10 Best Fragrances of 2023 Karl Topham (l) and Michael Devine (r)
Now that you have heard from Ermano and me, (our best fragrances of 2023 here) and (The 10 Best Fragrances of 2023 here), Ida and Lauryn, WeareScentient and Nicoleta, we continue our Top Ten Best Perfumes 2023 overviews today with Sr. Editor Karl Topham who lives in the UK and Senior Contributor Michael Devine who resides in New Jersey. Their selections have one brand (Electimuss) overlap. Now it’s time to reveal their respective 10 best fragrances of 2023 –Michelyn Camen, Editor-in-Chief
My olfactive exploration of 2023 ushered in a deeper understanding of the big picture of the industry, I experienced the vastness of the ever-growing commercial realm and dustings of artisanal offerings. Much like the baking of a cake where the sponge foundations are laid by the big players whilst the icing is delicately added by independent perfumers. The juxtaposition of a glut of heady ambers holds sway in this realm and like an archaeologist digging for treasure, when one discovers a rare treasure, it is to be held dear to the heart. This year brought swathes of vanilla of varying approaches and qualities just like the ingredient’s myriad of aspects. This year also saw the rise of aesthetics over substance as brands strived for the most outrageous, ultra-lux or crazy presentation purely to catch the eye. Sorting the wheat from the chaff was a challenging proposition for me.
10 Best Fragrances of 2023
I would like to take this opportunity to mention that I missed out on visiting Pitti Fragranze so my opinions are based on what I had the chance to experience this year. My 10 Best Fragrances of 2023 are in no particular order:
10 Best Fragrances of 2023 collage by Olya©
Astrophil & Stella Shanghai 1930 (Arturetto Landi): Master Perfumer Arturetto Landi (Mane) has crafted a perfume of many layers, which reflects the history and vibrance of Shanghai’s glamorous era. Slightly herbal, somewhat narcotic via the use of tuberose, the perfume is infused with the aroma of succulent plums and mangoes leading to a heady combination of jasmine sambac and ylang-ylang. It is delicate yet deep with a beautiful base of vanilla and tonka bean. @astrophilstellaperfume
27 87 Per Se (Shyamala Maisondieu): Founder Romy Kowalewski celebrated 27 87’s seventh year with the launch of Per Se. The idea was to harken in modernity and evolution of perfumery to explore how a fragrance changes just as people do over time. Per Se has a cloud like structure, the use of aldehydes with orris and bamboo is novel to me, and the base note of angelica root marries the composition beautifully as it enhances the peppery and aromatic qualities also mirroring the musks utilised.@27_87 @shyamalamaisondieu
Ormonde Jayne Arabesque Ormonde Jayne Studio: Arabesque is a classic rose and oudh combination accented with blackcurrant and moss. Owner Linda Pilkington has woven a stunningly vibrant tapestry of saffron rose and patchouli to connect east meets west in a harmonious wearable scent which is both powerful and bright. @ormondejayne
Ex Nihilo Paris Blue Talisman (Jordi Fernandez): To celebrate their 10th anniversary, Ex Nihilo Paris launched their newest fragrance Blue Talisman. I was fortunate enough to experience it prior to going live this year at Harrods in London. This versatile wear can suit any occasion. What differentiates it from the crowd is the luscious pear note in the opening which beautifully compliments the ambrofix (Givaudan) in the base. It feels extremely modern and is a superb example of how to marry fruits and woods. @exnihiloparis
Amouage Jubilation 40 (Bertrand Duchaufour): This eagerly awaited incarnation of the original Jubilation XXV keeps the structure of its namesake whilst amping up certain aspects of it. Chief Creative Officer Renaud Salmon wanted to pay homage to the original, respecting the structure and once again Amouage enlisted master perfumer Monsieur Duchaufour to evaluate and enhance the key characteristic of blackberry in the opening and for Jubilation 40 he decided to pair it with blackcurrant. I must say that Jubilation 40 has some of the biggest transitions throughout the course of wearing a fragrance that I have personally experienced. The heart of Scotch Broom and frankincense brings a distinct flavour of honeyed tobacco, whilst the base unleashes a deep accord of woods and a touch of the animalic. @amouageofficial
Matiere Premiere Vanilla Powder( Aurelien Guichard): I cannot deny the sensuality and power of this fragrance. It may not be for everybody but in my opinion Monsieur Guichard has taken the deep facets of Madagascan vanilla and paired them with a sultry coconut and ambroxan to deliver an explosion of goodness. The Palo Santo just keeps things in check to give a lighter touch and without this Vanilla Powder could go over the edge but in M. Guichard’s hands this perfume is majestic. (aureliengichard) @matierepremiereparfums
Electimuss London Vanilla Edesia (Cecile Zarokian): Electimuss London, have really pushed the boundaries of perfumery this year and both Vanilla Edesia and Aquila Absolute hit the mark for me. Vanilla Edesia made my list based on two facts. Firstly, it is orchestrated in a way that vanilla is the central theme which a huge array of ingredients compliment and dance around it. Secondly the quality of raw materials is of a very high standard. Vanilla Edesia makes one think throughout its journey, is it fresh, spicy, gourmand or woody? The use of cumin certainly adds a spicier edge. However, the combination of frankincense, heliotrope and rose around 30 mins in brings a sensuality I was not expecting. A stunning creation. @electimusslondon @cecilezarokianparfumeur
Cherigan Paris Fiesta Habana: Discovered at Esxence this year, Cherigan Fiesta Habana is a celebration of Havana, Cuba. It is a riotous perfume which brings together the nocturnal vibes of the city and transports us to the Roaring Twenties. The olfactive immersion is immediate with cigar smoke, dark rum and marihuana. Delving deeper the chocolate facets of immortelle mixed with tonka bean and sandalwood give a creamy and sumptuous tonality. This is a must for those who love a dark and boozy scent profile and the performance is superb – the perfect party perfume. @cheriganparis
Plume Impression, Royal Bourbon (Amandine Galliano): Another amazing find at Esxence was Plume Impression, Royal Bourbon. Thickly laced with rum this scent speaks of coziness, warming oneself by the hearth and listening to tales of bygone eras. This is a serious take on spices and alcohol with a bitter sweetness which keeps enticing one to smell its intoxicating elegance. The initial surprise of licorice which works beautifully with cinnamon and ginger giving way to a heart of tobacco and caramel; soothing and warming, it’s a fire crackling composition with hidden depth. The vanilla is not sickly and almost tempers this ambitious and explosive mélange of ingredients. @plumeimpression
By Killian Smoking Hot (Mathieu Nardin): A fusion of intriguing notes hit me on smelling this take on an apple hookah. Smoking shisha is not something I am experienced with. However, to my nose this fragrance makes me reminisce taking in the delectable scents of Christmas Cake, the combination of spices and booze mixed with my father’s predilection for imbibing the odd cigar in the festive season wafting through the air. The apple note is intriguing as it has a twist of cassis to me. The cinnamon is definitely evident and while I do not pick up on moss per se, there is certainly a verdant aspect running throughout the composition which holds the vanilla bourbon in check. @killianparis @mat_nd
Most Innovative Perfume House: Sana Jardin Championing Beyond Sustainability.
Socially conscious and environmentally responsible, Sana Jardin’s philosophy of ‘sustainable luxury’ opened the discussion of how perfume could be created in a way that would be beneficial to the co-operatives of harvesters and help them flourish independently, utilizing recyclable materials such as compost and waste flowers discarded by factories. Founder Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed blazed the trail for other perfume brands to follow and now in an era where companies strive for low carbon footprints, the blueprint laid out by Sana Jardin has been taken on by other socially and environmentally conscious organisations. @sanajardin
10 Best Fragrances of 2023 Honourable Mention: Because we could only have 10 on our lists, all five below are deserving of an award
Soma Parfums Serene: I do enjoy citrus scents which have a touch of complexity and Soma Serene delivers. It has an upscale but relaxed vibe. The lime and mint perfectly balance around bergamot in the opening, geranium keeps the sparkle going whilst basil adds the herbal aspect. This transitions into creamy and musky territory in the base courtesy of sandalwood, cedar and musk and a subtle warmth emanates from the use of ambroxan. @somaparfums
Francesca Bianchi Byzantine Amber (Francesca Bianchi): Thick, dense and full of splendour, Byzantine Amber gives one a rarefied experience of what the smell of Constantinople would have been like in the middle ages. The spices of the region come forth in the form of cinnamon, the church like incense wafting throughout the grand halls and the deeply rich resins utilised such as benzoin, labdanum and styrax bring across the golden hues of Orthodox iconography.
Scentologia Syn.ergy (Pierre Constantin Guerros): Tropical scents have been prevalent this year and Scentologia Syn.ergy is the best of this genre I have experienced this year. The lush fruits burst across the opening then there is a spark of spice and heat from saffron, a touch of the gourmand via almond all this on a nuclear base of musks, cedar and moss. Mass-appealing but done excellently. @scentologia_perfumes
Thameen London Bravi(Bruno Jovanovic): This was the most intriguing release of 2023 from Thameen London in my humble opinion. The note breakdown should not work on paper. However, the wearing is a subtle blend of spicy, floral, gourmand aspects which is pleasant. Honey and tuberose present a distinct mix, the ginger gives a little freshness. As the perfume transitions it becomes creamier due to the vanilla and walnut milk. @thameenfragrance @cchonguk
Le Labo Myrrhe 55: New to the City Exclusives range and with 55 ingredients thus the numerical reference in its name, it is a warm and resinous chypre perfume. However, the florals lift the composition. The myrrh being front and center supported by oud and ambergris accords which contain synthetic compounds aligning Le Labo’s vision as a vegan brand.
Karl Topham, Senior Editor
In 2023 more than ever, we’re bombarded by stimuli—be it turning on the television, doom-scrolling through social media, or listening to the person next to us at the supermarket yelling into a speakerphone. It’s becoming harder than ever to find solace; that’s why it’s more important than ever to find a source of serenity and escape. Some of the most precious things in life are invisible: empathy, love, faith, grace and … perfume. In these turbulent times, there’s nothing wrong with turning to art, invisible or otherwise, to remind us of the beauty in this world or to transport us to the world we envision. In selecting my top 10 fragrances for 2023, I noticed a pattern. These fragrances take me back, take me on a journey, or take me to a place where art is the ferryman. I’m grateful to have this understanding and grateful to the artists behind these creations who’ve shared their craft with us in the ineffable, invisible, unspoken language of the soul.
Michael’s 10 Best Fragrances of 2023 collage by Michael
Creed Absolu Aventus (Jean Christophe Herault): I still have fond memories of getting my bottle of Aventus at NYC’s Creed Boutique on launch day in 2010 and I’m thankful to have experienced this legendary creation when it was new, before the flood of aspirants who turned this innovative olfactive architecture into its own category of perfumery. Sure, there’s a gazillion copies of Aventus, but to my nose, only a Creed can smell like a Creed. Absolu Aventus calls to mind a full orchestra playing “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby” an octave down from the original key. And I’ll happily sing along! @jeanchristopheherault @creedfragrance
Xerjoff Empiryan: It boggles my mind that Xerjoff’s latest entry into their “Kemi Blue” line isn’t sending the fragrance community into a frenzy. What a sexy concoction! This tobacco-driven stunner, with notes of cypriol, tobacco leaves, Atlas cedar, incense from Oman, patchouli from Singapore and vanilla from Madagascar is a fragrant excursion to exotic lands and ancient traditions. This could easily be the second car in the Naxos hype-train. @xerjoff
Electimuss London Gladiator Oud (Julien Rasquinet): Stepping into 2023’s olfactive arena comes Gladiator Oud, a rugged composition that pays homage to the spirit of ancient warriors. While Mr. Rasquinet’s inspiration may have been a clash of swords, the result is pure harmony. Notes of honey, hay, and saffron set the stage in hues of brown and gold while the fierceness of oud, patchouli and vetiver enter the coliseum with great fanfare. Crafted with meticulous precision, this perfume artfully captures the essence of a gladiator—winning. @electimusslondon @julienrasquinet
For the Scent of It Grand Soleil (Michael Schrammel): Grand Soleil, from artisan perfumer (and ÇaFleureBon Notes from The Lab editor) Michael Schrammel was released just in time for summer and provided the redolent threshold I needed to escape the real world, relax my furrowed brow and allow myself to unwind. With its top burst of bergamot, lemon, goji berry and Shiso leaf, Grand Soleil has one of the most vibrant and sparkling openings I’ve ever experienced; it’s utterly transportive. I wore this fragrance for every minute of my lakeside summer vacation, liquid-linking the scent to an idyll retreat that I can now carry with me throughout the year. Moreover, Grand Soleil further establishes Michael Schrammel as a creative force who is capable of producing wonderous compositions in any genre. @forthescentofit
Guerlain Habit Rouge Privé (Delphine Jelk): Habit Rouge, in its various concentrations and formulations, has been a stalwart homebase in my perfume journey and has remained in my all-time top 10. In recent years, Guerlain has made efforts to modernize this 1965 classic, such as they did with last year’s Habit Rouge L’Instinct, a verdant admixture that lost the forest for the cannabis plants. But, with Rouge Privé, Ms Jelk has taken a paradoxical step forward in recognizing and enhancing the time-honored elements which made it so wonderful in the first place, particularly emphasizing Habit Rouge’s unique pairing of leather and lemon fused into the comforting familiarity of the signature “Guerlainade.” There’s a refined sexiness to Habit Rouge Privé, like a trip to the barbershop before date-night. @guerlain @delphinejelk
Gallagher Fragrances Purple Powder (Daniel Gallagher): With prominent notes of sweet acorn, toasted cinnamon, hay absolute, patchouli and Madagascar vanilla absolute, Purple Powder may not be that purpley nor that powdery—but it is magnificent. Soon after its launch, Purple Powder quickly became a favorite among some of the team here at ÇaFleureBon, (Michelyn just awarded it in her top 10 fragrances of 2023). As I wrote in my recent review, “The perfume manages to embody the color’s duality—regal yet approachable, calming yet vibrant. It’s also surprisingly cohesive and intentional. I wore Gallagher Fragrances Purple Powder for a week straight (unusual behavior for a fragrance addict), partly to prepare for a learned review, but partly because it’s absolutely addictive and easily one of the best releases of 2023.” @gallagherfragrances
Roja Parfums Taif Oud (Roja Dove): Roja Parfums’ uplifting and soul-stirring Taif Aoud (which I once referred to as “atomized optimism”) was originally an exclusive to London’s Fortnum and Mason, but has now, thankfully, gotten a wider release. This is a glorious addition to Roja’s Aoud collection that honors Taif, the summer capital of Saudi Arabia, and the eponymous roses that grow specific to this mystical region. Beyond the lush rose-upon-rose accords, the simmering scent of Frankincense and Oud Bakhoors ground this regal composition in a meditative abstraction. @rojaparfums
Rogue Perfumery Targhee Forest (Manuel Cross):Taking cues from classics like Pour Monsieur, Heritage and Patou Pour Homme, Manuel Cross has once again used his masterful understanding of the golden era(s) to create something entirely new and exciting for a modern audience who appreciates vintage perfumery. Targhee Forest smells like all of those classics while smelling like none of them. I’d imagine this is what the boardrooms of TV’s Mad Men series would smell like—minus the cigarette smoke. According to Mr. Cross, Targhee Forest (the actual National Forest) near his home is his personal escape, to wit: “I leave stress behind and spend time with nature. The silence of the forest cuts me off from the commotion at home as if the commotion had never begun.” Whether you escape to the forest or escape to the past, this timeless creation is for you. @rogueperfumery
Aaron Terence Hughes Unicorn Elixir (Aaron Terence Hughes): Sure, Aaron Terence Hughes is a polarizing figure and his cheekily-named concoctions might melt the Mitsouko off a classicist, but beyond the urban flash is a gifted perfumer who creates fragrances that smell really, good. While he may list notes of “MDMA” or, as in the case of a new release with a name I can’t bear to include here, a note of cocaine, there’s something actually addictive in the ATH DNA. Just when I thought I couldn’t get enough, along comes Unicorn Elixir, his first attar. With 35% rose absolute infused with a proprietary “Unicorn” oud at 5%, with additional notes of raspberry, sandalwood, patchouli, guaiac wood and vanilla, Unicorn Elixir further proves that Aaron Terrence Hughes is the real deal, a serious perfumer who selects and respects the finest raw materials. It’s been years since I’ve experienced a composition that moved me to tears, but the sheer beauty of Unicorn Elixir touched my soul. @aaronterencehughes
Solstice Scents Upstairs Window(Angela St. John):Fittingly, it was Solstice Scents ’Manor which was my doorway into the olfactive dreamscape of Foxcroft, the fictional town which serves as inspiration for many of the brand’s stately creations. Over the years, we’ve explored the manor’s attic, the kitchen, the library and more, each represented by a hauntingly beautiful perfume. Just in time for Halloween came Upstairs Window, which Angela St. John (the creative force behind the brand whose writing is as magnificent as her fragrances) describes as “a warm delicately spiced pools of glowing amber combine with rivulets of pure golden beeswax and liquefied dragon’s blood resin, wrapped in a sheer veil of fog.” It’s all that and two stories more. @solsticescents
Meo Fusciuni Studio via Instagram
Best Discovery: Meo Fusciuni Parfums
While ooh-ing and aah-ing over 2023’s newness, I found myself late to another party. This was the year I finally discovered the already-expansive library from the Italian luxury house of Meo Fusciuni. From the spellbinding Narcotico to the shadowy Notturno to the heart-wrenching beauty of Odor 53, Giuseppe Imprezzabile has created a line-up with more than a little magic. These are creations one would expect to find while stumbling into an old-world apothecary shop on a cobblestone street in Italy—composed with love, thoughtfulness and a mastery of the craft. Magnifico! @meofusicuni_parfums
—Michael Devine, Senior Contributor
For Karl’s and Michael’s 10 Best Fragrances of 2023 Giveaway
Thanks to Electimuss London we have a 100 ml bottle of Vanilla Edesia for one registered reader in the UK, EU and USA
Thanks to the enormous generosity of Gallagher Fragrances and award winning artisan perfumer Daniel Gallagher, we have a 50 ml bottle of Purple Powder to give away to one registered reader in the contiguous U.S. or Canada only.
Please leave a QUALITY comment with your thoughts on Karl’s and Michael’s selections of 10 Best Fragrances of 2023. where you live and which you would like to win. You must be a registered reader. Draw closes December 31, 2023
Please check the giveaways from Ermano and Michelyn Part 1 and 2 (which include Roberto Greco Rauque if you live in the EU, Meo Fusciuni Viole Nere, Matière Premiere, Olfactive Studio Smoky Soul USA and Abel Black Anise) and Part 3: Ida and Lauryn’s Top Ten Perfumes of 2023 choices which includes draws for Azman Risk, Angelos Creations Olfactives Karikia and Olivier Durbano White Stone Prophecy 19:0.1.Part 4 includes giveaways from Nicoleta and J Wearescentient picks Francesca Bianchi Byzantine Amber and Parfums Artimique. Join us tomorrow with part 7 brought to us by Rachel K. Ng and Danu Seith-Fyr.
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