This aromatic almanac, four years in the making, began with four seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) and four perfumes (Flora Bella, 4711, L'Air du Desert Marocain, and Arabie). My, look how it's grown... and me along with it.
Notes: Heliotropic, transparent, resinous, glittering
Moods: Frosty, haunting, melancholy, remote
With its blustering winds and angry skies, this time of year always unsettles me. It promises -- but withholds -- the thaw that is to come, frustrating our desire for freedom and provoking spates of both temper and temptation. For this reason, the majority of fragrances I've chosen for this season share a pallid, unearthly quality that I find uniquely compelling.
Some feature heliotropic or anisic notes that mirror the icy weather (Guerlain L'Heure Bleue, Coty Paris, Voyage d'Hermès, Heeley Esprit du Tigre, Aroma M Geisha Green). Others are what I call "refrigerator florals"-- bouquets whose petals carry the unmistakable touch of florist-shop chill produced by a dose of helional (Estée Lauder Dazzling Silver, Lalique Flora Bella). But aldehydes remain the ultimate source of scent-related shivers-- and because January often brings a birthday trip to New York City, I reserve Chanel No. 5 Extrait for a day spent in the art museums, bookstores, and bistros of the concrete metropolis.
A choice few fragrances -- possibly the eeriest and most abstract in my collection -- represent the state of spiritual unrest that this uncanny time of year produces (Tokyo Milk Arsenic, Bulgari Black, Cartier L'Heure Fougueuse, Serge Lutens La Myrrhe, Parfums de Nicolaï Sacrebleu).
When my patience runs low and the privations of winter threaten to wear me out completely, I traditionally reach for a cheerful rose (Parfums de Nicolaï Balkis, Karl Lagerfeld Sun Moon Stars), carnation (Caron Bellodgia, Coty L'Origan) or red-berry gourmand with a comforting touch of vanilla (Anna Sui Classic, Christian Lacroix Tumulte). Fragrances centered on the apricot-tinged milk-tea note of osmanthus (Hermès Osmanthe Yunnan, The Different Company Osmanthus) also help to soothe my cabin fever.
Notes: Airy, crisp, verdant, bracing, herbal
Moods: Expansive, lively, hopeful, rejuvenating
Whether still hidden beneath the snow or venturing to lift their faces to the sun, flowers are what I need right now. Hyacinths (Coty Les Muses, Hermès 24 Faubourg), narcissi (Guerlain Chamade, Omar Sharif Pour Femme), irises (Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist, Soivohle Orris Ochre, Di Borghese), lilies (Serge Lutens Un Lys, Tom Ford Lys Fume), violets (Sonoma Scent Studios Wood Violet, Soivohle Violets & Rainwater, Robert Piguet Baghari, LUSH Ladyboy), and lilies-of-the-valley (Dior Diorissimo, Amouage Ubar) awaken a sense of anticipation for approaching mild weather.
What else accompanies this flood of blossoms? Greenery, of course-- in the form of bracing galbanum fragrances such as Shiseido Zen, Carven Ma Griffe, Revlon Norell, Chanel No. 19, Via Lanvin and Estée Lauder Alliage. And if the soul requires insulation after this blast of cool green, ladylike leathers (Balmain Jolie Madame, vintage Miss Dior) and delicate suedes (Coty Imprévu, État Libre d'Orange Tom of Finland, Serge Lutens Daim Blond, Bottega Veneta EdP) protect against March gales.
At this time of year more than any other, I find myself reaching for men's fragrances: Dior Eau Sauvage, Knize Ten, Caron Yatagan, Jacomo de Jacomo, Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel, Guerlain Jicky, Terre d'Hermès, Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit de l'Homme, Caron Pour un Homme, L'Artisan Timbuktu, and vintage Fendi Uomo. Aromatic herbs, anisic fougères, and zesty cedars awaken me from hibernation and strengthen my resolve.
Last but not least, I find myself craving cardamom and nutmeg, two cool and invigorating spices which can be found in Histoires de Parfums 1828 Jules Verne, Prada Amber Pour Homme, and LUSH Sikkim Girls.
Notes: Floral, lactonic, sweet, sparkling
Moods: Lush, extravagant, dramatic, bold
As we move from the austerities of March toward the full-blown splendor of May, I look for fragrances of expressive character, overflowing with color and sensuality. Flowers still dominate, but instead of soliflores, we enjoy riotous mixed bouquets. K de Krizia, Van Cleef & Arpels First, Salvador Revlon Intimate, Niki de Saint Phalle, Paloma Picasso, Ineke Evening Edged in Gold... all enter the rotation. But in truth, the master of the floral symphony is Kenzo (Ça Sent Beau, Parfum d'Été, Eau de Fleur de Soie, Jungle Le Tigre, Flower). Long may he reign!
I can't explain why geraniums (Essence of Vali EdP, Yves Saint Laurent Kouros, Tom Ford Noir, Pierre Cardin Pour Homme) and jasmine (Jean Patou Joy, Soivohle Yin Hao, Serge Lutens Sarrasins, Thierry Mugler Alien, Cacharel LouLou) are so appealing right now. Perhaps because it's warm enough to make these intense flowers bloom on skin-- but not so humid that they become overwhelming. If the thermometer promises an unseasonable heat wave, a bright verbena cologne (Creed Neroli Sauvage, Yves Rocher Verveine) cures all grades of spring fever.
While the days are still cool, gentle fragrances featuring saplike lactonic notes catch my attention (Caron Infini, Balmain Ivoire, Givenchy L'Interdit, Hermès Un Jardin Sur le Nil and Un Jardin Après la Mousson). For nighttime, opopanax-laden Orientals such as Guerlain Shalimar, Coty Émeraude, Yves Saint Laurent Opium Vapeurs de Parfum, and Myrurgia Nueva Maja lend an air of soft-focus mystery.
Finally, there's nothing like sparkling aldehydic florals (Lanvin Arpège, Dolce & Gabbana Original, Coty L'Aimant, and Estée Lauder White Linen Parfum) to lift my heart and propel me towards summer plans of action.
Notes: Crisp, ozonic, acid, herbal, crystalline
Moods: Refreshing, relaxing, cool, dynamic
Bright sun, hot sand, blue waves... these are the glory days when the psyche is most susceptible to earthly delights. My selections for this time of year reflect the need for the Three C's -- Convenience, Comfort, and Cool -- which liberate us to focus purely on the pursuit of fleeting pleasures.
No one should face the heat of the sun without a full complement of colognes. For citrus, I choose Hermès Eau d'Orange Verte, Royall Lyme Bermuda, Annick Goutal Eau d'Hadrien, Monsieur Balmain, or Ô de Lancôme. L'Occitane Eau des Quatres Voleurs is my herbal elixir of choice, while Yves Rocher The Vert and Barneys Route du Thé satisfy my longings for a tall iced tea. Soivohle Fougère Nakh, Tokyo Milk Marine Sel, and Tauer Incense Extrême all summon the aroma of salt air and bonfires, while the traditional Caribbean spicy bay rum is represented by Superior 70.
Dreamy and hypnotic, orange blossom takes precedence over all other solar flowers. I keep in stock two kinds of Echt Kölnisch Wasser (Mäurer & Wirtz 4711 and Farina Original), Soivohle Transcendental Musc, Sanborns Orange Blossom, Yves Rocher Néroli, and America's own native perennial, Florida Water. Another supreme summer bloom is linden, whose buoyant beauty can be found in Soivohle Ambre Rayonner, L'Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse aux Papillons, and Bourjois Evening in Paris.
For the beach, reach for sun-drenched fragrances such as Dior Dune, Hermès L'Ambre des Merveilles, or Auric Blends Egyptian Goddess. Add a shot each of orange crush and cotton candy, and you've got LUSH Superworldunknown and United Scents New Jersey-- two ideal Boardwalk gourmands. For laundry day, there's Abercrombie & Fitch Clutch, Philosophy Pure Grace, or Serge Lutens Eau Froide... and for dining or dancing, I'd request Chanel No. 5 Eau de Cologne, Millot Crêpe De Chine, or Creed Royal Water.
Notes: Intense, ambery, sweet
Moods: Indolent, sun-drenched, sensual, benevolent
The heat of the post-solstice season strikes many as oppressive, but I enjoy being baked to a turn in its convection-oven climate. The future promise of cornucopias overflowing with harvest treasure is suggested by perfumes highlighting nectar-like fruits, rich florals, and caramelized ambers.
In this season, I clothe myself in white florals (Ego Facto Me Myself & I, Oscar de la Renta EdT, Serge Lutens Cédre or Datura Noir, Isabey Fleur Nocturne, Estée Lauder Tuscany per Donna, Oleg Cassini EdP) and heady roses (Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady, Soivohle Quan Yin, Coty La Rose Jacqueminot, Tauer Un Rose Chyprée, Yves Rocher Rose Absolue or Moment de Bonheur) balanced with a lavish dose of greens (Estée Lauder Private Collection, État Libre d'Orange Afternoon of a Faun).
Indulgent fruity florals -- so tricky to wear at any other time of year! -- are now in season. I hanker after peach (Guerlain Mitsouko, Histoires de Parfums 1969 Revolte), plum (Fendi di Fendi, Y de Yves Saint Laurent, fig (Sonoma Scent Studio Fig Tree, Diptyque Philosykos), and pineapple (Histoires de Parfums 1804 George Sand, Ineke Gilded Lily). But cassis (Badgely Mischka EdP, Parfums de Nicolaï L'Eau Mixte, Missoni Original, Lancôme Magie Noire, Puredistance I, Histoires de Parfums 04 Petrana, Clarins Par Amour always makes my mouth water most.
In this weather, it may seem counterintuitive to reach for the richness of honey or beeswax (Puredistance Antonia, Love & Toast Honey Coconut, Sonoma Scent Studio Jour Ensoleillé, Shocking de Schiaparelli, Maison Francis Kurkdjian Absolue Pour le Soir, Serge Lutens Miel de Bois, Paco Rabanne La Nuit, LUSH Scent of Weather Turning). But believe me, there is no more radiant fragrance choice for August!
Notes: Dry, mossy, woody, balsamic, smoky
Moods: Expansive, luxurious, satisfying, generous
Crisp air, endless blue skies, fiery foliage, county fairs... I don't know about you, but I think this calls for a entire library of chypres. Coty Chypre, Rochas Audace, Halston by Halston, Estée Lauder Azurée, Soivohle Centennial, Jacques Fath Expession, Geoffrey Beene Parfum, Jean Louis Scherrer EdT, and Lucien Lelong Tailspin all come laden with the delicious oakmoss, patchouli, and labdanum I desire. For all this and a touch of leather, I reach for Grés Cabochard, Soivohle Leather Krem and Chanel Cuir de Russie.
Now begins the season of smoke, exemplified by notes of golden tobacco (Puredistance M, Serge Lutens Chergui, Lanvin My Sin, Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea, Costamor Tabacca, Aramis Havana, Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb, Hilde Soliani Bell'Antonio and aromatic woods (Hermès Équipage, Dior Fahrenheit, Serge Lutens Féminité du Bois, Jack Black Signature Black Mark, Attar Bazaar Mysore Sandalwood). Smoke even wends its way into autumn's florals (Annick Goutal Sables, Tauer Lonestar Memories, Simply Clinique, LUSH Breath of God, Henri Bendel Rare Mimosa, Sweet Anthem Roslin, Ormonde Jayne Tiare). Its late-season roses are prickly and dry, almost masculine, but unquestionably addictive (L'Artisan Parfumeur Aedes de Venustas, Cacharel Anaïs Anaïs, Soivohle Cordovan Rose, Creed Fleurs de Bulgarie, Attar Bazaar India Gulab, Brousseau Ombre Rose, Caron Parfum Sacré, Tambela Rose of Cimarron, Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche).
Lest these fragrances seem overbold, by way of contrast I include some gentler fare. Powdery Orientals such as Guerlain Habit Rouge, Parfums de Nicolaï New York and Histoires de Parfums Olympia Music Hall project a hazy softness, while the cinnamon-clove candy sweetness of Caron Poivre, L'Artisan Poivre Piquant and Diptyque L'Eau call forth my inner Trick-or-Treater. And for a truly seasonal treat, there's the pumpkin-pie/immortelle glory of État Libre d'Orange Like This.
Notes: Spicy, smoky, resinous, animalic
Moods: Comforting, exotic, nostalgic
As the days grow shorter and bright October subsumes itself to the muted browns and grays of November, we see fresh flowers and fruit all but disappear from the perfumer's palette. Only fragile, dry petals remain-- poignant ghosts of gardens long past, exhaling their last breath of fragrance. During the bleak interlude before winter paints the landscape white, many of early autumn's scent notes perpetuate-- but in a more meditative and melancholy vein.
Profound vetivers such as Lalique Encre Noire, Pascal Morabito Or Black, Union Celtic Fire and Attar Bazaar Sumatran Vetivert evoke fallen leaves smoldering in backyard bonfires, while smoky woods such as Tauer L'Air du Désert Marocain, Aramis Portos, Parfum d'Empire Wazamba, and Soivohle Underworld call to mind a blazing hearth in some great ancestral hall.
For a delightful sense of homelike warmth, we turn to tea blends (Tauer Incense Rosé, Soivohle Wild Ginger Chai and Underworld, Victoria's Secret Silk Mandarin Santal) and pipe tobaccos (Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque, Soivohle Meerschaum)... while exotic spices (Yves Saint Laurent Opium, Kenzo Jungle L'Elephant, L'Artisan Parfumeur Navegar, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Mata Hari, Etro Shaal Nur) remind us that there's a wide world outside our shuttered windows and barred doors.
As the temperature drops, animalic notes such as ambrette (Attar Bazaar Ambrette Absolute), civet (Jean Despréz Bal a Versailles), oud (Soivohle Anubis Absolute), musk (Serge Lutens Muscs Koublaï Khän),and hyraceum (Soivohle Tobacco & Tulle) begin to appear with greater frequency. But above all, it's the rich, deep, expressive scent of patchouli (Clinique Aromatics Elixir, Serge Lutens Borneo 1834, Kate Walsh Boyfriend, Estée Lauder Sensuous Noir, Le Labo Patchouli 24, Histoires de Parfums Noir Patchouli, Raphael Repliqué, Soivohle Riverwalk) which emerges as November's enduring signature.
Notes: Evergreen, resinous, gourmand
Moods: Enveloping, protective, ceremonial
The advent of winter holidays awakens our primal hunger-- and fragrance provides quite a feast! Start with the traditional breaking of fresh-baked bread (The Different Company De Bachmakov) paired with dark chocolate ganache (Chanel Coromandel, Tokyo Milk Bittersweet, Sarah Jessica Parker Covet, Parfumerie Générale Iris Taïzo, Missoni 2006). For pie lovers, there's peach (Boucheron Jaïpur) and cherry (By Kilian Back to Black) cooling on the sideboard. Do you prefer a bowl of creamy rice pudding? Try Amanda Lepore, Yves Rocher Cedre Bleu, L'Artisan Parfumeur Safran Troublant or Amouage Opus I. Caramel sauce (Prada Candy) is optional!
All the kids' stockings are stuffed with sugarplums (Calvin Klein Euphoria, Helena Rubinstein Wanted), licorice allsorts (1000 Flowers Réglisse Noire), salted caramels (Dalí Daliflor), oranges (Frédéric Malle Noir Epicées) and foil-wrapped Medjool dates (Histoires de Parfums 1740 Marquis de Sade). For the grownups, there are buttery madeleines (Guerlain Samsara), coffee (Thierry Mugler A*Men, Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille), and spiced tea (Tokyo Milk Bulletproof, Frédéric Malle Noir Epicées). And for St. Nick... a plate of sugar cookies (Montale Boisé Vanille) and a cup of hot milk (Serge Lutens Jeux de Peau).
Of course, there's more to the holiday than the banquet table. A full complement of Magi's Gifts can be found in December's coffers-- gold (Parfums d'Empire Ambre Russe, Sonoma Scent Studio Incense Pure, Michael Storer Winter Star), frankincense (Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant, AbdesSalaam Attar Hindu Kush, Comme des Garçons Avignon, Attar Bazaar Tunisian Frankincense), and myrrh (Calvin Klein Obsession, Estée Lauder Youth-Dew). For spice, I turn to Serge Lutens Arabie, Aroma M Geisha Rouge, and vintage Dana Tabu. But the most iconic scent of this season is the evergreen bough... of which a whole forest's worth may be found in Serge Lutens Filles en Aiguilles.