With signs of autumn all around us, this month we’re embracing the season with scents that remind us of walking in the woods, wisps of smoke on the breeze, and that golden sunlight that streams through the leaves and warms our souls.
Now is the time to delight in that new freshness to the air – or add an extra layer of cosiness via your fragrance – reaching for perfumes that have a more contemplative feel, perhaps, or deeper scents, tinged with spices? Whatever you may choose, it’s a time to make the most of sunnier autumnal days while we can, and savour the best of the season. Which of these could be on your list to try…?
La Montaña First Light
Picture early morning in the pine woods, a walk at dawn when the mist veils trees with jewelled droplets, gossamer spiderwebs silvered by the chill. Then, slowly, the rosy blush rises over a mountain, the breeze alive with wild herbs, fronds of fennel, a verdant stillness which seems magical. That awed alchemy is bottled, here, to perfection.
Capturing ‘a deep breath of woody autumn air in a bottle” this is a scent that recalls the crunch of leaves underfoot, towering trees in the woods a comforting canopy while you explore, a sense of stillness as the season swings anew. Pops of spices fizz beneath the fir balsam – cardamom, pink pepper and aglow amidst the mossy, snuggly soft base.
An homage to the perfect beauty of a landscape you’ve fallen in love with, this moss-nestled hug of woods feels lined in silk, being dusted with smooth iris and slicked with a sheen of sandalwood. Inspired by Australia’s heritage-listed Fraser Island, it’s an immediate escape route in a bottle – spray, breathe in, close your eyes and exude the bliss.
Taking the ‘your skin but better’ creaminess of that original molecule and adding guaiac wood was genius, ‘It has a gentle ‘cocooning around the fireplace in winter’ feel to it.’ explains Geza Schoen; ‘It’s like emulsified smoke that melts into the Iso E Super.’ Swirling amber-hued rum, this will warm your heart and make those around you utterly swoon.
Described as a ‘quintessence of woody notes’, this hums with the power of its presence – a call on the breeze, entwined with woodsmoke, drawing you to the heart of the forest. Sublime layers of scent unravel, a duo of Indian and white oudhs swirling majestically, with bright red berries glistening, a surprising brightness atop resinous patchouli.
Hailed as ‘the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, the start of autumn means golden sunlight, soft cashmere sweaters and a chance to snuggle up in scents that take a cosier turn. We’re hailing these new-season scents as a reason to celebrate fall (see what we did, there?) in love with some new fragrances again…
Just 200 bottles have been hand-poured of this limited edition, portraying a summer stay at La Garda – ‘the home of ever-changing sunlight, the aperitif lifestyle, and the picturesque destination for many legendary Floris customers.’ Freshly amber-y, it bursts open with cassis and bergamot, with milky fig and sparkling aqua notes, riffled by a breeze of flowers and with an ambery finale of tonka, patchouli, almond blossoms and sandalwood that’s warm, wonderful and wearable. £200 for 100ml eau de parfum florislondon.com
A glorious first collection of fragrances from the renowned Italian luxury goods house, the elegant curvature of the bottles is based on the arch of their historic 18th-century HQ in Bologna. This one’s a stunning saffron and pink pepper atop rose and geranium in the heart, but it’s the base that will have you swooning – creamy yet never too sweet vanilla caressed by chocolate-y suede. We adore the 10ml & 30ml sizes, too. From £17 for 10ml eau de parfum next.co.uk
JULIETTE HAS A GUN
A twist of muskiness and juicy yet crisp pear, another element we found prominent here is the milky heart (milk fragrances, too, are trending of late), laced with Ambroxan for a distinctly modern touch. Neither totally green or fresh due to the gauzy gourmand vibe throughout, it’s ‘a heavenly fragrance evoking happiness, sunny days and positivity,’ which founder Romano Ricci wanted to be ‘like the promise of a beautiful summer.’ (or autumn, we feel – seasons being interchangable now!) £85 for 50ml eau de parfum harveynichols.com
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS Orchid Leather
You may think you know leather, but you’ve not yet smelled this, which conjures up a supple, almost silken floral around that note. The vanilla bean (fruit of the orchid) here feels lithe and smoky, while cardamom and plum deliver opulence – but there’s something animalic, too, a subtle snarl tangled amidst the cistus and a swirl of incense in the base. We’d also adore this on a man’s skin. £130 for 75ml eau de parfum harrods.com
SALVATORE FERRAGAMO Intense Leather
Surging with freshness then taking an unexpected twist into supple, sensuous leather, perfumer Antoine Maisondieu fuses summer’s sparkling mandarin and crisp apple with flecks of pink peppercorn’s fizz. The heart sings of spring, meanwhile – lily of the valley’s verdancy dusted with a sprinkle of orris – and proving a scent for all seasons, the base is a warm autumnal hug of nuzzle-worthy oakmoss and musk. Beneath it all the leather invites caress, closeness, all you’ve been missing… £56 for 50ml eau de parfum ferragamo.com
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-Ambrée 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