This winter has been an unpredictable one, so far, in the Mid-Atlantic region: no snow, mild temperatures, weirdly fluctuating humidity. It happens to suit my current state of mind: for me, the year opened on several notes of personal and professional disappointment, when nothing turned out quite as I expected it to.
However, wearing (and writing about!) perfume is always a reassurance to me. And over the past week or two, the temperature has finally dropped (and stayed low); we even received a light (if fleeting) layer of snow one night. Maybe something, even if it's just the weather, will get back on track. Here, then, is my highly subjective list of ten fragrances that have been keeping me company during this season.
In the past I've thought of Guerlain Après l'Ondée as a springtime fragrance, but this year I realized that it's also a good fit for where-is-winter days that alternate between chilly rain and pale sunlight. I wore it often in January. Yes, it has been reformulated, but its misty violet-and-iris bouquet is still more moving and mysterious than anything at a typical mainstream fragrance counter.
Along the same lines, Frederic Malle L'Eau d'Hiver is a can't-miss fragrance for cloudy winter mornings. It's a gray scent, and I mean that in the best way. It was created by Jean-Claude Ellena as an "eau chaude," and it does feel simultaneously chilly and warm, just like those odd, changeable days when you can't figure out whether to undo another button on your coat or to add a scarf.
To continue the winter-name theme: For Strange Women's Winter Kitty is a scent that I had to try just for its title. It cleverly blends woodsy vetiver with a breath of cool mint and a drop of smoky vanilla to suggest the smell of a cat's fur just after it has taken a walk in a snowy forest. It feels like a younger cousin of CB I Hate Perfume's Winter 1972, made with natural ingredients, and it has very good staying power for a botanical fragrance.
I traditionally wear Caron Nuit de Noël on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day — I'm fortunate enough to own a bit of the parfum, dating back six or seven years — but once the holiday season has faded away, I find myself reaching more often for Farnesiana. Its powdery-velvety composition of mimosa, almond, and musk makes it the perfect sophisticated comfort scent.
Another perfume in that category is L'Artisan Parfumeur Traversée du Bosphore. I wore it often last fall, and I'm still turning to it regularly. To me, its balance of fruit-accented leather and dusty iris feels smart and soothing at the same time. It has some sweetness (that hint of Turkish delight!) but it's still serious enough that I can wear it to appointments around town.
Do I ever tire of powdery fragrances? No, not during the winter, at least. Lorenzo Villoresi Teint de Neige is an old favorite. The name means "snow-white complexion," not "shade of snow," as it is often mis-translated, but I still associate this fragrance with cold weather. Sometimes it makes me feel like an Edith Wharton heroine traveling to the theater or a ball in a luxuriously fitted carriage.
Sometimes the long, dark evenings call for more indulgence than usual. I'd wear Les Parfums de Rosine Rose Praliné, which mingles a dark rose note with black tea and bittersweet cocoa, to a winter tea-time gathering when the sun sets earlier than we expected and the guests linger longer than we planned.
For a somewhat guiltier pleasure, I'd choose Bond no. 9 West Side. Wearing its mix of sugared rose and peony smothered in ambery vanilla can feel like eating a plate of cookies left over from a holiday party or an entire box of Valentine's Day candy in one sitting. Sometimes, that's just something you need to do. I also happen to receive unsolicited compliments when I wear this fragrance. (Everyone loves sweets.)
Estée Lauder Youth Dew is a perfume that I reserve for the coldest, windiest days of the year. It's spicy and not a bit shy, and it feels plush and just a little bit prickly around the edges, like a vintage fur coat. For something that stays softer and closer to the skin, the matching body oil and body cream are also wonderfully scented.
White florals are often recommended for spring and summer, but I prefer Thierry Mugler Dis-Moi, Miroir (Mirror Image) in winter. Dis-Moi's notes of lily and orange blossom are cradled by a milky accord, a combination that would seem a bit creamy-sickly-sweet to me on a hot day, but feels very pretty, in a slightly artificial way, at this time of year. I think it will even transition well into early spring.
Have you been having unusual winter weather in your part of the world? Which fragrances have you been wearing lately?