Elisa offers you an apple. Or several.
Late in H Is for Hawk, a memoir about grief and falconry, author Helen Macdonald recounts bringing her goshawk, Mabel, to “Apple Day” at a local farm:
I walk into a white marquee, and inside, in dim green shade, find trestle-tables displaying hundreds of apple varieties. Some are the size of a hen’s egg; some are giant, sprawling cookers you’d need two hands to hold. Each variety sits in a labelled wooden compartment. I walk slowly along the apples, glorying in their little differences. Soft orange, streaked with tiger-spots of pink. Charles Ross. Berkshire 1890. Dual use. A little one with bark-like blush markings over a pale green ground. Coronation. Sussex 1902. Dessert. Miniature green boulders, the side in shadow deep rose. Chivers Delight. Cambridgeshire 1920. Dessert. Huge apple, deep yellow with hyperspace-spotting of rich red. Pasgood’s Nonsuch. Lincolnshire 1853. Dual use.
I love the painstaking attention to detail in this passage – the appreciation for the subtle color variations, not only between varieties but over the skin of a single apple, and for the poetry in the names themselves. It’s almost like a dog show for apples!
Earlier this year, I noticed how many perfumes I love contain an apple note, and how apple notes can range from crisp and tart all the way to lush and compote-y, which means there are apple scents appropriate to any time of year. But what better time to talk about them than in fall? Here are some of my favorites (plus some misses, and a few more to try).
Frédéric Malle Outrageous – Sophia Grojsman’s Outrageous smells very convincingly, almost thirst-quenchingly of fresh, crunchy green apples – on me, for about 45 seconds. I suspect a musk anosmia issue, so your mileage may vary.
CB I Hate Perfume Gathering Apples – This comes in a “water perfume” format which feels so wet and sticky at first, it somewhat re-creates the effect of being splashed with the juice of crushed apples (at a Gallagher show perhaps). Like Outrageous, it’s refreshing and realistic, but not for very long. Up close, the drydown smells a little (how can I put this?) like urine. (This does come in an “absolute” version, which may perform differently; let me know if you’ve tried it.)
DKNY Be Delicious – While no great masterpiece, I think Maurice Roucel’s genius touch is evident in this textbook fruity floral. As a high-pitched, springy green floral (with lily of the valley and rose), it’s actually reminiscent of the unbeatable Gucci Envy, but with the addition of a neon-green apple note, almost like sour-apple candy, and yet the overall impression is more fresh than cloying. A little cheap, but still charming.
Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Été – Even though it predates Be Delicious by several years, I’ve always thought of Rose d’Été as a niche version of the same idea, but with better materials throughout, including a distinct mimosa note. It’s very pretty and smells like a good mood.
Byredo Pulp – Pulp is a love-it-or-hate-it scent, and I happen to love it. To me, it smells primarily and intensely of black currant – with that kind of tanginess that makes the muscles at the back of your jaw tense up – along with fig leaf and red apple. In color, it’s bright, hot fuchsia.
Woody Apples & Orientals
Parfum d’Empire Wazamba – Fir balsam has fruity facets on its own, and Wazamba amps them up with a sweet note of dried apples. The rest is incense – labdanum, myrrh, and opoponax. I usually go for an incense fragrance when I want something serene and austere, but with that bright apple note, it actually feels fun (the name helps!). Wazamba reminds me of the holidays, but it works year-round.
Sonoma Scent Studio Equestrian – The most autumnal of the bunch, Equestrian is a delicious woody apple scent done in golden hues, like a sun-dappled hayride through an apple orchard. To me, it’s completely successful in a way that resists analysis – I hate to break down the notes, but rather just want to lie back and enjoy the atmosphere.
By Kilian Apple Brandy – I enjoyed this one more before I had Equestrian to compare it to – it’s a good boozy apple scent, but not as evocative and life-affirming. It’s also heavier and sweeter, so best suited to winter weather.
Lolita Lempicka Eau de Parfum – Although it’s not listed in the notes, I know I’m not the only one who detects an apple note in Lolita Lempicka. Could it be power of suggestion based on the bottle? Perhaps, but something about the combination of anise, cherry-almond-vanilla and green violet notes reminds me of spiced baked apples.
Lostmarc’h Lan-ael – This old cult favorite comfort scent smells exactly like a bowl of sugary breakfast cereal. There’s a subtle apple-y (or general fruity) note – cereals rarely taste realistically like any kind of fruit – but Lan-ael mostly smells of caramelized grains and soft spices and a big lactonic material standing in for milk. It reminds me of Cinnamon Life, which I haven’t eaten in ages. Man that stuff was good.
DSH Pretty & Pink – Yes, it’s pretty, and very, very pink, but it’s also (like most of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s scents) very complex: I get powder (in a Turkish Delight way), rosewater, almond and mimosa, apple tobacco, burnt sugar, strawberry cake, vanilla frosting … not so much in stages but spinning around all at once, like a fantasia (“visions of sugar plums danced in their heads”).
Do you have a favorite apple scent that I missed?
Photography by Bois de Jasmin