Wrapped-up as we so often are in the aphorisms about what we should or shouldn't be wearing ~ according to fashion trends, occasion, the weather or merely how sleepy we have rolled out of bed (you get my point)~ we often forget that perfume primarily has to do with sheer enjoyment! Yes, fitting the surroundings is all fine & dandy and probably earns us brownie points, but what about surprising our entourage (nay, surprising ourselves!) with unexpected choices that don't become stinkbombs either in the summer heat? While discussing this issue with my pal The Non Blonde we came up with memories about summers past, when no one really was wearing citrus dependables like Eau d'Hadrien and when the beauty of Chanel's Sycomore (or Guerlain's Vetiver pour Elle alternatively) hadn't been invented yet.
Here are some of my personal choices, which I have been enjoying on really hot ~and less than that~ summer days & nights. [Links direct you to full on reviews].
- Lightweight Ambers
*Estee Lauder Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang
Tropical, lush ylang ylang and slightly medicinal, non sweet amber sing a duet: the feeling of lying down on sugar-span sand, sun high above baking skin. And worries? Like a blister in the sun...they burst!
*I Profumi di Firenze Ambra del Nepal
Not Nepalese, really; I wore this on the island of Santorini, sketching the ruins at Akrotiri, diving at Palaia Kameni and seeing the sun set an agonisingly slow death at Oia. Something about the volcanic earth, all black and scorched, mixed well with this incensy amber with its cool finish. Making me fall in love with life all over again.
*Marc Jacobs Splash Winter Amber
Misnomer of the century: There's nothing wintery about this amber. Much like L'Eau d'Hiver is actually the peachy fuzz of a cloud in a springtime Monet sky, this light, powdery, easy amber is fluff and cotton coolness itself. A distant friend, who has since silenced herself, introduced me to it and I think its splash form is ~for once in perfumery~ perfectly apt: You want to bathe it in and its fleeting nature allows you to, come summer or winter. So very easy that you'd never need think about it.
- Fangly, Cool Chypres
I first discovered the emerald green scalpel of Silences one summer when I was studying Italian "without toil" in order to accomodate university needs: required reading involved a certain Italian doctor who didn't have the good grace to get his research translated in any other language. One long-winded morning in the library ended into perfume discussion with the librarian assistant who was wearing...Silences. No pun whatsoever, I swear!
Bandit has long been my "sexy summer scent" when I'm all sweaty. In fact I cherish being sweaty when I'm wearing it, which is as rare a reaction for me as snowing in the middle of August is for weather forecasts in southern Europe. Why, you ask? Because the heat seems to bring out the very best elements in that state of undeliberate disarray, which might be indicative of its mischievous, promiscuous proclivities in the first place; after all Germaine Cellier did undress models off the runway off their underwear for "study" while composing.
*Shiseido Zen (original)
Zen has the bitter, cool taste that you expect brainy, tech-geek types to appreciate: Calatrava architecture, smoked aubergines and Pernod. It doesn't smell of any of these things, of course, but I happened to discover the vintage edition (there are at least three versions, see this) one summer when all these were combined in a whirwind in my life. The summer Olympics had come to Athens and though nothing was zen-like, Zen gave me some grounding and sang froid.
My wild card and an ace in the sleeve at that. Consider this the classiest choice among them all and save the best for last. Is it fair that it's intended for men? I should think adventurous women who were never tomboys would not only "get away with it", but would highlight its luxurious character even more. Basically Guerlain took the formulaic leather structure and span it on its head, adding the cool bitterness of artemisia and a minty note which make this one the chypre equivalent of the ice-cubes I melt on my chest on summer mornings when I can't bring myself to get dressed. I particularly enjoy the bracing, strident top! Wonderful in vintage form (1985), still amazing in the current Les Parisiennes edition and that's hopeful.
- Spicy Orientals
*Yves Saint Laurent Opium Fleur de Shangai
Opium summer editions have all been really good, which is almost a sacrilegious thought now that the real deal has been butchered irrevocably. This one is my favourite of the bunch, worn during romantic evening walks at the seashore, its orchid powderiness a welcome lightening -but not diluting- of the density of the original when it's been 38C all day.
*Krizia Teatro alla Scala
It's so easy to dismiss a spicy oriental, and a dressy one at that, on the power of its prowess. Well, fear not, the aldehydes and clove combo in this one gives the clean feeling of iron passing clean linen and the pepper spice would scare microbes on a petri-dish away. Big nights out, you're covered!
*L'Artisan Poivre Piquant
If Parfum Sacré had a little sister, permeated with eroticism, soft and pliable, this would be she. Drier, more reflective and without the emphatic rosiness, Poivre Piquant weaves in a cooling trail of incense into its peppercorns goodness to cut through the heat like tiny diamonds cut through crystal.
Don't forget to check out Gaia's atypical choices & memories at The Non Blonde.
For a more familiar, summer-friendly fragrance wardrobe for every occasion, please check last year's entry on this link.
Clips from the films The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (2005) by Sanaa Hamri, Le Mépris/Contempt (1963) by Jean-Luc Godard and E la Nave Va (And the Ship Sails On, 1973) by Federico Fellini.
Photo Swallow Dive (SPAARNESTAD PHOTO by Het Leven) via the Nationaal Archief