Over the years I’ve built a stable of favorite cold-weather fragrances and have only added and dropped off a few each year. To spare you a recap of perfumes I mention all the time, I’m grouping ten perfumes I like into ten winter-activity categories. I hope you’ll chime in with your own favorites, and be sure to check out more winter favorites at Bois de Jasmin :: Grain de Musc :: Perfume Posse :: Perfume Smellin’ Things.
This category is kind of a joke since I don’t know how to ski, and, frankly, the whole deal sounds like a good excuse for a broken collar bone. But après ski? Sign me up. When I picture après ski, I think of an early 1960s lodge in Gstaad — like the one in the Pink Panther movie — with women in sweaters and bulbous mink hats and men in turtlenecks and dark glasses. Everyone drinks from brandy snifters and speaks several languages. It's glamorously ridiculous. Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore is my après-ski perfume choice. It’s boozy, woody, and warm, and would be a terrific accompaniment to a shoulder-high fireplace and a copy of Valley of the Dolls.
Lounging at home
Winter is the great lounging season. I don’t care if you have an Eames sofa and Tiffany sterling, if you don’t have a comfy place to put your feet up — preferably next to another comfy place for your honey or a good friend — don’t buy another bottle of perfume until you’ve fixed that. And make sure you pick up a cocktail shaker, a decent tea pot, and a pet from the shelter, too. Now you’re ready to settle in with a perfume that is pure comfort. I choose a vanilla-based perfume, L’Artisan Parfumeur Havana Vanille (aka Vanille Absolument). Who am I trying to impress? I just want to smell delicious.
Late night at a dive bar
The weather is foul. Chances are you’re hanging out indoors. Late at night, that might well be a corner bar. Where I live, smoking has been banned in bars for a few years, and that’s fine with me. But for the full smoky dive bar effect, I’d wear Mona di Orio Nombres d’Or Cuir. It smells like a leather ashtray, both classy and trashy with enough of a hint of clean musk to keep you from getting tossed out with the butts.
Winter dinner party
Summer is all about barbecues and easy potlucks, but winter is the time to throw a proper dinner party. You need a fragrance that refreshes you, since you’ll be crazy busy for a couple of days while you braise the veal shanks and buff the water marks off the wine glasses. You also want a fragrance that won’t compete with all the delicious food you’ve planned, and one elegant enough to complement that crazy centerpiece you crafted out of garden debris. With a smoky-hearty meal, I’d choose Annick Goutal Duel. It won’t overwhelm, but it has presence. Vegetarians might choose the cleaner, but still warm, Christian Dior Dune, just a dab.
Since the cool weather and dry indoor heat should hold perfume closer to your skin, now you can break out the bigger fragrances. I say, swipe on some velvet-pink lipstick with your cashmere and spritz rose-patchouli, like Divine L’Inspiratrice. If that’s too girly for you, go darker with Aftelier Wild Roses.
Walking in the snow
Ha ha ha. I’ve been praying to the snow gods for a few years now, and they only tease with melting flurries. But if it does snow here this winter, I’m going with the lovely, purply Parfums de Nicolaï Sacrebleu. The frozen snow will cut its sweet anise-fruit, and its incense will be the offering I make in thanks for a gorgeous winter landscape.
Walking in the rain
Since I do so much of this in winter, I’m going to choose two old favorites: Frédéric Malle Angéliques sous la Pluie and Serge Lutens Chêne. Angéliques sous la Pluie not only has “pluie” in its name, but its combination of cool and warm matches how I feel shedding a rain-drenched coat in a warm room. Chêne blends with the wood smoke and odors from the coffee roasting plant I often smell when I walk my dog weekend mornings.
By the fire
Rochas Femme all the way. It’s powerful enough to stand up to my leaky fireplace. It’s also soft and curvy enough to counter the masculine feel of wood smoke while matching its romance down to the embers. The slightly fetid tingle of Frédéric Malle Une Fleur de Cassie complements a fire nicely, too, in an entirely feminine way.
Valentine’s Day (and other cold-weather romance)
While we’re on the subject of romance, Guerlain Attrape-Cœur gets my vote for best Valentine’s Day fragrance. It’s soft and sweet as a box of chocolates, romantic as a bouquet, and dense enough to sing when the weather still requires gloves. For a romantic night with a little less kitsch, try Cartier Baiser Volé in extrait.
Looking forward to spring
Winter doesn’t last forever. For those weeks spring feels imminent, I love a green chypre with body and wood, like Givenchy III. Between Givenchy III and forcefully willing the temperature to climb a few degrees, I do what I can to launch spring and Guerlain Chamade season.