Mark Twain once said that “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” He should have visited New York this summer! I have been wearing my fall jackets in the middle of July and packing an extra sweater just in case, along with an umbrella and a trench coat. As much as I would like to complain, I have to admit that I enjoy cold summers because they allow me to fully appreciate the delicate scents that fill the air. The green foliage that tends to dull and faded by this time is instead bright and crisp. The wild roses are still covered with raspberry scented petals. The strawberries are still delicious and sweet. I have also enjoyed darker, richer perfumes that ordinarily would have been too overwhelming in the summer heat. Yet, this summer the voluptuous roses of Guerlain Nahema are as appropriate as scintillating Hermes Eau de Pamplemousse Rose. All in all, every cloud has a silver lining. Please see my list below for the favorite fragrances that made this summer enchanting.
A cross between bitter chocolate and Orthodox church incense, Ambre Fetiche is one of the most intriguing amber fragrances I know. It avoids the usual heavy sweetness that makes amber accords old-fashioned, but similarly it does not have the sharpness associated with many of the modern ambers. On a cool summer evening, it is a wonderfully comforting fragrance, an olfactory equivalent of a cashmere wrap. Likewise I have been enjoying it on many of our cold summer days this year.
The main thing that I learned working in the fragrance industry is not to turn up my nose at the mass market fragrances (and I fully admit to doing so previously!) Sometimes these companies spend a lot of effort on launching high quality perfumes, while some of the so-called luxury brands channel their budgets more into packaging and advertising. Velvet Tuberose is a lovely tuberose soliflore, and for those on a budget, it would be an ideal choice. It is soft, elegant and airy, with a delicious coconut undertone.
I have been having an intense love affair with Beige this summer. Its warm iris and anise inflected sillage spells out elegance and glamour, while the aura of the fragrance is pleasantly understated. Somehow, more than any other fragrance in Chanel collection, Beige evokes the feeling of fabrics that inspired Coco Chanel. Its effects range from silk to jersey, from cashmere to tweed. An ultimate couture fragrance!
The entire Cristalle collection is a jewel, from the fizzy chypre of Cristalle EDT to the nectar drenched flowers of EDP. Eau Verte is another great addition, extending and complementing the array well. It enhances the white blossom and moss structure of Cristalle with a vibrant citrus and green ivy accord, which makes Eau Verte luminous and light. Admittedly, it is more fleeting than either one of the original Cristalles, but nevertheless Eau Verte fulfills its promise to refresh and rejuvenate./p>
Escale a Pondichery, a second addition to Dior’s “Escape” collection, is a tea based cologne. Its simplicity–citrus, tea, woods, a hint of jasmine–belies its carefully balanced structure. Cologne genre by its nature tends to simple and minimalistic, but it is not easy to capture freshness while at the same time guaranteeing a long lasting effect. Escale a Pondichery manages it quite well–it is a scintillating fragrance with enough character to be memorable.
Le Parfum de Therese is one of the most outstanding fragrances in Frederic Malle’s collection. Its signature is so distinctive–an orchestration of dew soaked jasmine, ripe fruit and soft woods. Yet, its jasmine leans towards animalic darkness, its melons towards seductive overripeness. Its creator, Edmond Roudnitska, nevertheless managed to keep everything in balance. Le Parfum de Therese teases, seduces and intrigues. On a warm day, it blooms like an exotic flower on the skin. On a cold evening, it warms its wearer in the most alluring way.
I can write volumes on Nahema, a masterpiece of Guerlain’s collection and a resounding commercial failure. Its launch in 1979 was too early for this bombshell of a fragrance. Its sillage of honeyed roses, sandalwood, dried fruit and civet was simply too daring and too bold for its time. While usually I reserve Nahema for winter, since it is unapologetically rich and opulent, this summer has been cold enough to enjoy it.
I love the green trend that is evident in 2009 launches, from verdant accents in Kenzo Amour Florale to the dominant green notes in Hermes Eau de Gentiane Blanche. Eau de Pamplemousse Rose is also framed in verdant notes, but in this fragrance, the green elements enhance the accord of bitter citrus. It is a marvelous composition, refined and nuanced.
Silences is an overlooked gem, a fragrance that followed in the footsteps of Chanel No 19 and other 1970s green chypres. Its green floral chypre character is rendered with a beautiful precision, from the crisp green top to the luscious floral heart to the cool mossy backdrop. A very special perfume.
I am normally very critical of flankers to the great classics. I can live without Miss Dior Cherie and Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus. However, L’Air du Printemps, a take on the great classic L’Air du Temps is lovely. Even though it is housed in a tacky pink bottle, it is a far cry from a typical pink fruity floral. The fragrance retains the springtime exuberance of the original, while adding a few modern touches–clarity of composition and minimalistic expression. It does not try to improve on the original. Instead, L’Air du Printemps offers an uplifting composition that works beautifully in the summer.
Photo of Catherine Deneuve in St. Tropez from FanPix.