I love how winter forces me to slow down and dream. I love how it transforms the gray city landscape into an etude in white and black. I love its holidays, its scents and its sounds. So, I forgive it the cold that numbs my limbs and makes my nose as red as Rudolph’s, the hassle of flights canceled and trains delayed and many other inconveniences. Yet, like all passionate relationships, my love affair with winter has its ups and downs. When the sun is gone for too long and the snow storms alternate with icy rain showers, my affection for winter’s caprices is tested. With little to do but embrace the harsh winter we have been having on the East Coast this year, I have turned to my favorite winter activities and my perfumes for solace and comfort. My fragrances have been my saviors, warming me up when I needed an extra layer against the chill and reminding me of spring when the dull, gray winter light began to feel oppressive.
Candlelight dinners picnic style in front of the fireplace are among the seasonal pleasures we have tried to cultivate. Somehow, eating a bowl of pasta wrapped in a blanket while watching the embers smolder can wipe away the tiredness and stress of a long day at work. My fragrance choice for such evenings has frequently been Cartier L’Heure Fougueuse, a composition of herbs, jasmine and soft leather. Elegant, but with a beautiful smoky, animalic twist. Infusion d’Homme is the fragrance I would wear myself for its understated and polished combination of iris and leather. Together, they make a perfect duo, complementing each other’s best qualities.
Talking a Walk Through Snow Falling Gently : Etat Libre d’Orange Jasmin et Cigarette / Guerlain Tonka Impériale
One of my most anticipated winter pleasures is quite a simple one. I love to walk through the gently falling snow, enjoying the stillness that suddenly fills the streets, the hypnotic dance of snowflakes, the gentle kisses as they melt on my cheeks and the delicate crunch of fresh snow under my feet. An extra layer of wool and a spray of something comforting and warm is all I need on such walks. Smoky jasmine of Etat Libre d’Orange Jasmin et Cigarette or anything by Guerlain generally would do. This winter, I have been enjoying Guerlain Tonka Impériale, a lusciously dark and opulent accord of almond scented tonka beans, leather, vanilla and gingerbread spices. This combination may be too much of a good thing, but as a winter indulgence, it is perfect.
In the winter, my daytime fragrances, my little black dress perfume equivalents, change to reflect the weather and my moods. Christian Dior Mitzah is perfect for blistering cold, and its amber and incense embrace feels comforting and luxurious under my bulky layers of winter wardrobe. Arsène Lupin Dandy, on the other hand, has a verdant brightness that makes it more of a crisp white shirt fragrance, but it is very versatile, elegant and comfortable nonetheless.
Spending Snow Day at Home : Annick Goutal Duel / Lancôme AromaTonic
With heavy snow storms, I have gotten quite used to working from home. Whether at home or at the office, I start my day by smelling a selection of raw materials, whether to go over the materials, with which I am not that familiar, or to smell something that I particularly like such as jasmine absolute, osmanthus absolute, magnolia leaf absolute, Cashmeran (woody-musky aroma-material) or hedione. I generally do not wear perfume when I work, but once I am done, I like to reach for something relaxing and gentle. Annick Goutal Duel has both of these qualities. A hazy melange of iris, lemon, yerba mate, it is anchored in place by a soft leather note. It feels uplifting and refreshing, while its delicate sillage is perfectly understated. My other understated favorite is Lancôme AromaTonic, a delightful composition of osmanthus, yerba mate and cardamom. A wonderful, unfairly underrated fragrance that never fails to be both relaxing and uplifting simultaneously.
Wake Up Call on Cold Grey Morning : Atelier Cologne Trèfle Pur / Chanel Cristalle EDT
Waking up on a winter morning when there is not a hint of light outside is always painful for me, therefore, I keep a few perfumes on my dressing table that give me an immediate boost. The green effervescence of Atelier Cologne Trèfle Pur woven through the rich citrusy accord gives me a stronger jolt than a cup of coffee, while its bright sillage draws plenty of compliments from others. Similar in effect is Chanel Cristalle, particularly the greener, mossier Eau de Toilette. The fizzy neroli and citrus top gives it an exhilarating sensation, which lasts through the elegant dance of jasmine and hyacinth and into the earthy and woody drydown.
A Cup of Tea and a Good Book : Serge Lutens La Myrrhe / Rochas Tocade
The pleasure of spending time with a good book is something I value most highly, but I admit that most of my reading happens on the train or the airplane. If I am at home, I can think of hundreds of things I need to do, therefore sitting down with a book seems like an unaffordable luxury. This winter forced me to slow down a little bit, and I am thankful for that. I now can shut my eyes to the pile of dishes or other household chores and instead brew a pot of tea, take out a novel that I started back in the summer and forget about the rest of the world for a couple of hours. Admittedly, such evenings are still few and far between, but I am learning. The serenely beautiful Serge Lutens La Myrrhe helps me on my quest. Wearing it, one is simply forced to take a slower pace and enjoy its gorgeous transformation from luminous to dusky to smoldering. Another favorite has been Rochas Tocade, which an alluring rose-orange blossom composition embroidered with the green sharpness of mangolia leaf absolute and then set into a devastatingly seductive ambery accord. Admittedly, if I wear Tocade, I have a hard time focusing on my book. It is so beautiful, it inspires me to fantasies of my own.
Wanderlust is not a seasonal phenomenon, but it is in the winter, in the midst of yet another snow storm that I feel like getting away. My dream destinations on such days are always warm, sunny and filled with scents of jasmine, roses, spices and sandalwood. Therefore, I crave Frédéric Malle Noir Epiceswith its luminous orange and amber embellished with pepper, clove and nutmeg. By Kilian Rose Oud is another escapist favorite, a delicious melange of rose rahat loukoum and dark, smoky woods. Or I may just burn a candle such as my beloved Mariage Frères Rose d’Himalayacandle. Created by the French tea importer, it is a beguiling blend of damask roses and ambery Darjeeling tea.
Yearning for Spring : Jacomo Silences / Christian Dior Diorella
Even for someone like me who loves winter there always comes a point when the sun has been gone too long. I begin to tire out of winter’s tough love and crave spring, to which I am now ready to transfer all of my affections. Jacomo Silences evokes the fragile, touching beauty of spring with its composition of crushed leaves, hyacinth petals and green vetiver. It is an exquisitely beautiful fragrance, similar to Chanel No. 19 and Estée Lauder Aliage, yet with a fresher, brighter character. Another perfume of springtime for me is Christian Dior Diorella. Its multifaceted accord of jasmine, bergamot, green herbs and patchouli contains the same tension that is present in early spring, when the snow has not yet melted, but the cold days of winter are numbered.
Photography © Bois de Jasmin.