My Favorite Fragrant discoveries of 2011

2011 was a great year for me perfume-wise. It was the year that I discovered a whole new set of perfume bloggers; the year I discovered and fell in love with some of my favorite perfumes ever: Carnal Flower, the Aftelier line; the year I finally sampled  Ormonde Jayne. The year that I had a little extra birthday money to actually buy some of my favorites. The year that I discovered vintage perfumes on ebay as well as ebay bidding and sniping (thanks to the fabulous Mals).

It was also the year of one of my favorite perfume experience ever: going perfume sniffing and shopping in LA with my mom  (who was visiting from India). I followed where her nose led  and was amazed at and quite proud of her tastes. She loved Mitsouko, Parfum de Therese and Jubiliation 25, PdN Le temps d’une fete, Puredistance Antonia and Chanel Cuir de Russie. It gave me great joy to see her take furtive sniffs from her wrist when she thought no one was watching. It was like looking into a mirror!! Now I can conveniently blame my fragrant obsession on my genes (and so does my husband). Following her nose, I explored genres and perfumes that I hadn’t sniffed before. After much exploring I found patterns in her taste – she loved green florals and fruity chypres! And because of her,  I discovered my own great love for all kinds of chypres : dirty, fruity, leathery, animalic.

Here are my top ten favorite perfume discoveries of 2011 in no particular order (Let’s see if I can actually stick to 10)

1. Frederic Malle Carnal Flower : I might have briefly sniffed this on paper a while ago and dismissed it, but finally tried it on skin this year. Till then, the only tuberose soliflore I loved was Serge Luten’s Tubereuse Criminelle and I thought that perfume was the first and last word on my favorite flower. Turned out Carnal Flower had many words to add ( and what exquisite words they are!)

It seems almost impossible to pick just one favorite from the Aftelier perfumes- I love so many of them! But for this list I think I’ll pick the easy loves- the ones I fell in love with at first sniff. Often easy loves don’t last but these did.

2. Aftelier Cepes and Tuberose :  Unlike Tango, this was love at first sniff. I found it so easy to like that I thought I’d get over it soon enough, but after several wearings I still love it. This perfume makes me happy! Not a frivolous, flirty happiness but like a golden ball that I’ve swallowed whole, it lights me up from inside. I’ve attempted to review it but I find this perfume impossible to analyze and I don’t want to tease apart its notes. It is rich and earthy and sweet and beautiful and vibrates at exactly my frequency. And it deserves its own post, so more on it later.

3. Aftelier Secret Garden : The moment I smelled this I thought “this is what perfume should smell like”. It is mysterious and seductive, yet strangely comforting and smelling it makes me feel like I’ve found something precious at the bottom of a dusty wooden treasure chest. I have hemmed and hawed about buying it because of the animal ingredients but I have a feeling that a bottle of this might be mine yet  (AAh- the things we do for beauty!). This is probably one of the more accessible of Mandy’s perfumes and if you love vintage perfumes in the vein of DSH Pandora, I highly recommend that you try it.

Which brings me to

4.  DSH Perfumes Pandora : This perfume smells freakishly like my great grand mother. I even called her up the day I smelled it to find out exactly what she wears. I haven’t found a satisfactory answer but I think something about the scent of sandalwood powder that she uses along with the smell of her makeup and silk sarees generate the scent that seems so similar to Pandora. This perfume was so evocative of her that I thought I might not be able to wear it, but turns out it is just so lovely that I can and do and definitely want a bottle of.

Speaking of evocative perfumes, I have to mention

5. Etat Libre d’ Orange Rien : Rien was so evocative of certain places that I have visited that I fell in love with it. I thought of it more as a incense perfume than an animalic leather perfume till I smelled:

6. Prada Cuir Ambre  parfum : Cuir Ambre revealed the beauty of leather perfumes to me. It was soft yet deep and smelling it I understood the structure of Rien better. I realized how Rien was created as an amping up of leather, ambre and animalic notes.

Amber is a note that I should theoretically love but in practice find difficult with a few exceptions:

7. Puredistance M : Oh what a beautiful amber this is. Everything about this perfume is so smooth and I don’t know, gentle? There are no sharp edges or corners, yet it is satisfyingly deep and interesting. Gently leathery, gently ambery, with a liquid thread of spices that reminds me of a muted Caron Poivre.

8. Parfum d’ Nicolai  Le temps d’une fete : Dappled light , dappled light, dappled light.  That is what I want to say when I think of and smell this fragrance. A  pool of green tinged dappled light that will now forever be my mother’s scent. She wore it for the first time this year, but it just melted into her skin and became her perfume.

9. Sonoma Scent Studio Champagne de Bois : As many people have pointed out, this perfume is reminiscent of Chanel Bois des Iles (the beginning also reminds me of Givenchy Organza Indecence). However, I find my decant of the recent Les Exclusifs version not as satisfying as I remember it being. But where Bois des Iles  doesn’t satifsy, Champagne de Bois steps in. It is chewy and thick and the sandalwood note is swoon-worthy. Many thanks to the generous Rappleyea for my sample.

10. Vintage Chanel No. 5 parfum : My first bottle of vintage perfume. Also my second bottle of vintage perfume (yes- I was greedy and bought two bottles.). Chanel no. 5 was exactly the kind of perfume that I didn’t want to wear 6 years ago. It is exactly the kind of perfume that I want to wear now. It is perfumey and old fashioned and powdery. And Grand.  No. 5 was released first on 5th May which is my Birthday. I discovered it just before my 5th wedding anniversary. the first bottle (50s vintage)  turned out to be my 5th wedding anniversary present (unsniffed) . You have to admit, I was destined to love this!

11. Vintage Christian Dior Miss Dior and Amouage Jubliation 25 : aahh- chypres. Two very different kinds of chypres but both evoke ambery-gold textures in my head. Miss Dior is gloriously animalic and I wear it even though my husband makes a face every time he smells it. I fell in love with Jubiliation 25 after I bought a decant of it for my mother. It reminds me of Indian Weddings and is the perfect scent to wear with a maroon kanjeevaram saree.

12. Guerlain Shalimar parfum : This was also the year, I finally ‘got’ Shalimar. I show considerable restraint by not wearing it to work. I apply lavishly at home though, much to my husband’s dismay.

Yes- I cheated. There are more than 10 perfumes in this list. But as I said, before- this was a great perfume year for me!!  And I haven’t even included so many other perfumes I discovered/re-discovered and that I really liked/loved like By Kilian Sweet Redemption, Ormonde Jayne Ta’if,  Guerlain Mitsouko, Aftelier Tango, Fig, Mona di Orio Oud. So considering how many I didn’t mention, I think 12 is a very small number, don’t you?

HAPPY NEW YEAR! and hope all your fragrant (and non-fragrant) wishes come true!


  1. Beautiful list, Lavanya. I haven’t tried everything on it, but we definitely share some favorites. I think it’s safe to say that, along with Tarleisio, you are my scent triplet. And I might have to count your mother, too. She can be our quadruplet! 😉

    • You know what, Suzanne- I think I discovered your blog for the first time because of my mother. She had just started loving her sample of Jubiliation 25 and I was thinking of getting her either a ‘split’ or decant. I saw her surfing on my computer and found your blog (the decants page) opened on my screen. It was funny to see her do the same kind of searches that I used to do 6 years ago. Then of course, I ‘saw’ you a couple of times on Birgit’s blog before everything ‘clicked’ and I realized you were from ‘’..:D

  2. Pingback: Some thoughts as the year ends « Perfume in Progress

    • Thank you Trish- I hope you are able to try them- I have a bunch of stuff to try from your list too and am looking forward to doing so..A very Happy New Year to you too!

  3. DSH

    Thank you so much, Lavanya! Your blog is a new discovery for me and it looks like I have some great reading to do! Thank you so much for including Pandora on your Top Ten list for 2011! I’m totally stunned and beyond delighted to know how Pandora touched you and reminded you of your grandmother. It’s a story I will cherish; thank you for sharing it.
    Wishing you wonderful success and many more fragrant discoveries to come in 2012~
    oxo, Dawn

  4. Sounds like 2011 was a great perfume year for you, Lavanya. It great when you can finally splurge on some of your favourites.
    Loved reading about your mother – what great taste! It amazes me how my Mum and sister are able to instantly pick out notes in perfume and put me to shame!

    Oh and I made that spicy cauliflower soup today for lunch and it was great, so many thanks!

    • That is so cool Tara- so your mom and sister also love perfume? My sister gets annoyed if I talk about perfume for too

      I’m glad you made that soup- I still need to make it- hopefully one of these days.

  5. Thank you so much Lavanya! I am so delighted with this wonderful honor of having 2 perfumes in your Best of 2011! I am touched by your very personal perceptions and beautiful writing, looking forward to lots more!
    xo Mandy

    • You are so welcome Mandy! It took a lot of restraint to pick only two of your perfumes- I love so many of them. I can’t wait to see/smell what you come up with in 2012. Best wishes for the new year! *hugs*

  6. Pingback: New Year Resolutions, Part I: 2011 Round Up « Undina's Looking Glass

  7. I enjoyed reading your list. I tried only half of perfumes you’ve mentioned (and loved half of those). Now I’m curious to re-test a couple that were just OK when I tested them for the first time.

    • Thanks Undina! I am curious- which were the ones you’ve tried and which out of them did you love? No- wait- let me guess: You tried half of them so around 5-6 and loved half of those- so around 3? SO you tried DSH pandora, Le Temp, SSS Champagne de Bois, Miss Dior, Shalimar and Chanel no. 5. You loved Pandora, Le temp and CdB- am I anywhere close??..:D

    • Oh- yes- I remember that post by you about Miss Dior (I think I read it either just before or maybe after I bought by vintage mini). I do think you will really like Le Temp though.

  8. Hi there every one, here every person is sharing such knowledge, thus it’s good to read this blog, and I used to visit this website all the time.

  9. Pingback: Tubéreuse Criminelle : Capturing the Intangible | Pieces of paper, squiggly lines

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