Patricia draws a portrait of her favorite season with her beloved scents.
Autumn is the gift we New Englanders receive in exchange for putting up with a sometimes severe, but always long, winter. Although I am rapidly reaching the age when “snowbirds” fly south to Florida for the winter, that prospect holds no appeal for me. I appreciate all four seasons, with autumn, the bittersweet reminder of approaching winter and our own mortality, remaining my favorite.
Pulling out the spicy orientals, the deep rich roses, the smoky incenses, and the warm ambers from my perfume cabinet in September is an annual ritual for me. They are old friends, hidden in protective darkness since April, and it is good to see them again. Into the cabinet go the sparkling citruses, light florals, and tropical concoctions that I have enjoyed all summer.
Still, never one to plunge into bracingly cold water, I ease myself into the fall perfumes, toe by careful toe. September, technically still summer for most of the month, can be quite warm and humid and not conducive to heavy perfume, so I wear what I refer to as my transitional trio.
L’Eau à la Folie by Parfums de Nicolaï smells of intoxicatingly heady fruits left on the vine just a little too long. Azemour les Oranges by Parfum d’Empire is a fruity chypre, with orange, orange peel, and the bitter white pith combined with newly mown and baled hay. Ginestet Botrytis is a honeyed vanilla oriental. You can almost see the bees buzzing around a hive on a sunny late September afternoon. For me, these perfumes represent the harvest at the end of the growing season.
October brings the lower temperatures, changing leaves, and spicy orientals, ambers, and rich roses. One can finally imagine sitting fireside with friends or enjoying a good book after a long walk in the woods or apple picking. The lovely vanillic amber of L’Ambre des Merveilles by Hermès is like eating a warm caramel apple, all sweetness and comfort. Ormande Jayne’s Ormande Woman is all dark woods and hemlock forest. I don’t know anything else that smells quite like it, and it is a staple in my fall rotation.
Although discontinued, Fendi’s Theorema is one of the most beautiful of the orientals. Warm spices, amber, sandalwood, and patchouli make this a favorite for curling up wrapped in a cozy throw for a good read. Theorema is still available at the discounters, but Parfumerie Generale’s Iris Oriental (formerly known as Iris Taizo), although drier and more woody than spicy, serves much the same purpose for me. For an autumn rose, Brulure de Rose, also by Parfumerie Generale is a warm vanilla custard with a caramelized top and covered with spicy rosehip jam.
Next comes November, my favorite month of the year. Thanksgiving, as celebrated in the United States, focuses on family, friends, and food and reminds us to give thanks for what we have instead of longing for what we don’t. In spite of the shortened days, November is truly gorgeous as the deciduous trees complete their deforestation, and the horizon is finally visible through spiky branches. It is a stark landscape, but a particularly moving one. It is black and white photography, as compared to the lush chromatic tones of October. Incense and other pared-down fragrances seem to suit best, as ironically, so do gourmand fragrances and bold chypres.
Coromandel by Chanel is a woodsy amber incense warmed with patchouli. Not an immediate love for me, something in its earthy richness called me back again and again such that I cannot be without it. The two Volutes by Diptyque (EDP and EDT) provide a different kind of incense: pipe tobacco in a delicious base of iris, honey, dried fruits and hay. Try both versions, as they are not alike. I found the EDT to be crisper and brighter and the EDP darker and richer. For a gourmand treat, I turn to Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens. Not overly sweet but very rich, this fragrance contains notes of vanilla, coconut, and sandalwood.
Which scents say autumn to you?
Photography by Bois de Jasmin