Top 10 Summer Fragrances 2008

Top 10 of Summer

Summer: it’s the best of times (fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables — songbirds and butterflies in the garden); it’s the worst of times (muggy, bug-infested days of unbearable heat). On the brightest, breeziest summer days (when the temperature is below, let’s say, 78 degrees), I feel happy and fling open the windows in my house to “freshen my life;” I listen to Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne at high volume and imagine myself running, buff and tan, thru poppy-dotted country fields in IMAX — I feel energized and immortal. Then, when the temperature soars, my spirits and outlook plummet: oily faced, limp haired, mean as a snake and with cold booze in hand, I retreat to dark rooms or my basement — and mope (when I’m not lashing out at friends, family, cats).

A summer arsenal of perfumes should make the good days better and the doldrums bearable. For me, summer is a time for sprightly perfumes, and just like I try to grow new things in my summer garden each year — I like to wear new fragrances. Here are a few of my recent discoveries:

A ‘soapy’ cologne is a must for me in summer. Balmain's Ivoire de Balmain smells like a scented summer bouquet sprinkled with pepper and dabbed with labdanum; it smells like spicy-floral soap. On certain days of summer, I want to smell clean, just showered, but not “fresh” like laundry; one spritz of Ivoire is all it takes.

Profumi del Forte’s Tirrenico contains salt, balsamic and marine notes, wet woods, bitter orange, bergamot, jasmine, elemi, fennel, basil, fresh fruits, oak moss, sandalwood, and white musk. Tirrenico begins with the scent of orange peels macerating in varnish and it dries down to silken musk. Between Tirrenico’s top and base notes lies its tropical, soft, salty, mildly fruity-floral heart (with a subdued, but sharp, “earthy” accord). The more I wear Tirrenico, the more I like it; it’s the perfect scent to wear on a balmy day at the beach.

Ivy League cologneEvery spring, I search for a new citrus-y fragrance to buy for summer, and I can go thru a 50 ml bottle of citrus fragrance before October. (I apply light fragrances liberally; I even take citrus perfumes with me in my bag so I can reapply during the day when I feel sluggish or overheated and need a pick-me-up.) This year, I found a great candidate for my “New Summer Citrus” — Domenico Caraceni Ivy League (boring name). Ivy League is light, but more durable than most citrus perfumes; it comes in a bright green bottle that cools me down when I look at it and it reminds me of a favorite scent of my extreme youth: Barneys New York Route du Thé. Ivy League contains mandarin, lemon, bergamot, chamomile (the note that made me want to try this scent in the first place), geranium, jasmine, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, vetiver, musk and amber. The unisex fragrance starts off fresh, green and fruity, proceeds to a clean jasmine phase and ends up mildly woody-musky.

Before trying Tom Ford Neroli Portofino Eau de Parfum, I had read lots of disparaging comments about the scent’s price, its lasting power and its lack of “originality.” Well! Neroli Portofino became an instant favorite of mine; its neroli is sweet, honeyed, dense and addictive and, for me, makes other classic Eaux de Cologne seem dull or harsh by comparison. On my skin, Neroli Portofino lasts at least 5 hours and smells good from start to finish.

Bond No. 9 Eau de New York contains grapefruit, mandarin, bergamot, petit grain, fresh greens, neroli, gardenia, cyclamen, white lily, basil, verbena, jasmine, vetiver, oakmoss, musk and ‘white’ wood; its heady mix of percolating ingredients makes for a fresh, enlivening perfume experience and best of all, the citrus notes don’t pale and fade as they do in so many fragrances — they remain viable and vital (in fact, they slap you around a bit).

Diptyque Oyédo contains refreshing yuzu, mint and thyme notes; to me it smells like a fragrant, sooty, incense-smoked rafter in an ancient Buddhist temple that’s been rubbed down with slightly under-ripe oranges and grapefruits — whose juices and oily rinds make the rafter gleam and activate the scents of its long-dried resins. Spray Oyédo on and, as the Zen monks would say: “KATSU!” (“WAKE UP!”)

One can never have too many vetiver fragrances (right?) and I love wearing vetiver scents in warm weather. Though Chanel Sycomore is a well-mannered vetiver perfume, it’s certainly not dull. Sycomore starts with streamlined vetiver and proceeds to a darker, cypress-vetiver base; it has good lasting power and feels “dressy.” Les Eaux Armani Privé Vétiver Babylone is a ‘giggly’, zingy summer fragrance that accents citrus, cardamom and pepper as much as it does its namesake vetiver note.

PdN Fig Tea perfumeAnother “jovial” and irresistible summer cologne is Parfums de Nicolaï Fig Tea (shown at right); its fig, osmanthus, davana and tea notes are clear, sweet and chilly, and the lasting power is very good for an Eau Fraîche.

Comme des Garçons Palisander, a tribute to the rosewood tree of South America, contains rosewood, red cedar, red chili peppers, saffron and myrrh. Where I live in the Pacific Northwest, it is a wonderful sensory experience to walk through forests in summer: the sun’s heat warms and activates the aromas of fragrant mosses, licorice ferns, and fir, cedar, alder and spruce trees. Palisander reminds me of the scent of summer woodlands.

I always take advantage of summer and at every chance smell living things whose scents are impossible to fully duplicate in perfumes — gardenias, magnolias, roses, acacia (locust tree) blossoms, the spooky, smoky-roasted corn scent of milkweed, sweet peas, petunias, marigolds, lilies of all types, tuberose (sorry Carnal Flower and Fracas, you only come close to heavenly tuberose), and, one of my favorites, the aroma of a cat’s fur baking in sunshine.


Everyone: enjoy — and have a sweet-smelling — summer.

For more Top 10 of Summer lists, visit Bois de Jasmin :: Perfume Posse :: Perfume-Smellin' Things :: Scentzilla.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this list, Kevin. The fragrances are all new to me (though I may have a sample of Oyedo). The Tirrenico and the Ivy League sound particularly appealing to me. And I'm with you on the sun-drenched cat fur. Yum!

    Earlier this summer, I discovered Eau de Cartier, which is citrus/green/floral/woodsy. I think it's just wonderful for warm weather, especially the element that reminds me of dew-drenched violets. Have any of you worn this one?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Nice list, Kevin. I'm unfamiliar with a lot of these, but I thank you again for the sample of Ivoire (I'm determined to learn to like it!) and your review that encouraged me to finally get a decant of Sycomore. You've reminded me here again that I must try Oyedo… and I've been wanting to sample Palisander forever, dang you! Did you ever end up getting a bottle of AdP Intensa?

    I am so loving summer, but my wallet is crying over all the warm-weather scents I've been buying (even discounts, partially-used bottles, decants, and minis add up)! Out of control! In heavy rotation for me this season include:

    - Blu Mediterraneo Fico di Amalfi

    - Herba Fresca (also snared a big bottle of Mentafolia, which is great)

    - CdG Grapefruit

    - Kenzo Air

    - Fath Green Water

    - CSP Aqua Motu

    … and am awaiting a back order of PdN Balle de Match so that I can douse myself in it through August

    Wish I had some Apres la Mousson, but I really can't continue to afford this binge! Cheers!

  3. Anonymous says:

    There's be no summer to speak of in Paris yet, so I haven't pulled out my hot weather fragrances, but I've been eyeing Annick Goutal's Eau du Sud, both citrusy and chypre-ish, and the big bottle of Sycomore is just waiting for my go-ahead.

    I sometimes take the opposite tack and go for the heavies like Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore or Fleurs d'Oranger.

    But I'll be giving another try to Neroli Portofino — in France, apparently it's one of the best-sellers of the line.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I would also include Un Jardin Sur Le Nil in this list. It's a gloriously fresh frarance for the summer. Mind you, if you live in the UK you'd be hard pressed to find a sunny day to wear it on, especially this year!

    I also find myself wearing a few mainstream frags in warm and muggy weather notably Eternity (yes I know, but I feel it's gone out of fashion enough to be fashionable again), Prada Pour Homme (very versatile and indeed soapy) and of course one of my perenial favourites Platinum Egoiste.

    I do also wear Bond No.9's Eau de New York, but it seems to turn sour on my skin after a few hours, (it's a new bottle so there's nothing wrong with the juice) so I may sell it. I find myself wearing Riverside Drive instead or Hamptons.

  5. Anonymous says:

    “A summer arsenal of perfumes should make the good days better and the doldrums bearable.” Exactly! You have such an elegant list.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I can dream of summer (at least a light, airy, breezy summer and not a humid, close, listless summer) here in the midst of winter and from the warm, cushiony soft, depths of tobacco, vanilla, amber and sandalwood, my thoughts drift to a big green bottle of Hermes Eau d'Orange Vert, Jo Malone's Lime, Basil & Mandarin Cologne, Diptyque's Eau d'Elide and Guerlain Pampelune. And for a night out, on a hot, starry night, I love the sweet smells of Gobin Daude's Jardins Ottomans and Ormonde Jayne's Ta'if.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Haunani: haven't tried the EdC but it's on my list to try.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Joe: your list sounds refreshing (the only ones I've tried on your list are Green Water and CdG Grapefruit). I did get Colonia Intensa and seem to be wearing it most on chillier days for some reason..

  9. Anonymous says:

    carmencanada: except for a few hot days it's been unseasonably cool in Seattle this summer too (I DON'T MIND!) I love sandalwood in summer too.

  10. Anonymous says:

    HDS1963: I love the Hermes Jardin fragrances too (excepting the latest, unfortunately) and wear them a lot in summer. I like Eternity too…shall we start a revival of the scent for perfumistos? HA!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Santemon: nice list (though Pamplelune and I don't get along). I just tried the concentrated version of Hermes EdOV and prefer the original myself.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Kevin: I don't like the new Jardin either, I tried it in the Hermes concession in Selfridges and it smelled like wet vegetation to me (which is, I think the idea, but as a fragrance???).

    And yes, to a revival of Eternity. I wore it yesterday and after wearing various niche fragrances over the last few weeks, I was surprised how well it holds up. It has a wonderful evolution and its longevity is superb. The drydown is very elegant with that Sandalwood, Vetiver, Rosewood and Amber all settling down for a convivial gathering on your skin. They're like a four piece barbershop quartet. All blending beautifully and in harmony with each other.

    So maybe this mainstream frag is the new niche!

  13. Anonymous says:

    I enjoy reading everyone's lists, and having just *discovered* Balmain Ivoire this summer, had to add my two cents. I've made my own list on PST, but forgot two that I'll add here: Parfumerie Generale Yuzo Ab Irato, which is delightfully dry and minty, and Donna Karen Gold edp, unapologetically lush, warm lilies. No, not as wonderful as the real thing to be sure, but still lovely. My reaction to summer weather is much the same as yours, K. Today is one of those oppressive, humid messes where you stare out the window through the sunny haze and wonder if a leaf actually moved on the maple tree – could it be a breeze? No, a squirrel. Thank goodness for air conditioning and cold beer.

  14. Anonymous says:

    HDS1963: I think I'll buy a mini and wear it and see how many people recognize it these days…it's been so long since its release I think we're “safe.”

  15. Anonymous says:

    C'est Nichist: I MUCH prefer Neroli Portofino to Chanel Cologne for one…and “roundness” of tone/scent is a perfect way to describe NP. Regular ole Tom Ford for Men can't compare to the private blends, can it?

  16. Anonymous says:

    rosarita: you poor thing…today here in Seattle it's in the 50s (it's only 6:45 am) and will probably reach 75…perfect weather! I'm a wuss when it comes to heat.

  17. Anonymous says:

    ah Ivoire, my hg!! perfect for cold and hot weather, and a different scent depending….clean woody flowers, how is this possible? sigh, i just love it and was so happy to read your rec & descrip *yay*

    Vent Vert is my other summer go-to- when i 'm staring at my frag cupboard & just can't choose the VV is a good everyday choice.

    thought Guy Laroche's Fidji should get a little mention, makes me think of a cocktail party on a stylish modern pool deck on a hot summer night :)

  18. Anonymous says:

    3xasif: I know Fidji well…it was my mother's favorite scent and it is SO summery.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I wholeheartedly agree about the aroma of a cat’s fur baking in sunshine–one of the most wonderful scents!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Kevin, we're shivering up here in Vancouver, too! Brrrr. But when the sun comes out — it will eventually, WON'T it??? *whines* — I will be spritzing on liberal quantities of my new summer fave from Campos de Ibiza, loaded with tangerine, lemon, verbena, orange, galbanum, petitgrain, artemisea, lavender, basil, rose, ylang, geranium, amber, moss and cedar. Now, does that sound refreshing, or WHAT?? A kind swap buddy found it on the Fishbone website for a relative song!! Do you know it? I think you'd swoon. . .

  21. Anonymous says:

    Great Article: fun, witty, and full of things I've never tried! I'm glad you mention PdeN's fig tea: I loved it enough to buy a bottle… for my girlfriend… (I do borrow at times ;) Their line is full of great things for summer: besides their colognes and eaux fraiches, every one of their regular perfumes is available as an eau légère, which are just right when the real thing would feel cloying and suffocating. My personal favorite is maharanih eau légère: the heat makes its soft orange/rose/cinnamon fly endlessly right up to perfume heaven – that is, the intoxicating moment when the gorgeous sandalwood drydown takes over… The only disappointment is that for me it triggers annoying respiratory irritation, but I can't hold that against nicolai's perfumistic talent… (I'm sadly discovering that I'm among those cursed perfume lovers that can't take not only oakmoss, but also eugenol, cinammal and the likes, which you find in every damned spicy perfume… Pace tasteless Chandler Burr, I love my kouros more than enough to suffer the irritation one or two days a week!) cheers! b

  22. Anonymous says:

    I really love the Chanel cologne, I think it's damn near perfect, but, like Eau d'orange Verte, it lasts about 5 minutes on me. I haven't compared the two side by side though–I got distinct candied lemon from the Chanel while from TF I got a more bitter straightforward neroli, IIRC.

  23. Anonymous says:

    V: thankfully, I have two obliging (and baking) felines in my life these days!

  24. Anonymous says:

    bo_b_h: Thanks. I do like most of the PdN citrus scents. Yikes to your allergies…I've had a bad spring with the release of several scents that I cannot SMELL at all (no doubt due to a musk being used in the formula): Tom Ford Extreme, Musc Nomade, Escentric 02.

  25. Anonymous says:

    All right already, I have to try this damn Fig Tea stuff everyone's been raving about for so long. Off to order a sample, if not more…
    Cuuute cat!

  26. Anonymous says:

    Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca is screaming “summer in a bottle” at me these days. I only have a little sample but may need to break down and purchase. So refreshing and whimsical, it cools me off and lifts my mood immediately.

  27. Anonymous says:

    ahtx: I waited too long to try Fig Tea too…

  28. Anonymous says:

    Baltimore: if your online name is the same as the city you live in…I know for a fact (I grew up “right down the road” from there in Virginia) you need summer refreshment!

  29. Anonymous says:

    I have to say for summer, Bond no 9 EdNY is perfect, it lasts all day on my skin.

    On casual days, DC Ivy League is perfect, both hubby and I wear that one.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Guerlain's Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat will make your mouth water. It smells like freshly squeezed lemons and oranges. Yumm! It almost transports you to sun-kissed Capri. Fabulous for summer.

    Respectfully, Eternity is included in my top ten list of fragrances I absolutely hate!

  31. Anonymous says:

    HDS1963: I like the original Chanel Pour Monsieur…NOT the concentrated stuff…but it smells different recently…not so powerful as it once was. I'll try the Tiffany.

  32. Anonymous says:

    SFLizbeth: the lasting power is GREAT on both of those scents…glad to see another Ivy League fan.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Celestia: Eternity for men…or women? I like the men's, don't like the women's. And LOVE the Guerlain too.

  34. Anonymous says:

    It's funny, I was on the verge of Ebaying my Concentree this afternoon. I sprayed some on the back of my hand to see if I really did want to sell it. It's kind of still in my collection though. It stays very close to the skin though. The Tiffany doesn't, it projects more. I know what you mean about the original Pour Monsieur, it is nice I just wish it lasted longer!

    I'm wearing Dirty English today, which I absolutely love and that lasts AGES! (I love that dirty boozy note – must be because I'm English… maybe Boozy English would be a better name for it…)

  35. Anonymous says:

    Eternity (women's) is as vile as With Love Hilary Duff. Got sucked in by the top note and bought Eternity for my mother once. The drydown is killer, in a bad way. Like Poison, it causes death!

    How about Vetiver Eau Glacee? Love Escape for men.

    Can't wait to try the new Eau Des Lagons by CSP…

    LOVE Aqua Motu.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Celestia: love the Eau des Lagons NAME, but fear those marine notes!

  37. Anonymous says:

    LOL – I think we may be.

  38. Anonymous says:

    HDS1963: Boozy Blokes maybe…liquor notes are always welcome.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Wonderfully well written. I enjoy your articles and reviews.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Kevin, your posts are what make me read this blog.

    I wish you a happy summer right back!

    Dana Cerise

  41. Anonymous says:

    Rubaiyat: thanks!

  42. Anonymous says:

    Dana Cerise: thank you so much, K

  43. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for an interesting list of summer suitables! Your first pick is interesting, as I wear it often but never reach for it in the heat. I never smell flowers, but on my skin spices and tobacco. I always thought this strange. Anyway………my summer reach for fragrance is the best tea fragrance of all times, L'Occitane's The' Vert with Mint. Ooh la la! Makes me feel cool just thinking about it.

  44. Anonymous says:

    This is such a great list! I'm adding a few of these to my “must-have” shopping list – especially the Bond No. 9 Eau de New York and the Tom Ford.

    My mum & I are both EL White Linen fans in the summer – surprisingly, it's not too bracing on either of us, but I also love Herba Fresca.

    Thanks for the inspiration!!

  45. Anonymous says:

    Amen to that brother. Which is why I once in a while indulge myself in my treasured bottle of Le Dandy by Parfums D'Orsay. It's like pickling yourself from the outside. I love it though.

  46. Anonymous says:

    Great list Thanks K! I haven't tried all of them, but the ones I have I like. Ivy League, Balmain (TY!), Neroli Portofino all great! Palisander has been on my wish list. Maybe I'll give it a try. Anyone here care for the Fresh line? They have some really nice citrus scents…bergamot, hesperides, etc. Quiet but nice.

  47. Anonymous says:

    Ah! Thanks for reminding me of my bottle of Oyedo stashed in the back of my closet. It's so hot out, the only thing I can even contemplate wearing are crispy herby, citrusy scents, or soapy scents, like Gendarme's Carriere, Hiebas di Ibiza (did I spell that right), and my lates acquisition, Bond No. 9 Coney Island. Even florals seem overwhelming. :)

  48. Anonymous says:

    NUTZ FOR FRAGRANCE: LOVE tea fragrances too

  49. Anonymous says:

    bklyn fragrance lover: something in the Fresh colognes do not “suit” my skin…they all turn on me so to speak.

  50. Anonymous says:

    unwilling raconteur: if you are back East in the swelterlands I can understand…a cool front WILL come, SOMEday….

  51. Anonymous says:

    Purchased Bulgari's Green Teaa (forget the French name for it) at the urging of the latest book by Turin/Sanchez as 'THE BEST OF THE TEA FRAGRANCES”. Hated it. I found nothing that drew me to it, in fact I found it offensive and couldn't pick out exactly why. So I love tea too, but depends on the tea. (sold it on ebay at at an $8 loss. No biggie.

  52. Anonymous says:

    It's worth the try! Don't expect very much fig though, for you might be disappointed: to my nose, the fig blends nicely with the perfume's soft floral facet, all of which sits over a beautiful dry tea accord. But it's nothing like the proud and mysterious fig of philosykos, or the musky fig of marc jacobs for men..

  53. Anonymous says:

    Really? Hmmm. I would have thought Cannibis Santal would have been right up your alley. Or maybe you were just referring to their “citrusy” colognes?

  54. Anonymous says:

    BFL: it does sound like something made for me…but it is very fleeting on my skin (the skin that HOLDS on to scent for dear life)

  55. Anonymous says:

    Darn skippy! I thank God that Summer with the 3Hs (hazy, hot and humid) is simply a season and not a lifestyle. It makes me appreciate spring and fall (and air conditioning!) all the more.

  56. Anonymous says:

    Happy to see that Ivoire, my recent re-discovery, is on so many people's lists. Funny, but I don't get the “soapy” quality that Kevin and Turin/Sanchez mention. To me it is a very sharp green/citrus scent, perfect for cutting through the haze and humidity of a hot day. Also on my list of good summer fragrances is a new discovery, Azuree, which I think is my beach fragrance. With all the talk from perfumers about trying to find the scent of skin, I think Azuree nails it, at least my idea of skin that has been dipped in the salty ocean. And for a fresh, floral scent, Wisteria by Crabree & Evelyn is my continual favorite.

  57. Anonymous says:

    I go for vetiver scents in the summer – they just make me feel so cool and dry. My current favorite is CDG Vettiveru, though last summer I wore L'Occitane Vetyver nearly every day.
    In the summer I also love Passage d'Enfer by L'Artisan and Angelique Sous la Pluie by Malle.
    and Herba Fresca is a no-brainer for this kind of weather!

  58. Anonymous says:

    My new favorite summer scent is Guerlain's Aqua Allegoria Laurier Reglisse. A kinder, gentler lemon, with light florals and relatively good lasting power. Never harsh or medicinal – I deemed it FBW from the start and haven't regretted it!

  59. Anonymous says:

    Great list, Kevin – and so fun to read everyone's favorites too. I just bought a bottle of EL Private Collection (the original) and am finding it perfect for summer here on the east coast. Although I think that Domenico Caraceni has my name on it too…

  60. Anonymous says:

    Hi, Exist: I DO think you'd appreciate the DC Ivy League….

  61. Anonymous says:

    I have never heard of any of these perfumes before. Should I be ashamed of myself?

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