We’re just over a week into 2021 and we already have the first big perfume launch of the year, which means this is my first perfume review of the year (exciting!) and it’s for a brand new CHANEL fragrance (very exciting!!) – a CHANEL Exclusif, no less (ARGH SO EXCITING!!!). This CHANEL fanboy is very please to be kicking off the year with something so wonderful – so, let’s take a few moments away from the world and enjoy a spot of scented beauty.

The latest addition to Les Exclusifs is Le Lion and it’s a long-awaited one, having launched in some territories almost one year ago! But now it’s here! As with all of the Exclusifs, Le Lion takes inspiration from the house itself, and this time the lion, the fifth sign of the zodiac and Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s astrological sign, is the theme. In the 1920s, Coco fell in love with the city of Venice, being inspired by its art and culture, and like Chanel herself, the city existed under the guardian sign of the lion. The lion became an emblem for Chanel, both in her personal spaces (her apartment at 31 Rue Cambon was filled with lions crafted from marble, bronze and wood), but also in her clothing, with the symbol engraved on the buttons of tweed suits or the clasps of bags. The lion is a symbol of Chanel’s tenacity and endurance and this is the theme that the fragrance explores.

Le Lion the perfume, seeks to capture this tenacious personality but also the rich and exotic spirit of Venice, the city of the lion that Coco loved. CHANEL perfumer Olivier Polge was intrigued by the emblem of the lion rather than the animal itself, crafting a warm amber fragrance (I’m not using the “O” word, this is my replacement) with a “solar aura” and a “gentle strength”. Le Lion stands out as a uniquely intense and warm fragrance within Les Exclusifs, which tend to lean light, ethereal, abstract, and it is quite surprising in its richness. The big question though, is whether it was worth the wait? Well, read on and you shall see!

I think we can all agree that 2020 was a flaming dumpster fire of a year. Truly, it was trash. I’d say we could take a look back at the year, but I don’t want to turn around and face it, what with a global pandemic that has killed, at the time of writing, 1.79 million people, and all of the horrendous things that have gone along with it. So I’m not going to do that and instead we’re going to spend a few minutes taking our minds away from the world with the greatest distraction there is: perfume.

Every year I hold “The Candies”, my annual perfume awards. Well, they’re not really awards. Nobody actually wins anything, and the only person that gets tipsy on champagne during the process is me *hiccup*. No, The Candies are essentially a round-up of my favourite scents of the year. They’ve evolved somewhat over the years, with varying categories, but now in the vein of keeping things simple, The Candies showcase my ten favourite perfume launches of the year and also my least favourite, which is dubbed the “Sour Candy” (however, not this year because the last thing we need in our lives is negativity, am I right?). So here they are, The Candies 2020.

OK, OK, before we actually get into the smelly things I have enjoyed this year, let’s do the thing I said I wasn’t going to do and take a quick look back at 2020, but from a perfume perspective. Surprisingly, it has been a good year for perfume, and I say surprisingly, because the pandemic has changed so much of how the industry works. Many fragrances that were due to launch, didn’t, and have been pushed back. Stores have been shut and when they’ve been opened, testers haven’t been freely available. What’s more, many of us have been in and out of lockdown (currently on our third here in the UK, wooo!) and working from home, so wearing scent hasn’t felt like a priority, especially when we’re not going anywhere… So there have many barriers to perfume in 2020 but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been intriguing and beautiful fragrances launched, because there have.

Here are ten of my favourites…

This is a super exciting project that I am thrilled to be a part of. As you may know, I write for Escentual as their Fragrance Expert and also advise them on all things fragrance. Over the last two years, we at Escentual have run two blind fragrance trials with journalists, influencers and bloggers, all with the aim to promote discussion about new fragrance launches – it’s been really successful and immense fun. Well, now, #EscentualScents comes to you and this time, you can get in on all of the action and fun!

In my final #christmascrush gift guide this year, I take a look at some beautiful perfume discovery kits that will make excellent presents this Christmas. With going in to stores to test fragrances becoming harder with the pandemic, these kits allow you to give the gift of choice and they can be an excellent tool in helping narrow down a full bottle purchase, either as an additional gift or if your recipient wishes to treat themselves to something at a later date. The cost of some of these kits are even redeemable against a full size purchase. Check out the video below or visit my Instagram page by clicking here.

Carine Roitfeld is the former Editor-in-Chief of French Vogue and if her debut collection of perfumes are anything to go by, she is clearly someone who enjoys perfume. The idea behind the collection is seven fragrances inspired by seven lovers in seven different cities. In all honesty, I’m a bit ‘meh’ about the concept, and I’m certainly more than a bit ‘meh’ about the bottle which, despite its hefty weight and magnetic cap (we love a magnetic cap, we do), is just, dare I say…..ugly? 😐

Anyway, aesthetically challenging packaging aside, the Seven Lovers Collection shows that Carine Roitfeld certainly has taste when it comes to perfume and she has used it wisely when collaborating with perfumers Aurélien Guichard, Yann Vasnier and Pascal Gaurin, to create her collection. Out of the seven, I’d say four were interesting (George, Lawrence, Har-Wai and Orson), which isn’t a bad hit rate, let’s be honest. My favourite by far was George, which is inspired by an encounter in a bookshop in London. I must ask Carine which bookshops she’s been visiting because they certainly sound like a lot more fun than your average Waterstones! George is a modern chypre that harks back to some wonderful green scents from the past. I’m obsessed – so much so, in fact, I can forgive that bloody bottle (I promise not to mention it again)…..well, almost.

Comme des Garçons is a brand that gets a pretty regular rotation in my wardrobe. In fact, I’d go as far saying that it would would quite be odd for a week to go by without me picking out one of their scents to wear. For me, they strike that perfect balance between novel and innovative, and pleasant and wearable, which means that I reach for them quite a lot, mostly for those in the regular lineup such as the original Parfum, 2, 2 Man (I just topped up on my bottles of both the 2s, in fact), Amazingreen and Blackpepper. Long story short, I enjoy the brand and the scents are staples for me.

With that in mind, a new Comme des Garçons fragrance is somewhat of an event for me – I’m always intrigued to see what they do and whilst not all are ones I adore (see Floriental, Copper and Concrete), I do always enjoy how they subvert expectations. A Comme des Garçons fragrance always has something to say and their latest launch, Rouge (currently exclusive to Dover Street Market and launching nationwide next year), is no exception. Described, in typical CdG style as an “encounter between religious fervour and earthen reality” Rouge attacks the the colour red from surprising angles, using a central note of beetroot to present something so familiar in an entirely unfamiliar way. To say it’s interesting and unique is somewhat of an understatement…

Through deliberate overdose and rapturous expression, Rouge presents an unexpected unison. an olfactive congregation of desire archetypal associations of the colour Rouge seen and subverted through the distinctly disruptive gaze of Comme des Garçons.

Comme des Garçons
Please note that this post may contain indirect references to trauma and abuse that certain readers may find triggering.

I can recall the image so vividly. She stood there, framed by the deep oak of our front door. Her hair, bobbed and big in that ’90s style (not quite a ‘Rachel’, but almost), fizzed with hairspray. The dress was an event – a floor length Lacroix gown, in black with panels of lace (also black, of course). Her ears and her left shoulder sparkled with giant Butler & Wilson spiders – costume jewels that made me think of Morticia Addams. I can see their diamond-cut shapes catching the light, even now. But what I remember the most is the scent – an atomic cloud of Chanel’s Allure that announced her arrival and made sure she was present, in some way, long after her departure.

This is the most prominent memory I hold of my mother. It is bathed in scent – she is framed by a silhouette of Chanel, and if you remove the dress, the jewels and the person, what’s left is still a vivid picture of the person I remember. The shadow of a person painted by the fragrance she wore, almost like an olfactory negative of the space she filled at that time. In this image she is glamorous, she is smiling, she is kind, she is a mother.

The memory is not real.