I detest the heat, but I love the scents of summer, from the warm, almost suffocating smell of the sun parched asphalt to the vivid green aroma of fresh tomatoes. The heat amplifies everything in the air, extending and twisting the facets of scents that are unobtrusive and subtle at other times. Below is my list of ten fragrances (in no particular order) that would make any summer day even better. Or any other day, for that matter…
I find that many chypre fragrances embody the concept of jolie-laide (pretty-ugly), a beauty that it is oddly off key and yet incredibly striking. Wearing Miss Dior this summer, I am moved not only by its elegant form, but also by many of its twists—from the green sharpness of galbanum in the top notes to the animalic richness of the base. Its mossy, leathery drydown is addictive. These days, I find myself craving it more and more frequently.
2. Frédéric Malle Angéliques Sous la Pluie
The creator of Angéliques Sous la Pluie, Jean-Claude Ellena, is renowned for the minimalism and modernism of his formulas. The fragrances he has been creating over the past decade are the architectural objects constructed out of glass—radiant, elegant, marked by an illusion of fragility. Angéliques Sous la Pluie is a fragrance that does not brand one with a strong sillage—it whispers, shimmers and then delicately steps in the background. Yet, on warm days, its peppery and green scent has such a refreshing and rejuvenating effect on me that I cannot help but reach for it again and again.
3. Hermés Calèche
Calèche is perfumer’s Guy Robert’s masterpiece. The combination of aldehydic top notes with the rich rose, jasmine and iris heart and the velvety chypre base is nothing short of amazing. Wearing this perfume, one feels as if one is taking a journey—it is complex, richly orchestrated and full of unexpected turns. The aldehydic brilliance of the opening accord makes it particularly suitable for a warm day.
I am especially critical of those I admire. The same thing can be said of fragrances and particularly of jasmine dominated blends. I passionately love the scent of jasmine, which combines the banana jam fruitiness with the warmth of hay and leather. Yet, out of all jasmine fragrances I have tried, nothing rivals A La Nuit for me. It is opulent and seductive, with a rich balsamic undercurrent that accents the chocolate-like sweetness of jasmine. Even if I find some faults with A La Nuit (too balsamic, too heavy at times), they are daunted by its virtues.
5. Annick Goutal Eau de Camille
Once I started studying perfumery in greater depth, I found it a good exercise to revisit my old favourites. In some cases, I discovered that they were simply copies of well-known successes. Yet, on many occasions I was struck anew by the ingenuity of the compositions I admired. Eau de Camille is one such example. It is not a particularly complex fragrance, but its charm lies in its delicate balance and airy form. The verdant notes paired with the white flowers are anchored by the dry woods, resulting in a fragrance that feels as perfect for the summer as a white chiffon dress.
If Coco Chanel and Ernest Beaux created No 5 now, I suspect that they would have come up with something similar to La Myrrhe. This fragrance by Serge Lutens and perfumer Chris Sheldrake extends the olfactive portrait of myrrh with the facets that correspond to what one might find in this fascinating raw material. The chilly qualities of myrrh are accented with aldehydes, the subtle fruitiness with mandarin, while the licorice is amplified with anise. Add a lush floral accord and the balsamic base, and you have a modern No5. Like No 5, La Myrrh unfolds best on my skin on a warm day.
If Miss Dior is a classical chypre, 31, rue Cambon is a modern one. The mossy notes are attenuated, while the iris takes the center stage. It has the retro quality, which nevertheless does not render it dated. The warm, floral musk in the drydown is what I find particularly enchanting. Although I still would prefer to have it in a richer version, on the hot summer days, it is just perfect.
8. L’Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu
Timbuktu is one of the few L’Artisan fragrances that bore no initial appeal for me. And yet, it is one of the few that I still have in my possession after slimming down my collection. Its rose hued patchouli accord is supported by the earthy, woody notes of vetiver. The effect is explosive—radiant and warm. Experiencing the sillage of Timbuktu is akin to stepping into the pool of hot sunshine.
9. Guerlain Cologne du 68
Whenever I am asked to recommend a modern cologne, I immediately think of Cologne du 68. For one thing, it is a beautiful juxtaposition of the warm Guerlinade accord—tonka bean, rose, iris and vanilla—with the fresh, herbaceous and citrusy top. For someone like me who does not care for the classical colognes, this one is perfect. It is sweet and dark enough to be interesting, and sparkling enough to be refreshing.
Those who have followed Bois de Jasmin for a while would not find my loyalty to this stunning tuberose tour de force at all surprising. Its luscious tuberose is foiled by the green notes and the sweet orange blossom. If the sunshine had a smell, Carnal Flower would be its aroma.