vendredi 5 avril 2013

My Top 10 perfume picks for spring

I am writing this from Montreal, where it is still minus 15°C, though the Canada geese have started flying back from the south, and I did see a few shoots popping out from the thawing soil… Not quite spring despite the calendar, but I’ve been breaking out sunlit citruses, greens and tender florals that smell of sap and moistness and petals, and repeating my mantra: “You must believe in spring”…

Here’s what I packed for my North American book tour... which Charlotte, my parents's perfumista cat, tried to break into and get high on during the Easter holiday. When I attempted to get it back, I got very seriously batted on the hand with a great big snowshoe paw!

With its grapefruity, green and magnolia/ gardenia notes, Jour d’Hermès has got enough asperities to keep it interesting, while remaining allusive enough not to grab you by the nose demanding attention. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone seeking out a quietly joyful, go-to fragrance. It just makes me smile. Still my favorite mainstream launch of the past months.

The Magnolia in Acqua di Parma’s new Acque Nobile collection (not to be confused with Magnolia Nobile) has much the same effect: it is a clean, fresh, slightly soapy floral with radiant citrus top notes and just enough petal creaminess to give it heft.

A journalist who interviewed me in Toronto mentioned the following paradox: although mainstream brands mostly go for sexiness in their ads, many people mention childhood reminiscences as reasons for being drawn to their fragrances. For the French, that would be neroli, commonly used in baby-care products.

Annick Goutal’s new Neroli eau de Cologne, set to replace the beloved eau de toilette – I know, I hate it too when they do that – is predictably brighter and more, well, cologne-like. The cuddle factor is boosted with almond-y heliotrope and musk.

This tribute to the scents of early childhood is also what guided the variation on the eau de Cologne template composed by Juliette Karagueuzoglou, who recently gave birth to her second daughter, for the Parisian 2012 of IFF Speed-Smelling. But there’s more to this untitled cologne than meets the nose. As it evolves, the galbanum-laced orange blossom gives way to the irresistible dulce de leche smell given off by breast-fed infants, underlined with slight animalic notes (mommy!) as well as a touch of incense to evoke the gifts of the three Wise Men…

Though the composition will not be commercialized, it will be available in a limited edition of 250 coffrets along with the ten other freestyle creations of IFF’s Paris-based perfumers at Quintessence sometime in April… For perfume lovers, this is really one of the events of the year, since up to then only editors and industry players had access to the scents. I’ll soon be reviewing the other half of the batch: here's a link to the first series of reviews.

Moving towards another zone of the olfactory map via the green/citrus exchanger… With its grapefruity brightness, flintiness and smoky rootiness, vetiver suits a season where rays of sun alternate with whiffs of wood fires and of thawing earth…

 Annick Goutal’s new Vétiver eau de Cologne is less salty-marine than the original, more citrusy in the overture, and the addition of iris – a natural partner for vetiver – gives it a more powdery, non-gendered (i.e. less overtly masculine) feel. It’s got sillage, long-lastingness and character, and though many will regret the original Goutal Vétiver it replaces, it is a very, very good scent in its own right.

Olfactive Studio’s fourth offering, Flashback, splices vetiver’s grapefruit top note with the green, acid raspiness of rhubarb to evoke one of Olivier Cresp’s favorite olfactory memories of childhood: rhubarb pie. A Granny Smith note adds to the mouth-watering tart juiciness. The effect is an extremely luminous, cheerful vetiver vibe.

Moving on to the galbanum-hyacinth zone of the spring spectrum: Tom Ford Private Blends Ombre de Hyacinth gave me hives when I first heard of it because of the unjustifiable way its name mashes up French and English. But when I smelled it blind, I was struck by its old-school style – it feels like a photoshopped N°19, with colors so vivid they border on the unnatural, and an added cucumber-and-earth violet leaf greenness on top.

In a completely different register, I’m still hooked on Serge Lutens’s dark animalic rose La Fille de Berlin. Somehow, the image that comes to me when I think of this scent is that of an uncut ruby, or perhaps rock candy: solid, translucent and tempting to the tongue…

And just to remind myself that despite the sub-zero temperatures and flurries in Montreal, somewhere the sun is shining, I light the new Merida candle, a joint endeavor of Arquiste and Cire Trudon. With its creamy, ripe guava note, it’s all I can do not to lick the wax.

Lastly, just as a teaser: one of my favorite scents this spring has got to be the upcoming eau de parfum by Aedes de Venustas, the second chapter in what has been conceived as a full-fledged brand, featuring a very impressive line-up of perfumers. Karl and Robert let me have a sneak preview sniff of when they hosted my Perfume Lover soirée in their boutique… and it’s majestic. I’ll review it as soon as it’s been presented to the press.

For more seasonal picks, click yourself over to Bois de Jasmin, Now Smell This, The Perfume Posse and Perfume-smellin' Things.

I will be in the plane between Montreal and New York when this is posted, then running around the city for some last appointements, so apologies in advance if I don't respond to comments as quickly as usual. I'll be back in Paris on April 7th and hope to be resuming a more normal posting pace ASAP!


8 commentaires:

  1. I wouldn't tangle with Charlotte: she looks very determined to keep all of her perfume treasures.

    The light levels tell me it is Spring but the low temperatures dispute that with Charlotte-like vigour.

    Good luck with your travels,

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

  2. Charlotte is so beautiful! Looking forward to hearing about the new Aedes scent. The first one didn't work on me at all(too much cumin/BO)..... Hopefully the next one will be better

  3. Anna, that is a wise decision: whenever I attempt to snatch my things away from her, Charlotte reminds me that they are now hers hers hers by trying her best to amputate my arm. This picture was taken after she'd been rolling around in bliss over my ziplocked samples.

  4. Tara, I think you'll like this second one -- funny though, I never got cumin from the first, but it's really the type of note that plays out differently on everyone, isn't it?

  5. Delicious, especially the ruby tongued Fille. I still haven't smelled that one.

    But didn't you find with the Hyacinth that the initial promise of the amazingly real florals in the head notes was let down by that perfunctory, nothingy modern musks of the base?

  6. Black Narcissus, I must admit I didn't follow the drydown until the end in the Hyacinth in that blind-testing exercise... the outcome of which will be announced on the 11th!

  7. "Photoshopped No 19"! Can't wait to try that.

    And Charlotte could be the sister of my boy, Symba, who looks just like her and also steals my perfume and rolls bottles onto the floor.

  8. Jillie, since Charlotte is a rescue cat, perhaps she and Symba were separated at birth! Of all the cats I know, she is definitely the most interested in perfume. I can't leave a blotter lying about in my parents' flat: she chews them up. Every tried tested a fragrance soaked in feline saliva?