Here we are then, at the very end of 2016. It feels, especially after the losses of George Michael, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, to name but a few, within the last week, a very bittersweet year. I say bittersweet because it’s not just the loss of the huge number of great talents this year, the likes of Bowie, Prince, Victoria Wood… (the list is endless), but also because the world seems to be a much harsher place than it did one year ago. Whatever your politics, I think we can all agree that 2017 is the year that we all need to work together to make our world a better place.
From a fragrant perspective, 2016 has actually been a pheomenal year. I’d be lying to you if I said that it was easy for me to pick out my very favourite scents of the year because I really did like a lot this year, and it feels like there certainly was a huge amount of good stuff, whether that be unique and interesting new things, or familiar styles that were executed very well. But you will be pleased to know that I was able to narrow down my choices and pick out the winners of The Candies 2016. I do need a stiff drink after all that work though…
If this is your first time attending The Candies, I shall explain how things work. Firstly, you may attend in your pyjamas and you do not need to worry about drinking too much and making a fool of yourself, in fact, such actions are encouraged. We have a number of awards to give out, each of which is split out by Mainstream and Niche, and then by gender. There are also awards for Best Top Down Design and even a Sour Candy Award, which names and shames the worst perfume of the year. This year we also have the addition of the Best Scented Product Award which celebrates the best smelly product for your body or home. It’s a full programme, so let’s get started!
Right, we’re at the first award and I’m technically cheating already because the winner of the Best Niche Feminine Candy is technically a unisex fragrance, but hear me out, because BOY by CHANEL is a feminine twist on a masculine genre (the fougère) so technically it could be argued that it’s a feminine launch. Am I getting away with this? No? Thought not. Anyway, I had to give BOY an award because it was the sleeper hit of the year for me. Initially, its geranium-heavy take on the fougère didn’t really do much for me, but after a couple of wears I was hooked. This is a sensitive take on the lavender and coumarin-centric fougères that, through rose, geranium and musk creates something supple, soft and utterly beautiful. A worthy winner if there ever was one.
Again, one could argue that my honourable mentions in this category could be unisex (because what is gender anyway?!) but for the purposes of this post, I have positioned them towards the feminine. My first is Chypre 21 by Heeley, a modern take on the chypre genre that is gauzy, metallic and as light as air. The other is Jean-Claude Ellena’s swan song for Hermès – the heartbreaking Muguet Porcelaine. Lily of the valley fragrances are hard to do but Ellena, with his inimitable talent, has managed to presented a perfect rendition of the flower encased in fresh snow, making something that is a worthy end to his relationship with Hermès.
There could only be one contender for the Best Niche Masculine Candy this year and that was Monsieur. by perfumer Bruno Jovanovic for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. It is the only niche masculine that I’ve sniffed this year and felt was remotely noteworthy, but it’s not just a winner because the bar is low, no it’s a winner because it perfectly recreates that retro masculine style of fuzzy chests and dodgy moustaches. Monsieur. is a beast of smoky patchouli that swills bourbon and rum with a dash of vanilla. Surprisingly for Frederic Malle, the whole thing is delightfully retro and whilst it may be a bit much, Monsieur. certainly makes an impression. It’s also a bit sexy, so there.
Etat Libre d’Orange’s ‘Hermann à Mes Côtés Me Paraissait Une Ombre‘ could win many awards for a whole host of things, amongst them the longest perfume name and even the most ridiculous perfume name, but alas all can be forgiven when it comes to the potentially pretentious nature of this scent because it is actually very good. To me, Hermann smells like a bloody red rose, pulverised in the hand like a heart squeezed in a fist of fury. It oozes with a holographic rose that has shadowy accents of pepper and spiky green galbanum, giving the impression of a red rose smelled from across the room. It’s simply a masterpiece and I’d even go as far as saying that it is my favourite thing I’ve sniffed this year.
Honourable mentions must go to BYREDO’s Heliotropia and Beaufort London’s Fathom V, both of which offer scented ‘WTF’ moments a plenty. Heliotropia is a technical marvel that pushes a gigantic white floral, bubblegum, candyfloss and bleached woods into the stratosphere like a Cirrus cloud that is amazingly lightweight and diffusive, despite its sheer size. Fathom V on the other hand knocks one on the head with a cannonball of aquatic greenery that speaks of epic seafaring antics, and does a good job at reinventing the green genre entirely. Both are wonderful fragrances and either one could have taken that top spot!
I had high hopes for POP, the latest scent from Stella McCartney and this year’s recipient of the Candy for Best Mainstream Feminine. The advert featured Lourdes Leon, Grimes and a number of other young female icons of today, riding around in a pink convertible that also doubles up as a paddling pool, and therefor my expectations were raised quite high (I want a pink convertible swimming pool, dammit!). I’m pleased to say that POP met my expectations quite nicely. POP is a tuberose by the way of watermelon bubblegum and white musk, and it’s so much fun it cannot be hated. I’d much rather the young girls of today wore this than most of the other fruity dreck out there!
My honourable mentions are distinctly floral in their nature, with offerings from Acqua di Parma and TOM FORD. Once again, Acqua di Parma treated us to something delightful with their Nobile line in the form of Peonia Nobile, a full blown peony fragrance that serves up raspberries, pink petals and vetiver. If their legendary Rosa Nobile was the olfactory equivalent of rose quartz, Peonia Nobile is a dazzling pink sapphire. On the complete opposite side of the floral spectrum is TOM FORD’s Orchid Soleil, which is a tremendous white floral chock full of gardenia, tuberose, truffle and vanilla – also known as heaven!
I really went back and forth on this one, Dear Reader, I really did, because we’ve seen a uncharacteristically good number of decent masculine fragrances within the mainstream this year. My favourite though, and the winner of the Candy is Bottega Venetta’s beautiful Pour Homme Essence Aromatique. This scent has the icy, refreshing cool of a modern cologne but also the fuzzy warmth of a fougère, coming together in a delicate scent that feels like porcelain shaded in a soft shade of duck egg blue. Every single man on Earth should have a bottle of this in their wardrobe.
Both my honourable mentions could have taken the top spot here and each one offers a bold take on a masculine theme. This is Him! by Zadig et Voltaire plays with amber, lightening it up with grapefruit and sexifying (is that a word?) it with an overdose of vanilla. The result is a masculine so sexy it’s dangerous on the right guy. My other honourable mention, L’Homme Idéal Eau de Parfum by GUERLAIN, takes the almond oriental of the original and again smooths it out with some top notch vanilla. Both are good enough to eat!
The winner of the Candy for Best Mainstream Unisex fragrance came late in the year and as quite a surprise. Comme des Garçons Blackpepper does what so many black pepper scents are afraid to do: it puts the note front and centre in its full glory. It then adorns the note with a number of amplifiers and contrasts, using citrus and aldehyde to intensify its crackly nature whilst utilising woods and tonka for a contrasting warmth, and softness. With its huge sillage, excellent longevity and remarkable transparency, Blackpepper is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Now, until Blackpepper came along CK2 was poised to take the top spot. This follow up to Calvin Klein’s legendary CK One is an abstract neo-cologne that uses wasabi and wet pebbles rather than lime and orange blossoms. It has a fascinating texture that is fresh and mineral-like but also soft and milky. I think it’s truly one of the most interesting fragrances we’ve seen in the mainstream and I wear it a ton. My other honourable mention in this category goes to Galop d’Hermès, the equestrian inspired take on rose and leather that is as juicy as it is smooth. It’s a great piece of work from the new in-house perfumer Christine Nagel and I know I’m certainly intrigued to see what she does next at Hermès.
CHANEL always do a very good job with their flankers (Coco Noir aside) but they really hit the ball out of the park with Nº5 L’Eau this year. L’Eau wins the Candy for Best Flanker because it manages to be true to the original whilst creating something new entirely. Positioned as the Nº5 of today, L’Eau uses citrus to give a softer aldehydic effect, breezy white florals as a nod to the heady jasmine of the original and musk in lieu of sandalwood. It retains the structural integrity of Nº5 but it feels entirely more modern and in line with the trends of today. The tagline for the scent is ‘You Know Me and You Don’t’, which is so spot on – you’ll recognise this Nº5 but she’s not the same beast you know and love.
My honourable mention goes to Angel Muse by MUGLER which was created in the same vein as Nº5 L’Eau, in the sense that it is meant to be a more accessible and modern take on Angel. Much like the CHANEL, Muse is recognisably in tune with its mother, but it’s much softer, offering up olfactory nutella as opposed to chocolate. The whole thing has been smoothed and made softer, with a creamier feel, whilst a shock of vetiver twists things up in the base. This is the Angel for those that don’t like Angel and it’s completely and utterly delicious.
The award for Best Top Down Design is designed to celebrate a fragrance that executes a concept perfectly in every aspect, including; the juice, the presentation (bottle etc.) and marketing. It’s simply the scent that feels most successfully thought out and that ticks every single box. For me, the award could go to no other than Use Abuse by Jusbox Perfumes. Everything about this presentation has been painstakingly thought out. Inspired by the theatrical performers of the 1980s (specifically Queen frontman Freddie Mercury), the bottle has a stopper that looks like vinyl record, not to mention the fact that it comes in 78ml size as a nod to the records. The bottle is housed within a box that comes complete with CD-sized cover art and the scent itself smells like sherbet (a nod to cocaine, surely) and synthetic plastic flowers. Best Top Down Design indeed.
Now it’s time for our new award – Best Scented Product. This year I’ve branched out a little to review body products and candles so it’s only fitting that The Candies reflect this change. For me, the only product that could win this award was Nº5 THE BODY OIL by CHANEL. This stuff is phenomenal. It sprays on in a fine mist, leaving the skin moisturised without any annoying oily residue, providing a heady trail of silky Nº5 scent. To my nose it is most closely aligned to the Eau de Parfum concentration in terms of scent (check out my full review of all Nº5 concentrations here) and it’s perfect to wear on the skin or even with a few spritzes in the bath. Divine.
An honourable mention must go to MUGLER who launched a line of scented candles earlier this year, offering candle versions of Angel, Alien and Les Exceptions. My favourite, of course, was the Angel candle, which fragrances a whole house (and more) with the chocolate, patchouli and vanilla tones of the olfactory legend. The Angel candle comes in two versions, the beautiful star-shaped candle shown above and a more subtle design outlined within my review here. Both smell amazing and therefore cannot be ignored in this yearly roundup!
Finally we come to the very last award and always the most anticipated – The Sour Candy Award for the worst perfume of the year. When I reviewed Diesel BAD for @fragrantreviews I simply said “the name says it all and even then it’s being generous” and I stand by that statement wholeheartedly. Diesel BAD is really bad. It smells like every other semi-aquatic, semi-herbaceous, semi-woody masculine yet it turns the intensity and pitch up so high that all it does is cause a terrifically bad headache. If I never smelled it again it would be too soon and therefore, this year’s Sour Candy Award for the worst perfume of the year goes to Diesel BAD. Case closed.
A dishonourable mention goes to Azzaro for Wanted, the fragrance that they thought would be oh so clever and oh so macho to house within a bottle shaped like the barrel of a gun. That’s a serious ‘what the hell were they thinking’ moment if there ever was one. I didn’t even smell the fragrance because I was so offended by the bottle, which not only celebrates gun culture but also plays straight into the heteronormative masculine ideals that the perfume industry has cynically been pushing for an age. So you won’t find any picture of Wanted here, nor another word on the matter for that fact.
Join the Discussion!
What have been your favourite scents of the year?
What would your award your ‘Candies’ too?
Do you agree with my choices or am I a terrible garbage person with no taste?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments box below!
Follow the review links to find out where samples were obtained from (mostly from the brands). Images are my own.