The “best” of 2012 were… ?

No doubt, this title is misleading. I don’t know if I’ve sampled more than a couple of new releases this year. What would be the point? They are either super-expensive niche, which at their best are not as good as vintage (to me) or they are boring/generic/nauseating/inferior (to vintage). I did try Hillary Duff’s With Love, though that one is from 2006. Here is my review of it (on, in case you question my ability to “call them as I see them” in the context of recent releases:

“Not too far from being unisex! Speaking of the drydown only, this is not too sweet and there isn’t much of a floral presence. The dominant theme is fruity/spicy with a nice wood note in the background (has some sandalwood-like qualities). The fruity/spicy element has a bit of a “dark” quality that is really good, and I don’t get any “synthetic” aspect to it either! The strength and longevity are great. I’m very surprised but definitely “in a good way.” Sure it’s not complex but for what the perfumers had to work with this gets an A+.”

The drydown of With Love has some similarities with vintage Jacomo de Jacomo, though WL is woodier and less rich/deep, as one would expect (though WL’s drydown is stronger). The blog (in their review section) has this to say about WL: “It is almost but not quite dark, ditto on the spicy, but it has a pleasing warmth, and once the top notes are gone, it doesn’t smell obviously geared towards the teen market. Neil Morris noted recently in the Boston Herald that “a guy could wear this”. A guy willing to wait through the top notes, to be sure, but still, for a celebrity scent, it isn’t quite what you’d expect. You could easily find a more unusual or elegant fragrance, but for a celebrity scent, it qualifies on both counts…”

You can probably guess where I’m going with this, which involves the question, what should someone who has many vintage scents (both “men’s” and “women’s) think about new releases, especially the “designer quality” ones? Are they worth sampling? I really hate to lose the better part of a day sampling something I’m not going to enjoy, and I know I am going to be unhappy about most of them if I were to sample 90+% of them. Because of this, I think I’ll talk about the scents I “discovered” this year that exceeded expectations.

The first and best was Rumba by Balenciaga (not the Lapidus version). This is incredibly strong and really smells like some exotic “Eastern” city. The incense/sandalwood is high quality and strong, balanced out with a complex fruit accord, a slightly soapy/spicy accord, and a heavy animalic/floral one. You can use this as a room spray too. It blows the doors off all niche I’ve tried (by comparison, for example, L’Air du Desert Marocain is simple and crude). It goes beyond “unisex,” because it smells like a place rather than a personal fragrance.

I also discovered that vintage Samsara EdP is great (with a natural smelling sandalwood note that is just right for the composition), making the reformulation look like dollar store scents, other than being stronger than those. And there was vintage Diva by Ungaro, sort of like a “feminine” version of Kouros but with better structure. I’m on the fence with the first Salvador Dali scent, which is an EdP marketed to women (I believe my formulation is the first, if there were more than one). There’s a great sandalwood note but something is a bit off, perhaps some castoreum, which I tend to dislike in more than very small amounts. Otherwise, this one is really good, and again, more or less “unisex” (drydown).

On the “men’s” side of the aisle, there was an old Dunhill Cologne bottle that contained a scent with a powdery, though “masculine” oriental, nothing at all like the most recent formulation of Dunhill for Men (or a vintage aftershave formulation, which was like the recent DfM), but very good. I also enjoyed ST Dupont Pour Homme, with its contrast between a Declaration by Cartier type accord and a “feminine” sweet/ambery one and look forward to what subsequent wearings will reveal. I was able to try the original version of Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme and found it rich and natural, though a bit simple. I’m still not sure about this one. Perhaps the biggest pleasant surprise was Les Copains’ Pour Homme, which I think smells like the original formulation of Yatagan (based upon others’ description of it, since I have yet to obtain a sample). It smooths out the rough/harsh edges of today’s Yatagan and has the depth and richness to make the idea work.

Well, I don’t want to go on and on here (need to save some “material” for future posts, after all), so I will close by advising those who have some spare time and a few extra dollars to go on a “vintage hunt.” The recent regulations might mean that you will soon see some scents you can buy for a few dollars at the local thrift store selling for thousands at a major auction house. The rich, we all know, want what they want and a few thousand dollars means very little to them. Once the word gets out that if you don’t get your favorite scent now you will either pay dearly or be faced with an awful reformulation, we might see a repeat of the famous Dutch tulip “mania” of the 1630s !

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