Last September, I published a brief post about the scents with which my skin developed an extremely close relationship during the summer, as opposed to those with which it struck up little more than a professional acquaintance. Several of you kind folks sent me emails to say you appreciated this 'real world' insight into fragrance wearing habits, so I thought I'd put together a similar round-up for this miserable winter to which we've just said, "Good riddance."
High on my list of recent rediscoveries was Dior's Eau Noire. I don't recall Francis Kurkdjian's original, 2004 formulation being quite so heavy on the lavender, but I'm not complaining. The current eau de parfum incarnation is still delectably spicy, caramelised and herbaceous, and it also happens to be one of very few creations which genuinely live up to the 'noire' tag. When I was in the mood to create a different effect, I found myself reaching for Jean-Claude Ellena's L'Eau D'Hiver (Frederic Malle). I realise the scent is sold as a 'hot water' for chilly climes - and there's no doubt that it plays with warm/cold contrasts - but I've always been more interested in it as a modern rendition of Après L'Ondée. The anguish present in Ellena's creation is almost as heart-breaking as that in Jacques Guerlain's, but it's more restrained and more inward-looking. Perhaps, when they were composing these scents, both perfumers were aiming for a contrast with the emotional tenor of their times. Après L'Ondée's outpouring of emotion emerged at a time when circumspect decorum was still the expected mode of social interaction. L'Eau D'Hiver, released almost a hundred years later, in the age of bare-it-all-on-a-talk-show permissiveness, expresses itself with much more reticence.
Speaking of reticence, Olivia Giacobetti's Passage D'Enfer became my go-to incense perfume for the last few months. The main complaint aimed at this 1999 release from L'Artisan Parfumeur is that it doesn't last terribly long, but I'd assert that it doesn't disappear: it just grows quiet. And the interplay between its candle-lit woody notes and the curiously aqueous incense remains intriguing throughout its development. Equally elegant - if a touch louder - is Yann Vasnier's Aleksandr for Arquiste. With its crunchy juniper notes and subtle leather, this was an energising antidote to the nip in the air.
I'd be lying by omission if I didn't mention that I liberally doused myself with Laine De Verre in recent weeks. I'm rarely drawn to any scent that plays the 'clean' card, but I do like a hint of 'weird' and I confess this latest 'eau' from Messrs Sheldrake and Lutens aroused more of my curiosity than I'd expected it to. Sometimes, whilst wearing it, I found myself wondering - with equal measures of horror and fascination - if this stuff is going to be the smell of shopping malls and public spaces in the future: weird, deep-frozen fruit against a backdrop of fascistically-clean detergent notes. That description makes it sound unappealing - and, indeed, many have expressed a deep dislike of this release - but I was compelled to return to it several times.
Sandalwood isn't a note I tend to mention when asked for a list of my favourite perfume-y smells, but it clearly struck a chord within my psyche this winter, because I had Bertrand Duchaufour's Ashoka (Neela Vermeire Creations), Yann Vasnier's Santal Blush (Tom Ford) and Bruno Jovanovic's Dries Van Noten (Frederic Malle) on regular rotation, especially when preparing myself for a relatively more formal event or setting. The differences between these three creations' presentation of sandalwood are fascinating to consider. The Duchaufour is probably the most spiritual and introspective (thanks to the dryness of the iris note), the Jovanovic is, in some ways, the most facetious (that Speculoos note always elicits a quizzical chuckle from me) and the Vasnier is the one that makes a virtue of predictability. It's almost entirely a 'straight-up-and-down' sandalwood, but it does what it does extremely well... which is probably why my bottle of it keeps getting stolen by Madame Persolaise.
Speaking of my much-better half, when she wasn't pumping out Mr Ford's sandalwood, she was working his equally bombastic frankincense, ie Sahara Noir by Rodrigo Flores-Roux. This gold-bottled beast has been a big hit with Madame P, not least because she says she can smell it on herself, a claim she's not able to make about many fragrances. She also deepened her relationship with Chanel's Coromandel. She doesn't normally go for overt chocolate notes, but the 'elegant, streamlined winter coat' aspect of the scent's benzoin drydown worked a treat on the rare occasions when she wanted to reach for something relatively quiet.
Otherwise, Madame P pretty much stuck to her favourites. As a devout winter-hater, she still can't get enough of the super-heated volcano that is Amouage's Opus V - although she did tone down the spraying when I told her how much the Library Collection scents cost now - and she never allows too many days to pass without enjoying the subtly fruity, oriental charms of her beloved Coco. Years ago, she used to be a Rive Gauche girl, which is why she reaches for Paco Rabanne's very similar Calandre every now and then. She says the YSL doesn't really do it for her any more, but that there's still enough in the metallic, aldehydic rose of the Paco Rabanne to evoke the past on nostalgia-hungry days. But of course, the perfume which is still the most heavily used member of her scent wardrobe - by a mile! - is Dominique Ropion's Portrait Of A Lady for Frederic Malle. I swear, the patchouli in that stuff has now bonded with her skin. And as for the sillage when she's wearing it... well, it seems to seep through walls like a thick, intoxicating crimson mist. I do still adore the scent - and if there's ever any suggestion that it might have to be discontinued, I will purchase kilos of it - but I do wonder if it isn't time to introduce Madame P to another Malle. Carnal Flower would be the most obvious candidate, but I think I might veer away from Monsieur Ropion and try Edouard Fléchier's Lys Mediterranee on her. She loves the smell of lilies in the house... so perhaps she'd like to carry their scent around with her all day...?
Finally, this round-up wouldn't be complete without a mention of 'Miranda' and 'Tilly', my two nieces and frequent partners in blotter-sniffing. The former has gone completely gaga for Aurelien Guichard's Pleats Please (Issey Miyake). Not only has the scent elicited her ultimate accolade - "Lush," in case you're wondering - but it has even inspired her to explore Miyake's clothing designs for her college Art course. And Tilly has remained faithful to Thierry Wasser's La Petite Robe Noire (Guerlain), whose cherry + chocolate combo always seems to work well with her sunny, smiling disposition.
And how about you? When you weren't trying out samples or spritzing new releases in department stores, which of the perfumes in your collection did you actually wear and enjoy this last winter?