After a year like no other in my lifetime, or likely in human history, it seemed like as good a time as any to respond to the “Covid Blues” with expressions of the sensory variety. Along the way a handful of amazing perfume shops and vendors really helped shape this journey for me (even though I find the word ‘journey’ a bit hokey). The folks behind-the-scenes at Ave Parfum, Luckyscent, Perfumology + Tigerlily all go above and beyond to curate amazing options for all stateside. Now, just before I dive into some of their incredible finds I wanted to mention that we will post the first-ever Notetaking Best Of 2020 on December 30th. The list will represent what stood out for my nose, and since this is our first time at this particular rodeo, these fragrances will represent the entirety of the past decade (next year we will focus only on new releases for the list). I guarantee something quite diverse and unlike most other lists you will find out there on ye olde web.
TWELVE DAYS BEFORE XMAS: These four businesses manage to take the guessing out of the process of locating the best in perfume offerings from around the globe. Each have their own specialties, are extremely professional and quite thoughtful to perfume enthusiasts (and anyone simply looking for a gift that keeps giving). It made perfect sense to ask each of them to contemplate some of the most exciting standout discoveries in a year of far less foot traffic in the brick and mortar establishments, a most unusual presidential election and a pandemic that is ongoing. But as they say, ‘it will get better’. It better! Each of these vendors, and people behind-the-scenes have brought me a smile in ’20 — and to many fragheads, especially when the going got very tough. I think of them as ‘2nd Responders’ or simply, sensory gurus you can trust. For them I am quite thankful, and here they talk about some special works of artful perfumery that really stood out despite all odds this year! Keep the holiday season bright, spritz on your favorite scent and check out these expert discoveries!….Support local business.
I never would have thought I could fall so hard for a strong tonka fragrance, but Liz Moores has done something alchemical with this one. Bengale Rouge is so warm and buttery, it makes me want to drink it. I wear it when I want to feel spoiled. It’s become my favorite Papillon perfume. The top notes of Awake by NŌSE are like a rush of crisp air that give me some sort of high. The camphor and evergreens with a drydown of what seems like white amber transport me straight to Russia in winter. I’ve developed a deep interest in Russian history and culture in the past few years. I enjoy wearing Awake when I am watching documentaries or historical dramas. Out of the thousands of options in my possession, I consistently reach for the 2019 reinterpretation of Blocki’s In Every Season as an everyday fragrance. When I need something on the fly and can’t decide, it comes to mind again and again. The white florals and chiffon musk are effortlessly elegant and make me feel put-together, not overdone.
– Elizabeth Rose, AVÉ Parfum
Despite the immense challenges of 2020, it may well have been one of the best years of new fragrance releases we can recall here at Luckyscent. Perhaps due to the physical and emotional hardships, the sensory joy of a perfect new scent has never been so important, and we’ve been delighted to discover a variety of wonderful and surprising new fragrances to help us through these unprecedented times. Scent Bar manager Steve is completely taken with the soapy/metallic bite of Etat Libre d’Orange‘s Exit The King, which he describes as “an old school barbershop chypre with a modern edge.” Scent expert Dana is in love with By Kilian‘s Angel’s Share, an ode to the cognac on which Kilian Hennessey’s family fortune was built: “I’m a sucker for booze scents, but what makes this one stand out is the balance of sweetness, oak, vanilla, and spices. When I’ve worn it I keep getting whiffs throughout the day and realizing how good I smell!” And Luckyscent.com manager Alex is obsessed with the new Parfum Edition of Di Ser‘s Kagiroi: “the original combination of Japanese citrus, aromatics, and hinoki wood was aleady distinct, invigorating, and uniquely eastern, but the addition of rich agarwood to the Parfum lends a whole new dimensionality and sophistication. A perfect way to escape your own four walls even during lockdown.”
– Alex, Dana + Steve at Luckyscent.com
Perfumology received a lot of fragrances for review this year. It is an honor and a pleasure for me to evaluate them but can be excruciating to say no or to delay fragrances from coming into our shop. Each one gets the same treatment – one spray on the back of the hand, then a single spray on the wrist another day. Narrowing to a list of three fragrances that caught me this year is difficult. At least a dozen more at our perfumery belong on this list, like Zoologist Musk Deer or Kajal Lamar.
Bukhara by Gallivant is one of my favorite new discoveries this year. I heard excitement in Nick Steward‘s voice that I haven’t heard from another creative director in a long time. Gallivant was one of our first independent brands, so I expected the brand would make another lovable eau de parfum. The day we received our sample was a whirlwind day shipping orders in late summer, my body was running a little warm and active. Pear reacted perfectly on my skin at the open, balanced by the caraway. Hours later, Bukhara’s heart features orris, one of Nick’s favorite notes, came out to play. This is the part that struck me. Hours after working at the perfumery, I noticed wafts of jasmine and iris in the air that expressing themselves in the happiest floral of my year. The soft musk and woody soul of the perfume worked well and provided a comforting dry down. Unique, with nothing out of place. Violet Shot by Olfactive Studio… Alright, listen… I knew about this one for a while and received an early sample from Céline Verlure. So, I had a massive amount of time to get excited between the moment I first wore it to when the new Sepia perfumes were released a few weeks ago. That time has only made me get more excited as I got to know the perfume. Citrus, pink pepper, and cut grass are the first impression, which wowed me at first sniff. It brings a smile to my face every time. Egyptian violet leaf and saffron sing at the heart, continuing Olfactive Studio’s direction of spectacular green fragrances (like Panorama). A few hours of smiles later, vanilla, patchouli and labdanum play their part. The whole experience of wearing Violet Shot is fun for me. I love this perfume. Citron Boboli by Le Jardin Retrouvé, originally released in 1977, currently exclusively at Perfumology (which is a sin, more people should know about this). This is a delicate, vintage fragrance that I thoroughly enjoyed wearing like that transported me to visiting an Italian countryside with a dark drink in my hand. Perfumer Yuri Gutsatz has combined lemon, cloves, and peppers that provide a cheerful and bright citrus with bold spices. The transition from lemon to spice performs well on my skin, and many of our customers. I love it for an easy-reach fragrance that doesn’t mind the temperature or event. Citron Boboli always obliges a fun and friendly experience. Cuir de Russie also is another winner from Le Jardin Retrouvé.
– Nir Guy, Perfumology.com
2020 has been a challenging year for all, but we’ve found comfort in the beautiful work being released by extraordinary independent perfume houses. While the volume of releases may have diminished, the quality and originality certainly did not. Three of our 2020 favorites are Suede by Rook, Musk Deer by Zoologist and Decisions, Decisions by Imaginary Authors. Not for the faint of heart, Suede is daringly smoky and animalic, created by Nadeem Crowe, perfumer and ER doctor fighting on the frontlines of the pandemic. With Musk Deer, Victor Wong and Pascal Gaurin collaborated to recreate the scent of this nearly extinct creature in a dreamy vintage homage that is 100% vegan. And Josh Meyer‘s Decisions, Decisions is a thrilling blend of real tuberose absolute with sarsaparilla and labdanum — with 20% of proceeds being donated to Portland’s Black Resilience Fund.