Style » Grooming

Fragrance Finds :: Spring Flings

by Mark Thompson
EDGE Style & Travel Editor
Monday Mar 28, 2011

It's likely that more song lyrics have been written about spring than any other season. Just think of the numerous standards waxing poetic about spring: "Spring Is Here," "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," "It Might As Well Be Spring," "April in Paris," "Younger Than Springtime," "Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year" (and not to forget Donna Summer's paean to the love season, "Spring Affair".

It's not only lyricists who succumb to the season. What with all those blooms and blossoms popping up and out, you can hardly restrain yourself. All those scents wafting through the air, weaving into your libido. It's madness; it's spring fever; it's Mother Nature on a sexual binge. No wonder spring reminds you of all the loves of your life. After all, it's scent that awakens memory.

At the very least, spring demands a walk through a garden - or a park or a field. There's something new afoot: rebirth and renewal. Spritz yourself with a new fragrance and start your own bout of spring fever.


Atelier Cologne: Vanille Insensée

The waves of vanilla that swept through Western beauty products at the end of the last century might well be attributable to the publication of A Natural History of the Senses (1990), in which naturalist Diane Ackerman waxes rhapsodic about the intoxicating qualities of vanilla. For nearly an entire chapter, Ackerman’s lapidary prose is so evocative and persuasive about the aphrodisiacal powers of vanilla, and its gastronomic history, that one can hardly decide whether to race for the kitchen or douse oneself in vanilla or light a dozen vanilla candles. As Ackerman mentions, "only saffron is a more expensive spice."

Ackerman’s favorite vanilla fragrance was a combination of Ann Steeger’s vanilla body veil, layered with Jean Laporte’s Vanilla perfume, which possessed a bitter sting. It’s a near certainty that Ackerman, and all other vanilla aficionados, will go crazy for Atelier Cologne’s Vanille Insensée, which roughly translates to "Insanely Vanilla."

After more than fifteen years in the beauty industry, Atelier Cologne founders, Sylvie Ganter and Christopher Cervasel, launched their own line in February 2010 with a series of citrus-based, Cologne Absolue fragrances concentrated at 15% that are widely-celebrated for their sillage.

Evoking the original line, Atelier Cologne’s Vanille Insensée opens with a burst of lime and cedrat, leavened by coriander. "Vanilla...can be cloying," said Vanille Insensée perfumer Ralf Schwieger. "Here I tried to open another door, the black one, which gives access to the spicy floral heart." The top notes of Atelier Cologne’s Vanille Insensée are less like a vanilla cupcake than they are the equivalent of stepping onto the island of Madagascar, where the earth is damp and loamy.

There’s nothing cloying about Atelier Cologne’s Vanille Insensée - and particularly when the heart notes of jasmine, vetiver, and oak moss kick in. At this point, it’s possible to imagine yourself in a Turkish bazaar, where the smell of vanilla pastries, glazed with syrup and caramel, mixes with the sweat of young Turks, hawking their wares while baking in the sun.

It’s in the base notes of Atelier Cologne’s Vanille Insensée that Ackerman, and all other vanilla aficionados, will swoon with delight. Vanilla from Madagascar mingles with oak wood and amber to create an almost hallucinogenic olfactory memory. For who amongst us has not fallen in love with the smell of vanilla at some point during our lives? A cake in a garden, homemade ice cream, the hint of a cologne, the taste of someone’s skin, the warm burn of a cognac - from childhood to adolescence, and on to adulthood, the scent of vanilla has marked our lives.

Like a double helix, Atelier Cologne’s Vanille Insensée twists memory with acquired wisdom, and the result is a fragrance as mysterious as life.

PRICE: $170.00 / 200 ml (6.7 fl. oz.)
LINK: Atelier Cologne: Vanille Insensée


Hermès: Un Jardin sur le Toît

What is more beautiful than a garden at the peak of spring? Answer: a secret garden at the peak of spring. For those who live in New York, it might be the Conservatory Garden along Central Park’s eastern edge, which is also the locale of a statue in memory of Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of the beloved classic, The Secret Garden. And for those who live in Paris, there’s the luxuriant, hidden garden atop the Hermès headquarters at 24, rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré, which is the inspiration for the newly-launched, fourth fragrance in the Hermès Un Jardin line: Un Jardin sur le Toît (A Garden on the Roof).

For in-house parfumeur, Jean-Claude Ellena, the Hermès roof garden has long been a favorite sanctuary, for it was where Ellena first took a meeting with Hermès, which led to the creation of his first Un Jardin fragrance for Hermès, Un Jardin en Méditerranée (2003). Two other garden fragrances quickly followed: Un Jardin Sur Le Nil in 2005 (about which Chandler Burr wrote The Perfect Scent) and Un Jardin Après La Mousson in 2008.

In looking about for inspiration for his fourth garden fragrance, something to complement Hermès’ chosen theme "Contemporary Artisan," Ellena realized his creation was under his thumb, atop his favorite roof. "One day," Ellena recalls, "I found something I thought was a long way away - right under my nose."

It’s a beautiful metaphor: traveling the world, only to realize that something was waiting for you, all the time, at home. It happened to Dorothy in Oz, and it happens to everyone who sings the Kander and Ebb chestnut, "Ring Them Bells" - and it’s a perfect launch point for Ellena’s latest composition.

The roof garden atop the Hermès flagship is carefully tended by an Hermès craftswoman known as Yasmina, the gardener - and it’s the idea of Yasmina as a "Contemporary Artisan" that fuels Un Jardin sur le Toît. The fresh, green scent is redolent of a spring garden bursting with joy. Just as leaf-peepers crave "peak weekend" in the autumn, so, too, is there a moment in spring when flowers and trees burst with fragrance - and Un Jardin sur le Toît perfectly captures the cacophony of spring blossoms.

Opening with the sweet smell of apple and pear, Un Jardin sur le Toît, subtly shifts into the richness of a rose growing alongside freshly-cut, green grass. Like a garden maze, where each turn introduces a new olfactory pleasure - Basil! Magnolia! - that you know and love, Un Jardin sur le Toît keeps evolving, swirling around your head and nose, entering your memory, filling your soul, until you feel as if you’ve slipped down the rabbit hole with Alice into a garden wonderland.

Both fruity and floral, Un Jardin sur le Toît encapsulates an entire season’s worth of aromatic bounty. There’s even a slight base note of compost, the faintest hint of autumnal decay with its implied promise of another spring just ahead, when, yes, you can go home again, back to the garden of your youth.

As an homage to the inherent wonders of a garden, from the bees that pollinate to the green thumbs that nurture, Un Jardin sur let Toît celebrates the annual miracle that we know as spring. You can feel it burstin’ out all over - and you can’t help but smile. It’s delicious; it’s divine; it’s the joy of spring in a bottle.

PRICE: $125.00 / 100 ml (3.3. fl oz)
LINK: Hermès Un Jardin sur le Toît


soOud: Burqa Parfum Nektar

To put it plainly, ouds are intoxicating. As seductive as a snake charmer, as hypnotizing as Houdini, ouds have the capacity to lower your resistance and leave you panting for more.

Literally, oud is the Arabic word for "wood" - but that definition alone doesn’t begin to explain the centuries-old fascination with this potent resin that forms in the heartwood of the agarwood, a conifer indigenous to southeast Asia. So important and powerful is oud to the nose, mind, and soul that it is referenced in one of the world’s oldest written texts, the Sanskrit Vedas.

Perfumer Stéphane Humbert Lucas created soOud to celebrate this heady elixir that recently has become one of the more provocative trends in fragrance. soOud is a collection of eight scents, available in parfum nektar with a concentration of 35% - or for those who wish something lighter, an eau fine with a concentraiton of 11%. Regardless of which composition you choose, you are certain to find yourself swooning in delight at Lucas’s creations.

The protégé of a Flemish master perfumer, Henri Sorsana, Lucas was inspired by the beauty that lingers behind the Arabian veil. Using the burqa as a metaphor for hidden mysteries, Lucas explores the notion of inner beauty that develops over time and is revealed discreetly.

SoOud’s Burqa is very nearly a liquid incense comprised of the most noble ingredients associated with an ancient world. Almost immediately, with only one inhalation, you are transported back in time, slipping into a world where Nefertiti and Cleopatra reign. SoOud’s Burqa is the fragrance about which Lawrence Durrell wrote in his Alexandria Quartet - and Burqa might well have been worn by Durrell’s heroine Justine.

Mystical and mysterious, Burqa segues from its rose and jasmine top notes, into a realm of black violet and cardamom, with the burn of sage and leather. Leaving behind her sleeping husband, Justine has slipped away, into the night, making her way through the labyrinthine quarters of old Alexandria. There’s myrrh in the heavy air, and black ink and black amber. Coal is burning in private quarters and the smell of rubber and sap, with patchouli from the souk, hangs about the buildings as Justine hurries down the ancient streets. This is midnight in the Middle East - the new world is still distant - and for now, there is only the pleasure to be derived from an illicit rendez-vous in a secret garden.

As deep and interior as imagination, SoOud’s Burqa is a plunge into irrational romance.

PRICE: $265.00 / 30 ml Nektar
$225.00 / 60 ml Eau Fine
LINK: soOud: Burqa Parfum Nektar


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JOYA : Composition No. 6

Founded in 2004 with a line of candles and home fragrances, Joya (meaning jewel in Spanish) branched into fragrances in 2010 with two unisex perfume oil elixirs titled Composition No. 1 and Composition No. 6. Joya Founder Frederick Bouchardy, a 2010 finalist for the FGI Rising Star Award in the Beauty & Fragrance category, has described these two perfumes as unexpected mysteries. Composed of perfume oils, with no alcohol, the Joya fragrances are immediately responsive to a particular person’s body temperature.

Composition No. 6, created by by Joya in-house perfumer Rayda Vega, opens with a profusion of Fujian cypress, grapefruit, and juniper berries, a combination of scents somewhat evocative of a tropical forest in Costa Rica. The top notes are clean and fresh and natural, as if there’s a beach at the edge of that rain forest. You can smell the mix of maritime air and wood, which open into heart notes of lotus leaves washed by the sea. Later, as you linger over an afternoon batido, your skin seems touched by meadowgrass and cedar, and the heady aroma of Haitian vetiver and amber. It’s late in the afternoon now - and you’re feeling deliciously sultry. Languourous and sexy, you might linger on this chaise long after sunset.

This romantic, indulgent fragrance is delivered in a handcrafted, black porcelain bottle designed by ceramicist Sarah Cihat, with a stopper dipped in 22k gold. Looking something like a vessel designed by Picasso in his Cubist period, Cihat’s bottle for Composition No. 6 harks back to a golden epoch when perfume bottles were objets d’art.

Joya’s perfumes react to the warmth of a person’s body, creating a scent that is sui generis and inimitable. And in that way, Joya’s Composition No. 6 is a reflection of your own mood and mindset - and all the heat you generate from within.

PRICE: $112.00 / 2.5 fl oz (75 ml)
LINK: JOYA : Composition No. 6


Atelier Cologne: Trèfle Pur

While Henry James declared "summer afternoon" to be the two most beautiful words in the English language, we might vote for "field of clover." There’s something impossibly romantic about a field of ripe clover - and the implicit invitation to fall into its embrace. Who doesn’t want to roll around in a field of clover with someone sweet and kissable?

Atelier Cologne was founded in 2010 by Sylvie Ganter (who has done exemplary work with Fresh and Hermès) and Christophe Cervasel, the founder of Selective Beauty, the masterminds behind scents for Agent Provocateur, John Galliano, and Zac Posen.

Recently, Atelier debuted "Petites," one-ounce flacons from their line of cologne absolue - which means that now you can afford to stuff your manbag with more than one of these intoxicating fragrances.

Atelier Cologne’s Trèfle Pur (meaning Pure Clover) is a fragrance for those unwilling to wait a moment longer for summer. Light and playful, Trèfle Pur’s top notes include basil, one of summer’s signature scents, as well as orange blossom, which together create an almost peppery opening. You could be standing on a porch, gin-and-tonic in hand, while the neighbor boy cuts your lawn, the scent of limes and freshly-mown grass mixing with a loamy dampness.

With a concentration of 18%, well above the industry standard for eau de cologne, Trèfle Pur has something unusual for a citrus-based fragrance and that’s sillage, the trail of a scent lingering on your skin, in your wake...

By the fourth or fifth hour, Trèfle Pur has settled into a moss-based bottom note, with hints of violet leaf still hovering in the air. It’s as if you’ve fallen asleep in that field of clover, your cheek and nostrils nestled near the musky ground, while the mist of evening has blanketed you with its dew.

Tradition has it that the each leaf of a three-leaved clover represents faith, hope, and love - with the fourth leaf of a rare four-leaf clover symbolizing luck. With Trèfle Pur, perfumer Jérome Epinette (master perfumer behind another Atelier favorite, Oolang Infini) has created his vision of a summer afternoon. Sink into a field of clover - and get lucky.

Available at Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Steven Alan - as well as Atelier’s e-commerce website Atelier Cologne.

PRICE: $60 / 30 ml (1 fl. oz.) / $165.00 / 200 ml (6.7 fl. oz.)
LINK: Atelier Cologne: Trèfle Pur


A long-term New Yorker and a member of New York Travel Writers Association, Mark Thompson has also lived in San Francisco, Boston, Provincetown, D.C., Miami Beach and the south of France. The author of the novels WOLFCHILD and MY HAWAIIAN PENTHOUSE, he has a PhD in American Studies and is the recipient of fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, and Blue Mountain Center. His work has appeared in numerous publications.


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