This year, we spent our summer holidays in Copenhagen. And apart from serious wardrobe envy that had me fighting the urge to tackle every glamorous Danish woman to the ground and steal her clothes (and bicycle), I also discovered the Danish art of hygge.
Pronounced “heuuurgah”, as if trying to dislodge a hairball from one’s throat, hygge translates loosely to “coziness,” a concept that the Danes take very seriously indeed. This involves snuggling under cashmere blankets, lighting candles, drinking hot chocolate around a blazing fire, lounging around on sheepskin rugs, and, well, resting your face against the furry belly of a sleeping kitten. Basically, anything that gives you comfort and ease. The best explanation I found was in an article that defined it as “the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things.”
Well, hell, sign me up! I’m in serious need of a hygge.
As it turns out, hygge (for me) turns out to be walking with my family in a nearby pine forest called The Raven, a nature reserve that backs onto Curracloe beach. Used for the D-Day landing scenes at the start of Saving Private Ryan and more recently, Brooklyn, this beach and its adjoining forest is the kind of place you go when you need to filter out all the “annoying or emotionally overwhelming” things in your life. Of which I have a lot. So, last Sunday when I went there, I decided to “up the hygge” and go with a fragrance that is all about cozy, lived-in comfort.
I chose Cadjmereby Parfumerie Generale. Cadjmere is a perfect embodiment of hygge. Two words: creamy pine! Actually, it calls to mind that brilliant phrase coined by the ladies over at Now Smell This, namely“wood pudding”, which is basically any scent that captures the same feeling of comfort you get when you slip into your pajamas at the end of a long day. Wood pudding scents generally contain soothing notes such as vanilla, milk, cashmere, rice pudding, cream, woods, and gentle spices. A quick look into my perfume cupboard will tell you that I’m fond of a good woody pudding or two (in perfume terms, I’m as sluttishly easy to please as the golden retriever who rolls over and asks the burglars to rub his tummy).
But while Cadjmere definitely qualifies as sweet and creamy, what comes through for me in the first half is mainly green, aromatic woods with only a faint undertone of milkiness. The cypress and rosewood notes are incredibly natural and bright-smelling, and I’m reminded once again that Pierre Guillaume is the master of all things woods-related.
It opens with a combination of aromatic cypress wood, rosewood, and mandarin orange that smells briefly like orange-scented milk chocolate before smoothing out into a milky pine-like smell. It evokes the feeling of being in deep forest, the aroma of raw wood bleeding milky sap into the air, and crushed pine needles underfoot.
After a while, Cadjmere loses its bright, spiky greenness and becomes fuzzier, as if someone reached into a picture and smudged out all the hard lines with their thumb. Finally, in the base, a sweet, musky sandalwood expands to fill the air pockets left by the sharp, aromatic woods, becoming ever sweeter and creamier with the addition of vanilla.
There is something very evocative, very eighties about the sandalwood accord here, reminding me of the trail of heavy, coconutty sandalwood perfumes on the sweaters of friends as we prepared to go out to a disco. I don’t know whether it’s a memory of a specific perfume or simply a collection of different smell memories – hairspray, cheap perfume, lipstick, teenage girl musk, lava lamps, and so on. But I kind of like it, although I can see why some might find it too sweet and perfumey.
Cadjmere might not be as arresting or as dramatic as Coze, as sensual as L’Ombre Fauve, or as tasty as Aomassai, but it lands right in the hygge-seeking part of my soul and sticks. I might not love it forever, but it’s just what I need right now, as I pull on my hiking boots to take the kids out blackberry-picking in The Raven. It’s a cashmere sweater between washes, a light female musk and three-day old sandalwood perfume clinging to its fibers, wafting up to greet you like an old friend. Totally hygge, I’m telling you.
Other hygge fragrances include: Chergui by Serge Lutens, Safran Troublant by L’Artisan Parfumeur, Wenge and Chaos by Donna Karan, Organza Indecence by Givenchy (unfortunately discontinued), Santal Blush by Tom Ford, Etra by Etro, Ambre 114 by Histoires de Parfums, Like This by Etat Libre d’Orange, Botrytis by Ginestet, Ambre Narguile by Hermes, Amaranthine by Penhaligon’s, and Coromandel by Chanel.
What about you? What fragrances say “hygge” to you?