jeudi 23 avril 2009

My Top Ten Spring Fragrances 2009

This spring, my sense of smell has been swinging from obliterated (hay fever) to madly receptive, as though my entire body were a resonance room for scented molecules, connected to a brain clearly looking for olfactory mating. I’ve fallen in love with the most oddly diverse fragrances, from the fiercely smoky (Patchouli 24, Turtle Vetiver) to the sensuously majestic (Bois de Violette, Féminité du Bois) and the tenderly elegant (L’Heure Exquise, Eau Première), which makes me feel utterly like Mozart’s young Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro:

…And I find myself talking of love

From a need I can't explain.

I talk of love when waking

I talk of love when dreaming,

To the water, to the shadows, to the mountains,

To the flowers, to the grass, to the fountains,

To the echoes, to the air, to the winds…

My tastes have been all over the map, and it’s been hard settling on particularly spring-like smells. I’ve counted out classics like Diorissimo, Vent Vert and N°19: the two first are good as dead in their current form and the third is such an obvious choice for the season that it seems to go without saying. Which leaves us with quite enough to play with…

A Clump of Violets in the Twilit Woods... Serge Lutens Bois de Violette

Oh, where have you been all my life? Amethyst shards inlaid in precious woods… I’ve always shied away from the mawkish mauve charms of Victorian violet posies, the shy wood flowers of spring, but the way the metallic-powdery-woody ionones light up the oily, resinous density of the cedar is nothing short of genius.

Black Wet Earth under the Melting Snow... Histoires de Parfums Noir Patchouli

The one thing I miss about Canada is the smell of earth as it emerges from its snowy coat… A trainee at Histoires de Parfums’ press office, who reads this blog, kindly sent me a full set of samples of this line, which I’d somehow obstinately overlooked. I haven’t made it further than Sylvie Jourdet’s Noir Patchouli yet but this dark, chypre-woody blend has converted me. This veers as far from headshop patchoulis as can be conceived, with just a hint of leather, wet earth and mossy roots (vetiver, a smidge of tree moss), freshened up with a whiff of clove, sweetened with musk and vanilla. Somehow it manages to feel rather transparent.

Primal Green Therapy... Les Nez Turtle Vetiver

Isabelle Doyen’s rough-and-tumble take on vetiver manages to start out smelling practically of nothing but pure vetiver oil – with its borderline nasty camphoraceous blast – before veering unexpectedly into the mineral and salty, then taking a sharp turn into citrus (grapefruit and lemon) and sneakily subsiding into a floral blend of what seems to be jasmine and rose… Surprising, gutsy and totally compelling.

Sap explosion in a Field of Flowers... Parfums de Nicolaï Le Temps d’une Fête

During my honeymoon by Lake Como in Italy, we stumbled on a field embroidered with thousands of wildflowers, like a medieval tapestry under the misty sky of May… Le Temps d’une Fête has the feel of that magical glade. Hyacinth is a natural partner to galbanum (the accord is also found in Vent Vert and Chanel Bel Respiro, which would have made the list if it weren’t so damnably fleeting on my skin), but then narcissus, with its animalic whiff of tobacco and horse, joins the party and things really start rolling on a earthy bed of oakmoss, sandalwood and patchouli. This has a classic chypre feel: how could I not love it? It’s one of those fragrances you might want to stock up on too before it’s spayed by IFRA.

Mimosas in a Puddle after a Spring Shower... Frédéric Malle Une Fleur de Cassie

Mimosa is another early bloomer in the South of France, and Une Fleur de Cassie, with its rounded anisic tones, the metallic coolness of violet and iris and the animal slash of cumin, conveys the exact feel of a blustery day in March, when the clouds blow over and a sprinkling of golden pompons scattered in muddy puddles light up like tiny novas in the sun. I consider this to be one of the best fragrances composed in the past ten years.

Blades of Grass and Irises in a Cloud of Powder... Annick Goutal L’Heure Exquise

Another late discovery. Chanel N°19’s more amiable, approachable sister has the touch of green galbanum that spells leaf buds bursting open, cooled off by a hieratic iris wrapped in rose, but the true delight of this is the powdery Mousse de Saxe base with its licorice-like smidge of isobutyl-quinolin and marron glacé flavor. Utterly lovely for the odd day when I’m feeling ladylike.

The Rococo Light of Dawn in a Freshly Washed Sky... Chanel N°5 Eau Première

In the Chanel-for-spring stakes, I’ve been dithering between N°19, Beige (for the big huge unlisted muguet note nestled in the honeyed hawthorn) and Eau Première, so let’s say the new variation on N°5 won out because it seems to be disappearing the quickest in my collection. I love the dawny, rosy, rococo light infused to the – unwearable for me – classic: this is a Galatea of a scent, a perfect statue come to life.

The Lilies of Easter... Hermessence Vanille Galante

By now, we all know that Jean-Claude Ellena’s take on vanilla is actually a lily, but even though I’m still deeply in love with an earlier vanilla/lily pairing, Serge Lutens’ Un Lys, this light-as-air confection blew my stockings off. A spicy, clove-y, smoky shimmer barely dusted with vanilla-infused sugar than seems to expand into green infinity… Very impressive.

The Orange Blossoms of Seville in the Semana Santa...Vero Profumo Rubj

Orange blossoms have an intensely emotional connotation for me: the first time I smelled in its natural state was on Easter Sunday in Seville. The trees just exploded overnight, and their heady, indolic scent mingled with the incense of religious processions, the rosemary colognes and sandalwood hair gels of the Sevillanos, the big Havana cigars lit up for the season’s first bullfight: it was one of the most intense olfactory experiences of my entire life.

My friend Vero Kern’s Rubj (pronounced “ruby”) manages to turn the sweetish and sometimes acid smell of orange blossom essence into an intoxicating brew of indolic white florals by adding two divas, jasmine and tuberose on a bed of deliciously dirty musk, just barely lightened up with a touch of raspberry. It conveys the lazy Oriental sensuousness of the Jardines de Maria Luisa on a hot spring afternoon.

The Panic Rut of Spring-time... Robert Piguet Bandit

I kind of feel like I’m cheating on this one, because since I’ve discovered the vintage extrait, I can’t take Germaine Cellier’s groundbreaking and unsurpassable classic in any other form. This is one of those fragrances that will compel me to break out in a string of expletives every time I smell it, it’s that good. The old-style nitromusks make the notes jump out in 3-D, and that dirty green vetiver-oakmoss-artemesia wrapping with its aromatic notes hides the most mind-shatteringly gorgeous jasmine heart smeared in leathery castoreum. The current version is as good as they could make it with modern materials and restrictions, but the vintage experience is nothing short of mystical.

For more Spring Top Tens, click on the links: Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, The Perfume Posse, Perfume-smellin’ Things. Thank you ladies for inviting me in your magic circle: it is a pleasure and an honor!

Image: Susan Jamison, Curious Bloom

39 commentaires:

  1. Hello, Denyse. Looks like I stumbled on this literally as you were posting it.

    What a fantastic list of spring time fragrances you have. Lots to think about here, but I think what I am enjoying about your list is that each of them has a unique twist -- something that takes them from the realm of the merely good-smelling into the realm of olfactive art.

    It's not that I need my fragrances to be weird for the sake of weird, or to speak their part loudly or forcefully, but I do like them to have a point of view.

  2. carmencanada, I love Feminite du Bois and Bois de Violette all year round actually. I'm glad Les Nez are doing without those ludicrous IFRA regulations (never tried any of these scents yet, however not too excited about another niche patchouli and even less a vetiver scent). Not exicted either about Hermes Vanille Galante, the notes are beautiful but you need to stick your nose up your wrists if you want to smell something after 20 minutes! The transparent epheremal thing doesn't quench my thirst for decent perfume sillage that lasts all day.
    I'm surprised you're still wearing No.5 EP, I returned mine at Sephora two weeks later! LOL

    My spring favorites are both predictable and surprising: at the moment I'm wearing Nuit de Cellophane, Feminite du Bois, Bois de Violette but also Mitsouko and Angel vintage extraits de parfum. I was shocked to smell the present version of Angel edp the other day at Macy's. The topnotes are harsher than before and the perfume is less complex and feminine than before. Even more shoking, the day after the lingering scent it left on my shirt was so masculine I thought it was A*Men!

  3. Jarvis, well, I do live in a different time zone and this is early morning for me!
    I agree about fragrances needing a point of view. A "parti-pris". Not necessarily weirdness, but a voice of their own.

  4. Si j'avais, FdB and BdV are all-round masterpieces and I'll be wearing them constantly too!
    I still do love Eau Première, because it's my "no-brainer" fragrance -- when I don't know what to wear, this does perfectly.
    I was never an Angel lover so I couldn't judge.
    As for vintage Mitsouko, that's another one that makes me break out into a string of "gros mots", it's such a shock... Unfortunately, I can no longer access eBay perfume sales anywhere in the world thanks to the LVMH ban on eBay France, so my collecting days are basically over. No more vintage for me.

  5. Hi, D. Well, you're in a different time zone, and on top of that, I apparently keep very strange hours...

    I think Chanel's Eau de Cologne has become my "no brainer" fragrance. I find it beautifully proportioned and legible, like a perfectly cut suit with clean, classic lines. On my skin, it is surprisingly tenacious, and what perists is my favourite part: a ravishingly beautiful yet quiet and subtle accord of indolic jasmine and smoky vetiver.

  6. Jarvis, the Chanel edc is a gem, but that'll go in the summer top ten!
    Jean-Claude Ellena says it's one of the Colognes he loves (along with Dior Eau Fraîche by Edmond Roudnitska) in that L'Express itw I linked to on the Hermès EdC post.

  7. D: Can I confess? I saw that L'Express article, and after reading JCE's recommendations, immediately snatched up a bottle of Dior Eau Fraîche on ebay, as I've never smelled it.

    Oh, I am so suggestible...

  8. What a beautiful stunning picture - Susan Jamison, must enquire! I love this “spring scents” post, and I truly love most of your picks. Oddly enough this spring I started craving for big white flowers, something I usually tended to avoid (I’m usually focused on woods, incense, and alike). My spring choices this year: OJ’s Frangipani absolute, Montale’s Intense Tiaré (so not “me” but instant love), Fracas, Isabey Gardenia… and, though not “white flower”, OJ’s Champaca.
    These days I’m craving for a woody-incense-y tuberose, but it seems something impossible to find…
    (I am planning to explore Carnal Flower soon)

  9. Thank you for your great review on our NOIR PATCHOULI. I am very pleased you like it. If you want to learn more about our patchouli, you can read my review about this plant and our perfume:
    I thank you on my blog today too!

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  11. Hey, great list, we share 4/10: BdV, VG, LTd'uF and Rubj!

    My Rubj sample has been drained, I have been holding back but that cute little bottle will be mine soon. I am sure it will be worth every penny.

    I currently wear a lot of El-Attarine, Aqaba Spring, Yuzu Fou, Rose de Siwa, Rose 31, Eau du Lude, Oud Queen Rose and my husband's Escentric Molecules.

  12. Your list makes me say, hurrah for spring! Love the balance of the ethereal and the carnal...

  13. P.S. I've started scrolling down to get the credits for your images before reading your posts. Love this one especially for your Eau Premiere review.

  14. Great list, Denyse. Now I need to go spray a few of these because some I keep forgetting about.

  15. I'm just going to be cranky all day because I'm not in Paris sniffing with you... Maybe in the fall, knock wood.

  16. What a lovely list! I really need a bottle of Exquise, I always forget how lovely it is until I put it on. And from your description I obviously need to put some attention toward the PdN. They're so hard to find here I end up smelling 15 or 20 at once and that's hardly the best way to do it.

  17. Jarvis: Eau Fraîche is actually directly inspired by Coty Chypre. Let me know what you think when you get it.

  18. Zazie, I'm all about big white flowers, but I thought I'd keep them for the summer top ten... Do try Les Nez Manoumalia, my latest love in the tropicals...

  19. Lucie, thanks for the samples and for the link! I'll be reviewing more of the Histoires de Parfums as I go a long. There's quite a number of them to take in at one go!

  20. Alyssa, I'm more carnal I think than ethereal, but I did try to create a balance in styles and houses...

  21. Alyssa, then I must be serious about writing down the credits. Finding the pictures takes at least as much time as writing the posts!

  22. Patty, happy to inspire a few rediscoveries... God knows there's enough to play with!

  23. Amy, yes, come to Paris, please! (about accommodation, I know someone... email me).

  24. March, I love both L'Heure exquise and Le Temps d'une Fête (Odalisque is anothe PdN favorite. I've just noticed that 6 out of 10 fragrances were composed by women... Not sure what that means but I'm kind of glad!

  25. Hi, D. Re: Chanel EdC and summer, I was fully expecting this to be a summer fragrance for me too, but I'm finding the jasmine/vetiver to be very spring-like.

    Now I am also adding Sisley's Eau de Campagne to my spring list (another one that is potentially more summery).

    And, for another non sequitur, how do you feel about PdN's Odalisque?

  26. Denyse, your list is wonderful! I am reading through, and I can see why someone I talked about was enchanted by your writing (it is ok for me to make this hint, the person only reads you in French.) :)

    I really feel that you and I are on the same wave length here, I wrote about Vanille Galante thinking of my lovely lily, which is blooming now. Your description is perfect! Did you already write a review? Did I miss it?


  27. Sometimes, I read your lovely and evocative reviews and think, "Oh my god, I must get some now," and then I pause to think, "Oh, I already have some." You're very good at enabling; I want things I already know/own!

  28. I love your choices, D, and more so the style in which you deliver them, it's a poetry to savor! :) As for the scents themselves, I am seriously thinking of getting MYSELF a bottle of Eau Premiere, it's that wonderful. Some of the others I've yet to try, but it's a long year ahead and there's no rush.
    Thanks for sharing the stunning imagery of Susan Jamison xoxo

  29. Jarvis, Odalisque is my other PdN full bottle, it's a lovely gardenia with a chypre-ish base.

  30. Victoria, thank you (and tell that certain someone... well, what I told you).
    I did review Vanille Galante before its launch: click on the name in the subtitle and it'll take you to it.
    I'm waiting to go smell Nicole Bosschung's lilies, we're supposed to study the different cultivars soon!

  31. Dain, that really is a compliment! Which ones do you have?

  32. Dusan, I really don't see why Eau Première wouldn't suit a man...
    I'd been saving the Susan Jamison for a special occasion, and this was perfect.

  33. Lovely list Denyse! I completely agree that Une Fleur de Cassie is one of the best perfumes composed recently. Unbelievably gorgeous!

    Heure Exquise is another timeless beauty!

    There are some on your list I haven't tried, but I will try to remedy that soon.

  34. D, oops, sorry I missed the link (my blackberry does not show all of them within the text.) I will find it from the archives.

    Also, last weekend I discovered a forest right behind my house which was filled with violets! I felt as if I ended up in a fairy tale land. :)

  35. Divinemama, thanks, I'm glad to inspire new discoveries!

  36. Victoria, a forest of violets? That's magical indeed... I've been sniffing at the wisteria like crazy. Now there's a challenge for perfumers: I don't think it's ever correctly been captured, though Octavian swears there's a hint of it in Vanille Galante.

  37. Oh my, I am in AWE of your list!

    That vintage Bandit in the Extrait; I can almost taste it from your words...gorgeous!

  38. Flora, the vintage Bandit is beyond words (now I've just shot myself in the foot: God knows what prices it'll fetch on fleabay).