Niche Fragrance Magazine

The problem of mugginess

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As the weather turns from the beautiful warm summer we’ve enjoyed in Wales this year, and we move towards what I hope will be a gloriously colourful autumn, this week I felt a bit stuck. Mugginess had me stymied.

You may have noticed that my fragrance choices are very much dictated by the weather. I’m lucky not to work in an office, so I don’t have to worry about wearing perfumes that are ‘office appropriate’ and when I do have to go to a meeting, there is Chanel No. 19. (Meetings were what No 19 was created for, surely?) So I can pretty much follow my instincts with what I choose to wear each day. I’m a massive fan of greens and citruses in the summer, but in autumn I tend to turn – like the leaves – to ambers. These are the scent equivalent of cosy fuzzy jumpers – not the full-blown winter warmers that you need to keep the frost at bay, but soothing, enveloping comfort scents that are as obvious and easy to wear at this time of year as a cashmere hoody.

Indeed, one grey and chilly day this week I pulled out my bottle of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s L’Eau D’Ambre Extreme and found it a perfect fit. Its soft, golden vibe was exactly what I needed that day to replace the sunshine I was missing. It felt like I was making a seamless transition from one season to another, wrapped in Jean Claude Ellena’s gentle, slightly floral melange of cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon and mace grounded in a soft vanilla.

But the next day, the summer heat was back and while the sky was still overcast, the temperature and humidity were right back up. Amber didn’t sit well on such a muggy day, and this unexpected need for refreshment had me scratching my head and looking at my collection with a frown.

I turned to my eau de cologne stash, which fortunately has a few unexpected options that might work in this confused weather. Berdoues Collection 1902 Tradition Cedre Blanc is woody and warm for an eau de cologne, with drowsy flowers and ripe fruits, but it’s refreshing enough that it cuts through the stickiness and of course I enjoy reapplying it regularly to cut through the oppressive feeling of humidity. I’m also a fan of Yves Rocher’s Cedre Bleu, which is similar but doesn’t have the flowers, which I find work particularly well with the woody background. I have fallen for a few of the Berdoues this year and want to look at more of them.

Wanting a woody fragrance that would last longer but still have those qualities of lightness and warmth, I turned to Atelier Cologne’s Bois Blonds. This lasts longer because it’s a ‘cologne absolu’, and while I would like to top it up after lunch it lasts pretty well through the day. In the topnotes, Bois Blonds has a clean brightness from bergamot that I experience as lightness and clarity, with a slight floral warmth that I thought was iris, but is in fact neroli and orange blossom. I don’t get much incense or spice from the heart, but I do catch a gentle vetiver and clean musk in the base, keeping the fresh wood ambience working a little longer.

I tend to default to chypres and incenses when I am unbalanced, and I have been glancing at my safe choices that I go to all year round – Guerlain’s Chamade, Miss Dior Originale, Penhaligon’s Elixir, Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocain – but I’m resisting the temptation and trying to find different fragrances to wear. I have been thinking that a good choice right now would be Acqua di Parma Colonia Leather, which has the particular combination of warmth and lightness I want at the moment, but unfortunately I have misplaced my sample. Perhaps this would be a good time to get my leather fragrances out. There is an angular quality to some leather fragrances that might work well as a counterpoint to their warmth. Perhaps this is the perfect weather for Piguet’s Bandit?

A decade ago in a little secondhand bookshop, I bought a biography of an obscure biophysicist written by a New York Times journalist and my life changed. Yes, I blame it all on Luca Turin and Chandler Burr; thanks to them I fell in love with L’Heure Bleue and haven’t looked back since.

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