Orange Blossom
Orange Blossoms in Watercolour via Watercolours With Life

I don’t know about you but I am most definitely suffering from the January blues. Christmas and New Year have gone meaning two things; 1) the weather is just going to get worse (boo); and 2) we all have to go back to work for the foreseeable future (double boo). It’s at times like this that one looks forward to summer, when things seem that little bit more joy-filled and fancy free.

If there’s one ingredient that speaks the words of summer it’s orange blossom. To me it is the smell of the elements of summer, It is the olfactory depiction of the air filled with life; the pollen on the breeze, the flight of the bees and insects, and the hot sticky skin of all humans and animals that live for the sun’s warmth and sustenance.

As a continuation of my ‘Guide To‘ series, and to give you all some much-needed Vitamin C, I would like to share with you my list of reference orange blossoms. These fragrances are the ones that I feel that any person exploring the note of orange blossom should pay attention to. It is by no means a conclusive list and as with the other guides in the series (see Tuberose, Lavender and Oud) it is very much a work in progress with new discoveries to be added as an when it is deemed necessary.

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…

The Beast Within
The Beast Within

Some perfumes come surrounded by so my hyperbole that it is impossible to approach them with an open mind. The perfume community does have a habit of hyping things up to god-like levels so that when one comes to trying something regarded as the divine ambrosia it’s almost too easy to be completely disappointed.

Still, disappointment isn’t such a bad thing, after all it allows us to reaffirm our tastes and what we do or don’t like. Anyway, sometimes it’s good to stand out from the pack, you might be miffed at the time but individuality is something to be celebrated. But there are times when a whole heap of hype can be substantiated and one fine example would be Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Absolue Pour le Soir.

“When the night takes on its own life, the tempo changes. Take a long, languorous breath. Linger till dawn. Keep your head in the stars. You’re suspended in time.”

Absolue Pour le Soir (Absolute for the Evening) is a “more concentrated and sophisticated” version of Kurkdjian’s Cologne Pour le Soir. If I had to sum it up in three words I would choose; “beautiful, filthy beast” because it is a fragrance that has the power to shock due to its strong dichotomy of ugliness and beauty.

APOM
APOM (A Part of Me)

As we go through life we share pieces of ourselves with those around us, building relationships and leaving impressions on those we encounter. Our smells and the fragrances we wear, just like our actions, act as time capsules that tie people’s memories to us like silver threads. It is this idea that inspired Francis Kurkdjian to create APOM Pour Femme and Pour Homme.

“APOM (A Part of Me), a bit of oneself that one leaves on others. A relationship inspired from the beauty of the Orient: movement of people, flavors, colours, and scents rediscovered from Lebanon. A combination of softness and strength.”

Both masculine and feminine APOMs centre around orange blossom, a flower that evokes sensuality and closeness, and cedar wood, a material that speaks of arid landscapes. In typical Kurkdjian style both fragrances are exceptional examples of their style and the duo itself offers a stark contrast of both softness (Femme) and strength (Homme).

Having spent a good deal of time with most of the Maison Francis Kurkdjian line I feel as if I am well-versed enough to be able to pick favourites. I think OUD, Aqua Universalis and Absolue Pour le Soir (review coming soon) are standouts, perhaps because they are so bold and unique, but it is in the subtlety of APOM Pour Femme and Pour Homme that I have found real enjoyment.

Aqua Universalis
Universal Water

Last week, after six weeks of painful but also enjoyable unemployment, I started a brand new, and very exciting job (hence the lack of posts). Now like any sane fume-nerd my initial though on gaining new employment was “what perfume am I going to wear on my first day?!” That’s right, not “will I like the job?” or even “what shall I wear”, it was, as it always is, all about the perfume.

So why not just where whatever I fancy on day one? Well the thing is, when entering a new environment it is important for one to ease people in gently, it does not pay to projectile vomit ones personality in people’s general direction. I have found that it’s always best to go for something relatively low key that is still perfume-y enough to let people know that you mean business, and what do you know a few days before my first day just the thing landed on my doorstep – Aqua Universalis by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.

If you’re not familiar with the idea behind über talented perfumer Francis Kurkdjian’s solo project then you should get to familiarising yourself pretty quick because you’re missing out. The house provides an ‘all for one’ fragrant shopping experience with fragrances for the morning and evening, and wonderful scented things for the body (leather bracelets et al) and the home (candles, incense papers, laundry detergents and scented bubbles). With his ‘Maison’ Kurkdjian is selling a completely scented lifestyle like no other.

Aqua Universalis is Kurkdjian’s take on the much maligned genre of laundry clean fragrances. Made to fulfil the average consumer’s desire to feel clean and shower fresh, a style of fragrance that very often ends up producing cocktails of vile, strong musks and calone that sends fumenerds heading for the hills. Aqua Universalis is not one of these fragrances, it is an intelligent and natural take on ‘clean’ that most importantly still smells like a perfume.

OUD 1
“Where most ouds are coloured in deep reds or rich browns, Kurkdjian’s is hued a pure cerulean blue”

Perfume, like fashion, follows trends and these trends often relate to particular styles of perfumery or even individual notes. We very often see the same genus of perfumes coming on to the market at any one time, for instance fruity florals are everywhere at the moment and I challenge you to find 10 perfumes released in the last year that don’t contain pink pepper. But as with trends in fashion, things in the world of perfumery don’t last long before tastes change once again and a new style comes along. We are fickle creatures after all.

The problem with trends is that they very quickly become boring, and this has very much been the case with oud. Everyone has an oud, everybody from Guerlain to Creed, even Ferrari has one… (no, I’m not joking). A quick search of the Basenotes Fragrance Directory shows that there are in fact 199 fragrances containing the word oud in the title and a 148 which list the noble rot as a note. One can easily come to the conclusion that there are definitely too many ouds and it is easy to become overwhelmed by and even bored with the trend.

Of course, just because there are a lot of ouds on the market doesn’t mean that there isn’t still room for ingenuity and excellent craft, in fact it is quite the opposite, there are some really good ouds out there (just see The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to Oud). Last year Mona di Orio created Oud, a wonderfully unique take on oud, and this year Francis Kurkdjian does the same, and his offering could not be more unique.

OUD is the latest perfume to join the Maison Francis Kurkdjian lineup and it really is something very special. Francis Kurkdjian says of his oud offering: “My oud belongs to a marble palace engraved with gold, set under a dark-blue-star-studded night. It is the fine sand of the capricious sand dune, a fragrant harmattan in the silence of the desert.” Where most ouds are coloured in deep reds or rich browns, Kurkdjian’s is hued a pure cerulean blue and right from the beginning this OUD makes it clear that it is not your typical oud perfume.