Summer: 106 posts

Perfumes that put me in a summer mood, all year round

Van Cleef & Arpels California Reverie : Fragrance Review


San Francisco is one of the most fragrant cities. The scents of salty sea breeze and jasmine are the strongest recollections from my visits. So I’m with Elisa on enjoying Van Cleef & Arpels California Reverie, an effervescent perfume inspired by California and jasmine. 

I love the idea of perfumes inspired by a place – take Christopher Street, a leather scent named for a street in New York City known for its nightlife. Or any number of Bond No. 9 scents – the connections to the individual neighborhoods have been stretching believability for some time, I admit, but a few – like Broadway Nite, Chinatown, and Fire Island – nail the atmospheres of their respective inspirations. Then there’s a host of perfumes named after spots in Paris, including at least two simply named Paris.


It’s funny, on reflection, that there are so many perfumes named after New York – it’s one of my favorite places to be, but honestly, it kind of stinks. California, on the other hand, seems a bit under-leveraged in perfumery briefs. San Diego, for example, is one of the best-smelling cities I’ve been to; the air smells like sea salt, flowers, and eucalyptus trees.

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Top 10 of Summer: Light and Easy Edition

Elisa on some of her favorite summer perfumes.

Earlier this week, Victoria wondered if summer perfumes are necessary, or if the “summery” designation is just marketing spin. In past years, I’ve mostly ignored the supposed seasonality of my perfumes, often most enjoying smoky ambers or patchouli gourmands when amplified in the heat. (Perverse, I know.) But this year, I’ve been in more of a relaxed, hammock-lounging mood, and traditionally “summery” perfumes like citrus scents and light florals are just what I want. So here are some of the easy, almost humble perfumes I’ve been reaching for at home and packing with me when I travel.

roses in blue

Ormonde Jayne Osmanthus

Far from the most renowned perfume in the Ormonde Jayne line, for good reason; Osmanthus is not as opulent or distinctive as some. But it’s an incredibly pretty rendition of the apricot-tea scent of osmanthus, mixed half and half with pomelo juice like a spa version of an Arnold Palmer.

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Is Summer Perfume Necessary?

Sady Dole of The Guardian has written a very nice piece on summer fragrances, and one of the questions she poses is whether such a thing as a summer perfume even exists. My voice is a skeptical one in the story, while Angela Sanders of Now Smell This and Alyssa Harad of Coming To My Senses provide other perspectives.


While I think that seasonal divisions are mostly about marketing, why not have fun with it? Wearing Angel, rain or shine, is fine, but I think that it’s more interesting is to pick a fragrance to reflect my mood or the changes in nature around me. A summer perfume may be something lighter, brighter, with a cooling effect like Guerlain Vétiver. Or it may be a lush tropical floral–Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower–to remind those of us immured in the concrete office buildings that there is summer out there.

The only type of perfumes I avoid are the ubiquitous summer editions every brand brings out, the “Light” or “Summer” versions of their current top sellers. They are not always bad, but they’re rarely exciting.

So, what do you say on the subject of summer fragrances–do you always switch scents in the summer or not?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, one of the best summer perfumes.

Rose Jam

“Do you remember Asia’s recipe for rose jam?” I ask my grandmother as I return to the house with a basket full of rose petals. A craggy shrub by the fence has suddenly sprouted into a mass of frilly pink blossoms, and I feel inspired. “No,” says Valia, with an expression that accepts no arguments. “She wasn’t much of a cook. She never made jam.” I’m confused, because I do recall gathering roses for jam with my great-grandmother. Did I make it up, just like I concocted the story of my father being a Bollywood actor? Then my grandmother reconsiders. “You’re right, she did. Every summer. But it was terrible. Dark and overcooked.”


The saccharine stories that preface many cookbooks, of learning cooking at grandmother’s side as she tenderly explains the right way to cut carrots or hull strawberries, aren’t part of my childhood recollections. Valia has so little tolerance for imperfection, or deviations from her way of doing things, that cooking with her is as relaxing as being a Top Chef contestant. Asia, her mother, had no patience for mincing and sauteing; her passion was the garden. Perhaps, this is why I don’t remember eating her jam, only the intense honeyed fragrance of roses as we picked them.

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Coconut Notes: 21 Perfumes that Take You to the Beach

Elisa explains how coconut is used in perfumes and offers 21 examples with 5 different themes. Summer fun begins here. 

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a cultural coconut renaissance. First came coconut water, touted to be a low-sugar super-hydrator, like nature’s Gatorade. (I think it’s gross; with the high potassium content, it feels like I’m drinking soup.) Then, widespread reports of the virtual all-purposeness of coconut oil: Clean your house! Remove your eye makeup! Moisturize your body! (Again, I haven’t succumbed. But if you don’t mind glistening all over and smelling like a Mounds bar at all times, more power to you.)


If I’m skeptical of the head-to-tail approach to coconuts, I am a longtime lover of coconut scents and of coconut flesh and milk in food. It’s one of those magical ingredients, like lime or cilantro, that can completely make a dish. I love it in desserts – I still think about a bite of exceptionally moist coconut cake I had when I was 17, and Caramel Delites were always my favorite Girl Scout Cookie – but I think I love it even more in savory applications, for the unctuousness it adds to dishes like Thai curry.

In perfume, coconut is usually represented by one or more lactones – from the Latin root lact- meaning milk, lactones give a fruity, fatty creaminess to compositions. Coconut lactones can range from fresh and milky to peachy to waxy to toasted and nutty (with an almondy coumarin facet) to downright buttery, like coconut oil with butter flavoring.

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Latest Comments

  • Tourmaline in Luca Turin’s NZZ Folio Columns: Hi Victoria, I’m excited to hear about this book. Like you, I very much enjoy reading Luca Turin’s opinions on perfume and other things, even though I don’t always agree… October 9, 2015 at 9:05pm

  • Victoria in Lolita Lempicka Sweet : Perfume Review: They’re big and fairly sweet to my nose, but they’re well-balanced. This is hard to do, especially when working with such strong materials. If you like the scent of retro… October 9, 2015 at 5:23pm

  • Victoria in Lolita Lempicka Sweet : Perfume Review: The bottle is stunning. That red is simply irresistible. If you like LPRN, you might enjoy Sweet too. It’s less fruity and cotton candy-like, though, which is a good thing… October 9, 2015 at 5:09pm

  • Victoria in Luca Turin’s NZZ Folio Columns: Opinion delivered without a dose of confidence would be kind of bland, and yes, I agree with you. I can’t wait to read Tania’s introduction to this volume. October 9, 2015 at 5:07pm

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