Tag Archives: Winter perfume

How to Smell like Christmas

There are certain smells associated with Christmas that we don’t come across in the course of the ordinary year (i.e. the boring non-Christmas period). Now, I might be romanticising things here, but I have vivid Christmas memories of the exact smell of 1970s tinsel, the smell of roasting beef (we didn’t eat turkey) and Mum and Dad smoking all day. In the 1970s you were  encouraged to smoke all day and anywhere you pleased. Unimaginable now, I know, but the scent of cigarettes always takes me back to the family home back where chocolate advent calendars hadn’t been invented  and the internet was just a twinkle in the sky.

These days, any kind of foodie/boozy scent has me thinking wistfully of Christmas and I use it as an excuse to step outside my usual chypre scented comfort zone and into cosy, smoky gourmands.  Basically, I want to smell good enough to eat.

Here are five fragrances that have me salivating around Christmas time. They are rich, evocative, wintry and absolutely delicious. Dive in with me.  Sherry?

Zadig et Voltaire This Is Her

The plain white bottle from this achingly cool Parisian brand doesn’t look particular festive but it has dominant chestnut notes and lashings of whipped cream. This is an unusual fragrance, but I like it because of that.  They could have played it safe but no, they thought they’d confuse our brains with jasmine and chestnuts and whipped cream and cashmere wool and pink pepper and, did I say whipped cream? It sounds confusing but I promise you, this scent really works and I could happily plough through a whole bottle, and the body lotion and candle too. You can find it here.

4160 Tuesdays at Pitti

4160 Tuesdays Captured by Candlelight

With overtones of Cluedo and Agatha Christie in the intriguing title, this fragrance smells as Christmassy as a tangerine in the bottom of your pillow case. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a Christingle service, but it reminded me vividly of that. What happens is that children attend a simplified Christmas service in a church (an old one for preference) and each child is given an orange with a candle embedded in it. Jutting out of the orange are cocktail stick with little Haribo gummy sweets on. Combine the old wood of church pews with the orange, the sweets, the candlelight and the flask of Baileys you have in your bag, and you’ve got Captured by Candlelight. Check it out here on the 4160 website, which is dangerously tempting at this time of year.

Hypnotic Poison

Christmas isn’t Christmas without some sort of marzipan encounter.  Hypnotic poison allows you to carry that scent around on your skin. With rich, boozy vanilla and thick, rich almonds, Hypnotic Poison is hard to beat, and very long lasting. By the way, just holding the pumpkin shaped bottle feels like magic. I keep thinking its going to turn into a tiny coach at midnight.  You can buy it here.

Hermes Elixir des Merveilles

The nose behind Hermes Elixir des Merveilles is none other than legend Jean Claude Ellena.  Famous for his blending, which is often described as having the delicacy of a watercolour painting, Elixir des Merveilles is a gourmand that has the kind of mouth-watering appeal that never feels too rich for a second helping.  To my nose, this smells like caramelised oranges, but without any stickiness.  Imagine a crème brûlée with slightly seared bitter orange fruit.  I’m not usually a fan of gourmands, except at Christmas, obvs, but this one has me drooling with undisguised avarice. You can buy it here.

Yves Rocher Bourbon Vanilla

Never let it be said that I don’t cater for all budgets.  This cheap and cheerful vanilla scent from trusty Yves Rocher stopped me in my tracks and made me check the price again. Twice. This is a rich, golden vanilla scent that smacks of boozy vanilla liquor, rather than the more commonly found synthetic cupcake note that sometimes poses as vanilla.  Not, this one, though, No Sir. Yves Rocher Bourbon Vanilla will make everyone ask what you are wearing. Even the most curmudgeonly perfume resister will be unable to stop sniffing you. Don’t blame me. Blame Yves Rocher! Oh, and the price? My 30ml bottle was the princely sum of £3.99 five weeks ago.

How about you?

What will be wearing this Christmas? Something cosy? Something new? Do you always wear the same fragrance at Christmas? Do let me know. I always love to hear from you.

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Shay & Blue London: Amber Rose

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Shay and Blue London Amber Rose is one of those fragrances that I tried in warm weather and dismissed, then tried in cold weather and ending up loving. The same thing happened with First by Van Cleef and Arpels, which is now the nearest thing I have to a signature scent.

In the summer, I found Amber Rose too sweet and too gourmand in the sticky heat. However, in cold weather, it tells a different story and it was a story that had me hooked from page one.

Amber Rose only has three notes: Rose, Dulche de Leche ( caramel) and Amber.  The rose is a clean rose that has a hint of papery dried petals around the edges: think the dried rose petals in pot pourri. It combines satiny petals with a tea like dryness. The  delectable dulche de leche note acts a bridge between the rose and the amber and  it’s a genius bit of blending.  The sweetness of the rose rises and melts into the caramel and then sobers up again as it segues into the woody amber finish. This is perfect for cold weather and the sweetness level is pitched just right for a wintery day.  The combination of roses and milky, woody warmth is irresistibly cosy.  I can see my Shay and Blue collection starting to grow. Oh well!

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Stockists

You can find a selection of Shay and Blue fragrance in branches of Marks and Spencer. Alternatively, you can buy a mini selection of Shay & Blue fragrances from The Perfume Society ( see photo above). The link is here. Sample and opinions are my own.

CB I Hate Perfume: Winter 1972

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CB I Hate Perfume was founded by Christopher Brosius, a former taxi driver who rebelled against the suffocating scents that filled his cab. It’s great news for us that he felt that way because CB I Hate Perfume is a unique brand that breaks the mould.

His scents are more about capturing a memory or a mood in a bottle, rather than having the singular aim of making you smell pretty.  Such a concept is refreshing and I look forward trying more.

CB I hate Perfume Winter 1972 is a delightful scent that immediately evoked a very visual memory.  It is, to me at least, the smell of lying in a cosy bed next to a damp, rather mildewy window on a cold night. I love perfumes that take to me to a place or a moment, and they have a definite role to play, in the same vein as Demeter’s scents of realism.

The notes in Winter 1972 are simple: soil, wood and sea.  The soil tincture is certainly the most dominant, with it’s earthy slightly “off” smell which combines beautifully with the Wood and the Sea.  It reminds me of wet bracken on a damp winter walk.

 CB I Hate Perfume also provides samples at 3GBP each, which is another quality that endears them to me.  Often large bottles are too expensive to take a blind buy gamble with, so I always like it when niche brands offer this service.

CB I Hate Perfume Winter 1972 is available from the UK Cult Beauty website or from the CB IHatePerfume website if you are in the US.

Dior Dune: The Classic in the Corner

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Dior Dune is a steady seller that has had a firm fanbase for 22 years.  I cannot, off the top of my head, think of a recent launch that is anything quite like it, except perhaps for Penhaligon’s Love Potion No 9, created in 1998, which has some similarities.

Created just after the excesses of the Eighties, Dior’s 1991 creation was  almost a gateway between the heavy Orientals of the Eighties, and the “back to nature” feel of scent in the Nineties.  It kind of had a leg in each camp.

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When I think of Orientals, I often think of strong scents such as YSL Opium or Estee Lauder Cinnabar that, although excellent, can sometimes be too much for daytime (but what the heck, right?). However Dune, with its Woody notes and smooth undercurrent of velvety Patchouli, is certainly light enough for daytime, even office wear, whilst still retaining its originality and character.

The funny thing is that smelling this really does remind me of sand.  It’s smooth, dry and smells like it’s been baked in a dry desert heat.  It opens like an aldehyde, and when I first tried it today, I thought “Things ain’t what they used to be.”, but after half an hour that old familiar smell from when I was 21 came back just as I remember it. There is a sweetness I hadn’t picked up on in my youth, and I would attribute it to the citrus fruit within: in this case Oranges.  I often find that Oranges can work well alongside spice or wood in the same way that it can be used in a fruit cake without taking over.

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The basenotes come in fairly quickly and remain steady for around six or seven hours.  What I have at the end, when all has settled is a warm, Ambery, sandy scent like the heat of a Summer evening after a day on the beach. It’s not at the forefront of any big campaigns, it has just quietly got on with being a little bit of a classic.

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The Mighty Cinnabar

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Estee Lauder launched Cinnabar within weeks of YSL Opium coming out. The gauntlet was well and truly thrown down. That they are competitors cannot be coincidence with such a close time lapse between them and such unmistakable  similarities.

Cinnabar was created in 1978 and has become somewhat of a standby classic.  I don’t smell this very often on under 50s, which is a great shame .  I would love to see younger people seek out  fragrances like this and escape from the fog of modern fruity florals.

 Cinnabar has a lot to offer.  It is an Oriental Spice perfume, with other notes that make it chameleon-like in its adaptability.  On first spray it is loud, fresh and spicy before drying down into a talcum powder masculine scent .  But bear with it, as it soon changes again and becomes a delightful Incense fragrance with a hint of powdery orange and peach, and a definite loud-ish note of clove standing in the background.  This is serious perfume: it’s not playful.   I can’t help thinking of rather sombre females in dark suits, or elegant dames with pearls and no laughter lines.

On me I’m afraid it reminds me of a Toilet in a rather well to do house I visited years ago.  I can’t help it.  I smell a fragrance and a long forgotten memory just pops up and won’t go away.  I think the hint of Jasmine, which is often indolic, has made this hard for me to love, but easy to admire.  It also reminds me of a soap called Shield, used by a former adversary, which has kind of spoilt it for me.   Strangely enough, I found this so similar to Estee Lauder Youth Dew, now in its 60th year, that I am not entirely clear why they made two fragrances so very similar.  Yesterday I wore Cinnabar on one arm and Youth Dew on the other.   At one point they were so alike I thought I was going to have to write “This one is Youth Dew” on my arm.

Cinnabar is not for me, but I hope it sticks around as we need more classics like this.  It would be a tragedy if a beautiful Oriental were to be discontinued through lack of sales.  With today’s trends for the lighter more modern fruits and vanillas, I sometimes fear for the good guys like Cinnabar.