The Scent of Snowdrops & the Promise of Spring

In the depths of winter, when life seems dormant and waiting, there is one little glimpse of brighter times to come – a whiff of hope on the frosty breeze – in that cheering moment we first spot a snowdrop. Yes, that might sound clichéd, but I defy you to smother a smile when you see one.

SO delicately scented with a lightly honeyed, creamy almond kind of smell, the latin name ‘Galanthus‘ means ‘milky flower’, and this tiny bloom has gathered centuries of fragrant folklore around its origins, continuing to inspire perfumers with its transcendent prettiness.

Native to Alpine regions, where they thrive amidst the cold, mountainous climes; snowdrops are believed to have first appeared in the British Isles when they were brought there by monks. It’s rather nice to imagine them tenderly tucked in religious robes while they travelled, but however they first arrived, they took root in the frozen winter soil of this country, and in our souls, somehow. Perhaps we were seduced by the mythology – stories passed down through generations, such as the legend recounted on the snowdrop-centric website snowdrops.me: ‘when you listen closely,’ they explain, ‘you can hear their bells ringing, trying to wake up nature from its winter sleep.’ Even more beautiful is the ancient German tale re-told on The Creative Countryside blog:

 

 

 

‘At the beginning of all things when life was new, the Snow sought to borrow a colour. The flowers were much admired by all the elements but they guarded their colour’s jealousy and when the Snow pleaded with them, they turned their backs in contempt for they believed the Snow cold and unpleasant. The tiny humble snowdrops took pity on the Snow for none of the other flowers had shown it any kindness and so they came forth and offered up to the Snow their colour. The Snow gratefully accepted and became white forevermore, just like the Snowdrops. In its gratitude, the Snow permitted the little pearly flowers the protection to appear in winter, to be impervious to the ice and bitter chill. From then on, the Snow and the Snowdrops coexisted side by side as friends.’

 

I’ll be the first to admit the smell of snowdrops isn’t effusive, it doesn’t billow through the woods as a scented cloud harkening Spring; but though tenderly scented, it’s the symbolism of this flower that so inspires perfumers, I think. And to which we feel drawn – perhaps likening ourselves to the ‘brave’ flower having clung on through icy conditions, and having managed to immerge, even through the frozen ground. A triumph of beauty over adversity, if you will.

 

 

 

 

Quietly scented (to us) they may be, but that smell acts as a clarion call for potential pollinators. The composition of the snowdrop’s fragrant waft depends on the type of insect it wants to attract. The honeyed kind attract bees (and us), but because the snowdrop is a fairly recent inhabitant on British shores, the scent they exude can also be a wordless cry to a species not available here. So, not all snowdrops have a smell that pleases the masses. Explains the National Plant Collection of Galanthus at Bruckhills Croft in Aberdeenshire on their snowdrops.me blog (where you can purchase several varieties of the flower): ‘The species Koenenianus is often described as having a smell of animal urine or bitter almonds, so perhaps has evolved to attract pollenating beetles in its native North-Eastern Turkey?’

 

 

 

 

Fragrances evoking snowdrops are (given our love for the flowers and their symbolism) still surprisingly rather scarce, but when we find them they may lean on the tenderly honeyed side of their scent (I’m very glad to say), with clever ‘noses’ tending to use a blend of notes to evoke these seasonal flagposts of hope in their fragrances – boosting their brightness, smoothing the edges, radiating anticipation. Such is the alchemy of a fragrant composition, we might be smelling lily-of-the-valley or bluebell accords (also imagined evocations) or the dewy green of violet leaf. Creamy white musks are often used to create that elegant shiver of the flower, or a whisper of cool woodiness wafting an imagined breeze to shake their bells. Conversely, the sense of snowdrops may be borrowed to add pale shafts of sunlight within the darkness of a scent, the contrast emboldening the harmony of the whole blend.

So, while you may not pick up a bottle and confidently declare ‘Aha! I detect snowdrops!’ we can quite willingly succumb to the romance of the story, and cling on to the feeling of hopefulness each of these four snowdrop fragrances grant the wearer…

 

 

 

 

Shay & Blue Black Tulip From £7.95 for 10ml eau de parfum
Contrasts abound as white chocolate swathes spiced plum, but before gourmand-avoiders back away, it’s not overtly sweet – think of it more like the silky ‘mouth-feel’ amidst swathes of bright snowdrops and creamy cyclamen. The dark heart hushes to wood shavings, curls of chocolate still falling like snowflakes.

 

 

Zoologist Snowy Owl £175 for 60ml extrait de parfum
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s calone-based ‘snow accord’ imagines the backdrop for the owl’s scented swooping: ‘A thick carpet of silver envelops the landscape, untouched but for the dazzling reflection of the sun.’ Icy mint, lily of the valley and coconut drift to snowdrops and sap-filled galbanum, softly feathered by the moss-snuggled base.

 

 

 

A portrait of a frozen stream in perfumed form, snowdrops and freesia are lapped by lychee water, peony petals and jasmine hinting at warmer days, clementine blossom a burat of happiness amidst misty, crystalline musks. Then, the smooth teakwood base is whipped through with fluffs of creamy vanilla for an ambient blanket of calm.

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Flanders Lawn £85 for 30ml eau de parfum
Kate learned perfumery at her mother’s knee, taking over the house after Angela died, with this dew-speckled, dawn-struck scent her first offering. ‘Lawn marked a new start for me as a perfumer’, she explains, ‘and is therefore a most appropriate scent for the time of year when we feel ready to embrace the promise of a new season.’

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

A festival of fragrances: what scents to wear this summer?

Now summer’s properly arrived, it’s festival season a go-go in the U.K. Each one has its own character, and there’s something for every taste – so we thought a perfect pairing would be to match the events with an accompanying fragrance that echoes the festival’s vibe.

Tune in, spritz on and bliss out with these…

 

 

Isle of Wight Festival (15 – 18th June) + Ostens Patchouli Heart No.II [Try it in the Ostens Discovery Set, £40 for 6 travel-friendly samples]

With PULP, Blondie and the Manic Street Preachers as notable headline acts, there’s always been a laid-back cool to this festival, which presages many of the later music events following on. Choosing a scent with a suitably nonchalant chill to it is essential – trying too hard here will simply earn you a raised eyebrow of disapproval. This isn’t Coachella, darling, so ditch the heels and stick with a scent that rocks the vibe. Ostens Patchouli Heart No.II is elegant authenticity personified, incorporating breezy cypress, a tingle of ginger, and billowing violet with sheerly gorgeous woodiness.

 

 

 

Glastonbury(21 – 25th June) + 4160 Tuesdays Flora Psychedelica £50 for 50ml eau de parfum

The mother of all music festivals in the U.K. really, it’s become infamous for the likelihood of torrential rain at some point during the event, causing national newspapers to splash ‘mud-bath larks!’ type photos across their front pages. Originally the place for hippies to hang out and get groovy, the price of tickets nowadays ensures a more middle-class crowd. We suggest wearing a truly indie fragrance that evokes the far out spirit of 1960s, with this ‘iris on a bender’ scent, incorporating mushroom-y weirdness with floral crowns and absinthe for a truly trippy encounter.

 

 

 

Latitude (20 – 23rd July) + Manos Gerakinis OMEN [try in the Manos Gerakinis Discovery Set, for £30 for 6 transportive samples]

Pulp are playing here, too (busy reunion tour, this year, with cult jewellery brand Tatty Devine even dedicating a range to their iconic songs), but for this ex goth, it’s all about the comeback of Siouxsie (of Banshees and, later, Creatures fame). As the queen of the dark side, I feel she, and all festival-goers who are moved by the music, would appreciate this creation, inspired by a Delphic oracle who enters ‘…a state of delirium by inhaling the vapours emitted by the sacred chasm beneath the temple.’ Spiritual smokiness swishes leather, amber, oud and ambergris in fabulous fashion.

 

 

 

Camp Bestival (27 – 30th July) + Floral Street Sunflower Pop from £28 for 10ml eau de parfum

This is a family-friendly gathering that always draws an artistic crowd, and yes there’s great music, but it’s more about a lifestyle celebration. With sustainability at the core of its ethos, and always keen to showcase independent companies, I think a great match would be with the booming British brand, Floral Street. Here, they’re inspired by Van Gough in a scent which vibrantly fizzes with fresh mandarin, Calabrian bergamot, and accords of vegan honey and Bellini cocktails. It settles to a smooth, nuanced warmth, with a scented sunset that feels timeless. Happiness in every spritz!

 

 

 

Womad (27 – 31st July) + Maya Njie Les Fleurs [try it as part of the stunning Maya Njie Discovery Set £34 for 5 pocket-friendly samples]

Founded in 1980 by the musician Peter Gabriel, this festival proudly celebrates world music, with the Womad Foundation now creating opportunities for cultural learning and sharing via artists all over the globe. A vibrant expression of togetherness, I think artist, perfumer and founder Maya Njie’s Les Fleurs (named for Minnie Ripperton’s 1970 song) perfectly incorporates music, here, as an inspirational medium. Rippling with bergamot’s brightness, a mellifluous magnolia and ripe fig, it’s an ‘unbound celebration of life, love and creation’ which brilliantly sums up the festival’s spirit.

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Scents to Make You Smile: celebrate World Smile Day with these…

Considering the colder, grey days and longer, darker nights (not to mention the current state of the world at large) we reckon it’s time to fully embrace the spirit of World Smile Day. Started by Harvey Ball, a business craftsman from Worcester in Massachusetts; he was best known as the creator of the now iconic ‘Smiley Face‘ symbol in 1963. In 1999 the first ‘World Smile Day’ was held and has since become an annual tradition. Perhaps right now we’re needing smiles more than ever? Thus, we present an array of perfumes that make us smile every time we wear them, and encourage you to seek these out – or perhaps bring a smile to someone else’s face and treat them to one of these…?

 

 

Happy Paul Bright Spice
Crafted to trigger a little happy from the outside in,’ this immediately mood-lifting fragrance was ‘conceived by a not-so-happy Paul…’ who’s lived with depression. Bright bergamot and lemon sparkle with a frost of spearmint leaves and almost fruity/fresh eucalptus. A tingle of pink pepper and cinnamon bark segue to contemplative heart of frankincense and rosemary, all resting on a woody base. 20% of the profits from sales go to mental health charity YoungMinds – so you smell good while doing good.

£21 for 10ml fragrance oil
happypaul.co.uk

 

 

 

BATH_HOUSE_CLIMBING_TREES

Bath House Climbing Trees
A collaboration with British perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek, the name alone conjures wonderful images, while the scent doesn’t disappoint. Memories of carefree childhood summers and fields of sun-scorched grass are evoked through vetiver, cedar and amber representing the woodland floor. Clambering effortlessly through canopies of aromatic green leaves, sweet bergamot and radiant jasmine sparkle like dappled sunshine, while lemon and rosemary feel like smiling in crisp countryside air. Basically, the scent of freedom, bottled!

£74 for 60ml eau de parfum
thebathhouseshop.co.uk

 

 

 

Valentino Born in Roma Yellow Dream
Celebrating ‘a new beginning, full of life, hope and optimism’ (YES please!) we’re imagining a golden sunrise over Rome – lemon coloured blossom carpets the pavement as a confident woman strides forth to greet the new day. Floral yet fruity (in the most grown up, effervescent way), this gives us vibes of just-washed hair gleaming in the sun, a vibrant yellow dress, heels kicked off, a musky trail followed in bare feet on sun-warmed cobbles, smiles all the way.

£83 for 50ml eau de parfum
boots.com

 

 

 

SKANDINAVISK Kapitel 12 Freedom To Roam
We’ve come to love the great outdoors more than ever these past few years – catching up with our Scandinavian contemporaries, here, Skandinavisk capture the joyful spirit of wilderness with Freedom to Roam. Eliciting smiles at the mere thought of escaping to the forest and leaving everyday stresses behind, the scent reflects an ancient Scandinavian law which invites exploration and adventure, imagining heather-line trails above the tree line via notes of wild berries, herbs and woods. Simply glorious.

£45 for 50ml eau de toilette
skandinavisk.com

 

MOSCHINO Toy 2 Bubblegum
Continuing their teddy bear’s picnic of perfumes, Moschino’s creative director, Jeremy Scott, was in full-on fun and flirty mode with this one. Outrageously cute, the pink bottle (and name) is immediately apparent with wafts of childhood nostalgia, and the smiles they bring. But it quickly moves from the playground to a surprisingly sophisticated Bulgarian rose shot through with blackcurrant and peach on a lightly spiced, polished wood base. Cheeky and playful, but actually really pretty and very werable beyond those smiles.

From £39 for 30ml eau de toilette
theperfumeshop.com