Apple Perfumes for Autumn (and Anytime)

Elisa offers you an apple. Or several.

Late in H Is for Hawk, a memoir about grief and falconry, author Helen Macdonald recounts bringing her goshawk, Mabel, to “Apple Day” at a local farm:

I walk into a white marquee, and inside, in dim green shade, find trestle-tables displaying hundreds of apple varieties. Some are the size of a hen’s egg; some are giant, sprawling cookers you’d need two hands to hold. Each variety sits in a labelled wooden compartment. I walk slowly along the apples, glorying in their little differences. Soft orange, streaked with tiger-spots of pink. Charles Ross. Berkshire 1890. Dual use. A little one with bark-like blush markings over a pale green ground. Coronation. Sussex 1902. Dessert. Miniature green boulders, the side in shadow deep rose. Chivers Delight. Cambridgeshire 1920. Dessert. Huge apple, deep yellow with hyperspace-spotting of rich red. Pasgood’s Nonsuch. Lincolnshire 1853. Dual use.

apples

I love the painstaking attention to detail in this passage – the appreciation for the subtle color variations, not only between varieties but over the skin of a single apple, and for the poetry in the names themselves. It’s almost like a dog show for apples!

Earlier this year, I noticed how many perfumes I love contain an apple note, and how apple notes can range from crisp and tart all the way to lush and compote-y, which means there are apple scents appropriate to any time of year. But what better time to talk about them than in fall? Here are some of my favorites (plus some misses, and a few more to try).

Disappearing Acts

Frédéric Malle Outrageous – Sophia Grojsman’s Outrageous smells very convincingly, almost thirst-quenchingly of fresh, crunchy green apples – on me, for about 45 seconds. I suspect a musk anosmia issue, so your mileage may vary.

CB I Hate Perfume Gathering Apples – This comes in a “water perfume” format which feels so wet and sticky at first, it somewhat re-creates the effect of being splashed with the juice of crushed apples (at a Gallagher show perhaps). Like Outrageous, it’s refreshing and realistic, but not for very long. Up close, the drydown smells a little (how can I put this?) like urine. (This does come in an “absolute” version, which may perform differently; let me know if you’ve tried it.)

Fruity-Florals

DKNY Be Delicious – While no great masterpiece, I think Maurice Roucel’s genius touch is evident in this textbook fruity floral. As a high-pitched, springy green floral (with lily of the valley and rose), it’s actually reminiscent of the unbeatable Gucci Envy, but with the addition of a neon-green apple note, almost like sour-apple candy, and yet the overall impression is more fresh than cloying. A little cheap, but still charming.

Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Été – Even though it predates Be Delicious by several years, I’ve always thought of Rose d’Été as a niche version of the same idea, but with better materials throughout, including a distinct mimosa note. It’s very pretty and smells like a good mood.

Byredo Pulp – Pulp is a love-it-or-hate-it scent, and I happen to love it. To me, it smells primarily and intensely of black currant – with that kind of tanginess that makes the muscles at the back of your jaw tense up – along with fig leaf and red apple. In color, it’s bright, hot fuchsia.

Woody Apples & Orientals

Parfum d’Empire Wazamba – Fir balsam has fruity facets on its own, and Wazamba amps them up with a sweet note of dried apples. The rest is incense – labdanum, myrrh, and opoponax. I usually go for an incense fragrance when I want something serene and austere, but with that bright apple note, it actually feels fun (the name helps!). Wazamba reminds me of the holidays, but it works year-round.

Sonoma Scent Studio Equestrian – The most autumnal of the bunch, Equestrian is a delicious woody apple scent done in golden hues, like a sun-dappled hayride through an apple orchard. To me, it’s completely successful in a way that resists analysis – I hate to break down the notes, but rather just want to lie back and enjoy the atmosphere.

By Kilian Apple Brandy – I enjoyed this one more before I had Equestrian to compare it to – it’s a good boozy apple scent, but not as evocative and life-affirming. It’s also heavier and sweeter, so best suited to winter weather.

Apple Gourmands

Lolita Lempicka Eau de Parfum – Although it’s not listed in the notes, I know I’m not the only one who detects an apple note in Lolita Lempicka. Could it be power of suggestion based on the bottle? Perhaps, but something about the combination of anise, cherry-almond-vanilla and green violet notes reminds me of spiced baked apples.

Lostmarc’h Lan-ael – This old cult favorite comfort scent smells exactly like a bowl of sugary breakfast cereal. There’s a subtle apple-y (or general fruity) note – cereals rarely taste realistically like any kind of fruit – but Lan-ael mostly smells of caramelized grains and soft spices and a big lactonic material standing in for milk. It reminds me of Cinnamon Life, which I haven’t eaten in ages. Man that stuff was good.

DSH Pretty & Pink – Yes, it’s pretty, and very, very pink, but it’s also (like most of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s scents) very complex: I get powder (in a Turkish Delight way), rosewater, almond and mimosa, apple tobacco, burnt sugar, strawberry cake, vanilla frosting … not so much in stages but spinning around all at once, like a fantasia (“visions of sugar plums danced in their heads”).

Do you have a favorite apple scent that I missed?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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73 Comments

  • sandra: love the quote in the beginning of the article.
    One of the best memories I have with my Dad when he was alive was apple picking and eating apple cider donuts.
    There is nothing like biting into a fresh picked apple.
    I just purchased a apple color lipstick..Toffee Apple..that is as far as I am with apples and cosmetics/perfumes.
    I use to have a decant of By Killian good girl gone bad and playing with the devil or something like that-they had apple notes I believe. After the decants were gone I never repurchased.
    Enjoy the rest of your week-the weekend is almost here! September 23, 2016 at 8:30am Reply

    • Elisa: I love apple picking in fall — used to do it in Massachusetts sometimes but haven’t done it since I moved to Colorado.

      Victoria and I both love a Revlon lipstick called Candy Apple! September 23, 2016 at 9:15am Reply

      • Victoria: Candy Apple is one of my staples. It’s such an easy color to wear, since the formula is sheer and gel-like. Yet, the color is vibrant. September 23, 2016 at 10:57am Reply

        • Elisa: I also feel that it lasts pretty well considering how lightweight it is! I also wear it as blush. September 23, 2016 at 11:01am Reply

  • Nicola: To be honest I would never have read a piece on apple notes in perfume had it not been for your introductory paragraph from H is for Hawk, one of my favourite books in recent years. But what a lovely paragraph that is and how interesting is the rest of your post. Again I think this is the power of suggestion but apples come to mind when I think of Bois de Paradis (actually blackberry and apple!) and Liaisons Dangereuses. September 23, 2016 at 9:08am Reply

    • Elisa: Yes, Bois de Paradis reminds me of a sort of holiday punch my mom used to make which was like spiced cider but with cranberry juice in addition to apple. September 23, 2016 at 9:16am Reply

      • Phyllis Iervello: I have not worn my Bois de Paradis in quite a while, but after reading this post I will be wearing it over the weekend. September 23, 2016 at 11:23am Reply

  • rosarita: Love that book passage! Equestrian sounds wonderful. I have a few drops of Wazamba left in a decant but never noticed an apple facet, will look for it next time I wear it. I wish Parfums d’Empire hadn’t discontinued the 50 ml size bottles, the bigger sizes are out of my reach. Imaginary Authors Yesterday Haze claims “orchard dust” as a note and I do detect an apple overtone if that’s possible, and Traversee du Bosphore has that weird apple/leather combo in it’s opening. Thanks for the post, you have given me some new things to try out. September 23, 2016 at 9:21am Reply

    • Elisa: Thanks Rosarita! I like the idea of “orchard dust” whether or not you can actually smell it! And yes, I also wish PdE still offered 50 ml bottles… or 30 for that matter!

      I sampled Traversee du Bosphore recently but couldn’t seem to find the apple note. Oddly it really reminded me of masa, the corn meal dough used to make tamales. I don’t know that happened! Something mixing with the iris I guess. September 23, 2016 at 9:26am Reply

      • kpaint: Funny about the masa. I didn’t pick it up in Traversee, but Lush Lust has an overpowering scent of hominy on me. Wearing it is like having a pot of pozole on the stove. (And if you’re wondering, no – that’s not a good thing 😉 ) September 23, 2016 at 7:09pm Reply

        • Elisa: Oh wow! I’m glad I don’t get hominy from Lust! September 24, 2016 at 10:07am Reply

  • spe: Cristalle has always brought to my mind green apples. When I was a teenager, I would squirt it at the mall because I liked that smell so much. That would prompt my Mom to ask what perfume I had on. It’s changed since then – or perhaps I have – and the green apple smell is no longer as intense to me. Great post – thank you! September 23, 2016 at 9:38am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh, interesting! Never made that connection.

      I remember the drug store perfume Aspen having an apple note but I couldn’t get a sample sadly. September 23, 2016 at 10:11am Reply

  • Rita: I havent smelt a perfume with an apple twist funny enough! I should give the donna karan one a try, i do love eating them though😄😄 September 23, 2016 at 10:08am Reply

    • Elisa: It’s actually fun and well done but the many flankers may be a bit much! September 23, 2016 at 10:13am Reply

      • Elisa: Actually I do like Delicious Night thought … September 23, 2016 at 10:13am Reply

  • Celeste Church: I want to try the Sonoma Scent Studio Equestrian….sounds great. I love Autumn smells, and especially Apple and pumpkin scents….don’t mind at all smelling like a candle for a month or two so in the Fall I mix Demeter Mulled Cider with some musk oil. Love it! 🙂 September 23, 2016 at 10:28am Reply

    • Elisa: ha! I love your “smelling like a candle” hack 🙂 September 23, 2016 at 10:33am Reply

  • Judith: Be Never Too Busy etc now Lush/Gorilla have a spiced and fizzy apple frag called Love. Very cheerful. September 23, 2016 at 11:20am Reply

    • Elisa: Ooh, I’ll have to try that! September 23, 2016 at 11:23am Reply

  • stina: Patricia Nicolai’s Week-End in Normandy has an apple note along with salty beach grass and light woods/vetiver.

    It’s a dry, not-too-heavy perfume that’s meant to evoke autumn along the coast of Brittany. Definitely not an American autumn with burning leaves and pumpkins and gooey desserts!

    Week-End is a nice fall frag that’s a bit different, and it doesn’t go too powdery on me (some of the Nicolais can be real powder bombs on my skin). September 23, 2016 at 12:20pm Reply

    • Elisa: Ooh, that sounds nice! I like almost everything PdN does. September 23, 2016 at 12:31pm Reply

  • Marion Niedringhaus: My favorite childhood scent is my pony “Stinky” (!!) chewing an apple. Horse breath and mashed apple. I wonder what perfime could capture that? Bal a Versailles and an apple scent? Or Dzing! and an apple? I wish I could bottle Horse/chewed apple. Any suggestons? September 23, 2016 at 12:44pm Reply

    • Marion Niedringhaus: Perfume. Arghgh. Fumble thumbs here on my phone… September 23, 2016 at 12:45pm Reply

    • Elisa: Try Equestrian! It’s not very leathery but it is meant to evoke stables and such. You could layer it with an animalic leather! Also Patricia wrote an article about perfumes that go well with horses 🙂 http://boisdejasmin.com/2013/11/of-horses-leather-and-perfume.html September 23, 2016 at 12:46pm Reply

      • Marion Niedringhaus: Thank you!! Will do! 🐎 September 23, 2016 at 12:49pm Reply

  • JoDee: Hello Elisa and fellow perfume admirers. A couple of years ago when I first started exploring perfumes I wrote in my perfume journal that the beginning notes of SL’s La Fille de Berlin reminded me of apples. I haven’t visited the scent in a while now, but if I were to try it again I wonder if it would still smell like apples to me or if my understanding of notes have evolved? I’ll give it a try this weekend! September 23, 2016 at 2:35pm Reply

    • Elisa: Oh interesting! I don’t have any Fille de Berlin right now to double-check, but I do find it to be a very fruity rose so I can see that it might come off as apple-y! September 23, 2016 at 2:36pm Reply

  • Triciajo: So many ideas! I don’t have any scents that are centered on apple, but Jo Malone’s Peony & Blush Suede has a really nice top note of red apple. It works well with the leathery suede. September 23, 2016 at 4:22pm Reply

    • Elisa: That one smelled promising when I tried it on a scent strip, but that format tends to flatten out top notes. I’ll have to look for apple next time I pass a Jo Malone counter. September 23, 2016 at 5:10pm Reply

  • Malmaison: One of the things I love most about Hermes Amber Narguile is its gorgeous rendition of stewed autumn apples, with a dollop of cinnamon, and an overall golden aura. Or at least, that’s how my nose interprets it, I know other people get different dried fruit but for me it’s apples all the way! My Dad headed up a horticulture research operation for many years and would always bring home boxes of new apple varietals for us to try. This meant that growing up, most of my autumn weekends were spent sitting on a window seat with a book and a bowlful of whatever Dad had brought home from the research orchards. Amber Narguile without fail gives me that experience all over again. In fact, I must go and put some on RIGHT NOW! September 23, 2016 at 5:06pm Reply

    • Elisa: I realized too late that I completely forgot to include Amber Narguile! That one and (another omission) Sushi Imperiale both have really nice spiced apple notes. September 23, 2016 at 5:11pm Reply

      • Malmaison: The name Sushi Imperiale has always put me off but I just looked it up on Fragrantica and wow – I totally need to try that. September 23, 2016 at 5:20pm Reply

        • Elisa: I don’t know what the name is about but I promise it smells NOTHING like sushi! September 23, 2016 at 5:21pm Reply

      • Eric: I get more plum than Ambre Narguile, though admittedly it is my least favorite Hermessence. September 25, 2016 at 3:42am Reply

    • kpaint: Yes, the first ~20 minutes or so is reminiscent of spiced cider on my skin and in my opinion it’s a scent best enjoyed in fall.

      I am envious of your childhood apple memories! When I was a kid, Red and Golden Delicious and Granny Smiths were just about all there were. I’ve really only come to enjoy apples in recent years, what with so many varietals readily available. I recently discovered one called Pixie, which is a great eating apple. September 23, 2016 at 7:00pm Reply

      • Elisa: I’m going to look for that one! September 24, 2016 at 10:00am Reply

  • hotlanta linda: Sarah Horowitx`s newest, Transition, is a must for you! Plus her older Abundance 🙂 too! Thank you for good reading 🙂 🙂 September 23, 2016 at 7:20pm Reply

    • Elisa: Just looked it up — it sounds yummy! September 24, 2016 at 10:01am Reply

  • Marie: Ha, thanks for mentioning Wazamba, I had a bottle of it some years ago and quite liked it. Now I don’t see it often anymore but I actually think it would be perfect for fall…
    Traversee du Bosphore is another good apple perfume, it is like candy + apple + leather 🙂 September 23, 2016 at 7:53pm Reply

    • mayfly: Lovely article elisa! My autumn, apple memories are from when I was a child at boarding school in Sussex, there were apple orchards in the grounds and we girls used to collect the windfalls, they were huge, almost as big as cooking apples, and so so juicy, sweet and had such a delicious fragrance and flavour. I have always wished I knew the variety, so wonderful, my mouth waters thinking about them!
      U inspired me to have grated Apple and cinnamon on my porridge this morning, my little girl really loved it. September 24, 2016 at 2:32am Reply

      • Elisa: Thank you! You’ve made me hungry. I might have to buy a bag of apples today 🙂 September 24, 2016 at 10:02am Reply

    • Elisa: I have gone through a couple of decants of Wazamba — never owned a bottle but I would like one! September 24, 2016 at 10:01am Reply

  • Christos: Joop All About Eve can still be found very cheap and is the best apple scent IMO. Apple, cinnamon, vanilla but smells like nothing these notes predispose for September 24, 2016 at 2:56am Reply

    • Elisa: Ooh, thanks for this tip, I have never tried that one! It sounds great. September 24, 2016 at 10:04am Reply

  • SHMW: I love the apple note in olfactive studio’s Flash back and I love the description of the show with all the apples and their descriptions….. its also reminder that russet apples will soon be available here in England (sometimes called Egremont russets), These have brown skins that are sometimes rough and mishapen, with vivid smooth golden yellow areas and they are crisply solid and nutty. These make most modern apples seem bland, as well as too sweet and too wet. September 24, 2016 at 9:31am Reply

    • Elisa: Intrigued by your description of these apples! Especially the nutty aspect. September 24, 2016 at 10:05am Reply

      • SHMW: I was wondering if they were unique to the UK.
        They are seasonal here but keep very well in the salad section of the fridge. If you see any they are well worth trying although they do necessarily look that immediately attractive. M&S sell them as speciality apples, if that helps (though they are much more widely available here) September 24, 2016 at 12:10pm Reply

  • Lucas: Equestrian is such a fine option for an Autumn fragrance with apple note. Plus hay and leather make it even more suitable for the season. September 24, 2016 at 9:41am Reply

    • Elisa: I agree! The hay note is great. I really love it. September 24, 2016 at 10:06am Reply

  • elisa p: Thanks for the apples! My parents were health nuts when I was growing up and dessert, when there was any, was baked Rome apples, cored, and filled with Grape Nuts cereal(remember that stuff?)and soy milk. Hated it was then, but I’d eat it now.
    My recent Apple note experience was in Parfumes Quartana Mandrake which has a very juicy, tart Apple/rhubarb opening which reminds me a little of Pulp(which is too much for me). September 25, 2016 at 12:13am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh yes I remember Grape Nuts! My brother kind of liked them but I thought it looked and tasted like gravel…

      Thanks for the additional apple rec, I will look for it! September 25, 2016 at 11:35am Reply

  • Eric: I don’t honestly love apples (I’ve compared them to eating juicy Styrofoam) but I love the smell and the juice! Baked they aren’t bad, but for some reason I vastly prefer pears.

    I don’t go for fruit much in perfume but I will agree with Be Delicious. I smelled it on an old coworker who wore it monogamously and it smelled pleasant, if practical. It’s like buying a minivan: it may fit your lifestyle, but do you really love it? September 25, 2016 at 3:37am Reply

    • Eric: Oh, and thank you for not mentioning Light Blue. I know Victoria enjoys it and more power to her but to me it smells like a wet wipe, flavor apple. September 25, 2016 at 3:39am Reply

    • Elisa: It’s kind of a perfect gym scent to be honest! September 25, 2016 at 11:36am Reply

  • Roky: Hi & a nice sunday to you. I’ve never been fond of apple notes that much. But there’s Acteur by Azzaro which is a somewhat dark rose-apple/ripe fruits scent on a conservative aromatic fougère structure. Loving this one. It’s smells Italy in winter for me … September 25, 2016 at 7:44am Reply

    • Elisa: That sounds rather fascinating! A fruity rose for men? Sign me up. September 25, 2016 at 11:38am Reply

      • Roky: 🙂 … nice one, yep. I’m also loving it on my ladyfriend. The rose is dark red and wine-like, the apples are those red-yellow, spicy-earthy type and ripe ones with a certain citrus sting. And there’s the Azzaro barbershop signature in between with lively woods and clean musks. Can be found for cheap. There’s a ‘vintage’ and a ‘not so vintage’ one … – both are really pretty. September 25, 2016 at 1:47pm Reply

  • Leonie: Hermes Un Jardin sur le Toit has a fruity apple note in it for me! It’s definitely a spring/summer scent rather than an autumn one, and I’m not sure if it reminds me of the smell of real apples or of artificial apple flavour you get in sour sweets. Either way I enjoy that aspect of it and find it a fun scent to wear in spring. September 25, 2016 at 8:04am Reply

    • Elisa: I have only smelled that one once, but I remember the apple/pear note. (We could do a whole other list just for pear, couldn’t we?) September 25, 2016 at 11:40am Reply

  • Aurora: A lovely seasonal post, Elisa. It is that time of year where I can resume buying apples from the farmers market, many varieties in the UK.
    Noa l’Eau one of my favorites has apple and cassis, a winning combination, it’s my elegant fruity scent and I remember By Kilian Forbidden Games smelling distinctly of apple, but too expensive for what it is. There are more apple temptations in the perfumes you describe. September 25, 2016 at 8:35am Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you Aurora! As of this weekend in Colorado, there’s a distinct chill in the air and leaves are starting to fall and I’m really getting in the fall mood! September 25, 2016 at 11:41am Reply

  • Tiffanie: The apple scents I reach for are the bold Be Delicious (when I see a tester I can’t resist the kitsch) and Ambre Narguile (from a rapidly dwindling sample vial). Ambre Narguile is so charming with its gentle hint of apple essence peeking out from behind the lively spices.

    Thank you to Elisa and to everyone who commented. My mind is filled with memories of autumn apples picked and eaten in an orchard. I’m reminded of apples that taste spicy, wine-like, floral, or honeyed, eaten out of hand, on a cold afternoon.

    And now I’m hungry. 🙂 September 25, 2016 at 3:30pm Reply

    • Tiffanie: And meant to add how much I’m enjoying a spritz of Pulp from a sample I tried for the first time today after reading about it here. Pulp is delicious, happy, and sweet with enough tang to balance it out, makes me want to sniff more more more! September 25, 2016 at 3:42pm Reply

      • Elisa: I consider Pulp a very joyful perfume!

        I like how different varieties of apples can be as varied as roses in their particularities. September 25, 2016 at 7:34pm Reply

  • elvie: Apple,hmmm, wish I could eat them by the crate… I must stick to the scent only. My apple juice scent used to be Brandy, but I cannot find it anymore. The autumnal apple favourite is Yosh König, which happens to be my favourite vetiver as well. Gorgeous and incomparable, like an enchanted apple orchard in full sweet-tart ripeness that, at the back of the property melts into the thickest of mossy, ancient eastern European forest with years of fallen leaves soft underfoot… Cannot put it any other way. The perfect autumn scent. September 28, 2016 at 3:22am Reply

    • Elisa: I can’t find Brandy either! Haven’t tried Konig (it sounds great!) but Yosh also has U4EAHH! which is a fun apple/pear scent. September 28, 2016 at 10:37am Reply

  • Figuier: I love apples too! My sisters and I still mourn the apple tree in our parents’ garden, cut down by an overenthusiastic gardener, that had the sweetest, juiciest, crispest eating apples ever. Local apples generally are good here in Cambridgeshire, russets being a personal favourite.

    And in perfume: Traversee du Bosphore is my go-to apple. Also, Joop! used to have (has?) a perfume, All About Eve, which had a great apple note – I’m curious now to smell it again… September 30, 2016 at 6:11am Reply

    • Elisa: Someone mentioned that Joop scent above — it sounds great! I was toying with ordering the shower gel. September 30, 2016 at 8:23am Reply

  • Gnosmic: Krigler Established Cognac smells to me not like cognac but like wood-aged calvados (apple brandy). Its woodiness skews masculine, but I think women could wear it easily. October 27, 2016 at 2:27pm Reply

    • Elisa: I’ll have to look for that one — I wonder how it compares to By Kilian’s Apple Brandy… October 31, 2016 at 10:46am Reply

  • JulienFromDijon: Rose water!
    To not skip the obvious, one of my favorite apple scent comes from rose water.
    It’s a nurturing experience to smell the gradient transition between rose to fruity tones, knowing 100% stems from real roses.
    For 18€ you can have 200ml of bio, good quality water rose in pharmacy : it’s the poor man perfume!
    (I don’t incite to take the orange flower water, who’s more stinky-civetty, old-ladyish, weird and heavy -or maybe it’d require higher quality?-)

    Rose d’homme, and other parfums de rosine, are coming as close second, for the same reason. That granny smith effect from rose coumpounds. November 30, 2016 at 7:15pm Reply

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