Top Ten Fall Fragrances 2007


I already began to crave fall, my favorite season, in August. By the time November rolled around—delivering little, if any fall, my longing for the autumnal rites became quite intense. I wanted to see the city filled with the chilly golden light, to wear my new red satin trench, to be delighted by the ochre maple leaves scattered on the wet sidewalk, to read Nabokov’s Speak, Memory in front of the fireplace (is there a better book suited for such a setting?)… If I could not have my autumn, I would have to conjure it. The list below (in no particular order) includes some of my favorite scents that usually bring on the autumnal mood. If you have any of your own favorites, please share them with me. …

1. Vetiver and Iris

If there are scents that have an inherently autumnal quality to me, they must be vetiver and iris. The former reminds of fallen leaves drenched in rain, wet soil and ripe hazelnuts. Etro Vetiver is the most transparent vetiver rendition, focused on its milky hazelnut aspect. Frédéric Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire is the darkest, vetiver to the power of ten. Hermessence Vetiver Tonka is my choice if I want a glimpse of a fall orchard—golden leaves and late apples touched with frost.

Iris, the essence derived from the roots, is the embodiment of the misty fall mornings. At the same time, I find that its ethereal quality captures as much the chill of spring as it does of fall. This season, it is easy to indulge in iris: Prada Infusion d’Iris, Chanel 28 La Pausa, Guerlain Iris Ganache, Parfums d’Empire Equistrius, L’Occitane Iris…

2. Guerlain Vol de Nuit

A gem of Guerlain’s classical collection, Vol de Nuit is a miniature universe. Smelling it, I am transported to a wood-paneled library. The gilded leather bound books, the honeyed scent of beeswax candles and the warmth of the fire float up in my mind as conjoined images. The baroque oriental base of Vol de Nuit cradles a luminous orange blossom and narcissus. It is heartbreakingly beautiful.

3. Serge Lutens Mandarine Mandarin

Many of Serge Lutens’s compositions are perfect for fall/winter, but Mandarine Mandarin creates an especially poignant impression. Rich and sonorous, it captures the moment when waking up in the morning, I discover that all leaves on our birch tree have turned to gold.

4. Chanel No 19

Leather gloves, vetiver, white roses… This sounds like a line from one of Anna Akhmatova’s poems. Indeed, Chanel No 19 is pure poetry, a remarkable fragrance that layers its sensuality with melancholy—a perfectly autumnal genre.

5. Narciso Rodriguez for Him

Given the popularity of fresh fruity fougères for masculine fragrances, it is a pleasant surprise to discover a dark variant in Narciso Rodriguez for Him. Its accords of damp woods and mosses are bound by a delectable note that oscillates between honey and flowers.

6. Frédéric Malle Une Rose

Late roses of fall are the blossoms of Frédéric Malle Une Rose. Dark like red wine, earthy and voluptuous, these roses are ready to drop all of their petals, revealing their bare woody stalks.

7. Annick Goutal Ambre Candle

The balsamic, vanillic fragrance of a classical amber accord calls to mind the gold of dancing candle flames, of full-bodied cognac, of lush chrysanthemums. One of the best examples is an amber-scented candle from Annick Goutal. Nuanced even in the wax medium, the fragrance spells comfort and tenderness.

8. Caron Narcisse Noir

The fin de siecle elegance and grandeur of Caron fragrances set them apart from other classics. They are the scents of Edwardian crinolines, of swan down powder puffs, of satin slippers and of roses pressed into love letters. To wear them is to be plunged into the whirlwind of the bittersweet reflection, which autumn always engenders for me. In this light, Narcisse Noir is perhaps the most representative. Its dark blend of orange blossom and woods is slathered with a rich layer of animalic notes, which add a ravishing twist to the refined beauty of the composition.

9. Hermés 24, Faubourg and Equipage

While 24, Faubourg and Equipage are rather different from the olfactive standpoint—one is a luminous orange blossom chypre, while the other is a smoky fougère–I tend to associate them with fall, particularly its evanescent and melancholy beauty. 24, Faubourg is a warm, refine presence—Catherine Deneuve as Séverine in Belle de Jour. Equipage is Burt Lancaster as Prince of Salina in The Leopard.

10. Chanel Egoiste

Egoiste with its black plums and sandalwood is perfect for days when the air begins to turn chilly. Its masculinity is rendered in an understated manner—in contrast with the aforementioned Narciso Rodriguez for Him, by way of example. The man that Egoiste embodies for me is a romantic, who would not be averse to reading Nabokov by the fireplace.

Image is courtesy of Katie at Scentzilla.



  • Tomo: What a beautiful article! I also love Iris fragrances. I wear Malle’s Iris Poudre often and I also like the new Prada. October 26, 2007 at 3:05pm Reply

  • Aline et Valcour: Narcisse Noir what a beautiful perfume! would love to wear the vintage parfum.

    so far we ‘ve only had a long indian summer in New York:

    Kelly Caleche by Hermes

    Sarrasins by Serge Lutens

    Fleurs d ‘Oranger by Serge Lutens

    Tubereuse Criminelle by Serge Lutens

    but for cooler days:

    Lipstick Rose by Frederic Malle

    Putain des Palaces by Etat Libre d ‘Orange (Serge Gainsbourg would be proud one of his song ends up such a beautiful perfume)

    Chypre Rouge by Serge Lutens

    L ‘Inspiratrice by Divine

    En Avion (vintage parfum) by Caron

    Normandie by Jean Patou October 26, 2007 at 3:09pm Reply

  • Tomo: Wow, Aline et Valcour, your list is great too! I am happy to see Normandie by Jean Patou being mentioned. It used to be my mother’s favorite perfume. I looked for it at the new Jean Patou boutique but was told that it is no longer made.

    Can you please describe Sarrasins? I love Serge Lutens but that fragrance is new to me. October 26, 2007 at 4:11pm Reply

  • Linda: Victoria, I saw a very nice mention of you in this November’s Vogue. Congratulations! I loved that they called your blog incandescent. It is that and much more! 🙂 October 26, 2007 at 4:37pm Reply

  • Dusan: Ooh, I love your list Vika! Have been craving iris myself but am yet to get round to trying the Prada as well as NR. I was hoping Iris Silver Mist would be up there too. 😉
    Have been wearing Eau des Merveilles exclusively for a week now – I just can’t get enough of it.
    Sarassins is a truly gorgeous jasmine that I need to try in liquid form.
    Thanks for this lovely autumnal article,
    Hugs! October 26, 2007 at 4:46pm Reply

  • Robin: V, I like that you picked 2 notes — vetiver & iris — instead of specific perfumes. Cheating, yes, but both are perfect for fall. Which is not my favorite season at all, but vetiver & iris make it more palatable 🙂

    And didn’t know you were in Vogue, will have to get a copy! October 26, 2007 at 5:19pm Reply

  • Judith: How wonderful to see you post–and what a great list, too. I am posting different lists on different blogs (as the perfumes occur to me). This allows me to have more perfumes! And so—Tabac Blond, Poivre, Mitsouko, Fumerie Turque, Diorling, Rose de Nuit, Chergui, Rose Poivree, MKK, Chanel Cuir de Russie. October 26, 2007 at 6:24pm Reply

  • Anthony: Wow, this article just brought me back to where it all began… my lust for fragrance began with these pages… Bois de Jasmin. Your prose make me insane to try every fragrance you write about and make me wonder “will I ever have enough time to experience the twists and turns and “mini universes” that Victoria writes about?” 🙂 I know this won’t be popular on THESE pages but my Rorschachian response to fall is Thierry Mugler’s B*Men. Its warm, gently spicy, earthy patchouli gourmand character signals holiday meals and walks in red- and orange-colored leaf lined paths and sitting by a fireplace knowing the cold wet autumnal world is passing outside. October 26, 2007 at 6:46pm Reply

  • Katie: I think one of the funniest lines to me in Steve Martin’s book Shopgirl (I’ve no idea if the movie does anything with it, as I haven’t had any desire to see the thing) regards Chanel No. 19: “[Mirabelle] descends to the first floor and passes the glistening perfume counters… where by now, the various scents that have been sprayed throughout the day onto waiting customers have collected into strata in the department store air. So Mirabelle, at five-six, always smells Chanel number 5, while someone at five-two is always treated to the heavier Chanel number 19.” I can never decide if that is his truely felt impression of the difference of the two, or if he simply numerically assumed the Chanel numbers work like some perfumer’s literal-minded periodical chart. To me there’s an air about No. 19 that has a strangely rising quality, whereas No. 5 seems to sink into the deep as it evaporates. I think that’s why I can see No. 19 as a perfect autumnal fragrance, since it has its dark corners but never loses its crisp and oddly elevating feel. October 26, 2007 at 6:51pm Reply

  • Marina: The picture of Mandarine Mandarine’s bell jar should be under “Fall Fragrance” in a perfume dictionary. And so should Egoiste’s. Will wear one of these tonight in your honor. October 26, 2007 at 8:23pm Reply

  • Karthic: Victoria,
    Thank you for an exquisite piece of autumn reading. October 27, 2007 at 5:23am Reply

  • Aline et Valcour: Hi Tomo,

    Serge Lutens has been exploring “subtle” with this floral fragrance, the finesse of jasmine is balanced by hint of leather as a counterpoint. a dusky floral powderness emerges, musks and civet (but very subtle here) pick up which makes it more complex, interesting and less soliflore than A la Nuit.

    you still can find Normandie on ebay. Normandie is my favorite classic perfume with En Avion. these are true perfumes, they transport me to other dimensions. unfortunately the new En Avion is very bad, I don ‘t get the powderness it used to have ten years ago and the topnotes are rather plasticky neroli. October 27, 2007 at 5:40am Reply

  • k-amber: Your exquisite comments on men’s fragrances are very refreshing. I will reach out my hand to them and read Nov. Vogue shortly!

    Kaori October 27, 2007 at 3:56am Reply

  • sweetlife (ahtx): Wearing a dab of Chanel No. 19 in your honor today, V. It comes from a vintage sample vial, part of a charming matchbox set I bought on ebay. I enjoyed it before, but it is really unfolding for me now as I think “leather gloves, white roses, vetiver,” like a little perfume mantra…

    And I love Akhmatova, too. October 27, 2007 at 12:20pm Reply

  • Svetlana: Greetings from London! I was just reading my November of Vogue (UK issue) and came upon a fab article by Bethan Cole. Your Russian name caught my attention (I am originally from Moscow myself), so I decided to visit your blog. I just spent 3 hours browsing and I am hooked. Bolshoe spasibo za Vashi opisania. 🙂 October 27, 2007 at 2:08pm Reply

  • KevinS: Victoria: wonderful list and how TRUE about the Akhmatova. I was thinking about her earlier this month as I paid my respects to Josef Brodsky at his grave in Venice…the mound of stones and pebbles on his grave was very moving. Hope autumn arrives in NYC soon, Kevin October 27, 2007 at 2:09pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tomo, I also like Iris Poudre a lot. I reach for it often when the weather turns cold, because it is perfect then. October 27, 2007 at 5:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Aline et Valcour, it is a beautiful collection! I love En Avion, and you have inspired me to wear it today.

    Yes, the fall has been late in reaching our shores this year. October 27, 2007 at 5:45pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tomo, I agree with AetV. Ebay is a good place to look for Normandie. October 27, 2007 at 5:45pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Linda, thank you very much! October 27, 2007 at 5:46pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dusan, ah, Iris Silver Mist is at the top of my list of perennial favourites! And so it Eau des Merveilles for that matter. 🙂 We share many favourites in common. October 27, 2007 at 5:47pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, there is a mention in the UK Vogue for November. Learned about it myself from a comment here. 🙂

    Yes, iris and vetiver do embody that special autumnal quality to me. October 27, 2007 at 5:50pm Reply

  • marchlion: V, I owe you forever for finally getting me to appreciate 24, Faubourg. I hope you are well and happy. October 28, 2007 at 4:18pm Reply

  • Flora: Love your list – I have a new Fall favorite I do not yet own, but it is really wonderful – Pour Un Femme de Caron. A very woody floral, sophisicated and very grown-up. It’s the kind of thing you can’t wear if you are too young, so teenagers don’t have all the fun…. October 30, 2007 at 2:08am Reply

  • chi-chi: I had just stumbled upon a bottle of Caron’s Nuit de noel bath oil [which is dreamy] When I pounced on your blog to get a better understanding of this scent.
    The whole blog is just genius and your divine description of Caron’s Nuit de Noel has turned me into a fanantic of this. Heres a question somewhere someone made reference to Nuit de Noel being mentioned in a book, along the lines of “girls were handing out bottles of Nuit de Noel…”
    Any suggestions for this Nuit de Noel addict??? November 2, 2007 at 11:09pm Reply

  • Elizabeth: Victoria, your posts are a joy to read, and I’m so glad that you still take the time to grace us with them! Narcisse Noir was my first Caron.

    The season was delayed, yes, but autumn is certainly here now! I’m making up for lost time and enjoying spiced tea, my Norwegian cardigans, and Bois de Violette, Mitsouko, Chergui, and Tabac Blond. November 5, 2007 at 10:54am Reply

  • mystic bean: My new fall favorite is a purchase from sniffa fall ball, the wonderful Miel dde Bois, which I see is also a fall fave on Luckyscent…I add a touch of Ambre Sultan underneath just to make it smoulder a bit. Fall has finally arrived !! November 6, 2007 at 8:04am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Coming back after my vacation to answer the rest of the comments…

    Judith, thank you! I love your list, both here and on other blogs. Actually, just a few days ago I saw Cranach’s Judith and thought of you. November 10, 2007 at 12:23pm Reply

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