It’s almost a guarantee that I’ll leave something out. It’s just going to happen; I already know it’s going to happen. Oh well. But here goes.
I do have some overlap with the P:TG five-stars. There are a few on my list that received short shrift from the Guide authors. Some weren’t reviewed at all; they were not in production at the time of writing (either discontinued, or not yet released), or they were available only from indie perfumers and not widely available.
I’ll point out here that “best” does not necessarily mean “favorite.” I’ve commented before that I can find something admirable without really loving it. Conversely, I can love something all to little-bitty pieces without needing to say it’s the best evarrr. My favorite Beatles song, for example, is and will always be “Here Comes the Sun,” but I wouldn’t say it was the best musically. Or lyrically. Or most representative, most distinctive, most necessary to the history of Western music. In fact, I could make a pretty good case that the best-of-the-Beatles wouldn’t include it. I’ll try to keep those strictly-personal favorites off the list.
What’s on the list will be fragrances I think are distinctive, have a defined character, have endured, are classics, and can transport the wearer. Feel free to argue that I left something off, or included something unworthy… it’s my list, not THE list. 🙂 Items in red were not given five stars in P:TG, just by me.
Chanel No. 5 parfum and eau de toilette – like the Parthenon in a shade of creamy gold, amazing stuff, proportions just right. The EdP has something in it that raises my hackles; don’t know what it is but I wind up scrubbing an hour in, every time I try it.
Chanel No. 19 – forget that “wire mother” nonsense and see 19 for the Amazonian earth-witch that she is. Plenty of backbone, yes – lack of heart, no.
Dior Eau Sauvage – Remington Steele in a bottle. ‘Nuff said.
Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower – Robbed of a deserved star in The Guide, IMO. I suspect that someone felt it’s too copycat or perhaps not groundbreaking enough, or isn’t as good as Fracas. Bosh, I say. Fracas is amazing, and so is Carnal Flower, in a lastingly-fresh and green vein rather than the boudoiresque Fracas. It has plenty of personality and lasts for hours.
Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel – Jimmy Stewart in a bottle, ’nuff said.
Guerlain Apres l’Ondee – Impressionist perfection in periwinkle, blue and lavender shades. There’s nothing else like it.
Guerlain Chamade – like falling in love with someone you hardly noticed when you first met.
Guerlain L’Heure Bleue – One of a handful of classic Guerlain masterpieces I don’t personally love.
Guerlain Mitsouko – an autumn symphony. Another Guerlain masterpiece I don’t love.
Guerlain Shalimar – see L’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko.
Jean Patou Joy parfum – if No. 5 is the Parthenon, Joy is the beautiful woman who just completed a tryst with her lover inside it. Raunchy, but gorgeous.
Neela Vermeire Trayee – All three of the first releases from Neela Vermeire (which came into existence in 2011) are wonderful, striking, and distinctive, but Trayee is as mesmerizing as staring at a burning candle.
Parfums de Nicolaï Odalisque – that elusive thing, an irisy floral chypre that doesn’t seem bent on slipping a shiv between your ribs.
Parfums MDCI Enlèvement au Sérail – see Joy.
Parfums MDCI Promesse de l’Aube – as lovely as the dawn in its name.
Parfums MDCI Rose de Siwa – a straight-up rose/peony bouquet that despite its lack of originality, smells so gorgeous and perfect and enticing that it makes people sigh in sheer happiness. (Suck it, rose haters. Go peddle your “but it smells like a bouquet!” elsewhere, we’re all full up on delight here.)
Robert Piguet Fracas – Fracas is the queen, no doubt about it.
Serge Lutens La Myrrhe – Unmistakable, solid, and glorious. The only Serge that seems to get out of its own way and simply exist in beauty without worrying about its artsy quotient.
Tauer Perfumes L’Air du Désert Marocain – nice. Distinctive, unlike anything else. Doesn’t move me, but it’s great.
Teo Cabanel Alahine – A floral amber of great personality and enough complexity to keep you paying attention to it, while also being comfortable and lovely. (Teo Cabanel started production in 2007, which might have kept it out of The Guide.)
Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl – yeah, yeah, stop complaining about it already. It’s good. It’s absolutely identifiable, and it’s never inappropriate.
I’m going to cheat and add a few fragrances that are no longer in production.
Gucci L’Arte di Gucci – the diva rose chypre in mink, carrying an absolute armful of deep pink roses (Pink Traviata hybrid tea, if I’m being specific to color) and sweeping through the room irrespective of other people in it. Seriously, this thing is Kathleen Battle – definitely temperamental, with a dark streak in her mood, but so gorgeous in the high notes that you almost don’t care. Discontinued sometime in 2006 or -07.
Jacomo Silences – cool, smooth and introspective. Silver-green, blue-purple, rose-pink, and moss-green, the most meditative non-incense fragrance I’ve run across. My preference is for the older parfum de toilette, which is more strongly floral than the most recent eau de toilette version, which is drier and more focused on vetiver, iris and moss. It’s a wishing well in a forest glade, a pair of swans gliding across a glassy lake. Rereleased as Silences Eau de Parfum Sublime in 2013 (nice stuff, smells like it could have been chosen as a No. 19 flanker), and then the original was axed in 2015. Shame.
Jean Patou Vacances – Gorgeous springy green with lilac and hyacinth, as green as it is floral, utterly tender and delicate. Nothing has ever matched it (except maybe Apres l’Ondee). I never smelled the original, only the Ma Collection version released in the 1980s, which was perfect. Reworked into a perfectly nice, dull, lilac-floral-musk in 2015.
Soivohle Centennial – The entire catalog at Soivohle has been revamped in the past year, and this gorgeous recreation of a classic floral chypre disappeared. If Mitsouko was a “perfected Chypre,” this is perfected Mitsouko – no floor wax, no moldy peach, no stabby fingernails, but a seamless and beautiful floral with plenty of backbone and plenty of resinous depth.
Parfums de Nicolaï Le Temps d’une Fete – It was in production during the writing of The Guide. The bottle I bought in 2012, after draining a 1-ounce bottle of the 2007 version, was thinner and more weighted towards the pretty florals, away from the woody-mossy base. Then PdN announced that it would only be available upon request, and I snapped up another bottle of it via Luckyscent, only to find that it had been thinned still further. This version still smells like Le Temps d’une Fete, but wears like an eau fraiche. The original was amazing and gorgeous, unlike anything else. I contacted PdN by email in November of 2015 and asked if this scent was available for purchase, but was told that it had been discontinued. I could have cried.
Ralph Lauren Safari for Women – apparently this went out of production, and then came back in. The current version is thinner, less mossy-ambery and lasts less long, but I think it’s still good; the older version is five stars for sure. This is the warmest green I know, and one of the few commercial fragrances that smells like hay drying in the field, as opposed to earthy, fermented hay in a barn. It’s drying grass, polished wood, and an unsweetened vanilla (well, okay, and a bunch of other things including marigold, rose and jasmine, and moss), and manages to be formal and elegant while staying unfussy, like a pristine white tablecloth.
What overlooked marvel would make your five-star list?