Well that was the year that was! 2017 is finally drawing to a close and I think it would be fair to say that it has been a year unlike any other. Perfume-wise, it has been once again, an incredibly busy year, more so than any other in fact, with a big cohort of mainstream brands launching new pillar fragrances this year – the likes of MUGLER, GUERLAIN, CHANEL (all capitalised for some reason) and Hermès, just to name a few. There have been flankers, celebrity scents, and ridiculous bottles aplenty, making for an interesting and fragrant year.
Seeing as the blog had a total makeover in 2017, this year I’ve decided to rejig The Candies a little bit too. Normally I would pick my best feminine, masculine and unisex fragrances from the mainstream and niche arms of the industry however, year-on-year I have found it harder to fit my favourites into these categories. The problem being that nowadays, the gender lines have blurred considerably within the realms of perfume, especially in niche. Also, I’ve said many times that a fragrance has no gender so it seems silly to categorise my awards as such . So this year I’ve simply picked ten fragrances – five mainstream and five niche, that each take the title of the best perfumes of the year, presented in no particular order.
In terms of other changes, there’s now a ‘Top Candy’ which goes to my favourite perfume of the year (it will be a most coveted award, I am sure), and ‘Best Body Product’ has been replaced with ‘Candy Crush of the Year’ to reflect my Candy Crush posts that celebrate my fragrant obsessions throughout the year. Oh and there’s now a ‘House of the Year’ award which goes to my favourite perfume house of the year. That about covers it, so shall we get started then? Yes, let’s! A drumroll please…
AURA by MUGLER
When I first smelled AURA at the launch, I’ll admit that I was a little bit underwhelmed. I love MUGLER (understatement of the year) and appreciate the daring, divisive nature of their compositions. AURA follows ANGEL, ALIEN and Womanity as a somewhat more commercial fragrance, but that doesn’t mean that it is without interest, and whilst I may have not been head over heels with it at first sniff, I very much am now and I have used a whole 30ml bottle already (I am a MUGLER fanboy after all). AURA gets a Candy because it doesn’t smell like anything else. It’s an intriguing composition, even if it’s not a bold or challenging one. Lots of nifty materials (wolfwood and tiger liana) come together to create a fragrance that is juicy, jungle-green, sappy, smoky, vanillic and sweet. It’s a swirl of contrasts, all housed within the most beautiful green bottle ever made. Well done, MUGLER. Well done.
Mon Guerlain by GUERLAIN
Mon Guerlain may be the most divisive launch of the year. Some love it for its bang on trend sweetness, whilst others can’t quite believe that the house that made Shalimar, Mitsouko and L’Heure Bleue could possibly make this also. So what business does it have on my best of year list? Well I have to admit that I not only enjoy the fragrance, I also wear it a lot (which is the sign of a good scent) and I think GUERLAIN have been very clever to co-opt the rich candy floss signature of scents such as Lancôme’s La Vie est Belle and Armani’s Si, and improve it for their new signature perfume. Mon Guerlain presents a beautiful lavender against a backdrop of glistening caramel, propelled by a smooth breeze of white musk. It smells good and I think it will do an excellent job of drawing new customers to the brand. Love it or hate it, one cannot deny the impact of Mon Guerlain.
Bloom by Gucci
If you cast your mind back to the late ’90s when Tom Ford was at the helm of Gucci. Back then the brand was launching masterpiece after masterpiece, scents such as Rush, Envy and Gucci Pour Homme. Since then, Gucci has, how should I put this, hmm, well they’ve not been particularly daring and I would struggle to pick out anything noteworthy or interesting from the brand in the last ten or so years. Well, until this year that is, because Gucci has really done an amazing about face this year thanks to their new Creative Director, Alessandro Michele (NEVER underestimate the power of good art direction). Gucci have two fragrances taking Candies this year, the first of which is Bloom. I love Bloom because it’s a white floral that is not afraid to be a white floral. It is not a thin, wan or pale musk that is so generically floral it doesn’t offend anyone. Bloom is instead, a beautiful tuberose, all milky and sweet, with a pungent crispness and a remarkable transparency. It’s a starter floral that I think will resonate very well with the mainstream market due to its balance of approachability and lushness. It’s a beautiful piece of work.
Basier Fou by Cartier
Cartier always make interesting fragrances – clever little twists on familiar themes that have a touch of humour as well as luxury. Mathilde Laurent, the brand’s in-house perfumer, thinks abstractly, drawing many unusual elements together to create perfumes that really don’t smell like anything else, whilst still maintaining an air of accessibility (check out La Panthère as a perfect example of this with its gluey, furry gardenia). Baiser Fou (‘Crazy Kiss’) is one such scent. A bright orchid note is contrasted by bubblegum and white chocolate, whilst the peppery green stems of flowers give an intriguing chlorophyl effect. It’s the idea of a lipgloss fragrance that avoids sticky, glittery sweetness and a definite stand out from 2017.
Gucci Guilty Pour Homme Absolute by Gucci
Finally for the mainstream we head back to Gucci and perhaps the weirdest scent to launch in the mainstream this year: Gucci Guilty Pour Homme Absolute. If I were to describe it in a quick soundbite, I’d call it the scent of drunken sex in a hospital corridor accented with the remnants of a bottle of peated whisky. Intrigued yet? I thought you might be. In truth, this is a spicy, leathery vetiver with lots of sweaty cumin, but also this huge phenolic vibe that is entirely jarring. To think that Gucci of all brands launched this as a mainstream flanker in 2017 is mind-boggling. I say power to them!
Le Cèdre by Miller Harris
There have been a few surprises this year (just take a look at that Gucci Guilty Absolute!) and nothing has shocked me more than my sudden fascination with woods. The perfume that kicked it all of was Le Cèdre by Miller Harris. What makes this perfume so fascinating is its complexity – it is so much more than just another soft cedar fragrance, it’s a kaleidoscope of woody facets. Le Cèdre has a salty, savoury nature, but also the armpit-esque spice of cedar, there’s also a powder facet too, not to mention a milky/floral nuance of mimosa. It’s just so beautiful and it shows that wood fragrances can be so much more than just solid blocks in one style.
Escentric 04 by Escentric Molecules
If you’re not familiar with Escentric Molecules, then you absolutely should familiarise yourself ASAP. Until then, let me fill you in. Escentric Molecules launch fragrances in pairs, with one scent in the duo showcasing a singular molecule in alcohol, and the corresponding scent featuring that molecule in a more traditional composition. This year’s launches, Molecule & Escentric 04, showcased the fresh sandalwood material Javanol and it is the Escentric of the duo that really stands out. Escentric 04 is tart and acidic, with a hugely acerbic grapefruit note, but simultaneously it is milky and soft with a transparent interpretation of sandalwood. Notes of pepper, marijuana and orris are all icing on the cake in a radiant, golden composition that shimmers with neverending freshness. It is simply glorious.
Une Amourette by Etat Libre d’Orange x Roland Mouret
I have a real soft spot for Etat Libre d’Orange – the naughtiest perfume house on the planet. They’ve evolved from adolescent, pull my finger perfumery to more cerebral, artistic endeavours, but they’ve always made very good scents, whether they have been tongue in cheek, or tongue in other places. This year they teamed up with fashion designer Roland Mouret to make one heck of a statement perfume – a fragrance named Une Amourette. At the launch, Roland Mouret described Une Amourette as smelling like the scent of your lover on your skin after sex, and he’s pretty much spot on. Une Amourette is a gigantic, glamorous patchouli with a huge heap of funk. It is radiant, transparent and utterly beguiling. Oh and it’s a bit dirty too…
Wood of Life by Anima Vinci
There are a few things on this list that don’t smell like anything else out there and I think that is a good way to sum up 2017, as the year of olfactory innovation. Perhaps the most unique scent I’ve encountered is Wood of Life by Anima Vinci. Wood of Life smells unlike anything else because it uses a completely unique ingredient: the piri piri root, which is found in the Amazon basin and used in medicine, and ceremonies. The fragrance puts this material front and centre, it has a spicy sharpness, with a signature that presents a touch of menthol and the richness of wood. One could call it intense, luminous, rich, dark, hot, cold, and fizzy, but that doesn’t do it justice. Instead I will settle one word that perfectly summarises Wood of Life: fascinating.
Superstitious by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle
At this point, Frederic Malle can do no wrong. I honestly cannot think of a perfume in the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle collection that I wouldn’t happily own. They are curated so finely and unlike many other fragrances in the niche realm, they justify their high price tag. With that in mind, it would have been entirely criminal not to award Superstitious a Candy this year. Created by perfumer Dominique Ropion (who is responsible for the brand’s best work) in collaboration with fashion designer Alber Elbaz, Supersitious is one heck of a floral. It’s a huge, stinky jasmine with all of its animalic bits proudly on show. Rose, incense and vetiver support, but all pale in comparison to her royal jasmine-ness. Superstitious is funky, sexy, and glamorous. It’s a wild ride, for sure, but its so luxurious and high end it can be forgiven any sins it may commit on the flesh.
Noir Anthracite by TOM FORD
Tom Ford’s original Noir was a handsome, powdery affair that channeled Shalimar but presented it with all of the handsome Tom Ford flair one associates with the brand. Noir Anthracite could not be further from that fragrance if it tried, opting for a rugged, rebellious nature over refinement and elegance. Instead of Shalimar, Noir Anthracite pays homage to the robust, animalic masculines of the 1970s and ’80s, via piquant, sweaty spices. The base is all about harsh, black and grey woods, creating a dynamic and contrasting smoothness to the pungency of the opening. Noir Anthracite takes the Candy for Best Flanker because it does what the best flankers do: remains faithful to the original whilst taking the theme of the fragrance in a new direction.
Best Top Down Design
Twilly d’Hermès by Hermès
The Candy for Best Top Down Design is for the perfume that best aligns its concept with its execution – the one where the bottle, juice, and marketing etc. are all working together in perfect harmony. The choice was incredibly easy this year because there was one standout: Twilly d’Hermès. Twilly is a new type of perfume for Hermès, one that moves away from the mineral watercolour style of Jean-Claude Ellena to something more fun and frivolous. It’s less cerebral and more colourful, taking the note of tuberose and watering it down with a shock of ginger. Twilly looks and smells great and everything about it, from the unusual zing of the juice to the adorable carriage lantern bottle, which comes tied with a miniature Twilly scarf no less, is perfectly harmonious.
Candy Crush of the Year
Creme Pour Les Mains au Beurre d’Iris by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle
This year I started writing Candy Crush posts which celebrate the fragrances or fragranced products that I’m obsessing over. So to celebrate my Candy Crushes I’ve decided to offer an award to my favourite, an award I’m calling the ‘Candy Crush of the Year’! Last year CHANEL took the award for ‘Best Scented Product’ (which this award replaces) for their Nº5 Body Oil but this year the winner is hands down (pun intended), Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle for their Iris Hand Cream created by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti. What’s not to love about the soft, supple scent of rooty, earthy iris in the form of the most luxurious and buttery hand cream known to man? Nothing! Candy Crush of the Year it is then!
House of the Year
This one was tricky because there were two fragrance houses that stuck out this year, both for their transformation, namely Gucci and Miller Harris. Ultimately the winner was the one that has changed so much that I’m extremely excited to see what they launch in 2018 – the one that has me most excited about their upcoming journey. Miller Harris has always made good perfume, but in the last two years they’ve really started to make great perfume – fragrances like the utopian rose of Rose Silence and the endless refreshment of Tea Tonique, not forgetting the contrasting Le Cèdre which takes a Candy today. In January they launch Scherzo & Tender, two fascinatingly opposing fragrances inspired by the same passage of text. Miller Harris is becoming an eccentric, colourful and artistic house and I for one, cannot wait to see what they do next.
Escentric 04 by Escentric Molecules
The ‘Top Candy’ goes to the perfume that I have loved most this year and it would be fair to say that I have loved no fragrance more than Escentric 04 by Escentric Molecules. I’ve even converted my husband into a raving fan of it top. So what more can I say about this one that I haven’t said already? It’s the scent I have worn most this year – how about that? Top Candy it is then!
Y by YSL
I’m usually a relatively positive chap when it comes to perfume and often I can find at least one good thing to say about a fragrance. I’m not one to slate a scent, after all, my taste isn’t superior to anyone else’s. That said, I do get narked by boring fragrances launched by houses that know better. A good example of this, and the winner of the ‘Sour Candy’ award which is reserved for the worst scent of the year, is Y by YSL. The best thing about Y is the bottle and whilst it promised the sent of a white t-shirt, it delivered the same metallic, ozonic blandness of many other modern masculines. YSL can and does much better. Which makes one think, what really was the point? I guess the name says it all – ‘y’ indeed.
Join the Discussion!
What were your best and worst perfumes of 2017?
Let me know in the comments box below.
Samples via respective brands. Images are my own.