Fragrance, Reviews

Best & Worst Fragrances of 2011

  Now that this year has come to a close, it’s time to share our somewhat subjective view of the Best & Worst Fragrances of […]

glass bead bottle 232x300 Best & Worst Fragrances of 2011Now that this year has come to a close, it’s time to share our somewhat subjective view of the Best & Worst Fragrances of 2011.  We’ve broken this down into a few categories for fun:

Worst waste of money: Creed Royal Service. While it’s nice, even the description for the composition’s notes make it sound like the Frankenstein’s Monster of fragrance, and at a price of over $1,750 for a 200 ml atomizer, it challenges Clive Christian’s No. 1 as the most expensive perfume in the world. Pity that it lacks that certain ‘oomph’.

Worst Longevity in a fragrance: Hermès Hermessence Santal Massoia. Jean-Claude Ellena has outdone himself with another linear, weak EDT composition within a very boutique line. Santal Massoia in the 100 ml sizing runs at $235 but delivers both a linear and fleeting experience. If you’re a fan of Ellena, try it, but this isn’t one we’d recommend for purchase.

Worst Mass-Market appeal fragrance: Nicole Polizzi Snooki. Do we really need to say much here? Ok, fine then. First, it began selling on the Home Shopping Channel, then made it up the chain to Perfumania (sounds like the department stores won’t touch it with a barge pole), it’s a nearly exact copy of Britney Spears’ “Fantasy”, and aside from the notes being a case of ‘guidette gourmand’ — seriously…sugar, kiwi, lychee and ‘cupcake accord’? – it comes with a plastic leopard-print tote bag. At around $40, I’m sure the tote bag isn’t the only thing synthetic in this train wreck.

Worst attempt at marketing: Dior’s La Collection Privee Christian Dior. Aside from removing the web-ordering options from the Dior site, they attempt to refer you to a retailer; this, in turn, sends you to a long list of retailers who will never carry the line because Dior has restricted it to only specific Dior Boutiques. And it gets worse. The SA’s in the women’s boutique haven’t a clue about any fragrance in the collection, there are no samples granted, and they struggle with how they’ll sell a bottle. Brilliant fragrances, fantastic price point and value, totally inept marketing execution.

Most Intriguing Fragrance: Bacon Classic & Bacon Gold. Forget notes of ambrette, jasmine, patchouli or musk. Let’s just get straight to the point without messing around. Both fragrances have a heart/base of bacon, so it’s simply truth in advertising. Clever augmented by vetivers, citruses and woods, it’s just enough without being over the top. And who doesn’t love bacon?

GuerlainShalimar 234x300 Best & Worst Fragrances of 2011Best Department Store Release (Women): Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial. It’s an accessible adaptation of Shalimar for a generation who thinks the original is over-cloying. Rarely does tinkering with an iconic original yield a positive result, but this succeeds on a variety of levels.

Best Department Store Release (Men): Dior Homme Intense. Technically, this is a re-release and reformulation of the original, but the outcome is positive. It’s the right level of depth and sophistication without being common. One of our runner-up choices was Marc Jacobs Bang, but after some wearing, we felt it lacked the right sophistication and the outcome felt very close to Terre D’Hermès to merit further distinction.

feuille verte 300x300 Best & Worst Fragrances of 2011


Best Limited Edition: Creed Feuille Verte. Only 350 were released, and those exclusively to the US market, but this alone didn’t seal the deal for us. This is honestly a Creed that we found to be exceptionally crafted, unique, and sophisticated. Royal Service would qualify in this category, but frankly was not exceptional.

Best Intepretation of a note: Santal 33 by Le Labo. Santal 33 struck us as an astounding fragrance that brought Sandalwood to a very fore-front level, something that isn’t necessarily easy since the element is generally used more as a heart or basenote. Le Labo’s augmentation of the note takes nothing away from that element, but imbues it with a new sense of character. A very creative effort.

Best Fragrance: This was a challenge as the scents in the running included an Amber that promises to be today’s Oud Wood, some fragrances that were released in limited run in 2010 but only became available in 2011, and more than several prior releases that perhaps haven’t gotten the rich credit they deserve.

Here were some of the entries:

  • Hermes Un Jardin Sur le Toit
  • Bond No. 9 New York Amber
  • Dior La Collection Privee Leather Oud
  • Creed Feuille Verte
  • Bond No. 9 New York Oud
  • Tom Ford Private Blend Jasmine Rouge
  • By Kilian Incense Oud
  • Le Labo Santal 33
  • Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire 2

Clearly, the choices were all over the map from florals to ambers to woods, with leather and green thrown in for measure. The list was a testament to both the niche and upscale-retail fragrance segments that there has been so much to select, and others will also have their own takes on the selections we’ve made and perhaps have suggested even more. So here is how we decided on criteria:

  • Creative/innovative use of elements
  • Overall Quality
  • General appeal
  • Projection, longevity and sillage
  • Impact
  • Relevance

Honorable Mentions: The Honorable Mentions went to the following:

  • Hermès Un Jardin Sur le Toit
  • Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire 2
  • By Kilian Incense Oud

Runners Up:  The runners-up included the following:

  • Le Labo Santal 33
  • Creed Feuille Verte

The Winner: The outcome was strong tie between the two Bond fragrances: New York Amber and New York Oud. Both in our view offered a very creative and innovative use of the core components, both ranked high in terms of interest, overall quality, and the longevity/projection/sillage aspects.  Both provided a high degree of impact by virtue of their composition. Both were relevant in different ways:

  • New York Amber sought — and perhaps succeeded — in taking an Amber fragrance to another level, potentially making the ingredient the next focal ingredient for others to follow.
  • New York Oud succeeded in creating a very intriguing Oud fragrance laced with a variety of ingredients (notably, Rose) that made a fantastic impact and bold statement.

Both had the X-factor that distanced them from other scents, both had the capacity to command attention. We found it equally as difficult to suggest either had more of a creative edge than the other. In the final outcome, it was simply a match of equals: We would easily recommend either. There was only one differentiating factor, and that was that New York Amber was a repackaging and slight reformulation of Harrods Amber at a higher concentration.

new york oud 231x300 Best & Worst Fragrances of 2011

Bond No. 9 New York Oud

The winner was Bond No. 9 New York Oud. Again, both perfumes were outstanding, but the Oud was truly the original and not otherwise a reformulation; that doesn’t mean that we don’t recommend the New York Amber (far from it), and would encourage others to give our earlier reviews a read, and try a test.

Best wishes for a Happy and Prosperous 2012!


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  • Adrienne

    Did you actually try Royal Service? It’s a beautiful fragrance. It comes in a large flacon, not an atomizer. Yes, it’s crazy-expensive, but it won’t be the first lovely scent that cost too much.

  • The Scentrist

    Hi Adrienne,
    Yes, we — my wife and I — did try it. While it’s lovely, neither my wife or I found it to be $1,750 worth of lovely. And the flacon also has an atomizer — at least the replica shown me. It struck us as very derivative with fairly mediocre longevity for an EDP at its price-point.