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April 30, 2010

Ten Moments of Spring : Emotions and Fragrances


While any Russian will find an ironic reference in my title to the Soviet era film "Seventeen Moments of Spring," for me it has less to do with Russian spies improbably masquerading as German officers than with a sense of nostalgia I feel around this time. As I watch cherry blossoms wilt in the puddles, I already miss their delicate pink haze. As I feel the sun burning my skin, I crave the chill of snow. As spring unfolds with all its holidays, I miss people who cannot celebrate them with me. Therefore, my scent palette this spring reflects my yearnings and moods with particular poignancy.


No holidays strike a deeper chord in me than Easter and Nowruz. Although they come from different traditions, their message of rejuvenation, hope and freedom is exhilarating. How magical is the smell of church during midnight mass--beeswax candles, hyacinth, vanilla and the candied oranges of kulich, Russian traditional sweet breads! How tempting is the Easter spread of colorful eggs, sugared brioche, pistachio cheesecakes, especially so after 40 days of Lent and its privations. It is difficult to imagine a fragrance that fully captures this sensation of spring exhilaration, but a few come close. Chanel no 19 with its enchanting juxtaposition between cool flower petals, green roots and soft leather offers an uplifting experience. Its verdancy is especially appropriate when contemplating the idea of spring. If being caught in the rainfall of apple blossoms is exhilarating to you, then Serge Lutens Fleurs d'Oranger is an appropriately dramatic choice, a veritable storm of orange blossom, tuberose, jasmine and rose. Finally, Frederic Malle Carnal Flower is my own top choice for an exhilarating, enthralling fragrance. While tuberose, its main note, often tends to be opulent and heavy, Carnal Flower renders it airy and luminous.


After the hectic Easter holidays--oh, all that spring cleaning, baking, serving--there comes a time of peace. When mornings are warm enough to take my tea and book outside, I like to be the first one to wake up and enjoy some solitude. I read little, being distracted by the new discoveries of spring -- the egg yolk yellow of dandelion flowers, the intense green of tender leaves, the sonorous buzz of bees. These mornings smell of Annick Goutal Eau de Ciel and also of Serge Lutens Bois de Violette. The former is demure, delicate, limpid; the latter is dusky, moody, charming, yet somewhat unpredictable. Still, both fragrances have a wistful, serene character.


One must be in love in the spring. The object of one's passion may be human, but other things can inspire deep emotion as well. One spring I fell in love with Paris and went there at least twice a year, structuring my work and pleasure opportunities to allow me the joy of reunion. A couple of springs ago, it was Japanese literature. I read Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book, savoring each passage like a fine wine. In fragrance, this spring's passion is directed to the appropriately named Cacharel Amor Amor. The wet lilacs of Frederic Malle En Passant are another love story for me, a rather more constant one.Wearing this fragrance I feel as if I am in a different place and time, one that seems more pristine than the reality in which I find myself. That's just the way it tends to be.


This brings us to the cardinal moment of spring--nostalgia. I become most aware of it at this time because of spring's numerous holidays.The retro elegance of Caron Tabac Blond feels particularly suited to these moods.


Rain falling through new leaves rustles like the train of a heavy ball gown against the dance floor. The first storms of spring speak of its changing moods, so unpredictable and dramatic. From sunny exuberance to brooding gloom. I consider Frederic Malle Angéliques Sous la Pluie and Guerlain Après l'Ondée as my rainy weather/sad mood fragrances, both for their limpid, delicate beauty and for their soothing quality. Ultimately, they are exquisitely beautiful, and when one contemplates beauty, sadness melts away.


Meaning "dreams" in French, Songes by Annick Goutal may be too obvious a selection, however I will make no excuses for it. I just adore this luscious jasmine and sandalwood composition, so complex, layered and nuanced. As long as it makes me dream, that is all I need to return to this fragrance again and again.


Any change brings about anxiety, and spring is particularly pervaded with a kind of nervous tension, a dissonance of sorts. When I think of dissonance, the first fragrance that comes to mind is Comme des Garçons Eau de Parfum (Original). An unpredictable blend of wood, incense, spice, and leather; it has an almost electric energy. Striking, if not exactly easy to wear.


As Easter hails Christ's rising, a new moment of spring blossoms--hope. Hope that things will be better. It is a radiant, uplifting sensation that makes one soar. A complex emotion like this is difficult to tie to a particular fragrance, but somehow the simplicity of Annick Goutal Neroli never fails to give me a pleasant jolt. Likewise, Frederic Malle L'Eau d'Hiver is almost addictive in its rejuvenating, tonic quality, a potion of violet, anise and heliotrope.


daily transformation during this season brings a new pleasure of rediscovery. It is exciting to see the first thin blades of grass under the snow and contemplate them as if seeing their delicacy for the first time. Hence, olfactive rediscoveries are plentiful as well. A recent citrus oriented project prompted me to revisit Thierry Mugler Cologne. A crisp modern take on cologne, it anchors its effervescent citrus on a sheer woody-musky base. Yet, the effect is dramatic and powerful. Speaking of sparkling citrus, I should also mention a new take on Eau de Cartier, Eau de Cartier Essence d'Orange, which is a nice crisp cologne.


Finally, I want spring to bring surprises too. From the climatic standpoint, it is not a difficult wish to be granted in the New York area. However, for something that changes your viewpoint in a radical manner, one has to search deeper. In terms of fragrance, I like to keep my mind open, whether it means delving into the past, exploring big new launches or discovering niche offerings. The most surprising big launch for me was Marc Jacobs Lola, a flamboyant, fruity rose. I expected it to be girly and cute, but instead it turned out to be marvelously luscious with a slightly mischievous facet. Also, By Kilian Rose Oud and Bond no 9 Saks-en-Rose made for two interesting rose discoveries, the former dark and moody and the latter frothy and luminous. This only proves that one cannot get tired of roses.

To see other Top Ten of Spring lists, please visit: Grain de Musc :: Now Smell This :: Perfume Posse :: Perfume Smellin’ Things.

Photography © Bois de Jasmin



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