Now that I’m finally sitting down to write my first post of 2019, I’m going to look back at the year 2018 as I experienced it through perfume. Here are my thoughts and reminiscences, in no particular order.
Some things were business as usual, in a very positive way: I wrote bi-weekly reviews for Now Smell This and semi-regular posts here. My most-read Perfume Professor post of 2018 was 5 Perfumes for a Cold Spell.
I spent very little time smelling perfume in actual stores or buying perfume for myself in 2018. I placed regular online orders for samples and minis of fragrances that I wanted to try and/or review. However, I only added three new bottles to my personal collection: Maria Candida Cinabre, CB I Hate Perfume Tea/Rose, and Neela Vermeire Creations Niral. Of those three fragrances, only Niral was a new release.
When I wasn’t testing fragrances for review, my most-worn scents of 2018 were three existing favorites: Byredo Rose Noire, Chanel no. 5 L’Eau, and Maison Francis Kurkdjian À La Rose.
So what did I think of 2018’s new releases? Not much, apparently. I was forced to inhale Gucci Bloom twice a day for about a week when it was being “demonstrated” in the World Trade Center transit hub, so that was probably the new launch that made its way most insistently into my consciousness. I didn’t bother to procure a sample for review.
Otherwise, I rolled my eyes at the tackiness of By Kilian’s My Kind of Love and Tom Ford’s Lost Cherry. I complained about pretentious new niche offerings like Ormaie, despite its clever packaging. I was disappointed yet again by Nest Fragrances, despite its pretty packaging. I still like the Miu Miu line, perhaps due to its chic packaging. As usual, I was thinking a lot about packaging. Some things never change.
I was momentarily tempted by the latest fragrance from Frédéric Malle, Fanny Bal’s Salle Gosse. It’s appealing in a fun way (and the bottle is great), but I’m not about to spend that much money for such a big bottle of such a light-wearing fragrance.
I wasn’t tempted at all by Serge Lutens’s Le Participe Passé.
Christian Dior’s Joy, one of the big releases of Fall 2018, couldn’t even be bothered to come up with a new idea for an ad campaign. However, Jean-Paul Gaultier’s #JPGcrazyelves holiday videos were a delight. (You can still see them on JPG’s Instagram account.)
And yes, I did savor good new work from some of my favorite independent perfume houses — Gallivant, Aroma M, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, and Imaginary Authors. I guess I just didn’t branch out much.
Going back to the topic of stores, and how little time I spent in them, I was sad to bid farewell to Henri Bendel and Lord & Taylor. I can’t even count the hours I’ve spent in both these department stores over my lifetime. I’ve written about Bendel here; I’ll always remember its perfume department as the setting for rewarding encounters with fragrance. And I’ve long relied on Lord & Taylor for necessary basics, from black tights and Clinique makeup to fragrances like my first bottle of Calvin Klein Euphoria. I’ll miss both places terribly.
Oh, and I still tried to read magazines in 2018, despite their ever-shrinking number. My least-favorite moment of mass-media fragrance coverage: Allure writer Cotton Codinha issued this bit of ageist and un-feminist nonsense in an article about a week-long trial of essential oils and aromatherapy:
Nice, huh? Especially in a magazine that prides itself on its inclusive approach to beauty. Inclusive as long as you’re under 30, I suppose. I complained (via Twitter) but got no response.
So, what was I doing when I wasn’t complaining or non-shopping in 2018? This was my busiest year yet for teaching and speaking about fragrance culture. I continued leading one-night classes at the Brooklyn Brainery, including some new topics. I gave a participatory “sip & scent” class at The Lucky Honeybee‘s studio in Jersey City and a lecture on iconic fragrances at Hamilton Lectures in Chelsea. I participated in a panel discussion and workshop on fragrance-writing, organized by The Perfumed Plume, and I was invited to give a short talk on any perfume-related topic of my choosing at the Brooklyn Public Library.
Most of these events were pure delight for me and, I hope, were enjoyable for the rest of the participants too.
There were a few moments that did leave me with a bad taste in my mouth, or a sour after-smell in my nose. For example: one of my evening classes was somewhat derailed by a former fragrance-industry person who attempted to turn the event into their own lecture by constantly interrupting and speaking at great length (and with only partial accuracy). During the social portion of the evening, they circulated and handed out their business card in order to drum up new clients for themselves. That was a learning experience for me.
Another: I attended a fragrance industry cocktail-hour event and found myself standing next to a 20-something woman who works for a large global flavor-and-fragrance company. I asked her what she does. Her: marketing, etc. etc. She asked me what I do. Me: blogging since 2007, classes at the Brainery, etc. etc. Her reply: “Oh, so you don’t actually have any experience.” Me: “No, other than that ten years of writing about fragrance and those several years of teaching about fragrance.” She picked up her wine glass and moved on, presumably to make better use of her networking time.
Conversely, I had some of the best conversations I’ve ever had about fragrance with fellow scent-aficionados over the past year. Whether face-to-face, by phone, or online, these chats helped me remember why I keep doing what I do (despite my lack of “experience”). Much gratitude to these colleagues and friends, and to all of you who commented here on this blog in 2018.
What’s coming in 2019? I do have a new fragrance event coming in March-April, to be announced in a few weeks. And I’m going to try to get into the stores more often, no matter how much the onslaught of mediocre new releases distresses me.
And I’ll smell really, really good as often as I can.
How about you?
Top image: detail of Horst P. Horst, Elsa Perretti’s dressing table, photographed in New York for VOGUE, April 1, 1976. The two perfume bottles are Patou Joy.
Other photos by me.