Summer: 150 posts

Perfumes that put me in a summer mood, all year round

Vietnamese Green Oil, DIY Colognes and Other Cool Delights

The second part of my refreshing scents series focuses on non-alcoholic and DIY options. Some people prefer to skip alcohol during hot days, and I’m often asked for inexpensive solutions. Experimenting with scents during summer is fun, but when the temperature rises above 35C, the idea of putting on perfume becomes unappealing.

I instead reach for oils from Vietnam or Thailand, especially Dầu Gió Xanh Eagle Brand Medicated Oil. This popular Vietnamese oil is used for headaches, muscle pains, etc, but I also find it effective on hot days when my head feels heavy. The scent is spicy and incense-like, but it’s unexpectedly refreshing. The oil was created in 1935 by a German chemist, Wilhelm Hauffman, for a Singaporean trading house J Lea & Co. Hauffman was perfecting the extraction of chlorophyll, which gave the oil its color, while the other main ingredients included menthol, methyl salicylate and eucalyptus oil

Green Oil became a household favorite in Vietnam once it was introduced in the 1960s. On the other hand, its Art Deco-styled bottle and vivid hue would be familiar not just to those who grew up in Vietnam and other Asian countries, but also the former Soviet ones. During my childhood in Ukraine, medicated oils and Cao Sao Vàng (Golden Star Balm) were considered as nothing short of panacea.

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Cooling Perfumes : Seeking Freshness

This summer has been strange in many ways, and the sudden onset of heat threw everything off-kilter. Normally I’d escape my sweltering apartment–this is Belgium, we don’t have air conditioning–and head to the local mall or library, but that’s not possible. Instead, I’ve dipped into my perfumer’s toolkit, made a few cooling colognes and lined up refreshing fragrances. A jug of fennel and rose sherbet is cooling in the fridge. Cold buckwheat noodles will require only a few minutes in the kitchen later, and for lunch there is watermelon and feta. Thus prepared, I can work in relative comfort.

I will share my DIY options on Monday, but for this week’s video, I’ve selected a few perfumes that are cooling. Cooling, not just cool. Is there a difference? To a perfumer, there is, and it’s an important one. A cool perfume evokes a particular refreshing association through the use of notes like green leafy notes, citrus, green fruit, green florals or aldehydes. A cooling perfume, on the other hand, usually contains menthol. Menthol activates the cold-sensitive receptors in the skin which is why menthol-containing perfumes feel cooling.

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My Favorite Summer Perfumes (at the moment)

I came back from the market the other day with a big bouquet of cornflowers and as I sat admiring their vivid color, I realized that these blue flowers are my quintessential summer blossom. Their scent is delicate, green, slightly musty, but the fascinating aspect of olfaction is how such subtle aromas can evoke strong memories. I smelled cornflowers and I could see the wildflower meadows of Poltava, the region in Central Ukraine where I spent the first 15 summers of my life. I could smell the watermelon, feel the sticky peach juice on my fingers and catch a whiff of my great-grandmother distilling rosewater. Being unable to travel there makes me more nostalgic–and renders the familiar scents more intense. Instead of being melancholy after smelling cornflowers, as one might imagine, I felt rejuvenated and uplifted.


This experience inspired me to focus my new video on my favorite summer perfumes. I reflected on what fragrances I gravitate to in the summer and why. While the exact perfumes might change year to year, the main idea stays the same–I wear fragrances that feel refreshing in warm weather and that evoke the pleasant idleness of a good vacation.

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6 Luminous Musk Perfumes

Why should summer be all about colognes and fresh florals? Why not don a plush tuberose or a bittersweet chypre? Why not explore how our dark and glamorous favorites behave when the weather grows warmer and days longer? None of the “perfume wearing rules” annoy me more than the set-in-stone seasonal suggestions. I suspect that most of them are designed to make people buy more product, rather than enjoy what they already have. The only rule in perfume is to wear what smells good to you (in quantities appropriate for the occasion, of course). A new season is a new chance to experiment, and there is nothing better than experimenting with your favorites and discovering new facets in them.

Musk perfumes, for instance, are among the most versatile. They can be modulated by the type of application. They linger. They range from heavy and warm to radiant and bright. With this in mind here is my list of summer musks–although I wear them all year round.

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Guerlain Eau de Cologne du Coq, Eau de Fleurs de Cédrat and Eau de Guerlain

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With the start of summer it seems natural to reach for a cologne. This style of fragrances based on citrus is uplifting and bright, and wearing a cologne is a low-commitment affair since it lasts on skin for only a few hours, leaving behind a memory of freshness. Of course, these days there are many different colognes, some promising an all-day citrus blast and others treating the most un-cologne-like notes like sandalwood, roses and musk in the style’s gossamer lightness. For my part, I recommend visiting three classics from Guerlain: Eau de Cologne du Coq, Eau de Fleurs de Cédrat and Eau de Guerlain.

Not only does the trio offer a range of styles, it gives a great overview of the house’s signature and the way it evolved over time. The fragrances were created by three perfumers representing different generations of the Guerlain family–Aimé Guerlain with his fin-de-siecle sensibilities, Jacques Guerlain renowned for his technical mastery and Jean-Paul Guerlain, the renegade. One need not have all three colognes in one’s wardrobe, but each is distinctive enough to be worth comparing.

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