Please see Part I of Romantic Notes.
The Ukrainian winters of my childhood were frigid enough to require a heavy fur coat. I still remember the warm scent of fur and its contrast with the crisp mineral winter air. Although I no longer wear fur, the memories are strong enough to make this aroma special. For me, the notes evoking the warmth of fur in fragrance tend to fall into the amber category: the rich resinous ambers like the amber gold standard Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, the spicy sweet ambers like Armani Privé Ambre Soie , the baroque ambers like Guerlain Attrape-Coeur / Guet-Apens or Hermèssence Ambre Narguilé. While the ambery notes of Hermès Eau des Merveilles are of a salty ambergris variety, wearing this fragrance, especially in the parfum concentration, is not unlike being wrapped in a fur stole.
In addition, a number of classical perfumes suggest the comforting warmth of fur against the skin. Taking the idea literally, in 1947 Rochas offered a fragrance to perfume a fur coat, naming it Mouche after his cat. Rochas Femme, on the other hand, offers a more veiled approach—its animalic warmth underscored by the languid jasmine notes makes it among the most seductive fragrance available. Other classical fur perfumes include Guerlain Shalimar, Lanvin My Sin, and Caron Narcisse Noir.
I promise that this has nothing to do with S&M! The romantic leather I have in mind is soft, suede-like, perhaps with a tantalizing masculine smoky note. It is the luxurious richness of iris drenched Chanel Cuir de Russie, rather than the brazen presence of Robert Piguet Bandit. Although the idea of an animalic note may not immediately appeal to everyone, scents that recall leather, suede, skin or fur are often among the most seductive. By way of example, it is the animalic accord that lifts the scent of magnolia and endows its perky citrusy fragrance with a mysterious aura.
Among the classics, Caron Tabac Blond is a fragrance that is as close to the magic carpet as I can imagine. One whiff of its tobacco and honey accented leather, and I find myself walking the winter streets of Paris. If it is a romantic fantasy, it is indicative of a romance between me and this amazing city. By contrast, the leather notes of fragrances like Frédéric Malle Le Parfum de Thérèse and Hermès Kelly Calèche are delicate and velvety, offering a more luminous and lighter character. Finally, the ambery leather of Annick Goutal Les Orientalistes Ambre Fétiche is another wonderful option.
The sweet fragrance of honey blends animalic richness with petally floralcy. It makes me think of heavy clusters of wisteria blossoms as well as of soft leather. Indeed, the quintessential romantic flower rose is rich with the scent of honey. As Guerlain Nahéma reveals, enhancing the honey facet of rose can lead to a fascinating outcome.
I also love a blend of honey and patchouli in Lancôme’s classic Magie Noire. The honey provides a seductive animalic undercurrent in Parfums Delrae Amoureuse and Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia. An overdose of honey, on the other hand, is something I find it rather challenging (exhibit A: Serge Lutens Miel de Bois).
The last romantic note in these series is fig. I hesitated adding it, simply because I have not been successful in finding a fragrance that captures the aroma of a ripe fig perfectly. Yet, the scent is so ravishing—the honeyed sweetness, the milky richness and the incredibly complex floral warmth–that I cannot resist speaking about it. Hermès Un Jardin en Méditerranée brings to life the milky green note, while Slatkin Black Fig and Absinthe manages to allude to the sweetness of figs, yet beautiful as they are, these fragrances still do not showcase the full spectrum of this unique fruit. Perhaps, this little fantasy of time simply needs time to become realized. After all, I find such olfactive quests quite exciting.
Please see Part I of Romantic Notes.
Photograph: Brassaï (French, born Transylvania, 1899–1984,) Lovers in a small cafe in the Italian quarter.