Having checked last year's archives, I see that I put up my "Best Of 2009" post on 18th January. I am even later to the party this year with my lists - so late in fact that everyone has already upped and left, and only the overflowing ashtrays and empty beer cans testify to the fact that there ever was a party. But I shan't let that small matter of timetabling concern me. After all, I am not CNN (though I wouldn't say no to their Google page rank! : - )), and there will be no up-to-the-minute ticker tape bulletins scrolling past your eye at the bottom of my posts...
Now in last year's scent round up I was careful to manage readers' expectations, and it might be worth repeating the passage here, not least for its media analogy:
"...regular readers of Bonkers about Perfume will know full well by now that they are not automatically going to get a considered and impeccably researched review of the latest releases, whether at the time of the launch or indeed ever. What they can count on is a lucky dip, a potluck supper - albeit one made with a packet sauce. For I am arguably the convenience food equivalent of the perfume blogs, the redtop newspaper..."
So what I am offering (then as now) is simply a list of scents that have appealed to me - or not - over the past year. Some were launched in 2010, others in 2009, however it took me until 2010 to catch up with them. I will make a separate note of one or two happy discoveries in 2010 of scents launched before 2009.
There is an interesting analysis over on Persolaise about the validity and usefulness of these sorts of "Best Of" lists. For example, Persolaise takes issue with the following statement: "...the unwritten principle seems to be that if enough people mention a certain scent, it must be good."
I agree that this yardstick is flawed, whether the reviewers in question are highly regarded scent critics or ordinary consumers on reviewcentre.com and similar sites, whose collective feedback also consitutes a large body of opinion. My own approach in reading other bloggers' lists is to correlate the frequency of good reviews with whether or not I happen to have much crossover with the taste of the people in question.
The latter variable is very significant, and one which I am constantly refining. Robin of Now Smell This is the reviewer with whom I have most common ground - somewhere around the 65-70% mark at a guess - while my "taste congruence" with other female reviewers ranges from 10% to 50%. I shan't be more specific for fear of hurting anyone's feelings, although the fact that I don't share these bloggers' preferences in no way diminishes my enjoyment of their blogs or my "virtual attachment" to them as individuals.
So by the same token, I hope that the scents I have selected for my "Best Of" list will help round out the composite picture for anyone conducting their own cross-comparison of the various lists out there. This could either be in a positive sense, or to help people steer clear of scents I like because they know I normally lean to the gentle and understated side of things, while they may prefer fragrances with a more robust character - the perfume equivalent of a hearty Barolo, if you will.
Returning to Persolaise's post for a moment, he welcomes the diversity of viewpoints in the fragrant blogosphere, because of this difficulty of eliminating subjective judgements in assessing a perfume's merit:
"We need different conversations about perfume in just the same way that we need different perfumes. Indeed, we probably need the conversations more than we need a limiting, reductive sense of good and bad..."
And at the end of the day, even if the lists below aren't a blind bit of use to anyone, it is at least a helpful record for ME of what I have tried in 2010, and what is still out there on my list....
OVERALL TOP SNIFF OF 2010
Two perfumes tie for top place - it's a cop out, so shoot me!
Diptyque Eau Duelle
"Transitional* snuggler" - not one but two types of vanilla, plus wisps of incense in the base.
*in the seasonal sense.
Parfumerie Générale Bois Naufragé
Calming, milky, woody skin scent with figs and a hint of salt - perfect for Pilates!
Last year Penhaligon's Amaranthine was my overall top sniff, and though a much more "in your face" kind of tropical floral than my usual style, it also shares this comforting, creamy aspect.
TOP SNIFFS OF 2010 (NICHE)
Diptyque Eau Duelle
Parfumerie Générale Bois Naufragé
Guerlain 180 Ans de Création (all together now: "Please release this, let me buy!")
Atelier Cologne Oolong Infini
Atelier Cologne Bois Blonds
Serge Lutens Bas de Soie (Perfume Shrine captures this one beautifully)
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire: Lys Carmin (two other favourites from the range made it onto my 2009 list)
Guerlain Tonka Impériale
Ormonde Jayne Tiare
Maison Kurkdjian APOM pour Femme
Penhaligon's Orange Blossom Cologne
The Different Company Oriental Lounge
Floris Snow Rose
TOP SNIFFS OF 2010 (DESIGNER)
Mary Greenwell Plum (Museinwoodenshoes has the ultimate review)
Balenciaga Paris (musky violets with austere greenery)
Vivienne Westwood Naughty Alice (Balenciaga Paris's rosy-cheeked kid sister)
Hermes Eau Claire des Merveilles (a clean Shalimar meets a less weird Eau des Merveilles)
YSL Belle d'Opium (since the incense left the building, my attachment has become largely sentimental)
Estée Lauder Sensuous Noir (not "noir" by a long chalk, but dusky pink at least)
Calvin Klein Beauty (hey, everything's relative...)
Paco Rabanne Lady Million (nice on someone else)
As ever, it is interesting to me to look back at this list of favourite fragrances and identify what they reveal about my taste. Not surprisingly, they are all pretty polite, with some "skin scents" again in evidence. The most frequently occurring note is probably vanilla, but I also seem to be ineluctably drawn to musk, iris, lilies, rose, woods and incense; I also have quite a high tolerance of sweetness these days (which seems to be increasing with age). OJ Tiare and Penhaligon's Orange Blossom cover off the citrus segment to which I will be drawn again in warmer weather.
NEW DISCOVERIES FROM PAST YEARS
Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir (thanks, Sarah Vine & Ormonde Jayne)
Sonia Rykiel Rykiel For Woman Not For Men! (thanks, Wordbird)
Stéphanie de Saint-Aignan Royal Palm (thanks, lovethescents)
Rancé Laetitia (thanks, Potiron)
SCENTS I AM SORRY TO SEE GO
Guerlain Plus Que Jamais (my HGS, no less!)
And now, moving on to the ones which I didn't care for...
OUTRIGHT NASTY NIFFS OF 2010
Thierry Mugler Womanity (hold the popcorn accord, puh-lease!)
Parfumerie Générale Papyrus de Ciane (forbidding, bitter, dank grasses)
Nina Ricci Scarlett - (syrupy Jammy Dodgers)
RELEASES I DID NOT CARE FOR PARTICULARLY
As before, here are some of the (mostly niche) releases from 2010 that were too "difficult" or just not my style. The list also includes a number of scents which I hoped to like but didn't, for each of which I have included an explanatory note.
Maison Kurkdjian Cologne Pour Le Matin (insane levels of soap)
Maison Kurkdjian Cologne Pour Le Soir (discordant mix of notes - I have blanked this one out, it was so disagreeable)
L'Artisan Parfumeur Nuit de Tubéreuse (weird Juicy Fruit & herbal / medicinal issues)
L'Artisan Parfumeur Traversée du Bosphore (too much opulent fruit and powder, but deserves a retrial)
L'Artisan Parfumeur Havana Vanille (surprised to find the vanilla too rich, maybe in combination with the tobacco?)
Ajne Vanille (overly gourmand, sweet burnt toast - shame as I bought it unsniffed!)
Ineke Gilded Lily (the name says it all)
Andy Tauer Une Rose Vermeille (Tauer-ade alert!)
Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia (a niche version of Armani Idole, sadly)
Annick Goutal Ninfeo Mio (stridently sharp, though I did persevere with it)
Hermès Voyage d'Hermès (spoilt by sharp lime note)
Gucci Guilty (lilac is not a contemporary note, I have decided)
Marc Jacobs Bang (probably great on a man, but too spicy/woody on my skin)
Prada Infusion de Tubéreuse (indistinct white floral - bland even by my relaxed standards)
DKNY Pure (felt physically sick - heliotrope combined with the P & O Ferry I was on at the time?)
SCENTS I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO HAVE TRIED BUT DIDN'T
Christian Dior La Collection
Hermès Hermessences Iris Ukiyoé
I am sure there were lots more on this last list, and I may come back and add others in as I remember them, indeed the same applies to any of the lists. The Nasty Niffs one seems exceptionally short this year.
Also, in terms of what I tested, having checked against the list of new releases in Now Smell This - some 90% of which I have not tried - it is plain to me that I should get out more. Next month I am off to London and hope to make up some lost ground.
Photo of driftwood heart from bbaam.org.uk, photo of vanilla pods from cart.bombcosmetics.co.uk, photos of Eau Duelle and Bois Naufragé from Fragrantica, photo of Plum from portfo.li, photo of Womanity from cosmeticsboutique.org, photo of Ninfeo Mio from cafleurebon.com.