When autumn arrives in my part of the country, it’s often accompanied by fog and rain. The vibrantly colored red, purple, orange and yellow leaves on maples, gingkoes, liquidambars, smoke bushes, and all trees and shrubs that have a colorful “faint” into dormancy, are even more glorious with a gloss of moisture. The chilly Northwest damp also accentuates aromas; the ground smells pungent, leaves lose their juicy, “green” summer scents and begin to smell like antique paper or old books. As wood smoke begins to swirl from chimneys, providing its own gray mist to the heavy air, I feel as if the entire city is burning incense to mourn the lost summer and to pay homage to the coming winter.
Fall is a time of excitement and stillness; cool winds and refreshing rains energize me, while the sight of dead leaves slowly dropping to the ground, and the silence in the garden (most birds have headed south) put me into a contemplative state of mind. The perfumes I wear in autumn reflect these shifting moods of the season.
There are few fragrance houses whose entire offerings I would happily wear — Eau d’Italie is one such fragrance house. Bois d’Ombrie smells of wood, cognac, leather, incense, myrrh, tobacco and beeswax; wearing it is like stepping into a wood-paneled room of the Renaissance era, a room that’s absorbed centuries of delicious aromas.
I often burn Papier d’Arménie to freshen rooms in my home. Now, I can walk about freshening spaces I move through. Annick Ménardo has created liquid Papier d’Arménie with her Bois d’Arménie perfume. Bois d’Arménie is part of the Art et la Matière line of scents by Guerlain and though it contains pink pepper, rose, iris, coriander, patchouli and musk, what I smell are the signature powdery fragrance notes of Papier d’Arménie — benzoin, incense, amber and vanilla.
For me, a ‘sturdy’ (and simple) sandalwood perfume is a necessity for fall and winter and Santalum by Profumum fits the bill. It has a rich, slightly sweet, and long-lasting sandalwood fragrance, with added, but not distracting, notes of myrrh and cinnamon.
A Dream: While touring some vetiver fields on a damp day, I am spotted by a spy from the Society for the Promotion of Ozone and Marine Notes in Male Perfumery/Mainstream Division. Seeing his chance to silence me forever, he waits till I wander into a deep, stony ditch and then topples 100 bales of dried vetiver roots onto me. I realize, to survive and write more negative reviews of mediocre men’s perfumes, I must use my hands and teeth to pull apart and gnaw thru the bales of tough vetiver roots that envelop me. As I emerge through the last bale of vetiver, I smell of cool moist earth and stones, “exertion” and…vibrant vetiver. In other words, I smell like Vetiver by Etro. Though Etro’s Vetiver also contains artemisia, clary sage, cypress, cedar and tobacco — vetiver root is the star of the cologne. If I were forced to downsize my perfume collection and could only keep one vetiver fragrance, I’d keep Etro Vetiver. Roll your eyes, gasp, thrust a hand to your mouth in shock, even laugh at me, but I’d choose Etro’s Vetiver over Hermès’ Vetiver Tonka, Frederic Malle’s Vetiver Extraordinaire, Maître Parfumeur et Gantier’s Route du Vetiver and Guerlain’s Vetiver.
I don’t possess a classic “comfort scent” in my perfume arsenal. My comfort scent would not involve food (vanilla, rice pudding, apples, cinnamon); if I could create a comfort scent, it would smell of freshly shampooed English Bulldog or Pug. Since that is not about to happen, I will note one scent I find comforting and that I encounter this time of year: the scent of my wool sweaters. As I unpack my sweaters (the ones I forgot to dry clean before storing), I smell the ghostly remains of last fall’s (and winter’s) perfumes: sandalwood, cedarwood, patchouly and vetiver. Parfum d’Habit by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier smells like my ‘scented’ wool sweaters — and I love it.
I won’t wear a simple wool sweater with my next fall fragrance selection: a tuxedo or finely tailored suit would be more apt. When I spray on Jacques Guerlain’s 1904 creation Mouchoir de Monsieur, with its bergamot and verbena, its rose and jasmine, its vanilla, fern and iris, my posture improves, my pronunciation and enunciation improve, I feel smooth, shiny, impeccable; I feel I could issue edicts and be obeyed. I’ll be giving gallery talks at the Seattle Art Museum this winter for a show called “Roman Art from the Louvre” — guess what scent I’ll be wearing as I talk, and walk, my way through the sculptures of gods and goddesses, the Caesars?
Since I like cows and feel bad about buying products made from their skins, I take really good care of my leather goods, especially my leather bags. I buy a bag and use it till it falls apart, so I rarely get to smell “new” leather. When my leather bag or backpack needs a leather “fix,” I moisten a cotton ball with some Serge Lutens Cuir de Mauresque, stuff the cotton ball into a tiny glass pill bottle (uncapped), toss it into my bag and the scent of perfumed leather wafts from my old bag every time I open it. I wear Cuir de Mauresque on my body too; how can I resist its heady mix of myrrh, burnt styrax, incense, aloeswood, cedar, civet, cloves, cumin, cinnamon, orange blossom, nutmeg, mandarin peel, and jasmine? Such perfume luxury, and luxuriousness, seems most appropriate in autumn as heavy (‘important’) jewelry, velvet, cashmere and, alas, furs start appearing everywhere.
To commemorate my first visit to Paris, I wore a scent I had not tried before — Penhaligon’s Hammam Bouquet (created in 1872). Many years later, I still love Paris and Hammam Bouquet’s sophisticated scent, made with rose, iris, jasmine, cedar, lavender, amber and sandalwood. My only gripe: the perfume extract version of Hammam Bouquet was discontinued. Note: if you ever call Hammam Bouquet a “grandfatherly” scent in my presence, first, I will slap your face (not really, but I’ll WANT to), and then I’ll position you on my Perfume IQ list under: “Semi-ignorant; tastes/descriptive vocabulary: limited; refers to complex, classic scents as ‘old lady’ or ‘old man’ fragrances.”
On London’s Jermyn Street, not far from one of Penhaligon’s London shops, you can buy Frankincense & Myrrh by Czech & Speake — a marvelous, under-appreciated, under-worn, and virtually unknown (in the U.S.) unisex fragrance. Yes, there’s frankincense and myrrh in the perfume, but also the enchanting aromas of chamomile and fine sandalwood. Frankincense & Myrrh smells like “church,” especially if the church was built in the 13th century and has been permeated with the scent of burning incense for hundreds of years.
As fall arrives, I can’t forget my summer garden and the scented flowers it provided, so I buy real flowers in winter and “wear” flowers in my perfumes. Kismet by Yosh reminds me of a protected, walled garden in a high desert — the type of desert that’s warm and nurturing in day, and chilly at night. Kismet’s cool narcissus, chamomile, boronia and osmanthus act as foils for its ‘hotter’ cedar, frankincense and turmeric aromas — this mix of coolness and warmth mimics the changeable days, and moods, of fall.
Want to see more Top 10 Fall Fragrance lists? Check out Aromascope :: Bois de Jasmin :: Perfume Posse :: Perfume-Smellin' Things :: Scentzilla.
Such a gorgoeus list, Kevin!
Wonderful post and a fantastic list of scents! Fall in the Northwest sounds glorious. LOL at your vetiver dream with the evil spy. I'm not a huge vetiver fan, but that Etro is just beautiful on my skin. And I'm shocked to realize I don't think I've ever tried Hammam Bouquet. Must remedy this. And I think you've pushed me over the line to making that call to Barney's and ordering Kismet. Delicious stuff.
Thank you Kevin for this article so amazingly written, so full of passion and so inspiring.
Umm, yes, the scent of a cat which habitually sleeps in the haystack or lavender bush would be my favourite comfort scent if it existed in bottles….
Love your list – I'm especially happy to see Frankincense&Myrrh and Hammam Bouquet appreciated. Haven't worn those for a long time, so I'd better go dig them out over the weekend.
Thanks for a nice read!
A beautiful list, to be sure, but more beautiful is your eloquent writing style. Thanks for the read!
Thanks C, K
Elle: I DO think you'd love Hammam Bouquet, K
Thanks Marianne…it's a perfect day for this to post…ice on the windshield this morning in Seattle, K
Non-b: yes, cats smell great, especially the cats of perfume lovers…sort of a “living sweater” smell, K
You're welcome Dinazad: cats in my neighborhood sleep on a lemon balm bush by my front steps…I bet their owners wonder why they smell so nice, K
Thanks Rosarita…very kind of you!
Thanks Leopoldo: don't ignore the Bois d'Armenie urge…you are lucky to live so near Paris!
Ah, yes, it's about time for me to put away my two or three ozonic, fresh, marines. Don't worry, I won't tell The Society operatives where to find you and carry out their 'silencing' mission. Loved that bit … and the entire list for that matter. I just returned to the central California coast after a weekend in Portland and realized how much I love and have missed the scent of falling leaves; thanks for that great description.
I crave nice sandalwood at this time of year, so I now definitely want to check out Santalum. I'm also starting to be curious about the leather, though it often scares me in that cat-o'-nine-tails sort of way. What a great idea for scenting my poor old leather messenger bag that's falling apart from daily use.
I recently scored a half bottle of what I feel will be a true fall standby for me: Voleur de Roses. Also, today I'm wearing (please don't laugh) something that to me is perfect for crisp fall days, as I find it far too strong for warm weather: Tuscany Uomo by Aramis.
Kevin, This is really a beautiful, poetic evocation of fall scents. I have long been curious about the Czech & Speake, which very well may take its place on the winter side of the fragrance shrine, across from the bf's beloved C&S Neroli. Cheers, C
Mouchoir de Monsieur! Mon Dieu! I had forgotten about that one and will have to revisit it.
I would dream that We of the Secret Civet and Animalic Notes Conservation Society (SCANCS for short) had planted a gallon of Human Existence in the headquarters of your dastardly enemy in retribution. When the timer goes off it floods the HVAC system, making their headquarters uninhabitable!
Joe: I will NOT laugh at your Tuscany…I wore that to commemorate ANOTHER trip long ago — my first time in Santa Fe,NM. K
Vetivresse: Let me know if you or your BF have tried the C&S “Cuba” fragrance…I really need to get a sample of that, K
Tom: HAHA! Perfect retaliation!!!! Did you ever see the Dominik Moll film “Lemming?” Perhaps we can get some real civets to crawl from pipes, drains, heating ducts in the enemy HQ? K
Angry civets? With Lasers? (ending the Dr. Evil impression for the day)
What a lovely post! I like Bois d'Ombrie and Bois d'Armenie as well. I don't own either (yet!), but I am a fan of incense and wood.
Perhaps you should ask Christopher Brosius of CB I Hate Perfume to create a freshly-shampooed dog fragrance! He just might do it.
Have you ever thought of writing a book on some aspect of perfume? I'm sure your legions of fans would love it!
For fall I still swear by EL Aliage and sometimes a spritz of Mitsouko EDT. And there's a whole new list for winter! Hope to read yours…
Mouchoir de Monsieur is SO tasteful in the same vein as Chanel Egoiste Platinum is. How about Heritage? Maybe save it for winter?
Eliz: Good idea!
Kevin, what a glorious read!!! I'm not far away in Vancouver, Canada and I'm right there with you in the spirit of the season. Thank you for warming my morning. Your descriptions of all those diverse fragrances are evocative and thoroughly entertaining, besides. I wish we could all get together for mugs of tea and a big love-in/fragrance spritz so I could hug you and really smell what you mean.
Thanks Robin: a hug to you from Seattle…today's hug would be scented with Miel de Bois! K
I would breathe deeply!! In turn, you would receive a swirl of Bois Blond, in all its dried hay, harvest-time, autumnal glory! xoxox
Ahhhh, that was a lovely read.
I've been celebrating fall by liberating all my amber orientals from their hiding places. (Actually been wearing them at home for several weeks but now I can finally take them outside.) Also, several Montale oud-roses and right now, the golden Botrytis.
Heh, in truth, anyone would sane would have to pick Etro's Vetiver specifically over MpG's Route du Vetiver, because RdV smells like a wonderful revelation, but so fiercely uncompromising and terrible that I have a hard time picturing how anyone could wear it without feeling hard and cynical eventually. And Guerlain's… well, all that citrus only makes you rue that the evaporative summer sunshine has been swept away by fall's concrete colored skies
I LOVE that you picked Hammam Bouquet and C&S's Frankincense and Myrrh. Too frequently does prototypical “English” perfumery get dismissed as boring or tame, rather than being acknowledged as having the possibility of offering up a simple, concise fragrant experience. F&M is a particular fave of mine as well, and it'd be hard to pin it onto any one gender or season because it's so straight to the point I feel.
ahtx: “liberating' is a good word…my fall/winter scents were imprisoned in shoeboxes on the cold basement floor all summer. Now the summer scents are serving their sentence.
Thanks for naming some fragrances I didn't know and will surely try soon. You have such a “classicist” taste… like me And I also generally hate those artificial marine notes (while so many friends love Eau d'Issy… yuk!). We should really think about a trap for that evil agent.
I'm pondering for such a long time not whether but WHEN to get MdM, I know I need it to be completely satisfied in my life, but as I'm afraid of never finding anything comparable I hesitate to buy it. Well, OK, the price also plays a role. But there will come the day when MdM finally enters my life. And it will be a glorious autumn day in Paris after visiting Musée Gustave Moreau or, actually that's too gloomy, maybe better the Petit Palais. And then a walk through the golden tinged Tuileries, securely wrapped in a woolen Dormeuil coat, and later a coffee at the Palais Royal, writing down some thoughts inspired by MdM in my auburn leather sketch book.
I like your vision of a comfort scent, though I'm more a cat person than a dog person. As you might know you can devide the world into the two.
And my wool sweaters when I unpack them in autumn smell of mothballs – pretty pungent and rather not comforting.
Hammam Bouquet; it's making me laugh again, I got that same remark – I don't want to repeat the g-word here (I think we has this topic before)… I love it, especially in winter, but I realised I have to wear it for myself, not when I want to have a sexy aura. Actually, I haven't worn it all summer… I realise you are right, it really IS an autumn thing. The last pink Jacques-Cartier-rose blossom in the hoarfrost-coated garden.
And now comes the big BUT: My fall or winter fragrances definitely include AMBER scents. I think that's were our tastes differ…
Costume National's Scent Intense, Sometimes Armani's Classic (or is it called “Him”?) despite being very mainstram (and a clishée “gay” perfume I was told).
And, speaking of mainstream: I'm addicted to Dolce&Gabbana's first Mens – and that for many years. Such a stunning and heavyly resinous juice, wonderful in autumn.
Ooops, written so much again… but I was told not to say sorry. I don't often post a comment but when I do I take my time and write it in a text program and copy paste it here.
Katiedid: glad to hear from you…especially since you are also an admirer of Frankincense and Myrrh! I've never met anyone in person who has worn it! A shame, K
LL: don't wait TOO long to get your bottle of MdM…! I DO like amber scents…but I like STERN amber…with something pungent or hard liquor-like in the mix. I don't like MPG's amber (too sweet and gentle on my skin)…I go for Ambre Sultan or Montale's salty Blue Amber. K
Society for the Promotion of Ozone and Marine Notes in Male Perfumery/Mainstream Division… yikes! I think they have a female auxiliary that promotes the use of cheap fruity florals in my office. Great list, very nicely written article, K. Thanks for putting it together.
I thought I had read you didn't like it… Oh yes, Ambre Sultan is great! The others I still have to get to know.
I just went to check the notes for Emporio Lui and found out it's not an amber fragrance (athough according to fragranceworld it is). Hmmm… I'm apparently in a very early stage of Angela's perfumista evolution.
Exist: You know R keeps telling me that men are not as bad off as the women…even with ozone/marine everywhere in mainstream men's scents, nothing smells worse than candy-like fruit and cheap florals in women's perfumes. No doubt the F(ruity)F(loral) branch of the SPOMNMP/MD is more powerful than the men's division…sales figures and all! K
“As wood smoke begins to swirl from chimneys, providing its own gray mist to the heavy air, I feel as if the entire city is burning incense to mourn the lost summer and to pay homage to the coming winter.”
Loooooovely post. BEAUTIFULY written.
As to the fragrances… I got to try the etros this year (a whole bunch of them, as a matter of fact) and although they do smell like nothing else out there (they reminded me of the smells of the small bottles of la nez du vin, from when I did a small wine tasting course) they do smell a little alcoholic. Perhaps it was because i smelt them on a very very humid spring day.
Again, loved the article, and certainly will try a couple if I can, like Santalum.
Well, in my country the autumn means – the depressions start – because there's a long winter in front of us. So I really need something cheerful, optimistic…
KG: thank you … the Etros are like bombs being released straight out of the bottle. I HATE an “alcohol” smell and I've never noticed that with the Etros..except with a carded sample of Patchouly which seemed to be ANCIENT. K
DP: are you in the “Far North”? Scandinavia? If so, I cannot know what you are going to go thru…I love darkness, clouds, rains, snow…but maybe not for so LONG. Where I live we do have short days in winter, darkening by 3 p.m. sometimes, but not endless night. Good luck!
Kevin, I love this list! Moreover, I am happy to see Etro Vetiver–it is a gorgeous fragrance.
Hey y'all — you won't believe this, but I was just trolling through NST's archives and in the interview Robin did with Christopher Brosius he actually says he's working on capturing the scent of “puppy,” but that it's been difficult…
AHTX: I hope it's a winner…so many ways to approach “puppy”: fur, breath!, where it “nests”: my father always put down wool blankets for the puppies in their 'house' with dried pine needles under the blankets…such a great smell: puppy/pine needle/blanket.
Hee, hee, puppy/pine needle/blanket = the Ultimate Comfort frag, no doubt! When I read that, I actually smiled REALLY hard and felt “tickles” in my arms!! Your article inspired me to explore vetiver, from which I have shied away… Like many readers, I thoroughly enjoy your highly sensual writings. Delightful. xo
Tigerlily: SO many wonderful vetiver scents to explore…let me know if you find one you LOVE. Speaking of puppies: I realized a few years back some dog breeders “hire” people to sit with puppies, pet them, interact with them so they'll be socialized. The first time I heard of this was at a Xoloitzcuintle (Mexican Hairless) kennel in eastern Washington…I walked into a room with about 15 puppies!!!! Heaven. I need to find such a position! K
K: Yes, I'll definitely let you know! As for the puppy job, let's get hired together so we can blab away about our love of perfume while scratching our four-legged friends!! That would be a hoot
You weave a web of olfactory intoxication–thanks for sharing your fall-scent reflections! I suddenly feel the urge to go roll in some “Luctor Et Emergo” and sandlewood-patchouli oil…
NLB: obey that urge! K
Wonderful to discover another fragrance-lover in Seattle! I find very few men here who wear scent, so this is quite heartening.
Esteban's Sous les Feuilles (Under the Leaves–so aptly named) incense and Hermes Caleche Eau Delicate have the autumnal draw for me–do you know them?
Also, when is your lecture at SAM?
Hi Clare…I really need to try a lot of the Esteban scents…they sound good. I'll be touring at SAM downtown during the Rome/Louvre show…I believe my first talk will be on Feb. 21…and every Saturday thereafter…at 1 and 2:30 p.m. NOW: if you show up…you must introduce yourself! K
Thanks for tour info–will definitely introduce myself!
Essenza in Fremont and Frech Quarter carry some Esteban.
On a more general note, where do you like to shop for fragrance in Seattle? I've had some very unpleasant experiences at Nasreen's–you?
Clare: I think the last time I bought a bottle of scent here in Seattle was at Barneys New York…and that was a present. I'm usually buying online or calling a store in SF or NYC to send me something. I do like Essenza and will look for the Estebans there…maybe this weekend. K