Today I am sitting on a jury for the Fragrance Foundation France’s “Prix des Spécialistes”, which will be awarded to a 2009 fragrance available in less than 100 points of sale in France (in other words: for niche or exclusives lines).
Seven awards (best fragrance, best bottle, best campaign, etc…) are given out by the French public, who could vote via Osmoz and Marie-Claire on the FFF's website; there are also two “Prix des Parfumeurs” for the best feminine and masculine fragrances, as well as a “Prix Coup de Coeur” given out by the editors of Marie-Claire France, for a grand total of 11 awards, which should cover the playing field nicely.
My fellow jurors are five journalists, evaluators from eight composition houses and three other French bloggers: Juliette from Poivre Bleu, Sixtine from Ambre Gris and Méchant Loup from Olfactorum, the lone male amongst 16 women, since, for reasons unknown, my friend Octavian Coifan from 1000 fragrances was not invited though he is surely the best specialist amongst the French-based bloggers.
The 50 pre-selected fragrances are either from niche houses or exclusive lines. We were asked to each give out a short list of five nominees. Out of the 50, my choice was fairly easy to make:
Frédéric Malle Géranium pour Monsieur by Dominique Ropion because of its innovative take on the fougère family and fascinating, vortex-like, precision-engineered structure;
Annick Goutal Un Matin d’orage by Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal, again because it renovates the ozonic floral genre with astonishingly natural, dewy effects, and because it seems to me to represent a new, edgier phase in Isabelle’s work for Goutal;
L’Artisan Parfumeur Havana Vanille by Bertrand Duchaufour because of its impeccably intelligent structure, its new take on a clichéd note and because it is exemplary of its author’s new manner (Penhaligon’s Amaranthine, which I believe may be a better scent, was not in the pre-selection);
Cartier “Les Heures de Parfum” XII – L’Heure Mystérieuse and XIII – La Treizième Heure by Mathilde Laurent, because it seems to me that Mathilde is exploring a new grammar of perfume composition; the scents are different enough in their structure to warrant being both nominated and achieve very distinctive textural effects.
Out of my short list, I wear neither Géranium pour Monsieur (that minty coolness is definitely not me) nor Un Matin d’Orage (I am hyperosmic to one of the materials and can only appreciate it when I mentally correct that sensitivity); there are four scents in the pre-selected 50 that I own, wear, but didn’t pick. There are certainly scents I’ve left out because I haven’t experienced/analyzed them sufficiently. And there is one, Céline Ellena’s Oriental Lounge for The Different Company, which I would’ve dearly loved to include: I pondered at length about taking out one of the Cartiers, but I couldn’t decide which one (they are both remarkable), and felt I couldn’t possibly leave out Ropion, Doyen or Duchaufour, all three of whom I consider major authors.
At the time of writing, I don’t know if any of these will have made it on the final list of nominees, but reflecting on my selections, I can see common points: I picked fragrances that had an interesting, innovative structure, that were significant within the context of their authors’ corpus and for the house that released them, and that weren’t classically “pretty”. Perfumes that spoke of creative freedom rather than a bid to draw in customers, get in on the niche/exclusives market, or come off as expressions of what the perfumer/brand owner/artistic director knows how to do best: fine achievements, but not groundbreaking.
I am very curious to know how today’s discussions will unfold. I will probably not be at liberty to disclose their contents or result, but I will try to post an update to let you know the finalists, and when the winner of the award, which will be given out on April 8th, will be officially announced. Watch this space.
Winners will be announced on April 9th. Until then, my lips are sealed.
Illustration: still from George Cukor's The Women (1939).