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…
‘Our crimes would depair, if they were not cherished by our virtues’ says Shakespeare in All’s Well That Ends Well; and so too will our bodies despair, if not cherished by fragranced oils in cold weather.
You will have to forgive the laboured punning, because I simply couldn’t resist, and it also happens to be true.
Winter takes its toll on our skin, so if you’re not slathering yourelf in something luxuriously moisturising, your fragrance simply wont last as long. Scent evaporates according to how dry your skin is, so if you’re closseted away in layers of wool and central-heating, your normal fragrance may need topping up throughout the day, even if it usually lasts well. And if it’s alcohol based – as most spray perfumes are – that’s going to dry your skin out even further.
Another temptation during grey, cold days is to soak for as long as possible in a steaming hot bath, but Jessica Weiser, from the New York Dermatology Group, explains, ‘Hot water depletes natural oils from the skin’s surface, leaving it dry and more susceptible to conditions like eczema,’ Best practice is to only use lukewarm water but really, where’s the fun in that? Personally I like to semi-boil myself like a lobster – all the more appealing in a scented bath – so keep the water piping hot if you like, but try and limit your soaking time to ten minutes, Weiser advises.
Yes, that seems sensible. But I can tell you now, that ain’t gonna happen, Jessica. If I’m putting in all the admin of running a bath, I’m going to be in there until I emerge like a perfumed prune. So we need a back-up plan to rehydrate. This is the time to reach for fabulously fragranced oils to layer-up your scent game, making it last longer and with the added benefit of de-pruning you, too.
Don’t worry about ‘matching’ your fragrance to these – use them instead to add facets to a favourite scent – or simply enjoy them on their own…
This is a perennial favourite, and sort of smells like paradise. Monoï is a Tahitian word simply meaning ‘scented oil’, and is made using a kind of enfleurage technique by soaking gardenia petals in coconut oil. Infused with further coconut and tropical wafts of frangipani flowers, Elemis have basically bottled the smell of a holiday in this multi-use product. Use in the bath, all over the body and even as a weekly hair treatment. The oil solidifies in cooler temperatures, so pop the bottle in a bowl of warm water to return it to a silky liquid – I just put my bottle right in the bath with me until it melts, and then baste myself as though I were a perfumed poussin.
For a truly indulgent scented experience, I cannot recommend Mandy Aftel’s body and hair elixir enough. Originally created as a bespoke fragrance for none other than Leonard Cohen, Ancient Resins resonates with frankincense, Balm of Gilead – not the republic in The Handmaid’s Tale, thank goodness, but the name of a balsam made from poplar buds, which smell like honeyed musk – along with benzoin, elemi, and labdanum: oils cherished for centuries for their healing properties. Boswellia Frankincense resins have been scientifically tested to prove their pain-relieving anti-inflammatory qualities, so couldn’t be more ideal for this time of year. A few drops used to scent a bath (will actually scent your entire house), slathered on to soothe and nourish skin, or stroked through ends of hair and rubbed in to burnish a beard – it would seem especially pertinent listening to Cohen’s album New Skin For The Old Ceremony while you annoint yourself with this divine oil.
A heftier price, yes, but the extravagent dose of Turkish rose will truly stay with you all day, infused as it is with a deeply fabulous patchouli heart and resting on a bed of sandalwood and frankincense. Clove, blackcurrant and raspberry ‘binds the perfume together for a final movement of symphonic femininity’ say Malle, but we know many men who delight in wearing the fragrance too, and this isn’t merely a pretty rose that blushes and swoons. All those resins add a purring depth that radiates naughtiness, albeit in a very refined way. I think the lady in question would be Lady Chatterley – admiring her roses and indulging in a bit of rumpy pumpy among the petals whenever possible. Sprinkle into a bath, massage into hair and cover with a warm towel for 15 minutes before rinsing, and be sure to lavish your limbs all over.
I really haven’t stopped wanging on about how wonderful SJP Stash is since the genderless ‘fragrance for humans’ was first launched in 2016, but now I can frolic in accompanying body and hair products like this oil – and a beautifully scented hair mist for lighter application – as well. There’s something about the composition of incense and vetiver infused with unexpected notes like sage, pistachio, grapefruit and warming black pepper, that makes it smell at least three times more expensive than it is, and about a million miles away from what you’d expect a ‘celebrity scent’ to smell like. It’s hard to find fault with either the original perfume or this nourishing treat, to wear together or used to add an ambery glow to fragrances you find a little bit “meh” on cold, grey days like these.
To mark Baccarat’s 250th anniversary, the niche house of MFK united with the iconic crystal house to create the fragrance – and it’s proved a smash-hit success all over the world. Now fans can cover themselves in the decadently rich oil as well – warm ambergris and cedarwood buoyed by the sunshine jasmine affords to balance and brighten this otherwise woody fragrance, with distinct undertones of caramelised brown sugar to my nose. Argan, sweet almond and apricot kernel oils have been used as the base, making this a gorgeously moisturising but never greasy oil. Perfect to spray on in a hurry just before dressing and dashing outdoors, it’s proving equally successful (with some department strores reporting waiting lists), so if you see a bottle and know you love the perfume already, my advice would be not to procrastinate…
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.
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
Frosty foliage glittering beguilingly is uplifting to the soul on wickedly cold mornings, and although our hearts (and hands!) may yearn for the warmth of summer, we can remind ourselves that the onset of winter also heralds some truly magical ingredients that are inexorably associated with the season.
We’ve listed four of our favourites, below, but where does your (cold) nose take you when the frost bites? Well, if you click on the names of the ingredients, you’ll be whisked to their fascinating and fact-filled individual pages, where you can also find a list of perfumes to try with that as the prominant note…
Long associated with Christmas (one of the three gifts given to the infant Jesus),used in religious ceremonies and magical rites; myrrh is actually a gum resin, tapped from the True Myrrh tree, or Commiphora Myrrha, and originating in parts of Arabia, Somalia and Ethiopia. Tapping the tree to make small incisions, small teardrop-shaped droplets ‘bleed’ from the trunk and are left to harden into bead-like nuggets, which are then steam-distilled to produce an essential oil. Myrrh gets its name from the Hebrew ‘murr’ or ‘maror’, which translates as ‘bitter’. It’s earthy. It’s resinous. It’s intriguing. And it’s still a key ingredient in many sensual and iconic Oriental perfumes today…
Pssst! Read more about the fascinating history of myrrh, and how Jo Malone London have used this precious indredient in their soon to be released latest perfume, in our hot-off-the-press glossy magazine: The Scented Letter.
There are good pine smells, and, well… horrid pine smells. If you’ve ever sat in the back of a taxi with one of those ‘Christmas tree’-scented cards dangling from the rear-view mirror, you’ll probably get where we’re coming from. But pine can also be wonderful crisp, spicy, outdoorsy and invigorating – and it’s been closely linked to perfume creation since the time of the early Arab perfumers, who liked it in combination with frankincense, in particular…
Spicily enticing, comforting and sweet, all at once. Our love of cinnamon dates back thousands of years: 2000 years ago the Egyptians were weaving it into perfumes (though it probably originates way before that, in China). Because cinnamon bark oil is a sensitiser – and as such, you may ‘cinnamates’ on perfume packaging, as a warning – where natural cinnamon’s used, it’s likely to have been distilled from the leaves and twigs. But it’s often also synthesised, adding a spicy warmth to Orientals (and quite a few men’s scents)…
Studded with cloves we can hang these ultra-Christmas-sy pomanders from our trees for an instant Yuletide hit. But where would perfumery be without orange…? The blossom of the bitter orange tree (a.k.a. neroli, when it’s extracted in a particular way) is one of the most precious scent ingredients of all. Bigarade, from the fruit of that tree, is another key ingredient in colognes, while its leaves give us petitgrain, another popular element in citrussy scents. And then there’s orange itself (sometimes referred to as sweet orange, to distinguish it from the bitter, ‘marmalade’ variety.)
There are many more notes to discover and explore in our Ingredients section of the wbsite, so why not take a sensorial journey and follow your nose there, now…?
Written by Suzy Nightingale
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