Scents That Evoke Winter Pleasures

A few years ago, I wrote an article about winter fragrances for the Financial Times. I enjoyed working on that piece and I still like rereading it, but the kind of winter wonderland fantasy that I described in it is no longer part of my reality. The last time I strolled through a snowfall was when I was visiting Bulgaria four years ago. There was a fleeting appearance of snow in late November in Brussels. These days it feels like spring, rather than winter. My daffodils are sprouting. The buds on the trees are full and green. Winter is only a distant memory.

Does it mean that winter scents are anachronistic? In fact, I crave such aromas more than ever. In that spirit, I’m sharing my article and my ideas on recreating winter splendor.

On days when summer seems like a distant memory, I wrap myself in layers of sweaters, scarves and perfume and take long strolls in the park, watching the snow transform the landscape into a black and white Japanese painting. The cocoon of fragrance keeps me as warm and cozy as my more tangible garments, and soon the big and small anxieties that accompany the busy holiday season melt away along with the snowflakes landing on my cheeks. I no longer miss summer. By the time I return home, I feel rejuvenated–and in love with winter once again.

Fragrance is an important part of my winter therapy, but certain types of perfumes are especially effective. Just as the cold weather reduces the color palette in nature, it also plays tricks on our nose. First of all, odor molecules are less volatile in the cold, which makes scents more difficult to notice. Second, chilly winter air also tends to be dry, while as Dr. Pamela Dalton of the Monell Chemical Senses Center notes, our sense of smell is more acute when air is humid. For this reason, the way we perceive fragrances during winter might change, with our summer favorites coming across as too flat, too sharp or too insubstantial.  To Continue Reading.

What are your favorite perfumes to fantasize about winter? What scent evokes the vision of freshly fallen snow?

Image: Kawase Hasui, Snow at Itsukushima.



  • Donna: Empathizing with you on the lack of a really wintery wintertime..for years.
    Everytime I read your perfume descriptions I yearn to smell each fragrance. Somehow you capture, in poetic phenomenological thoughts, the very nature of perfume itself.

    Yesterday a little box of samples came, Dominique Ropion’s work for Frederic Malle. It’s rare that I smell perfumes, since working with a naturals organ.. but Geranium Pour Monsieur attracted, as I’ve a geranium with mint ‘fume in progress since last year.

    This composition gives such a cold breath in the opening, like geranium frosted with peppermint,spearmint and anise, a delicate musk in the background.There’s a multi- floral auromachemical I don’t know..then more impressions that settle into a faint, warm amber. In love, just want I want right now to conjure glittering snow, and being chilled, then warming up. January 5, 2024 at 9:24am Reply

    • Victoria: I really enjoy geranium in perfumes and Geranium Pour Monsieur is one of the best examples of its kind. January 8, 2024 at 7:05am Reply

  • Gudrun: Happy New Year to all of you, Victoria and fellow readers.

    As I am writing this, I’m in the Austrian mountains, surrounded by heaps of snow. The two fragrances, that I brought with me are Ambre Narguilé by Hermès and The Bewitching Yasmine by Penhaligons.
    These perfumes to me symbolize dark and cold nights, snow and little day light.

    Winter is my least favourite season, but every year I’m looking forward to wearing these two fragrances in the winter. And I only ever wear them then. January 5, 2024 at 9:34am Reply

    • Victoria: I also like Ambre Narguilé in this weather. January 8, 2024 at 7:08am Reply

    • Christina: Thank you for inspiring me to dig out my sample of Bewitching Yasmine, which I am enjoying today! Curious to try the Hermes as well now. January 8, 2024 at 7:30pm Reply

  • carole macleod: I can’t believe how many years of pleasure I’ve had reading your blog, Victoria-thank you. And i still reread the comments cause those are very special, too.

    I tend to love L’eau d’Hiver, which is such a gentle winter fragrance. Reminds me of snowshoeing, and stopping under a cedar tree to listen to the sound of an icy little brook.

    I also love citrus in the snow-so Eau de Patou, Eau d’Hadrien and Bois d’Hadrien, and the Chanel eau de Cologne. Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles is pretty special in cold, crisp air. And Le Lion-I firat wore that in the cold of January and I think it’s prefect for Jan, feb and March here in Canada. January 5, 2024 at 9:35am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much for your kind words, Carole!
      You mentioned so many great perfumes here. January 8, 2024 at 7:08am Reply

  • Ashley: My winter favs:
    Frederic Malle – L’eau d’hiver
    Frederic Malle – Dans te Bras
    Maison Trudon – Mortel
    L’Artisan Parfumeur – Saffran Troublant
    Guerlain – Angelique Noir
    Ormonde Jayne – Nawab of Oud intensivo
    Diptyque – Philosykos
    Diptyque – Vetyverio
    Aesop – Eidesis January 5, 2024 at 9:47am Reply

    • Victoria: What an inspiring list! January 8, 2024 at 7:08am Reply

  • Hollis: For me, it’s got to be either Winter Woods from Sonoma Scent Studio or Jungle L’Elephant from Kenzo. WW is a slightly smoky, boozy fragrance that wraps me up in comfort and feels like a cozy cashmere blanket. Jungle is sweeter by comparison, and has a plummy, “stewed fruits” smell, along with clove.

    They are each a winter delight! January 5, 2024 at 10:01am Reply

  • Aurora: It’s such a treat to re-read that article. Dare I say that I’m not missing colder winters? I’m a snow wimp. But rich, warming perfumes I couldn’t be without. I wore Parfum Sacré during the holiday period and was reminded how dense it is, like brocade. The light musk of Noa shines in winter and I wouldn’t wear a rose/patchouli combo like ByTerry Rouge Nocturne in another season. January 5, 2024 at 10:55am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t like cold weather, but I miss the lovely scenes that snow creates. And the cozy feel of being at home when it’s snowing. January 8, 2024 at 7:09am Reply

  • Alityke: Winter snow isn’t always a given in the UK. Scotland does get snow in the Highlands. Northern England gets it on high ground but deep snow everywhere? Not so much.

    My winter fragrances tend towards resins, spices & plums.
    Bottega Veneta Eau de Velours, SL Ambre Sultan & Arabie. My long term love, Vintage Opium & a new love, Aldi Hotel Collect No 40 Myrrh & Tonka. Not at all similar to the Jo Malone London of the same name. January 5, 2024 at 11:08am Reply

  • Tara C: I tend to wear my gourmands and incenses in winter. Like Encens Suave, April.3.1968, Back to Black, Wish, Zagorsk and Rahat Loukhoum. January 5, 2024 at 11:35am Reply

    • Victoria: Elegant, as always, Tara! January 8, 2024 at 7:10am Reply

  • Christina: Your article made me want to smell Vanille D’Iris in particular! Here in the Washington, D.C., area, we have a similar situation. The winters have never been particularly long or frigid, but with climate change the seasons are much more unpredictable, with more mild days and less snow. That’s a mixed blessing for me, because I do like snow.

    Usually I gravitate toward spicier, enveloping scents in winter, like Angel’s Share from By Kilian, L’Air du Desert Marocain from Tauer, and Tobacco Vanille from Tom Ford, and Petits Papiers from Mad et Len.

    Two scents I’ve enjoyed unexpectedly after stumbling on them in a Whole Foods are candles from Illume: Winter White and North Sky. Both have citrus notes, so they feel invigorating and cozy at the same time.

    I enjoy reading everyone’s winter thoughts! January 5, 2024 at 12:03pm Reply

    • Emily: Came here to write exactly this, the article convinced me to dig out my sample bag & try Vanille d’Iris again. I remember being underwhelmed by it in the context of the other Ormonde Jaynes I was sampling at the time, but now I’m wondering how much of that was COVID anosmia related (was a while there that all florals smelled of cardboard & iris was lost utterly). It does have a snow-damped elegance.

      One of my favorite winter layering experiments, definitely not for every day, is to top the bitumen & mummified jasmine of Papillon’s Anubis with Moon Bloom of Melodie d’Amour. In the summer that would be straight up aggressive, but on a cold crisp day it’s pure glamour, weaponized. January 5, 2024 at 2:08pm Reply

      • Victoria: That sounds like an interesting pairing. January 8, 2024 at 7:11am Reply

    • Victoria: Despite the fact that iris is a cold note, I like it in winter. It manages to create the kind of mood that I want. January 8, 2024 at 7:11am Reply

  • Eric Harris: Hello everyone!

    Here in coastal Texas, a winter wonderland is as fantastical as a unicorn. We don’t even reliably get freezes anymore. That’s why I tend to prefer cool florals, or shimmering incense and spices.

    My favorites this year have been SL’s De Profundis and Iris Silver Mist, as well as Jacques Fath’s Lilas Exquis. Malle’s Superstitious found its way on my skin several times upon news it may come back; its glamorous aldehydic floral structure is very satisfying. I also indulged in the discontinued Splash Forte from IUNX, which I find addictive.

    I’m holding hope for a more peaceful 2024. Please stay safe everyone! January 5, 2024 at 4:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also wore Splash Forte the other day and regretted that it’s not made anymore. What a place the original IUNX store used to be! January 8, 2024 at 7:12am Reply

  • CC: I took a small sample with me to Hokkaido once. It snowed constantly and the air was clear, with bright sunshine moments. It was perfect snow weather. I blindly opened the sample and realized I had brought l’eau d’hiver. It was absolutely perfect – soft and glowing like a snatched spot of sunshine in the snow. January 5, 2024 at 7:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: L’Eau d’Hiver in Hokkaido’s weather would be just perfect. January 8, 2024 at 7:13am Reply

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