Given the thousands of fragrances launched every year, picking a few favourites might seem like a daunting task. As a reviewer, I used to agonise over it, comparing my notes and checking the ratings I had given to the different fragrances I had sampled over the course of the year. Then I realised that although there is value to such an approach, the decision will always remain subjective. This year, I decided to take a look at the fragrances on my dressing table and simply select the ones I’ve worn the most. My list of 2018 favourites is personal, but since these five happen to be well-crafted and memorable, I have no qualms recommending them to others.
One of my most worn perfumes this year turned out to be Hermès Musc Pallida Essence de Parfum (£275 for 20ml essence). Part of the Middle East-inspired Hermessence 2018 collection, it interprets traditional ingredients such as rose and musk in a modern manner. Taking a cue from a classical eastern attar, Musc Pallida is oil based, but it feels silky and light on application and absorbs instantly. Two drops suffice to create a beautiful, long-lasting sillage. Perfumer Christine Nagel used iris, a cool note redolent of violet petals, and orris root to anchor her composition. The fragrance is elegant and polished, with the right degree of opulence.
Another fine but understated staple in my scent wardrobe was Parfum Satori Mizunara (¥17,280, about £121, for 50ml EDP). Satori Osawa was trained in the classical techniques of perfumery, but her aesthetic is wholly Japanese. She plays with elements and inspirations from both her native country and France, with memorable results. Mizunara pays tribute to the scent of Japanese oak, which is used to age whisky. Satori’s blend has a rich complexity suggested by a combination of woods with rosemary, sage and juniper. She then wraps each accord in the dark softness of labdanum, which makes Mizunara velvety and warm.
When I was in the mood to treat myself, I turned to Serge Lutens Dent de Lait (£160 for 100ml EDP). A nostalgic perfume bringing together the sweet delights of almond milk and coconut fudge, it nevertheless retains a dark character that is the trademark of the house. Dent de Lait opens on a soft note of fresh almonds and cherries and becomes warmer over time. My favourite part is the drydown, when the smoky incense rises in delicate swirls, alternating with the almond praline and musk. Dent de Lait is not your typical edible perfume, but one doesn’t turn to the maestro Lutens for the simple and ordinary.
Similarly unusual was my other discovery, Atelier Cologne Café Tuberosa ($150 for 100ml parfum). Generally, coffee notes in perfumery are hard to render without making the fragrance seem too aggressive. Café Tuberosa cleverly uses the dryness of patchouli, a leafy plant that smells of earth, hazelnuts and bitter honey, to evoke the complex scent of arabica. Another key note in the perfume is that of tuberose, a heady blossom. The creaminess of white flowers paired with the darkness of coffee makes for an addictive experience.
British artisanal house Ormonde Jayne was one of the first I discovered more than a decade ago when I first started studying perfumery. I was thrilled by the originality of its collection, which featured flowers such as tiare, rose, freesia and jasmine set into refined woody accords. This year, Ormonde Jayne’s creator Linda Pilkington launched Privé (£110 for 50ml EDP), a fragrance that reprises some of the hallmark elements of her house: flowers, herbs, musk and woods. The accord of gardenia, frangipani and freesia is inflected by sweet basmati rice and creamy sandalwood, creating an unexpected interplay of sensation – crisp and warm, fresh and rich, bright and smouldering. Privé unfolds slowly and, as it does so, it reveals yet another facet, be it a kiss of tonka bean or a green orange blossom whisper. I have a feeling that it has yet more secrets hidden in its layers than I’ve already discovered, so I’m definitely taking it with me into the new year.
Victoria Frolova has been writing her perfume blog boisdejasmin.com since 2005. Her explorations of fragrance touch upon all elements that make this subject rich and complex: science, art, literature, history and culture. Frolova is a recipient of three prestigious Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards for Editorial Excellence and, since receiving her professional perfumery training, has also been working as a fragrance consultant and researcher.