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One can accuse the perfume industry of many things, but one cannot call it unproductive. There are now over 2,000 launches per year and it feels almost as if a new brand comes into being every single day.  Now, I’m not sure how I feel about all this olfactory noise – part of me thinks the more the merrier, after all, it’s exciting to smell new things all of the time.  But the other half – the grumpy cynical half (sometimes he’s not a half and verges on a whole, I’ll be honest) – thinks that all this noise makes it difficult to discern what is good or not. How can one find the magic needle in all that hay? Sometimes it’s hard.

Perfume brands come from all sorts of places; from perfumers who want to go it alone and perfume fanatics who stumble into the industry wide-eyed and ambitious. My cynical side tells me to include the fact that brands can also come from entrepreneurs who have no passion for the subject but an eye for making money too, so let’s indulge him for a moment.  In my experience though, the brands that work most successfully are those that come from people who are passionate about perfume (whoever they may be, perfumers, industry insiders or outsiders) but also understand the realities of the industry and retail. Ostens is one such brand – it comes from two industry veterans, two people that not only love perfume, but understand it too – two people who understand the challenges consumers have relating to perfume and have crafted a brand that makes it both accessible and experimental.

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So here we are, on the very last day of 2018! This year has been an odd one – the world feels as if it is collapsing in on itself and for that reason, it has been quite stressful. Personally and professionally it has been turbulent – lots of great ups and some downs too. So it’s nice to do something as frivolous as focus on the best and worst perfume of the year.

That’s right, it’s time for my annual Candies – my virtual award show for the greatest and the, err, not so greatest perfumes of the year. Here you will find my ten favourite perfumes, with other awards such as Best Flanker and the much-coveted Sour Candy, which is awarded to the worst perfume of the year. So pour yourself a drink, it’s gonna be a long night – JK, you’ll breeze through it in ten minutes, promise.

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There are a few perfume ‘genres’ that I have never really ‘got’: green, woody and amber. Well, with time (and through this blog) I’ve learned to appreciate green and to love woods, but for the most part amber still eludes me. Amber, for those of you not familiar with it, is a blend of benzoin (a balsamic resin obtained from the bark of a number of trees within the Styrax genus), labdanum (a sticky brown resin sourced from shrubs) and vanilla that creates a warm, glowing sweetness that is soft, fluffy and gauzy in texture. It is the backbone of big oriental fragrances such as Shalimar, but it’s also used as a standalone theme in many modern perfumes.

More than being an iconic perfume genre, the amber is also the perfect scent for this cold weather. I like to think of ambers as winter warmers – those gloriously toasty and enveloping scents that get stuck in one’s winter scarf, wafting a hedonistic aura around the wearer. So as the winter draws in, it makes sense for everyone to have an amber in their wardrobe. But what happens when you don’t really like amber? Or, you think that you don’t like amber?

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Ever since couturier Paul Poiret launched the perfume house Parfums de Rosine in 1911, fashion and fragrance have always had an unbreakable link – a seam and a stitch that has brought them together. Today fashion houses, high street brands, and all that sits in between, have fragrances in their portfolio, attempting to, with varying degrees of success, distill their brand identities into scents that provide an accessible entry point for the consumer.

Founded in 1994, AllSaints, the London-based fashion brand, has always moved to the beat of their own drum, so it’s no surprise that it has taken them a long time to get into the fragrance market. AllSaints is all about a free-spirited coolness – an easy, ‘I wear what I want’ spirit. With a price point elevated above many high street brands, AllSaints has always struck me as a place one goes for pillars in their wardrobe – investments like a leather jacket that goes with anything, perhaps. It’s a brand that favours neutral colours, with an aesthetic that enjoys contrasts – juxtapositions of hard and smooth, of wood and metal.

With their debut collection of fragrances, AllSaints has captured the laid back, London-spirit of their brand in three scents that “contrast, complement and contradict”.  The fragrances – Sunset Riot, Metal Wave and Incense City – are housed in structured square bottles topped with concrete caps. The boxes and labels each feature a polaroid negative of a flower – a design touch intended to showcase the link between fragrance and memory. It’s a collection that has been put together with clear thought and vision, and truthfully, this shows in the fragrances themselves.