Ten Moments of Spring : Emotions and Fragrances

cherries
While any Russian will find an ironic reference in my title to the Soviet era film “Seventeen Moments of Spring,” for me it has less to do with Russian spies improbably masquerading as German officers than with a sense of nostalgia I feel around this time. As I watch cherry blossoms wilt in the puddles, I already miss their delicate pink haze. As I feel the sun burning my skin, I crave the chill of snow. As spring unfolds with all its holidays, I miss people who cannot celebrate them with me. Therefore, my scent palette this spring reflects my yearnings and moods with particular poignancy.

Exhilaration

No holidays strike a deeper chord in me than Easter and Nowruz. Although they come from different traditions, their message of rejuvenation, hope and freedom is exhilarating. How magical is the smell of church during midnight mass–beeswax candles, hyacinth, vanilla and the candied oranges of kulich, Russian traditional sweet breads! How tempting is the Easter spread of colorful eggs, sugared brioche, pistachio cheesecakes, especially so after 40 days of Lent and its privations. It is difficult to imagine a fragrance that fully captures this sensation of spring exhilaration, but a few come close. Chanel no 19 with its enchanting juxtaposition between cool flower petals, green roots and soft leather offers an uplifting experience. Its verdancy is especially appropriate when contemplating the idea of spring. If being caught in the rainfall of apple blossoms is exhilarating to you, then Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger is an appropriately dramatic choice, a veritable storm of orange blossom, tuberose, jasmine and rose. Finally, Frederic Malle Carnal Flower is my own top choice for an exhilarating, enthralling fragrance. While tuberose, its main note, often tends to be opulent and heavy, Carnal Flower renders it airy and luminous.

Serenity

After the hectic Easter holidays–oh, all that spring cleaning, baking, serving–there comes a time of peace. When mornings are warm enough to take my tea and book outside, I like to be the first one to wake up and enjoy some solitude. I read little, being distracted by the new discoveries of spring — the egg yolk yellow of dandelion flowers, the intense green of tender leaves, the sonorous buzz of bees. These mornings smell of Annick Goutal Eau de Ciel and also of Serge Lutens Bois de Violette. The former is demure, delicate, limpid; the latter is dusky, moody, charming, yet somewhat unpredictable. Still, both fragrances have a wistful, serene character.

Love

One must be in love in the spring. The object of one’s passion may be human, but other things can inspire deep emotion as well. One spring I fell in love with Paris and went there at least twice a year, structuring my work and pleasure opportunities to allow me the joy of reunion. A couple of springs ago, it was Japanese literature. I read Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book, savoring each passage like a fine wine. In fragrance, this spring’s passion is directed to the appropriately named Cacharel Amor Amor. The wet lilacs of Frederic Malle En Passant are another love story for me, a rather more constant one.Wearing this fragrance I feel as if I am in a different place and time, one that seems more pristine than the reality in which I find myself. That’s just the way it tends to be.

Nostalgia

This brings us to the cardinal moment of spring–nostalgia. I become most aware of it at this time because of spring’s numerous holidays.The retro elegance of Caron Tabac Blond feels particularly suited to these moods.

Tears

Rain falling through new leaves rustles like the train of a heavy ball gown against the dance floor. The first storms of spring speak of its changing moods, so unpredictable and dramatic. From sunny exuberance to brooding gloom. I consider Frederic Malle Angéliques Sous la Pluie and Guerlain Après l’Ondée as my rainy weather/sad mood fragrances, both for their limpid, delicate beauty and for their soothing quality. Ultimately, they are exquisitely beautiful, and when one contemplates beauty, sadness melts away.

Dreams

Meaning “dreams” in French, Songes by Annick Goutal may be too obvious a selection, however I will make no excuses for it. I just adore this luscious jasmine and sandalwood composition, so complex, layered and nuanced. As long as it makes me dream, that is all I need to return to this fragrance again and again.

Anxiety

Any change brings about anxiety, and spring is particularly pervaded with a kind of nervous tension, a dissonance of sorts. When I think of dissonance, the first fragrance that comes to mind is Comme des Garçons Eau de Parfum (Original). An unpredictable blend of wood, incense, spice, and leather; it has an almost electric energy. Striking, if not exactly easy to wear.

Hope

As Easter hails Christ’s rising, a new moment of spring blossoms–hope. Hope that things will be better. It is a radiant, uplifting sensation that makes one soar. A complex emotion like this is difficult to tie to a particular fragrance, but somehow the simplicity of Annick Goutal Neroli never fails to give me a pleasant jolt. Likewise, Frederic Malle L’Eau d’Hiver is almost addictive in its rejuvenating, tonic quality, a potion of violet, anise and heliotrope.

Rediscovery

daily transformation during this season brings a new pleasure of rediscovery. It is exciting to see the first thin blades of grass under the snow and contemplate them as if seeing their delicacy for the first time. Hence, olfactive rediscoveries are plentiful as well. A recent citrus oriented project prompted me to revisit Thierry Mugler Cologne. A crisp modern take on cologne, it anchors its effervescent citrus on a sheer woody-musky base. Yet, the effect is dramatic and powerful. Speaking of sparkling citrus, I should also mention a new take on Eau de Cartier, Eau de Cartier Essence d’Orange, which is a nice crisp cologne.

Surprise

Finally, I want spring to bring surprises too. From the climatic standpoint, it is not a difficult wish to be granted in the New York area. However, for something that changes your viewpoint in a radical manner, one has to search deeper. In terms of fragrance, I like to keep my mind open, whether it means delving into the past, exploring big new launches or discovering niche offerings. The most surprising big launch for me was Marc Jacobs Lola, a flamboyant, fruity rose. I expected it to be girly and cute, but instead it turned out to be marvelously luscious with a slightly mischievous facet. Also, By Kilian Rose Oud and Bond no 9 Saks-en-Rose made for two interesting rose discoveries, the former dark and moody and the latter frothy and luminous. This only proves that one cannot get tired of roses.

To see other Top Ten of Spring lists, please visit: Grain de Musc :: Now Smell This :: Perfume Posse :: Perfume Smellin’ Things.

Photography © Bois de Jasmin

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26 Comments

  • Uella: My only green spring scent is Seve Exquise, but I don’t wear it very much (discontinuation guilt). I’ve been wearing Amouage Dia lately, I get some green/fresh notes in it (amidst the powdery floral)- it was composed by Jean-Claude Ellena whom I believe does better work when commissioned under strict guidelines than on his own (his ephemeral obsession has got to stop, his scents have no longevity and no more basenotes anymore, their complexity only lies in the topnotes – I sold my Vanille Galante bottle, noone could tell I was wearing anything at all after a couple of hours unless I would have them smell my cleavage, and at best all I’d hear was the most insincere and unconvincing compliment).

    Amouage Gold is my favorite perfume at the moment. My friend from the UN who goes to Oman twice a year attending UN conferences the sultanate loves to host, told me you smell Dia and Gold everywhere over there. No spring reality and mentality in Oman, just strong heady perfumes and to me that is truly “refreshing”.
    That being said, I still enjoy wearing Tubereuse Criminelle and Nuit de Cellophane. April 30, 2010 at 3:15am Reply

  • carmencanada: I thought of including Bois de Violette, one of the only violet-centered scents I feel drawn to wear (as opposing to admiring)… Odd how spring, such a hopeful season as you say, can also have something brooding and disquieting about it. Like you I was born in a land of snow and I wonder whether there isn’t something panic (in the sense of the god Pan) about the rebirth of nature, that brings a measure of turmoil to our souls?
    Annick Goutal’s Grand Amour is the one I turn to for a quieting embrace: Songes I associate to summer heat. April 30, 2010 at 4:30am Reply

  • karin: Lola? Really? I’ve been passing it over cause of all the negative reviews! Will have to take a stroll over to Macy’s and check it out. Thanks for the endorsement! The bottle is so fun!

    And I’m really psyched cause I have a bottle of No 19 on its way to me right now. Never wore it in the past, but had to get one cause I’m into green florals right now, and it seems like a good one. I wore Cristalle years ago, and can’t get myself to purchase a bottle of it now – scared of the whole reformulation thang. But never having worn 19, I figure I can’t really be disappointed too much since I don’t have a memory of it. I know it’s not what it used to be, which is a shame. But I’ll take it. 🙂 Also, looks like it may be on its way out? At least here in the U.S.? April 30, 2010 at 7:44am Reply

  • Maria: Why is Apres L’Ondee always mentioned in relation with rain or tears? Because of the name? Am I totaly wrong that I find it a really cheerful perfume? Diorissimo or Chanel 19 and Carnal Flower or any other on your list are so much cold and rough in a way. May be Apres L’Ondee could have something with rainbow but not rain.
    Anyway, a very good list here. April 30, 2010 at 7:54am Reply

  • sweetlife: *happy sigh*

    Always lovely to read you, V., especially in your introspective mode.

    To my great surprise (I’ve always disliked orange blossom in the past) I had a torrid little affair with Fleurs d’Oranger earlier this year, in February and March, which I suppose are similar, weatherwise, in Texas to April in New York. Now that my world is warmer and greener the cumin is more pronounced and I love it a little less, but I think I will come back around to it in the heat of the summer. I like things a little dirty in the heat, but in the spring everything is so new that sort of thing feels out of step…

    Like the reader above, I’ve had the great pleasure of wearing Seve Exquise this spring, too. Can’t we get up a petition or something to bring it back?

    P.S. Your mention of the apple and orange blossom storms reminds me: On my last day–my last hour!–in New York, as I was walking back to my host’s apartment through Washington Square park, the dark clouds gathered and the wind came up and shook a little storm of pink petals from the trees just across the path where I was walking. A little New York spring blessing! April 30, 2010 at 8:27am Reply

  • ScentScelf: V, it’s good to hear your voice again. And what a lovely post to hear it in…a wonderfully framed reflection of spring, moods, and perfume.

    Speaking of nostalgia, there is another layer of that here for me. When I first started exploring perfume, your list would have been fascinating but overwhelming (how will I ever meet all these perfumes?). Now that the earth has orbited a few times, I am able to not just observe, but reflect with you on many. I thank you, by the way, for associating No. 19 with “exhiliration”; it’s not the cold heartless creature that some find it to be.

    And surprise indeed! You’ve put me on a rose trail…if I follow the schedule/climate of my own region, I’ve got about a month to try them before the first roses open up around here. 🙂 April 30, 2010 at 8:29am Reply

  • Marina: “Seventeen Moments of Spring” :))) Aww! I all for Serenity, but please, no Surprises 🙂 April 30, 2010 at 8:57am Reply

  • Robin: A lovely list, as always V! April 30, 2010 at 11:10am Reply

  • Astra: “I thought of including Bois de Violette, one of the only violet-centered scents I feel drawn to wear (as opposing to admiring)… ”

    So far, this is my reaction to the entire SL line: admiration but no desire to actually wear. So far, the only exception is Gris Clair, but for my husband! April 30, 2010 at 12:47pm Reply

  • Musette: A lovely list and an absolutely lovely post! I’ve been wearing Charmes and Leaves for the past few weeks but today I’m wearing Diorissimo (the vintage body lotion (thank you, S!) and the current EdP. We’re under tornado warnings and the winds are ferocious – but this is a tenacious EdP and somehow perfect for this warm, blustery day!

    No 19 is another love, though very recent (again, thank you S, you enabler, you!)

    xoA April 30, 2010 at 5:53pm Reply

  • columbine: my two spring fragrances for this year are “en passant” for the lilacs, it’s wonderful in the way it feels like genuine lilac although it isn’t but i find that it does not last long enough on me, “en passant” is literally what it does to my skin and “spell from the unicorn”. the latter is a the perfect violet for me: modern and not too sweet or too spicy like other violets i tried. May 5, 2010 at 4:49am Reply

  • Cait: Hello There,
    Reading this list and thinking of my own perfume loves I observe that many of us have settled on our favorites, perfumes that came out either before we were born or during the time we started to be obsessed with perfume. Is it a period of perfume decline or is it just that we’ve all been thinking about perfume for several years and found what we really love? In any case, Happy Spring! May 6, 2010 at 4:25pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Uella, I miss Seve Exquise, which has one of the most beautiful green accords I know. It is such a shame it is gone. May 10, 2010 at 9:53am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: D, “Like you I was born in a land of snow and I wonder whether there isn’t something panic (in the sense of the god Pan) about the rebirth of nature, that brings a measure of turmoil to our souls?”
    I believe that this is it, the rebirth is a violent process, especially after months of being in the winter slumber. May 10, 2010 at 9:54am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Karin, Lola is definitely a well-crafted, interesting fragrance, and I highly recommend trying it. It is a contemporary composition, so it has the elements that mark it as such: fruity top, sheer crisp backdrop, petally floral accord. May 10, 2010 at 9:57am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Maria, you might be right, because after all, names do affect our perception greatly. However, I find the violet accord in general to suggest something melancholy. It is not a depressing fragrance, however. May 10, 2010 at 9:58am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Dear A, I love your story of being caught in the storm of petals. What a beautiful moment to crown this trip! May 10, 2010 at 10:00am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Thank you so much! I am glad that you’ve enjoyed it. Being on a rose trail is my constant state, I feel. 🙂 May 10, 2010 at 10:02am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: M, I knew that you would catch it! 😉 May 10, 2010 at 10:02am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: R, thank you! May 10, 2010 at 10:02am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Astra, I love Lutens line, but I can understand your sentiment. Some of the fragrances are definitely closer to an haute couture gown to me, whereas on an average day, I am happy with pret-a-porter! May 10, 2010 at 10:04am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Musette, thank you! Diorissimo is a perfect fragrance to feel the breath of spring. It never fails to amaze me. May 10, 2010 at 10:05am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Columbine, the strange thing about En Passant that not being a quintessential lilac, it smells most like the real thing! May 10, 2010 at 10:05am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Cait, great to see you! What an interesting observation. I think that there comes a point in trying and exploring when one begins to understand what exactly one likes. I think that this is what is happening to many of us. At the same time, it is still fun to explore new things. May 10, 2010 at 10:07am Reply

  • Shannon: Hi Boisdejasmin

    I am getting married soon..I want to gift a men perfume to him..so what wud be the best brand for him? July 8, 2010 at 1:07pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Hi Shannon, congratulations on your marriage!

    I cannot recommend anything without knowing his tastes a little. July 8, 2010 at 5:49pm Reply

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