vendredi 17 janvier 2014

My Top 10 Perfumes of Winter

Winter has been oddly mild here in Paris, so the things I’ve been enjoying the most are not particularly season-appropriate (as if that ever stopped a perfume lover). Grandiflora’s two new magnolias, for instance – by Sandrine Videault and Michel Roudnitska. As these will only be available in a few days (I know Luckyscent will be stocking them), I’ll wait until I can give them a full review. Meanwhile, here are my picks for this round-up:

Eau de Patou (Jean Patou)
When is there not a time you can enjoy a gauzy fresh scent? I fell hard for this Jean Kerléo composition of 1976, which isn’t quite a cologne but does what a cologne should: it feels right, and its exhilarating citrus-floral veil makes the sun rise that little bit earlier on dark sluggish mornings. I’d missed it the first time around and am overjoyed that Patou revived it.

Mitsouko extrait (Guerlain)
At the risk of sounding like a broken record: yes, it’s better than it’s been in years, namely because Thierry Wasser spent months reconstituting an oak moss base that not only smells like the real stuff, but has a similar evaporation curve (so that it behaves similarly during the development of the fragrance).  I also find it spicier than any other version I own. Not sure exactly when this formula started being produced, but my batch is marked 3W01 (the “3” stands for 2013).

1932 extrait (Chanel)
This won’t hit the counters until February 28th, and I’ll be getting back to it, but meanwhile… I thought 1932 edt was absolutely lovely – it’s got the same milky fruitiness as my beloved 31 rue Cambon – but though other people could smell it on me, to my nose it faded fairly quickly. The extrait version, with its higher dose of iris and boosted vetiver, fixes that glitch.

Jour extrait (Hermès)
A more full-bodied take on the original, the extrait follows the lead of styrallyl acetate, the molecule that’s been used for decades to conjure gardenia, and tugs said gardenia out of Jour’s abstract bouquet.

For some reason, a quote from Jean Renoir’s exhilarating tribute to his father’s world, French cancan (1954), has been going around in my head lately. In a wistful scene, Monsieur Alexandre, the crown heir of some unspecified exotic country asks the heroine, a gamine laundress from Montmartre set to become the star of the Moulin Rouge, to marry him. “Do you want to be a princess in my country? It’s not rich, but it’s nice. No steel, no coal. Just sheep, tobacco and roses.”

Isparta (Parfumerie Générale)
Pierre Guillaume’s dusky purple rose petals embedded in sticky resins has the chewiness and vaguely narcotic quality I associate with dawamesk – , though it has no notes in common with  the hashish jam consumed by Baudelaire  (“almond paste, pistachio nuts, sugar, orange or tamarind peel, cloves and other spices” according to the historian Martin Booth – Pierre, are you reading this brief?). Tobacco is not listed either, but Isparta, named after a Turkish town where roses are harvested, heavily accents its star material’s damascones – fruity honeyed molecules rose and tobacco have in common. This is what I imagine Monsieur Alexandre’s country would smell like (minus the sheep).

Mille et une Roses (Lancôme)
Not new, since it was originally launched in 2000 as 2001 Roses, then re-issued in 2011 as part of “La Collection Lancôme”, this is Christine Nagel’s take on the Trésor template, with a niche-perfume budget and a hefty dose of pepper that sets the petals on fire. I’ll be getting back to it soon.

Rosa Botanica (Balenciaga)
This variation on Flora Botanica, also co-authored by Olivier Polge and Jean-Christophe Hérault, shifts the focus to rose – obviously. But a deconstructed rose, straight out of the perfumer’s lab, with an oddly compelling medicinal accent. Again, I’ll be getting back to it: but I’m finding Rosa Botanica one of the more interesting mainstream releases so far.

Tobacco Oud and Oud Fleur (Tom Ford Private Blends)
Just when I thought I couldn’t sniff another “oud” without howling in despair, I realized that either I’d worked my way into liking the note by self-administering small doses of it. Or, Western perfumers have become defter at weaving it into their style.Whatever the case, Tom Ford’s two new ouds, though they contain not a drop of it, are the first of their family I could embrace without thinking “I’m sure I’ll get used to this”. The former is authored by Olivier Gillotin, who also gave us Tobacco Vanille, and it’s pretty much the same scent on woody-smoky steroids. The latter, by Yann Vasnier, is one of the smoothest interpretations of the rose-oud theme on the market.

Italian Leather (Memo)
Aliénor Massenet’s fragrances have a centered, comfortable quality to them – can a perfume feel trustworthy? Her latest composition for Clara Molloy, the owner of Memo, is an easy-going leather steeped in vanilla, with a nod to Shalimar (whose base notes tug out the leathery facet of the pod) and the great green orientals of the 80s (Must, Obsession, Dune), recut in a thoroughly modern fashion.

Équipage (Hermès)
Hermès has recently re-housed its classics in identical bottles, a good opportunity to rediscover the line-up. While the feminines (Calèche, Amazone, Parfum d’Hermès) showed their age a bit, the 1970 Équipage by Guy Robert gave me quite a jolt. Like Robert’s own Monsieur Rochas (1969) or Gérard Goupy’s Cacharel pour l’Homme (1981), it is built around a De Laire base called Épicéane – clove, pimento and nutmeg. Its spice-laden woody-aromatic accord feels modern enough to intrigue young perfumers: at IFF’s last Speed-smelling event, Juliette Karagueuzoglou offered her own interpretation.

For more Winter Top Tens, please visit:

Illustration: Gustav Klimt, Lady with Muff (1916)

6 commentaires:

  1. Grandiflora is up on Luckyscent!!! Not that this enticing list won't keep me busy.

    I totally missed Isparta and am delighted to learn that PG has done another rose. That's a must-sniff for me. I like the two Memos that I have tried wish this brand was more readily available in the U.S. I'm also really looking forward to trying the Jean Patou and Bel Ami reissues. nozknoz

  2. Nozknoz, I hadn't looked into Isparta's availability,but I did know the Grandifloras would be out any day now. They're both lovely, and I really need to find a moment to sit down and write my thoughts about them -- I've been putting it off because they're really not just another launch, are they...

  3. I have been wearing Rochas too-Eau De Rochas, because its citrus plus oakmoss is bracing during this horrible winter. Mystere, because at what other time of the year could it be worn. And Femme, because its just so beautiful in the cold.

    I envy your mild Parisian winter.


  4. Carole, I adore Eau de Rochas too and keep a 1-liter vat of it in my refrigerator -- who says colognes should be used only in summer, right?

    I did get a taste of the Arctic cold when I visited my family in Canada during the Christmas holidays and I admit it was a relief to come back to temperatures that don't require dressing for a moonwalk every time you venture out!

  5. great list! points out how many new releases i have yet to enjoy! glad you like equipage. it's something i have loved since the '70s, and love smelling on guys (and on me).


  6. Minette, I rediscovered Equipage recently and was really struck by its quality, along with Bel Ami. The older Hermès masculines run circles around most things you smell on men today.