5 Winter Pleasures

Winter has a certain beauty in its austere color palette and the way it slows down life to a bare simmer. Yet, weeks of overcast skies and cold weather can leave one listless and longing for warmth and sunshine. The Belgian winter is almost uniformly grey and damp, with hardly any snow days to remind me of the season’s more exquisite aspects. And yet I wouldn’t trade these three months for any other. Winter’s pleasures more than make up for the late sunrises and heavy layers of clothes.

Big Books

I’m not intimidated by big books. They hold many hours of reading enjoyment. They tempt me with their promise of new facts to learn and new experiences to discover. Such books aren’t satisfying to read on Kindle. I love the heft of a thick volume as I ensconce myself in my favorite bean bag chair. I seem to have more time for reading during the winter, which is why one of my seasonal pleasures is to go through all of the thick volumes that I’ve set my sights on. For instance, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Iryna Vilde’s Sisters Richynski, Charles Dickens’s The Bleak House, Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia, and the letters exchanged by Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller. Finishing Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, In Search of Lost Time, is my plan for this winter.

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Niko Pirosmani : A Movable Feast

The paintings by Georgian artist Niko Pirosmani (1862–1918) throw me off balance. It may be a strange reaction to art, especially to the one depicting animals, people feasting, gathering grapes, or fishing, but Pirosmani is not an ordinary painter. Why are the deer’s eyes so much like human eyes? Why do the revelers raising their horns full of wine look so serious? What are they celebrating? What went through the artist’s mind as he sketched and what did he intend for us to see? What motivated him to paint?

Most likely–and we have so little information about Pirosmani’s life that we can only guess–it was hunger that prompted Pirosmani to take up the brush. Born in 1862, in a village in the Kakheti region of Georgia, he didn’t have any formal education, and his stints as a train conductor and cattle herder ended in failure. He learned painting from itinerant artists and he wanted to open a workshop producing signboards. It almost came to naught. The first order he painted for free, while the second one never came. He remained poor and hungry for the rest of his life, a vagabond and a pariah.

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Golden Mandarins of Winter

If I had to pick only one perfume to wear throughout winter, it would be neither a smoky incense nor a warm amber. I could even survive the cold days without sumptuous white florals or dark spices. I couldn’t, however, go through winter without a citrus cologne. More precisely, my ideal winter fragrance is based around the zesty, bright note of mandarin. In my recent FT column, Mandarin Scents, I describe why I enjoy this ingredient, what makes it different from other citruses and which perfumes one should try.

Take, for example, Prada Infusion Mandarine. Its philosophy is to keep mandarin simple, and that refined minimalism is rewarding. The top notes combine all of the best elements of a citrus cologne – the green vibrancy of mandarin leaves, the sweetness of mandarin zest and the warmth of orange flowers. You notice the delicious bitterness of the peel and then the sweetness of pulp, and the contrast remains vivid into the drydown. To continue reading, please click here.

If you have favorite citrus perfumes for winter, please let me know.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Abhisarika Nayika : The One Who Dares

At the end of the year, I was going through my papers and I found a few notes I wrote about Indian classical art and the theory of rasa. According to the Natya Sastra, a text about arts dating to between 200 BCE and 200 CE, the purpose of art is to transport the person who experiences it to another universe. Delight, entertainment, even distraction from the routine are reasonable goals too, but the main one is a chance to transcend the ordinary and feel wonder.

The theory of rasa is more complex and fascinating than my short description, but its essence is very easy to grasp. Think of a work of art that has touched you so deeply you forgot about all else. A painting, a film, a sculpture, a perfume. I still think that some of my most vivid experiences of this nature have been connected with scents, and I wrote about one of them previously when I described discovering Guerlain Après L’Ondée as a teenager.

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Givenchy L’Interdit 2018 : Fragrance Review

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Givenchy the couturier was catapulted into stardom by his work with Audrey Hepburn. Their partnership resulted in one of the most distinctive wardrobes in fashion history, from the embroidered gown of Sabrina to the little black dress of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Equally important was Hepburn’s role in making Givenchy the perfumer. L’Interdit was the first Givenchy perfume, and whether Hepburn wore it or not, she claimed it as her signature fragrance. 

The original 1957  L’Interdit was a floral aldehydic with enough elegance to make one feel dressed up, even if you wore only pyjamas. Think Chanel No 5, but soft, warm and with a delicious strawberry note.

I say was, because in 2005 Givenchy reformulated it. The change was done by perfumer Aurelien Guichard, and it made the fragrance less aldehydic and starchy, but also simpler. Still, as far as updates go, it was decent in that it retained the character of the original. You can read my more detailed review, in which I compare the original and the 2005 version.

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Latest Comments

  • Gabriela in 5 Winter Pleasures: Resign no, reading… January 19, 2019 at 8:44am

  • Sariah in 5 Winter Pleasures: Yes! I live in Washington DC and that’s one of the things l love best about it. January 19, 2019 at 8:16am

  • Sariah in 5 Winter Pleasures: Love reading these comments in part because it’s reminding me of some favorite books that l haven’t thought of in ages, like Middlemarch. I tried mulled wine for the first… January 19, 2019 at 8:15am

  • Gabriela in 5 Winter Pleasures: Just added this book to my resign list, thanks! I love the smell of mandarin in Barcelona in winter. Also enjoy reading, baking almond cookies, the smell of grapefruit oil… January 19, 2019 at 6:29am

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