The Candies 2012: The Very Best and Very Worst Perfumes of 2012

Candies 2012
The Candies 2012

I can’t believe it but it’s the end of 2012 already, which means that it’s time for us perfume bloggers to put together our lists of the very best and very worst perfumes of the year, honestly, where did the time go?! This year I’m affectionately entitling my awards ‘The Candies’ as a short, punchy alternative to The Candy Perfume Boy Awards. Neat huh?

Across all genres there have been many interesting, exciting and unique perfumes unleashed on to the market along with the usual amount of celebrity dreck, dud flankers and down-right-bizarre niche offerings. All-in-all it’s been a busy year with over 1,300 launches. Impressive but exhausting!

Below you will find my awards for Best Masculine, Best Feminine and Best Unisex Fragrances for both niche and mainstream houses. In addition to this I’ve also included awards for Best Flanker, Best Celebrity Fragrance and Best Ad Campaign. But we’re not just celebrating the very best of perfumery in 2012 here, no sir, we’re also highlighting the very worst with the Sour Candy Award, reserved solely for the naffest perfume of the year.

So I hope you’re wearing your very best frock (or tux for the boys, or frock if you prefer, it’s up to you really) and sipping on some fine Champagne as The Candies 2012 are underway…

Best Niche Feminine: Loretta by Tableau de Parfums

Picking the Best Niche Feminine was really quite difficult this year and I must admit that I did go back and forth narrowing down my choices. That said, I kept coming back to the same conclusion for the number one spot and it’s hard for me to argue against Loretta by Tableau de Parfums being awarded the accolade of Best Niche Feminine.

For Loretta, Andy Tauer took inspiration from the larger-than-life fruit-tinged florals of the 80s, however instead of just rehashing the past he added something rather spectacular; the smell of hot engine parts and machinery. Loretta is a truly fascinating perfume that is matched by the fact that it is so beautiful, albeit in a rather unconventional way.

Huge kudos to Andy Tauer as always…

Honourable Mention: Mito by Vero Profumo
Séville à L'Aube
Honourable Mention: Séville à L’Aube by L’Artisan Parfumeur
Interlude Man
Best Niche Masculine: Interlude Man by Amouage

This wouldn’t be a Best of the Best list without the inclusion of at least one Amouage (last year Honour Woman won Best Feminine) and this year it’s a masculine that takes the prize. Interlude Man is easily the standout masculine of the year, wiping the floor with both the niche and mainstream competition.

Created to represent a moment of peace amongst the chaos of everyday life, Interlude Man is a heady mixture of chaotic materials such as leather, birch tar and wood smoke swirled together with softer notes such as vanilla. The effect is delicious like a vanilla bonfire but simultaneously unsettling making for one of the most interesting and enjoyable masculines in a very long while.

Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes
Honourable Mention: Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes by Etat Libre d’Orange
Best Niche Unisex: OUD by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

I think I speak for many when I say that, on the whole, we’re all sick of oud perfumes. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy oud as much as the next guy, but with so many brands opting for simple oud/rose compositions, the lack of ingenuity can get tiring. BUT, and as you can see this is a big ‘but’, even among the overwhelming onslaught of oud launches there are still one or two surprises to be had.

One of these surprises comes from Maison Francis Kurkdjian (a house that is quickly becoming a favourite of mine) and it is so different and impressive compared to just about every other oud that it wins the award for Best Niche Unisex.

OUD really is an oud unlike any other, it pairs the leathery, medicinal and almost chemical facets of the noble rot with blindingly bright citrus and a metric ton of Kurkdjian’s favoured laundry musks. It is definitely a perfume that is not for everyone but that’s part of what I like about it, it is incredibly clever and not at all what I expected.

Oud Ispahan
Honourable Mention: Oud Ispahan by Christian Dior
Jour d'Hermès
Best Mainstream Feminine: Jour d’Hermès by Hermès

I haven’t been entirely impressed with the mainstream feminine launches this year, there have been quite a few duds (Coco Noir, Dot & La Vie est Belle, to name just a few) but luckily for me (and you too) the trusty house of Hermès came rushing to the rescue with a December release that saved the day.

Jour d’Hermès, like Kurkdjian’s OUD, is a fragrance that serves as a reminder that perfume still has the ability to surprise. Created by Jean-Claude Ellena it is a big 3D, almost cartoon-like, green and dewy floral that explodes on the skin. It is simply a joy to behold.

La Petite Robe Noire 2012
Honourable Mention: La Petite Robe Noire (Relaunch) by Guerlain
Best Mainstream Masculine: Noir by Tom Ford

I think it’s Robin of Now Smell This that has said that she prefers Tom Ford’s Signature Collection to his Private Blends, and I’d have to say that I agree. There’s something about the highly polished and dramatic feel of each fragrance in the signature line that just seems to be more in line with Mr. Ford’s aesthetic than the vastly over-priced Private Blends.

Tom Ford tends to err towards heavier scents that seem to be a mixture of classic perfumery and a weirdly attractive cheap-trash vibe. My Designer Masculine of the year: Noir, is no exception. It very much feels like a modern, masculine interpretation of Guerlain’s Shalimar, showcasing the powdery and balsamic notes of the classic but adding some manly spice to jazz it up a bit.

Noir is a confident and finely-tuned masculine (that a lot of you ladies could rock btw) that nicely places the old and the new together in one, neat and handsome package.

Guerlain Homme L'Eau Boisée
Honourable Mention: Homme L’Eau Boisée by Guerlain
Honourable Mention: Spicebomb by Viktor & Rolf
L'Ambre des Merveilles
Best Mainstream Unisex: L’Ambre des Merveilles by Hermès

I may be cheating slightly here as I don’t think L’Ambre des Merveilles is technically being marketed as unisex, but hey I’m allowed to tweak things just a little, and anyway if it isn’t it damn well should be!

It is also important to say that I haven’t got round to finishing off my review of L’Ambre des Merveilles yet, having been distracted by Christmas presents, seeing family and food (mostly the food) so I shall keep this little summary short and sweet. Why is L’Ambre des Merveilles the Best Mainstream Unisex perfume of 2012? I’ll tell you why; it’s a mixture of salty skin, biscuit-like amber and the briny brightness of the original Eau de Merveilles – what’s not to love?!

Lys Soleia
Honourable Mention: Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia by Guerlain
Petit Fracas
Best Flanker: Petit Fracas by Robert Piguet

It seems funny to have an award for the best flanker as they often tend to be derivative, unimaginative and down right confusing (flankers of flankers anyone?), but it is true to say that without flankers we wouldn’t have amazing perfumes such as Hypnotic Poison. So yes, they may be annoying at times, but flankers certainly have a place on our department store shelves.

This year’s Best Flanker award goes to a perfume that serves as an introduction to one of the most classic florals of all time: Petit Fracas by Robert Piguet. The reason why this ‘Little Fracas‘ is so good is the fact that there is absolutely nothing minuscule about it, in fact it is just as loud and raucous as the original, yet it opts for a mixture of fresh fruit and chocolate to add a fun new twist.

Alien Essence Absolue
Honourable Mention: Alien Essence Absolue by Thierry Mugler
Truth or Dare
Best Celebrity Fragrance: Truth or Dare by Madonna

The best celebrity fragrances tend to be those that; a) come from celebrity’s who actually give two hoots about scent; and b) are created in line with said celebrity’s tastes. Madonna’s first (and rather tardy) foray into the world of celebuscents manages to tick both of these boxes.

Truth or Dare is a big, buxom white floral that stems from M’s love for classic tuberose fragrances such as Robert Piguet’s Fracas. But what makes it interesting, and really enjoyable, is that this classic bouquet of white flowers is contrasted by a whole heap of snuggly benzoin and marshmallow that gives the whole thing a rather modern touch.

No other celebrity fragrance this year has managed to accurately encapsulate the personality of the star behind it quite as well as Truth or Dare; it’s a big bombastic white floral, now tell me that doesn’t suit the Queen?!

Dita Von Teese
Honourable Mention: Dita Von Teese Eau de Parfum

Best Ad Campaign: La Petite Robe Noire by Guerlain

I think I said in my original review of La Petite Robe Noire (the 2009 version) that it was wasted as a boutique exclusive and it appears that Guerlain had the very same thought, deciding to give the scent a mainstream launch, along with a fancy ad campaign, earlier this year.

There is literally nothing I don’t like about this ad campaign. It’s fun, french and incredibly Guerlain. It perfectly captures the vivacity of La Petite Robe Noire and everything from the jagged cartoon drawings to the dress labels used for tester strips come across as a stroke of genius. Chanel must be kicking themselves for not copywriting that name…

Honourable Mention: Fame by Lady Gaga

Sour Candy Award: Fame by Lady Gaga

The Sour Candy Award is reserved for the very worst perfume of the year. Lady Gaga’s Fame was an easy choice for the award, not because it is the worst smelling perfume released this year (although it comes pretty close) but because it is by far the most disappointing.

Lady Gaga could have literally released ANYTHING and it would have sold like hot cakes. So why on earth she decided to bottle a watered down version of Britney Spears’ Fantasy (which is a pretty good ‘fume BTW) that smells just like a carbon copy of every other celebuscent is beyond me.

For Fame Lady Gaga opted to go for style (fancy black fluid) over substance and that is why it has the honour of winning 2012’s Sour Candy award. She should be ashamed.

Coco Noir
Dishonourable Mention: Coco Noir by Chanel

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Join the Discussion!

What were your favourite fragrances of 2012?

Did you discover anything new and exciting this year?

Do you agree with my choices?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments box below!

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Image 1. Image 2 (cropped). Image 3 (cropped). Image 4 Images 5, 8 & 17 Image 6 Image 7 Images 9 & 14 Image 10 Images 11 & 13 Image 12 Image 15 Image 16 via Robert Piguet. Image 18 (cropped). Image 19 Image 20 (cropped).