian Ciel de Gum. A swirling vortex of gold and red, Ciel de Gum is primarily a rich, comforting deluge of cinnamon, ambered benzoin, and dark resins laced with vanilla. That central core is initially placed against a moving, fluctuating backdrop of roses and jasmine that gradually retreat to the background where they shimmer with gossamer demureness before slowly disappearing entirely. Ciel de Gum really shines when the dark, balsamic, and spicy resins in the base take over, smelling first honeyed, then smoldering and quietly smoky, before finishing as a lightly spiced, lightly powdered goldenness that feels as comforting as a soft embrace. It is a delectable fragrance that is beautifully balanced, never too sweet, and one of the best things Francis Kurkdjian has done, in my opinion. Ciel de Gum was originally a Moscow exclusive, but it is now available from the MFK website (although the fragrance listing sometimes vanishes from the site when they run out).

  6. Bruno Paolo Benedetti Artwork, "Orange Shades," at absolutearts.com (Direct website link embedded within.)

    Bruno Paolo Benedetti Artwork, “Orange Shades,” at absolutearts.com (Direct website link embedded within.)

    La Via del Profumo Tasneem (also sometimes called “Tasnim”). Tasneem is primarily a simple, uncomplicated ylang-ylang fragrance, but I fell for it from the very first, utterly heady sniff during AbdesSalaam Attar‘s perfume course in Italy this summer and I love it still as a “cozy, comfort” scent. It opens with quick burst of cognac booziness that is immediately followed by waves of lush, sensuous, and heavy ylang-ylang, rapturously heady in its golden richness. Floral sweetness vies with balsamic spiciness and custardy smoothness, while vanilla run through its base like a thick river, underscoring the ylang-ylang’s innate custardy aromas. Drops of spicy, resinously sweet Peru Balsam are drizzled on top, next to slivers of fresh almonds. For a brief moment, the black tang of very indolic jasmine danced at the edges next to something vaguely woody, but both disappeared quickly. Later, Tasneem turns into nothing more than lush ylang-ylang with creamy vanilla softness. It’s as basic as you get, but I find it to be like falling into a bath of golden, buttery, spicy, floral custard that oozes narcotic indolence and snuggly, sweet comfort through every pore.

  7. Hiram Green Voyage.
  8. Aftelier Vanilla Smoke.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

Edita Vilkeviciute by Camilla Åkrans in 'Stardust' for Numéro, May 2011. Source: fashiontography.net

Edita Vilkeviciute by Camilla Åkrans in ‘Stardust’ for Numéro, May 2011. Source: fashiontography.net

Anatole Lebreton L’Eau Scandaleuse. L’Eau Scandaleuse is a floral leather that is oh so much more. It is a fragrance that cuts a swathe through different perfume genres and gender profiles to end up as an androgynous, genderless leather in a way that constantly made me think of Germaine Cellier, the legendary creator of Bandit and Fracas. It also marries the best of French classicism and the Haute Parfumerie divaesque style with a radiant lightness the belies the heft and richness of its notes to feel very modern. The juxtapositions and transitions are seamless; the overall result is sophisticated and bold. This 2014 release is a far better scent than many things I’ve smelt this year from famous noses, but it comes from a self-taught perfumer who was once a fragrance blogger. I would have been impressed regardless of who made it, because it is incredibly complex and polished. I loved the parts which felt like an orange blossom twist on Fracas mixed with Hiram Green’s Shangri-La chypre. However, I was less enthused when the fragrance skewed towards Bandit, the hardcore vintage version redolent of  smoky castoreum leather, green-black galbanum, and vetiver. I really loathe galbanum in large quantities, but that’s precisely how the fragrance smells on my skin in its later stages: green-black galbanum poured over smoky, oily leather then tied up with a wisp of tuberose. L’Eau Scandaleuse is ultimately not for me, but it’s still an impressive scent in its composition and development. It’s also fully unisex. One chap who normally loathes tuberose in perfumes was utterly wowed by this treatment of it. Others call the fragrance a gem, breathtaking, sophisticated, one of the nicest floral leathers they’ve ever tried, or multi-dimensional. If you loves any of the fragrances mentioned here, I think you should try it for yourself. Given the quality, depth, complexity, and lushness of the scent, it’s a bargain for the price at $110 or €90, but I do not recommend blindly buying L’Eau Scandaleuse unless you really love fragrances like Bandit.

Teo Cabanel Lace Garden & Kilian Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi. (See above.)

Source: hdwallpaperscool.com

Source: hdwallpaperscool.com

Roja Dove Lilac Extrait. Lilacs, lilacs, and more lilacs, smelling as heady, sweet, liquidy, fresh, and realistic as if huge swathes of the actual flower had been captured in a bottle. The purple panoply is underscored by sweet violets whose petals sparkle with drops of bergamot like dew. Other members of Nature’s garden crowd around the edges — a pale rose, green moss, a pinch of spices, ylang-ylang, and vanillic, powdery heliotrope — but they are often more like floating specks in the lilac sea that work indirectly to recreate different facets of the titular note. The result is a truly exquisite photorealistic scent, and the best opening of any lilac fragrance that I’ve ever tried. If it remained that way on my skin, Lilac Extrait would be high on my list of actual favorites (and I’ve struggled a lot with its ranking on this list) but the problem is that its stunning richness, depth, and headiness diffuse and weaken on me after 75 minutes, and the crystalline clarity of the notes is overtaken by a little too much white musk for my personal tastes. Still, I would have bought a bottle if the extrait didn’t have iffy longevity on my skin, quiet sillage, and, yes, that white musk. In light of all those factors together, the price was too high for me personally, but I still think about that gorgeous opening. Roja Dove discontinued the entire Extrait Collection last month, but they’re available at a number of places for the time being, so lilac lovers should definitely look for it and give it a sniff.

Painting by Peter Colstee via home.planet.nl

Painting by Peter Colstee via home.planet.nl

Histoires de Parfums 1740. 1740 was inspired by the Marquis de Sade and is a very lusty, bawdy leather fragrance, but it’s actually not as debauched as the association might lead you to think. (It’s hardly as skanky or erotic as Salome, for example.) I think it requires some patience in the early moments, in addition to a strong appreciation for cumin, clove, and immortelle, but it’s worth it for the mesmerizing bouquet that develops. It’s as though the leather has melted into sex, skin, and darkness, offset by warmth that glows like candlelight upon the shadows. There is a heatedness to the bouquet, a ripeness that hints at things being peeled back and flesh left exposed; the cumulative effect somehow transcends the individual notes to ooze sensuality. When you break down the notes, it’s clear that the responsible parties are the dark, almost prune-like fruitiness, the bodily fleshiness of the cloves and cumin, the muskiness of the leather, the earthiness of the patchouli, and the warmth of the molasses-like resins, but 1740 still manages to be more than its individual parts. Sexy, sexy, sexy.

Source: wall321.com

Source: wall321.com

David Jourquin Cuir Altesse. I’m a sucker for things that smell like vintage Shalimar but even more so for fragrances that resemble vintage Lagerfeld cologne. Cuir Altesse does precisely that at times. Boozy rum and cognac are splashed over fragrant, unlit Cuban cigars and the soft, musky leather of a guy’s expensive leather jacket. Bright mandarin, spicy patchouli, actual spices, vanilla, a subtle incense-like smokiness, and tendrils of both jasmine and rose complete the picture. If Cuir Altesse stayed that way, it would be a great fragrance. Instead, a powerful and sometimes overwhelming amount of Bay Rum cologne arrives on the scene. From the middle of the 2nd hour largely until its very end, Cuir Altesse merely fluctuates between spiced Bay Rum cologne and Lagerfeld/Shalimar vanilla leather. The scent merely becomes smokier, spicier, darker, boozier, sweeter, and more ambered on my skin until the drydown when the Guerlainade finish kicks in. There is far too much Bay Rum and cologne for me personally, but I really enjoyed the other parts and I’d buy a large decant if anyone ever split the scent. I think Cuir Altesse is unisex, but more men seem to like it than women, probably because of the Bay Rum and Lagerfeld cologne aspects. A few think the scent skews feminine in nature, undoubtedly because of the Shalimar aspect. If any of those fragrances appeal to you, I think you should test Cuir Altesse for yourself.

"A Head Inside The Man" by Guagapunyaimel on Deviant Art. (Direct website link embedded within.)

“A Head Inside The Man” by Guagapunyaimel on Deviant Art. (Direct website link embedded within.)

DSH Perfumes Fumée d’Or (The Cartier/Brilliant Collection). Fumée d’Or was a complete surprise to me. It’s the fantasy recreation of the imagined scent of a Paris goldsmith’s workshop by way of “odd ‘bedfellows’ and materials … [like] birch tar, metallic aldehydes, indolic jasmine, neroli, and a big dose of civet.” But there is also immortelle, tobacco, leather, incense, resins, and rose. The overall effect is a smoky, dry, sweet golden warmth that trumped the dreaded aldehydes for me. Its strong birch tar note is gorgeous and nothing like the ghastly smokefest horrors found in so many semi-synthetic fragrances today. These smoky, lightly singed woods are redolent of a BBQ or fireplace, then coated with immortelle golden sweetness, dry tobacco, and only a light touch of aldehydes. The latter are more like sparkling silveriness than anything smelling of soap or cleanness. Slowly, the tobacco becomes the woody BBQ smoke’s main companion on center stage before the fragrance eventually melts into a simple spicy, golden warmth that is laced with nebulous immortelle-ish sweetness, a soft floralcy, a subtle smudge of smoky darkness at the edges, and only a wisp of vaguely aldehydic cleanness/silveriness at its edges. I thought the fragrance just got better over time and the drydown was utterly delicious, cozy, comforting, and appealing. Fumée d’Or is one of the standouts amongst the many DSH fragrances I tried, and a fragrance that I think I’ll buy for myself.

Mukhallath Seufi via alharamainexclusive.com

Mukhallath Seufi via alharamainexclusive.com

Al Haramain Mukhallath Seufi Attar (The Prestige Collection). A concentrated perfume oil (CPO) or attar, Mukhallath Seufi is on this list because of its spectacular opening and the astonishing way that it replicates Amouage‘s much beloved but now discontinued Homage attar. In fact, the opening of the Al Haramain scent might even be better than the comparable stage in Homage. It’s sumptuously extravagant, deeply complex, and powerfully nuclear, a feast for the senses through an explosion of roses that dazzle like three-dimensional rubies adorned with spices and amber in an opulent oriental blend. I don’t even like rose fragrances, and I was bowled over. Then, Mukhallath Seufi journeys from the Orient to Europe, slowly turning into a rich chypre before ending up as a dark, smoky, slightly animalic, more masculine vetiver leather with clean musk. These stages weren’t as stunning or appealing to me, and I wasn’t keen on the last part at all, but the first 90 minutes to two hours truly swept me away.

So, that’s the lot, 2015 in review with all 25 fragrances that stood out to me for one reason or another. Phew, we got through it in all.

Whether you’re a long-time reader or new to the blog, I want to wish each and every one of you a glorious, happy, peaceful, and healthy 2016. For those who have been with me through thick and thin, olfactory stinkers and gems, thank you for reading, for patiently abiding with my obsessive-compulsive love of details, my need for thoroughness, and my verboseness. Regardless of how long you’ve been following, though, please know that getting to know some of you here or on the Facebook page has really been the best and most rewarding part of doing this blog for me, and I mean that quite sincerely. See you in 2016!

49 thoughts on “2015 in Review: Best New Releases & Personal Favourites

  1. Great roundup. Ambre Loup and Salomé are my faves as well. I gave my mom a bottle of Ostara for Christmas. Wishing you a happy and fragrant new year!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Rich. What did your mother think of Ostara? I hope it was a huge success. As for 2016, I hope it’s a fantastic year for you. Will you rock in the new year in some big oud? 😉

  2. Your top 3 Personal Favorites were also mine, as were your top 2 Best Of!

    I enjoyed Pichola a bit more than you did, I think because the perfume didn’t flatten on my skin the way it did on yours; the opening lasted much longer and I found myself sniffing my arm all day.

    It’s interesting that you ranked Ciel De Gum so high on your list because I got a lot of clean musk in that one, and thought the same may have happened on your skin.

    I’ve followed your website compulsively for about 3 years now and I rely on you for perfume advice and education. You’re the best at what you do and I’d like to thank you for all the time consuming work you do to inform your readers.

    I need to try the Kalemat oil. The edp was not a love for me as it was for you, but maybe I should revisit it since it was one of the first perfumes I bought quite early in my perfume addiction beginnings, and I think my nose has developed significantly (again, thanks to you). I esp. want to get the Kalemat oil.

    Thanks again and Happy New Year!!!!!!

    • White musk must die!! That’s always my first thought whenever the blasted thing ruins a fragrance for me or for others. How unfortunate that it was so strong on you with Ciel de Gum. I was actually taken aback to find it quite minimal and not hugely long-lasting on my skin. So many of the MFKs have it blaring at high decibels from start almost to finish. I would never have rated Ciel de Gum highly if that had happened, so I guess I count it as a rare exception to the usual MFK rule?

      As for Kalemat (in either version), I definitely think you should try the original again. You’ve told me of a number of fragrancs that you’ve grown to like or, in some cases, really love when you originally shied away from them quite vehemently. I don’t think you would have ever liked Salome 3 years ago, and I know that several ambers were extremely difficult for you back then, too. So, yes, definitely give it another shot. As for the concentrated Kalemat Amber oil, I don’t think you’ll be able to find samples on eBay but you should check since I know some people sell samples of the EDP. You’re always hugely lucky with your eBay finds, so I’m sure you’ll manage this time, too.

      Finally, thank you so much for your very kind words on the blog. It means the world to me. Happy New Year, my dear.

  3. I always look forward to the list. Ambre Loup was at the top of my Christmas wish list and I am loving it. Thank you for a wonderful blog. I looking forward to each and every post. Happy New Year!

    • So lovely to see you again, John. (You must stop lurking! 😉 lol) Thank you for the very kind words on the blog, but I’m actually even happier to hear that you love Ambre Loup. I would have hated for one of my fragrance favourites to end up being a bad Christmas present! I hope the new year brings you equally fragrant and happy tidings.

      • Hi,
        Love your recommendation for Amber loup. I bought be happy and happy. I love the projection of abra loup. What is your top three projection beast parfum?

        • I’m afraid I never think about fragrances in terms of “beast” mode or projection. It’s simply not how I categorize fragrances. And without knowing more about your tastes, I couldn’t possibly recommend something solely on the basis of projection. Since you’ve sent an email with the same question, I’ll endeavor to answer you more thoroughly there.

  4. Great list! No real surprises, but hey, I read your every word, lol!

    Kiste and Ambre Loup were full bottles purchases for me this year, so that says a lot about them as I’m fond of decants (and I do have one of Ciel de Gum).

    I’d say that 2015 was my year for finding my holy grail amber and tobacco fragrances indeed! And now I’m hankering for scents out of my comfort zone.

    You remind me that I’ll have to rectify my lack of fragrances from Mandy Aftel in 2016. I use the chef’s essences (and was that a 2015 thing on account of you, too??!!) but for some unknown reason, I have not even sampled ONE of her perfumes!!

    Thanks again, dear Kafka, for your fabulous reviews and your utmost integrity! Here’s a to a wonderful 2016!!!

    Oh, and I must acknowledge your lovely last paragraph; I feel the same way. Virtual hugs and a virtual toast to you, and to all your readers. You DO have the best reader! I love reading the comments. Cheers, all!! 🙂 <3

    • I really DO have the best readers! And you’re all unquestionably the best, happiest, and funnest part of writing this thing.

      The Aftelier Chef’s Essences were a 2014 thing but, you know, it feels like just yesterday that I wrote about them and we were all talking about various recipes with the Ginger, Lemongrass, etc. I know you fell hard for the Thai Lime in particular. The perfumes may be less successful for you personally given your incredibly voracious skin. If you only get 4-5 hours from super-concentrated, rich, and powerful fragrances like Kiste or Ambre Loup, I don’t know what your skin will do to some of the Aftelier fragrances. I would definitely try a few, but just prepare yourself for the possibility that your skin will eat them up or keep them extremely low in sillage.

      Happy new year, my dear. I hope 2016 is the best year for you and your loved ones (which include the Furry One as well, btw).

      PS — As someone with OCD, I’m happy to fix any typos in your post if you’d like.

      • I can’t seem to leave a reply in the right place, so here it is at the bottom of the comments:

        Give the Hairy German a hug from me, too. I know so little about big dogs that I don’t even know if hugging is even appropriate!!

        Don’t fix my typos. It’s my mistake and I should live with the results of my tired and lazy posting! It doesn’t bother me, really. Just like others to know that I know, I guess! Ha!!

        FYI: I had forgotten about the (2014!!) Chef’s Essences for a few months. I just looked at them and see I’m almost out of the ginger. It turned out to be well used indeed! I love real ginger ale, which is made by a few companies where I live, but it has too much sugar in it. I discovered that a glass of seltzer, lots of crushed ice, some good dark honey and a few drops of the ginger oil makes the most fabulous summer drink!

        And as for my skin, today has been a disaster for Ciel de Gum. ..two sprays four times from 9:00 a.m. to 2 and it’s a mere shadow of itself. Alas, I should start spraying my clothes. . .but I don’t think it’s the same. So, yes, I brace myself for lack of longevity with everything (‘cept that which I don’t like, of course)!!

        Again, Happy New Year!!

  5. Oh, what a wonderful list, thank you so much for the compilation! I haven’t commented much lately but read nearly every single review of yours and hope to be more active in 2016…
    My two favorite releases were Misia (I approve of your review on Misia but still love it) and Salome. What I found funny this year was that the pianist Lang Lang entered the celebrity fragrance market with two rather boring perfumes, and when I first smelled Salome I was thinking that this would match perfectly with Martha Argerich, haha! To me it’s animalic in a wild and free way not so much in a skanky or porno way. I find Salome fierce, exciting and uncompromising.
    From your list I have to give Vanilla Smoke and Kiste a try, both sound very inspiring.
    I wish you and your Schäferhund a happy and peaceful 2016, too, with lots of fabulous fragrant discoveries!

    • Anka, you’ve been missed, my dear, and it’s lovely to see you again! I’m happy to hear that you found two fragrances that you love so much. I think describing Salome as “fierce, exciting and uncompromising” is a wonderful way to put it. Happy new year and 2016! I hope it’s a fantastic year for you.

  6. Hello all, and thank you Kafka for the year in review. This was the year that I officially splurged on perfumes to the exclusion of everything else except food. I just saved and saved and planned from 2013 onwards after my first major flirts with Hedonist and Mohur via Fille en aiguilles…. and now, many many samples later, Kiste and Ambre Loup (on their way), Ostara from the store in Edinburgh, Kohl de Bahrein (and dare I say it? Black gemstone is also on its way- thank you fiancé!), Ambre Nuit at a steal in the airport in Turkey. I waffled between Anubis and Salome for weeks, and ended up with the former but the latter as well as a Chypre Palatin remain on my wish list. Julie you must explore Aftelier. I have tried all of them and grabbed the ltd release Bergamoss EDP and finally settled on Lumiere….although wild roses and vanilla smoke taunted me. And Kalemat Amber : a note, the contact via Kafka is a sweetheart and more than ready to help out with delivery from the UK…but beware any taxes and duties in the arrival country. Those caught me off guard and weren’t calculated in the shipping. That set me back a whole bottle for the year 🙂 and the Kalemat is worth it, to me. Next year, I plan to save money and use these bottles. I will continue to read but need a hiatus from spending! Ha ha.
    More important to me than this bulimic crazy year of much required perfume therapy has been the heart warming and fun atmosphere cultivated in this blog. For that, thank you all, and a huge bravo to Kafka.

    • Woot Black Gemstone and Khol de Bahrein…! Way to go, Paskale. And such a great fiancé, too. I’m glad you got the Black Gemstone in the end because of all the memories it will bring back. I know you weren’t sure you always wanted to dive into them quite so intently, but I think the ties to the past and happy days in the souk will be a good thing.

      I’m sorry to hear about the Canadian taxes or duties that you had to pay on the Arabian Oud oil. I can’t recall or don’t think I’ve ever paid duties over here for anything delivered from overseas, so it never really crossed my mind. Well, at least you love the fragrance. I think your splurging isn’t a bad thing as a whole given the past year for you, but I won’t say more. Just know that I’m thinking of you and that I hope that 2016 is the best year ever for you (and your fiancé). I know you’ll certainly smell very good in it. lol 😉

  7. I’m happy to see we share many common scents, and in my case, Salome is my n°1 with a back up bottle on its way. Enjoy the rest of the holidays and hopefully 2016 will bring us many worthwhile perfumes. Happy new year and a big hug to you and the hairy German!!! xx

    • A back-up bottle of Salome lies in my future, too. Happy new year, Alex. It’s been so lovely getting to know you over the last year. I look forward to more fun in 2016.

  8. Thank you for a wonderful round-up! The reviews this year have been fabulous, as always, and it’s fascinating to see how your tastes are evolving: super to see the all-naturals in this list, and self-taught perfumers producing such wonderful offerings too! I loved your AbdesSalaam perfume course series so much, I have signed up for next May! My Christmas and birthday gifts for the next few years. SO excited! Fingers crossed he gets enough people signed up to to run it. Anyway, I’ve loved every single offering from you this year, and wanted to say a huge thank you from all of us. You’ve introduced, guided and tempted us to plenty of gems this year. Added to which, you’ve been honest, erudite, and generous with your responses. Thank you, and to you and all the perfume friends here: wishing you a healthy, happy and fragrant 2016 🙂

    • How fantastic to hear that you signed up for the course, Lellabelle!!! Wonderful news! I join you in hoping that enough people sign up for him to go ahead with it. But truly, how exciting! You must promise to keep me informed of any developments and if the class goes ahead.

      In terms of all-natural perfumes on the list, I’ve always included a handful every year. Last year also had fragrances from Hiram Green, Aftelier, AbdesSalaam and DSH. Given my sensitivity to things like ISO E Super and the really powerful smoky aromachemicals, I’d never overlook the all-natural genre. LOL 😀

      Putting all that aside, the really fantastic news is the course sign-up. I’m so incredibly HAPPY for you!!! If it goes ahead, I know you’ll have an experience that you’ll never forget. I can’t wait to hear all about it! Until then, though, I hope your new year is filled with other exciting, happy events. 🙂

      • You are absolutely correct, my dear, of course. My mistake. This is the first year I’ve really started paying attention to naturals so it’s probably also the first time I’ve made the distinction. I wish I’d realized years ago how much I dislike synthetics. I don’t have your sensitivity, but I find my tolerance is decreasing with each new discovery. I’m wildly excited for the course in May. I really do hope he gets enough students to run it; I’ll be devastated if he cancels. I nearly didn’t sign up myself as I’ve no experience making perfumes, but it looks to be the experience of a lifetime. What I don’t have in knowledge I will have to make up in humble appreciation 🙂

        I hope you have a truly wonderful 2016, and please give the hairy German a hug from us. We have two furry Italians of our own, and my heart broke hearing of the troubles you’ve had this year. Ours also love bananas, we freeze chunks as a chewable treat :). They’re also massive perfume snobs!

  9. After reading your always excellent, much anticipated ‘best of & personal favourite’ lists, I have come to the conclusion that we’ve excellent taste in perfume; even if the numbers are greatly reduced this year…
    I’m also reminded of a few forgotten ones to sample like Habit Rouge Dress Code.

    The day before Christmas I received my package of samples from DSH,including Fumee d’Or that went to full bottle list. Le Smoking is another love for me- I am just not one for discreet sillage. Fou d’ Opium and Euphorisme d’ Opium were surprisingly good, too.
    I’ve been back on AbdesSalaam’ site browsing…also back to looking at Arabian Oud, plus ASAQ for something different. I haven’t sampled the Al Haramains you reviewed either. So I have much yet to do Kafka! 😀

    Even though I’ve had
    a persistent migraine, I refused to let it keep me from reading my favourite (only) blog! And if the there was a “Best blogger of the Year Award” you would surely win that, Kafka. Along with all of your readers, thank you for all of your effort and time put into making this the best & “funnest” site around! 😉
    Wishing you and Teutonhund a happy, healthy New Year…

  10. Thank you for your very comprehensive posts. I read regularly but rarely comment and just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the time and effort put into all your posts. Also many many thanks for your review on Kalemat- I bought a bottle blind and it zoomed right up to my Top Five Favorite list. I have put a serious dent in the bottle and was considering a back up bottle, but now thinking I may try the Amber version. Happy New Year and I look forward to you new posts 🙂

  11. A very happy and lovely new year dear Kafka, for you and for the Hairy One. Very enjoyable to read your favourite post, and thank you for enabling 2 succesful blind buys (that are on your favourite list!) Voyage and Ciel de Gum. Both have been regularly scenting my days, and providing comfort and interest. Ciel de Gum sometimes reminds me of shoe polish, in the nicest possible way, and on other days my first association is how I (entirely subjectively) seem to remember Opium from the days when I was young and it was great.
    I will still sample Voulez vous, and Iris Cendre.
    I finally mending, and although I have to be very selective where I put my energies, there seems to be light at the end of this mono tunnel pffff. I am sure you know your blog has provided entertainment of the highest class for me these months, thank you so much. I hope the muse will be with you, endless meh releases not withstanding.
    All best wishes and hugs!

  12. Thank you for the wonderful list Kafka. I have been solely using your reviews for the new purchases (and the lists you have been putting together).
    My Eau scandalese has arrived today and it is incredible. First 5 minutes were not that enjoyable as I am not a fan of orange blossom but everyhing after that is amazing. Not to mention how much I love Kalemut, Salome, Voyage and Kisti. I think I am missing Aftelier Vanilla – and I am concerned about longevity on my skin but I am very tempted.
    Happy holidays and thank you for all the wonderful reviews

    • Hurrah for L’Eau Scandaleuse working so well for you, Marianna! I’m so pleased. The chap is really talented, isn’t he? Tell me more about what the fragrance is like on your skin and what makes you love it so much.

      Happy 2016, Marianna. I hope you’ll stop by more often to share your experiences or thoughts on perfumes.

    • You’re very welcome, Michael. I’m glad I could provide you with some ideas of new things to try, and I hope a few of them end up as new loves for you.

  13. Happy new year, Kafka! 🙂 🙂 Wishing you and all your loved ones lots and lots of good things!

    Great list! Your blog is a fabulous place to discover new perfumes (and the art of perfumery in general), for which I am very grateful.
    Like a lot of your readers, I tried Ambre Loup thanks to you and fell in love. So much so that Santa brought me a full bottle a few days ago. 🙂 Love, LOVE IT.

    I got a sample of Salomé! And of… *drumming noise* Anubis too (I’m actually wearing Anubis right now, but accidently put too much, which somehow turned it fairly powdery)! I still have further testing to do to properly assess them but bottom line: I like them both.

    Pichola’s opening is truly, truly lovely.

    Ostara I liked at the beginning, but it really cemented my seething hatred for white musk. Bloody white musk.

    I also tried Slumberhouse Kiste: it was an interesting experience, and I LOVE the tobacco. But it’s Jeke I really enjoyed: that Lapsang Souchong note!

    Now I HAVE to grab a sample of Mandy Aftel’s Vanilla Smoke.

    Lastly, I wanted to thank you for all the work you put into your blog. Please know that it is very much appreciated! It’s always a delight to read your reviews.

    • “Bloody white musk” indeed! It really ruins Ostara’s lovely opening, doesn’t it? It also ruined Naomi Goodsir’s Iris Cendré for me as well. As for Pichola, it’s a gorgeous first two hours, isn’t it? What happened later on for you as the fragrance developed on your skin?

      I’m *SO* happy Ambre Loup proved to be a huge hit for you as well. Hurrah! I’m also glad you’re enjoying the two Papillon fragrances, and am looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts in their reviews once you’ve tested both perfumes properly and have assessed them in depth. I’ll be curious to see which one you like more or why. Happy new year, my dear!

  14. Thank you for this list Kafka. I read all your reviews now and especially the one on Salome intrigued me so much, that I have an appointment with Parfumaria to try it on Thursday. If it suits me I will buy it.
    Have noticed you have been less positive on many perfumes recently. Maybe more honest to yourself? I am like that with wines and spirits. Especially whisky. I get spoiled by such an abundance of great bottlings sent my way, that I find myself harder to please. I am so glad you take the trouble to sort the perfume out for me. I find I have a very similar taste and I too have a scent eating skin. Longevity is a big problem for me. I will let you know what I think of Salome. Have a great 2016 and I look forward to reading more reviews

    • I know for certain that I’ve been far less positive about many fragrances lately, Jock. Part of it was what I mentioned at the start of this post, the fact that there were certain trends in perfumery in 2015 and most of those were aromachemical ones that I found unpleasantly abrasive. In the last few months of the year, as I tried to cover as many 2015 releases as possible, I found myself actively miserable or frustrated, both by the mediocrity, the lesser quality, the enormous overlap of fragrance after fragrance, and the sheer chemical nature of the popular themes in 2015.

      Yet, other bloggers who lacked my sensitivity to aromachemicals also found 2015 to be less than a stellar year. One of the contributing reviewers at NST/Now Smell This, Kevin, almost didn’t do a “Best Of” entry because he hated the vast majority of things that he smelt this year. And he wasn’t the only one of the NST reviewers who found 2015 to have fewer appealing fragrances than in prior years. I don’t know what the reason is (beyond the aromachemicals) except that more and more fragrances smell the same, and a number of houses seemed to be rushing to release a larger number of fragrances within the year, such that the quality is bound to go down from lack of time or attention.

      In any event, there were a handful of wonderful things in 2015, and I hope Salome will be one that will appeal to you as well when you go to ParfuMaria. While you’re there, sniff Ambre Loup, too, if you have time. And let me know what you think of either one if you can. In the meantime, happy new year, Jock. I hope you survived your huge December scotch teaching/tasting marathon, and that it was a successful time for you business-wise.

      • So I have been to ParfumMaria this morning and tried the Salome. Oh my dear! It didnt bowl me over at first, but it won me over after a few minutes. Amazing. So I got a bottle of it. I also tried Ambre Loup, but didnt buy a bottle, but did take away a sample and a sample of Hard Leather and Atkinsons 24 Old Bond Street Triple which smells like a Gin and Tonic. Great.

        But the salome is amazing. On the way back in the car my car was full of the smell. While typing this I am still smelling it all around me. Thanks for this one Kafka! I know what you mean by sexy. It does remind one of, well you know:-). Another thing it reminds me of now that I am two hours into the fragrance on my skin, is Vintage Armagnac and a slight barnyard earthiness.
        The Hard Leather is now also on my wish list. But maybe the Salome just overpowers it, but I didnt find its projection quite as powerfull as Salome, but definatly a smell I like a lot.

        Thanks also for the well wishes on the business. And yes its going all guns. Whisky Weekend Amsterdam is coming up 15 and 16 January and that will be my next masterclasses. Up till then I just do sales and can actually wear perfume. So wishing you all the best for 2016.

        • Hahaha, care to be more precise as to what exactly Salome smells like and reminds you of after a few hours…. ? 😉 😀 Joking aside, it is very evocative and… well, descriptive… as a scent, isn’t it? Heh.

          As for Hard Leather, as a whole, I think the LM Parfums brand generally skews softer or even soft in terms of its sillage and scent clouds after the first 2 or 2 and half hours. Hard Leather is most robust in its opening phase, but then becomes both lighter in body and more discreet in sillage thereafter. In general, I don’t think many of these fragrances would stand up well to being tried in the same session as something like Salome which is so much more overt, blatant, and intensely spiced/musky right off the bat. Some of them would be quite overshadowed indeed. So I’m glad you got samples to try later and separately.

          On a completely unrelated note, I thought of you quite a bit last week when trying a fragrance which is inspired by the Scottish highlands and which, at least initially, bears the peaty aroma of scotch whisky. I plan to review it in the next few weeks, so look out for something on DS & Durga.

  15. I am so happy reading all your posts in my email. Your reviews have been there all those 2 years dropped into my inbox. And i love reading there vis-a-vis my busy routine — just intending cursory scans if i don’t have the time. But all in all being reviewed I thank you for all the writings. One day I would love to wear one of those — especially Al Haramain Mukhallah Seufi.

    • Welcome to the blog (officially), Zakaria Hassan. I’m so glad you came out of lurkerdom to post after reading silently for a few years, and I hope you’ll post more often so that I’ll have the chance to get to know you and your perfume tastes better. 🙂

  16. Firstly Thankyou Kafka for your hard work and wonderful words. I look forward to new posts on your blog…..but just to limit the amount of fragrances to try I now only send off for easy to get samples. Anything that requires emails or begging letters I can’t be bothered with. Anyway sometime ago I sent off for all 4 of the Papillon releases and my favourite was Angelique … Tho not enough of a love to buy a FB. I found Salome just had too much cumin in it. It was a bit arm pitty as well…..but after reading your review I retried it and yes I’ve changed my mind. It’s cold and damp here in the UK and I do think weather plays a role …. Anyway it is GLORIOUS! yes there is cumin but after that fades a bit underneath that there’s the most amazing SEXY perfume I’ve smelt in a long time. WHY does this happen…..?

    • First, thank you for your very kind words on the blog. Second, I think you’re completely right that weather plays a HUGE rule in amplifying (or suppressing) certain notes, overtones, or undertones. There are some animalic scents that I would never wear in summer, let alone spray on my usual large quantities in such hot weather, because the heat brings out some really unpleasant or challenging qualities. For example, MFK’s honeyed and animalic Absolue Pour Le Soir turns ghastly in its sharpness in the heat, the skank turns to shrill urine, and, yes, the cumin can turn either “ripe” or into a slight arm-pit odor when I apply large quantities of the fragrance. But in weather that isn’t over 100 degrees F (or 110 degrees/45 Celsius), and particularly in cold weather, the fragrance is gloriously molten.

      Your weather in Wales will never be as extreme in summer, but that doesn’t mean the heat won’t impact the notes and make them bloom or expand to some degree. The ones I found most susceptible to turning unpleasant are: animalic honey, civet, cumin, ambrette musk, and some leather aromachemicals. In contrast, I think some “winter” orientals bloom to even greater beauty in the summer, like Coromandel which becomes utterly glorious, imo, in the heat. But animalic or skanky fragrances? Gah, they’re much better in cold weather.

      It sounds like that was the case for you and Salome. That said, I do think that the best part of the fragrance is the middle/late stages when the cumin is less overt, when it melts into the other notes, and when there is that snuggly, warm, cozy goldenness like nuzzly skin. It is indeed SEXY with all-capital letters, and I’m so, so, so thrilled you finally got to experience that part. The drydown is so compulsively, addictively sniffable for me. Really, I’m so glad you came back to share your second attempts with the fragrance and the way it changed for you, so thank you!

  17. Dear K, Angela M. aka Aylah is slightly concerned that you missed our comment and well wishes we left 30 December. She wishes to make sure the Hairy One receives her well wishes, and ofcourse his 2 legged companion, our favourite blogger. Do I need to reassure her? 😉

    • Dearest, I didn’t miss it, but I do apologise for not replying. I essentially collapsed in exhaustion in the last few days of the 2015, and had no energy to write anything of any kind whatsoever. It’s taken me a while to drum up even a bit of energy, but I’m still completely mentally exhausted and fear I will be for a while to come. That said, I treasured the thoughtfulness of your comment, the kindness, and the friendship that underlay it. So thank you, and please accept my apologies for not being thoughtful enough to reply. Really, I’m very sorry. And please tell Aylah that I find her to be as wonderful as her mother.

      As for The Hairy German, we’ve been having some issues with side-effects of one of the pills (probably the allergy one, Apoquel), so I’ve had that on my mind too. (I was just about to go give him his weekly bath when you left your comment.) But I shall tell him that a very gorgeous vixen in the Netherlands was thinking of him. It will probably cheer him up when faced with the very cold water from the hose outside. He needs a girlfriend, you know. 😉 LOL.

      Joking aside, I hope this new year is a wonderful one for you, your husband, and Aylah, especially in terms of the health department for you. Getting to know you has been a delight over the last year, and I know it will only continue in the year to come. Happy new year, my dear, and a huge, massive hug to you.

      • No need to reply to this reply with such an important task at hand dear K. I am so sorry to read about the Hairy One’s side effects, and even more about your exhaustion. I am not surprised, lack of sleep combined with stress is an uber-menace. I wish you whatever you need to be nursed back to some level of health (the full 50% my late mother used to say). Apologies not needed but ofcourse totally accepted, I also wanted to make sure you know Ciel de Gum and Voyage are such big hits here, and to thank you for being there! Warmest wishes from us all, and lots of wet doggy kisses for you and for the German.

  18. Thanks for another great round up, Kafka. How was the Ostara for you longevity wise? I am closer to getting out of uni-season Florida and getting back to the mid Atlantic and am seriously thinking about that Vanilla Smoke and Oakmossy, plus the Kalemat. The Ostara and DSH fragrances sound perfect for early spring and cherry blossom time. So many lovely choices for returning to four seasons of weather 🙂

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