Seemingly endless grey days of rain and chilliness call for a snuggle of warming fragrances, so we are currently hunkering down with soul-hugging spices and mood-shifting citrus-burst scents that have the power to uplift and slice through ‘meh’ like a hot knife through butter.
Come on, let’s buck-up via these tempting, tingle-laden perfumes…
VYRAO Sun Rae
Seasonally sad? Console yourself with this gloriously uplifting scent – infused with ‘a supercharged Herkimer diamond crystal for clarity and to boost energy levels’, the brilliant Lyn Harris creates her own magic from a ZING! POP! FIZZ! of citrus explosions that feel like you’re being beamed above the clouds with every spritz. Turmeric and black pepper add layers of welcome warmth while bergamot, lemon, and aqueous ginger sparkle like bottled sunshine throughout.
Eau. My. God. Vanilla lovers, you are going to NEED to get this on your skin. Vanilla naysayers? You’re going to need to try it, too. Swoony Bourbon vanilla (deliciously dark, decadently delicious) will be to blame for your new addiction, generously swirled through tobacco smoke rings, which seduces orange blossoms to embrace praline, convinces sparkling citrus to kiss sizzling spices and swathes guaiac wood in butter-soft leather. Go on, we dare you to succumb.
Brilliant in every sense, the vibrant yellow bottle hints at the explosion of freshness within – a zesty wake-up call at a time when spirits may well be flagging, wonderfully enlivened with this welcomingly vivacious gem. Lemon peel, sharp gooseberry and luscious pear get the nose a-tingle before a beautiful bouquet of freesia, jasmine and lily of the valley are mellowed by the woody musk of the base. And look at the price!
Inspired by his frequent travels across the Middle East, perfumer, and co-founder (with his daughter, Anais) Olivier Cresp here explores the love affair with oudh – a note he skilfully coaxes to still surprise. Paired with raspberry, the sharpness slices through the smoky-spiced woodiness, and one can imagine it placed on a burning coal, the sootiness and succulence a marriage made in scented heaven, the fruitiness contrasting yet utterly complimenting the smouldering depths. Quite magnificent.
When you need a fragrance that keeps going and powers you forward through any obstacle, this is the one to reach for when spirits are flagging. As Paco Rabanne says, it’s ‘A potent elixir made to push victory beyond limits. The time has come to embrace your moment of immortality.’ A thrust of freshness up top from Provençal lavandin provides aromatic, almost peppery pungency with bursts of green cardamom and mysterious, vanilla-swirled woods as it warms.
‘Did you ever sleep in a field of orange-trees in bloom? The air which one inhales deliciously is a quintessence of perfumes. This powerful and sweet smell, as savoury as a sweetmeat, seems to penetrate one, to impregnate, to intoxicate, to induce languor, to bring about a dreamy and somnolent torpor. It is like opium prepared by fairy hands and not by chemists.’
― Guy de Maupassant, 88 Short Stories
Orange blossom is beloved by perfumers in light-filled ‘solar’ scents – a newly emerging category, and a word I’ve found increasingly used for fragrances which aren’t merely fresh, but attempt the alchemy of bottling sunshine. And these fragrances are more welcome than ever when the season’s change means the darkness hits early, the days seem unnaturally shortened, yet somehow endlessly grey. As such, I urge you to seek out these orange blossom scents – SO right for right now!
It’s the bitter orange tree we have to thank for these heady white blossoms – one of the most benificent trees in the world, for it also gives us neroli, orange flower water and petitgrain – all utterly unique in smell, from verdant to va-va-voom depending how they are distilled and the quantity used in a fragrance.
Originating from Asia, the bitter orange was introduced to North Africa by crusaders of the VIIth century, and now it’s just six villages in the Nabeul region of Tunisia that provide the majority of the world’s crop. Women do most of the harvesting, the pickers swathed in headscarves climbing treacherously high-looking ladders to reach the very tops of the trees, typically working eight hours a day and gathering around 20,000 (approximately 10kg) of flowers.
When the blossoms are hydro-distilled – soaked in water before being heated, with volatile materials carried away in the steam to condense and separate – the extracted oil is neroli, the by-product being orange flower water, while petitgrain is the essential oil steam distilled from the leaves and green twigs.
Long steeped in bridal mythology, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she chose orange blossom to decorate her dress, carried sprigs in her bouquet and even wore a circlet of the blossoms fashioned from gold leaves, white porcelain flowers and green enamelled oranges in her hair. It firmly planted the fashion for ‘blushing brides’ being associated with orange blossom – but this pretty flower can hide a naughty secret beneath its pristine petals…
While the primly perfect buds might visually convey a sign of innocence, their heady scent can, conversely, bring a lover to their knees with longing. In his novel The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa chronicles crossing an orange grove in full flower, describing ‘…the nuptial scent of the blossoms absorbed the rest as a full moon does a landscape… that Islamic perfume evoking houris [beautiful young women] and fleshly joys beyond the grave.’
It’s the kind of floral that might signify sunshine and gauzy gowns or veritably snarl with sensuality. Similar to the narcotic addictiveness of jasmine, with something of tuberose’s potency; orange blossom possessses none of that cold, grandiose standoffishness of some white florals: it pulsates, warmly, all the way.
Perfumer Alberto Morillas associates the scent of orange blossom with his birthplace: ‘I’m from Seville, when I’m creating a fragrance, all my emotion goes back to my home,’ Alberto told me, talking about his inspiration for his Mizensir Solar Blossom fragrance. ‘You have the sun, the light and water – always a fountain in the middle of the square – and “solar” means your soul is being lifted upwards.’
Oh, how we need that bottled sunshine when summer fades; an almost imperceptible shifting of the light that harkens misty mornings, bejewelled spiderwebs and sudden shivers…
Why not swathe yourself in these light-filled fragrances to huddle against the Stygian gloom? I love wearing them year-round, to remind me sunny days will return, that things will be brighter, presently. I promise.
Packed full of the brightest orange blossom, swathed in a cloak of earthy moss, soft musk and smooth sandalwood – the creaminess is an addictive layer of warmth. One to swish through leaves while wearing, grinning joyously.
A shimmering haze of Moroccan magic, the orange blossom diffused by dusk, a languid sigh of inner contentment that resonates for hours – soothing, weaving its way around your soul and making for a blissful beam of happiness with every spritz..
Waves of orange blossom-infused warmth giving way to fig tea sipped beneath the shade of whispering trees, the memory of laughter, and of bare feet on sun-warmed flagstones, fingers entwined, forever dancing, giddy on sunshine.
Perfumer Chris Maurice swirls delectable butterscotch and a ripple of dark chocolate through this orange blossom soaked scent. Vibrating with an amber-oudh glow in the base, it’s a scent that will surprise and delight you throughout the dullest of days.
Suffused with a stillness that tingles expectantly, there’s a silvered gleam of a wooden boat gliding over a lake – the orange blossom darker here, sweetened a touch with candied peel, mellow greengage segueing to a seaweed-tinged purr of myrrh.
There’s a certain delight in making your home feel cosy in autumn – even if you’re pining for the warmer weather – and one of the best ways of doing this is to switch up your home fragrances for autumn via snuggly scented candles and fragrance diffusers.
You don’t have to go full in on cinnamon and clove or spiced orange scents yet: that might feel a bit Christmas-sy too early? (But hey – if you’re already humming carols and contemplating putting your tree up, we’re not here to judge, so you do you!) So, those of us who want to feel cosy but not full-on winter vibes yet could plump for pine forest like perfumed candles or opt for a woody diffuser that feels like a breath of autumnal air wafts around your house. Others may like a tingle of spice but added to floral notes for a sumptuous scented space to enjoy.
Whichever option you plump for, here’s our perfumed pick of perfect home scents to look for right now…
This rich, woody candle combines agarwood with the warmth of white amber, tuberose and patchouli. Known as ‘Wood of the Gods’, agarwood is highly sought after due to the unique richness of its fragrance.
Rich and warm, this evocative blend of black tobacco, coffee and brandy will transform your space. ‘This was one of our very first four fragrances and the most complex we’ve ever had to formulate – taking over forty drafts to perfect.’
Combining the crisp scent of juniper with the sweet spiciness of ginger, reminiscent of lush, green woods and exotic, evergreen mountains; this uplifting scent has hints of clove, bergamot and patchouli with the freshness of eucalyptus.
Uniquely splitting the notes of the fine fragrance between three candles, you can dot these around your room to create the ideal harmonious ‘scent-scape’, with velvety moss, moonlit herbs and roses, wisps of smoke and honeyed wood.
Classic notes of vanilla bean and warm hints of patchouli are balanced with soft, sensual tones of tobacco flower. Extracts of cardamon, nutmeg and basil, lend a delicate spiciness to create an overall effect that is rich and sultry.
The skies this time of year are ablaze with colour as the sun sets – the heavens awash with purples, reds and pinks that melt into the darkness like nature’s fireworks. And fragrances are often inspired by this spectacular display, too – perfumers creating scents that light us up even on the dullest days. Here’s five we feel so colourful wearing right now…
COACH Dreams Sunset
Inspired by ‘golden hours and one-of-a-kind journeys with friends’ – which we are indeed dreaming of – this ombré bottle, echoing the colours of sunset, perfectly shows off a floriental composition crafted by the brilliant Nathalie Lorson. Refreshing pear sorbet and bergamot playfully tease the wearer, before jasmine sambac and magnolia dial up the intrigue. But what keeps this beach party rocking is the smoochy, sultry base of tonka and vanilla. We’re so there. From £34.50 for 40ml eau de parfum johnlewis.com
GHOST Orb of Night
Setting a darker, moodier tone to the pantheon of Ghost perfumes, Night Orb glimmers with a dark cherry almond accord, kissed with mandarin before plunging deeper into a heady orange blossom, ylang ylang and freesia heart. The sandalwood base has rivulets of caramel running through it, but being rippled with a salty, slightly animalic ambergris, is rendered salty and moreish. From the rose gold bottle to the vegan certification, it impresses. £22.95 for 30ml eau de parfum escentual.com
BVLGARI Omnia by Mary Katrantzou
The most glorious, iridescent sunset-esque bottle acts as a vase for Alberto Morrilas’s beautifully composed ‘maximalist bouquet’, as Bulgari describe it. A green rustle of fig leaf unfurls to billowing orange blossom and gardenia before settling to underpinnings of fluffy musk and a deeper, woody base. An exclusive collaboration with fashion designer Mary Katrantzou, this vibrant scent reflects her designs, and we can almost feel the fabric flowing around us as we wear this. £87 for 65ml eau de parfum bulgari.com
MAISON CRIVELLI Osmanthe Kōdoshān
A sublime portrait of the apricot-y bloom, this is inspired by a trip to ‘a tropical mountain shrouded in mist.’ We sense sunsets, height and grandeur in a scent that slowly unfurls itself as it warms. Curls of fog clear to reveal a forest far below, the resinous scent of verdant vegetation and grounding woodiness rising to meet you, the osmanthus swathing your skin in a leathery embrace. Calming, mysterious, transcendentally beautiful. From £170 for 100ml eau de parfum harveynichols.com
On spraying this, we were immediately greeted with a highly refined, almost leathery iris – the image of an intricately carved wooden shutter suddenly flung open to welcome evening air and blazing skies, a tang of salty shores nearby carrying waves of delicate, powdered spices on the breeze. Beneath an earthy, mossy layer nestles seams of liquid vanilla, milky ripples later reflect moonlight, harbouring the expectation and tingling anticipation of tomorrow’s exotic adventures… £178 for 100ml eau de parfum penhaligons.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