Top Ten Fragrances 2023 Lauryn Beer(L) and Ida Meister (R)
Now that you have heard from Ermano and me, (our top ten 2023 fragrances here) and (The Best Fragrances of 2023 here) we continue our Top Ten Fragrance 2023 year in review with Deputy and Natural Perfumery Editor Ida Meister and Senior Editor Lauryn Beer. Ida lives in South Boston, Massachusetts and Lauryn in Washington DC (440 miles away); their choices (with two overlaps) are very different. Now it’s time to reveal their respective top ten fragrances 2023-Michelyn Camen, Editor-in-Chief
Top Ten Fragrance 2023
It’s that time of the year again! Time to cast a thoughtful (and discerning) eye towards the quality of fragrances which have been released in 2023. I always find this challenging – and this year, even more so. There were myriad fragrances I would have loved to smell, and a great many that I didn’t have the opportunity to experience. Some of this has to do with geography: not everything can be shipped to the U.S. with equal ease, and not everything here is shipped to parts of Europe – so writers everywhere may have limited access. Shipping issues can become very complex indeed; so it goes. I read from a few sources that there were 3,837 new releases in 2023 (actually, there are even more being released as we write). That’s in comparison to 2022: 4,525, or so they say. I can’t account for the numbers or choices, even though many of the releases listed for both years run the gamut from tiny companies to big, established houses (and everywhere in-between). In the interests of fairness, I read through single review on ÇaFleureBon written over the past year, every document I created, and all the notes and samples in my possession. There are honorable mentions aplenty, and every one merits a top ten.
What trends did I observe? Let’s just say that every time I peruse the well-known websites (including e-commerce), there are ever-increasingly more gourmands. Even those fragrances touted to be more vegetal are quite sweet, and not all smell believably realistic or natural – even when they are created by famous perfumers. Incenses and ouds abound, and I don’t think that this mode is going away any time soon. Famous fragrance houses seem to be very busy creating captives of vegetal and floral materials, which smell amazing and photorealistic. Overall, there were countless ‘nice enough’ perfumes – but ones that I didn’t feel were remarkable enough to list as the top ten. Others I agonized over, because they were beautiful – and too numerous to count.
Ida’s Top Ten Fragrances (plus 1) 2023 collage by Olya
It seems only fair to list the ten alphabetically. Anything else would cause ill feeling – and no one needs that.
Aether Arts Shibari (Amber Jobin): Disturbingly intimate, hovering on the precipice of danger – Shibari explored the very Japanese art/practice of erotic knot tying/bondage. Floral, woody, musky; insinuations of hemp rope and incense strewn amongst them. Amber on the edge – just as we love her. @aetherartsperfume
Azman Risk (Antonio Gardoni): Delicious and slightly nefarious six-oud overload, peppered with equally sexually-charged tuberose, Tonkin musk, civet, ambergris, benzoins, and more. Risk is daring and recklessly beautiful, but not a perfume for the faint of heart. @azman_perfumes
Blackcliff Parfums Incidental Orris (Kyle Mott-Kannenberg): I’ve not yet reviewed Blackcliff Incidental Orris, but that will be remedied shortly. Imagine the chalorous charm of Barbados bathed in green, earthy/woody tones – tenderly kissed with fruit – and you are on the right track. Naturalism meets elegance. @blackcliffperfumes
Eris Parfums Delta of Venus (Antoine Lie): The sensually-charged short stories of Anaïs Nin inspired this raw, limpid, refined and musky homage wrapped in ripe tropical fruit (Antoine Lie’s gorgeous guava accord), galbanum, jasmine sambac +++. Explosive and seditious. @erisparfums
Extra Virgo Oracle (Michele Marin and Alex Postiglione): An olfactory marriage between heaven and earth that would do William Blake proud. Discreet pinches of aldehydes, citrus, herbs and spice collude with frankincense, earthy patchouli; woods and musks nourish a perfume in counterpoint. Magnificent.
Frederico Parfums: a tie between Parfum Ensoleillé and Posh Affair: It wasn’t easy to choose between these two – so I didn’t. Parfum Ensoleillé is lushly solar, glowing with aldehydes, herbs, spice, citruses and sweet orange – as well as orange blossom and lavender, which commingle with woods and ambergris. It sings. Posh Affair is completely different, but equally mesmerizing: heavenly florals and peach nectar pirouette with a classic chypre base enlivened with aldehydes, galbanum, and cinnamon. Fresh, romantic, new. @fredericparfums
Jorum Studios Scottish Odyssey Spiritcask (Euan McCall): A ghostly, twisted vanilla haunting the oaken barrels which are Scotland’s pride. Spiritcask is an olfactory amalgam of familiar materials employed in a singular fashion: highly nuanced, lactonic, and comfortingly suave. @jorumstudio
Meo Fusciuni Viole Nere (Giuseppe Imprezzabile): I couldn’t wait for it to arrive, and when it arrived, I couldn’t stop wearing it. Marie of Roumania in a flacon: spectral, spiritual, it murmurs beyond the grave, halfway between the angels and the earth. Fruit, flowers, soil, the forest floor; the furry underbelly of the wolf which caresses you. @meofusciano_parfums
Olivier Durbano Pierre Blanche (Olivier Durbano): A gossamer skein of herbs and incense, myrrh and musk. A weightless angelic and talismanic veil of pure loveliness in which to cocoon yourself against life’s tribulations. @olivierdurbano
Manuel Cross Chypre Noir for American Perfumer: Manuel Cross’ ode to the eternally fascinating leather chypre shares the lineage of such greats as Cabochard and Jolie Madame. Sweet, fatty musk ketone and costus root lend veracity to this tuberose-inflected leather underpinned with dusky oakmoss. @american.perfumer @rogueperfumery
Top Ten Fragrance 2023 Best Natural Perfumes: Aftelier Hey Jude (Mandy Aftel) and Abel Odor Black Anise (Frances Shoemack and Isaac Sinclair)
When I referred to Aftelier Hey Jude as “rose rapture”, I was sincere: peachy/apricotty/rosy bliss underscored with heavenly ambergris. Aged musk! Antique civet! Be still, my beating heart. @aftelierperfume
Abel Odor Black Anise is a rare treasure and delectable senza cloying. Seductively dark and accessible employment of star anise, cacao, cassis bud, and tobacco. @abelfragrance
Top Ten Fragrance 2023 Best Book About Fragrance: The Museum of Scent Exploring the Curious and Wondrous World of Fragrance by Mandy Aftel.
Honorable Mention: Coma Life So Beautiful by David Falsberg.
Ida’s Top Ten Fragrance of 2023 Honorable Mentions: To say something merits an honorable mention is really akin to saying “I loved this to bits, but I only get to name ten”. Here we go:
Providence Perfume Company Magnolia Mist (Charna Ethier):aquarelle-like dreamy and airy, The Eternal Return trapped in a bottle like the proverbial genie. @providenceperfumco
Mona Di Orio Domaine (Fredrik Dalman):gauzy, velvety and weightless, tenacious limpidity which straddles the tightrope between innocence and carnality.@monadiorio
Un Jardin à Cythère by Hermès (Christine Nagel): a divine delicacy comprised of olive wood and leaf, pistachio and citrus garnished with a cereal grainlike note. Surprising and delightful.
Frederic Malle Heaven Can Wait by Jean-Claude Ellena: angelic iris in which Ellena’s supernatural beings have flown too close to the sun and scorched their delicate wings. Shades of W. B. Yeats.
DSH Perfumes tie between Saku Heirloom Elixir no. 30 and Dutchess Meadows Heirloom Elixir no.29: Saku, a haiku which reveals the exquisite veil of transition between summer and autumn, a painterly joy tinged with muted melancholy. Dutchess Meadows, the bucolic landscape of the perfumer’s childhood in upstate New York: that which commences as brilliantly floral and animalic becomes a pastoral lullaby. @dshperfumes
Justin Frederico courtesy of the perfumer
Top Ten Fragrance of 2023 “The Hardest-Working Perfumer”: I would have to choose Justin Frederico of Frederico Parfums (and Creative Accords). Not only has he collaborated for multiple brands (Perfumology, Blackcliff Parfums, among others), he launched his own brand this year. Justin is one to watch over the coming year – and he’s ready.
I want to thank all the perfumers for their wonderful work. We’re looking eagerly toward to a fragrant 2024! ~ Ida Meister, Deputy and Natural Perfumery Editor
Lauryn introduces her Top Ten Fragrances 2023
2022 was, for me, characterized by comfort and gourmand fragrances that delineated a need for human warmth, childhood sweetness and kindness after years of pandemic. One year later, back in the thick of our messy world, fragrances were all over the place, as a return to chaos might provoke. On the one hand, ethereally lovely fragrances such as Olivier Durbano’s White Stone Prophecy and Laboratorio Olfattivo Tiglio Mirabilis touched soulful chords, while on the other side of the perfume spectrum, Azman Risk and Der Duft In Flagranti showed off bold, highly individualized creations that weren’t afraid to go big. For me, the most poignant and joyous event was returning for the first time in four years to Pitti Fragranze in Florence, where I reunited with much-loved friends and made new ones. Travel was hard and there was a weird dislocation to being at the show; Florence seemed to stand still, but those lost years left their mark on me. Were my eyes perhaps a little more tired and lined? My energy less available? All it took to wipe that away was the noisy explosion of laughter that announced the arrival of the wonderful Sultan Pasha.
2023’s fragrances were more about individuality than the previous few years, and more upbeat, more Lizzo than LaVigne:
It ain’t my fault that I’m out here getting loose
Gotta blame it on the Goose
Gotta blame it on my juice, baby
It ain’t my fault that I’m out here making news
I’m the pudding in the proof (pudding in the proof)
Gotta blame it on my juice (blame it on my juice)
Lauryn’s Top Ten Fragrances 2023 collage by Olya Bar
And let me tell you, there’s some great juice out there. Here are some of my favourites from the last 12 months. Here are my Top Ten Fragrance 2023
Angelos Creations Olfactives Karikia (Angelo Balamis) He’s done it again. Every time I think Angelos Balamis is finally going to send me something ordinary, he comes up with … this. Karikia, his latest release, is a multifaceted tobacco gourmand (yes, gourmand!) that will leave Tom Ford pouting. Moist plummy-cherryish tobacco and hay team up with hazelnut and tonka bean for a deliciously unexpected take on the aromas of traditional Greek tobacco farms. Take a deep sniff and its like being transported into a fin-de-siecle private club, where hazelnut liqueur is poured into tiny glasses pipes while wealthy men puff their pipes. Take another breath, and it’s the toasty, golden aromas of Van Gogh’s Harvest. Utterly delicious and unique. @angelos_creations_olfactives @angel_bal
Arquiste Louis D’Or (Rodrigo Flores Roux): 24 carat gold flakes glitter in Arquiste’s bottle like a Faberge snow globe, but the real beauty of this extraordinary fragrance from Rodrigo Flores-Roux, working again with brand owner Carlos Huber, is a golden, honeyed, time travelling orange blossom fragrance that is so sumptuously beautiful Louis XIV would have granted it a royal commission. The balance of florals and woods, smudged with light smoke, is almost unbearably perfect, and the cohesive result is quite possibly the most beautiful orange blossom perfume I’ve ever come across. I’m not even an orange blossom fan, but this is my fragrance of the year. @arquiste @arquistecarlos
Azman Risk (Antonio Gardoni): Whoa, mama! Envisioned as “the summit of desire and passion” and the oud perfume to end them all, Azman Risk lives up to its name. An extrait with a 25% concentration of perfume oils that wove together six natural ouds and two separate but synchronous “matrices;” one of vintage and modern ouds, this is a ferociously sexy, animalic beast. Perfumer Antonio Gardoni eschews the classical scent pyramid of top, heart and base notes in favour of note development that moves musically (something of a hallmark of Gardoni’s work) between refrains and harmonies. The ouds are layered like an agate, each adding a tang that melds into its sisters so that the composition gives off every conceivable facet of oud: smoky, woody, boozy, earthy, medicinal, animalic, and mulchy, with touches of tobacco, creaminess and char. Risk is one of the sexiest oud fragrances I’ve ever taunted my skin with. @azman_perfumes
BDK Vanille Leather (Dominque Ropion): I recently took my teenage niece to Scent Bar in New York to check out the new arrivals and told her she could select a fragrance for a sample to take with her. Her choice surprised me – not a girly floral as I was expecting, but a sophisticated, smoky, and very adult scent: BDK Vanilla Leather. Dominique Ropion’s sophisticated, sensual suede fragrance is given a gourmand edge with honeyed florals and vanilla and delicious earthy touches of patchouli, woods, and resins. Not nearly as sweet or as dense as you might expect, Vanille Leather is an urbane riff on those lovely violet-y handbag fragrances of the 30s and 40s. @bdkparfumsparis
Frederic Malle Heaven Can Wait (Jean Claude Ellena): Departing from his trademark translucence, the great Jean-Claude Ellena has created what is perhaps his most poetical and affectionate fragrance in Heaven Can Wait. Absent angularity, this gorgeous perfume is all soft edges and smudges, a radiant iris-ambrette singed with sadness and smoke. Clove adds a sweetness almost like cinnamon, and, for the first time, I swear I can smell peach fuzz rather than juice. Straight out of the bottle, Heaven Can Wait feels intimate, personal and very human while also retaining Ellena’s characteristic restrained elegance and exquisite balance. An absolutely lovely perfume and my favourite release from Malle since 2017’s Superstitious.
Laboratorio Olfativvo Tiglio Mirabilis (Luca Maffeii): Luca Maffei’s shimmering fragrance for Laboratorio Olfattivo floats silky florals around heady linden blossom in a watercolour cloud. While linden in nature is an opulent, honeyed scent, Maffei takes it in a different direction, attenuating the blossom until it is a near-transparency of itself, and brightening it with soft dabs of sweet spice and white flowers. Sharp, fresh ginger and cardamom add some counterbalancing spicy verve. Maffei threads them together in a radiant tapestry of diaphanous flowers and gentle spice, creating a watercolour abstract of linden; translucent, fluid, and quite lovely, a fragrance for water nymphs and airy spirits. If Shakespeare’s Ariel had a fragrance, it would be this. @laboratorioolfattivo @lucamaffei
Maison Crivelli Neroli Nasimba (Paul Guerlain): Neroli Nasimba is inspired by a walk through an orange blossom grove in South Africa. Composed by Paul Guerlain, this is an outstanding, unorthodox interpretation of neroli that blends the ambrosial, soapy-green sapor of neroli with the dense, parched aroma of saffron and rich saffiano leather. Made with an 18% concentration of perfume oils and absolutes, Neroli Nasimba is an elegant, beautifully balanced fragrance that had me rethinking saffron and neroli, two notes with which I have sometimes struggled. This is gorgeously grassy, silky, dusty, tinged with green, dry, and very sophisticated. @masioncrivelli
Maison Violet Cycle 002 (Nathalie Lorson): This one was love at first sniff and instantly jumped on my Christmas list. Resinous and resonant, a comfort scent edged with an angry melancholy, Maison Violet Cycle 002 is a deeply lovely contradiction created by the superb Nathalie Lorson, heated and spicy but also cosseting and silky. Elemi wood and guaiac meld beautifully here, and the combined aroma is tranquil but alive. Over time, Cycle 002 becomes richer, smoother, opaquer, but somehow never loses either its heat or the weightless quality that makes me imagine floating in space. With its suggestion of fire and earth, certainly this could be a fragrance for the eternal. @violet.parfums
Olivier Durbano White Stone Prophecy (Oliver Durbano): With the spare, unworldly beauty of a copse of silver birches, Olivier Durbano’s White Stone Prophecy is a seemingly impossible invention: a transparent incense, like smelling smoke from a distant church in the snow. Durbano quiets his perfume’s quiet glow by mixing frankincense with forestal notes of violet and sage and dotting them with hyssop, white musk and mint. The earthy, human scent of ambrette keeps the composition from quite floating away, leaving an overall impression of radiance. This is Durbano’s most refined work, and possibly his finest. @olvierdurbano
Parfums Quartana Forest of the Golden Dream(Cecile Barel): Lost in a Brothers Grimm pine forest, you move through sunbeams streaming through the branches. Incense hangs in the air and the drifty scents of spices and herbs from some distant cauldron beckon from faraway. Perfumer Celine Barel and creative director Jospeh Quartana have created a fantastical, timeless grove underlaid with mossy, woodsy and herbaceous notes, its paths lit by brilliant citrus. The pine note – which in perfume can veer into household cleaner – is uncannily realistic here; cool, turpenic, coniferous, and is lifted by lovely, breezy mimosa. Forest of the Golden Dream is the perfect name for this radiant herbal-woods scent, whose wearing it is like submitting to reverie. @parfums_quartana
Brand of the Year: Azman Perfumes: With the premiere of Risk, the sexiest, most multidimensional oud fragrance to hit the market this year, Azman founder Husen Baba has cemented his place as one of independent perfumery’s most uncompromising and talented creative directors. His insistence on high-quality ingredients and his uncanny ability to choose just the right nose for each brief has, in a few short years, put Azman on my shortlist of best artisan perfume houses – there’s not a weak link in the collection, an astonishing feat for a relatively new house. The fact that he is a tremendously nice bloke is just icing on the cake.
Top Ten Fragrances 2023 Honorable Mentions
Antonio Alessandria’ In Flagranti for Der Duft, a whimsically inventive take on “caught in the act” that imagines the purloining of a rare Dutch tulip.
DSH Perfumes Butterbeer, a cuddly, utterly delightful gourmand that is also deliciously grown-up – Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Christmas treat it’s like being hugged by a teddy bear in top hat and tails.
L’Aventura Lions in the Library from Jessica Mara is a deliciously lascivious, incense and leather fragrance that will have you reliving those sexy librarian fantasies.
Antoine Lie’s Les Indomedables Patchouli Noisette, an earthy, boozy hazelnut-patch fragrance with the brand’s trademark elegance.
Zoologist Tiger, Cristiano Canali’s dangerous vetiver and jasmine beast; animalic, darkly primeval, darkly green with currents of bright, sharp citrus.
–Lauryn Beer, Senior Editor
What did you think of Ida’s and Lauryn’s Top Ten Fragrances 2023?
For our Part 3 Top Ten Fragrances 2023 Giveaway
Thanks to the generosity of Angelos Balamis, we have 30 ml bottle of Angelos Creations Olfactives Karikia for a registered reader in the USA or EU only
Mille Mercis to Olivier Durbano for a a special 30 ml flacon of Pierre Blanche Prophétie 19:1.0 for one registered reader in the U.S., Canada, UK or the EU
Thanks to the generosity of Azman we have a 30 ml bottle of Risk for one registered reader in the EU, USA, UK, UAE.
Please leave a QUALITY comment with your thoughts on Ida and Lauryn’s selections, where you live and which you would like to win. You must be a registered reader. Draw closes December 29, 2023
Please check the giveaways from Ermano and Michelyn Part 1 and 2 as well. Tomorrow join JweareScentient and Nicoleta for their top ten.
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