Sparkling and Opulent : Full Spectrum of Favorite Summer Fragrances

Summer favourites

A couple of weeks ago, I finally took a break from travel, work, email, and everything else that could distract me from the most elusive of goals—rest and enjoyment of our languorous summer days. I stayed at home, breaking my previous traditions of vacations far away from home. Instead, I cooked leisurely meals, went for long runs along the nearby river, took my tea and books on the patio, which was overtaken by mint and jasmine thanks to the tropical weather we have experienced. It finally felt like summer, and I vowed that even in my busy, hectic, always on the run (well, who is not in NYC?) routine, I will make time for these small pleasures. Above all, I enjoyed rediscovering some fragrances that I have not been wearing for ages.

In general, my picks for the summer fall into two very different categories. One consists of ethereal and effervescent blends accented with citrus, green and mossy notes that lend a cooling sensation in oppressive heat. They are unobtrusive and are easy to wear, considering that heady scents magnified by the warmth of the skin in the summer can sometimes feel uncomfortable. Having experienced Dior Poison in a stuffy subway car, I caught a glimpse of what hell must be like. On the other hand, opulent compositions can seem especially extraordinary in the summer when worn in moderation. Jasmine, orange blossom, gardenia, and tuberose reveal their luscious facets particularly well in the balmy ambiance of summer. Even attars (sandalwood, rose, oudh, saffron) are utterly spellbinding, provided the application is light. It is all about the mood and the setting. Below are my top choices in these categories.

 

Refreshing and Effervescent

Hermès Eau Claire des Merveilles

The newest addition to the Eau des Merveilles range does not rival the luxurious and unique original, but Eau Claire des Merveilles has a nice mossy floral structure that is at once airy and sensual. A hint of aldehyde at the onset of the fragrance development lends a particularly fizzy, sparkling effect, which contrasts nicely with the vanilla accented woods in the base.

Whether you prefer the sweet, hyacinth dominated Eau de Parfum or the mossy refinement of the Eau de Toilette, Cristalle is one of the fragrances that never fail to make an impression on me. In the summer, I reach for Eau de Toilette over Eau de Parfum, because I adore the champagne-like dryness and effervescence it possesses. On a hot day, when one feels worn out by the sun, it is a veritable summer tonic.

The great French chef Auguste Escoffier was known to proclaim, “faites simple,” which referred to the avoidance of unnecessary elaboration. In perfumery, Jean-Claude Ellena’s oeuvre illustrates this famous remark quite perfectly. His restrained, minimalist compositions relying on a few striking accords lend his body of work a very elegant, modern quality. Divine Bergamote is in line with this thinking—a luminous rendition of citrus peel, petals and wood.

Annick Goutal Neroli

I am still standing by my staple, Annick Goutal Neroli, which is a fragrance I reach for automatically on most mornings. Unlike more complicated orange blossom renditions (Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger, Tom Ford Neroli Portofino, etc.) Neroli is just that—a pure, luminous orange blossom. Yet, its simplicity belies its stunning effect, and it is one of my most complimented fragrances among perfumers. Of course, it is created with some of the finest materials one can obtain, and it is blended beautifully. Orange blossom lovers should look no further.

Hermès Un Jardin en Méditerranée

Bergamot, green fig, orange blossoms… Un Jardin en Méditerranée could be yet another light cologne, but Jean-Claude Ellena anchors it on such a splendid woody backdrop that the composition attains a completely different quality—sultry, with a beautiful radiant impression. Even the glut of green, woody figs on the fragrance market does not detract one bit from its allure.

 

Luscious and Opulent

Thierry Mugler Womanity

Womanity (still cannot bring myself to love this name) is one of the recent launches that explores the woody-gourmand spectrum of the fragrance wheel. I confess that the talk about caviar and fig as the two main accords of this fragrance led me to expect something predictable. I should have known better, since Clarins being Clarins (the fragrance house responsible for the miracle that is Angel) offered quite a stunning grand parfum. It is definitely luscious and opulent, an exploration of dark woods and juicy fig flesh. Caviar is a subtle accent, lending a salty, marine effect.

Please forgive me for constantly mentioning Carnal Flower! I adore this fragrance passionately, which is one of the reasons why I wore it for my wedding. Regular readers already know all I have to say on the subject. If you are curious, you can read the review I wrote when I first smelled it and found myself utterly in love. Be warned, it is a tad gushy, as one might expect from someone deeply infatuated. And yes, it blooms particularly beautifully in balmy weather.

Parfum Sacré Intense

The peppery rose of Parfum Sacré was a recent rediscovery, and I regret that it took me this long to revisit it. Smoldering, sultry, and sensual are the descriptors that fit it well. It is quite a well-crafted composition, and I have been thinking that given the current trend for woody accords, it might be up for revival. Well, Caron apparently thought so too and has brought out Parfum Sacré Intense, a composition accentuating spicy notes. While it does not hold a candle to the pre-reformulated Parfum Sacré (ah, IFRA….), it is a wonderful fragrance exploring a wide range of spices from cooling, lemony coriander to creamy vanilla. Rose serves as the main pillar for the composition.

Attar

Any perfume lover visiting the Middle East or South Asia should make a visit to one of the shops specializing in blending fragrances based on co-distillation of sandalwood, rose, oudh, saffron and other classical oriental ingredients. Mind you, many oils and bases are just as likely to come directly from Firmenich or Givaudan rather than Taif or some Incense Route location, but the expert manner in which some of them are blended is quite spectacular. Of course, the quality ranges from luxurious and original to heavy and pungent. Yet, the best blends have a surprisingly luminous effect, despite being composed of rich animalic and woody notes. While Montale is a popular niche house for attars, I find them too jarring and pungent. The oils from Arabian Oud perfume house are more representative of the classical attar tradition (and their boutiques in London and Paris are worth visiting.)

A friend returning from Morocco commented on Féminité du Bois, “it smells just like a souk!” Since the Serge Lutens’ line is a product of his Moroccan reverie, it is not at all surprising. As I wrote previously, Féminité du Bois exquisitely captures the texture of raw silk with its transparent layers of notes, the clinging dryness of woods interspersed with the velvety flesh of red plums. Its contrasted composition strikes me as very sensual – a fragrance when I want to experience a reverie of my own.

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

Photo copyright Bois de Jasmin. Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France.

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29 Comments

  • carmencanada: Hi V.! Féminité du Bois is indeed, like most of Serge Lutens’ more oriental blends, a scent that works wonderfully well in the heat… I tend to favour Santal de Mysore myself.
    But I’ve been struggling with Womanity, smelling it on an off since the launch, and I’m afraid it doesn’t work for me, any more than any other Mugler. In fact, I always end up binning the blotters or scrubbing my wrist… I’m curious to see how this will be received once it’s launched worldwide, though. It’ll probably be as divisive as Angel. July 19, 2010 at 2:55am Reply

  • Katie: So fun “getting to know you” though your summer picks! And it’s really a little “geting to know me”, because there were years when both Cristalle edt and Féminité du Bois (eau timide, when I was too “timide” to wear the edp) were signature scents.

    If there’s one thing the truly fume-core among us share, it’s the abandonment with which we wear furry, spicy, deep perfumes in the heat of summer. We’re no sissies! July 19, 2010 at 3:31am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: D, Santal de Mysore is another gem. I love how a touch of roasted cumin adds such an interesting savory dimension to the creamy-rosy woods. 10 Corso Como is another sandalwood dominated fragrance I love. It also unfolds really nicely throughout the day, ending up on a dark, velvety note of oudh.
    Womanity is a bit of a challenge, but it is good, in my opinion. So many fragrances are identical these days, and it is nice to discover something different. As for it being another Angel, I do not know… we will see. July 19, 2010 at 9:27am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Katie, ha ha! Definitely not!
    Nothing reveals more to me about someone than their tastes in scents. Which is why I love reading these lists and writing them too. July 19, 2010 at 9:29am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Marsi, thank you so much for such a wonderful compliment.
    You and Denyse above reminded me of Patou Sira des Indes, which I just pulled out and applied. Rediscovering old favorites is perhaps even more exciting than trying new launches! July 19, 2010 at 9:31am Reply

  • mals86: How lovely to see a post from you!

    Carnal Flower is so gorgeous – all lush and green and joyous. And as a devotee of Parfum Sacre, I was overjoyed to receive a sample of the new Intense version from a friend. I hadn’t tried it yet, because of the heat, but perhaps I should get it out this afternoon…

    Cristalle edt smells rather of ashtray to me, and I cannot wear it. I would much rather have Eau Sauvage! July 19, 2010 at 10:32am Reply

  • Marsi: So love to see a post pop up in my email. I really miss your reviews, Victoria. You write like no other. Your review of Burberry Gold is still a favorite of mine. Unforgettable.

    Summer faves: Chanel No. 19, Patou Sira des Indes (another great review from you), and Agent Provocateur Eau Emotionelle. July 19, 2010 at 8:52am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: I am curious what you think about the new Intense version. I did not see many comments on it yet, so I am curious what other devotees of the original think. July 19, 2010 at 1:42pm Reply

  • ula: Hi, I have to concur on Cristalle & Eau des Merveilles. I love the smooth and mossy character of the former and the crispy, marine saltiness of the latter. For summer, I also rediscovered Lancome’s forgotten Trophee – a 70’s scent marketed as masculine, full of green basil & moss with a hint of salt, lovely.
    You made me curious about the new JPG, have to admit it looks a bit kitschy (both the bottle and the name), but the description sound nice enough to try it July 19, 2010 at 2:45pm Reply

  • kate: Hello- I have been reading your site for a couple of years and just want to thank you for it very much indeed. I have really enjoyed so many of your articles – long may they continue!-and they often lead me to thinking and reading about things not necessarily directly concerned with fragrance. You write wonderfully about a gorgeous subject that connects us to different worlds , eras and different moments in our lives. It is a joy to read your thoughts. My own loves are ( talking of current’ish’ formulations – ie a year or so old- things change so fast…) vol de nuit, mitsouko, nahema , merveilles ( all of them!), cristalle ( both), 24 faubourg , un jardin en mediterranee, -and well an old diorissimo.. ..Kate July 19, 2010 at 3:24pm Reply

  • abigail: Eau Claire des Merveilles! Where did you buy it already? I’m really excited about that one. Really excited. Hope I like it because it will most certainly be an unsniffed purchase!

    Nice to see Womanity on your list. I like it, too.

    And Caron’s newest Parfum Sacre Intense; it’s a beauty and isn’t getting much “press.”

    Actually, I quite like your list. You seem more of an individual who doesn’t fall prey to all the hype and pack mentality on the blogosphere. Nice job =) July 19, 2010 at 3:59pm Reply

  • gautami: Hi V. So nice to see your post.
    I quite like your list too. I wear Parfum Sacre all year round 🙂
    Would I get the same effect as PS Intense if I layer PS with Poivre?

    Also, timely for me are your lines on Attars in this post as I am planning a visit to Bombay and Dubai in Dec. I would appreciate if you could point me to some attar houses in Bombay/Dubai or recommend some blends that I must try at Arabian oud. July 19, 2010 at 4:33pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Ula, you really made my day mentioning Trophee. I love this composition too, and I cherish whatever I have left in my bottle. Lancome has a number of these great, sparkling fragrances in their collection. I suppose, O de Lancome is still around and should be checked out. July 19, 2010 at 5:46pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Kate, I love your list! Everything on it is so beautiful, so special. Thank you for your nice words. Perfume is definitely so much more than just a nice scent, and its power to connect us to something else, someplace else is remarkable. July 19, 2010 at 5:49pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Abigail, Hermes boutiques have a tester, and I heard that Neiman Marcus does too, as it will carry it too. At any rate, the official launch is September, but it is around already. Definitely try before buying!
    I am surprised not to see more on Parfum Sacre Intense. I think that it is beautiful. July 19, 2010 at 6:01pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Gautami, your layering idea is fantastic. I just tried it and loved it. However, no, the effect is different, because Parfum Sacre Intense is sweeter, softer. Parfum Sacre and Poivre produces a woodier, more biting spice overlay.

    Oh, you will have lots of opportunities to discover interesting attars there, how I envy you! This past visit to India did not leave enough time for attar shopping (and after my wedding shopping I did not even go near a store in Kerala, I had enough!) At any rate, here is what I recommend:
    in Bombay try the Colaba area, which is where the attar shops are concentrated. Keep in mind that because the businesses are mostly run by Muslim (perfume making in India is a Muslim preserve,) the stores might be closed on Friday. Inshallah Masallah (across the road from Electric House, Best Marg, Colaba) is a very good store, run by a friendly family. I just asked what locals tend to buy and was shown a range of things. Do not go for things like “mango” and “fresh dew.” 🙂 If you want to buy oudh, they will burn several grades in front of you. If you want to try any oil, I highly recommend trying on fabric, as some of them are super heavy. I tried them on my scarf.
    Another shop that was recommended to me is called Attar Ahmed Dawood (6 Lansdowne Rd, Colaba, definitely closed on Friday as I recall.) They are quite old-fashioned, which is great, as you find nice quality local attars there.
    Dubai:
    check out the Arabian Oud house (their website should have an address). They are based in Saudi Arabia, but they have branches all over Middle East and two in Europe. Also, I recommend visiting Perfume Souk at Sikkat Al Khail Rd, which is right next to Gold Souk (a fun place to see some serious bling.) July 19, 2010 at 6:19pm Reply

  • March: I very much want to try Womanity having read several reviews (although the name isn’t my favorite either.) And I’m happy to hear you’re having such a welcome change to your routine. I like to think of you settling in and enjoying the small things right there in front of you, after all your adventures. July 19, 2010 at 8:59pm Reply

  • Flora: Ah yes, Parfum Sacre! I don’t have the Intense yet. although I tried it and loved it but I must bring out the regular version (pre-reformulation) for a warm-weather airing soon!

    Love your list – have not tried Womanity yet but it intrigues me! July 20, 2010 at 12:52am Reply

  • Uella: I hate refreshing hesperedic scents which not only don’t last and bore me to death but which I oppose with all my loathing. Try any Hermes fragrances composed by Ellena in New York during a heat wave, you won’t be able to detect anything after 5 minutes unless you’re locked indoors with AC blasting.
    My favorite summer perfume this year is Serge Lutens’ latest Bas de Soie: a softer, more polished and easier to wear (but not lighter by any means) take on Iris Silver Mist. July 20, 2010 at 1:16am Reply

  • sweetlife: Hello dear, V! So nice to see you writing, and to hear about your true vacation. I have been on that plan for many years now and while I sometimes yearn to travel for the most part I’m quite happy to rest…;-) My idea of vacation, at home or abroad, is totally unstructured time, with no one to please but myself.

    I love your list, too! You remind me to wear my neglected Neroli. I’ve been enjoying Jo Malone’s Orange Blossom rendition this summer after several years of planning to sell my bottle, which was a gift. It doesn’t have the green/citrus opening that Goutal has, not it’s sparkle, but I enjoy its soft, floral prettiness.

    Glad to see someone besides me dips into the spice souk for summer, too. I wore Black Cashmere the other day and it was fantastic, but I can see how Fem d B might be even better, with that dry cedar base.

    And there you go, bashing my Montale’s again… 🙂 I agree that they are harsh, especially on the opening, but they do settle down into something lovely. Besides what can a poor heathen with no access to London or Paris do? I will have to wait for my traveling days to return again, I suppose.

    Cheers to you! July 20, 2010 at 9:58am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: March, thank you! I just can’t get this name, for some reason it simply has no draw at all. Oh well, I keep my sample in a unmarked spray bottle. 🙂 July 20, 2010 at 11:31am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Flora, if you do test Womanity in the summer heat, esp. for the first time, do go lightly on it. It is quite intense! July 20, 2010 at 11:32am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Uella, thank you for confirming that Bas de Soie is not lighter than ISM. I feared that it would be too limpid. Will seek out a sample soon. July 20, 2010 at 11:34am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Dear A, ha, yours truly has bought little samples from the Perfume Court! I visited the Arabian Oud boutique in London many moons ago, but I recall that it was beautiful. Back then I could not appreciate oudh and attar that much, so it was mostly a glimpse into another universe for me. Much later when I traveled in the Middle East, I grew to appreciate these scents. They are simply unlike anything else, and yet they form a basis of oriental genre of perfumery, so they are not entirely foreign either.

    Sorry for bashing Montale! 🙂

    Having unstructured time is the best vacation, although I find that I cannot 100% get to that point. I end up having a schedule of sorts, whether it is structured around a morning run or some cooking project. Still, it is not the same as rushing out of the house at 6:30am and coming back at 11pm. Next week I will probably go back to this, but at least, now I will be recharged. 😉 July 20, 2010 at 11:42am Reply

  • Usha: Dear V! You are back! I’m so glad. Are you a fan at all of A La Nuit? It is like falling asleep in a jasmine garden in India on a warm night. Now, I need your help seducing my handsome Russian neighbor. Advice for an Indian girl? July 20, 2010 at 9:27pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Usha, I love A La Nuit. In fact, it was the fragrance I wore when I met my future husband in India. He always associates it with our early days of courtship.
    Seduction advice is tricky when one does not know anything about the guy or the situation. However, if he is a typical Russian man, then the way to his heart is through his stomach! July 21, 2010 at 2:48pm Reply

  • Usha: Dear V,
    You are the best. I was specifically asking about scents that might appeal to my handsome Russian…
    Also, have you ever tried Vico Turmeric? It is an Indian blemish cream that smells so wonderful to me, like a rich warm sandalwood. Also, what are your thoughts on Tahitian monoi scents?
    Usha July 22, 2010 at 1:57pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Usha, just wear what makes you feel sexy and beautiful! Seriously, this is the only advice that works when I think of fragrance men like. Oh, and it helps not to apply with a heavy hand, but enough so that he would have to lean in to smell it.
    I have smelled Vico Turmeric, and it does smell wonderful! I also love Mysore sandalwood soap, the traditional brown one. Ah, it smells fabulous!
    Tahitian monoi–like it, but only in mixtures like Annick Goutal Un Matin d’Orage. Otherwise, they strike me as cloying or remind me of suntan oil. Not a bad thing per se, but just not something I would wear that often. July 22, 2010 at 2:04pm Reply

  • gautami: Dear Victoria, thanks for the pointers. I have made a note of it all. July 23, 2010 at 10:12pm Reply

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