Ambrette, northern lights and goose down
Iridescent, crystal-clear as chilled pear alcohol, yet musky-soft, the hibiscus seed is having a moment, its facets polished with iris, rose and pear, in with Parfum d’Empire’s soaring chypre Le Cri de la Lumière and Zadig & Voltaire’s ethereal La Pureté, by the peerless Michel Almairac, in their new Scent Library collection. Alternative choices: the more easily-sourced, adamantine Chanel N°18 or the rarer Eau Aztèque by Olivia Giacobetti for Iunx, the precursor of the ambrette solinotes in 2003.
Hibernating in patchouli
Burrowing deep in humus and earth, rolled up in a ball, waiting for spring… Dear Rose’s Comme une Fleur by Fabrice Pellegrin improbably combines uncut, hippie patchouli and orange blossom to evoke the strength of flower pushing through earth to come to light. Daniela Andrier’s deeply weird Une Amourette for État Libre d’Orange skews the same accord by boosting the indole and spiking her funky patchouli with Akigalawood, a sci-fi Givaudan material that mutates patchouli into a pepper-and-earth note.
The bitter comfort of dark chocolate
Cocoa absolute is surprisingly funky, a cruelty-free substitute for animal materials (my cat reacts to it as she does to castoreum) and an intriguing shift along the olfactory map that leads to patchouli or vanilla. I’ve been sating my dark chocolate cravings with my decant of Mathilde Laurent’s VII- L’Heure Défendue in Cartier’s “Les Heures de Parfum” collection, a liqueur-smooth wedding of the bean and the beast. By Kilian’s Noir Aphrodisiaque, a Paris exclusive composed by Calice Becker and genius chocolatier Jacques Génin, brings a more floral twist to the cocoa-patchouli accord: a sip of jasmine tea melting a square of cinnamon-laced dark chocolate (it’s getting hot in here).
Part of my all-time winter rotation, Arquiste’s Anima Dulcis melds the Aztec bean with unsweetened vanilla, chili pepper and a Prunol-ish, chypre vibe that somehow makes it the distant Latino relative of Serge Lutens’ Arab-by-way-of-Tokyo Féminité du Bois, a major matrix of contemporary perfumery.
Now to post this before the Seine runneth over and wets my toes…
For more Winter top 10s, please visit Bois de Jasmin, Now Smell This, Perfume Posse and TheNon-Blonde.
Illustration: this steampunk Death Star was my view from the window of my room in the Queen Elizabeth hotel. It's actually the dome of the Montreal Cathedral.
As a bonus, Gene Kelly's exhilarating riffing on Michel Legrand in Jacques Demy's Les Demoiselles de Rochefort.