Welcome to the year in review, a look back at both the best new releases of 2017 and the noteworthy releases from prior years which I tried this year and enjoyed. Before I start, though, let me say first that I’m operating at a bit of a handicap because I took a long sabbatical for the first half of 2017. I spent the next six months after my return trying to catch up on, test, or review all the new fragrances that I had missed during my break as well as the ones released subsequently, but I’m sure I’ve missed a few great ones along the way. It’s not easy to put a dent in the tsunami of 2,300+ fragrances which are released each year even when one is reviewing nonstop, never mind when one takes a break from modern perfumery. Even so, I found a number of fragrances that either I loved immensely, that I thought were good representations of their genre, or that I thought were original and executed extremely well.
Close your eyes and imagine, if you will, floating and being engulfed in a cloud that glows with pearlescent luster like opals mixed with mother-of-pearl. Unlike most clouds, this one hovers low on the ground, a few feet above the swaying tips of a field of lavender, some in bloom, some tightly budded and tipped with green. They ripple in the warm summer’s wind, a wind that carries the scent of the orchard mere inches away where orange and grapefruit trees grow like citrus sentinels watching over the aromatic field of purple. With every gust, the branches shake their flowers in a shower of white petals, their scent mingling in the air with that of the lavender. The trees hang heavy with fruits that are fresh, bright, and only recently ripened; the juices which seep out from time to time are sweet, but not sticky or jammy, and they, too, join the scented swirl within the opalescent cloud.
On the other side of the lavender is a river. Its banks are emerald with grassy vetiver, red with rose bushes, and white with jasmine that drips a golden honeyed nectar, but its waters are swirls of brown from malted beer and caramel from ambered resins. A small nook of cedar and spicy sandalwood trees lies just beyond, their roots growing amidst more grass, vetiver, and lavender.
Two masters of the indie genre got together to play a transatlantic olfactory game whose only rule was to put their individual spin on the gourmand genre, combining ideas and formulas for over a year until they came up with Cadavre Exquis. They call it their “Frankenstein” twist on the genre but, to me, it feels much more like an oriental fragrance that gives only an occasional or passing nod to gourmand tropes until its drydown. It’s a rich, smoky, earthy, sometimes leathery, and always heavily spiced immortelle-driven fragrance that I think will appeal enormously to some fans of classic Serge Lutens, Andy Tauer, and the much-loved Histoires de Parfum, 1740/Marquis de Sade, though there are a few caveats involved, as you will see.
Cadavre Exquis is a new, limited-edition eau de parfum that was created by Fazzolari‘s Bruno Fazzolari and Bogue‘s Antonio Gardoni, and released just two days ago. The press release that I was sent explains their goal for the fragrance, how its name refers to an old 1920s Surrealists’ game that the two perfumers used to collaborate on the scent, and some of its notes. The explanation reads, in part, as follows: