Two quotes capture the essence of spring particularly well for me.
“Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower” Albert Camus
“It’s spring fever…. You don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” Mark Twain
Never do I feel so uplifted or so delighted by the smallest things—seeing a soot blackened tree branch near my office suddenly burst into bloom, finding the first buds on my jasmine plant and smelling the most wonderful of scents–that of wet earth and fresh grass. The sensation is not dissimilar to that of being in love. Of course, every change makes for new olfactory explorations for me. The following list (in alphabetical order) captures my current, 2008 if you will, mood. If you are interested in my more general reflections on the springtime scents, I would suggest Fragrances of Spring and Perfumes to Usher in Spring.
Eau du Ciel is a quintessential Annick Goutal watercolor. Like all Goutal fragrances, it presents a story, a glimpse into another life, another universe. Wearing Eau du Ciel, I find myself visualizing someone walking through the countryside, the bottom of her white dress soaked in dew. It is a fragrance that I select for my serene, contemplative moods, when all I want to do is daydream.
This spring I have resumed my Japanese lessons after a brief hiatus, and the exhilaration of being able to look at the rows of characters, understand the meaning and then to express a thought of my own is something I can hardly put into words. The rewards have been felt in the other spheres of my life as well. After a Japanese friend shared with me some samples of her favorite green teas, I became more obsessed than ever with finding that delicate, green floral scent in perfume. So far, I am still searching, but Bvlgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert which was created by perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena after his visit to the Mariage Frères tea salon is a contender. Its tea note is stronger and smokier than what one would find in the Japanese green tea, but the fragrance manages to convey beautifully the velvety feel of first tea leaves. Overall, it is a green tea with violet and jasmine notes.
As much as I love the entire Chanel fragrance line, I find that No 19 has the most profound emotional impact on me. Stunningly elegant, this fragrance alternates between the wet verdancy of galbanum and the dry warmth of leather. The rose notes in its heart have a sensation of white, soft petals on skin, while the vetiver and iris provide a rich foil for the animalic accords. A masterpiece!
For me Cristalle is the essence of Sicily, its magical fragrance that seems to combine the scents of dry, sunbaked earth, the citrus peel and the salty seaweed. The EDT is sparkling and dry like white wine, while the EDP is sweeter like moscato. I wear both depending on my mood, although just like in my preference for dryness in wines, the EDT is my choice more often than not.
Private Collection captures the beauty of late spring for me. The deliciously crisp green top note enhanced by the vegetal richness of galbanum lingers on the skin, but once it departs, the darkness of the chypre-leather remains to suggest the warm, seductive languor of summer. It is another recent discovery for me. I hardly ever see it on the Estée Lauder counters, but if asked, the sales associates procure it from a stash filled with other marvelous Lauder classics such as Azurée, Estée, and Cinnabar. I also love the new Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, a striking and memorable white floral.
The beauty of Vetiver is that despite its numerous reformulations, it is still a classic with which to be reckoned. On the face of it, it is quite simple—the natural facets of vetiver (citrus, licorice, wood, dampness) drawn out and enhanced. The result is nothing short of genius. This spring I am rediscovering it anew.
I will confess that I am a great fan of Bertrand Duchaufour. His fragrances possess a strong personality, and yet their rich nuances paired with minimal structures convey both elegance and complexity. Timbuktu and Jubilation XXV are perfect studies in radiance and projection. The former is a rosy patchouli, underpinned by a rich resinous accord. The latter is an woody amber twisted around a spicy frankincense.
Infusion d’Iris has been one of my favorite recent launches. I love its reference to Guerlain L’Heure Bleue (another great love of mine), its suggestion of Japanese incense smoke, its delicate form and elegant drydown. This spring, it is a constant companion for me. I have to add that those men who wear Dior Homme might find Prada to be another interesting iris choice.
I will not stop wondering why Féminité du Bois has been discontinued in the States, but while it is still available online, I suggest stocking up. The first Serge Lutens fragrance, it continues to remain one of the most daring wood scents for women (and the most sensual scents for men). Its violet cedarwood structure is a gold standard for dry, yet luminous woods.
Oud is one of the most bizarre and fascinating fragrance materials. During my recent trip to the Arabian Peninsula, I found myself completely enthralled by its complex scent—dark and minty, honeyed and animalic, crisp and smoky. Almost half a year later my scarf still smells of oud. Many fragrances purport to contain oud, but Tom Ford Oud Wood is the best example of manipulating this complex material. While containing the various facets of oud, it nevertheless manages to suggest its airy character. A vignette of burning oud incense.