Summer’s best scents are an enlivening bunch of fruit-floral, writes Rachel Marie Walsh.
I sometimes hear fragrance experts speak of their “olfactory wardrobes” (housing designated scents for work, travel, sex, etc) and wonder how many of us non-‘noses’ are so devoted.
I certainly like the idea of occasion fragrancing but surely most people just want a special signature, something that sticks in a loved one’s memory or projects a self-image they enjoy.
Changing scents seasonally is more practical, as rich florals or woody aromatics that smell so good when it is cold out become oppressive in summer. Here are the notes to switch to right now:
Tom Ford Private Blend Sole Di Positano Eau de Parfum, €188/50ml
Under The Tuscan Sun, in which Diane Lane plays a divorcée in renaissance, is set in Arezzo but was shot in Positano.
I would film my American-in-Italy escapism under the Amalfi sun too; there are breathtaking cliff-top views, I might meet Beyoncé and the breeze inspired Tom Ford’s new Private Blend.
This seventh addition to Ford’s Neroli Portofino collection is very citrus, bursting open with a cocktail of mandarin, bitter orange and lemon.
These dry down to a ylang-ylang dominated-heart followed by little jasmine, some orange flower and a lingering note of muguet. The gold-detailed turquoise glass bottle is a pretty change from Ford’s signature black or white lacquers.
Abercrombie and Fitch First Instinct Eau de Toilette, €68/50ml
First Instinct claims to capture the spark of attraction, the kind that ignites a fling or summer romance. The first A&F women’s scent to be sold outside the brand’s stores, its smell is far too commercial to have that kind of impact.
More redolent of the spark that starts an impulsive fast-fashion purchase, really, though still a perfectly cool-for-the-summer fix of fruit and flowers.
Top notes of magnolia, grapefruit zest and passion fruit settle Into a bouquet of wild orange-flower, butterfly orchid and water lily. Sweeter still are the musk and vanilla bean-base and the candy pink-topped bottle.
Editions De Parfums Frédéric Malle Monsieur. Eau de Parfum, €150/50ml
This is my Father’s Day gift-pick as well as a great scent for the season. I shy away from describing anything as “alpha-male” (the term’s too tied to shifting definitions of masculinity to be useful), but this fragrance melds the best elements of traditionally masculine scents.
Monsieur is a whopping 50% patchouli, the shared heart of classics like Aramis by Aramis, Azzaro by Azzaro and Prada L’Homme. The dosage is obtained by molecular distillation, so especially pure and enduring.
Robust patchouli is a bit 70s (a brand spokesman calls it ‘hirsute’), but balanced here by ingredients that both keep it from dominating and alter it for the better as time passes.
Top notes of tangerine make it fresh and vital, while rum and vanilla soften its natural sharpness. Musk and incense make it smell elegant and pretty expensive, which it is, but the cost-per-wear is lowered by how little is needed to make an impact and a wear-time of over nine hours.
Jo Malone London Star Magnolia Cologne, €114/100ml, and Hair Mist, €44
Each Jo Malone cologne is pretty in its own way, like one of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. If one were to categorise Star Magnolia by March sister it would be an ‘Amy’: sweet, attention-snagging and lovably over the top.
A dominant heart note of star magnolia blossom flirts with lemon and orange flower overtures and dries to a bed of sandalwood, ginger and shiso.
Jo Malone also offers this perfume as a hair mist, the brand’s first product of this kind. The formula includes lightweight conditioning ingredients (though anything with this much alcohol and perfume should be kept away from the scalp) and is a pleasant compliment or alternative to the cologne.
Viktor and Rolf Bonbon Spring Summer Eau de Toilette, €90/50ml
Keeping it sugary in a more literal sense, Viktor and Rolf’s Bonbon has had a seasonal makeover that sounds like a fashion collection.
The Dutch designers actually ditched ready-to-wear entirely in 2015, deeming the cost concerns of the sector too creatively restrictive and devoting their fashion efforts to haute couture alone.
Appropriately named, now their only popular sales are perfume-based, Spring Summer is a limited-edition scent that contains less caramel than Bonbon, includes an intoxicating crystallised jasmine and keeps the original’s icing sugar and grapefruit top notes.
Additional fruit and plant extracts include blackcurrant, orange blossom, peach, tangerine and a woody cedar-guiac base. A frosted glass bottle in pearlescent-pink completes BonBon’s Spring Summer look.
Maison Margiela Paris ‘Replica’ Candle in ‘Beach Walk,’ €55
Maison Margiela’s ‘Replica’ perfumes set not just a mood but an entire scene. Evenings by the fire, country hotel rooms, jazz clubs, Corsican beaches...they are esoteric choices for the body but charming in the home. All five now come in white scented candles with silver lids.
Each label bears the relevant perfumer’s name and the date and origin of the memory that inspired them. I am surprised the brand did not put them out as candles first but the unpredictable is Margiela’s convention (for more on which I can’t wait to see We Margiela, a documentary on the mysterious founder and his design collective out later this year).
‘Beach Walk’ was inspired by the Calvi coastline, which seems a nice place to have your hall smell like. Bergamot and lemon fade into a coconut milky-heart with touches of pink pepper, ylang-ylang and ginger.
Maison Margiela Replica candles are soy wax and burn for about 100 hours.
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