Autumn Leaves

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Following that earlier walk down the autumn garden path, here are 10 super scents to gladden your hearts on crisp frosty mornings and gloomy damp evenings. Scents with uplift, comfort and a whole heap of style; perfumes that make a nod to the season but are not governed by it. Nor is this selection made with any reference to gender. All of the following fragrances are great for both men and women, though some seem angled somewhat by their names; and one or two may work better on those of riper years. But that’s something I’d love you readers to comment on: so please, as ever, do write in. Meanwhile: enjoy, taste and try:

1. Vetiver Fatal by Atelier Cologne

B9-VF 200ml Packshot

Vetiver grass has been used in perfumery for millennia: it has a rather rough male reputation but women love the scent so here’s a perfume to suit everyone: sophisticated, easy-going, clean but with a touch of winter comfort. Oud emphasises vetiver’s greenery; cedar and violet leaf bring out the earthiness. Effortlessly charming.

2. Monsieur by Huitieme Art

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Rocks, streams, stones, trees – the forests of the Auvergne or Wordsworth’s Lakes. Aromatic and woody – full of patchouli, cedar, sandalwood, poplar, dry papyrus and smoky incense. All the invigorating freshness of cool damp forest air but also comforting, warm and perfectly poised.

3. Bois Du Portugal by Creed

Bois du Portugal flacon75ml + etui

An old personal favourite which never palls: an unjustly forgotten Creed scent but still one of the best. Like sinking into a huge green velvet armchair inhaling lavender, mosses, bark, scented woods and memories of hot summer suns.

4. Oud Cashmere Mood by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

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I adore the loudness, the flamboyance and blatancy of oud. This cracker is wildly animalic, faintly rude, always animalic with sweet oils of labdanum, vanilla and benzoin. A fabulous contrast to the delicate cashmere fibres of Musc Ravageur – see below.

5. Musc Ravageur by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

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This is a beautifully dressed continental gentleman wearing soft supple tweeds and the finest, lightest cashmere scarf smelling subtly and deliciously of lavender, bitter orange, spices, woods….and clouds of warm sexy musks.

6. Tobacco Rose by Papillon

Tobacco Rose

The last rose of summer; the one still blooming in the sere garden on Christmas Day. Deep, dark, pourri’d and arousing; full of wonderful non-floral notes such as aromatic beeswax, musk, ambergris as well as the lushness of spicy Bulgarian rose oil.

7. Intoxicated By Kilian

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To give you courage on dark cold wet mornings; to stimulate you at night. A gorgeous warm spicy coffee fragrance laced with rose, cinnamon, nutmeg and green cardamom. Exciting, addictive, satisfying. Can’t live without it.

8. Vanille by Mona di Orio

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Beautiful fantasies of the South Seas and the Caribbean: a spangled veil thrown across the sky to catch diamond stars. Natural oil of vanilla laced with leather, gaiac wood, vetiver and a hint of rum. A landmark vanilla fragrance: exotic, never ersatz; modest but unconsciously overwhelming

9. Gardenia Sotto La Luna by Andy Tauer

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Tropical splendour from your own hot houses, brought to table with the forced peaches and melons. A boutonniere or bouquet for the winter balls and galas: massed creamy gardenias & white roses with incredible depth and almost vegetal richness. For me, currently Best in Show at Les Senteurs.

10. Sienne L’Hiver by Eau d’Italie

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The city of Siena in dead of winter: stone cold without, sumptuously heated and indulgent within. This little-known fragrance plays with colours, recreating the rich earthy tones of Siena’s architecture with truffle, frankincense, golden hay, labdanum, violet and geranium. A classic jewel!

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Magnolia

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O, the exquisite torture of cultivating a magnolia tree! Fatally easy to grow in the English climate and a cliche of every suburban garden, its beautiful flowers are nonetheless peculiarly susceptible to the vagaries of our weather. Ruin can come upon you within hours. Last year the great moon blossoms opened overnight in a burst of late March warmth, only to be nipped within the week by a savage frost which reduced the white velvet petals to rags of brown shrivelled canvas. These unsightly tragedies clung to the tree for weeks, like traitors’ heads on old London Bridge, enough to make you weep and a grim warning against the vanity of human hope. This year’s cold late spring kept the magnolias back another month and my tree escaped the frosts only to fall victim to the winds. But a respectable number of flowers have survived, weirdly late in the season, and the fallen petals look wonderful on the grass, glowing and gleaming in the gloaming. Strange they should be so fragile. These trees have been on the planet since the end of the Jurassic Period: their blooms were among the first flowers to appear on Earth. But a chilly English night is still too much to ask of them.

If you own a magnolia you’ll maybe wonder every spring if it’s worth the agony – this huge anticipation of a few days of loveliness; and hopes so often dashed. But then, which spring flowers and shrubs do last? Lilacs and guelder roses, cherry and apple blossom are all the more exquisite for their fleeting appearances. An uncertain two week flowering period is the norm and the brevity is surely part of the bitter sweet appeal, a mordant metaphor of the human condition.

“Man that is born of woman is of a few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower and is cut down: he flees also as a shadow and continues not.” Job had it right.

Do we want anything to last for ever? Mythology tells us of Anchises, father of Aeneas, who was granted the gift of immortality by the goddess Aphrodite. But he forgot to ask for the complementary blessing of eternal youth and grew unimaginably shrivelled and decrepit over the centuries until the goddess, unable to withdraw her divine favour, turned him into grasshopper,crazily chirping – and easily squashed, one supposes.

Everyone thinks he wants a perfume that will last indefinitely on the skin; to me this sounds a nightmare comparable to other putative perpetual sensory experiences – a meal that never ends; a concert with no finale; eyes that never close. Spring is so emotionally demanding that we cannot bear too much of its verdant reality, its explosive bursting into life.  And fragrance, like flowers, should catch the nose, delight the brain, dissipate – then come again, alternately dying down and reviving like a plant, all the more enchanting for its transitoriness.

In Rome, fifteen years ago, I made a chilly spring pilgrimage to the gardens of the Villa Borghese only to find them closed so I never did see the famous magnolia avenue. However we can all smell an impression of it in Eau d’Italie’s cool and stylish fragrance Magnolia Romana. The scent of a magnolia will vary according to type; but it’s a cool, white perfume which fits the look of the flower perfectly. Soft, clean, mellow – something like the very finest soap but without undue sweetness. Slightly reserved, discreet: you’ll not usually find the smell by lingering near the tree. You need to poke your nose into a low-growing flower, like a pollinating bee. (Or questing beetle, since bees did not exist when magnolias first evolved). Magnolia Romana catches the fragrance wonderfully, weaving together accords of hay, basil, cedar and watery lotus
into a fresh newly-washed perfume which has a faint damp green earthiness beneath the petals. The new grass and the spring rains shine through the petals. Quite simple, quite delicious. And no Angst at all.

Eau d’Italie at the Scent Salon

On Thursday night, we played host to Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alveraz Murena of Eau d’Italie. We were treated to a history of the Le Sirenuse hotel, which Marina’s father, Paolo, founded in 1951. Paolo was the Marchesi of Positano – he ran the town with the local Priest, and they enjoyed eating, drinking and playing cards together. Then we were taken on a tour of the fragrances, and also Italy itself – which has inspired all of the scents in the collection.

The family decided they should do something special to celebrate the 50th anniversary the hotel in Positano. The idea of a fragrance was brought up, and so they decided to create the scent of Le Sirenuse. They gave themselves a few rules in the development of the scent: to make it original, and they didn’t want it to be full of lemon and citrus as it is a cliché of Italian fragrance. Working with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, they created Eau d’Italie taking inspiration from the ideas of sun on the skin, warmed terracota, the shrub that grows on the cliffs, incense from the church, and the salty sea breeze.

The next scent they created with Bertrand, thanks to the success of the first fragrance, was Paestum Rose. Inspired by an ancient Necropolis in Paestum, the birthplace of Italian perfumery, they took Turkish rose, spiked the opening with pepper and coriander, and gave it a dark and woody feeling, from woods and resins.

Sienne L’Hiver & Bois D’Ombrie were described as two takes on the same theme. Both of them to evoke the end of the year in Italy: Sienne L’Hiver (Winter in Sienna) is subtly earthy, a smoky and dark fragrance, given coolness from it’s violet leaf note and a surprising depth from black olives! Bertrand Duchaufour reportedly considers this fragrance his masterpiece.

Bois D’Ombrie is an autumnal scent, inspired by the exapnsive woods and forests of Umbria: it has a powdery facet from iris, warmth from leather, and green woody notes such as vetiver and patchouli.

Magnolia Romana was inspired by the magnolia trees that grow around Rome’s Villa Borghese. Marina and Sebastian said, and quite rightly, that very few fragrances really do smell of the magnolia in full bloom. The magnolia in Rome blooms in June, and the scent around the Villa Borghese is said to be truly incredible.

Baume du Doge was created for Venice: the gateway to the tradesmen of the East. The Doge of Venice was an elected official that held office for life, and Baume du Doge translates as balm of the Doge. As the gateway to the East, Venice was the centre of the spice and aromatic trade in Italy and most of Europe, and thus it contains spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom and saffron, as well as incense, myrrh and benzoin.

Au Lac was inspired by a love affair around Lake Maggiore, between the Futurist artist Umberto Boccioni and Princess Vittoria Colonna, many of their meetings taking place in the beautiful garden on the island. Centred around Osmanthus, they wanted the scent to be bright and fresh, like the waters of the lake – it opens with water lily and bitter orange, drying to a beautiful jasmine and musky-ambery warmth. This was the first time they worked with a different perfumer, Alberto Morillas. The departure from Bertrand Duchaufour was due to a desire to use some captive molecules from Firmenich that leave a beautiful sillage, without making a perfume too strong to wear. They collaborated without knowing who the perfumer was until the end result, so they wouldn’t be influenced by previous creations of the same perfumer.

Jardin du Poete was again created by Bertrand Duchaufour. Marina and Sebastian finally desired to create a fragrance with the typically Italian notes: citrus. But a frustration to many people that wear citrus fragrances is their shortlived nature, which is a technical problem caused by citrus notes: they are small molecules which evaporate quickly. Inspired by Sicily, when it was a Greek colony: Syracuse, full of aromatic plants and citrus trees. Bitter orange is extended with angelica, pepper, vetiver and musk.

Finally, Sebastian and Marina introduced their new fragrance! Un Bateau Pour Capri celebrates the 60th Anniversary of Le Sirenuse. In it’s hayday of the 50s and 60s, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor taking a Riva speedboat to Capri, looking incredibly glamorous and of course, smelling divine! The notes include peony, freesia, peach, jasmine sambac, rosa centifolia, heliotrop, solar woods, cedarwood and musk. It is a softly fruity and powdery floral, with a hint of a sea breeze, and the feeling of the sun beating down on you. It will be the first Eau de Parfum from Eau d’Italie, and was created by perfumer Jacques Cavallier.

We’d like to thank Sebastian and Marina very much for their company – and are very much looking forward to next time we see them! Ciao!

Images supplied by Eau d’Italie