Top 10 Fall Fragrances 2014

Cold Colours

We pick the dates for the seasonal top 10 posts far in advance, and sometimes that works out fine. This year, it feels odd to be writing about fall so early — we’ve had strange weather the past few months, so while it stopped feeling like a proper summer here sometime in late July, it still doesn’t feel anything like fall. Here are ten fragrances I might wear if it did feel like fall, or that you could wear if there’s already a chill in the air where you are. Do add your own fall favorites in the comments!

CB I Hate Perfume Burning Leaves: The perfect way to get into the mood for fall even if the weather won’t cooperate, and extra-nice if you live in a place (as I do) where all the leaves get composted (as they should be) instead of burned (I do miss the smell). The last time I wrote the Top 10 of Fall was back in 2008, and I included Burning Leaves on that post too. Some things never change…

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Top 10 Fall Fragrances 2013

fall leaves

I’ve experienced autumn in several places. When I was growing up in the ‘tropics’ (Virginia), the arrival of autumn was marvelous — no more steamy heat or mosquitoes. One of the first signs of autumn was the arrival of glass jugs of amber-colored fresh apple cider, for sale at orchard stands along almost every road. I tried to find an apple scent for this post (and for my perfume “collection”) in honor of apples and cool weather, but I was unsuccessful. Any suggestions? (Donna Karan DKNY scents need not apply.)

My early college life in New York City proved the Big Apple was not much different from Virginia in summertime, except for the added smells of simmering garbage on the streets. But autumn in New York was great; all the food cart aromas, even the exhaust fumes, smelled nicer mixing with the cool, marine air surrounding Manhattan, and the autumn leaves in Central Park added a dry, “woodland,” hay-like scent to the crisp air.

When I lived in L.A., autumn was pretty much like any other season (warm and sunny), except for days when the ferocious Santa Ana winds made autumn feel like I was standing in front of an open oven door…and the oven temperature was at 450° Fahrenheit. I’ve never in my life been more lethargic than during hot weather in Southern California, nor have I reached for cooling Eaux de Cologne more, applying them morning, noon and night.

Now I live in the Pacific Northwest…

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Top 10 Fall Fragrances 2012

gourds and a mushroom

I have been known to change my mind. Still, as far as my love of autumnal perfumes goes, it seems I am as constant as the northern star. I kept thinking of fragrances to include in this post and then realizing, blast, I’d already listed them the last time I covered fall favorites for Now Smell This in 2009. A few of the previous ten are my all-time, all-year darlings, but the fall always casts them in a particularly poignant and profound light for me. As October starts, I often think of lines from John Cheever: “and who, after all these centuries, can describe the fineness of an autumn day?” (via The Stories of John Cheever). He gives it a shot anyway:

The clear and searching sweep of sun on the lawns was like a climax of the year’s lights. Leaves were burning somewhere, and the smoke smelled, with all its ammoniac acidity, of beginnings. The boundless blue air was stretched over the zenith like the skin of a drum.

That ammoniac acidity has always given me pause — ammonia is alkaline, isn’t it? — but the sky and the sun and the lawns are all perfectly right. And then, using his characteristic contrast of the ecstatic and the everyday, he deflates that golden description with: “It was the day to canvass for infectious hepatitis.” Well, of course it was! For autumn is not only the season of reflection and melancholy, a time to moon about in cable-knit sweaters through the mists of the dying year. It is also a practical season, a time to make school lunches and Halloween costumes, to bustle along the sidewalks through gusty breezes on charitable errands. As Cheever wrote, beginnings are in the air.

So okay, you say… begin already, please! As I rounded up the usual suspects three years ago, the following list includes some of my favorite newer scents. (Surely my “Best of 2012″ picks will be predictable enough to excuse a spoiler.) There are a few of my old standbys that got missed last time, too…

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Top 10 Fall Fragrances 2011

pumpkinpumpkinpumpkin

I always tell people my favorite season is summer. In truth, it’s autumn. I whisper this fact, because while autumn is heartrendingly beautiful with its crisp mornings and warm afternoons and a garden still full of dahlias and greens, autumn is also the harbinger of winter. Each delightful, knife-sharp afternoon is a reminder of the rainy days ahead. Each walk through a shuffle of parchment-red leaves portends months of dark, slushy cold. When I can forget all that and focus on the here and now, I love fall.

For courage, I queued up Ian Bostridge’s sad but glorious Schubert lieder and chose ten autumn situations and matching fragrances to write about for today’s post:

Making the seasonal transition: All of the sudden, a morning feels colder than the rest. Instead of grabbing a cardigan, you ponder a light jacket. You’re almost ready to fire up the furnace for the first time this year, but not quite yet. A warmer fragrance seems fitting, but you’re not quite tempted to give yourself over to heavy gourmands and orientals. Ormonde Jayne Tolu works nicely now. Its green heart lightens its rich, oriental base. Annick Goutal Eau de Charlotte is a good transitional fragrance, too. It is fresh, but offers the after-school treat of bread, jam, and chocolate…

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