Smoky scents on the breeze, distant drifts of bonfires and hazy wisps of woodsmoke, eldritch mists of morning fields in autumn – as fragrance lovers, these are the sensorial delights of the season that we’re indulging ourselves with right now…
Whether it’s the whiff of roaring fires, or mellow pipesmoke evoking much-patched tweed jackets and just a hint of damp dog: truly great smoky fragrances are immediately transportive, and not always quite so comforting. In Romeo & Juliette, Shakespeare reminds us that ‘Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs,’ which can resemble the fire in your lover’s eyes, or become a ‘choking gall’. So too can smoky fragrances recall excitement in spent fireworks, waft the standoffish cigar-tinged sneer of a ‘members only’ club, or cloak you in the sanctified air of a Catholic confessional. They might recall stubbed cigarettes, boozy liasons and yesterday’s eyeliner, suggest the once-furtive fug of illicit substances, appease fickle gods, or summon the most lascivious demons.
It’s hardly surprising there’s many smoke-laden scents, seeing as the word perfume itself arises from the Latin, ‘per fumum‘ – ‘through smoke’ – referring to fragrant materials burned as scented prayers. Perfumers, meanwhile, might choose to combine both naturals and synthetics to acheive their desired level of vapour; from the folksy, dried hay and tobacco or even burned rubber funk of isobutyl quinolone; pitch black tarriness of cade oil, the bitter, leathery slap of birch tar or rich, incense-like resins such as the fruity amber purr of labdanum (from the cistus plant) or the more powdery balsamic musk of opoponax.
Sprayed to rejoice in autumnal splendour or perhaps used to summon something altogether more Mephistophelian – I urge you to seek these out and smoulder forth…
Sarah Baker, Bascule
Succulent peach juice sizzles on hot leather, tobacco frottages smouldering hay while soapy lily of the valley and cut grass beckon a bath (following a torrid tumble in the stables). Ruthlessly seductive.
£95 for 50ml eau de parfum
In Our Shop
Swinging incense trails conjure trembling sooty fingerprints stroked on skin, a low thrum of sticky patchouli cloaking herbaceous freshness; the stolen kisses writhing in a mossy embrace.
£109 for 50ml eau de parfum
A more subtle swathe of smokiness for those who prefer to exude sophistication; here flinty lavender swirls oodles of soft tobacco into creamy vanilla, with clouds of hay-like coumarin cushioning the wood.
£240 for 90ml extrait de parfum, selfridges.com
Moschino, Toy Boy
Utterly beguiling from the get go, a bouquet of roses is tossed on the bonfire; dry clove crackles and peppercorns pop, the heat suddenly sliced through with a cool leather whip, soothed with cashmeran.
From £38.25 for 30ml eau de parfum
Ruth Mastenbroek, Firedance
When you’re ready to ramp it up: this sublimely scorching leather smooches Damask rose and deepest, darkest oudh. Think billowing bonfire-smoke clinging to your hair and cold lips burned by passionate kisses.
£70 for 30ml eau de parfum
By Suzy Nightingale