“Something that feels familiar yet also unexpected…” — so reads one part of Roja Dove’s official description for Britannia, and it is a somewhat accurate description. This is a fragrance which does indeed smell very familiar, thanks to the way it echoes, at different points in time, everything from vintage L’Origan and vintage L’Heure Bleue to modern gourmand floral orientals and modern spicy-woody oriental ambers, including several from Roja Parfums. For me, the “unexpected” part of the equation arises from the degree to which Britannia’s first stage harkens back to the opulent vintage aesthetic which had originally made Roja Dove so incredibly popular, rather than the mainstream designer or Middle Eastern bouquets which have characterized so many of his recent releases over the last two and a half years.
Veleno Doré, part of LM Parfums‘ high-end Gold Label Collection, is lovely but also exceedingly familiar. It’s an oriental parfum which is initially centered around vanilla-infused, fruity pipe tobacco, laced with patchouli, enveloped in spices, then drenched in cognac booziness, syrupy sweetness, and caramel ambers. A tiny, early echo of Ambre Loup quickly gives way to major overlaps with Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanilla and Roja Dove‘s Enigma Pour Homme/Creation-E and a whisper of Kilian‘s Back to Black, except this is their heavily spiced, chili-flecked brother, and black cherry has been substituted for plums or plum pudding. Over time, woodier, drier, smokier, more leathery, and more woody-ambered elements replace the gourmand-skewing ones for a different twist on tobacco but this, too, feels familiar with echoes of other popular fragrances, like Black Oud and even Black Afgano.
Niral, the new release from Neela Vermeire Créations (hereinafter “Neela Vermeire” or “NVC”), is a play on East and West, India and Europe, and the silken creations which ensued when they met as one with the creation of Tussar Silk. For me, however, Niral is about a very specific, concrete, olfactory interaction: a play on cedar, a play in multiple acts where a variety of other elements — rooty irises, sugared loukhoum/Turkish Delight roses slathered with jam, lipstick violets, sandalwood, spices, creamy magnolia, soft ambrette musk, and even wisps of jasmine green tea — all serve as supporting players in a constantly revolving game of musical chairs.
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.