Summer heat comes in two flavors: dry or muggy. As I leave the cooling off to low-tech implements -- mineral water sprays, a wet nightie and a Spanish fan – rather than to my fragrances, and would rather have citrus fruit in my mouth than on my skin, my olfactory philosophy is to roll with the punches. I enjoy the odd things the heat does to fragrance development: the accelerated development of certain notes, the weird stretched-out decomposition of others… Summer is the time when I love to break out big, lush, tropical florals: they come from someplace hot, and that’s why they love my skin best when the heat is on.
Manoumalia was already on last summer’s list and is still in intense rotation. Sandrine Videault’s sole scent for LesNez underwent quite a bashing recently on the Perfume Posse, and probably deserved every epithet swung at it: this is the offspring of Bandit and Fracas gone native, with a creamy tuberose-frangipani-gardenia accord ripe with mushroom and gasoline notes, a bitter, almost leathery vetiver base and a buttery trail of sandalwood… And it truly does carry a trail of damp, red-in-tooth-and-claw tropical nature that could send you off muttering “the horror, the horror”. But I’m coming out of that jungle with a tan and a smile.
For a more civilized, ladylike version of that tropical lushness, I turn to Annick Goutal’s Songes. The body products are stellar – they’ll leave enough scent on the skin to forego the eau de parfum if it’s a little too thick for the heat. In fact, just applying the lotion on the lower legs will compete with the scents of a whole flower shop (true story). Lather with the shower gel, don’t dry yourself, and play the odalisque on the bed: you won’t complain the heat’s keeping you awake (ditto).
With its whirlwind top notes – a very green vanilla veering on unripe banana in a burning flash of rum and balsams -- Vamp à NY for Honoré des Prés gives off a much more easy-going tuberose-tropical vibe, and displays a totally different, playful and sexy facet of Olivia Giacobetti’s range. It’s turned into one of my most reached-for fragrances this summer. In fact, the back-up for my rapidly-dwindling first bottle is already waiting in the refrigerator. The next best thing to keeping your panties in the icebox, like Marilyn Monroe in The Seven-year Itch.
Jean-Michel Duriez’ Sira des Indes – the last feminine launch for the once-splendid house of Jean Patou, which current owners Procter & Gamble seem to have sent into cryogenic sleep – was a bit of a flop, because it was sold as a high-end, sophisticated successor to Joy when all it wanted to be was joyful. This cheerful banana milkshake shot with indolic jasmine, honeyed champaca, ylang-ylang and a trace of bitter cardamom on a vanilla-amber-sandalwood base is a classic oriental gone Bollywood by way of fruity florals. And it never fails to put a big grin on my face.
I’ve cautiously begun to explore aquatic notes, which the four following scents use in decidedly non-Febreze fashion – in fact, I’m almost loath to pinpoint that note in them since I well know the mass rejection aquatic notes trigger in perfume-loving circles. But what’s interesting here is the sense of moisture they induce. For instance, L’Artisan’s Fleur de Liane, which I’ve recently discovered, plays on a similar “jungle caught in the cycle of decay and rebirth” vibe than Manoumalia, but in a roomier, wetter way, conveying the sensation of flowers, leaves, roots and earth drenched in tropical rain.
In Gas Bijoux’s Ensoleille-moi (another one that made it over from last years’ list) Mathilde Laurent has played on this notion of moisture in a very different way: the scent is still tropical, but it’s back on the beach. Cooled off by a dose of calone so gigantic it literally disappears, the moist, buttery quality of tropical blossoms is boosted by a woody-ambery material called Aldambre that somehow exacerbates while giving them incredible throw.
There is just the barest trace of a watery sap effect in Olivia Giacobetti’s newly re-edited L’Eau Baptiste for Iunx (which is, as most of you know by now, only available at the boutique of the Hotel Costes in Paris). The tenderest wisp of orange blossom straddles the flower’s green and honeyed facets, with a milky wheat note. This is almost cologne, sans tangy citrus, executed in Giacobetti’s most ethereal manner. Like all the Iunx, there is an almost mystical quality to this “baptismal water”: invisible, ideally meditative worlds you dream of inhabiting. So spray, and close your eyes…
Again, there is something cool and watery about Céline Ellena’s de Baschmakov for The Different Company (soon sold on the TDC site). Purportedly a tribute to TDC art director Thierry de Baschmakoff’s Russian background, the scent has the 100-proof alcohol limpidity of another Céline Ellena jewel, Sel de Vétiver, and the thirst-quenching quality of a secret potion, with shiso lending a citrus-herbal quality to the cool nutmeg and coriander blend and a soft, chalky, musky-woody drydown…
Most of my summers in the past years have been at least partly spent in the South of France rather than in the Tropics, and though these days I don’t tend to gravitate towards intensely aromatic blends of lavender, rosemary, myrtle and cistus inspired by the maquis, I do have one summer staple that’s decidedly Mediterranean: Annick Goutal’s L’Eau du Sud. I’m not much of a citrus girl, so I’m pegging this as a hesperidic chypre descended from Eau Sauvage. After a juicy lime-grapefruit-mandarin burst laced with a handful of basil – basil being a facet of the essence of mandarin – peppermint and verbena, the scent is warmed by cinnamon and the odd, honey-tobacco helichrysum on a mossy base, which gives Eau du Sud the tiniest tinge of funk, smoke and salt.
Go further along the spice road, and you’ll hit that zone when ylang-ylang and carnation meet, and where clove burns up the floral notes, blasts away the powder, and bakes the skin. Guerlain Terracotta Voile d’Été’s dryness conjures late-afternoon sun-baked streets and walls from the French Midi to the Spanish Sierra, a tough-yet-transparent heat mirage…
And of course, several samples of fall releases are vying for my attention. Stay tuned for reviews of Serge Lutens Boxeuses as well as more in-depth reviews of the three new Heures de Parfum by Cartier. Among other things.
Meanwhile, for more summer top tens…
And the winner of WaftbyCarol’s Mystery 6T from the Webber Collection is Karen P., for her sleuthing on Mr. Webber and the Stepan Company! Karen, write to Carol so she can ship the fragrance to you: kafa at aug dot com