Fireworks are a celebration of light amidst these darker months – as the clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in – and so here we present a selection of fragrances with smoky, sensual notes to smoulder in this season…
A scorching interpretation of rose, in which smouldering leather tangos with rich Damask rose against a backdrop of patchouli, amber and deepest, darkest oudh. Think bonfire-smoke still clinging to your hair, pinpricks of starlight against a velvety black sky and cold lips soon warmed by passionate kisses.
P.S: You can try a sample of Firedance in the Ruth Mastenbroek Discovery Set – featuring the first four fragrances in her eponymous collection, so perfect to explore at home – try all four fragrances here for only £17.95.
Arabic dokha tobacco’s smokiness wafts through a spicy-woody-Oriental with an unexpected note of raspberry, then a fabulous fug of full-on tobacco dust absolute and tobacco leaf, warmed by roasted tonka bean, creamy sandalwood and a delicious woody-amber blend of cistus absolute, castoreum and patchouli. This one’s all smoke – and mirrored label.
Tom Ford Oud Tobacco Intense £315 for 100ml eau de parfum harrods.com
Rip-roaring along hot tarmac on the back of a motorbike with fireworks bursting and ‘big hair don’t care’ optimism, the cypress, lemon zest freshness becomes dirty (in the best way), hugely smoke-smudged and sexy as all hell. Kudos, too, to the heavy magnetic lid, packaging and price.
Banana Republic Leather Reserve £55 for 75ml eau de parfum debenhams.com
This feels like an homage to the very origins of perfume – ‘per-fumum’ meaning ‘through smoke’ – melding incense with fruity notes of fresh Turkish rose with a fragrant drift of exotic spices. And it lingers beguilingly, waves of wamth unfurling, tendrills of woodiness creating a sumptuously smoky cloak.
Atelier Cologne Rose Smoke £325 for 100ml pure parfum Harrods
This fragrance’s Scottish geology is composed of black pepper, densely smoked minerals and rose absolute with a splash of whisky and amber-rich leather. It’s complex, fusing an invigorating opening with a trio of peaty swirls, fresh tobacco and incense metamorphosing as it warms – and wins your heart.
Whichever of these intriguingly smoke-infused scents you choose, we feel sure you will revel in their scented display for hours, days and months ahead. Now, all you need do is seek them out, choose your favourite, light the metaphorical ‘blue touch paper’ and get ready for the fragrant fireworks…
Suddenly our duvets have become irresistible and those opaque tights have made their appearance from the back of the drawer. Along with cashmere cardis and hot toddies replacing the t-shirts and G&Ts (okay, we actually haven’t quite given up G&Ts), so our fragrance tastes tend to swing toward something warmer – a snuggle in a bottle that helps you get out of bed in the morning and comforts you throughout the day.
Sandalwood-rich perfumes are great ones to look for in the autumnal months or colder climates, offering a smooth creaminess that clings to the skin like a cashmere blanket – a poncho made from perfume. Yes we may sometimes wish to be pepped up with a citrus blast every now and again, even on a chilly day; but the majority of us here at TPS Towers are longing for something to snuggle into, and sandalwood as a dominant note definitely fits that bill.
In our just-published Couture edition of The Scented Letter Magazine, my leading feature seeks out ‘The sensational history of sandalwood‘, looking into versatility of this ingredient, and finding out just why perfumers (and perfume-wearers) love it so. But the topic is so vast, I really wanted to give you even more sandalwood-filled snippets, and urge you to swathe yourself in sandalwood scents you already love, or to think about getting seriously cosy with something sandalwood-y and new to you…
Some sandalwood facts:
Sandalwood is used in the base of up to 50% of feminine fragrances.
Supremely versatile, it blends exquisitely with clove, lavender, geranium, jasmine, galbanum, frankincense, black pepper, jasmine and patchouli (among others).
It works as a ‘fixative’, tethering other ingredients and keeping them ‘true’, in a composition.
So many sandalwood trees have been cut down in India, largely for production of perfume and incense – often illegally harvested, because it’s such a valuable commodity – that it’s become endangered.
The good news is that plantations in Australia are now coming on-stream, producing (santalum spicatum) sandalwood oil of high quality – to the relief of ‘noses’ (and conservationists.)
A wide range of synthetic sandalwood-like ingredients are now used in place of this at-risk wood, to give a similarly smooth milkiness (see below for our guide)…
The synthetics now available for perfumer’s to expand their palette is now fairly extensive. With the cost of Mysore (often considered the best quality, and the most endangered) sandalwood increasing approximately 25% per year, you can understand why many fragrance brands are choosing to use these aroma-chemicals, for cost-effective (would you continue to buy a favourite fragrance if it doubled in price every four years?) as well as conservation reasons.
In my magazine feature, indie perfumer, and founder of 4160 Tuesdays, Sarah McCartney, explains why synthetic sandalwood is so vital for perfumers – and how most people asked to compare natural and synthetic sandalwood side-by-side in a blind smelling, will confidently declare those synthetics to ‘definitely be the natural’ wood. So generally, ‘…if you have sandalwood listed in the notes, it will either be accompanied by its synthetic sisters, or replaced entirely.’ Among these synthetics we have:
Beta santalol – considered to be one of the most ‘nature identical’ of sandalwood notes, this imparts the comforting creamy snuggle we expect. Polysantol – formerly trademarked by Firmenich , it has herbal depth with just a touch of filth for the animalic scent lovers out there. Realistic enough in a composition, it also has great lasting power. Levosandol – by Takasago is shot through with tang of dry cedar-like notes for an overall woodiness. Ebanol – a Givaudan trademark, is remarkably rich and surprisingly potent. The snuggle that just keeps going. Fleursandol – by Symrise, this one has a lightly floral character beneath the dominant, life-like sandalwood note.
Try sandalwood in these beauties…
But McCartney also reminds us that many naturals also ‘replace’ or snuggle up to natural sandalwood in fragrances, ‘One good natural substitute is amyris essential oil,’ she continues. ‘Mine is from Haiti and smells closer to aged Mysore oil than my Australian or modern Indian sandalwood. Amyris is known as Hatian sandalwood, but is a different species. Sandalwood has strength and richness but never overpowers or forces its way through a composition.’
David Moltz, perfumer and co-founder of cult niche house D.S. & Durga agress on this so-special charcteristic of sandalwood, explaining, ‘Though long-lasting and incredibly umami for a wood, its overall throw is soft. So it’s persistent but never overpowers other oils.’ Personally, he likes to mix the types of sandalwood he uses, depending on what he’s trying to achieve, so he uses ‘…a bunch of different sandalwoods. In the D.S. fragrance, I used top-grade Sri Lankan sandalwood which is the closest we have to the fabled and ethically challenged Mysore varietal from south India.’
Whichever character of sandalwood you choose, it’s just perfect to embrace on chillier, grey days – so do have a look for some of these, and get ready to fully embrace sandalwood’s cosy sensuality…
Molten sandalwood and cedar melds with warm amber, a wispy jasmine that fluffs itself up around ghost lily, waxy magnolia and narcotic ylang ylang. It all dries down to the most glorious pepper speckled honey for a ‘your skin but better’ daily cuddle. Self-care in a bottle. Estée Lauder Sensuous£56 for 50ml eau de parfum theperfumeshop.com
Like burying yourself in a boyfriend’s favourite jumper, textural layers of pink pomelo, ginger and green lemon brush against soft lavender and jasmine whispers. Finally, skin’s wrapped in that comforting sandalwood, with birch, oak, patchouli and musk. Sans boyfriend? I think this amply replaces many. Missoni Parfum Pour Hommefrom £33 for 30ml eau de parfum thefragranceshop.co.uk
Distant recollections of being warm without woollen undergarments evoked with the delectable creaminess of iris butter swirled into sandalwood. It’s all blissfully relaxed limbs slathered in retro-smelling coconut suntan oil and a cool lick of vanilla ice-cream. Thanks for the memories… Juliette Has a Gun Sunny Side Up£110 for 100ml eau de parfum harveynichols.com
A handsome (completely unisex, we think) scent that’s crisp as a tall G&T (told you we were clinging on) at first, then sinks beguilingly to a dandyish clove, cardamom and nutmeg-laden heart and the softness of sandalwood and vanilla muskiness beyond. Floris Santal£80 for 100ml eau de toilette florislondon.com
A sacred signal to the Gods, incense billows through saffron’s golden glow, precious frankincense swirled amidst a plush heart of rose absolute, smooth sandalwood soothing you like a whisper on a breeze of translucent white musk. Wearing it feels like knowing the very soul of perfume – ‘per fumum’ meaning ‘through smoke’. Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire Rêve d’Encens £260 for 125ml eau de parfum harrods.com
Have you ever worn a fragrance that made you shiver? I’m not talking about accidentally spraying yourself in an ex’s favourite scent, but deliberately wearing something that unsettled you slightly? Fragrances can send us into reveries of rapture, but they don’t have to be traditionally ‘pretty’ to do so.
There’s pleasure to be found in challenging your perfume habits – delighting in the pricking of your preconceptions, a sharpening of the senses. The Germans use the term unheimlich, which roughly translates to the experience of something feeling weirdly familiar while remaining mysterious, eerie, uncanny.
These seven scents are best worn with a nip of frost in the air, golden sunlight softly streaming through brightly-dressed trees, and sense of delicious mystery swirling through those misty mornings and rapidly darkening nights…
A concoction of woody and fresh notes with hazelnuts, blood oranges and tobacco at its heart, Damn Rebel Witches ‘…commemorates witches burnt at the stake, those prosecuted today for witchcraft and people who identify as witches.’ The toasty nuttiness is shot through with the red juice of those blood oranges, and rich tendrils of tobacco smoke weave their way through the entire composition, making this one of the most addictively unusual fragrances I’ve tried in ages.
Reek Perfume Damn Rebel Witches from £25 for 7.5ml eau de parfum reekperfume.com
Inspired by the destructive and regenerative Australian bush fires, its smoky heart of mysterious spices is spiked with shards of fresh (surprisingly fruity) eucalyptus and citrus to create a wonderful juxtaposition of hot/cold and intriguing textures. A smouldering smoky wood accord underlines this contrast of dark and light, with the house’s signature Australian sandalwood smoothing the seared edges, wonderfully.
Map of the Heart Black Heart v.2 £150 for 90ml eau de parfum harrods.com
A thrillingly dense formula full of overlapping facets, there’s jasmine, warm skin muskiness, dark cracked leather and resionous balsam lapping at white flowers. The concept follows the unsettlingly tense relationship of Agent Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, and is named for the moment Hannibal says: ‘You use Evian skin cream, and sometimes you wear L’Air du Temps … but not today.’ Most certainly a wearable shiver, but of fear or delight? Only you can be the judge.
The mere mention of the word oud (sometimes spelled ‘oudh’) causes some to clasp their pearls and screech in horror, jumping on a chair like the maid in Tom & Jerry, and likely fainting clean away. But there’s many types of oud, as perfumer Sarah McCartney discovered, including a softer, ‘white oud’ included here. Beguiling plump plums and fuzzy peaches trickle stickily over rivulets of fresh grapefruit and raspberry flecked with piquant juniper. Overall there’s a hushed leafiness that hides a devil-may-care attitude (and possibly cloven hooves).
4160 Tuesdays Be Careful What You Wish For from £40 for 9ml eau de parfum 4160tuesdays.com
A bewitching concoction that marries the sweetness of toasted marshmallows unctuously melting into an overdose of ginger, with a fluffy heart of jasmine, rose and peony that’s girlish glee personified. Sugar and spice and all things nice? This is the too-perfectly-painted doll whose eyes follow you around the room, the tinkling nursery rhyme in the soundtrack of a horror film, a half-glimpsed lightning flash in a foxed mirror. And that bottle! It looks like something you’d pull out of a purse to surreptitiously drop into a beastly husband’s tea. Beautifully dangerous.
Dior Poison Girl Unexpected from £32.50 for 20ml rollerball eau de toilette johnlewis.com
Frolicking about with the idea of forbidden fruit, you’re first intoxicated by the tumble of ripe peaches placed at your feet in tempting heaps. Just one bite can’t hurt, right? Lychee, blackcurrant and blood orange suddenly fuse into a licentious cocktail, sharp punches of spicy pimento berries and hot pepper slowly making their way to a velvety bed of vanilla and an almond-like, cyanide kiss of tonka beans. With a trail that snakes on the skin for hours, here’s a fruit salad that could easily lead you astray.
By Kilian Playing With the Devil from £250 for 50ml refillable eau de parfum spray bykilian.co.uk
The Serges Lutens collection has something of a reputation for not revealing the notes of the fragrances, preferring them to remain as mysteriously illusive as the creator himself. Here all we know is this one contains a key note of fir balsam, and that it’s like wearing a midnight velvet cloak while standing next to a bonfire eating cinder toffee. Gloweringly inky, smoky as spent fireworks yet cold as starlight – it somehow makes you feel enswathed, becalmed, protected.
Think Colognes are only for summer splashes and searing heatwaves? Atelier Cologne‘s deeper twists on the classic will make you think again…
Having enjoyed the hottest summer on record in England (joint hottest for UK overall since 1976), there’s no doubt we’ve all been reaching for those fresh fragrances to cool things down. The traditional Cologne is a thing of joy – but apart from the first splash, that joy could be fleeting, until Atelier Cologne took the best elements of the tradition and infused them with more complexity, depth and a hugely boosted lasting power.
This means we can enjoy all the benfits of their range well into the cooler months – good news for those already grieving the loss of summer and who perhaps need a spirit-reviving spritz before we get those opaque tights and cardis out of storage. Here’s our guide to five Atelier Cologne fragrances you should try for an olfactory change of seasons…
Top notes: Bergamot from Calabria, limette from Mexico, saffron from India
Heart notes: Sandalwood from New Caledonia, gaiac wood from India, white musk
Base notes: Papyrus from India, cedarwood from Texas, vanilla from Madagasca
Satisfyingly spicy without feeling too bundled-up already, the warm glow of saffron suffuses the zestiness of the opening like autumnal sunshine filtering through trees. Gorgeously layered woods with a wisp of soft musk and the tenderness of vanilla in the base feel like a late afternoon walk through the park.
Atelier Cologne Santal Carmin £160 for 100ml eau de parfum
Top notes: Calabrian bergamot, Sicilian mandarin, Guatemalan cardamom
Heart notes: rose oil, Indian tuberose, coffee
Base notes: Madagascan vanilla, cocoa pod
A unique blending of white floral and modern gourmand, the coffee really shines here, all toasty and delicious with a touch of cardamom and a swirl of milky vanilla and cocoa in the dry down. Think of those days it’s still warm enough to grab a coffee outside, chic people-watching while devoring pastries.
Atelier Cologne Cafe Tuberosa £115 for 100ml Cologne absolue
Top notes: green mandarin from Italy, Sicilian bergamot, tajetes from Egypt
Heart notes: orchid nigritella rubra, cinnamon from Sri Lanka, benzoin from Thailand
Base notes: cistus labdanum from Spain, amber, tonka bean from Brazil
A little tip-toe into snugglier scents, this amber benefits from the fresh breeziness of the green mandarin as a welcome change from your usual citrus. Gentle spices never feel dusty, bringing a sense of comfort to the richer notes, instead, and adding a real spring in your step as chillier weather sets in.
Atelier Cologne Ambre Nue £115 for 100ml Cologne absolue
Top notes: bergamot from Calabria, orange flower from Morocco, black pepper from Vietnam
Heart notes: iris from Morocco, lavender from Provence, rose centifolia from Grasse
Base notes: Gaiac wood from Central America, patchouli from Indonesia, white musk accord
Just the most whisper-soft embrace of cashmere-like fluffiness and a pretty bouquet proffered throughout the composition, imagine the sigh of contentment while wearing your favourite suede jacket and shopping at the flower market. The woody-musk base feels reassuring, a scented hug to last all day.
Atelier Cologne Iris Rebelle £165 for 100ml Cologne absolue
Exclusive to Selfridges
Top notes: bergamot from Calabria, ginger from China, Turkish rose essence
Heart notes: Turkish rose absolue, incense from Somalia, velvet oud accord
Base notes: patchouli from Indonesia, papyrus from India, benzoin from Laos
Those of you not yet ready to let go of your roses (and we count ourselves among you!) fear not – here’s an opulent plunge into the more sensual side that flower. We’re especially loving the textural richness added by a drift of incense and smooth oud accord, a fragrant trail you’ll love all day and after sunset.
There’s something about woody fragrances that feels especially comforting at this time of year – a snuggle of smooth sandalwood is like wearing a cashmere blanket, dry cedar is wonderfully grounding and the all-pervasive oudh (aka ‘akigalawood’) we suddenly find is being used in fine fragrance as a sexy rumble of a base note, that beckons rather than billows-forth at full-force. Woody scents also make us think of woodlands themselves, long walks in bright, frosty forests with those cheering signs of Spring just beginning to stir – and thank goodness for that!
The only question remains, which perfume path should you choose through the woods…?
Inspired by the stark serenity of British beaches in winter, we were intrigued by the salty driftwood note at the heart of this new fragrance, peppered with bergamot and a mineral accord that stays cool and slinky on the skin, we imagine broken seashells, the rustle of dried grasses and wave-lashed coastlines. Ambroxan and patchouli in the base feel like wearing your softest sweater, pulling your scarf up to your nose and breathing deeply, your soul becalmed.
Amouage Beach Hut Woman £240 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it at selfridges.com
Warm in a powerful way, the cedarwood here balances a deliciously decadent accord of roses, jasmine, orange blossom and bergamot. One of those all-day wrist-sniffers, you’ll be taken on a darker journey through the distinctly shadier path of patchouli, cedarwood and an almost sticky-smelling amber at the end (think resinous, dark honey slathered on hot toast. We practically think of nothing else on cold, frosty mornings…)
Ormonde Jayne Ambre Royal £110 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at harrods.com
Inspired by the Mr. Harrod, Penhaligon’s describe the character of this scent as ‘…a flourishing businessman who has evident appeal with the ladies.’ While that could be interpreted another way, we’re here to say it’s definitely shareable! Spiced plum and patchouli sinks into a jasmine, raspberry and ambergris accord with an oudh, cinnamon, tobacco and cedarwood dry-down that could well be your nose’s new favourite thing.
Penhaligon’s Mr Harrod £185 for 50ml eu de parfum
Buy it at harrods.com
The rich sandalwood is enticingly interlaced with cardamom, coriander and rose for an all-natural scent that’s so soothingly spiced, it’s what our skins are crying out for right now. Fittingly, a percentage of every sale is given to charity – this year to the The Tulsi Trust – which funds health and education projects in Chhattisgarh, a remote area of central India. So it does good while you smell great: win-win.
Marina Barcinella Parfums India £130 for 30ml oil
Buy it at mbparfums.com
Close your eyes and imagine taking a walk among the giant sequoias, as legend has it so tall and denseley packed that sunlight never touches the ground at their roots, a darkly woody haunt of a scent that lingers long after you’ve first sprayed, like some mischevious woodland sprite always darting further ahead. Dry with black tea, cheering with cocoa, it’s pepped up with a glow of saffron and ginger for added warmth, and beguilingly addictive.
There are those who claim certain scents should only be worn in summer – the lighter, more citrus-laden ones for the most part – and that we should reserve the heavier, more opulent fragrances for our winter wardrobes. But is this once foregranted ‘fact’ still true…?
Certainly, in hot weather you may find your fragrance seems ‘stronger’ or more overpowering, the heat causing the notes to evolve on the skin more rapidly and bloom around you in fragrant waves. This is exactly why brands sometimes offer lighter versions of their bestselling scents for the summer. Indeed, some people prefer heavier more full-bodied, comforting, almost ‘cocooning’ scents in the winter – but again, this is completely individual.
Personally, at The Perfume Society, we do tend towards richer fragrances that we love to rediscover at around the time when we reach for our opaque tights, our socks (and vests!), switching to airier perfumes for the warmer months. But never let anyone tell you what perfume to wear and when – just do what feels right for you. We say: scent ‘rules’ are made to be broken, so just follow your nose…
We find winter is actually a perfect time to refresh your senses, and re-visit those scents you perhaps didn’t quite get on with in summer – cooler weather and damper climates makes your skin react completely differently, so why not try some fragrances you may have written-off forever?
While you’re at it – have a dig around in your collection for ‘spring fresh’ or ‘summer-y’ scents that you already love and see how differently they bloom on your skin at this time of year. Just as too much turkey and endless chocolates can have you yearning for a crisp salad, it’s good to go over to the light side for a change of scent-scene now and again.
Here’s our list of five transitional scents to try for a time-travelling experience out of your comfort zone. So, shake off those heavy layers and prepare to get zingy with some winter freshness…
Zesty to the point of mouth-watering excess, the energising burst of crushed ripe fruit uses the darker extract of sweet blood orange juice juxtaposed against bitter orange peel and warming wafts of geranium for a feel-good cloud of happiness. Formulated to last far longer than traditional Colognes but losing none of their zippiness – hoorah! Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine £49.50 for 30ml Cologne Absolue
Buy it at John Lewis
Ignore the grey skies, close your eyes and imagine the Provençal setting sun, still warm on your skin (move closer to the fire or add another layer of clothing, if necessary…)Aromatically fresh with the fizz of bergamot and pink pepper, the true heart of honey infused lavender is balanced by the milky acacia blossoms, the nuttiness of tonka beans and balsamic warmth of the earthier base. L’Occitane Terre de Lumière Limited Edition bottle, £58 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at loccitane.com
A lusciously fruity mixture of milky fig cut through with Turkish apricot and green tea for a deliciously refreshing blend that still feels nurturingly comforting. A wearable panna cotta with just enough wobble and topped with glistening slices of that succulent fruit – we have no doubt you’ll want to dive in. Fresh Fig Apricot £76 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Harrods
The tart, raspberry freshness of Turkish rose and the subtle woodiness of thorny stems enhanced by geranium melt slowly to a softly cushioned fuzziness of peonies and vibrant freesia, gently sprinkled with black pepper and drizzled with honey. Every bit as delicious as it sounds, it’s a ballerina dancing in a garden as the sun rises and blushes the sky the colour of her frothy tutu. Aqua di Parma Peonia Nobile £78 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Selfridges
Ripening tomatoes lovingly stroked in a greenhouse, sunlight glinting on frosty hedgerows and mint leaves floating in a pitcher of homemade lemonade – this enlivening scent whisks you to the home of the Mitchell family at Foxbury Farm. Sparkling citrus rubs shoulders with herbaceous greens and English flowers grown in their fields; drying down to the classically elegant combination of musk and cedar wood. Mitchell and Peach English Leaf Fine Edition £55 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at Roullier White
Written by Suzy Nightingale
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