jeudi 9 juillet 2009

My Top Ten Perfumes for Summer 2009


There are really two schools of scenting in the heat: beat it with cool stuff, or fight fire with fire and bring on the heavy hitters.

I am decidedly a member of the second school. Perfumes blossom on moist flesh: as they rise in the heat, they display more facets than at any other time of the year… Practically anything, bar the caramel-dipped gourmands – which I never wear in any season – is fair game for skin time in July. I’ve even been rediscovering Poison, of all things unholy… Which made it hard to keep this list down to ten. Here are the ones I’ve been spraying my hair and décolleté with most often, so far.


Manoumalia by Sandrine Videault for LesNez: Tropicals are a natural in summertime and this triple hit of moist, creamy, frangipani blossom and milky sandalwood, whose hint of sweat segues beautifully with dirty, earthy vetiver, is as good as it gets short of booking a flight to Polynesia. Lush and rough as the jungle.


Amoureuse by Michel Roudnitska for Parfums DelRae: This one’s tuberose-on-ginger lily action is just about as close to indecent as you can get this side of Muscs Koublaï Khan. Mandarin aldehydes brighten the deep, man-trap thrum of the sandalwood and honey base. Love at first lust.


Ensoleille-moi by Mathilde Laurent for André Gas: I discovered this one while writing a short book on Gas Bijoux for the 40th anniversary of the French costume jewelry house. André Gas’s story, from the Paris Beaux-arts school taken over by students and workers during the eventful month of May 68 to the glamorous beaches of St-Tropez where he started hawking his ethnic-inspired lucky charms, is enthralling. The Gas family was lucky enough to nab Mathilde Laurent in between her stint at Guerlain and her nomination as Cartier’s in-house perfumer. They have pretty good olfactory taste to start with: André favors Kiehl’s Original Musk while his daughter Marie wears Fracas

Ensoleille-moi, which, loosely translated, means something like “Sun me up”, is a deceptively simple blend of bergamot, ylang-ylang, Polynesian tiaré blossom, coconut lactones and amyl salicylates. The latter ingredient, formerly used in French sunscreens, is the very smell of Riviera beaches: monoï. But as sunscreens smells go, this is the most lavish on the market, with a lash of 10,000 euro-a-kilo tiaré absolute and Guerlain-quality ylang: the Ensoleille-moi concentrate costs twenty times that of most mass-market fragrance, for the mainstream price of 68 euros a 100 ml bottle. A summer in St-Tropez and Mathilde Laurent’s talent are thrown in.


Santal de Mysore by Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake for Serge Lutens: One searing August day as I was walking under the arcades of the Galerie de Valois, coming out of the Salons du Palais-Royal, I caught an unmistakable whiff of Santal de Mysore. The milky smell of sandalwood, smeared with Lutens’ trademark sweaty cumin and caramelized benzoin, takes on an almost buttery quality that melts on hot skin. If you can’t fight the heat, join it.


L’Éther by Olivia Giacobetti for IUNX: In theory, Giacobetti’s ethereal scent environments are so far from my too, too solid flesh that I shocked my friend O. by getting a bottle – but the prickly saffron-rose-myrrh vibration, underlain with incense and de-materialized sandalwood, grew on me every time I walked into IUNX’s sole point of sale, the boutique of the hotel Costes. An abstract, luminescent out-of-body experience.


Eau de Cologne by Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake for Chanel: I’m no great fan of citrus on my skin, and my summer vitamin needs are entirely met by this perfect version of the secular Eau de Cologne. A pared-down Cristalle, sexed up with green-sweet-indolic neroli, anchored to skin with a lash of musk. It doesn’t last much, but, hey, newsflash: cologne isn’t meant to. I would drown in this gladly.


Le Parfum de Thérèse by Edmond Roudnitska for Frédéric Malle Éditions de Parfums: Edmond Roudnitska’s composition for his wife Thérèse almost came out several times – it was slated to be Fidji by Guy Laroche in 1966 when the couturier unexplainably changed his mind, then was on the verge of becoming a Dior release. We can thank the gods of Grasse that Frédéric Malle was the one to convince Thérèse and her son Michel to release the formula. Otherwise, the scent would’ve probably gone the way of the other classics, whereas with Malle’s commitment to quality, it shimmers from the tangy mandarin top notes to its lush jasmine heart. If you’re going to do fruity florals, do it the Roudnitska way. Pure joy.


Musc Nomade by Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal for Annick Goutal: Isabelle and Camille’s fourth entry in the Orientalistes series strikes just the right balance between clean and dirty musk in translucent, overlapping strokes. The tangy, crystalline quality of ambrette is what makes this light enough for summer wear; muscone lends a salty, feline note to the blend. Easy to wear and easy to love.


Beyond Love by Calice Becker for By Kilian: I could’ve named Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower or Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle just as easily, because my holy tuberose trilogy is a staple for summer nights. There’s something narcotic about the minty greenness, lactonic coconut and rubbery undertones of tuberose. Calice Becker’s rendition is probably the closest thing to being next to a stem of them at dusk.


Vol de Nuit by Jacques Guerlain for Guerlain: It may seem counter-intuitive to dab on a vanilla and tonka-rich extrait in a heat wave, but when the temperature rises above 30°C (86°F), Vol de Nuit sheds its retro trappings and stretches its resinous galbanum emerald flash on its golden jonquil heart for hours. There’s so much going on in the meantime – including a leather undercurrent – that you’ll just have to go and experience it yourselves. By all means do so: Vol de Nuit seems to be one of the poorer sellers of the classic Guerlain line-up, and it needs all the love it can get.



For more Summer Top Tens, click on these links:

Bois de Jasmin

Now Smell This

Perfume Posse

Perfume-smellin' Things


Image: Bar du Soleil, by Henry Clarke (1961)

47 commentaires:

  1. First of all thank you so much for the parcel. You made my day!
    Yesterday I discovered L'Artisan at a local small shop. That made my day, too, my lucky day. I was on my way to purchase Chamade. Which I will. But meanwhile I fell in love with Poive Piquant which against everything is wonderful for summer. Though not very good lasting.
    While checking different L'Artisan I had the wonderful service of an enthusiastic lady. She let me try then she gave some advices. While talking about perfumes she talked about their qualities: sweet, woody, airy, citrusy etc which I realized I don't really listen and I don't care for. Later coming to think of it I thought that may be it's my problem, that I would care more for other kind of descriptions which would involve personal aspects and feelings. I would like to hear things like: it makes me feel romantic, I feel confident when wear it, it's good for rainy days etc.
    I would be so curious to find out how people gather their information and how they talk about perfumes (you can see anyway so different approaches on different blogs). Of course, I don't talk here about the pure science information which an expert in perfumes needs and communicate. It's about how we talk about what we like and we don't, what we keep from what we try. Probably it has to do with temperaments. For those who can reflect on what kind of talks and information about perfumes they need and like I would suggest to take the classic now and very accurate test of Keirsey http://www.keirsey.com/sorter/register.aspx where they can find out what temperament they are. Then see what is the relation with their needs when it comes to discovering new perfumes.
    If it makes any sense what I say here. Anyway for me its clear that I don't care too much about the ingredients as about the whole.

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  2. Only 30? Pah! That's practically autumnal!

    I'm with you -- embrace the heat and let the big perfumes roar. If I'm going to sweat this much, I want some good to come out of it.

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  3. Maria, I'm glad the parcel made it so quickly. And I very much liked Poivre Piquant as well, though the one that really caught my heart (and would've made it in this list if I hadn't put in the somewhat similar l'Ether, is Safran Troublant).
    As for connection fragrances with emotional "functions", it's something I've been giving a lot of thought to, and I'm glad you've brought it up because it confirms my line of thinking. But I can't say more for the moment.
    I do care very much for ingredients but I'm aware that they're not necessarily the first time you want to hear about when you buy a fragrance...
    Thanks for the link, I'll do the test!

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  4. Amy: exactly. These days it's really unseasonably cool here in Paris and I keep hoping the thermometer will climb to get my bang for a buck, perfume-wise!

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  5. Just waving my hand in the air as another Vol de Nuit fan. Is that the extrait you're wearing in the heat, D? I'm trying to imagine it, but I get to the tonka and I am defeated. I can totally imagine the EDT, though. Less dense.

    Do believe you about the galbanum and leather, though!

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  6. I'm mostly of the "beat it with cool stuff" school -- perhaps because usually summers here are so overwhelmingly humid? -- so was shocked to see Parfum de Therese, but Victoria has it on her list too so obviously you guys are of the same school!

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  7. Alyssa, I swear it works really well. And I have a witness, over on the French side of the comments: he was with me!

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  8. Robin, to me Le Parfum de Thérèse *is* the cool stuff... Or at least as close as I usually get to it!

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  9. I adore how Amoureuse wears in hot weather. Those kinds of creamy, lush scents tend to blossom in the heat, I find :-)

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  10. Marina, I am a firm believer in that! I've even been testing Velvet Gardenia... it works.

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  11. All right then, you're on! I'll test it out tomorrow and let you know how it holds up in the triple-digits. And I'll get my sample of Amoureuse out while I'm at it, what the heck.

    If I disappear from the blogosphere please know that I have fallen into a heat-induced perfume trance. I'll be back when it cools off sometime in October...

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  12. Alyssa, don't try both at once or I'll have to sic IFRA on you! ;-)

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  13. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par son auteur.

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  14. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par son auteur.

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  15. Well, alls I can say is gaaauugghhhh. I love this list. I do not have L'Ether but Homage Attar fills that void nicely, nor do I own Beyond Love, but TC and CF are always at the top of my summer list, as is Amoureuse, which I wore the other night to do the twist at a concert by the Chubster himself at Midsummer Night's Swing under the stars in Damrosch Park next to Lincoln Center. It worked amazingly well!

    Vintage Shalimar and now the beautiful Habit Rouge extrait are both on my list, as well (actually, the HA has moved up to the top spot) -- I will have to break out the Vol de Nuit and add it to the summer Guerlains.

    Le Parfum de Therese is a brilliant choice -- on to the list it goes -- and Mamounalia is already there, but the one that has me salivating and lusting in my heart is Ensoleille-moi -- where, oh, where can I get it and how quickly do they ship?

    I've lost count but the remaining frags on my summer list are Turtle Vetiver by LesNez (thank you very much), SL's Sarrasins, PdN Le Temps d'une Fete & Odalisque, with Divine by Divine, Molyneaux Quartz and Missoni by Missoni bringing up the rear.

    But seriously, the HR parfum is rocking my summer. Thank you so much, Denyse.

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  16. Oh, no, wait -- just one more, please! Vintage Balenciaga La Fuites des Heures, a recent acquisition, is also a player. The hay opening is to die and it just gets better from there, and I simply could not survive an entire summer without at least one glorious creation by my much-beloved Germaine.

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  17. I took your advice and tried the new Killian Pure Oud in today's hot weather -- wow! I love it! The heat brought out the best in its dark and dusky qualities.

    Now I'm going to have to start digging through my collection and drag out all the bottles that I was certain I'd have to put away until Fall . . . and thanks for your list. It's a great place to start when exploring a new direction for Summer.

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  18. What an excellent list. I totally understand your more-is-more credo. I suppose I like the change in warmer weather (not that we've had warmer weather). A couple on your list I really need to try - I love the idea of "sun me up!" And always delighted to read some more love for L'Ether, the one I really like.

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  19. Beautiful list, and I agree that some of the counter intuitive scents can really bloom in the heat.

    I have some extremely bad news though regarding Vol de Nuit extrait. I recently bought myself a bottle, and it has been gutted beyond all recognition. (It has since been returned.) People have been complaining about the Mitsouko reformulation, but compared to this, it was brilliantly done! With Vol de Nuit, nothing is left - the top is gone, the floral heart is gone and of course the mossy, woody base is gone. This new reformulation smelled vaguely like an old fashioned barber shop hair tonic. Oh, and it lasted maybe two hours on my skin! The extrait!

    Sorry for the rant. Thanks for sharing and for the lovely descriptions.

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  20. OMG carmencanada, I think I need a cigarette after reading your list - and I don't even smoke. ;-)

    Wow, you make a very strong case for the fight fire with fire school of thought, and all I know is that I MUST get my sweaty mitts on some Beyond Love - you can never have too much tuberose, after all.

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  21. Beyond Love and VdN extrait are already in heavy rotation at my house (as is vintage Chanel 22 edt--you really get all of the incense in the heat and humidity), tempting me to try everything else on this list, particularly Musc Nomad, but now I'm terrified to touch the Vol de Nuit in case it's the last bottle in captivity. Should I be wary of the new apricot gold smooth boxes, then? Anyone willing to advise?

    Thanks

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  22. Popcarts, I'd have love to do the twist with you -- I have just the Supremes-style dresses for it.
    I've never tried the Molyneux and the Missoni, but given that you seem to be my scent twin, I guess I ought to seek them out.

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  23. Ah, La Fuite des Heures/Fleeting Moment... I only have the edt, and it was very jasmine/herbal to my nose, I need to pull it out.
    Vintage Bandit is a fabulous summer night scent. All year long.

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  24. Nathan, I'm nursing my microscopic decant of Pure Oud... I'll wait until the weather's good and hot to see how it reacts. It's the type of scent worn in scorching desert climates so I'm expecting good results!

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  25. March, the one change I do make in warmer weather, within the heavy hitters, it to break out the ones with lots of salicylates (ylang, frangipani, green vanilla...). But in a general way, I think they all change in the heat, so that it's like having a whole new wardrobe.
    Summer is too short to test them all, though.

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  26. Rappleyea, that's very bad news indeed. I had some hopes that the old batch of Vol de Nuit extrait would last out for a while because it's so far from being a best-seller. The one I own goes back 3-4 years. I guess I'll need to go and have a sniff. And cry-cry-cry, 96 tears?

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  27. Flora, I am totally of the "you can never get enough tuberose" school. Though I might refresh my Tubéreuse Criminelle bottle before trying out new ones (a couple of Goutals are calling my name...).

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  28. Daseined, I only own the current N°22 and haven't tried it yet -- somehow the really aldehydic ones don't tempt me in summer.
    And, as I wrote above, I guess I'll have to go and try the new Vol de Nuit. Some perfumes should be classed as national monuments, shouldn't they? I need to have a talk with the new French Minister of Culture...

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  29. D-the Missoni is a bit of a departure from the others, but it's so much fun and so inexpensive that I really enjoy spritzing it on with abandon. You should have a look at what Luca says about it before giving it a go -- it might not be quite your cup of tea. But the Quartz is a big, beautiful thing and is dirt cheap. At about $20 a pop on amazon, you simply cannot go wrong with it!

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  30. C., what are you doing commenting at this hour? Either you're an insomniac or a really early riser! The Missoni looks interesting... I've never seen it anywhere, though.

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  31. I love your list. Amoreuse is nothing short of amazing in any weather, but especially in the heat. I've been wearing Le Parfum de Therese a lot, too, and was slightly startled to learn from your post that it had almost been released several times. So the info on the Editions de Parfums website is just marketing hype ("[it] remained a well-kept secret because Therese, Roudnitska's wife--for whom it was created--was the only person allowed to wear it")??

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  32. Carmen:
    I LOL at the 96 tears song! That was fun!

    I thought the same as you about the VdeN extrait. Surely they would still have it as not that many people wear it. So what do they do with the "older" unsold bottles? I just bought some '90's juice of this and Mitsouko from a lovely seller on eBay - Yashimi. She even gift wrapped everything!

    I agree - many of the classic French perfumes should be labeled as "national treasures" and be sacrosanct from reformulation/ruin. Even if (gulp) they cost more!

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  33. Reporting back in after an hour long walk in the heat -- and, damn it, now I need a bottle of Amoureuse when my tiny sample has done me just fine for the past two years. I've got to stop reading your blog.

    Luckily, I already have a full bottle of vintage VdN. But weeping tears right along with you and Rappeleya.

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  34. Suzanne, re: Thérèse, I got this from an unimpeachable source. The FM website is just massaging the true story a bit, since in fact, Thérèse *was* the only person to wear until the launch...

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  35. Rappleyea, I was just discussing this with Rebecca Veuillet-Gallot, the perfume writer, and she agreed that the extrait we smelled at our little "do" with Sylvaine Delacourte was perfectly all right. I'll ask if it's the one in the shops.

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  36. Alyssa, I can't say I'm sorry to be an enabler when the enabling supports a good niche house, now can I? ;-)

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  37. Well, the plot thickens. I'd be grateful for anything you can find out.

    BTW, my bottle was purchased from Bergdorf-Goodman in NYC. I forgot to mention that the color has changed from amber as in the bottle I was replacing, to a very pale yellowish-green. The new bottle had a 2008 date code. My older bottle was probably only the age of yours. Certainly not "vintage".

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  38. Oh as a passionate Vol de Nuit person, could you report back on the blog, or in the comments where all can see? I have been afraid of this. It is such a beautiful perfume, but people don't seem to "get" it...

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  39. Rappleyea--Me too, with the 96 tears, plus the Supremes dresses, and so you're the one who scored that bottle of vintage Mitsouko! I had my leetle left eyeball squarely focused on that one and poof, it was gone in a flash!

    D--The former, unfortunately. The Fuites des Hueres I have is the extrait (hello again, eBay) and it's really beautiful. The Missoni was also probably an eBay purchase, for practically nothing if memory serves.

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  40. agritty, that's what I hear in the Guerlain store... People aren't willing to make the effort of discovering Vol de Nuit. Mind you, it took me a long time to get into it myself, I was so deeply in Mitsouko's thrall...

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  41. Popcarts, that reminds me I should dig up my other vintage Balenciagas, Quadrille and Le Dix. It's been a long time since I've done vintage reviews...

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  42. I seem to seesaw back and forth between the two schools, but I never go as far as citrus, L'Homme de Coeur is as green and refreshing as I get ; ) although I have been craving grapefruit of late! For the first time tropical and heavier white florals sort of appealing to me (bless chemistry changes) and I've been dipping into Kai and Number One happily. That Gas scent sounds surprisingly lovely. Are perfumes on sale during the Soldes? I've also been craving Honey and Beeswax, so I must retry Amoureuse soon! I wish I could try the Ether, it sounds sublime! Today I'll go for the VdN extrait at 32C here, thanks for the fab suggestion!

    I'd love to read about Vintages in Summer, especially in light of the VdN problem!

    Thanks for a skin tingling post, Denyse.

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  43. Wendy, there were some sales but nothing really remarkable. For grapefruit, have you tried the new Hermès cologne? It's amazingly realistic.
    Oh, BTW, saw Camille!

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  44. Denyse, I enjoyed the range of your list, and of course, the unconventional additions like Santal de Mysore. I have been falling in love with it again lately, and what a beauty it is! Rich, opulent and almost savory.

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  45. Victoria, I love Santal de Mysore, especially that savory side you mention, which is what sets it apart from other straight-up sandalwoods. I was a little worried about the source of the sandalwood but I was assured at Lutens that their stock would last them at least a decade...

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