Autumn is one of my favorite seasons, given the melancholic connotations in the early dusks and fallen leaves. It is a time when I fully give in to nostalgia, imagining the cherry trees in the garden of my childhood turning russet, the first frost on the shaggy bushes of chrysanthemums near the wooden gate, and the plaintive cry of cranes crossing the overcast sky above the terracotta roof of our house. Thinking of these familiar images, I reach out for a compilation of Turgenev and gaze out of my window at the rows of slender maple trees dropping their crimson leaves into the puddles.
I notice that my fragrance choices for autumn fall into the nostalgic realm: classical ambers, animalic chypres, spicy orientals and dark roses. However, since the choices themselves depend on my mood and the weather, I decided to organize my list in this manner: a set of fragrances for each autumnal mood.
The days of Indian summer are among the loveliest. Cool mornings give way to a languorous sunshine, which seems to melt into the puddles of gold on the sidewalks. The leaves are starting to take on vivid shades from lemon yellow to sienna red. I find that my hand reaches for scents that echo this serene and crisp ambiance. I find it in the brilliance of Parfum d’Empire Yuzu Fou with its zesty, citrusy mélange; the leathery apricots and jasmine of The Different Company Osmanthus; the stunning white floral bouquet of Annick Goutal Un Matin d’Orage. My most recent discovery has been Acqua di Parma Magnolia Nobile, a tribute to magnolia accented with bergamot, jasmine, sandalwood and vetiver. Airy and yet voluptuous, it is perfect for the last few warm days of autumn.
It is a morning when I can hardly wake up, when darkness creeps into every corner, and the mind simply refuses to believe that it is 5:30am already. It finally brightens outside, and despite the fact that the sunshine is lost in the velvety rolls of fog, the opalescent light more than makes up for the heavy darkness of early morning. I enjoy the familiar streets acquiring a nebulous aura, the saturated colors of autumnal foliage suddenly looking like pastel watercolors, and most of all, I love the scent of wet leaves, grass and earth. The soil covered red roses of L’Artisan Parfumeur Voleur de Roses remind me of these days, while the stunning Annick Goutal Heure Exquise presents a more elegant vision of cold roots, leaves and bitter flowers. Finally, when I need an extra jolt, Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose and Ormonde Jayne Frangipani can make me feel like a flamboyant 1960s Italian movie star, even if the reality is far from it.
Only in the fall can the rain feel so interminable—the great splashes of water cutting through the last of the leaves on the branches, the puddles becoming small lakes, the mood dropping lower and lower… If I am at home with a cup of hot tea and a good book, I have to admit that the monotonous beat of the rain can be a soothing sound, but obviously I am not all that fond of rain when I have to get to work, school or my dance classes. One of my favorite uplifting fragrances is Chloé, a candy colored, beautifully rendered confection of roses. It is like wearing a bright pink coat, and it gets noticed. Alternatively, I love the sensual warmth of Annick Goutal Musc Nomade, a marvelous animalic musk composition. Iris scents with their chilly, damp earth character have a particular affinity with rainy weather. Thus, I enjoy the iris imbued leather of Chanel Cuir de Russie, the striking fragility of Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist as well as the regal elegance of Chanel No 19.
When the leaves begin to change color, the whole world acquires a vivid glow. The jewel tones of maple leaves, the delicate yellow of birch trees, the variegated green of poplars… And of course, the incomparable smell of autumnal leaves: of black walnuts, wet leather, sour apples and wilting chrysanthemums. Allaying colors and scents, I find that Chanel Bois des Iles captures olfactively the stunning spectrum of autumnal foliage with its beautiful woody accord, anchored with amber and rose. Both Guerlain Nahema and L’Heure Bleue, while very different in character, possess a brilliantly rich palette. Finally, one of my favorite brightly hued fragrances is Robert Piguet Fracas, a striking flower that smells of warm skin.
Late fall bordering on winter is a different season from the languorously sunny early autumn. When the mornings dawn is bedecked in fragile frosts, one can almost smell the winter snows. Although Guerlain Mitsouko is often seen as the most autumnal of fragrances, I find that its chypre warmth reminiscent of warm furs lands it in the wintery category. It is the time when I love the smell of incense, whether it is a classical incense of Armani Privé Bois d’Encens, the refined minimalism of Andy Tauer Incense Extrême, or the seductive embrace of Amouage Jubilation XXV for Men. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention one of my favorite home scents that helps me cope with the cold—Costes, a memorable fragrance of incense, rose and sandalwood.