10 Pastel Perfumes for Spring

Elisa feels the lure of spring.

Part of the pleasure of browsing a makeup counter – and why I’ll always buy more makeup than I need – is the impression that I’m handling color in its pure form. Not just lipsticks but pigment: art and possibility. It’s the same flavor of childlike glee I feel when looking at a wall of paint swatches or the bulk bins in a candy store. As a kid I even organized my books in “rainbow order” on the shelves.

kateryna bilokur

Around March the mannequins in window displays all seem to be wearing pastels. I never buy these clothes; like bows and Peter Pan collars, pastels just don’t suit me. But I can participate in the traditional color scheme of the season with perfumes that smell like springtime shades instead.

Here are ten soft, pastel-hued perfumes (in spectral order, no less) I recommend.

Diptyque Eau Rose

I love weird roses, dark roses, spicy roses, mossy roses…I’ll take them all. But sometimes, especially in spring, a perfectly pretty, pastel-pink rose with little adornment fits the bill. Enter Eau Rose, which is dewy and fresh with a citrus lift.

Valentino Donna 

When I sprayed Donna on a strip, I was expecting just another fruitchouli. What a surprise: It smells strikingly like iris and strawberry, a completely novel combination to my nose. A good, dry iris balances the sweetness of the rose and berries, and while it lasts, it feels as pink, pillow-soft and delicate as a goose-down powder puff.

Coudray Jacinthe et Rose

This underrated gem – a romantic, soft-focus spring floral with a prominent rose note – smells like the creamy color of white peaches and feels like taking a clawfoot-tub bubble bath by candlelight in a wallpapered room.

IMG_2949

Hanae Mori Haute Couture

It doesn’t always work this way, but the color of Haute Couture – pale golden yellow, like white wine, in a frosted glass bottle – exactly matches the scent. If it were a wine, you’d call it grassy and floral (jasmine) with citrus and plenty of stone fruit. To me it feels both fancy and casual, like drinking champagne out of a plastic cup.

Heeley L’Amandiere

I never knew the joy of fresh linden blossoms until I moved to Denver; the park that I run in is full of linden trees, and in late spring or early summer, depending on the weather, they all come into bloom and smell amazing. L’Amandiere smells baby yellow through and through, and quite realistically like spring flowers (linden, hyacinth, violet, mimosa). The almond note adds an unripe tang rather than the intense sweetness of amaretto.

Guerlain Chamade

I once got into a debate in grade school over which crayon was more yellow: green-yellow or yellow-green. My classmate argued that if “yellow” comes first, yellow-green must be more yellow. I argued that the hyphen was acting like an “ish,” making it “yellowish green,” and therefore more green than “greenish yellow.” Later fact-checking proved me right, but in any case: Chamade, an all-time spring classic, starts off cooler and more yellow-green (with galbanum, blackcurrant, and hyacinth) and ends up warmer and more green-yellow (with white floral notes and balsamic vanilla).

Smell Bent Florist’s Fridge

Hyacinths are usually bluish violet – but they smell pale green (go figure). Florist’s Fridge is a hyacinth soliflore that opens up as cool, green, and fresh as the name promises, and morphs into a doughy vanillic drydown. (If you haven’t tried anything from Smell Bent yet, do! At $7, the 4 ml travel sprays are an absolute steal.)

Guerlain Apres l’Ondée

I’ve only recently begun to appreciate this Guerlain classic from 1906. (Full disclosure: The first time I smelled it, it reminded me of envelope adhesive.) I include Apres l’Ondée here because it’s one of the few perfumes I can think of that smells pale blue, which is perhaps why so many find it melancholy. Its anisic violet and iris smell incredibly delicate, like skin so pale it looks translucent.

La Parfumerie Moderne Desarment

I love the smell (and sight) of fresh lilacs, but it’s very hard to capture in perfume; somehow it usually comes off cheap. Not so with Desarmant. The lilac accord is strikingly realistic – airy and fresh, with a linden-like honey note. My favorite part is the unexpected undertone of something earthy and animalic.

Mona di Orio Musc

This one doesn’t fit neatly into my ROYGBIV lineup because the visual I get when I smell it is a handful of Jordan almonds – pink, white, and green. The green is due to a pleasantly sharp and grassy top note, the pink is a touch of rose, and the white is a delicious, powdery, almond-marshmallow (heliotrope, orange blossom, tonka bean) musk base that goes on forever. If I put on Musc in the morning and shower at night, the hot water makes it bloom anew.

Also, please take a look at these wonderful lists by Grain de Musc :: Now Smell This :: The Non-Blonde

Image 1: Kateryna Bilokur, Flowers (detail), 1944-47, photography by Bois de Jasmin. Image 2 by Elisa.

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66 Comments

  • Hamamelis: What a creative post, thank you Elisa. A new way to categorize perfume and it shows where I have gaps and which colour is well represented (yellow!) so I have a go (taking into account due to our cold spring so far I haven’t worn many of these yet…)

    pink- By coincidence I am sampling Quel Amour today which is pretty pink!

    pale orange/apricot – Saffran Troublant
    yellow- Ostara, Une Fleur de Cassie, Journey, Essences Insensees 2014
    soft greens- Eau de Camille, Muguet Porcelaine, Un Jardin sur le Toit
    light blue- Hiris
    indigo – Purple Reign
    violet – Misia April 29, 2016 at 8:55am Reply

    • Elisa: Many spring florals smells yellow to me! I found it hardest to think of perfumes that smell light blue. April 29, 2016 at 9:27am Reply

      • Maja: Dear Elisa,
        How very inspiring. I love this post by you. For many years I would associate colors and sounds to smells,letters,numbers,words,situations,memories…..
        I especially loved your reminiscing about green yellow crayon.
        Discovering I have synesthesia,was very liberating and satisfying. I embraced it and enjoy it even more. April 29, 2016 at 11:45am Reply

        • Elisa: I like the idea of associating memories with colors! In the same way that smells can trigger memories, certain kinds of weather do for me. There’s a kind of regressive damp cool weather in spring that always feels poignant to me and reminds me of a specific period in my mid-20s. April 29, 2016 at 11:51am Reply

  • Grain de Musc: Elisa, you’ve inspired me to pull out Chamade from its place in the refrigerator (a good place to keep the extraits, but not one I dig into often for my scent of the day). It’s heartstoppingly gorgeous. And I’ll be sure to check out the Coudray — I never tend to give those a sniff. April 29, 2016 at 9:06am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh, I hope you like it! Very underrated I think. Thank you for reading! April 29, 2016 at 9:28am Reply

    • Normand: THAT Coudray was at Winners (TJ Maxx) all winter long for a song! For that price, I almost bought it unsniffed. “Shoulda”.

      Reasonably-priced perfumes are harder and harder to find.

      Normand April 30, 2016 at 7:53pm Reply

      • Elisa: *I’d* buy it unsniffed! (Even though I’ve sniffed it….) April 30, 2016 at 7:55pm Reply

  • Scented Salon: Guerlain has a new range of lipsticks a la Petite Robe Noire and I ordered one in lilac. That is my nod to Spring and rainbow colors. I don’t really change up my perfumes by season but I do sometimes get a hankering for something light and airy as the season warms up.

    Your suggestion for Jacinthe Rose is right on. “…feels like taking a clawfoot-tub bubble bath by candlelight in a wallpapered room.” That is a beautiful image. I have tried their perfumes and am impressed by the bottles and color schemes. The scents are perfect when one is feeling nostalgic. I must try this rose perfume. April 29, 2016 at 9:11am Reply

    • Elisa: I would like to delve into purple lipsticks — that’s a definite hole in my collection! I love wearing shades of purple eyeshadow though. April 29, 2016 at 9:29am Reply

      • Patricia: Bite Beauty makes a nice one, too. Very wearable. April 29, 2016 at 10:31am Reply

  • Katherine: I really have enjoyed Mona di Orio Musc. I’m also loving Tom Ford Champaca. In two weeks, these will be too heavy where I live so I’m happy about the Chanel no 5 bath oil. It will be my go to this spring and maybe summer. April 29, 2016 at 9:47am Reply

    • Elisa: Is it getting hot where you are? It’s actually snowing this morning in Colorado….sigh. April 29, 2016 at 10:07am Reply

      • Floralouise: We had snow here a few days ago (I’m in Maine). Now it’s spring again. Fingers crossed for it to last. April 30, 2016 at 1:20pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Lovely list! I want to try both the Coudray and the Heeley. April 29, 2016 at 10:07am Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you! I haven’t seen anyone mentioning the Heeley but it’s lovely. April 29, 2016 at 10:10am Reply

      • Austenfan: I’ve only ever tried Cuir Pleine Fleur and Iris de Nuit, and I enjoyed both of those very much. April 29, 2016 at 10:15am Reply

  • Nick: Have you tried Aleksandr? Its powdered brush smells like Après l’Ondée without the spicy anise. It is quite interesting from the first impression, but I haven’t really put it to test. April 29, 2016 at 10:15am Reply

    • Elisa: I actually haven’t tried anything from the Arquiste line, an error I need to fix! April 29, 2016 at 10:19am Reply

  • Patricia: Desarmant is one that I’m especially eager to try, and your description makes it sound delightful. Is the honey note at all cloying?

    Your story of the great crayon name debate took me right back to grade school, and that was many years ago! Thanks for the memories. 🙂 April 29, 2016 at 10:28am Reply

    • Elisa: Not cloying at all – it’s very natural! In fact it feels drier than most lilacs I’ve tried.

      🙂 April 29, 2016 at 10:30am Reply

      • Patricia: My sample from Twisted Lily just arrived, and so far I find Desarmant very beautiful. (I got the La Parfumerie Moderne sample pack and look forward to try the others in the set as well.) April 29, 2016 at 5:25pm Reply

        • Elisa: I really like all of the first three! I think they have at least one more now that I have not tried. April 29, 2016 at 5:29pm Reply

  • spe: This spring, I added Dioressence (new version) – it has a soapy/spicy combination smell that feels warm but clean (opposite of sweet). Borderline “masculine.”

    Your list is very helpful, Elisa.

    I’m inspired to try the Hanae Mori and the Heeley.

    Thank you! April 29, 2016 at 10:55am Reply

    • Elisa: Interesting, I have not tried the recent Dioressence. I had a sample of the vintage version that I found unbelievably dirty! April 29, 2016 at 11:01am Reply

  • Julie: Elisa,
    I loved this review of Pastel Perfumes for Spring! Thank you. I must try Hanae Mori Couture Haute, sounds pretty.
    Your description includes
    drinking champagne out of a plastic cup & that sounds like fun!
    I also enjoy Silences by Jacamo which is perfect this time of the year and goes so well with that pretty pastel green print that you included above. Enjoy your weekend Elisa. 🙂 April 29, 2016 at 11:04am Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you Julie! I didn’t want to overrepresent any one color in my list, but I definitely could have included other pastel greens! One of my faves for spring is Paco Rabanne Metal, which is a chypre in the spirit of Chanel No 19. April 29, 2016 at 11:07am Reply

      • Julie: That’s a beauty, Elisa…
        One of my mom’s favorite. I remember smelling
        Paco Rabanne Metal, on her dressing table. I also gave it to her on her birthday (May 1st) several times. She also loved Jolie Madame, Pierre Balmain. 🙂 April 29, 2016 at 11:23am Reply

        • Elisa: Perfect gift for a May 1 birthday! I love Jolie Madame too 🙂 April 29, 2016 at 11:24am Reply

          • Gabrieka: I am thinking of blind buying Jolie Madame, any thoughts? April 30, 2016 at 10:32am Reply

            • Elisa: Only if you can find the vintage stuff on eBay for a good price! Don’t blind buy the modern version.

              If you like leather chypres like Cabochard you’ll likely like JM. April 30, 2016 at 10:49am Reply

              • Gabriela: Thank you Elisa! Your comment has guided me really well. April 30, 2016 at 11:03am Reply

  • OperaFan: I adore pastel colors and will gladly wear the pinks, yellows, and blues. Because of my skin tone, I can only do either very light or very deep blues, and (sadly) lavendar doesn’t work for me at all.
    It’s funny, but I’ve always felt that Chamade made me see a golden yellow, but that was because I didn’t understand the concept of green until much later. That needs to be accounted for now, especially since it’s my favorite part of the scent, so – yellowish-green. 🙂
    I did have a tiny sample of Jacynthe et Rose once – it had such a bright soapy opening that made me feel like it belonged in the bath. Given the chance I will definitely try it again to see what lies behind once the soapiness calms down.
    And, yes – Apres L’Ondee must be the ultimate pastel for me. <3 April 29, 2016 at 11:36am Reply

    • Elisa: J&R really is very soapy but, whereas usually I find soapy scents boring, I love it! There’s something so romantic about it. April 29, 2016 at 11:38am Reply

      • SilverMoon: Hello Elisa, thanks for the beautiful colour coded list of a pastel rainbow. I really enjoyed reading about a number of perfumes I have not tried yet. Now I am curious about them. However, I am familiar with the Coudray J&R. I agree with your perfect description, which made me smile. It is a romantic sweet powdery floral with much charm. Somehow the line is often overlooked, not sure why? April 29, 2016 at 5:24pm Reply

        • Elisa: Maybe because it’s hard to find? I’ve never seen it stores, but maybe it’s more widely available in Europe? April 29, 2016 at 5:28pm Reply

          • SilverMoon: Yes, it does not seem to be widely available. here in the UK few places seem to stock it. However, I have seen it in Italy, France and Germany. I had a chance to explore the line by testing on strips or skin while I was in Italy for four months last year (on work). I was tempted to get J&R but in the end did not buy a full bottle. It is the one that stood out the most for me among the Coudray line. April 29, 2016 at 5:35pm Reply

  • sandra: Doesn’t feel like spring here yet..
    Nice list! Enjoy the weekend April 29, 2016 at 2:49pm Reply

    • Elisa: Seems like the weather in general hasn’t gotten the memo! April 29, 2016 at 2:50pm Reply

  • Lily: I am curious about the Haute Couture as well! For those who have tried it – what is the overall character of the scent? Is it similar to L’Eau de Chloe? The notes are different but that one to me is fizzy, soapy, effervescent, chartreuse color. April 29, 2016 at 3:05pm Reply

    • Elisa: It’s not as green as L’Eau de Chloe and doesn’t have any rose, but I think it would be fair to say they have similar characters, yes! April 29, 2016 at 3:09pm Reply

    • Mals86: Hi, Lily – I like L’eau de Chloe very much – and it is a soft spring-green color in my mind. I don’t own a bottle because the patchouli gets a little insistent for me as time goes on, but I do like it. I own Haute Couture and enjoy it; it’s considerably fruitier than L’eau de Chloe, in a tangy citrusy way (as opposed to a sweet berry way). It’s also got some aldehydes which I don’t remember in L’edC, and a big focus on jasmine (greenish, not indolic). You may have trouble finding it now, though, because it’s been discontinued for at least a couple of years. May 10, 2016 at 11:15am Reply

  • mj: Elise, thanks for the list!. Your definition of Chamade in terms of yellow made me smile, as I always think that Chamade is the only yellow thing I can wear on, as yellow is very unbecoming in my sallow skin, but Chamade is glorious spring when spritzed on.

    I’m not very good on putting colours to fragances, but 24 Fabourg is always a mandarine orange scent for me. April 29, 2016 at 4:11pm Reply

    • Elisa: Orange like the Hermes boxes! April 29, 2016 at 4:12pm Reply

      • mj: yes! that lovely orange! Sunny and bright. Also, Couturier Coriandre feels pink with a hint of grey, more like a mauvy-pink.. I have an Essie nail polish, Ladylike, that’s exactly than colour. May 2, 2016 at 3:27am Reply

        • Elisa: Uh oh, now I’m going to have to start matching all my perfumes to nail polishes…. May 2, 2016 at 9:33am Reply

  • Joy: I have been so busy lately that I have not had time to comment, but always read with my morning coffee.
    I love your Ten categories. A few of my pastels are Diorissimo, as pale green; Chanel’s Cristalle, again green, and Paco Rabanne’s Calandre, as green, woody. For pink, I love the frothiness of Rose Splendide.
    Thank you for a fun article!

    Joy April 29, 2016 at 4:39pm Reply

    • Elisa: I love Rose Splendide too and it’s definitely pale pink! I don’t have any right now … but I want more! April 29, 2016 at 5:09pm Reply

  • Annikky: Lovely choices. I’ve recently fallen for Desarmant and have always loved Apres l’Ondee. I’m wearing the latter today and when I was earlier testing the water of my bath, suddenly a most amazing cloud of powdery scent reached my nose – Apres, applied 10 hours ago, revived by warm water and damp air.

    You have made me want to try Donna real bad 🙂 April 29, 2016 at 4:42pm Reply

    • Elisa: I love that steam renewal effect 🙂

      Donna really, really surprised me! It reminds me strongly of a snack my grandmother used to make me: strawberries dipped in powdered sugar. April 29, 2016 at 5:10pm Reply

  • limegreen: What a fun read, thank you! I recently tried a sample of the Heeley and it was so lovely a burst of yellow just as you describe, and almonds. Someone on a recent BdJ Recommend post mentioned the fragrance for a hyacinth recommendation and I never heard of it so had to try it! I love Cuir Pleine Fleur so thought this might be interesting.
    (I use colored atomizers to organize decants that do not come with a spray — i find that I associate color with certain perfumes, now I know I’m not alone!) April 29, 2016 at 6:40pm Reply

    • Elisa: I’m glad some other people have tried the Heeley! It’s so quintessentially spring. April 30, 2016 at 10:09am Reply

  • nozknoz: Hermes Cuir d’Ange is the perfect pastel amber tan, and a rather wonderful but pastel version of leather. April 29, 2016 at 10:33pm Reply

    • Elisa: I like the idea of a pastel leather! Bottega Veneta might qualify as that too, kind of a dusty pink suede. April 30, 2016 at 10:10am Reply

  • Aurora: I loved reading about this rainbow of fragrances, Elisa and find your selection interesting- I’m yet to try several of them. I haven’t used my spring fragrances yet as it’s been rather coldish here in the UK. I look at them with longing. April 30, 2016 at 8:16am Reply

    • Elisa: Colorado has been warm but just got cold again. It’s frustrating! April 30, 2016 at 10:11am Reply

  • Crazycrooner: I love L’Amandiere: it is so green, so fresh – like a meadow in spring. It is “green almond”. It didn’t even know what that was. The almond I am accustomed and to is the amaretto variety of Guerlain Tonka Imperial. But L’Amandiere is the odd little girl, whose charm demolishes Johnny bravos. April 30, 2016 at 10:48am Reply

    • Elisa: Yes, green almond is exactly right. Fresh almonds are green and fuzzy and tart before the shell hardens. April 30, 2016 at 10:51am Reply

  • parker scout: Love the post! So fun, that the freak-list in me eager to participate:
    Blue – Eau parfumée au thé bleu, Bulgari
    Peach – Une fleur de cassie, Frédéric Malle
    Pink (a bright one) – Paris, YSL
    Pink (pale) – À la rose, Francis Kurdjan
    Green – Scherrer
    Yellow – Yvresse,YSL
    Purple (pale) – Lilas Yves Rocher (sadly discontinued)
    Pearl – Neroli Yves Rocher
    Yellow – Un matin d’orage, Annick Goutal
    Violet – Carven L’absolu May 4, 2016 at 3:57am Reply

    • Elisa: Thanks Parker for reading and sharing your list! Yvresse is a good pick for yellowy-peach. And YSL Y is another one I’d consider yellow-green. May 4, 2016 at 11:34am Reply

      • parker scout: It is! Also love it. May 5, 2016 at 5:03am Reply

  • Cynthia L: Elise, What a great list. Three fourths of these are new to me! I love your crayon color name distinctions…so funny and just the sort of thing I would obsess over! And my favorite line: “To me it feels both fancy and casual, like drinking champagne out of a plastic cup.” Thanks for a fun read and some new lemmings to sample. May 9, 2016 at 11:36pm Reply

    • Elisa: Thanks for reading, Cynthia! Hope you find something new to love 🙂 May 10, 2016 at 7:28am Reply

  • Mals86: What a fun post, Elisa! And how nice to see again that our preferences have a big area of overlap.

    I love a gentle, “just pretty” rose, especially in warm weather – the Diptyque didn’t wow me but it is pretty, and I’m spoiled for choice in the “just pretty rose” department. 🙂 Jacinthe et Rose is lovely! I really think I have to find the shower gel. Haute Couture I tend to wear more in the summer than in spring, but it is so much fun. I’m a fan of Chamade, Apres l’Ondee, and Florist’s Fridge (I just bought another 4ml spray because I used the first one up so handily).
    Haven’t tried the Mona or the Valentino, or Desarmant – I usually stick with my DSH White Lilac – and I have a sample of the Heeley but don’t remember it, so I should remedy that.
    Soft vivid colors (like watermelon, periwinkle, turquoise, spring green, apricot) are my favorite, but I like pastels too. 🙂 May 10, 2016 at 11:24am Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you Mals! Now I want to try to think of perfumes to match all your soft vivid colors! A watermelon-colored (but not scented) perfume sounds particularly appealing …. May 10, 2016 at 11:51am Reply

  • ra: Valentino Donna dries down like a cheap drugstore deodorant, all cloying and everything.
    Also, it’s nothing pastel, it seems to be created as competition to Prada Candy. May 19, 2016 at 10:23am Reply

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