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.
Every 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.
Another “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.