Top 10 Perfumes for Reading by Candlelight

If you need something comforting, then please join Elisa as she explores her favorite winter perfumes.

In my twenties, I loved to sleep late on the weekends – till 11 was ideal. I’d luxuriate in the feeling of stirring every hour or so as the sun began to light the room, then rolling over and going right back to sleep.

These days, I consider time to be more of a luxury than sleep, and I’d much rather wake up early and spend a few quiet hours reading on the couch and drinking coffee. And more nights than not, you’ll find me in the same place after dinner, with a glass of wine in place of the coffee. I especially love curling up with a book in winter, when I can pile on the blankets and light a candle for maximum coziness.

This year’s winter list includes some of my favorite cozy, comforting scents to wear during my favorite activity. (Incidentally, a few candles I’ve enjoyed recently: Thymes Frasier Fir and Nest Birchwood Pine, both excellent “Christmas tree” scents; Trader Joe’s Cedar Balsam, an absolute steal at $3.99; and Rewined Pinot Noir, a fruity scent with a ton of throw, even unlit.)

Fresh Brown Sugar

Brown Sugar, a gourmand lemon, is a perfect easy-going morning scent. I submit that it smells exactly like a sidecar (cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice).

Tocca Margaux

Margaux is supposed to smell like gardenia or some such, and it doesn’t; it smells like synthetic molecules, especially after settling down. But whatever those molecules are, I like them. Margaux isn’t particularly floral, or citrusy, or woody, or musky, though it’s a little bit of all those things. Mostly it just low-key smells good, and on me has the calming effect of a white-noise machine.

Parfumerie Generale Cadjmere

I love coconut, but most coconut perfumes are distinctly summery. Cadjmere is my winter coconut fix – a toasty, creamy woody-vanilla.

Narciso Eau de Parfum

The Narciso in the very attractive white cube could almost be a flanker of the original Narciso Rodriguez for Her – but it’s different enough that I decided I wanted a full bottle. This woody-musky floral is so warm and radiant it practically glows.

Diptyque Volutes

Volutes is a relatively transparent, non-gourmand tobacco with a slightly waxy quality that reminds me of Carmex. (There’s often something a little “off” about many Diptyque scents, which actually adds to their appeal.) What I like about it is that it’s more like catching a whiff of pipe smoke on the street than sticking your nose in a bag of tobacco – not that there isn’t a time and place for that.

Tauerville Vanilla Flash

Andy Tauer’s unusual take on vanilla has some of the fluffy marshmallowiness of Parfums de Nicolaï Kiss Me Tender, but reminds me of nothing so much as bubblegum. Whence the bubblegum? A touch of clove mingling with a touch of tuberose, with some fruity aspect of the vanilla and/or rose? I can’t be sure, but every time I spray it on, there it is: bubblegum!

Shiseido Feminité du Bois

I’m lucky to have a little bit of the Shiseido version of this fragrance. It’s just perfect, a plummy, spicy rendition of cedar that makes you think of embers on the fire just before they start to fall apart into ash. (I’m comfortable messing with perfection, so I recently tried French Elle’s suggested layering of Feminité du Bois with Chanel Cuir de Russie, and can confirm it creates “a very rich and sensual fragrance.”)

Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Homme

Rose is a comfort note for me. This rose is manly only in a quite powdery, fancy way (the man I picture has a deep voice but is wearing an ascot), but it makes my winter list this year because the ambery patchouli base is so nice and warm.

Kate Walsh Boyfriend

There’s something undeniably “scratchy” about this smoky, woodsy vanilla with patchouli, scratchy like a wool sweater. But that’s what makes it smell so niche-like, like a celebrity-scent version of Un Bois Vanille (but I’ve decided I prefer Boyfriend to the Lutens). Why didn’t we appreciate this when we had the chance?!

SJP Stash

Sarah Jessica Parker famously used to mix Comme des Garçons Avignon, Bonne Bell Skin Musk, and Egyptian musk oil to create her own signature scent. I don’t know what that combination smells like, but Stash does have a certain indeterminate quality, like you’re smelling the mingled drydowns of three or four different woody-musky perfumes. One of my favorite new releases of 2016.

What are your favorites this winter?

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

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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60 Comments

  • Sandra: yesterday I layered Shalimar and Cristialle au Vert.
    Great list! January 20, 2017 at 9:27am Reply

    • Solanace: Interesting layering… January 20, 2017 at 10:18am Reply

    • Elisa: Intriguing, I never would have thought of that! January 20, 2017 at 11:08am Reply

  • key change: Oooh, loved the theme for this list! Honestly, I love curling up and reading so very much that the fact that I wouldn’t be able to curl up and read as much was a major consideration in when to have a child! now that she’s here, I know I was right to consider it, although now curling up and reading is all the more pleasurable. Also, you’ve reminded me that I also love Narcisso in the cubed bottle! I should hunt down a decant of that or something. Do people even decant department store frags? January 20, 2017 at 9:58am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes! Surrender to Chance has decants of all types of perfumes, although I don’t remember if Narciso is part of their lineup. January 23, 2017 at 10:38am Reply

      • Elisa: Echoing Victoria, yes, StC carries mainstream perfumes! IMO Narciso would be a good choice for Sephora to do in a purse spray format. January 23, 2017 at 10:40am Reply

        • Victoria: I agree! Not sure about now, but it used to be one of their best sellers, so a purse spray version would have been popular. January 23, 2017 at 12:48pm Reply

  • spe: For reading, maybe something intellectual but soft like Chanel 19 poudre. January 20, 2017 at 10:03am Reply

    • Elisa: In a way I don’t want anything too demanding/distracting while I’m reading and relaxing. It’s also hard for me to read while listening to music — too much stimulus for the senses! January 20, 2017 at 11:09am Reply

  • Solanace: Huuum, Rose d’Homme is just delicious, great for any gender. High on my list. It’s sumer here, but since it’s kind of cool and so very rainy, I’ve been wearing lots of winter frags, from Shalimar to Fumérie Turque and Chergui. Today it’s Marron Chic, by Nez à Nez. Lovely poisonous cocoa iris. January 20, 2017 at 10:17am Reply

    • Elisa: I love a good chocolatey iris! My favorite in that category is Dark Passage. January 20, 2017 at 11:10am Reply

  • LenaD: Elisa,
    I have the post reformulations FDB, and I think it smell so much better layered with Cuir de Russie! January 20, 2017 at 10:24am Reply

    • Elisa: It really is a great combo! I’m wearing Cuir Mauresque today which kind of reminds me of it. January 20, 2017 at 11:10am Reply

    • Morelle: Sorry for being a bit late to chip in, but Elisa’s recommendation and your comment inspired me to use this combination of FDB and Cuir de Russie today, and I can confirm that it smells great! January 24, 2017 at 6:48pm Reply

      • Elisa: Let’s make this layering a cult classic! January 24, 2017 at 8:22pm Reply

  • Tijana: We have very similar habits! 🙂

    These days I love waking up early to read… While everyone around me is still asleep. I don’t do tons of it in the evening as it’s usually busy and I am tired, but mornings are mine!

    Love your list! When I read fiction, I try to imagine what the main protagonist would wear and I wear that or similar while I am reading the book… when possible of course! Othwerwise, I pick something I typically cannot wear during the day to my office, but something I just absolutely love. January 20, 2017 at 10:27am Reply

    • Tijana: And just to add, some of my favourites this winter are Gaiac 10, Lalibella, Feve Delicieuse, Ambre Nuit, Bottega Veneta, FM Dries Van Noten and FM Dans Tes Bras. January 20, 2017 at 10:29am Reply

      • Elisa: Great list! And I’d love to hear one your protagonist/perfume pairings 🙂 January 20, 2017 at 11:12am Reply

        • Tijana: Would it be too obvious if I said Anna Karenina and Chanel Cuir de Russie? I mean, it is one of my favourite books which I keep re-reading… I do not concern myself whether the fragrance existed at the time, I just imagine… I also paired Hadley Richardson from The Paris Wife (Hemingway’s first wife) with L’Heure Bleue… I don’t really have a good explanation, it’s just how imagine them… January 20, 2017 at 12:00pm Reply

          • Elisa: Not too obvious for me! I still haven’t read AK, much to the dismay of my husband… January 20, 2017 at 4:15pm Reply

          • Notturno7: Hi Tijana, I love your pairings for both and I can see why that nostalgic sweetness and ‘kindness’ of L’ Heure Bleue could match Hadley. There’s a gentle sadness and the noble note that I imagine, that goes with the perfume and the lady in question.
            By the way, Tijana is the name of one of my best friends from Montenegro. Maybe you and I speak the same language. That’d be lovely 💜

            Elisa, I love your post.
            I also enjoy Narcisso EdP and recently received a lovely compliment on it from a neighbor.
            During this winter time, I’ve been discovering Caron vintage Extraits through eBay. I’m in love with Nuit de Noel, and Bellodgia, new scent for me, another vintage extrait -aaaah, the carnations are so delicious.
            Also, I got my ‘paws’ on the bottle of vintage L’ Air du Temps and it is just amazing.
            Today I was craving jasmine out of blue (must be the winter blues) so I got out my bottle of Sarrasins and that did the trick. I re- applied later and it felt great having layers of the same scent but in different stages.
            I also enjoy early morning but more as a late night as I work late. 😊
            Off to bed now with wrists scented with spices and Nuit de Noel. January 21, 2017 at 5:32am Reply

            • Tijana: Hi Notturno7 – I am Serbian by background so chances are we do! 😀

              Small world, thank you for your lovely words, happy to hear we share the same passion ❤ January 21, 2017 at 5:52am Reply

              • Notturno7: Sve najbolje, Tijana i Sretna vam Nova Godina.
                Let me know if you visit San Francisco. Maybe we can meet for coffee and talk about our favorite books and perfumes! January 22, 2017 at 7:23pm Reply

                • Tijana: Hvala takodje! ❤

                  I do travel to SF once per year, in the fall, so that would be lovely!!!! January 22, 2017 at 7:28pm Reply

                  • Notturno7: I’d love that!! Looking forward to meeting you in the fall. Dovidjenja 😊 i sve najbolje.
                    Happy (perfume scented) New Year! January 24, 2017 at 3:58am Reply

            • Elisa: I’m quite jealous over your L’Air du Temps. I’ve also made a lot of vintage purchases in the past year or so. There’s a definite sense of adventure when you order vintage from eBay. I’ve ended up with a few turned bottles but mostly I’ve been very happy with my finds. January 23, 2017 at 10:34am Reply

              • Notturno7: Dear Elisa,
                What were your finds? I love hearing about other people finding treasures💗.
                Yes,vintage L’Air du Temps extrait is a treasure and I scored. I also got EDP few years ago and it smells great as if it’s the vintage!! Maybe the bottle was older. There’s a number on it but I don’t know what it means.
                It smells so good that I’m tempted to check w this small perfumerie in case they have any left.
                Maybe even for you if you’re interested.

                I also got a teeny tiny bottle of Amarige extrait after I read one of your posts about favorite scents at that time and it’s so rich that one little dab is enough. It’s perfect for a cold season on my skin, especially winter holidays. January 24, 2017 at 4:11am Reply

                • Elisa: The first vintage bottle I ever bought from eBay was Egoiste in the old Cologne Concentree version — amazing stuff. I’ve also had a lot of luck finding vintage at estate or moving sales — older Shalimar, Eau de Joy … January 24, 2017 at 11:38am Reply

                • Elisa: PS So glad you are enjoying the Amarige! I have so much appreciation for those giant 80s scents everyone grew to hate 🙂 January 24, 2017 at 11:39am Reply

    • Nora Szekely: Dear Tijana,

      Wow, great idea as my love for perfumes is only rivalled by my love for books. Just bought Cuir de Russie last week, I need to re-read Anna Karenina.
      Pride and Prejudice by Austen : the fervent walker protagonist, Elizabeth would smell lika Penhaligon’s Lavandula or Diptyque LOmbre dans l’eau
      Jane Eyre : Jane would smell of grass, shadows and melancholy like Guelain’s Vol de nuit
      Twenties girl by Sophie Kinsella : a chick-lit book with unexpected layers : Zelda by En Voyage Perfumes is a great remisiscent of everyithing hip in 1920s in western culture
      The Wings of the Dove by Henry James: the fragile Milly Theale would smell like Apres L’Ondee by Guerlain. January 23, 2017 at 6:52am Reply

      • Tijana: Dear Nora,

        I love it!!!

        I will have to (re)read your suggestions and will make sure I have those fragrances or samples handy! I would be interested in what you pick for Anna!

        I can totally see Elizabeth in Lavandula!

        Hugs from Toronto!

        January 23, 2017 at 7:36am Reply

        • Nora Szekely: Dear Tijana,

          Hmm for Anna….
          Cuir de Russie seems perfect but if I had to pick something else, it would be a headstrong yet fragile scent : vintage Mitsouko extrait. It has all the drama yet also conjures a reflective mood as well. January 23, 2017 at 8:18am Reply

          • Tijana: Great choice! January 23, 2017 at 1:28pm Reply

  • brenda: Yes, I received a lovely Thymes Frasier Fir candle from my son at holiday time – and enjoyed it very much. They make lovely products – though, I find many shops ( in my area, anyway) tend to stock them more in the winter months than the rest of the year. I burn candles throughout the year – so, this is a little disappointing…but, in general, I really like their products. (Gold Leaf room spray is also very nice). January 20, 2017 at 12:33pm Reply

    • Elisa: I burn candles throughout the year too — but they feel more special to me in cold weather, somehow. (I don’t have a fireplace, so I have to make do!) January 20, 2017 at 4:16pm Reply

  • Debby: Before I even got the end of your list I was thinking Stash, I tried it for the first time the other day, and it’s so good! Such a bargain too. Definitely getting it soon.
    My favourites this winter have been CDG Floriental and Portrait of a Lady. January 20, 2017 at 12:39pm Reply

    • Elisa: Stash really is a bargain. I got a gift set with body cream and a little travel rollerball in addition to the 1 oz bottle all for something like $45! January 20, 2017 at 4:17pm Reply

      • Debby: Haven’t seen that set over here, but a 100ml bottle costs just £50. I think my husband will enjoy it too as to me it smells of gorse flowers which he just loves the scent of. January 20, 2017 at 4:32pm Reply

        • Elisa: I need to get my husband to try it! January 23, 2017 at 10:33am Reply

  • Phyllis: SL’s Arabie and Etro’s Messe de Minuit are favorites for winter and beyond.
    Although I’m a big fan of SJP’s Lovely and Covet, I purchased Stash without having tried it and sadly, it smells exactly like CK Man to me. Still, it makes a nice Winter fragrance. January 20, 2017 at 1:35pm Reply

    • Elisa: Oh, is that so? I haven’t tried CK Man. I definitely think Stash has a masculine vibe though. January 20, 2017 at 4:18pm Reply

  • Marie / Witness of Sense: Cadjmere is wonderful, I also like Bois des Iles and Mona di Orio Vanille as candlelight perfumes. Also, I now I have try Narciso EdP! January 20, 2017 at 3:18pm Reply

    • Elisa: Yes, Bois des Isles is a good choice! Have you tried Champagne de Bois? Similar aldehydic sandalwood thing going on but stronger. January 20, 2017 at 4:19pm Reply

  • rosarita: I like your list 🙂 Rose d’Homme is one of my favorites and I never hear anything about it so it’s nice to see it on a “best of” list. I also love your last two perfumes – I have Boyfriend in a dry oil and it smells fantastic under lots of warm and cozy winter perfumes, and Stash has a great dry oil too, I bought myself a gift set on sale. It reminds me of Donna Karan Black Cashmere which is one of my favorite perfumes of all time. January 20, 2017 at 5:11pm Reply

    • Elisa: I agree that Rose d’Homme doesn’t get enough love! And it’s nice to switch it up with an oil format sometimes. January 23, 2017 at 10:26am Reply

  • Elizabeth: For cozy, evening by the fire with a good book, I have fallen for Sucre et Fleurs, by Kyse. So comforting.
    I am currently reading The New Mrs. Clifton, by Elizabeth Buchan January 20, 2017 at 5:31pm Reply

    • Elisa: I just looked up the notes and it sounds delicious! January 23, 2017 at 10:27am Reply

  • Andy: Your list (as always) is so perfectly eclectic. Somewhat unromantically, laptop by candlelight is a more common occurrence, but if I want to pretend I’m reading something good instead, Huitieme Art Myrrhiad is my choice. L’Orpheline is another top pick for those quieter moments of relaxation. And you’ve reminded me I have to try Rose d’Homme! January 21, 2017 at 8:31pm Reply

    • Elisa: I love Myrrhiad too and have been reaching for it a lot in the past few months! I don’t usually find incense comforting exactly, but I think myrrh can be. January 23, 2017 at 10:28am Reply

  • Sylvia: Hi Elisa,
    Wonderful list as always and so evocative. . Im loving in our window seat my dear husband built me, drinking coffee while wearing perfume, watching Birds flutter at the feeders-and listening to books on audible is most likely here this winter.
    I need to try the Rose d homme. The spices with rose are favorites. Does it last better than some of the other Rosine’s?
    My husband bought Stash for me and it was the strangest experience I’ve ever had with a scent. Skin chemistry is such a mystery. The first time I tried it it was weird but compelling and I liked it. The second time it made me nauseous and caused a headache. The third time it was worse. I felt very ill and it smelled of pickles and harsh cedar.
    I’m glad it’s working well for so many!
    I am very hesitant to try the DK Black Cashmere I’ve heard it compared to now!
    Happy Sunday to you all! January 22, 2017 at 10:34am Reply

    • Sylvia: Correction- loving our window seat. 😀 January 22, 2017 at 10:35am Reply

    • Elisa: How sweet of your husband to build you a window seat. 🙂 Having a cozy spot to read is so necessary.

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience with Stash! There must be some material in there that you were getting more and more sensitive to each time you wore it (this has happened to me on occasion with certain musks) January 23, 2017 at 10:30am Reply

  • Nora Szekely: Dear Elisa and perfume lovers,

    Great post, Elisa, I love reading about other people’s rituals.

    My mornings start also with coffee and ever since I discovered the majestic Frederic Malle body butters, in the winter I use one of them to gently rub into my skin. I have 2 at the moment, Portrait of a Lady and Musc Ravageur and it may seem strange, but I enjoy using them while sipping my latte with honey and cardamom and watching book review videos (creams and books don’t go together in my life but I can wipe easily my phone’s screen). It is such an uplifting ritual for me. I used to rush in the morning, especially when I worked in early shifts but nowadays I go to the office later and I realized that a quiet morning guarantees a more relaxed working day.
    This weekend I stayed in bed on both days till 11! What a great luxury it is. I was reading a book, sipping coffee, checking my favourite websites while my 2 cats joined me for short naps or they requested petting.

    My favourite winter perfumes at the moment are :

    Vintage Coco extrait by Chanel : I use my 7.5 ml bottle for a year now, one spritz guarantees a full day of luxury wrap. I feel like a grand duchess when wearing it.

    Cuir de Russie EDT by Chanel : my favourite mid-European beauty seller site just started to sell Les exclusifs EDT versions, so I quickly ordered this gem. It is perfect for winter, leathery, smoky and lasts for a few hours.

    Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a lady : I love the body butter even more than the EDP. Most days, I only use it on my décolletage and arms, it lasts almost full day.

    L de Lolita Lempicka: I only possess a small bottle but its is quite strong and a great gourmand for the colder months.

    Angel EDP by Thierry Mugler: Another gourmand that is great in the winter.

    Une Fleur de Cassie by Frederic Malle : it may seem surprising but I prefer this scent in colder weather. January 23, 2017 at 5:47am Reply

    • Elisa: It sounds like we have similar tastes in both perfume and morning habits! L de LL and Angel have been regulars for me for years.

      Have you tried the original Fendi fragrance? It was similar to Coco — very opulent floriental. I suspect you would love it. January 23, 2017 at 10:32am Reply

      • Nora Szekely: Hi Elisa,

        I will seek out original Fendi. Thanks for the recommendation. January 25, 2017 at 4:22am Reply

    • Notturno7: I loved reading your post, Nora.
      What a great ritual. Can you please share the book review video info?
      I have a book club that I started few years ago with my girlfriends and we are always looking for new ideas for upcoming months.
      I love the same perfumes and I loved the Guerlain perfume pairings you chose for those heroines.

      The FM body butter sounds like a great idea in these cold, winter months.
      I only tried FM Carnal Flower bb sample and it was divine.

      Did you ever try Angel extrait version?
      I love Angel, too, and Cuir de Russie (the extrait has a more pronounced smoky note but I love both EDT and extrait versions). Angel is rich enough but once in a while I use the concentrated version s friend gave me and love it even more then my EDP!!

      POAL I tried only once and it seemed too strong on me. I didn’t even wait for the dry down. Maybe that was a mistake!
      Never tried Musc de R either but love my big bottles of Fleur de Cassie, Lys M and Carnal Flower, which I don’t crave much in winter.

      I love Coco, too, ( just bought extrait this summer and it’s lovely, warm and rich, perfect for winter on me) so maybe, as we like similar scents, I’ll try some testers of MdR and POAL when I find myself at the right department store😍
      My two kittens are saying hi and snuggling with me on the couch by the fire place. January 24, 2017 at 4:52am Reply

      • Elisa: I find Musc Ravageur to be reminiscent of a much more refined version of L de LL 🙂 January 24, 2017 at 11:39am Reply

        • Notturno7: Hi Elisa,
          Thanks for letting me know. I have a mini sample of L and I like it. That makes me more interested to get my little paws on MdR sample😊.
          And estate sale is a great recommendation for vintage finds💗 January 24, 2017 at 1:13pm Reply

      • Nora Szekely: Dear Notturno7,
        I watch mostly these 2 video blogs : “Booksandquills” and “Jean Bookish Thoughts”. Both are made by young women, I enjoy their style and versatile reading taste. Otherwise I recommend searching reviews of your favourite books to find reviewers whose other videos may help to decide what to read.
        I wish you luck with your book club, such a great idea to start one 
        Carnal Flower body butter was divine too but as I own the hair mist already, I bought the Musc Ravageur one instead.
        I have to try Angel extrait if I can find it, if it’s even lovelier than the EDP, I have to have it 😉
        I recommend trying both POAL and MR, the first one especially in body butter form. POAL is quite strong in EDP form but the body butter is more mellow. I’m on my 3rd POAL BB now within 2 years and still swoon whenever I open the container.
        Oh good for you to have a fire place ( I only have central heating) and say hi to your kittens in my name. January 25, 2017 at 4:36am Reply

        • Notturno7: Dear Nora,
          Thank you so much for these ideas.
          As I’m replying to your post, my kitten Bella is purring on my chest.
          I guess sometime in the future, we’ll both be enjoying the nice cloud of scented body butter when I get it.
          My kitten Yogi, named do because he’s so flexible and sleeps in most impossible positions, he’s somewhere enjoying a ‘stroll’ in the neighborhood.😊
          PS. The usually have Angel extrait during holidays. I forgot what they call it. Hope u find it! January 25, 2017 at 1:50pm Reply

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