Spring to Mind
What scents spring to mind when spring is in full swing? While florals are the usual suspects for the season, they are not the only ones on my list of favourite spring scents this year. The scents of spring are not limited to wildflowers, but also melting snow, budding conifer trees, Japanese cherry (skura) and plum (ume) blossoms, the snap-pea scent of tulip stems, fresh bouquets of freesia and lily of the valley on 1st of May, balsam poplar buds and cotton tree blossoms.
I have a love-hate relationship with floral perfumes. The love is with how they remind me of the real flowers (when they are done well). The suffering (thus, olfactory hatred of sorts) comes from the fact that most floral perfumes on the market have a screechy, overtly heady edge to them that makes it unbearable for me to wear them for any prolonged period of time. Almost like too much of a good thing... But not quite so. I'm pretty sure these kinds of preferences have more to do with personality make up and scent memories than with anything else. Especially considering that florals are the most popular of all fragrance families. So when I meet a floral I can actually wear for several hours without the urge to scrub the scent off and replace it with something that has more prominent base notes (I'm by nature inclined towards orientals and chypres) - it does not go unnoticed.
As far as perfume and scent goes - here are my top 12 favourites this year:
Hurray for a perfume that reminds me of freesias - my favourite cut flower. Their peppery, green, slightly sweet aroma is exaggerated in Dyptique's lovely Ofresia. There is a gorgeous vanillic drydown that saves it from giving me a florist-shop headache - and instead gives me the delicious urge to sniff and re-sniff my wrists all day long.
2. En Passant:
What saves this lilac from being too soapy or redolent of cheap bathroom-fresheners, is its masterful blending of notes you'd never think have anything to do with lilac. Wheat absolute, cucumber, indolic jasmine and watery white musk - all bring to mind a lilac blooming on a balmy night only to be rinsed by late spring showers. A lovely bush to pass by. A nose-grabber, actually. The dry down is a tad too white-musky for my taste, but I still love it. In fact, I am finally finished my decant - a sure sign that it's time to get a real bottle of this.
I won't lie: even though I adore it, Diorissimo EDT could give me that intolerable headache. It could have something to do with me wearing it for my honeymoon and getting a sunstroke or two on an overtly sunny Israeli spring day in the upper Galilee. Which is why I stick to the parfum extrait. In this version, the jasmine really shines, the lily of the valley smells less prissy and virginal, and the green galbanum and oakmoss and even a hint of magical boronia really come through. I wear it every May 1st, and when I'm in an especially good mood. Thankfully, this does not happen often because who knows how long that bottle would have lasted - and the reformulated Diorissimo is not the same, what with the jasmine absolute restrictions in Europe and all...
4. Aromatics Elixir:
What I've been wearing more than anything else this year - and finding it oddly comforting. What I love most about it is the contrast between sheer, expansive, jasminey hedione and the heavier, earthy-herbaceous notes of vetiver, patchouli and chamomile.
5. Spring Wind:
Just arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago, fresh from Russia and handmade by the talented Anna Zworykina. Spring Wind is made of the highest quality natural essences, and is masterfully blended. There is always so much mystery and beauty in Anna's perfumes. And this one is an intriguing scent of greenery and flowers: green-tinged jasmine sambac, jasmine ruh, galbanum, tuberose and osmanthus - giving an illusion of boronia with this mingling of jasmine, greens and ionones. Spring Wind is a befitting name - and this one is green and without even the tiniest hint of melancholy that so often pervades green florals.
There are two perfumes that always are on my spring lists, whether if I list them or not: Diorissimo and Le Parfum de Thérèse. This time, Diorella is getting some love instead - because I finally have got my paws on a stash of over 200ml of vintage Diorella, just as its author intended it to be. Diorella has every bit the sunny, carefree spirit of Thérèse; but with a little more lady-like, manicured and coiffed appearance. I like to think of her as the Italian twin of Thérèse. The honeysuckle (an Italian plant, by the way) and fruity and skin-like aldehydes make it a lot more "perfumey" and a tad soapy. It's sexy, old-fashioned yet easy to wear, and makes me instantly think of the Côte d'Azure - or perhaps the Riviera Ligure?
7. No. 19
Freshly crushed leaves, jasmine, rose de mai, lily of the valley... These all shout of spring - except that nothing about this perfume is obvious. It's all understated, and full of surprises. These include: Lemon. Leather. And did I mention the orris root yet? Ahh, iris...!
8. New Conifer Buds:
New growth of conifer buds is the most astounding, refreshing small-scale forest phenomenon. It's a delight for all senses - their bright colour against the darker mature needles; their cool and soft, silk-tassel texture; their tart, almost lemony yet sweet like wheat-grass flavour; and of course - the sweet, balsamic yet citrusy aroma. I collect them for my upcoming Rainforest tea blend; and use the fresh ones muddled into cocktails, or minced thinly sprinkled over fiddleheads, or mixed inside goat or cream cheese for an original spring afternoon tea menu.
9. Elderflower Cordial:
It has become an annual tradition: me roaming the forest edges and clearings, and picking a cluster of elderflower here and there. I make at least a batch or two of elderflower cordial to add to sparkling spring water; and that also serves as an excellent substitute for tonic waters in various gin cocktail. This year's discovery: Ungava gin (a bright yellow Northern Canadian gin with snowberry, cloudberry, Labrador tea and rosehips), shaken with ice and elderflower cordial and served with muddled spring of new-growth fir needles.
I can never get enough of the many varieties of rhododendrons growing in Vancouver's gardens. So many hybrids, smelling incredibly versatile - some like lilies, or ylang ylang, others like tropical flowers or suntan lotion... Apparently, the sky is the limit when it comes to azalae hybrids!
What are your spring favourites? What springs to your mind when you think of spring? And what do you enjoy the most about spring 2014?