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

MFK-OUD cashemere mood WEB

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

musc ravageur 100ml

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

Intoxicated_bottle 50ml_HDWEB

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

vanille_bottleSQUARE

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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After the aftershave.

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Many people ask me, “Mr Wedge, what IS the difference between a fragrance for men and an aftershave? Or, is there NO difference? Please shed a ray of light: I am so bewildered and get so confused in the shops.”

These enquirers have all my sympathy. The semantics & issues have become entangled and confused. Now let me try to explain. As ever at Les Senteurs we aim to give crystal clear advice and information on every olfactory theme.

Originally, classically, formally an aftershave was, and is, any gentleman’s fragrance in a very low concentration – around 1% – 2%. Ergo, a very small amount of perfume in a great deal of alcohol. It stung like mad when splashed or patted onto tender freshly-shaved faces and necks, but it disinfected nicks, cuts and grazes and it tightened the skin like an astringent. In the dreary old days when most men feared that their use of scent might be considered effeminate – not least, as Mr Crisp would say, by themselves – the sheer agony of aftershave and its starkly masculine, quasi-clinical name was reassuring to its users.

As we became more liberal and adventurous in the 1960’s and ’70’s, many men’s fragrances were sold in two formats: an aftershave concentration plus a stronger eau de toilette strength. The latter lingered on the skin for hours rather than minutes and was intended to be applied as required about the person. Today ( thank goodness ) men increasingly have scents available in eau de parfum, even parfum concentration: far richer and more full-blooded.

The trouble is, that many men and women still use the word “aftershave” when what they really mean is “scent/ fragrance/perfume”. In a similar way Americans often say “cologne” to denote the same products. No one loves a pedant; in some ways I’m with Humpty Dumpty on this – “When I say a word it means what I want it to mean” – but you’ll see how misunderstandings can and do occur.

I think today that by and large true aftershaves have gone the way of the lava lamp, knee breeches and rainbow-haired trolls. However, what has taken their place are the much more comfortable and beneficial aftershaves balms, moisturisers and emulsions; rich soothing creams and lotions to nourish and soothe tender skin. Creed is especially good at these products: they feel good, are kind to your face and are strongly scented to eau de parfum strength to wear alone or to enhance the effect of your matching Millesime.
For day to day I swear by Nivea or Astral, but for high days and holidays the luxury of a Creed balm is hard to beat.

It Couldn’t Please Me More

Luscious, golden, exotically armour-plated pineapples seem in many ways a more suitable nomination than the humble apple for the fruit that lured Adam and Eve from Paradise. First of all there is that wonderful contrast between the thorny exterior and the succulent inside: as piquant as cracking open a crab or scarlet lobster. The sunshine yellow flesh so aromatic and sticky-sweet is yet refreshing, thirst-quenching and if caught at exactly the right moment (you must smell the fruit in the shops as does the French housewife to catch it at the moment of perfection) just slightly crunchy without being fibrous. The rind is an aesthetic pleasure to watch as it ripens from jade to topaz and there is money to be made from the blue green leaves: in the days when pineapples were generally brought whole to table bets were laid on the number of spiny leaves (like baby aloes) sprouting from the head. There are always far more than you think.

Instead of a token of temptation – and how would our Mother Eve have peeled it? – the pineapple became on account of its rarity a symbol of hospitality during its first 500 years in the West, introduced from the Americas at vast cost of money and human misery. The first fruit to be grown here in the 1670’s by the enterprising and appropriately named gardener Mr Rose was personally presented to Charles 2nd and a picture painted to record the great event. Europeans spent fortunes trying to emulate Mr Rose’s efforts and cultivating a dainty dish to set before kings and honoured guests. Growing pineapples over here was a laborious, expensive and heart-breaking business: you needed pineapple pits, hot water pipes, constant turning, cosseting and applications of warm manure. Pineapples demanded 24 hour attendance; garden boys became their personal nursemaids as they were found to be even more difficult to rear than babies in the perilous eighteenth century. How ironic nowadays to find them priced down to a pound in the Co-Op when the raw fruit is often cheaper than a can of chunks.

Then, they became the ultimate luxury, the ne plus ultra gift: the equivalent of a Damien Hurst diamond skull, or a mink T shirt. (I said to this lady wearing the latter, “how do you clean it?” She said, “I buy a new one”). If you look at the stately homes of England you’ll see stone pineapples on roofs and gateposts; gilded ones on curtain finials and glass ones in the form of ice buckets and menu holders. Shining pineapples reflect the sun aloft on St Pauls; and sit atop the domes of the National Gallery if you look up from the yearning huddled masses of Trafalgar Square, every fruit promising a superabundant generous welcome.

Later, pineapples become iconic of Weimar Berlin, even having a song – “It Couldn’t Please Me More” – dedicated to them in the stage version of Cabaret. Those of you who are fans of The Blue Angel will remember Marlene being courted in her dressing-room by the boorish sea captain with a bottle of sekt and a pineapple from the Indies. Not that it gets him anything but the bum’s rush. It was around this time (1929) that pineapple started making the occasional foray into commercial scent. Perfumers noticed, like those canny housewives, what a glorious fragrance was to be had from the fruit and wove it into their own fantasies: it could be extracted (once again, at great cost) from the whole fruit via the juice, or produced synthetically. Volatile and appetising, pineapple made a voluptuous alternative to lemon, orange or bergamot in the top notes of a fragrance and added an aura of luxurious indulgence to the whole.

The late lamented Colonie by Patou was one of the cult glories of the 1930’s: a smell of the tropical possessions of the French empire, full of swampy vetiver and pineapple evoking steaming soaked mangrove forests and sweaty jungles – interesting to compare with Pierre Guillaume’s Indochine which takes the same inspiration but creates a totally different vision of incense + temples, the spirit rather than the flesh. Molinard de Molinard is an exquisite cool green veil of roses, muguet and mosses with a delicate nip of pineapple and raspberry: treat your bottle with great respect, cloaked in the darkness of your deepest drawer, as it fades rapidly with sunlight, but nurtured like fine fruit this is one of the most delicious and little known of perfumes.

L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Ananas Fizz (now defunct) with its tang of added coconut milk was great holiday fun. Belle Epoque by Knize includes pineapple among its multi-coloured Knickerbocker Glory of ingredients, but probably the ultimate triumph of the pine has come with Creed’s Aventus, the house’s best-seller of all time, even rivalling the legendary Green Irish Tweed. A dark aromatic woodsy scent full of jasmine, birch and juniper, oakmoss and vanilla, Aventus is a precious setting for the gleam and glitter of pineapple in the effervescent top notes grabbing the attention and seducing the senses.
A great introduction to an olfactory experience of this most welcoming and sociable of aromas.