Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer Sentiments


Summer is time of lightness: we wear less layers, we worry less (or at least we try), we spend more time outdoors and generally feel more carefree and relaxed. But it is also a time when exciting things can take place - trying new things, going on adventures, traveling, meeting new people, or making big changes in our lives before things supposedly turn back to "normal" in the fall.

It's been a few years since I've made a summer scent list. This summer I'm feeling particularly sentimental, as it's the last one of my daughter's childhood, and our last summer spent in Vancouver. So consider yourself warned: the following post contains an extra dose of nostalgia that will permeate my selection.

Berry Picking:
Whether in the forest or in U-pick field, berry picking is something unique to the northern hemisphere. And in Canada we are blessed with some many wonderful berries. I will never forget my first time picking wild strawberries in Bic (Quebec) and the bushes of bright red raspberries that grew in my dad's garden at his country house (my stepmom was complaining about how much she dislikes them, and I was amused that anyone could hate such an exotic thing as berries). Wild strawberries are seem nowhere to be found ever since I moved to British Columbia, except maybe I recall seeing something similar near Alice Lake in my first year here. But we have the bright orange (and mostly flavourless) salmon berries which appear in late spring; the tiny red huckleberries which were my first local berry love. They pop in your mouth with bursts of tart red juice, and bigger purple ones too. We have native blackberries, that taste like bubble gum (and I mean it in the best possible way), and the less known thimbleberries, which look like a red velvety cap and taste like apricot compote - tart and smooth and full of flavour. Then there are the invasive blackberries from the Himalayas, which grow in every possible corner including along the beaches, and taste musky at best, or watery, or in the worst cases - are full of tiny invisible black bugs that give them an unmistakably disgusting aftertaste. But they do make amazing jams and syrups (I cook them with maple syrup to make a sugar-free topping for pancake and ice cream), and are especially good when paired with sage. Either way, no walk in the forest is complete without them in the summertime.
Is there any perfume I love with berry notes? Not really. Mure et Musc and Angel are not my type, and Hanae Mori Butterfly, although doused with every possible berry (wild strawberries, blackcurrants and bilberries) - it is just too sweet to my taste. I'm curious to find something that is interesting and not overly girly that incorporates strawberry as a noticeable note, but is not so sweet and gourmand.

Toad's Stool

Summery Forest Strolls:
No matter how hot it could get here (which is not very hot, but never mind), there is always the forest to escape to. Strolling under the shady trees is both protective and refreshing; and when it's warm there is always a different scent to the forest - sun warmed coniferous needles and a more dry-earthy note although some dampness is normally still there as well, and you can spot (and smell!) mushrooms in the rainforest pretty much year-around. One of my favourite places to visit during the summer is Golden Ears Park, which also has plenty of refreshing water to enjoy: Gold Creek and Alouette Lake.
Perfume to match: KomorebiForest Walk by Sonoma Scent Studio.

Gold Creek

In the summertime I wear some of my scents more as ancillary products than anything else. And when it comes to beach time, they also have to match and complement the Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen that I love (it smells like a combination of mango, guava, pineapple and coconut and just a hint of plumeria and gardenia - I will have to stock up on that before I leave, because nothing comes close to this...).  Some of the best matches for this tropical goodness are many of the Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vanille series, in particular Vanilla Pineapple and Vanilla Banane, which smells like "shoko-banana" ice cream bars. Which reminds me of the awesome peelin' banana that they stopped selling for some ridiculous reason - a modern take on banana flavour which me and my daughter also adored. And admittedly, a summer is not complete without at least wearing Azuree de Soleil/Bronze Goddess Body Oil a handful of times.

Beach Cherry Picnic

Picnics & Iced Tea: 
One of the things we look forward to the most in summer is picnic - by the beach, lake or forest. The weather doesn't have to be that great for that - just as long as it doesn't rain. The classic picnic affair include cold cooked and marinated salads of all sorts, cherries for desserts, and either kombucha, homemade soda, elderflower cordial or iced tea for sipping. Few tea-scented perfumes actually capture my attention more than a fleeting moment (which is shortly they stick around), but summer is exactly the time of the year when all of this don't matter much. That's when I enjoy lavishing myself with the barely-there Osmanthe Yunnan (which is cool and restrained as iced osmanthus-scented tea with a sprinkle of pepper on top), and also can make peace with the fact that Earl Grey & Cucumber Cologne has its character maintained for about fifteen minutes before it turns into a musky nondescript mess. In summertime it somehow seems less of a missed opportunity - rather an invitation for noncommittal olfactory flirting.

Skunk Xing
Come spring, all the skunks come out of hibernation. As they roam the neighbourhood freely they also often get spooked by the colourful population of the neighbourhood that must be foreign to their black-and-white universe, and release their underrated elixir of potent strengths. It's not so much that the scent is all that unpleasant, but it's so pungent and intense that it makes one recoil and want to cross to the other side of the street (or close all the windows - it just depends when that happens). The West End is home to countless skunks, and also to skunky smells of other neighbourhood (and alley) favourites that try to compete with it: freshly ground coffee beans, which never manage to surpass the odour of the striped creature; and cannabis, which almost succeeds to do so). No scent that I know of uses skunk as a note, but some try to emulate cannabis, without much success; and the ones that include coffee so so in such a non-intrusive way that I'm just going to leave this category blank.


Although native to the Mediterranean region - and not at all unique to Vancouver - I now associate honeysuckles with summertime and Sunset Beach - a favourite place that has several botanical treasures around it, for those with a keen nose. There is a big cluster of honeysuckles that grow right there by the pipe crossing along with clematis (probably to mask the nasty whiff of sewage). Come midsummer, and their scent stops me on my tracks overtime I go by on the seawall: their long eyelashes tickle my nose as I take in their aldehydic, sexy floral scent reminiscent of human skin, peaches and just the tiniest underscore of indole - yet somehow also smells very clean and elegant, a tad citrusy even. My favourite honeysuckle fragrance of all is vintage Diorella, of which I've stocked up for a lifetime with a 200mL splash vintage bottle I scored on eBay. Diorella is the essence of summer personified - it is carefree, effervescent, bright and clean with notes of melon, basil and vetiver; yet also very soft, rich, expansive and sophisticated with all that hedione, honeysuckle, peachy aldehydes and powdery orris and violets.

Crisp Cantaloupe

The Farmers Market & Summer Fruits:
When the West End Farmers Market opens, it's a sure sign that summer is around the corner. And this has been an important part of our lives here for many years. It's that rare place where you really feel the community comes together and a place where my daughter can safely shop around for her own weekly treat and practice her money handling skills and make new friends among the generous and friendly vendors. These markets take place right next to the Nelson Park Community Gardens, which are filled with fragrant herbs and flowers (anything from marigold and melissa, lemon thyme and fennel to heirloom roses, sweet peas, iris and peonies). The market itself is full to the brim with fragrant, freshly picked berries of all sorts, apricots, white champagne peaches, fresh basil leaves and vine-ripened tomatoes, pungent garlic that hasn't even cured yet, smoked Sockeye salmon, coronation grapes, corn on the cob (and that incredible corn husk smell!) - and of course pastries galore which don't tend to have that much connection with seasons. Sometimes you'll even smell Tire sur la neige (maple taffy that is cooled down on ice instead of it native Quebecois snow). And if you're really lucky, you may find fragrant flowers such as white peonies and sweetpeas to take home and enjoy for a week. All this goodness is reflective of what's unique to this place and its abundance, and it's always touching that farmers go from so far away to connect with us city dwellers and bring  this richness to our lives. Even though farmers markets are everywhere now (a growing trend, thankfully) - I will terribly miss all the farmers and vendors that have been an important part of our weekend routine; and all those little details, the specifics that make this market so fun even though it's very small.

For celebrating summer fruits, here are my few favourite recommendations:
Cantaloupe: Un Jardin Apres La Mousson (Hermes) is juicy and sweet yet refreshing and no boring, due to the balance of spices and vetiver that go with it. It's effect reminds me of the feeling of creek-soaked gauzy white shirt on the skin and getting the dry desert breeze cool it off as it's drying the fabric.
Fig: Philosykos (Diptyque) and Premier Figuer would also do, in a pinch, as would Fig Leaf & Sage.
Apricot: Vanille Abricot (Comptoir Sud Pacifique) and Saveur de l'Abricot (Artemisia Perfume)
Melon: Le Parfum de Thérèse (Edmond Roudnitska's creation that was "published" by Editions de Parfums).

Summer Camps & Corn Maze: 
You know that smell your child has when they come back home after a day spent outdoors chasing butterflies with their friends, or wondering inside a corn maze? The sweet, sweaty child smell, which perfectly matches the exuberant expression on their face after they've truly enjoyed themselves and will pretty much agree to anything after a long day of activities. And by "anything" I usually mean: doing nothing at all, which is usually best achieved on a  picnic blanket by the beach, listening to the water and knowing that the day is complete.

Poolside and the Water Park:
Since moving to Vancouver, I only go to the pool when it rains. Outdoor pools are not my favourite thing in the summer here, as I prefer outdoor swimming in the ocean, lakes and creeks. Besides, the neighbourhood's only public outdoor pool is situated in a very windy corner at 2nd Beach, and I haven't paid a visit there for so many years I can't even count... But every summer my daughter goes to camp and gets to do things I always only dreamed of doing as a child, such as going to Splashdown (an adventurous waterpark full of slides and the like). And I'm happy that she gets to experience it. As for me - I will always associate the smell of chlorine with that freeing feeling of the beginning of summer, and skipping down the hill in the kibbutz to the pool for the first P.E. class that took place there as soon as the pool opened. This event always meant that the "big vacation" of summer was just around the corner... And I also have earlier fond swimming pool memories from the long vacations I spent at my aunt's in Be'er Sheva (in the southern Negev desert, which was very far from where I grew up - in the north of the country). Some scents simply remind of the pool's wonderful chlorine smell, which comes from a combination of synthetic musks, which smell like scrubbed-clean tiles, and aquatic-smelling synthetics such as calone. l'Eau d'Issey is one such fragrance, and for the boys reading this blog I recommend a scent I only recently paid any attention to - Eternity for Men, which is actually a very well-done aquatic Fougère that has a very distinctive oakmoss and vetiver dry down.

Aquatic Garden

The Flower Gardens:
Summer at its peak here means many fragrant flowers and impressive gardens, and all the roses blooming all at once. I don't know that there is anywhere a better climate than this temperate, British-like Pacific Northwest. Although the botanical gardens are the famous ones, as is Stanley Park's rose garden - there are many "unofficial" gardens as well, such as the many community gardens (Nelson Park's is a favourite which I visit daily), and the aquatic garden that pops up every summer at Beaver Lake, full of invasive irises and waterlilies (pictured above).  There is no scent that gives any of those visual and olfactory experiences justice, so I'm just going to mention here Anaïs Anaïs, which I've re-discovered this summer, and brings me memories of my grandmother and her love for botanical gardens. I will always cherish our joint visit to those in Montreal, which have beautiful garden of lilies, and at the heart of Anaïs Anaïs  are lush Madonna lilies and greenery.

Linden Blossom

Linden Blossoms on the Robson Street:
Another one of those natural scents that simply does not receive justice when perfumers try to bottle it. Although the note appears in several fragrances, non of them truly satisfies the tillia lover's desire to be surrounded by the airy smell of honeyed skies and treetop greenery. That is the kind of scent you just have to get out of your house to catch as you stroll down Robson street, Stanley Park's Pitch & Putt or Main Street (to name just a few areas that really get properly lindened every June).

Previous summer lists of interest:
Ultimate Summer Wardrobe - Scents for Every Occasion (2009)
Barbershop Scents (2015)
Super Summer Scents 2013 
To The Ends of the Earth: Ten Fragrances That Will Transport (2013)
What Summer? (2012)

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