I’ve lived half my life in the endless Canadian winters and as much in the dreary rainy Parisian ones – save for the odd, magical snowfall dusting the 17th century place des Vosges, the gardens of the Palais-Royal or the Fontaine de Médicis in the Luxembourg gardens, a miserable affair at best.
What makes winter bearable to me are fur wraps and satin slips, or the olfactory equivalent thereof. Warm puffs of soft animal aromas laced in spices caught between hair and pelt; velvet-flesh corollas blooming in the hothouse like pockets of stolen summer…
(Most of the scents listed here have been reviewed, many rather recently. For more extended descriptions, click on the title.)
What: Cool tuberose shot with coconut sherbet and green sap, to slap back at Siberian cold snaps.
When: On a crunchy, snowy night, skidding on stilettos in a black fur jacket over serious cleavage.
What: Ylang-ylang magnified and churned with spices into a delectable, green and banana-tinged crème de fleurs.
When: Sliding off a 1930s bias-cut silk charmeuse nightgown in an overheated room.
What: Jasmine stripped by lashes of cool/hot spices until all that’s left is vibrant floral heat.
When: Tipsy on liqueurs by a roaring fire, able, willing, and not alone.
Femme (original formula) by Edmond Roudnitska for Marcel Rochas
What: The wonderfully rounded Prunol base – ionones, aldehydes C-14 and C-18, patchouli, cardamom, cumin, patchouli and ketone V – gives a dark fruity tenderness to the brooding chypre base.
When: On an afternoon assignation in a red-velvet-upholstered Parisian hotel bar, lace peeking out of a tweed pencil skirt and nipped jacket.
What: L’Heure Bleue’s tougher, brazen big sister; orange blossom and carnation in a cloud of heliotropin.
When: Slipping off at twilight to slum with Montparnasse painters, wrapped in a vibrantly coloured Paul Poiret bubble cloak. The rich lover will have to wait.
What: Charred, leathery incense lit by the dark green fruity glow of fir balsam.
When: Stepping out into the icy night in pelts steeped in midnight mass incense.
What: The thrum of incense, castoreum and patchouli melded into jasmine sambac, amber and musk.
When: The witching hour, under a black cashmere cowl – double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.
What: A tribute to the mythical Ambre 83 base by De Laire, softened with Mitsouko’s smile of peach and shimmering with iris.
When: Sipping an old Armagnac, lounging on a tawny leather couch with your lover’s head in your lap.
What: An oblique variation on the iconic Jicky, with the richer tonka bean standing in for coumarine and rosemary instead of lavender as the aromatic note.
When: Tucking in a Saint-Honoré and a hot chocolate with a girlfriend on a rainy afternoon at Angelina’s on the rue de Rivoli.
What: Iconoclastic vanilla skewed towards freshly cured tobacco leaf, amber and wood in a cloud of resinous musk.
When: Shutting out the cold and working up a sweat. But not at the gym. (Or anywhere: this is my go-to scent this winter.)
For more Winter Top Tens, click to:
And P.S.: Sorry I'm late posting this, but I was in London for some very exciting meetings which will lead to... very exciting developments.
Image: Charlotte Rampling as Venus in Furs, by Helmut Newton