It's a tough job picking the gems from the flood of trendy, niche fragrances that hit the perfume counters each year. Although this year saw a slight let-up in the tide of new releases, there were still a lot of fairy floss fruity/florals, fade-away colognes and pleasant-enough fragrances. And yet the number of real contenders for “best of the year” status was surprisingly high.
How do you define a memorable fragrance? One that will stand the test of time? One that you love? One that fits the occasion? There are almost as many criteria as scents to consider – and there’s little value in comparing a rich, va-va-voom fragrance with a captivating aromatherapy scent. As with winemaking, perfumery can be bewilderingly complex. But, in essence, there are five standard “olfactive families”: floral (flowers, blossoms); oriental (Middle and Far Eastern, animalistic); woody (patchouli, cedars, sandal-wood); fresh (clean, citrus, oceanic); and aromatic fougère (contains elements of the other four). The sub-groups and combinations are limitless but, taken with its music-inspired system of top, middle and base notes, you can begin to see a little way into this beguiling world.
And now to our list of winners.
Best fragrance of the year
Balenciaga Paris (50ml, $145)
There was a time when Balenciaga was considered one of the three “grands” of French fashion, with Chanel and Dior. The designer label has come back with a vengeance under its current creative director, Nicolas Ghesquière, and this violet chypre (woody) fragrance with pepper and moss accents is a true standout. The legendary perfume company, Coty, is in charge of Balenciaga’s re-entry into the fragrance world and this is one of the finest scents they’ve ever produced. Individual, elegant and guaranteed to attract compliments.
Lola, Marc Jacobs Velvet Edition ($120)
American designer Marc Jacobs scored a major hit in the US and Australia with Daisy. Now Lola, described as its predecessor’s “confident and slightly vampy older sister”, has hit the big time in both countries, too. The original bottle’s bright leather and fabric stopper attracted much praise for its cuteness – and this limited edition release with its soft velvety cap is also sure to please. Spritz on the warm floral scent and you’re good to go in any weather.
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