jeudi 29 avril 2010

Top Ten Perfumes of Spring 2010... Floral fugue in tones of green




“To create a new commonplace, that’s genius”, wrote Baudelaire in Fusées.

That the smell of greenery and flowers signifies spring is a cliché whose authorship no one can claim but nature. However, the accords it inspired to genius perfumers have become commonplaces, poncifs in the Baudelairian sense, and templates of modern perfumery. Jacques Guerlain’s galbanum and jonquil in Vol de Nuit; Germaine Cellier’s galbanum, geranium and hyacinth in Vent Vert, which would yield all the green florals of the 60s; Edmond Roudnitska’s perfect balance of green, rosy, white floral and animal notes in Diorissimo’s lily-of-the-valley arabesque; Henri Robert’s galbanum and iris in N°19

It would be pointless to list those four in a seasonal top ten: they are a given. I’ll just take it from there and list the ten I am most drawn to this season. Floral fugue in tones of green.


Like the thin greyish skin of a fig slashed open by a sharp fingernail, the astringent, almost poisonous box-woody greenness of Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal’s Ninfeo Mio releases a milky, tender juice warmed by the mossy-green-almond/hay facets of mastic and aromatic lavender. Darting sunrays between fluttering leaves: Ninfeo Mio shimmers.

From glass-blade green to liquorice black, Pierre Guillaume’s Papyrus de Ciane slides from the juiciness of galbanum to the rounded, leather-tinged accents of the Mousse de Saxe along a slender stem oozing bitter wormwood sap: a green 70s floral growing out of a classic Caron.

Darker still: Vero Kern's Onda. The new eau de parfum which will be launched in July reprises the earthy vetiver, leather and tobacco notes of the parfum: the formula has been adjusted to bring out the iris; the animal notes which made wearing the parfum such a commitment have been replaced with the passion fruit, which soaks Onda’s dirt with an acid, sulfurous burst of tropical juice. It’s still a beast. But it can be walked around the park now without biting your arm off.

Up the green spectrum until it veers into white: Ormonde Jayne’s Tiaré (now available in the discovery set) pulls the 70s citrus/green floral into tropical climes by adding a thick, velvety petal texture to the muguet and jasmine heart with the namesake tiaré absolute, on the trademark Ormonde Jayne gauzy wood base. As buoyant as a Grace Kelly New Look cocktail dress billowing in trade winds.

Nathalie Feisthauer’s Gardénia Pétales for Van Cleef and Arpels is more of a lily-gardenia hybrid than a proper gardenia – welded by the flower’s common green note – set in tropical, ylang-frangipani-vanilla accord. Of all my fragrances, this is the one (along with Carnal Flower) that never fails to get a compliment thanks to its huge, irresistibly lovely sillage. I’m not turning up my nose at that.

No scent to this day has conveyed the carnivorous, smoky-spicy smell of my dream lily-from-hell, but Un Lys by Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake may come closest to the aromatic saturation of a live bouquet. The lily accord is stretched out from watery green top notes that veer towards lily-of-the-valley to a vanilla slightly tinged with wood, perhaps warmed up with a dollop of opoponax. Sweet, but thankfully not quite virginal.

Annick Goutal and Isabelle Doyen' s Grand Amour dives into a garden gone wild with the giddiness of spring to gather an exuberant armful of flowers. The green, heady hyacinth accord is subdued with milky, honeyed ambery notes. How can a scent composed by and for one woman feel so intimate to another? It can only be grace.

As a dear friend recently told me, Bertrand Duchaufour’s recent floral trilogy, despite having come out in two different houses, should be boxed in a set: the sparkling, sunny Orange Blossom, the carnal, tropical, cardamom-spiked cream-of-ylang Amaranthine (both Penhaligon’s) and the oddly radiant, fruit-and-roots Nuit de Tubéreuse (L’Artisan Parfumeur) express the three faces of Eve – their common point being the Garden of Eden greenness that runs through them all.

I’ve had to exercise a certain amount of self-restraint not to wear them exclusively. In fact, Grand Amour and Le Parfum de Thérèse (oops, have I just added an eleventh pick?) are the only ones likely to get as much skin time these days. Woman is fickle, but these might be long-drawn affairs…

After all, you must believe in spring... (click to hear Bill Evans' version of Michel Legrand's soaringly beautiful song for Les Demoiselles de Rochefort).


For more Spring Top Tens:

Bois de Jasmin

Now Smell This

Perfume Posse

Perfume-Smellin' Things



Ilustration: Basket of Light by Flor Garduño.


29 commentaires:

  1. My only green spring scent is Seve Exquise, but I don't wear it very much (discontinuation guilt). I've been wearing Amouage Dia lately, I get some green/fresh notes in it - it was composed by Jean-Claude Ellena whom I believe does better work when commissioned under strict guidelines than on his own (his ephemeral obsession has got to stop, his scents have no longevity and no more basenotes anymore, their complexity only lies in the topnotes - I sold my Vanille Galante bottle, noone could tell I was wearing anything at all after a couple of hours unless I would have them smell my cleavage, and at best all I'd hear was the most insincere and unconvincing compliment).

    Amouage Gold is my favorite perfume at the moment. My friend from the UN who goes to Oman twice a year attending UN conferences the sultanate loves to host, told me you smell Dia and Gold everywhere over there. No spring reality and mentality in Oman, just strong heady perfumes and to me that is "refreshing"!
    That being said, I still enjoy wearing Tubereuse Criminelle and Nuit de Cellophane.

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  2. Uella, getting people to smell one's cleavage is not such a bad idea when they're the right people! In fact, with that idea in mind, I may give my lesser-lasting scents a bit more wear... ;-)

    Gold is a magnificent scent in the grand old French tradition, but with much better materials than the current versions of the classics (and a price point to match).

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  3. Oh wow. You've listed so many I want to try!!! I have a bottle of No 19 on its way to me right now. Not vintage, but that's OK. I don't have a past association with it, so don't think I'll be disappointed! When I considered other clean and green options out there for "mainstream" new releases - essence, a scent, Versense, etc., I thought, 19 is probably in a similar category to all of these, but it's probably WAY better!!! (Oh me, queen of the unsniffed - had a gift cert to order from Amazon, and I live in a perfume wasteland, so no opportunity to try these out in my local vicinity). I did spray 19 and Eau Verte on cards when I was in Mass. a few months ago, and thought 19 blew Eau Verte away...(I wore Cristalle years ago, and can't get myself to try it now).

    OK...long post! Sorry. ;-) But I'd love to try Vol de Nuit, and all the new releases you mentioned, D. I also wore Diorissimo years ago - loved it. So pretty and feminine. So sad that these classics had to be reformulated. So sad...

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  4. I am clearly wired to appreciate green scents; I could apply just about one of those scents and be very, very happy. (I have yet to try Ninfeo Mio, Tiare or Amaranthine, so I can't say.)

    What I find interesting is that the ones that don't lean on a flower (e.g. Vent Vert), or at least not at the start (No 19), have taken a while to let themselves be loved. Interesting from the start, challenging perhaps...but in the end, at last love.

    Something else I find interesting in general about a lot of "spring" scents for me is that I love them dearly, but find I love them best in spring. Then the passion goes underground...until the next spring...like some of my favorite spring flowers.

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  5. Gorgeous list, and much here for me to try. I love Onda already, just as it is, but look forward to trying the EDP. Must remember to tuck a sample of Papyrus in the basket along with the Kern edp's...

    Un Lys is a new discovery for me--a swapper tucked a sample in and it surprised me with its deliciousness. I'm normally overwhelmed by lilies, but somehow these, as huge and 3-D as they are, are just lovely.

    I wanted so to love Ninfeo, and adored the top notes, but there is something very strong, like burnt rubber, that comes out on my skin. I've smelled the same note in two other Goutals--Vanille Exquise and the Jasmin, and also in the men's version of Amouage Jubilation. Any idea what it is, D? (Whatever it is, it's getting in my way, dammit.)

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  6. Denyse,
    I like that you included a dark scent like Onda in a spring list. To me, earthiness is also a prominent characteristic of this time of the year.

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  7. I'm strangely not feeling the green right now -- I've stashed my Amaranthine sample to come back to in the winter when I need a hit of springtime. Right now I'm wanting all flowers & no stems, I'm not sure why.

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  8. Karin, you'll find that N°19 has a much stronger character than the modern greens -- I'm not surprised you found it much more interesting than Cristalle Eau Verte: it is.
    For Vol de Nuit, I would STRONGLY recommend sampling the parfum, even if it means just a small decant for starts.

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  9. What a fabulous list. I'm looking forward to sampling Papyrus de Ciane and Onda in edp. And a bottle of Ninfeo Mio is in my near future, (possibly Untitled - love the soft incense in that one). Meanwhile I'm grateful to some kind people who have recently gifted me with samples of the Gardenia Petale which is borrowing my heart from the tubey bender I've been on since Paris (except from when I've been wearing Amarathine!)Love both photos accompanying this post. Oh I must mention also vintage Cabochard. OK will stop rambling now.

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  10. ScentScelf: I now what you mean by the greens. They're really quite aloof at the outset. I don't identify with them as strongly as I do with green florals and like you, it's a fairly seasoning thing for me.
    I guess I could've added Y by YSL to that list... But I kept to the ones I've actually worn this season.

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  11. Alyssa, I know exactly what material you mean, and I think it's also present in Un Matin d'Orage. I've actually asked Isabelle Doyen about it, specifically about Vanille Exquise and Le Jasmin (shows I'm not crazy if you get that too). She said she'd look it up as she doesn't know her formulas by heart, but then we moved on to something else and I still don't know.
    I suspect it's a woody amber material that I've nicknamed "spiky wood", Karanal or Ambroscenene or the like. I'm hyperosmic to it, as are a lot of people. I know for a fact that the latter is used in Jubilation XXV (the masculine one). If you have a sample on hand, check back to see if you get the same impression...

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  12. Marina, it's that wet earth thing with decaying vegetation reappearing after the spring thaw... When you've grown up in snow-bound climes, it's something that's intimately linked to spring, isn't it?

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  13. Nicola, sadly, there is not one drop of vintage Cabochard left in the house -- it used to be my flatmate's signature scent before it was reformulated and I donated my two bottles to her (she's now moved on to Bandit and Azurée: consistent woman, that one).
    You'll see that Gardénia Pétale is a real compliment-getter!

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  14. Amy, shouldn't be too hard to make. Great Easter bonnet!

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  15. Wonderful list! I am sad, again, that I don't get from OJ Tiare what everybody else gets.

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  16. Aha! Thanks for letting me know I'm not nuts! I actually already mentioned Jubilation XXV (men's) in my original comment so that must be it. In fact, I was wondering about Karanal and the Goutals when Victoria was writing about it in conjunction Matin d'Orage some weeks ago. Another reader described the sensation of smelling it as having spikes of wood crammed up his nose--he meant, in a good way (!), but I recognized the basic feeling of being attacked by a specific scent underneath the others. So relieved it's not just me... Too bad, though--they're all perfumes beloved by others.

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  17. Darn, woman!

    I've said it already, but you always have the very best pictures. A feast for the eyes, as ever.

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  18. Denyse, I am delighted you included Vent Vert -- and rather surprised that it didn't earn a mention on anyone else's Top Perfumes of Spring list!?

    I second the comment about your photographs. They are invariably exquisite, or charming, or compelling, or strangely beautiful, or haunting . . . You have a keen eye in addition to your keen nose.

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  19. I want to try Diorissimo (wearing Delrae Debut today instead) but The Guide had me worried that reformulations have killed the scent. Does anyone have a recent vintage?

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  20. That's a lovely green theme, Denyse, and a delight to read! Greens are not an easy fit right off the bat, but can require some patience. I have another sample here of Amaranthine and am looking forward to playing with it some more; and I have been wearing Ninfeo quite a bit.

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  21. Robin, have I somehow missed your review of OJ Tiaré? It was a toss-up for me between ELPC Jasmine White Moss and Tiaré: they have a very similar vibe. The OJ won out because... why? I guess it's been getting marginally more wear than the EL recently.

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  22. Alyssa, you *had*! Silly me... So that's the culprit: ambroscenene, ou something similar. I think it was me that left that comment on BdJ, then Six', the author of the French blog Ambre Gris, said she got that sensation too, but enjoyed it.
    Ok, so you're definitely hyperosmic to me just as I am: I can't wear any of those scents, though the Ninfeo doesn't produce that effect quite as strongly...

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  23. Robin, Vent Vert may have become a "poncif" by now on blogs (a cliché), mentioned so many times in spring top 10s that we feel it's not worth bringing up yet again... That's why I put it up there with Diorissimo and N°19 rather than in the actual selection.
    That, and I'm practically no longer wearing mine since there's so little left of my pre-reform version...

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  24. Cyndi, sadly, the recent Diorissimo, though it's nice, comes nowhere near the original. It is especially damaged in the drydown.

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  25. March, the thing to wear greens easily for me is to have quite a bit of flower tossed in. Green spices like cardamom will do it to. Hope you enjoy the Amaranthine! Hint: wear it on the back of your neck, you'll get the most divine whiffs, especially if it's kind of warm.

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