This is my third "Top Sniffs and Nasty Niffs" post on Bonkers, and I note that I am a little earlier with it this year - I just snuck my 2010 list in at the end of January last time.
I will follow more or less the same format, and as ever the same caveats apply:
I haven't smelt most of the 2011 releases
Yes, once again I've looked back at the Bible which is Now Smell This's compilation of releases, and there are loads of fragrances I haven't tried in both the niche and designer categories. There are simply too many perfumes coming out each year to track. And even though I try to be quite focused in my approach, I still can't keep up with the new launches. For example, there has been a lot of excitement on the blogs this year about Aftelier Secret Garden and DSH Pandora, neither of which has crossed my path (not that I think they would appeal particularly, but still).
And I was in Zurich twice this year - including in Andy Tauer's mate's shop(!) - but there was neither sight nor sound of The Pentachords. Nor did I manage to catch up with Sonoma Scent Fig Tree, Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée or Ambre Nue, Myrrhiad from the Huitième Art range, Blask from Humiecki & Graef (though the name alone is reeling me in), Byredo Seven Veils (another teaser name!), Neela Vermeire's fun trio or the Agonist line, to name but a few.
On the other hand, I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to sniff the 2011 ranges from Blood Concept, Olfactive Studio and Andrea Maack, as well as the latest launches by Parfumerie Générale, Miller Harris, Armani Privé and Hermès. Moreover, thanks to the good offices of fellow bloggers, I was sent samples of some other hard to come by scents like Diane von Furstenberg Diane and Cartier L'Heure Fougueuse (thanks, Natalie and Suzanne!) So I haven't done too badly all things considered, greatly helped by my peripatetic job.
It is only my opinion
It is always worth repeating - especially when I get to the "Nasty Niffs" section - that this list is based on my own highly subjective and somewhat shy and retiring taste. If readers have an idea of the fragrance styles which appeal to me, they may find these assessments (or flippant nuggets, as many of them are) helpful in the overall mix of views, to compare against those of bloggers with markedly different taste from mine.
WARNING - "BEST OF" LIST REGURGITATION ALERT!
Yes, I am sorry - it is not intentional, and I deliberately haven't looked at any "Best of" round up posts since they came out (which is a while ago now), but inevitably there will be major crossover - if not quite complete congruence! - with other bloggers' top scents. So apologies in advance for any sense of "déjà lu" readers may experience.
OVERALL TOP SNIFF OF 2011
If I confine myself to scents actually released in 2011, once again it is a dead heat between two contenders, this time a niche and a designer one...(You didn't shoot me last year for indecision, but feel free to take a pot shot now!)
Amouage Honour Woman
A heartbreaking white floral blend showcasing a prettily sexy tuberose note, balanced with an astringent dash of rhubarb, and seguing into a moody incense and vetiver base. Guaranteed to make the wearer feel pert, alert and a shameless flirt. What's not to love?!
In her review of Prada Candy on Grain de Musc, Denyse Beaulieu quotes Marian Bendeth, the global fragrance expert, explaining the rationale behind the scent: "It's for women in their 40s who are freakin' out!" Denyse goes on to add her own take: "a few grams of sweetness in a brutal world are nothing to sniff at", and I couldn't agree more. Trust me, I've tested it and Candy also works a treat for the over 50's.
Between the caramel and vanilla it has a sweet and girlish facet that may well represent lost youth (apart from anything, we children of the 60s ate far too many sweets, as evidenced by our amalgam smiles forty years on). Meanwhile, the fluffy benzoin serves as - no, I'm not going to say an angora sweater or a cashmere stole - Candy is more enveloping and protective than that. It's a flak jacket or a 13 tog duvet to wrap yourself in on the sofa while watching Desperate Housewives. For you are insulated from the ills of the world while wearing Candy, even the dispiriting realisation that it is downhill from here - dermatologically and in most ways, really - all the way to the free bus pass (assuming that that perk, like pensions, is not deferred till we are dead).
TOP SNIFFS OF 2011 (NICHE)
Amouage Honour Woman (see above)
Hermès Santal Massoia (ghostly milky sandalwood - blink and you'll miss it)
Armani Privé La Femme Bleue (not enough chocolate, but the gleaming bluebottle's bottom of a bottle cuts it a lot of slack)
Penhaligon's Juniper Sling (thirst aid for a heatwave)
By Kilian Sweet Redemption (the tail end of an Indian summer)
Serge Lutens Vitriol d'Oeillet (the carnation version of Bas de Soie, and I don't even like carnation)
TOP SNIFFS OF 2011 (DESIGNER)
Prada Candy (as above)
Bottega Veneta EDP (apricot suede mist - how Daim Blond should have smelt instead of being "suede-scented white noise")
I bought Mrs Bonkers Senior Bottega Veneta for Christmas, taking her full bottle collection to three: Coco Chanel, Burberry Original Woman, and this one. Now it so happens that Michel Almairac, the nose behind Bottega Veneta, also created Burberry Woman. How many other people can claim that two thirds of their perfume collection is by Michel Almairac?
Tom Ford Violet Blonde (more a case of Iris & Jasmine Blonde, but that's fine by me)
Cartier Baiser Volé (lipstick, powder and lilies in HD, 3D and any other "D" that is well-defined - "DD"?)
L'Agent Provocateur L'Agent (Betty Boo in chaps)
Balenciaga Paris L'Essence (cut glass & green violets)
Thierry Mugler Alien Le Goût du Parfum (anything crossed with Butterkist is likely to be an improvement on the original)
Oscar de La Renta L'Esprit d'Oscar (fizzy orange marmalade)
Elie Saab EDP (radiant, relentlessly girly and happy clappy - the Alpha Movement of modern chypres)
Estée Lauder Wood Mystique (entry level oud)
Diane Von Furstenberg EDP (broadly in Violet Blonde vein, but without the gilded bird cage-cum-retro radiator-cum-hand bell bottle)
Chanel No 19 Poudré (No 19 for wimps - thank you, Chanel!)
It is interesting to see that more of my favourite releases fall into the designer category, whereas last year things were pretty evenly balanced. In the perfumista community, I am probably one of the bloggers with most time for designer scents generally, and my list will inevitably reflect that. However, my selection is even more skewed towards the mainstream launches this time, because frankly they just happened to be very good in 2011.
TOP VALUE SCENT OF 2011 AND POSSIBLY ALL TIME!
Lidl Suddenly Madame Glamour (superb Coco Mademoiselle dupe - weaker, but at 1/15 the price it would be churlish to complain)
FAVOURITE NEW DISCOVERIES FROM PAST YEARS
Christian Dior 1947 New Look (Birgit, bottled)
Had I discovered this in 2010, it would have pipped Eau Duelle off its perch to tie for joint first place with PG Bois Naufragé. Elegant, cool and poised, with a tangy hint of ylang ylang infusing a layer of cold cream.
Puredistance1 (luxe fruity musk - plush yet airy - truly a "1" off)
Cartier L'Heure Promise (the wispiest iris scent, ever)
Stephen Burlingham Truly (a luxe fruity green musk)
Carner D600 (dark, woody gourmand)
Guerlain Cologne No 68 (powdery iris and citrus - and 66 other things, obviously!)
Lostmarc'h L'Eau de L'Hermine (scintillating lemon musk)
Lostmarc'h Ael-Mat (Brittany, bottled)
Amouage Lyric (I take back - take away? - my previous curry slur)
L'Artisan Parfumeur Mon Numero No 8 (scrubbed up iris)
Mona di Orio Musc (another sparkling musk, with a subtly animalic base)
OUTRIGHT NASTY NIFFS OF 2011
Chanel Jersey (being poked up the nostril with a pointy sprig of lavender)
L'Artisan Batacuda (barracuda?)
Annick Goutal Mon Parfum Chéri (patchouli squared, with a bit more added for luck)
Love Chloé, Eau Intense (Chloé + Intense = Tautology)
Most if not all of the Blood Concepts.
(Now I am not above a gimmick - hey, I like the free toy in the box of cereal as much as the next regressive 50-something - but puh-lease! If I wanted to smell of my own blood, I would take up self-harming.)
The more metallic end of the Andrea Maack spectrum. (I clearly have issues with metal.)
RELEASES I DIDN'T CARE FOR PARTICULARLY
As in past years, here are some of the (mostly niche) releases from 2011 that I didn't like as much as I expected to, or as much as other people did, or both.
Tom Ford Santal Blush (90% santal, 10% blush)
Parfumerie Générale Indochine (Posh Spice with a weedy voice - sorry, Victoria!)
Serge Lutens Jeux de Peau (games involving jam-smeared bread boards will only end in baby wipes)
All of the Olfactive Studio range.
(These may in fact have been nasty niffs, but my recall is a bit fuzzy, so I am giving them the benefit of the doubt and upgrading my reaction to mere indifference.)
The other Andrea Maacks that didn't feature a prominent metal note.
RELEASES I THINK I MIGHT HAVE LIKED IF I COULD HAVE GOT MY MITTS ON THEM
Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée (If you can have such a person as a "card-carrying vanilla ho", that would be me, so this is a must-sniff)
Atelier Cologne Ambre Nue ("naked" sounds so much more promising than "sumptuous, rich, treacly amber with a weird herbal note")
RELEASES I DOUBT I WOULD HAVE LIKED BUT AM CURIOUS TO TRY ANYWAY
Serge Lutens De Profundis (sometimes you should stare into the abyss)
DSH Pandora (I may regret opening the box, but I'd do it)
Vero Kern Onda (epic old school chypre by all accounts)
Aftelier Secret Garden (I appear to be one of the few not in on the secret)
RELEASES I BET I WOULDN'T HAVE LIKED AND HAVE NO CURIOSITY ABOUT WHATSOEVER
Far too many to mention, but they cover the whole spectrum from "kitchen sink" niche scents to Hello Kitty Noir and Benefit Ring My Bella.
Actually, I take it back - that bottle is knock-out!
HAVE I MISSED ANYTHING? LET ME KNOW!
Photo of I Love Candy from purpleibis2.spreadshirt.net, photo of Glut book from kaboodle.com, photo of repetition poster from nhsdesigns.com, photo of Amouage Honour Woman from parfumsraffy.com, photo of Prada Candy from ftape.com, photo of Hermès Santal Massoia from makeuptalk.com, photo of Juniper Sling from popsop.com, photo of Bottega Veneta from le-citydeluxe.com, photo of L'Agent perfume from agentprovocateur.com, photo of Esprit d'Oscar from amazon.com, photo of Chanel No 19 Poudré from fragrancesandbeauty.com, photo of Lidl perfume from hellocotton.com, photo of Dior New Look 1947 from fragrantica, photo of Chanel Jersey from herworldplus.com, photo of Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée from ateliercologne.com, photo of Aftelier Secret Garden from fragrantica.com