Top 10 Winter Fragrances 2014

Hill and Ploughed Field near Dresden

There are almost 200 perfumes on my "want-to-sniff" list. The majority of them were released in the last four years and a large percentage of them never were sold in the U.S. (Ever seen Trussardi My Land, Mäurer & Wirtz Pink Pepper & Grapefruit, Molinard Habanita L’Esprit or Charriol Royal White at your favorite American fragrance counter?) There's just too much 'product' out there!

So, how can I write about the “top 10 winter fragrances” with any authority? I can’t. My "top 10" is comprised of perfumes I've recently encountered, worn, enjoyed, and that fit my mood of the moment. I’m not including fragrances I've reviewed in the past. I’m not including lots of classic/rich "winter” fragrances because, frankly, by mid-January in Seattle, I’m sick of cold, wet weather and dark heavy perfumes. I need some sparkle in my life…some light, citrus and flowers. And let’s not forget it is SUMMER in the southern hemisphere — this post is dedicated to readers in that part of the world; I wish I could visit you all, from Argentina and Brazil on over to South Africa and Australia and the balmy lands of Asia and the South Pacific.

Ava Lux Honey presents the warm scents of hot summertime, with its floral, nutty (almond) aromas. If you love the scents of honey and beeswax and orange blossom, give this a try.

La Via del Profumo Venezia Giardini Segreti came to mind as I recently strolled through a chilled, but very fragrant, winter garden here in Seattle. The scent of cool air and spicy winter blossoms filled the air. I shall say no more, since I’ll review this fragrance before spring. (It’s a good thing I live nowhere near La Via del Profumo’s headquarters shop; but next time I’m in Italy, I’m going there…period.)

What if Brut won the Lottery and was able to ditch his drugstore digs, leave his plastic bottle behind and have a reformulation with good-quality ingredients? He’d smell an awful lot like Oliver & Co Nebula 2; it's full of great green notes, both bitter and sweet, and smooth and silky coumarin.

Union Gothic Bluebell is on my short-list to review for spring; it’s a heady and substantial take on bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta); it reminds me of my grandmother (no “old-lady-perfume” comments, puh-leeze!); she and I planned many a flower bed together and we both demanded scent, vibrant scent (like Gothic Bluebell's!) of our floral charges.

The skins of pears, sometimes a bit tough, speckled with brown spots, are often hard to swallow, but heavenly to smell. Slumberhouse Pear & Olive opens with a note I’ll describe as liquor-y, almost overripe, pear peels, sweet and funky at the same time. What makes this pear appealing to me (many pear notes in perfumes are cloying/annoying) are the discordant notes added to it: oily olives (certainly cold-pressed!), a green note and a musty-bark aroma. This is a summer salad served in a hand-carved wooden bowl.

Oliver & Co. Nebula 2, MCMC Kept, Slumberhouse Pear & Olive, nu_be Lithium

How does nu_be Lithium smell? Take one lumberjack, have him shower with a lemon-and-rose-scented soap…then make him chop down cedar trees in 90-degree heat…in a few hours, serve him a falafel, or two, for lunch. As he relaxes after eating, have him put his hands behind his head — exposing his damp, odiferous armpits. All together now: Lithium! (If you don’t like sweaty/musky perfumes, don’t go near it.)

Imaginary Authors Memoirs of a Trespasser (inspired by the imaginary writings of imaginary author Philip Sava) is at first a creamy vanilla scent, but quickly I detect sweet woods and resins (listed notes are Madagascar vanilla, guaiac, myrrh, benzoin, ambrette seeds and “oak barrels”). This is how I wish my sweaters smelled when taken out in autumn after summer storage. Though a perfect perfume for winter wear, Memoirs of a Trespasser would also make a great warm-weather woody gourmand perfume — IF applied with reason (I’m talking two spritzes maximum).

MCMC Kept gives me the proverbial Days of Wine and Roses…in a bottle. This summery rose perfume adds “blunt” notes to offset the "pink" rose; I smell straw flowers and some bubbly "prosecco." Though described as the most feminine of the MCMC line-up, Kept is in the Etat Libre d’Orange Afternoon of a Faun family and, to my nose, is unisex. Boys…get your roses on.

One of the things I love most about summer are vine-ripened tomatoes. Erik Kormann No. 7 Juli (though supposedly composed of grapefruit, tangerine, mint, jasmine, vetiver, cedar and fig leaves) smells like tomato vines and green bell peppers — a delightful scent and a simple, yet unusual, cologne. 

Finally, there’s Frapin Paradis Perdu. It reminds me not only of summer, but of the seaside and the "environmental odors" of salt-dusted wooden boats bumping against barnacled wharf pilings; it also possesses a vintage men’s aftershave/soap scent (circa 1950). Paradis Perdu is retro, without being dull. This is how Bleu de Chanel COULD have smelled if it hadn't tried so hard to please everyone.

For more winter top 10 lists, see Bois de Jasmin :: Grain de Musc :: Perfume Posse :: The Non-Blonde

Note: top image is Hill and Ploughed Field near Dresden by Caspar David Friedrich [cropped] via Wikimedia Commons.

Middle images, left to right: Oliver & Co. Nebula 2, MCMC Kept, Slumberhouse Pear & Olive, nu_be Lithium; no attempt was made to make the bottles appear in correct proportion to one another!

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  1. lucasai says:

    MCMC Kept sounds promising. The MCMC line has just appeared in Poland so I might give it a try really soon.

    • Kevin says:

      Lucasai…yes, I want to try more from the line.

  2. TheSnailsPajamas says:

    Pear + Olive is definitely a completely different scent. On me it’s what I call Japanese super fruit – that hyper-realistic scent of whatever fruit it is – plus a rich fruity olive oil, coconut oil (unfractionated coconut oil and olive oil and a similar oily rich fruitiness about them to me) and some almost rotten booziness to boot – like a rotting barrel that had been used to house cognac. It’s not a spray lavishly and go out scent for me, but more of a thinking scent. Brilliant.

    • Merlin says:

      Its thinking ‘pear, olive, no pear – hm.’

      It has to think – its suffering an ongoing identity crisis;)

      • Kevin says:

        Merlin…a good vibration.

    • Kevin says:

      Snails…it is my favorite from the line so far…a perfect description of it!

  3. Merlin says:

    Kevin, thank you for remembering us Southerners! These best of seasonal reports are always so disorientating; theres a split moment (before one recollects the weather differences) when I always go – ‘Winter! Huh?’

    These all sound fabulous but I haven’t yet tried any. The Slumberhouse bottle really is gorgeous!

    • Kevin says:

      Merlin…I am always thinking of you southerners at this time of year.

    • annemarie says:

      Adding my thanks on behalf of Australia. We are expecting 40C today (104F) and very high fire danger. I wish I could send a parcel of this to you! This will be our fifth or sixth day of temps like this. Cool change tomorrow, at last. I know what you mean about growing tired of the perfumes that are in season. I’m pretty sick of my citruses. All they do is remind me, as if I need it , how hot it is. :(

      • Kevin says:

        Annemarie…send me 76% of your temp.

    • solanace says:

      I was happy with the mention to the South hemisphere too! Going totally off-topic, Merlin, I just remembered the perfume that made me most anxious ever: YSL Saharienne. It literally caused me an entire night of insomnia!

      • Merlin says:

        Wow! I can’t remember that very well – except thinking it was quite generic – or was that Manifesto??

        If you wash it off doesn’t the effect disappear? There have been times though that I have not been aware that it is the fragrance that is to blame!

        • solanace says:

          As I remember, it is as tenacious as it is sharp!

          • Merlin says:

            Yikes, now I have to smell it. But I’ll be sure to do it on a testing strip:)

  4. ringthing says:

    I’m so glad to see some love for Memoirs of a Trespasser, it’s one of my favorites. I like the Imaginary Authors line in general, fun concept.

    • Kevin says:

      Ring, I have to try more of their perfumes…if I am not mistaken they are in Oregon, right?

  5. johanob says:

    Well Hello Kevin from another South African!It´s indeed summer over here now…SUMMER!In capitals because there’s currently the MOTHER of all heatwaves sweeping through my city!Nice list,The Imaginary Authors range sounds really interesting overall!I cannot wear any of my favorite Orientals or Incense fragrances at the moment,they are just too much in the heat!Colognes and Body Spritzers this summer!(Esp Monsieur Balmain,Cologne a la Russe,Chanel Edc)

    • Kevin says:

      Johanob…Cologne a la Russe is so refreshing…drink lots of water!

  6. D.D. says:

    Kevin, thanks for your list of more perfumes to explore.

    Only recently having fallen into the Rabbit Hole, I’m pleasesd to see that one of you picks (Memoirs of a Trespasser) has also made it onto my sniff lists.

    But my real interest in you list today is nu_be Lithium which HAS to go In the next sample-buying batch.

    …Any other sweaty, musky, not-quite-polite perfumes you’d care to suggest?

    Much appreciated.

    • Kevin says:

      DD…try Parfums d’Empire Aziyadé or Eau d’Hermes…there are so many!

  7. thegoddessrena says:

    My new winter perfumes this year are Olympic Orchids Seattle Chocolate and PG Felanilla. Black Cashmere is always appropriate when the weather dips below freezing.

  8. Nightingale says:

    Kevin, your review of nu_be Lithium and the double falafel cracks me up! Totally get the mid-January funk in the Pacific NW…so glad to be seeing the longer days!

    • Kevin says:

      Nightingale…yes…it is staying light a BIT LONGER.

  9. Tama says:

    Well, I’ve smelled all of two of these (Memoirs, Pear & Olive) but there are some interesting-sounding ones on your list. It’s so hard to keep up! Paradis Perdu has gone on my want-to-sniff list for sure.

    • Kevin says:

      Tama…it is Impossible to keep up!

  10. relleric says:

    I’m with you on the done-with-winter mood. After the holidays I am ready for it to warm up, but here in the midwest it isn’t likely to happen until March or April.
    I have a decant of Gaultier Fleur du Male that I have been putting off trying. Will it get me out of that winter funk?
    I suppose I’ll just have to try it and see, perhaps tomorrow or Sunday.

    • Kevin says:

      Relleric…hope it helps!

  11. Oakland Fresca says:

    What a great list. I’ve only tried a couple of your choices. I think I would love Memoirs of a Trespasser, and like a fly to light I’m all over Kept–those roses that take left turns…

    Here in the land of mild, mild, mild weather where a bright, crisp day passes for the dead of winter, I thought I’d conduct a Big White Flower challenge and currently have Annick Goutal’s Gardenia Passion facing off against Chanel’s Gardenia–one on each wrist. GP’s drydown is pencil shaving and herbs sort of, while C’s Gardenia has gone very weird, sweet, funky, garbagy… I’m not excited about either one. When I was a tween, my mom used to buy a wonderful, blue, gardenia-scented soap from I. Magnin’s. Wish I could find that perfume. Got any Gardenia favorites?

    • Kevin says:

      OFresca…you know I have never found a good gardenia…in soap, candle or perfume…so I just grow them and enjoy them that way.

      • Oakland Fresca says:

        Perhaps it is the sweet sugar of nostalgia… but in my mind’s eye (nose?) I still smell the spicy powder of those blue gardenia soaps!

        • Kevin says:

          I wish I could have smelled them.

    • thegoddessrena says:

      There’s always Kai

      • Oakland Fresca says:

        I use Kai hair products, but I’d be afraid the perfume would be too sweet tropical. Have you tried the perfume?

        • solanace says:

          I think the perfume is more meh than sweet. The hair products sound very appealing, though!

  12. martha24 says:

    “4711 Acqua Colonia Pink Pepper & Grapefruit” is definitely no scent for the winter, so don’t be too sad! It is quite a pleasant fragrance but it does not satisfy my personal grapefruit cravings in the summer. If you ever get the chance try “Mandarine & Cardamome” from the same line, it is my favourite.
    Here in Germany you can purchase 4711 in every supermarket, but the Acqua Colonia line is kept a little more exclusive.
    But I can understand your disappointment about all the scents you can not try, there is also a lot of stuff which we never see in the shops over here…

    • Kevin says:

      Martha…all we ever get here is the classic 4711…maybe it is time for another trip to Berlin? Ha!

  13. solanace says:

    Hey Kevin,
    I’ll be happy to explore your unconventional list! The Erik Kormann sounds particularly appealing. I’m always looking for the perfect tomato leaf, and no, AG Le Chevrefeuille does not count.

    • Kevin says:

      Solance…no it doesn’t.

  14. Omega says:

    I haven’t sniffed any of these except the Slumberhouse. I didn’t care for that one personally. I find the scents from that house to be rather flat and blah..I have not sniffed all of them but not impressed really. I found the P&O to be too coconut-y and a wee bit soapy. I wish I could smell more of some of the notes listed but just don’t. The scents are as exciting as a flat soda to me. Sorry Kevin! *kisses* I just hear this stuff lately about this house and I just don’t get it. Oh well, more for others I suppose!

    The Ava Honey does sound nice though!

    • Kevin says:

      Omega…Pear & Olive isn’t my cat or dog so you can disparage it all you want!

  15. joey3 says:

    Love how you describe nu_be Lithium! Falafal and Armpits – might give this one a miss!

    Love the sound of MCMC Kept.

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