Patricia enjoins spring to arrive faster with a selection of vetiver favorites–and a few salty woods and violets.
Spring in New England takes its time in coming. As I’m writing this, a blizzard is raging, and the blooming heather at the end of the driveway is covered in snow. But I know that the snow and ice will reluctantly give way, the earth will gradually thaw, and what is somewhat affectionately called “mud season” will begin. During the melting phase, my favorite fragrance is L’Eau d’Hiver by Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums. Creator Jean-Claude Ellena perfectly captures with transparent powdery iris, the sensation of the run off of melting snow into a cold mountain spring. Though it doesn’t last long, the musks evolve into a soft skin scent that is a pleasure to wear.
The vetivers, too, bring to mind the first weeks of spring and the anticipation of change. The dryness of Lalique Encre Noire with its cypress and dark woody notes suggest the raw, hard earth not yet ready to give way to new growth. Unlike L’Eau d’Hiver, it lasts a good six to eight hours, softening gently in the drydown process.
Terre d’Hermès, like its name suggests, is earthy, like the dirt under your fingernails after clearing brush out of the garden. Another Ellena fragrance, this vetiver opens with orange and spice and gradually settles into cedar and woods. Diptyque Vetyverio, with its citrus, floral and green notes, is not as dry as Encre Noire, and I find it easier to wear. The astringent quality of citrus cleans up the opening and is joined by rose, geranium and nutmeg for balance and warmth.
Hermessence Vétiver Tonka, a woody chypre with a healthy infusion of sweet tonka bean and creamy sandalwood, is the warmest of these vetiver fragrances, bringing to mind the richness of newly turned-over soil gently heated by the still-weak rays of the sun in early spring. Done in Ellena’s typical transparent style, earthy vetiver is accompanied by washes of tonka bean, hazelnut, and tobacco that serve as background but never take away center stage from the vetiver.
Sometimes I take a brisk beach walk on a blustery day in March or April. James Heeley Sel Marin reminds me of the cold salty wind and algae smell of the deserted shoreline in early spring. An aquatic fragrance, Sel Marin smells of brine, citrus, driftwood, and old beach cottages abandoned for the season. Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel is a similar fragrance, with the addition of iris and herbs. Beautifully blended, it conjures stiff sea breezes over an herb garden.
A cleaned-up version of these salty scents is Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt. The astringent grapefruit is bracing, with the softening notes of sage and sea salt serving as a counterpoint. The overall effect of this combination, even if not especially complex or challenging, is clean, polished, and very wearable. Best of all is the warm salt of one’s own sweaty skin after a lengthy beach walk. I often add some Hermès Eau des Merveilles to enhance the effect with orange and amber. Truly a “my skin but better” fragrance with its low sillage and good longevity, I’m often tempted to sneak a small spritz under my T-shirt before yoga class for personal enjoyment during “downward-facing dog” pose.
As mud season turns to real spring, I capture the soft powdery air with Guerlain Aprés l’Ondée, the olfactive representation in violet and iris of a wet garden after a rainstorm. The first soft spring breezes are tactile against the skin and in the nasal passages. The garden tools are brought out of storage, and the jacket thrown on the ground. It’s time to start planting.
What perfume says spring to you?
Photography: 1st image by Victoria, 2nd by Patricia