I’m loyal. My favorite summer fragrances haven’t changed (much) in years, but unlike most people on Earth my “favorites” are over 25 in number. I’ve reviewed and praised those perfumes already, so for this summer’s “top 10,” I’m expanding and tweaking the process to include non-perfume, but perfumed, products: things like shower gel, candy bars, candles and incense.
On summer days, it’s pleasurable to sweeten the air inside the house with a scented candle. A closed house coupled with air conditioning can make air stale indoors. Un-air conditioned air also benefits from some “aroma therapy.” I usually opt for lots of fresh floral bouquets inside during summer, but a candle comes in handy as roses, lilies and tuberose peter out in the garden. My candle of choice this summer is not floral or citrus-y, it’s the LAFCO New York Majestic Oak candle (in LAFCO’s House & Home/Dream Home Collection of 15 candles; $55). Majestic Oak (“Tree House”) has a smoky, raw-wood aroma, not cloying or oppressive at all (it contains oak, geranium, fir, vetiver, and light amber). While Majestic Oak burns, the air in the house smells and feels clean, and I’m invigorated.
I’m a fan of scenting the air outdoors too. I shun citronella-scented “garden” incense (soooo utilitarian!) and opt for something more exotic, like Nado Poi Zokhang “Bamboo” incense from Bhutan. This spicy incense is scented with sandalwood, clove, red sandal, cardamom, saffron, nutmeg, agarwood, honey, cane sugar, gum dammar, spikenard, camphor and juniper powder (get “Grade A” for the highest quality incense blend; $17 at Sensia). Simply find a flower pot you love, fill it with ‘clean’ sand and you have an incense burner you can move around the garden, your deck, porch or balcony. Since my neighbors torture me with the smells of lighter fluid and charred food all summer, I “retaliate” with incense.
Wonderfully scented bath products help us all get through the hottest days of summer. The moments I spend in a shower during a heat wave are some of the most pleasurable, so I don’t skimp when it comes to shower gels. I recently “discovered” the beautifully perfumed Jurlique Jasmine Shower Gel (300 ml; $22). While using it, Jasmine Shower Gel smells so intoxicating it makes me forget the heat…and the fact that my bathroom needs a major renovation.
I have not forgotten perfume for summer. Where has Hermès Rocabar (100 ml; $120) been all my life? For sale, of course, but apparently not on my perfume radar. I absolutely love Rocabar’s mildly sweet, rich wood notes; it’s a perfect, and sexy, casual perfume with some heft that can still be worn in warm weather.
When I want lighter fare, I choose Astier de Villatte Eau Fugace by perfumer Françoise Caron. Eau Fugace is sharp, intense and clean, a blend of orange, bergamot, lemon, spruce, herbs and a smidgen of patchouli. Eau Fugace has a retro vibe. In the French film A Christmas Tale, Catherine Deneuve’s character sniffs her husband on Christmas Eve and says: “You smell like Italy.” Eau Fugace produces that same effect on me.
My friend Rekha, from New Delhi, told me that during the searing heat spells of an India summer, people scent the water in their swamp coolers with khus (vetiver). An excellent idea! I always love to wear vetiver perfume in summer and in Rekha’s honor I recommend Indian Khus Attar from Floracopeia ($45 for 1 dram/3.75 ml) This attar (perfume) presents vetiver mixed with sandalwood…an excellent combo of earthiness and smoothness.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Bois Farine is one of my all-time favorite perfumes. Yes, it’s strange, sometimes smelling floral-floury, sometimes reminding me of ice-cold clay…or peanuts in their shells being pulled from the dry earth on a hot day. This quirky, change-able, semi-rich fragrance is one I reach for on summer evenings when heat lightning promises, or threatens (your choice), a storm.
One summer, over seven years ago, I grew patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) on my front porch. Since the porch is adjacent to my bedroom, I’d often get a whiff of the patchouli plants, especially at nightfall (were they “exhaling” before bedtime?) These days, in most perfumes, patchouli has been de-clawed and neutered, turned into a sweet, safe, well-behaved aroma that even patchouli-haters don’t mind. My patchouli plants didn’t survive even their first (mild) Northwest winter, but when I sniffed Molinard La Collection Parfumée Patchouli Intense (Limited Edition), I was reminded of real patchouli, even as the note was accented with cocoa, orange and musk.
If, on a warm evening, you’re tempted to unbutton your shirt to mid-chest level, I ask two things: make sure you have a chest worth showing and “accent” your bare skin with perfume, not gold chains. Bois 1920 Sandalo e The is a perfect adult perfume to add some scented allure to your “cleavage.” Sandalo e The’s mix of cedar/cumin and rich tea leaves blended with sandalwood is enticing.
Finally, I’d love to invite you all to my home for some litchi sorbet (a house specialty) but since that’s NOT feasible, I’ll close with a food recommendation most of you can try: candy. Vosges Haute Chocolat produces two “summer” chocolate bars I enjoy: Amalfi and Blood Orange Caramel. Amalfi tastes and smells wonderful (and would translate perfectly into ice cream OR perfume); this white chocolate (cocoa butter/milk) bar is flavored with vanilla, sweet lemon zest and pink peppercorns (3 oz; $8.50) For those of you who insist on DARK chocolate, try Blood Orange Caramel (70 percent cacao), flavored with blood orange puree, burnt-sugar caramel, hibiscus and Campari (3 oz; $7.50).
For what remains of the summer of 2011: happy sniffing and bon appétit.
Note: top image is Men in an Outrigger Canoe Headed for Shore by Arman Manookian , 1929 via Wikimedia Commons [cropped].