Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Top Sniffs - And Nasty Niffs - of 2011!

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.


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.


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?!

Prada Candy

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).


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)


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.


Lidl Suddenly Madame Glamour (superb Coco Mademoiselle dupe - weaker, but at 1/15 the price it would be churlish to complain)


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)


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.)


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.


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")


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)


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!


Photo of I Love Candy from, photo of Glut book from, photo of repetition poster from, photo of Amouage Honour Woman from, photo of Prada Candy from, photo of Hermès Santal Massoia from, photo of Juniper Sling from, photo of Bottega Veneta from, photo of L'Agent perfume from, photo of Esprit d'Oscar from, photo of Chanel No 19 Poudré from, photo of Lidl perfume from, photo of Dior New Look 1947 from fragrantica, photo of Chanel Jersey from, photo of Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée from, photo of Aftelier Secret Garden from


Tara said...

Love it! Especially liked your bracketed summaries such as (Birgit Bottled)!

Never feel bad for not keeping up with all the new releases. I really don't think it's humanly possible. Seems like you got to most of the notable ones. Though did you try Shalimar Parfum Initial at all?

The name "Suddenly Madame Glamour" always makes me smile. Did they just pick 3 random words that sounded perfume appropriate?

Vanessa said...

Hi tara,

I know it is not possible to keep up with all the launches, yet I feel I could have gone to more lengths to try certain things if I had been more on the case. You know, ordered samples off Luckyscent or just rung up the companies in question and blagged them.

And thanks for reminding me about that new Guerlain - was that the one Katie Puckrik likened to a Shalimar training bra? I have tried it, and was so unimpressed it slipped my mind altogether. Too much patchouli again, I seem to recall, and an overall indistinct quality to it.

mals86 said...

Funny... we liked opposite things this year. -- well, I liked Elie Saab but didn't love it, and did not care for Honour Woman thanks to a strange aquatic-melon note in there that felt like an off-key violin screeching away just at the edge of my hearing. Didn't like Violet Blonde, Bottega Veneta, L'Artisan Mon Numero 8, or Chanel 19 Poudre.

Heavy sigh.

I did like Candy, but also Jeux de Peau. Further sigh.

Vanessa said...

Hey Mals,

Sounds like I may have massively overestimated the degree of congruence with other bloggers, haha! From (my deliberately distant) memory, I think Candy Perfume Boy was the closest I have to a "list scent twin", indeed I may just go back and see...

Vanessa said...

You do famously like Plum though, so we may have to trade on our past congruence!

Undina said...

Since I do not do my own "best of" lists (yet?) let me go through yours :)

Amouage Honour - a great perfume but one of just several Amouages that aren't for me (tuberose doesn't work for me even from the greatest lines, but I'm working on that :) ).

Candy, Elie Saab, Bottega Veneta, Diane Von Furstenberg - all are nice, I just don't want to wear them (a sample for each will stay in my "scents library").

Santal Massoia - nice but too expensive for what it is (I will use my sample though).

Sweet Redemption - very nice but too sweet for me.

Vitriol d'Oeillet - really like it, when my small decant is gone I might think about the next one.

Violet Blonde - like it a lot. I'd have bought a small FB if it had been purple/violet but since it's not, just a decant.

Cartier Baiser Volé - didn't like it at all. Too much of a flower.

Alien Le Goût du Parfum - like it but my heart is with Angel, so I went for its gourmand version. It bothers me that Alien Le Goût du Parfum will be gone soon, I like the bottle but I do not need it. So for now a sample in my collection should suffice.

Chanel No 19 Poudré - I like it and will wear but No 19 is my true love.

Mon Parfum Chéri - doesn't work for me at all, it makes me nauseous :( Vanille Insensée has a similar effect on me (though I liked all previous colognes from that line).

Chanel Jersey - I really liked the lavender opening but it was gone too soon and the rest of it (all 30 minutes of vanilla's life) weren't that great. And definitely didn't warrant exclusifs' price.

Santal Blush - meh.

Jeux de Peau - new LOVE.

I haven't tried other perfumes you've mentioned so I'll stop hijacking your post now :)

Michael said...

Nice list of perfumes. I have to admit that I haven't smelled loads of the 2011 releases either.

The Candy Perfume Boy said...

I'm hoping that I'm able to leave a comment today, Blogger seemed to be having a tantrum the other day!

I love your selections, I'm especially happy to see Honour Woman at the top of your list, it is amaze balls after all.

Did you get around to buying a bottle of Candy yet or are you still at the 'pick up the box and put it back down again' phase?

I have to thank you again for the Puredistance I sample, I would never have discovered it otherwise, I'm sure that it will be topping my 'discoveries of 2012' list in December.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

No worries at all about hijacking the post - I was very interested to get your take on my list, and jolly delighted you could comment at all, given the problems some people have been having lately!

So we both love Violet Blonde, yay! Not sure I agree about wanting it in a purple colour - ever since that Sarah Jessica Parker flanker whose name escapes me, I have had it in for mauve coloured scents generally...

And what your comment makes me realise most forcibly about my taste is that - simply put - I like "nice scents", as in not particularly adventurous or bold. Like Birgit said in a Tweet just now, "tranquil" suits me just fine for the most part. I guess my travels are quite stressful and demanding, so maybe I need my perfume to be the opposite...; - )

Vanessa said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for your comment - glad you liked the list. It is hard to keep up with the constant barrage of new stuff, isn't it?

Vanessa said...

Hi Candy Perfume Boy,

I just checked your list again as it's been a couple of weeks and I was right about there being some very respectable crossover between your and my favourites, notably the Amouage as you say.

I am still just fingering those bottles of Candy, but like toffee brittle I may just crack...

By the way, did you know that there was a confectionery line - in the USA I presume for it doesn't ring a bell with me - called Bonkers Candy?. See, there's even more crossover!

And you are welcome re the Puredistance1 sample. Will be interested to hear how your Antonia testing goes too!

lovethescents said...

So much fun reading your list, as always :-) I didn't know you were after Vanille Insensee! You should remind me again as I can send you some.

Must try that Cartier you mentioned. Have you tried the Convoitee? I ADORE it and consider it....gasp....FBW!!

Hate Santal Blush. Trying to sell it or swap it without success so i guess we're not alone...

Bottega; no go for me at all. I can send you the bits I have if you want them.

Really like de Profundise!/dice? It's a lot of fun and very clean.

Totally agree with you re: Vitriol. It's wonderful.

I haven't tried that DSH either. I'm afraid to.

Undina said...

Vanessa, though I do not mind purple perfumes and, probably, even the opposite - they attract me (I'm still hopeful to try SL's Sarrasins one day and like it enough to buy a bottle), in case with Violet Blond I was talking more about the color of a bottle itself: I'd like it to be not see-through (the way Black Orchid bottle is made) and be colored violet or purple.

Olfactoria's Travels said...

I very much enjoyed your list and its quirky categories. You had me laughing out loud several times.
I'm pleased to see we have many likes in common this year.
Thank you for the Dior link! :)

Tried to comment yesterday but had to give up. :(

Vanessa said...

Hi lovethescents,

Well, having seen Undina's comment I am not sure if Vanille Insensee would be my thing now - maybe it should go into the category of "curious but pessimistic"!

I have not tried L'Heure Convoitee but your being so smitten suggests I might like it too - that could take the place just vacated by Vanille Insensee...

I am all right for Bottega Veneta samples at the moment, thanks, but will let you know if I run out.

And how interesting to hear that De Profundis is not as ghoulish as it sounds... : - )

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I see what you mean now about an opaque purple bottle for Violet Blonde. Now that would look rather classy come to think of it, though the golden bird cage / bell style also has its merits!

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfactoria,

Thanks so much for persevering on the comment front - it finally paid off - who knows what has changed in the arcane workings of Blogger.

Now I know your tastes are quite catholic, and also encompass quite rich and dark scents, but to me you will always be the personification of New Look 1947, which is a very fine fragrance to be!

Undina said...

You've almost persuaded me! It's good that I have at least 9 ml left in my decant. But when this perfume hits online discounters I'll look into buying a bottle.

Vanessa said...

And if doesn't, I could split the rest of mine with you (15ml are going off this week...) But if it is the bottle you are after, online discounters are the way to go!