Top 10 Fall Fragrances : 2008 Autumn Musings


Autumn, automne, خريفي, 秋, осень… By any name this season retains for me its associations with the languid decay, with the bittersweet end of beauty, with the melancholy. I was born in the fall, and that is why perhaps the autumn and its scents appeal to me. The dampness of fallen leaves, the rooty fragrance of wet earth, the incense of distant bonfires… Let the scents below serve as a journey into the autumn with me.

Amouage Homage Attar

Amouage is a fascinating fragrance house given its history steeped in the rich perfume traditions of Oman, the site of the ancient Frankincense Road. Created as a means to preserve the country’s perfume-making traditions, Amouage offers a range which allows a glimpse both into the splendors of grand French perfumery as well as the smouldering beauty of the Eastern scents. If Amouage Gold and Jubilation 25 for Women fit well into the former category, Homage occupies the latter. I love the traditional combination of rose, oud, sandalwood and frankincense with the modern clarity and sparkle. An introspective and serene scent.

Serge Lutens Serge Noire

Elegant, streamlined incense, which takes me more to the Russian Orthodox churches than to the souks of Medina. There is a wistful aura to this fragrance, which is somehow fitting with the season. Another Serge Lutens creation that allows me to slip effortlessly into the reverie.

My fingers still bear the puncture marks from the thorny branches of cassie I was trying to pick in Grasse. However, the scent lingers in the dried flowers even now—warm, honeyed, with a delicious suede-like note. The only fragrance I know that captures it with a remarkable perfection is Dominique Ropion’s Une Fleur de Cassie for Frédéric Malle. Its understated, tender beauty melds elegantly with the scent of fallen leaves in the autumnal air.

Saffron and Cardamom

Bittersweet saffron and effervescent spicy-floral cardamom offer a beautiful marriage of opposites. I know few scents that explore all facets of saffron (L’Artisan Safran Troublant offers its sweet, warm side) and almost none where the saffron-cardamom pair truly shines. Meanwhile, I add this mélange to my coffee, yogurt mousse, pistachio cakes and lamb stewed with fruit.

Red Maple Leaves

When I woke up on a morning after my return from Istanbul, I saw that the light in the bedroom had a mesmerizing garnet opalescence. In the weeks that I was traveling, the two tall maple trees in front of my window became transformed into the burning torches. After this week’s rain, the leaves are scattered on the ground, filling the air with their poignant walnut shell scent. I wrap myself in a long coat and sit on the balcony drinking coffee and reflecting on the passing nature of things…
It is deep autumn
My neighbor
How does he live, I wonder
,” wrote the Japanese poet Bashō. If I want to reinforce my melancholy mood, I reach for Serge Lutens La Myrrhe. Its dusky cool scent of myrrhe and dark flowers makes me think of these evanescent red maple leaves.

On the surface, Chamade is cold and beautiful like a marble statue, but allow it an hour and observe the remarkable transformation. As the fragrance begins to reveal its passionate side—the warm, oriental accord imbued with the softness of tonka bean and vanilla and the sultry accent of amber— Chamade simply cannot leave one indifferent.


I love the duality of ambers—the combination of sparkling facets with the lusciously dark, animalic side. As one of my first assignments, I had to make an amber accord, which has grown as I began to experiment further. I wore it one day to meet a dear friend, who loved it so much, I named it after her. Thus was born my Clair d’Ambre. Alternatively, I reach for beautiful ambers like Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, Annick Goutal Ambre Fétiche or Armani Privé Ambre Soie.

Christian Dior J’Adore

J’Adore is one of the most imitated and admired fragrances on the market, and smelling it without preconceived notions clearly reveals why—its beautiful floral accord has such radiance, clarity and transparency like nothing that came before it, its green ivy note is remarkably vivid and dewy, while the base is filled with the gorgeous warmth. These contrasts only serve to heighten the facets of the composition, which fit together like an intricate pattern of a kaleidoscope. Despite hundreds of imitators, J’Adore remains special for me, a true classic.

L’Artisan Fleur de Liane

What draws me to Bertrand Duchaufour, L’Artisan’s in-house perfumer, is his ability to create radiant accords. In Fleur de Liane, he pairs his signature dry, but luminous ambery woods with the wet green notes. The end result is vibrant, dramatic and yet elegant. A permanent fixture on my vanity table this fall.


Fall and books is a natural association for a permanent student like myself. Even now if I am asked to envision where I would most like to be, 90% of the time I picture myself in the stacks of Yale’s Sterling library (which must be my favorite library in the world,) surrounded by the scent of old paper, dust and leather bindings. While no bottled scent comes close to capturing the fragrance of antique books, Etro Messe de Minuit offers a small glimpse.

If you would like to see other lists of fall favorites, please visit:
Now Smell This :: Perfume Posse :: Perfume-Smellin’ Things ::



  • Gretchen: Thanks so much for your suggestions. You’ve inspired me to try several new (to me) scents. October 31, 2008 at 2:10pm Reply

  • March: V, you have reminded me that I really, really need to smell Chamade.

    Also, I hunted once all the way through a museum in Vienna to find out what marvelous thing a visitor was wearing. It was J’Adore. I have never managed to recapture the magic, although it was clearly the correct fragrance. Do you recommend a particular concentration?

    PS Why ISN’T there a saffron/cardamom. I can’t think of one! Trying to think of two simple-enough fragrances I could layer… October 31, 2008 at 4:26pm Reply

  • Ina: Hi, V.! Glad you’re back to blogging – I really miss your writing. 🙂 Truly enjoyed this post, even though I can hardly wear any perfume myself these days. That amber accord of yours sounds intriguing! 🙂 October 31, 2008 at 2:47pm Reply

  • Marina: I can relate re: libraries. I want to find myself in the Bodleian. But I just want to sit there, enjoying the surroundings and that mix of smells that you mention and do nothing 🙂 October 31, 2008 at 4:09pm Reply

  • Câline: Green and leather chypres are my favorite autumnal fragrances; Givenchy III, Diorella and Doblis but also vintage Câline, Empreinte, Cabochard and Diorling… November 1, 2008 at 4:06am Reply

  • divinemama: Beautiful descriptions, V! Several of these are on my decant/sample wish list. I read this while sipping on my morning coffee which recently has included cardamon seeds in the brew. Must try adding saffron too. Have you tried 06130 Lierre Rose? Not sure if there is any saffron in it, but the cardamon/rose blend is lovely. I would love to read your review of it, if given an opportunity.

    The Homage Attar is calling my name. I have a feeling a sample will lead to a burning desire for a FB investment.

    I love the Guerlain parfums and just ordered Chamade parfum unsniffed. I imagine it won’t disappoint.

    I have been wearing AG Amber Fetiche quite a bit the past few weeks and enjoy layering it with various scents. It is truly a beautiful rendition of amber, and I have many amber scents in my perfume library.

    As a lover of books and someone who worked in libraries only to be surrounded by books, I understand your desire to capture the experience in scent. Adding the oft discussed etro MdM to my must sample list.

    Thanks for offering this list, V! November 1, 2008 at 11:47am Reply

  • cokey: My top 10 (okay, maybe a few more) for Fall:

    Le Labo: Iris 39, Patchouli 24, Rose 31

    Acqua di Parma, Blu Mediterraneo Line: Mandorlo – layed with Le Labo Ambrette 9 (lovely and comforting)

    Malle: Musc Ravageur

    Serge Luten: Fumeur Torque layered with Lutens Un Bois Vanille

    Chanel Coco

    Malle: Dans tes Bras

    Gypsy Water

    Lolita Lempicka November 2, 2008 at 12:49am Reply

  • Katie: My library fragrance pick is still CB’s In The Library. It smells very much of yellowing pages, favorite leather chairs, and hot toddies. It’s not so much the smell of a public library as my fantasy of the perfect private one, but then, I suppose perfume should be there to indulge our private imaginings as well as decorating our public personaes. In The Library can’t really be termed a successful fragrance for skin wear, but it’s nevertheless one of my favorite things to smell… if that makes sense? November 2, 2008 at 6:37pm Reply

  • sweetlife: A fascinating and instructive list, as always, V. I have to go sniff the Armani amber now. Chamade is a new fascination of mine. I was lucky enough to snag a little collection of Guerlain minis on *bay — Shalimar, Mitsouko, Chamade and Samsara all in extrait, plus Jardins de Bagatelle, and two colognes in tiny bee bottles. After I got done falling for Mitsouko–so very different and gorgeous in vintage parfum–I moved on to the others and it is just that turn you mention in Chamade that keeps me going back for another round of the same story. I’ve begun stalking a bottle of the vintage EDC. November 3, 2008 at 6:08pm Reply

  • Anonymous: i am wondering what your opinion is of Lancome’s Magnifique (which contains rose & saffron, amongst others). slso: any scent recommendations for the voting booth? conversely, can you suggest some perfumes which are more transcendent in their national identity? is there a truly international fragrance? so curious! November 4, 2008 at 12:12pm Reply

  • Hazel: Not really related – but when I was 21 and coming home from work sick with the flu I decided to buy some Conan Doyle. While sick and recuperating I read most of the Sherlock Holmes stories included and used for my bookmark a fragrance sample of Lagerfeld for men. Now everytime I smell Lagerfeld – not very often any more – I am so profoundly reminded of Sherlock and Jeremy Brett I can feel it in my loins!! November 10, 2008 at 12:19pm Reply

  • maisqueperfume: I loved the list! Indeed for me in Brazil/spring, to imagine these fragrance i see brown, orange yellow leafs all over!!! November 16, 2008 at 7:49am Reply

  • Ayesha: I’m Yale alumn and I too love the smell of going through the stacks– If knowledge had a scent, that would be it. December 7, 2008 at 11:40pm Reply

  • Pikake: Hi Victoria,
    Loved reading your musings! I too am enjoying Fleur de Liane. What a beautiful fragrance. Woody florals have become my favorite type of perfume, and this one is exceptional, thanks for putting it on your list!

    ~Trish December 19, 2008 at 12:24am Reply

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