Spring: 88 posts

My favorite springtime scents

A Branch of Mimosa for Carmen

“I will bring you cassie, if you still enjoy its perfume,” wrote French novelist Prosper Mérimée in Lettres à une inconnue (Letters to an Unknown). The Unknown, was Mademoiselle Jenny Dacquin, the daughter of a notary of Boulogne, with whom Mérimée corresponded for over forty years. And what flower should his Carmen throw to Don José? Une fleur de cassie.

Cassie and mimosa are two closely related plants from the acacia family. The branches covered with masses of lemon yellow pompoms not only look beautiful, they also have a rich scent valued in perfumery. Native to Australia, mimosas were brought to France in the 18th century by the British explorer, Captain James Cook, and they have flourished in the mild winters of the Mediterranean coast. Every February the Massif de Tanneron in Provence turns golden yellow as the mimosas come into bloom, a Fauvist painting come alive.

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Uplifting, Spring-like Perfumes for All Year Round

Spring is more than a season. It’s a feeling. A mood. I always long to capture it somehow to experience its effervescence whenever a yearning strikes–the play of sunshine on rain-splattered streets, the confetti of cherry blossom petals, the promise of something new and beautiful. In this spirit, I’ve filmed a new episode for Bois de Jasmin’s channel and compiled a list of fragrances that evoke such a mood for me. It’s based on the list I created for my spring-themed article, and below, I add a few extra choices from the latest releases.


My choices mentioned in the video include my three green, unsweetened favorites:

Annick Goutal Duel

The Different Company Tokyo Bloom

Hermès Eau de Narcisse Bleu

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The Perfect Scent of Spring and Cherry Blossoms

Be wary of perfumes called Cherry Blossom. They promise a whirlwind of pink petals and poetry, but they’ll deliver a wan fruity-floral scent that doesn’t come close to the real thing.  What do they smell like, these flowers, that despite falling off almost as soon as they open, have captured the imagination of poets and philosophers? To contemplate a cherry blossom is to reflect on beauty and mortality, the passing of time and the power of subtle things.

The scent of cherry flower is indeed subtle, but it’s not bland. Neither is it sweet or fruity of the commercial fragrance type. The scent is bitter and green. If you bury your face in the petals and let the yellow pollen settle on your cheeks, you notice hints of Amaretto, honey and green sap. It’s surprisingly assertive, with enough character to stand out next to the pungent aroma of blooming pears and the sugary sweetness of apple flowers. Every spring, I wish I could distill it all into a fragrance, and every spring I give up on this idea. As Japanese poets have rightly noted, the beauty of cherry blossom is in its evanescence.

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Rhubarb and Roses in Cuisine and Perfume

Every spring I make a Persian rhubarb sherbet by cooking sliced stems and sugar in water. Once the flavor and pink color infuse into the syrup, I filter the liquid and add rose essence. Enjoyed from tall crystal glasses, the sherbet has a voluptuous taste that calls to mind the warm light streaming through the stained glass windows of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, a pink-tinted jewel of Shiraz.


Since perfumery has much in common with cuisine, rendering my sherbet into a fragrance accord with a similar ornate impression is not difficult. Rhubarb has a natural affinity with rose, violet and berries, because they are complementary notes (and raspberry, in a nesting doll twist, contains elements of both rose and violet, which makes it an especially felicitous partner.)  Jo Malone White Lilac and Rhubarb explores this combination by augmenting the floral layer of rhubarb with a cocktail of rose and lilac. It’s a bright and happy perfume, with a nod to retro glamour.

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What Does Petitgrain Smell Like and My Favorite Perfumes

What is petitgrain and how does it smell like? This iconic perfumery material is derived from the same plant as neroli and orange blossom absolute, bitter or Seville orange tree. Its name means “small grain” in French, and it refers to the fact that traditionally petitgrain was distilled from immature bitter orange fruit. Today, twigs and leaves are more likely to be used. And it smells heavenly–green, sparkling, bright, with a distinctive orange blossom accent.

My new video is devoted to everything petitgrain. I describe how it’s usually used in perfumery and then mention my favorite fragrances that illustrate the complex facets of this essential oil.

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