Rightly or wrongly, it looks as though 2016 is going to be marked as a particularly horribilis annus by the gods of record-keeping. Certainly, in political terms, events in the UK, USA, Italy, Poland and a few other countries suggested that the forces of liberalism are being drowned out by a growing tide of conservatism. This isn't the time for delving into such topics, but it is interesting to consider what sort of impact these global developments have had on the perfume world, which is, after all, vitally concerned about whether people feel able to spend their hard-earned pennies.
In the territory of independent scents, the reaction appears to have been a retreat. True, several new indie brands launched this year, and many of them - together with their more established counterparts - gave us some commendable scents. But overall, the so-called niche side of the industry has come across as extremely fearful and reluctant to push the envelope in the very ways which caught scentusiasts' attention in the first place.
In an astonishing twist, mainstream brands seem to have gone the other way, displaying more bravery than I'd imagined possible in the current climate. Don't get me wrong: big-name perfume houses still gave us plenty of soul-destroying duds. But maybe because a few of them were willing to splash out on bigger budgets and explore more interesting ideas, a lot of their wares weren't the instantly-forgettable, cardboard-cutout nonentities to which we're treated far too often.
Indeed, when I created my initial shortlist of fragrances for possible inclusion on this year's Best Of list, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of mainstream names I jotted down. We got at least one 'thumbs up' creation from Guerlain, Dior, Chanel, Cartier, Bulgari, Acqua Di Parma, John Varvatos and Bottega Veneta, not to mention the high-profile players who did make it to my final cut. As far as olfactory trends are concerned, I'd say the gourmand finally began succumbing to the demands of the health-food brigade, but I won't write more about this now, as I have a feeling I'll be able to revisit the topic very soon. Woods and dry florals became serious players in women's scents once more. Green compositions enjoyed a resurgence, largely thanks to the efforts of Tom Ford and his Extraits Verts. The 1970s proved to be fertile ground for olfactory exploration. And even masculine scents started getting in touch with their feelings again, choosing not to place quite so much emphasis on abrasive ambers and synthetic sandalwoods.
All in all then, as mixed a bag as any other year. Thankfully, there were a few gems to enjoy, the best of which are in the list below. Please don't forget the usual caveat: my Best Of is necessarily based only on those scents I was able to try in 2016. As things stand at the moment, the industry gives us almost 2000 new perfumes each year, so it goes without saying that it wasn't possible for me to sniff every single one.
In this vein, I should mention that if I'd first tried Bogue's Maai and Naomi Goodsir's Iris Cendré closer to their original release dates - or if they'd been launched in the UK in 2016 - I would have considered them serious contenders for their relevant Best Of lists. But fate decreed otherwise. That said, I do urge you to check them out. Maai is a dangerous, old-world chypre. Iris Cendré sees Julien Rasquinet take the smouldering bonfire of his own, equally excellent Bois D'Ascese and graft it onto a heart-breaking iris.
But anyway, enough of the lengthy preamble. You want the list! Just bear with me for one more para, because I have to say a massive thank you to everyone who helped me maintain this site - and supported my other writing - throughout the year. Of course, some of those people are you, my dear, faithful, inspirational readers. Much gratitude for your loyalty, your comments, your emails, your good humour and your encouragement. I hope you all see out the year in style and that 2017 turns out to be better for each and every one of us!
Okay, here we go... the best perfumes of 2016 according to Persolaise.com...