Fragrant Folklore: Seven Scents of the Uncanny (for May Day & More!)

With a history firmly rooted in Celtic, Christian, Nordic and Germanic folklore, the many myths and legends that entwine our superstitions – and filter through to current day celebrations – also provide a host of perfumed inspiration across many cultures.

May is a month particularly ripe in these traditions in the British isles, though, with May Day and the annual Jack in the Green parades around the country providing part mirth, part whimsical terror in the form of mobile hedgerows and Morris Dancers and May Poles.

 

The Jack in the Green parade, Hastings, East Sussex.

 

With the start of this new month, now seems the perfect time to frolic in a contemporary retelling of fragrant heritage. Indeed, we’ve noticed a slowly building pattern for fragrance houses dipping into traditions, and reviving ingredients more often seen in vintage perfumery, and with ‘creepy’ scents that were only usually trundled out at Halloween being launched and revelled in all year long. But with recent issues of The Scented Letter magazine featuring articles on celestial and astrologically-inspired scents, and the current issue being all about The Rites of Spring, this surge of new-age spiritualism comes hot on the heels of a report in The Face magazine on the return of folk culture, and rave reviews for The Red King – a new Wicker Man-esque drama series.

 

The Red King [TV Drama, Alibi]

Are we collectively seeking some semblance of comfort in embracing ‘the old ways’, or has there always been an inherent fascination for folklore that’s simply bubbling to the surface as a new trend? Whatever the reason, cast aside notions of the uncanny being confined to Halloween and join us in donning floral crowns – including lily of the valley, of course – and revelling in these frolicsome fragrances…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you go down to the woods today… swathe yourself in the spirit of the forest with this so-evocative scent. There’s an otherworldly quality to the composition, to be sure, with all the mossy, mulch-y mysteries of fir needles and fallen cedar branches; but the verdant stirrings of new life, and your part of nature’s cycle, is apparent in the leafy unfurling of buds, the trilling of birdsong. Wrapped in an earthy base, warmed by saffron, it’s your scented spell of protection at any time of year.

Wales Perfumery FOREST – COEDWIG £54 for 30ml eau de parfum walesperfumery.com

 

 

 

Shay & Blue Atropa Belladonna 100ml

A slowly creeping intoxication of transparent jasmine and luminescent white narcissus work their magic beneath greedy handfuls of succulent berries snatched in woodland thickets – 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.

Shay & Blue Atropa Belladonna £65 for 100ml eau de parfum in our shop

 

 

Socrates supposedly drank black hemlock to poison himself, but it’s used here to far greater fragrant effect – oodles of the absolute lending mysterious shadows to a dusky forest, soft, grassy whispers wafting amidst the verdant undergrowth, all set against the backdrop of a violet-streaked, vetiver rich, amber-tinged, sunset. This one captivates crowds, and could charmingly convert newcomers to your cult, should you so wish.

Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman £235 for 88ml eau de parfum
ormondejayne.com

 

 

If you need to summon up strength of heart and creativity, brilliant perfumer Lyn Harris has conjured this composition to aid your quest. Simmering with a spiced heart of cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper, swags of of roses (thorns and all) are stirred into the melting pot, along with oodles of powdery orris for an enchanted cloak of protection. What’s more, each Vyrao scent comes charged with a naturally sourced Herkimer diamond crystal for extra good vibes.

Vyrao Witchy Woo £135 for 50ml eau de parfum selfridges.com

[Or try a travel-size via the Vyrao High Five Set]

 

 

 

Dare you follow the strangely flickering light that leads to the heart of the woods? Fern fronds and bundles of lavender twist together – the brightening weather beckoning sunshine tomorrow, but if the shadows still tap at the window, you need this… One to wear for feeling emboldened, we say, when you need an extra layer of loveliness to bring you safely home (and have others demanding to know what beguiling scent you’re wearing along the way).

Maison Crivelli Absinthe Boréale £75 for 30ml eau de parfum lessenteurs

 

 

Pythia, the mythical oracle of Delphi inspires this scent – as high priestess she delivered her oracles ‘after entering a state of delirium by inhaling the vapours emitted by the sacred chasm beneath the temple.’ A crisp apple is studded with bay leaves, the juice mingling with wafts of spiritual smokiness that richly swishes leather, amber, oud and ambergris in a cloak that surrounds, comforts and beguiles in equal measure. 

Manos Gerakinis Omen £205 for 100ml eau de parfum shymimosa.co.uk

[Or, why not try this in the Manos Gerakinis Discovery Set?]

 

 

Portal is described as ‘a gateway to the ancient Caledonian forests of Scotland.’ It’s fresh, outdoorsy, gusting with herbaceous botanicals and bergamot, notes chosen to evoke verdant florals, resting on a veritable forest floor of vetiver and Scots pine. Kingdom Scotland’s description – ‘an escape to a sylvan wonderland’ – hints at its power to transport you to the shade of the tranquil forest. You’ll be welcomed by the others that dwell there, and possibly made Queen…

Kingdom Scotland Portal £132 for 50ml eau de parfum  in our shop

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Blustery Walks, Bottled! Fragrances for Feeling Outdoors-y (when you can’t be)

Given the horrendous weather of late – snow, torrential rain and flooding, gales, hurricanes, even tornados in the U.K! – it’s not exactly been ideal for getting outdoors and enjoying a stroll. However, this is where fragrances can come into their own during inclement weather: we can wear them to get a sense of being outdoors, of experiencing the freedom and head-clearing calm of being so, without setting a foot (or wellington boot) outside the door if we don’t feel up to facing it!

 

 

 

Here’s our edit of outdoors-y scents that, while feeling seasonally appropriate, also allow an exploration of woodlands, coastal paths and countryside escapism with every spritz…

 

 

Sarah Baker Tartan Extrait

This is a classic of the collection that’s been adored since the scents were first launched. Sarah McCartney, the nose for this one, is better known as the founder of quirky British house 4160 Tuesdays, but here collaborated with Baker to compose this marvel. Picture it: Warmth and heritage envelope you after a bracing walk through mossy ruins in Scotland’s Highlands. A fire is roaring in the library. You put your feet up and slowly sip a rare single malt. Bliss!

£145 for 50ml extrait de parfum In Our Shop

 

 

Kingdom Scotland Portal

Portal is described as ‘a gateway to the ancient Caledonian forests of Scotland.’ It’s fresh, outdoorsy, gusting with herbaceous botanicals and bergamot, notes chosen to evoke verdant florals, resting on a veritable forest floor of vetiver and Scots pine. Kingdom Scotland’s description – ‘an escape to a sylvan wonderland’ – hints at its power to transport you to the shade of the tranquil forest. All the benefits of hiking minus the mud (and smelling rather more fabulous). Bonus,

£120 for 50ml eau de parfum  in our shop

 

 

Goldfield & Banks Wood Infusion

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 power of nature.

£138 for 100ml eau de parfum selfridges.com

 

 

 

Houbigant Fougère Royale

Think of a scenario where you’ve found a cosy bolthole in an incongruously wonderful old pub in the middle of nowhere. The door opens, a cold blast blows through the open door, and a dapper walker removes their heavy (£££) wool coat to reveal a sprig of herbs carefully tucked into the lapel of a herringbone jacket, worn beneath. The olive from his dry Martini is sucked in a slightly lascivious manner. Suddenly much warmer than you were, you are deliciously intrigued…

RRP £165 for 100ml eau de parfum (currently £145)  libertylondon.com

 

 

 

 

Olfactive Studio Woody Mood

Close your eyes and imagine taking a walk among the giant sequoias, as legend has it so tall and densely 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.

 £140 for 100ml eau de parfum jovoyparis.uk

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Step into the woods with these stunning scents…

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.

From £22 for 10ml eau de parfum lamontana.co.uk

 

 

Maison Margiela Autumn Vibes

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.

£58 for 30ml eau de toilette johnlewis.com

 

 

Goldfield & Banks Wood Infusion

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.

£138 for 100ml eau de parfum selfridges.com

Escentric Molecules M+ Guaiac Wood

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.

From £20 for 8.5ml eau de parfum escentric.com

 

 

 

Laboratorio Olfativo ExpLOud

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.

£110 for 100ml eau de parfum libertylondon.com

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

5 woody fragrances your nose needs to know

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.

Olfactive Studio Woody Mood £84 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at bloomperfume.co.uk

Written by Suzy Nightingale