When daffodils open and plum trees burst into bloom, I often reach for perfumes plump with hyacinth, lily of the valley, and narcissus. Guerlain Chamade, Annick Goutal Grand Amour, Parfums de Nicolaï Le Temps d’une Fête, and Christian Dior Diorissimo top the list. Something about their almost cartoonish opulence reflects the crazy blaze of flowers that splash in otherwise bleak streets this time of year.
But spring is about something else, too. When winter gives even the tiniest hint it’s weakening, Mother Nature sends up dandelions, nettles, and chives. Where I live, soon after come asparagus, rhubarb, morel mushrooms, and spring runs of Chinook salmon. These foods offer a digestive spring cleaning. They’re the antithesis of the heavy, starchy fare of winter. My friend Janice calls them “tonic” foods.
Sometimes I want a spring tonic fragrance, too. To me, a spring tonic should be sharp and pure, almost uncomfortable, but refreshing all the same. Think about spring cleaning: you open the windows although it’s still a little too cool to be comfortable. It hardly matters, since you’re working so hard. You scrub the furnace grime from the walls, and you scoop ashes from the fireplace. Forced hyacinths replace scented candles, and the fluffy down comforter goes into the washer and a thin, hard quilt takes its place. Spring cleaning discomfits, but it feels good to strip the house to its bones.
Similarly, this time of year I often reach past hammering oriental fragrances for something austere and astringent. Goodbye choking sandalwood and patchouli. So long suffocating amber. Hello vetiver, citrus, pepper, lily, and jasmine.
One spring tonic for me is Amouage Ubar. It smells to me like jasmine lemonade. It has a brisk coolness about it, citrus tart and buzzing with jasmine, that I wish my sheets smelled like. Vintage Ubar in the funky geometric bottle has a gorgeous sandalwood drydown that gives it the flexibility to be both a spring tonic and summer day fragrance, but the new Ubar is wonderful, too.
I also reach for green chypres that aren’t too warm, like Chanel Cristalle Eau de Toilette, Yves Saint Laurent Y and Niki de Saint Phalle. They’re almost tannic in the way they grate slightly on my teeth. But they’re beautiful and sharp and cut through the fat. Robert Piguet Bandit is another spring tonic for me. Its galbanum and thin, oily leather make me want to scrub my skin and simplify my wardrobe. Annick Goutal Des Lys feels fresh but not like soap, and it's another good one for March.
Most traditional colognes don’t work for me as spring tonics. They remind me too much of summer days, and although they may be sharp with citrus, they don’t always have the cutting green edge that separates a spring tonic fragrance from a hot summer day's scent.
Of course, when spring rains fall — and I know they won't quit here until July — many nights I still crave warm fragrances. Even through the summer I’ll dab on Guerlain Shalimar extrait or even the spicy animalic Weil Zibéline when the mood strikes. But right now, spring tonic fragrances are a sure way to wipe away winter and let in spring.
Do you have spring tonic fragrances? My fragrance collection is heavily weighted to fall and winter. Do you have any spring tonic suggestions for me?