Spooky scents don’t have to saved for Halloween – think of these as fragrances that evoke mystery and magic. From lascivious vampires and screaming mandrake roots to haunted woodlands and ghostly tales by the fireside: we bet once you’ve tried them, you’ll want to wear these weirdly wonderful fragrances all winter long…
Maison Hedonique Comme un Loup
Veritably snarling with animalistic seduction amidst lusciously spiced roses, this was inspired by Gothic novels such as Carmilla and Dracula. Think: vampires’ seductive powers, dangerous, wolf-like creatures on the prowl, blood red roses shrouded in a twist of ecclesiastical smoke. You’re invited ‘…to be either the watcher or the watched, hunter or prey.’ £135 for 50ml eau de parfum jovoyparis.uk
Goutal Paris Mandragore Pourpre
Legend had it mandrake roots were used in magic rituals, uttering unearthly screams if plucked from the earth. Luckily, this is inspired by lighter themes of aphrodisiacs and alchemists love spells – the sparkle of frosty herbs and ginger-tinged citrus amidst a shiver of spearmint, darkly swirled with labdanum. The goosebumps that follow a fervent kiss… €150 for 100ml eau de parfum goutalparis.com
Penhaligon’s Terrible Teddy
Dangerously beguiling, Teddy delights in contradictions. The warm tingle of pink peppercorns are set against mysteriously cold incense, dry cedar contrasted with a stroke of smooth leather; shadowy vetiver and earthy patchouli swathed in a mist of musk. The kind of scent to wear that’ll set people wondering what you’re up to… trick or treat? £188 for 75ml eau de parfum penhaligons.com
Maison Crivelli Absinthe Boréale
Dare you follow the strangely flickering light that leads to the heart of the woods? Ice-tipped ferns brush your face, cheeks rosy from running, a lick of lavender pastilles and a swig of absinthe warm your courage. Snuggled deep within the trees, a cosy cabin awaits: cold fingers defrosted by the fire, but the shadows still tap at the window… £170 for 100ml eau de parfum harveynichols.com
4160 Tuesdays Another Kiss By the Fireside
The joy of spooky season is actually the cosiness of feeling scared then comforted. Here you can snuggle up by a wood fire, eating spiced biscuits as the scent of dried roses and lavender fill the room. From a hidden floral display, or conjured by ghost stories, shared…? From £25 for 15ml eau de parfum 4160tuesdays.com
Some of our most beloved flowers and fragrant ingredients are, in fact, powerful poisons with a rich heritage of folklore traditions, used for centuries in suspected witchcraft practices, to render scented gloves quite deadly, and by spurned lovers sprinkling petals into potions. Once, during the reign of King Louis XIV, a murderer supposedly used poisoned perfume to kill so many royal courtiers it sparked a witchhunt ten years before those fingers started pointing in Salem. A notorious case named ‘The Affair of the Poisons’ by sensation-seeking newspaper headlines, it simultaneously delighted and horrified a public who began looking at perfumes in a new light…
You see, perfumes aren’t merely ‘pretty’ – they can work as potent brews to bewitch, beguile and welcome you over to the darker side of scent, albeit in the most enticingly elegant manner. For ‘spooky’ scents must do more than simply scare, that’s far too obvious and crass – very few people wish to be terrified by their own fragrance, and I say that even as a mostly reformed ex goth. What I yearn for are fragrances whose beauty belies a more sinister undercurrent – we must first be enchanted to be fully ensnared. Something history teaches us time and again.
Catherine de Medici’s perfumer (and expert in poisons), Rene lé Florentin, was said to have made perfumed poisoned gloves at her behest, killing Catherine’s rival, Jeanne D’Albret, who fell ill following a shopping trip and died under mysterious circumstances. No matter nothing was proved: the story was far too delicious not to spread the scandalous rumour of death by scent.
Laced fragrances were supposedly used to kill members of ‘the perfumed court’, with 194 individuals arrested and 36 executed between 1677 and 1682. In fact the whole ‘Affair of the Poisons’ masked a crime ring, and the growing concern of womanly wiles being granted by satanic pacts, which writer Anne Somerset thoroughly doccuments in her book The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide and Satanism at the Court of Louis XIV (sadly out of print I believe, though you can often find second-hand copies). But the links between glorious smelling scents and deadly intents were now firmly ingrained in the public consciousness.
For the morbidly curious, the Poison Garden of Alnwick Castle provides modern visitors a chance to see the types of plants grown and harvested by alchemists and wannabe witches throughout the years. When Jane Percy became the Duchess of Northumberland, her husband asked her to do something with the neglected gardens. ‘I think he thought, ‘That will keep her quiet, she’ll just plant a few roses and that’ll be it,”‘ the Duchess commented to The Smithsonian magazine; ‘…but I thought, ‘Let’s try and do something really different.'” Despite the many signs and stern guides warning people of the danger of picking or even smelling some of the plants, apparently each year, several visitors sneak a sniff, with some being taken ill following their reckless actions. What is it about forbidden smells that makes them so… irresistable? Let’s dare to find out.
Cyanide smells like almond, cleverly cloaked here in clouds of fuzzy apricot, luscious plum and milky coconut. Waxy white flowers have their narcotic tendencies softly smothered by a blushing rose, creamy sandalwood and a fluffy base flecked with wildly addictive vanilla. Revisit this, and I defy you not to spend the entire day being enraptured by your own smell. Vanity’s supposedly a sin, but oh! How wonderful to adore yourself.
Dior Hypnotic Poison £65 for 50ml eau de toilette dior.com
Mandrake roots, often used in Wiccan rituals, were believed to emit a blood-curdling scream when dug up, but smell pleasingly of red apples. Happily married to sharp rhubarb, pomegranate and bergamot, the shriek is stifled by a deep, loamy patchouli, smoked birch and a caramel-like undertone swirled with cream. You’ll be screaming for more of this poison-inspired range, I wager.
Parfums Quartana – Les Potions Fatale – Mandrake £115 for 50ml eau de parfum roullierwhite.com
Socrates drank black hemlock to poison himself, but it’s used here to far greater effect – oodles of the absolute lending mysterious shadows to a dusky forest, otherworldly whispers amidst the verdant undergrowth, all set against the backdrop of a violet-streaked, vetiver rich, amber-tinged, sunset. This one captivates crowds, and could easily conquer a whole court, should you so wish.
Commemorating women burned as witches – such as Agnes Finnie, killed at Edinburgh Castle in 1645, screaming ‘may the devil blow you blind’ – hazelnuts are shot through with the red juice of blood oranges, woven with curiously curling tendrils of tobacco smoke, a hint of damp tweed and the mineral freshness of misty moorlands. Delightfully unsettling for those who dare ask the provenance of your perfume.
REEK Perfume Damn Rebel Witches from £85 for 50ml eau de parfum reekperfume.com
Foxglove, a.k.a. Digitalis, is cultivated for its great beauty, though every single part of the plant can be lethal if swallowed. Imagining a scent for the odourless flower, this heady perfume oil oozes botanical history, blending blood orange with salt meadow grass, hyacinth leaves, jasmine and white cedar. It smells like tear-stained love letters tied in silk ribbons, tossed in a lake but never forgotten.
A slowly unfurling intoxication of transparent jasmine and white narcissus work their magic beneath greedy handfuls of succulent berries snatched in darker woods – a sense of half-glimpsed, tulle-draped ghosts flitting between the trees. Inspired by the notorious Deadly Nightshade, by the time you reach the chocolate-y patchouli base and musky vanilla dry down, it will already have cast its spell.
Light and shade have rarely been so beautifully juxtaposed: a dry, green rustle of fig leaves, luminescent orange blossom and herbaceous woodiness with the lingering, subtly sweet scent of white oleander. Oleander once accidentally poisoned hundreds of Napolean’s troops, who’d roasted food on its branches; deliberately deployed in Janet Finch’s White Oleander, when a scorned woman slowly poisons her lover by lacing his food (even sprinkling his bedsheets) with its lovely, lethal petals. ‘How lovingly she arranged the dark leaves, the white blooms…’
Hermés Un Jardin en Méditerranée £48.80 for 50ml eau de toilette johnlewis.com
Those of you who’d like to further indulge the heritage of fragrance and poisons, might like to consider a perfume bottle necklace engraved with belladonna. Fill the rollerball with your scented weapon of choice, and dangle wickedly at the next dinner party bore, perhaps? Then flamboyantly annoint yourself with the fragrance while smiling, beatifically.
The fragrances I recommend, above, can of course all be safely sniffed – though swooning may occur for for other reasons. They have been created by perfumers celebrating a darker side of fragrant history, but in a truly wearable and devastatingly compulsive way. I enjoy using them in the murkier months as a remedy against the seemingly endless Stygian gloom – for none of them smell ‘dark’ or oppressively heavy, despite their nefarious inspirations. And there’s a particular pleasure at being complimented on them (something that will happen a lot when you wear any of these, I assure you), while knowing I trail a history of scented superstitions and olfactory aprehensions in my wake…
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.
‘I put a spell on you’ Screamin’ Jay Hawkins famously sang in the iconic 1957 song, and we often speak of perfume using magically binding allusions – being hypnotised by someone’s scent, addicted to your favourite fragrance or falling into a dream-like reverie at the mere whiff of a particular ingredient. And so, we’ve collated a list of seven scents to cast your own spells this Halloween.
The very act of making a perfume still seems like witchcraft or alchemy – the harvesting and distilling of natural ingredients or the modern magic of creating entirely new smells thanks to aroma molecules. Added to this is the fact we still know so little about our sense of smell – it remains the least scientifically explored of all the senses – yet scientists acknowledge it to be the most emotionally connected.
The misty mornings and ever-darkening evenings of Halloween season always has us thinking of other-worldly and mysterious matters, but what’s your desired effect?
Swooning, sassiness, a cloak of confidence, nose-to-neck nuzzling and much more can be achieved by following the guide below, casting your own spells whenever you spritz…
A Spell for Swooning:Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood
Key magical ingredients: Bulgarian rose, Turkish rose, benzoin, violet, vanilla, agarwood (oudh) Effect: Pillow-soft, a whispered caress of swansdown powder-puffs and vivid lipstick kisses. Caution: Only use when a chaise-lounge or lover’s arms are nearby to swoon in to. (Falling on the floor not nearly so elegant). £195 for 70ml eau de parfum at selfridges.com
A Spell for Sassiness: REEK Damn Rebel Witches
Key magical ingredients: Blood orange, hazelnut, malt, orange pips, twigs, leaves, leather, tobacco, musk, heather Effect: Tingles of empowerment increase as the manifestation of misty moorlands swirl before you. Caution: Outbreaks of bad-ass bitchery predicted as you don this warming cloak of confidence, bottled. £25 for 7.5ml eau de parfum atreekperfume.com
A Spell for Soothing: MB Parfums India
Key magical ingredients: Amber, sandalwood, frankincense, ambrette seed, Indian jasmine, rose, orange blossom, tuberose, ylang ylang, bergamot, coriander, cardamom. Effect: A sigh of relief as daily stresses fade, leaving a heavenly elixir of flowers swathed in sandalwood. Caution: At night it’s delightfully dreamy, used in daytime your mind may drift during tedious meetings. Win-win. £130 for 30ml eau de parfum at mbparfums.com
A Spell for Seduction: 4160 Tuesdays Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. (IMHO)
Key magical ingredients: Bergamot, woods, vanilla, ambergris. Effect: Immediately addictive, wafts of almost-edible woody muskiness emanate for hours. Caution: Nose-to-neck nuzzling likely to occur, plus other similar shenanigans. Please proceed politely in public spaces. £40 for 30ml eau de parfum at4160tuesdays.com
A Spell for Sunshine: Berdoues Scorza di Sicilia
Key magical ingredients: Calabrian bergamot, citrus, Virginian cedar wood, Indonesian vetiver. Effect: Warm breezes, lush landscape and sun-drenched fruits suddenly appear before you, no matter the weather. Caution: Mouthwatering may follow, and drooling at the thought of a winter-sunshine getaway somewhere fabulous. £67 for 100ml eau de parfum at johnlewis.com
A Spell for Splendour: Aerin Evening Rose
Key magical ingredients: Blackberry, cognac, rose centifolia, Bulgarian rose absolute, incense. Effect: Richly opulent, voluptuously beckoning, allow yourself to fall for this vibrant elixir (available in our Fashion, Fabric & Fragrance Discovery Box). Caution: If you develop a taste for the finer things in life and shun lesser offerings, don’t blame us. It’s your destiny, dahling. £96 for 50ml eau de parfum at harrods.com
A Spell for Simplicity: Elizabeth and James Nirvana White
Key magical ingredients: Peony, lily-of-the-valley, musk. Effect: Dewdrops sprinkled on delicate petals and lusciously fresh flowers lead to understated, contemporary charm. Caution: Gauzy gowns twirled in woodlands all very well, but during damper months wear warm undergarments. £69 for 50ml eau de parfum at houseoffraser.co.uk
Written by Suzy Nightingale
When you think of a ‘witches’ brew’, we’re betting your mind conjures picures of warty hags from an am-dram production of Macbeth, gathered around a steaming cauldron and tossing in gnarled fistfuls of twigs with perhaps a sprinkling of eyes, tongues and livers of various woebegotten creatures thrown in for good luck? In fact, here’s that very recipe, should you wish to whip something up for supper… In the poison’d entrails throw.— Toad, that under cold stone, Days and nights has thirty-one; Swelter’d venom sleeping got, Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot! Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble. Fillet of a fenny snake, In the caldron boil and bake; Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,— For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
All well and good on stage, but not, perhaps, something you’d want in a room scent. Never fear – Ormonde Jayne will save us from any hint of slime!
Luckily for those of us requiring something rather more sophisticated to scent our homes with this Halloween, the British perfume house of Ormonde Jayne have released an ultra limited-edition (only available until the end of this month!) Witches’ Brew candle that’s altogether more glam.
‘A spell-binding potion, conjured with notes of Winter white flowers, herbs, bluebells and hyacinths,’ think Veronica Lake in the 1942 movie, I Married a Witch or the charming nose-twitching Samantha in the classic 60s sitcom Bewitched, rather than your stereotypical cackling crone.
Available as a cute Mini (90g), Standard with Gold Lid (290g) and Set of 4 x Mini (360g), with prices strating from £20 including complimentary worldwide shipping; you’d best get on your brooms fast to snap these up, as this exclusive scent will only be available until October 31, 2016!
Get them at Ormonde Jayne.
We suggest donning your most elegant robe, snuggling up on the sofa while burning the Witches’ Brew candle and listening to The Boswell Sisters sing The Heebie Jeebiesfor a truly magical evening…
The American influence of Halloween celebrations have long since hit our shores, and although we may not have their lust for pumpkin pie, we certainly enjoy wearing the scent of it on our skin. Think sweet cinnamon and clove gently warmed over wafts of pumpkin and it’s basically autumn, bottled. Talking of lust… did you know that, according to a study at the Monell Institute in Philadelphia, the smell of pumpkin pie increases the arousal level in men by 40%? We’re not sure if this only applies to our American friends, but would be intrigued to hear if this perked up your party! The Library of Fragrance Pumpkin Pie £15 for 30ml eau de toilette
Buy it at Boots
Canadian niche brand Zoologist perfumes theme their fragrances around the characters of animals, and what could be more appropriate for Halloween than their Bat? A highly unusual swoop into a tropical forest to feast on sycamore figs and banana becomes a resiniously deep plunge to lush undergrowth and damp earth. Zoologist suggest that you… ‘Allow yourself to hang, draped in pitch black, as alluring musk wafts over you with every unfolding of the thousands of leathery wings that surround you.’ We somehow imagine Sesame Street’s The Count wearing this: ‘VUN! Vun Bat, ha ha ha!’ Zoologist Bat $125 for 60ml eau de parfum
Buy it at zoologistperfumes.com
Trick or Treating is all about the kids, right? Well why not give in to indulgence with this utterly delectable fragrant interpretation of Charbonnel et Walker’s Sea Salt Caramel Truffles? Created by talented young perfumer Julie Massé, she’s somehow completely captured that moment your teeth penetrate the crisp shell of the truffle as the bitter-sweet caramel oozes forth. Bourbon vanilla adds creaminess and the whole experience is a warm hug of comforting joy that definitely won’t ruin your teeth (or your waistline). But perhaps add an actual box of truffles to your shopping list as well – for scientific “compare and contrast” reasons. Shay & Blue Salt Caramel £55 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it at marksandspencer.com
A library lit only by the glow of the crackling fireplace, filled with ancient leather-bound tomes and sheafs of vellum still wet with black ink – this gloweringly intriguing scent is inspired by the founder’s grandfather’s intricate drawings of yachts, shelves of nautical fiction and tattoos. With a fabulously murky heart of vanilla pipe smoke buoyed by richly spiced West Indian rum, it’s part of this fiercely independent British house’s Come Hell or High Water collection and resonates with the evocation of romantically sighing spirits and ghostly flickerings in candlelit rooms… BeauFort London Coeur de Noir £95 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at beaufortlondon.com
Yes, alright, this isn’t at all scary – but it’s the perfect scent for ghouls about town to spritz if they’re feeling elegantly ethereal and up for a spot of light haunting rather than full-on Exorcist-like possession. With a cool peachy kiss combined with freshly juiced pear and mandarin, this could have become overtly sweet yet always stays the right side of tart. The softly swooning jasmine and lightly dusted violet petals are deftly sprinkled with patchouli for an earthily sophisticated base that really impressed us. Loving the pretty, pearlised finish of the glistening bottle. Ghost Whitelight
Buy it at The Perfume Shop
Enigmatically sulty, this pink peppercorn spiced celebration of darkness beckons you in to a warmly powdered heart of jasmine and violet before misting the shadows with swirls of incense. As the smoke drifts skywards, the erotically charged base of musk, vanilla and patchouli becalms the piquancy of dried fruits and woody papyrus. Distinctively addictive, we foresee a tremulous heroine wearing this while battling the forces of darkness in a Gothic novel, using nothing but her cunning guile and a fortuitously placed hatpin. Olfactive Studio Chambre Noire £110 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Roullier White
Written by Suzy Nightingale
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