Patchouli, how I love thee. Let me count the ways: spice, chocolate, woods, tobacco, smoke, earthy glows, and golden warmth, you’re such a thing of beauty in my eyes and your intoxicating richness may run through as much as 70% of my fragrance collection. So, I was thrilled to hear that Frederic Malle was going to focus on one of my favourite notes for his newest fragrance, Monsieur. Not the hideous, purple-skewing fruitchouli gunk that makes up so many modern fruity-florals, but on the real thing. Unfortunately, Monsieur ended up being a fragrance that this “Patch Head” wouldn’t wear under any circumstances.
Cologne Indelebile is the latest fragrance from Frederic Malle, and the first release for the brand under its new Estée Lauder ownership. The word “indelebile” means “indelible” or permanent, and the new Malle is meant to be a “modern yet traditional” eau de cologne that reinterprets the genre partially by lasting “forever.”
Cologne Indelebile was created by Dominique Ropion, and is described on the Malle website as follows:
A clean scent, yet surprisingly magnetic. A modern yet traditional Eau de Cologne that lasts forever. Dominique Ropion embraces musk’s nature as both a quasi-aphrodisiac and a scent of purity to create a very personal interpretation of Eau de Cologne. A splash of the best neroli intertwined with orange blossom, bergamote, and the most technical musks for a scent that endures, and endures, and endures… Cologne Indélébile (Permanent Cologne).
Winter is in full swing in the Western hemisphere, so Frederic Malle‘s L’Eau d’Hiver by Jean-Claude Ellena seemed like a suitably symbolic choice for today’s review. It is described as a watercolour that intertwines water and coolness with softness and warmth. What struck me was the exquisitely delicate opening that felt like an olfactory visual that captured intangible senses of atmospheric light and quiet moods, and turned them into concrete form.
Painted in translucent colours, the opening somehow manages to encapsulate Zen-like serenity, silence, and elegance in a way that makes the perfume as a whole far more than a mere collection of notes, far more than the sum of its parts. Again and again, the words which came to mind were “hushed breaths” and “translucent light.” The overall effect is more of a feeling than just a perfume. I’m not one of Jean-Claude Ellena’s fans and his minimalism usually leaves me cold, but the opening of L’Eau d’Hiver truly impressed me and leaves no doubt as to his technical mastery or brilliance. If only it had lasted….
My list of favorite fragrances that I’ve tried this year is quite different from yesterday’s list of the best new releases of 2014. The latter centered largely on scents that I thought were good, very elegant or interesting representations of their genre, regardless of whether they were my personal cup of tea, and they were only things that debuted in 2014. Today’s list is purely about what I really enjoyed and does not consider the date in release at all. So, this time around, there are very few qualifications and caveats, and the vast majority of these fragrances are things that I bought for myself, am thinking about buying, or would love to buy were their price not a consideration.
You will notice that a good number of the fragrances are not complex masterpieces at all, but quite simple in nature. One reason for that is that I love cozy, comfort scents, and they are generally not very nuanced or multifaceted to begin with. Plus, mindlessly simple but really well-done fragrances that combine richness with soothing warmth are, in all honesty, a huge relief to me after a long day where I do nothing but analyse every nuance and change in a scent for hours (upon hours) on end.
A few other points. As always, I have to repeat my mantra regarding the subjective, personal nature of reviewing in general, and how a list like this is even doubly so. With regard to the rankings, it’s always an utter nightmare, but the Top Ten chosen here are generally quite firm in order. There is a bit more leeway with the next 10 names, as a tiny handful could go up or down one to two places of where they are at the present time. I’m most undecided about the placement of the last 10 which are the most subject to fluctuations in order. One reason why is because perfumistas are a fickle bunch who can change their mind from one month to the next, and I’m no exception. The other reason is that I’ve gone back and forth on a few scents, switching their places repeatedly until I just gave up in the end. So, for now, this is where things are, for the most part. Finally, you will notice that some of my summary descriptions are verbatim from my list of best, new releases of 2014 or from my mid-2014 best or favorites list. My apologies in advance. Covering almost 60 fragrances in two days is rather an exhausting process, so I hope you will forgive me.