Spring awakens and excites. As the weather oscillates from chilly gusts of rains to languid sunny warmth, I find my mood shifting likewise. Yet, whatever surprises spring may offer, I nevertheless find it an enchanting period of transition. It is the anticipation of the balmy days of summer, of new adventures and of memorable discoveries that fuels my spirit every spring. As for seasonally appropriate perfumes, this season I realized that what drives me to change my fragrance wardrobe is not the weather, but my mood. I have been craving fragrances that are joyful and uplifting rather than challenging and cerebral, pleasing and affable rather than edgy and complicated. The plush oriental favorites from Guerlain (Shalimar, L’Heure Bleue, Tonka Impériale), fruity chypres (Gucci Rush) and fruity florals (Frédéric Malle Le Parfum de Thérèse, Parfums de Rosine Rose D’Été) have been a constant presence on my vanity table for the past few months, rain or shine.
With my Top 10 of Spring 2011 list, I would like to share with you several fragrances (and one delightful fragrance related activity!) that never fail to put me in a good mood. Since everyone has their own ideas about what makes a fragrance joyful, I would love to hear which of your favorite perfumes give you a rush of happiness and pleasure.
Guerlain Après l’Ondée
“It smells of iris and almond meringue, of the Belle Époque’s exhilaration, of warm spring Chicago days, of walks through the Impressionist galleries of the Art Institute and of ballet studios in the morning. In other words, for all of its own history, Après l’Ondée now holds my own.” This is what I wrote in my review of this magical Guerlain fragrance five years ago. Sometimes I feel that my entire quest for new interesting scents is designed to make me realize that I have already found my idea of perfection in Après l’Ondée. Although Après l’Ondée is often described as melancholy, I find that it makes me feel content. It is not a sensation of giddy euphoria, but rather a blissful state of serenity, a moment when everything seems perfect the way it is.
Annick Goutal Néroli
Neroli, a steam distillation of bitter orange flowers, has a wonderfully contrasted character—green floral radiance set against a dark woody backdrop. An aromatherapist friend told me that neroli is a relaxing, soothing scent, perfect for times of stress. I have been wearing Annick Goutal Néroli almost daily over the past year (applying it after work to enjoy its bright orange blossom note accented with basil,) so I have not done any controlled experiments to see if it truly acts as a de-stressing agent. All I can say is that it is delightful—a perfectly rendered orange flower that uplifts and refreshes. It also has enough substance as it goes from green to floral to woody to keep my interest.
by Kilian Beyond Love
Joyful, enchanting, mesmerizing… Can’t you tell that I am completely smitten with Beyond Love. I love this radiant tuberose interpretation that presents tuberose as if it were bathed in sunshine.
Bond No 9 Chinatown
I admire the vibrant ethnic community of New York, and Chinatown exemplifies the verve and adaptability of the city. I love walking the narrow streets searching for new flavors and scents, whether it is a lotus paste filled pastry, jasmine pearl tea or some exotic fruit. Bond No 9 Chinatown captures some of the energy of the place that inspired it with its fascinating accord of incense, wood and peach. Its creator Aurélien Guichard avoids complete clichés, however. A dark green chypre twist reveals that this Chinatown is actually in the 13th arrondissement of Paris.
Sophia Grojsman, the perfumer behind Trésor, is one of the most generous and special people I have ever had the honor to meet. Since she has been my mentor for the past few years, I am no longer able to review her creations in any objective manner. Her perfumes capture her personality—loving, warm, and exuberant. Whenever I feel sad, a whiff of Lancôme Trésor is enough to make me smile. Its composition of candied rose and peach set into the creamy sandalwood backdrop feels like a warm hug. My only regret is that the Trésor sold today lacks the beauty of the original formula (it is now thinner and rougher, missing the natural sandalwood, orris butter and nitro musks.)
Ormonde Jayne Frangipani Absolute
I love the luminous quality of nearly all Ormonde Jayne florals, from Sampaquita to Tiaré, but Frangipani Absolute is particularly exhilarating. It opens on a vibrant lemony jasmine note and then continues through a lush floral heart that is half way between gardenia and tiare. While it eventually settles on a smooth cedarwood note, Frangipani retains its airy, sparkling quality. Its excellent sillage means that it gets noticed. Frangipani has been one of my most complimented fragrances this spring.
Paco Rabanne One Million
I decided to include One Million on my list, not because it is a favorite, but because it is amusing. It is a confection of cinnamon apples, mutant mandarins, sugared almonds and vanilla, which is somehow molded into a classical woody oriental shape. One Million nevertheless has a sense of humor. Just when you think that you have it figured out as a ridiculously ostentatious scent, it suddenly transforms into a sleek aromatic fougére with a surprising 1980s vibe.
Parfums de Nicolaï Le Temps d’une Fête
Serene, rather than euphoric, Le Temps d’une Fête is a true breath of spring—crushed green leaves, jasmine buds, narcissus and snowdrops. A remarkably original fragrance, it nevertheless manages to stay within the classical grand parfum tradition of Guerlain and Chanel. My ardent wish is to see Parfums de Nicolaï upgrade its packaging and image. Such an amazing collection truly deserves much better than bottles remininscent of Soviet shampoo containers.
Tocade is one of my favorite dramatic perfumes. Yet, Tocade’s drama is not the moody, existential crisis that I tend to favor in fragrances like Bulgari Black or Comme des Garçons. It is about getting attention and not being shy to demand more of it. Yet, Tocade is so heartbreakingly pretty that one does not mind its insistence. It is built on a simple accord of rose and vanilla, but the ingenious way the fragrance is balanced makes it splendid.
Serge Lutens Sa Majesté de la Rose
There is nothing particularly outstanding about Sa Majesté de la Rose—a well-made lemony rose. Yet, I find this rose rendition to be bubbly and happy, which is often a sure ticket for a spot on my vanity table.
Perfumes The Guide by Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez
Try to keep a straight face readings bits like this: “If this is incense, those felted scarves sold for $10 on New York’s Sixth Avenue are pashmina (Ego Facto Jamais le Dimanche, TS) “A chemical white floral so disastrously vile words nearly desert me. If this were a shampoo offered with your first shower after sleeping rough for two months in Nouakchott, you’d opt to keep the lice (Creed Love in White, LT.) On the other hand, just try not to be seduced by the following: “It is blessed with two qualities that are the surest mark of a good masculine: melancholy and mystery (Givenchy Insensé, LT.) “Rush manages at every stage to feel cozy and alive, never a cold stranger—this creature may be from outer space, but its blood is warm (Gucci Rush, TS.)
Perfumes: The A-Z Guide has recently been released as a paperback version, and it includes more than 450 new fragrances as well as a better index. Witty, passionate and erudite, this compilation of perfume reviews makes for a most entertaining read. Be forewarned though that reading it on public transport may cause your uncontrollable laughter to be interpreted as a possible sign of insanity. I am already anticipating the sequel!
Photo credit: Cherry Blossoms © Bois de Jasmin.