winter perfumes: 10 posts

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.

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Favorite Winter Perfumes That Evoke Sunshine

Any style rule stated too categorically is circumspect—don’t pair black and navy, avoid mixing prints, or hide colognes away till the summer. The last one particularly makes no sense to me, because the beauty of fragrance is that it allows you freedom to enhance your mood or your image. Wearing a gossamer summer dress on a freezing winter day may not be sensible, but why not don a perfume that evokes a sunny garden or a seaside vacation? Although warm spicy fragrances are delightful on a cold morning, citrusy colognes, delicate florals or bright fruity blends can be just as appropriate. It all depends on your mood.

If my mood is for sun, sand and a languid sea breeze, I consider a green floral like Frédéric Malle Lys Méditerranée. It blends the richness of Casablanca lily with bright citrus notes and salty accents. The combination is much more effervescent than one might expect from a traditional white floral, with a silky texture evoking cool petals. Parfum d’Empire Immortelle Corse opens on a citrusy note, but the twist of immortelle with its maple syrup sweetness and warmth gives it a sun-burnt glow.

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My Favorite Comforting Winter Perfumes

Merry Christmas! This winter I crave comfort even more than I normally do. My workload has been extremely heavy, in addition to various activities in which I participated to support Ukraine at this difficult time. Also, winter arrived so suddenly that it caught me unawares, and it seemed as if one day I woke up to long stretches of cold weather and Belgian December rains. Normally, I would cope with it by reading and cooking, but making time for myself has been challenging lately. Perfumes came to the rescue and a few favorites in particular comforted me even when my schedule was grueling.

Below I will share several perfumes that embodied comfort for me this winter. I also recorded a video describing them, in case you prefer to listen (scroll to the end of the article.) In my video, I focused on five favorites, but in this article I will add two additional choices from the new 2022 launches. As always, I look forward to hearing about your own comforting, inviting scents.

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Summer Cologne for Winter

I’ve noticed over the past few years that my most worn winter perfumes have been the most summery ones in my collection. Or at least, the ones that feel crisp, bright, and effervescent. Enveloping ambers, dark musks, or plush leathers edge in, but they are not as prominent. While Belgian winters have been getting warmer, the main reason is that radiant, uplifting fragrance fit my mood better during cold days than anything rich and heavy. For instance, Hermès Eau de Citron Noir gives me an instant boost with its combination of citrus, spice, and woods.

Another favorite category is white florals, from dewy Frédéric Malle Lys Méditerranée to opulent Guerlain Cruel Gardénia. This genre of fragrance behaves so differently during cold weather that it’s fascinating to wear and compare one’s impressions. The blossoms open up slower, the dew lingers, the freshness persists. Sometimes I don’t even get to the final drydown before the day is over and the winter dusk falls.

What about you? What are you wearing today?

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Spices and Perfumes

Nothing about my masala dabba, an Indian-style spice box, looks exotic. It’s a round tin, with a double lid and several compartments, that after being moved across continents has enough dents and scratches to form a geography of its own. But it’s what’s inside that counts, and the moment the slightly battered lid is pushed ajar it becomes obvious why the roots of the words “spice” and “special” are intertwined–the perfume of coriander, nutmeg, cardamom, fennel and pepper that rushes forth is so rich and heady that it alone is enough to dispel gloom on a cold winter day.

Among the aromatics inside my spice box, cardamom has a place of honor. It’s a curious spice, because unlike darker, heavier favorites like black pepper, cumin or allspice, cardamom combines the freshness of lemon peel with a peppery and metallic bite. I often crush a few green pods to flavor a cup of coffee, a batch of gingerbread or a Persian style lamb stew. Another way I enjoy cardamom is via Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom, a fragrance blending soft mimosa with the citrusy spice.

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