Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Perfume: All Season Fragrances

I've rambled on about seasonal fragrance preferences. Wood and leather and musk and smoke and coffee and sticky-bun gourmands belong to winter. Lemons and peaches and aquatics thrive in summer. Flowers most often belong to summer, though a craving for the white floral monsters can inexpicably grow on one in winter.

And, of course, cold weather diminishes scent, while warm weather enhances it. So the heavy, smoky, animalic or syrup-coated scents that are perfect in winter could clear a room in the summer. Well, and then there's the vole theory.

That all makes sense. At least to me. But today I'm curious about the scents that break that rule, the all-year scents. What makes an all-year scent? For me, the notes that make it happen, and the fragrances that it happens for, are:

Oranges: Fruit normally belongs to spring and summer. But in the midwest in the seventies and eighties (and no doubt for many decades before that), in frugal households, which is when and where and how I grew up, oranges were the main winter fruit. Frozen reconstituted orange juice (in small doses - "that stuff is expensive!") was the anti-cold magic potion. Happier associations come with tangerines eaten at holidays, and the big fat naval orange in the Christmas stocking.

All of this means that any scent with a significant orange note has strong winter associations for me. Pacifica Tuscan Blood Orange, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz The Color Orange, Hermes Eau d'Orange Verte and Terre d'Hermes, those Merveilles things - all of these are fine for summer or winter.

Grapefruit picks up a little of this association, too - if the fruit in front of me in winter in childhood wasn't an orange, it was likely to be a grapefruit. I'm in the market for a winter grapefruit fragrance - Fresh Hesperides, my old favorite, is no longer working for me.

White flower bombs: Again, flowers are associated with spring and summer. But killer white flowers also work in winter for me. I think that this is largely about the indolic notes, on the theory that whatever makes us crave leather and musk in the winter also makes us crave the animalic aspect of the major white flowers.

But I also have a "corsage theory". Indolic white flowers tend to be tropicals that refuse to grow in the midwest in any season. They're only encountered as florist's specimens on special occasions, and those special occasions tend to cluster in the winter. So these warm-weather tropical flowers seem particularly suited for winter, rather like the floral equivalent of white velvet.

As a result, Parfumerie Generale Tubereuse Couture, Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle, Robert Piguet Fracas, Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia - they're all wintery. But, of course, they'll also all do fine in summer, at least in a large enough room.

Tea: I suppose this is simple - tea is a preserved food, just as available in winter as in summer. It is a little more summer than winter for me - my iced tea to hot tea consumption is probably several hundred oversugared glasses to one overhoneyed cup.

But still, the dried leaf, the stern edge that's almost, but not quite, entirely unlike smoke, makes it work for winter, in fragrances like Parfumerie Generale L'Eau Rare Matale and Harmatan Noir and Comme des Garcons Tea. Only L'Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two, of all of the tea fragrances that I've tried, is season specific - for me, it's a winter fragrance only. I think it's the hot-tea and smoke vibe.

Bergamot: This travels with tea, in my mind. It's a little brighter and sunnier, so that would tend to push it to summer. But it's a flavoring in Earl Grey, a tea that I would only drink hot, so that pushes it to winter. The result is that bergamot and bergamot-heavy fragrances, like Annick Goutal Mandragore and L'Occitane Bergamot Tea, sit tensely between summer and winter, never definitely falling to either side.

Mint: I don't recall encountering fresh mint as a child. I primarily tasted it in candy. So to me, mint has no season. Jo Malone White Jasmine & Mint and Ava Luxe Moroccan Mint Tea are all-season choices.

So, what makes a scent an all-year candidate for you?

Image: By Tylicki. Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Great post! I'd forgotten about the navel oranges in my stockings, nice memories. I think Tauer's Eau d'Epices is a "winter" orange. I'm going to post about that next week.

    I also completely agree with you about Tea for Two; it's all about smoke.

    I think mossy green chypres work for me all year round, but maybe that's just because I love them.

  2. I'd say "lightly fuzzy" scents are an all round category for me - APOM pour Femme, Tonka Imperiale, Prada L'Eau Ambree, Guerlain 180 ans de creation, and nuzzly things in that vein.

  3. I have very, very few all-season fragrances, so I'm not sure what really constitutes one for me. I think I may have more seasonal weather shifts in my neck of the woods than you do, though.

    I'll list my few and let's see if I can tease out any links:
    No.5 parfum and Eau Premiere
    Mariella Burani
    (vtg) Emeraude
    L'Arte di Gucci
    ... ?

    No, that's it. And no identifying thread there for all of them, either. There are a few that are 3-season scents: Le Temps d'une Fete is spring-summer-fall, and Shalimar Light is fall-winter-spring.

    Seems that I only want lush white florals in either winter or summer; they're not transitional to me.

  4. Yo, KJ! Yes, oranges in winter always have that holiday feel for me. :) There was the big one in the stocking, and we always had tangerines (along with powdered-sugar doughnuts and other healthy fare :)) while stumbling around Christmas morning. Hmmm. Yes, I think you're right about mossy green chypres - as long as they don't have _too_ much floral sparkle layered on top.

    Flittersniffer! I don't think I've tried even one of those. List, list, list...

    Yo, Mals! Hmm. I "feel" a link between No. 5 and L'Arte di Gucci, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe just that they're "perfumey", in the good way.

    I think that I'm good with the white florals in spring, summer, and winter, while in fall they mainly work because fall is a precursor to winter, rather than working with _fall_ as fall, the way that, say, Tea for Two works with fall. If that makes any sense.