Autumn, automne, خريفي, 秋, осень… By any name this season retains for me its associations with the languid decay, with the bittersweet end of beauty, with the melancholy. I was born in the fall, and that is why perhaps the autumn and its scents appeal to me. The dampness of fallen leaves, the rooty fragrance of wet earth, the incense of distant bonfires… Let the scents below serve as a journey into the autumn with me.
Amouage is a fascinating fragrance house given its history steeped in the rich perfume traditions of Oman, the site of the ancient Frankincense Road. Created as a means to preserve the country’s perfume-making traditions, Amouage offers a range which allows a glimpse both into the splendors of grand French perfumery as well as the smouldering beauty of the Eastern scents. If Amouage Gold and Jubilation 25 for Women fit well into the former category, Homage occupies the latter. I love the traditional combination of rose, oud, sandalwood and frankincense with the modern clarity and sparkle. An introspective and serene scent.
Elegant, streamlined incense, which takes me more to the Russian Orthodox churches than to the souks of Medina. There is a wistful aura to this fragrance, which is somehow fitting with the season. Another Serge Lutens creation that allows me to slip effortlessly into the reverie.
My fingers still bear the puncture marks from the thorny branches of cassie I was trying to pick in Grasse. However, the scent lingers in the dried flowers even now—warm, honeyed, with a delicious suede-like note. The only fragrance I know that captures it with a remarkable perfection is Dominique Ropion’s Une Fleur de Cassie for Frédéric Malle. Its understated, tender beauty melds elegantly with the scent of fallen leaves in the autumnal air.
Bittersweet saffron and effervescent spicy-floral cardamom offer a beautiful marriage of opposites. I know few scents that explore all facets of saffron (L’Artisan Safran Troublant offers its sweet, warm side) and almost none where the saffron-cardamom pair truly shines. Meanwhile, I add this mélange to my coffee, yogurt mousse, pistachio cakes and lamb stewed with fruit.
When I woke up on a morning after my return from Istanbul, I saw that the light in the bedroom had a mesmerizing garnet opalescence. In the weeks that I was traveling, the two tall maple trees in front of my window became transformed into the burning torches. After this week’s rain, the leaves are scattered on the ground, filling the air with their poignant walnut shell scent. I wrap myself in a long coat and sit on the balcony drinking coffee and reflecting on the passing nature of things…
“It is deep autumn
How does he live, I wonder,” wrote the Japanese poet Bashō. If I want to reinforce my melancholy mood, I reach for Serge Lutens La Myrrhe. Its dusky cool scent of myrrhe and dark flowers makes me think of these evanescent red maple leaves.
On the surface, Chamade is cold and beautiful like a marble statue, but allow it an hour and observe the remarkable transformation. As the fragrance begins to reveal its passionate side—the warm, oriental accord imbued with the softness of tonka bean and vanilla and the sultry accent of amber— Chamade simply cannot leave one indifferent.
I love the duality of ambers—the combination of sparkling facets with the lusciously dark, animalic side. As one of my first assignments, I had to make an amber accord, which has grown as I began to experiment further. I wore it one day to meet a dear friend, who loved it so much, I named it after her. Thus was born my Clair d’Ambre. Alternatively, I reach for beautiful ambers like Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, Annick Goutal Ambre Fétiche or Armani Privé Ambre Soie.
J’Adore is one of the most imitated and admired fragrances on the market, and smelling it without preconceived notions clearly reveals why—its beautiful floral accord has such radiance, clarity and transparency like nothing that came before it, its green ivy note is remarkably vivid and dewy, while the base is filled with the gorgeous warmth. These contrasts only serve to heighten the facets of the composition, which fit together like an intricate pattern of a kaleidoscope. Despite hundreds of imitators, J’Adore remains special for me, a true classic.
What draws me to Bertrand Duchaufour, L’Artisan’s in-house perfumer, is his ability to create radiant accords. In Fleur de Liane, he pairs his signature dry, but luminous ambery woods with the wet green notes. The end result is vibrant, dramatic and yet elegant. A permanent fixture on my vanity table this fall.
Fall and books is a natural association for a permanent student like myself. Even now if I am asked to envision where I would most like to be, 90% of the time I picture myself in the stacks of Yale’s Sterling library (which must be my favorite library in the world,) surrounded by the scent of old paper, dust and leather bindings. While no bottled scent comes close to capturing the fragrance of antique books, Etro Messe de Minuit offers a small glimpse.