While growing up in the hot and steamy South, I loved autumn and its coolness, and you'd think that after Seattle's oven-like temperatures and dangerously smoky skies this summer, I'd be looking forward to autumn. Wrong. I'm already counting the weeks till spring and wishing I could move to Buenos Aires for the next six months and enjoy spring and summer all over again. Perhaps I've changed (emotionally?) but fall feels sad this year; I reckon it'll be dark, sodden, the beginning of The End — the interminable winter months.
This year I'm going to avoid sentimentality, Japanese death poems, lethargic piano music and drama (I won't be stoking my self-pity). I'll tackle my negative autumn (and winter) moods with fun things, bright lights (and scents), "goodies," harbingers of warm days ahead (LOTS of fragrant bulbs — paper whites, hyacinths — to force indoors).
During fall and winter I'll be giving gallery talks on Seattle Art Museum's exhibit Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur. I'll not try to compete with the glorious fashion/textiles in the show (nor wear jodhpurs), but I'll adorn myself with scent from my tiny bottle of Mysore sandalwood oil and Tom Ford Santal Blush (a happy sandalwood perfume). I hope the spirits of the show will appreciate both fragrances and feel more "at home" in damp Seattle.
Let's go from the Indian Thar Desert to the tropics with Astier de Villatte's Honolulu candle, full of the scents of salty air, lemon and dense/sweet flowers (gardenia). Honolulu is not a "dumb" white floral; it has some "brains" (think Doris Duke and her fanciful Honolulu home Shangri La, now a museum of Islamic art and design).
In cool weather I drink tea quite often, and usually it's a gourmand tea (sorry, Robin Here at NST and all tea purists and connoisseurs!) Two of my favorite black-tea blends are from Mariage Frères: Hallelujah (citrus, fruits and vanilla) and Coup de Soleil (wild strawberry and caramel). Each blend is delicious and makes an aromatic pot of tea. The flavors are so rich and the tea fumes so sweet, no sugar is necessary.
After your cuppa, if you hanker for something sweet to eat, try a chocolate bar from MilkBoy; its Swiss chocolate tastes great. I enjoy their 60% Cocoa Bar with Essential Pine Tree Oil (not as weird as it sounds) and the White Chocolate Bar with Blue Potato Chips and Sea Salt (pretty to look at, too).
Every top 10 list must have a rarity, correct? Mine is a soap that's no longer produced: NauMann's Fougère (each bar was individually wrapped in silk). While chatting with Fumerie Parfumerie co-owner Tracy Tsefalas this summer, we discovered we both loved this soap...and she had some bars at home! She mailed me a bar (how generous is that?) and it's as heavenly as I remember it: a hay-scented fougère that smells like high summer in the country. (NauMann made sensational soaps; why in the world did the company go out of business?)
I needed a good laugh last week and tackled the (unscented) new book by one of my favorite actresses, Parker Posey — You're on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir. I don't believe Posey mentioned perfume one time in the book but she's a lover of dogs, pottery, yoga, dancing (and mentions a cute dance teacher who had body odor...which she thought made him cool). Oh, there's also some vintage/homey recipes that point to a love of sweets; maple syrup came up in a hilarious restaurant episode. I decided Posey would like Mendittorosa Le Mat, with its honeyed, but interesting, aromas of immortelle (maple!), rose and silky geranium leaf. (I think she'd like the adorned bottle too...complete with jingle bell she could attach to her dog Gracie's leash.) In honor of Posey's role as Dr. Smith on Netflix's Lost in Space, I'll also recommend Tauer Solar Engineer soap...full of Nootka cypress oil (Nootka cypress grows in the forests of British Columbia where Lost in Space is filmed.) Nootka smells of motor oil, purifying natural medicinal soaps (always black!), as well as the forest; it's an acquired scent that I love.
OK. This recommendation may appear crazy to some of you, but I use cosmetics on one of my cats. There! The krazy kat's out of the bag! Uncle Vanya Mandelstam ("BonBon" or "Bonnie" to his familiars) suffers from dry, dandruff-y skin and gets so miffed at his ruff he starts pulling out hair while giving me a side-eye. I bought Dermascent's Essential 6® Spot-on treatment for him... and it smells fantastic, with its natural oils of clove, camphor, gaultheria, rosemary, curcuma, oregano, lavender, peppermint, tea tree, cedar, hemp and neem (plus fatty acids and vitamin E). Uncle Vanya smells terrific. And his coat is so thick, glossy and dandruff-free I'm tempted to put a vial of Dermascent between my shoulder blades once a week, too. (This product can also be used on dogs and rabbits.)
Ex Nihilo Vetiver Moloko Eau de Parfum smells like sumptuous vetiver cold cream; I find it addictive and I'll be reviewing it later this month (along with some of the other fragrances mentioned in this post). Another perfume (that brings to mind harvest time) is Nishane Karagoz, a powerful masculine fragrance full of syrupy pineapple and grape aromas with a dash of "sweaty" vetiver.
In autumn, one thing's for certain — people start getting sick: colds and flu on the horizon. Czech & Speake No. 88 (with its geranium leaf, bergamot, rose, frangipani and cassis) smells like an expensive throat lozenge from the Edwardian period. I'd happily roll one (or two...or three) of these lozenges around my mouth. As I wore No. 88 I visualized Charlotte Rampling in period garb, as my no-nonsense majordomo, dispensing the lozenges as I complained about autumn from my heavily cushioned settee. If only!
Happy (sad!) Autumn to you all!
Note: top images are Peacock Feather and Peacock [cropped] by Nicolaus Juvenel via Wikimedia Commons. Images of Uncle Vanya by the author.
Ooh, I LOVE pine flavored things (retsina, anyone?) and so I must try that chocolate bar.
Regina, it’s good!
Ooh, another retsina lover! You’ve reminded me that it has been too long since I had some.
When you say ‘Charlotte Rampling in period garb’ – I hope you’re not thinking ‘The Night Porter’ as i think that would be a VERY different fragrance !
N, no…we are sticking with Edwardian dress for sure.
Sorry to hear that the approach of autumn feels sad. Down here (south of the South Island NZ) we are having the best spring I have ever experienced: magnolias in full bloom, wattle and mimosa everywhere, gorse scenting the hills, pine pollen forming a thick layer over everything, daffodils, wood anemones, kowhai, rhodos and camellias…but the downside is that not a single one of your perfumes/ products is available …so swings and roundabouts. Hope you get some crystal clear days, crisp air, sweet apples, stunning foliage and cosy evenings. Good luck!
Sounds so very beautiful. I really want to visit!
Kanuka…I want to book my flight today!
While I’m a die-hard coffee drinker, I do like a spicy Chai in the winter months.
I do miss the days when soaps came elegantly packaged and were available as a standard part of a scent’s catalogue. My favorites are anything by Roger & Gallet (in particular, the Sandalwood soap and Bouquet Imperiale), and also a box of Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir soap. Every once in a while, I order Magno soaps, the black mineral soap brings back great memories of my dad as he wore a cologne that smelled quite close.
One line that’s quite affordable and comes in these monster-sized bars is Linden or Verbena by Provence Sante. Vegatable-based and French-milled, they are quite elegant and long-lasting!
BonBon is adorable! SmokeyToes sends his hellos. >^.^<
ST, looks like they could be related, one with a haircut, one long coated. And I have used all those soaps you mention. I’m a soap fanatic.
Everything feels a bit ominous lately, whether it’s the arrival of fall and it’s huge storms or fall *not* arriving in when it ought. Glad to think of fun things to stave off the funk!
Amy, completely agree.
I loved this. Thanks, Kevin!
Kelly, you’re welcome.
The rain came back a bit more suddenly than people though this year in the PNW.
Fall is always a happy time for me as I eat so much fruit and there is so much to make and put up! I like the misty rain, I like biking in the misty rain, I love long coffee shop visits with really good pastries and making jam and broth at home. I like jazz and weed infused hot chocolate and convos with friends on the couch.
Ede…thrilled for the rain at the moment. My water bills for the garden have been awful
Please do some research on the oil for your cat; after years of bring assured that essential oils were safe for pets, my vet said they are now thinking many oils can be toxic for cats. Clove, oregano and peppermint are on the no list, and I would think tea tree oil would be, too.
Of course you have had wonderful results and I don’t mean to be a busy-body, just wanted to pass along the info!
Scentalicious…this treatment was prescribed by my vet who is into natural therapies. It replaced a ceremide treatment that became unavailable. I appreciate your note!
Autumn has always made me feel melancholy and/or sad as long as I can remember. Maybe because I’m a Leo. However, this Autumn I have something to look forward to because I am going to Italy and Sicily in about twelve days. When I feel sad or melancholy, I always spritz on a bright fragrance and it cheers me up.
Filomena…Italy always cheers me up, too.
You’ll never believe this, but I actually met Parker Posey at a perfume themed event! It was a few years ago at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City… in conjunction with an experiential fragrance exhibit they had at the time, they hosted an amazing perfume panel event. I happened upon the event posting online and was able to attend just by RSVP-ing! The evening centered around Etat Libre d’Orange’s launch of the perfume Afternoon of a Faun. The panel members were Ralf Schwieger (the perfumer), Chandler Burr (New York Times fragrance correspondent, who’d helped curate the exhibit), Etienne de Swardt (founder of the brand) and Mx Justin Vivian Bond (a sort of muse for the fragrance). Before the audience filed into the auditorium to hear the presentation, we were invited to mill around in the lobby and sample the Etat Libre d’Orange line from a bunch of bottles on a table. Well, who should arrive fashionably late and looking slightly out of her element among a throng of perfume nerds, but Miss Parker Posey! The evening was magical in every respect, but, a close encounter with a celebrity was the icing on the cake!
Sllat…and Afternoon of a Faun is one of my favorite perfumes.
Great article Kevin and I’m jotting down notes for Christmas presents. Hey, do you know your schedule for the talks at SAM? We’ll be diwn for Christmas, and the show is on our list. -Robert H.
“Talks at SAM” – *ears perk* – Are you speaking at SAM or is something perfume-related going on? Do tell, I’d love to attend. Thanks.
FragrantWanderer and springpansy: Yes, this fall and winter I’m giving gallery talks on the Peacock in the Desert exhibit. My tour times vary, so both of you feel free to email me at my NST email and let me know a date range and I can give you info. If you DO come to a tour…please introduce yourselves!
I am soo excited about this show!!!! I loved the previous show at the Asian Art Museum about Mughal paintings. I’ll have to wear my Safran Troublant to the shows!
Also…how do we find your NST e-mail (I am sure it is somewhere obvious but I am missing it). I’ll be at the show a few times and it would be great to hear your gallery talk.
ElizaC: email addresses are under the “About” section. (Can’t wait for the Asian Art Museum to open again.)
We just had that show in the Houston art museum and it was fantastic–you’re lucky, and I’d love to hear your gallery talks! That automobile at the end was pretty impressive, too! I’m glad to hear about the cat oil treatment for dandruff problems because I too have a cat with skin issues. Thank you for your fun and beautifully illustrated piece here.
PS: Incidentally, at least at the MFAH, the show from India had an unusually fun gift shop associated with it!
Calypso: we’re lucky here in Seattle…just “up the road” in British Columbia is a huge Indian and Pakistani population with amazing stores/shopping/food, but I do look forward to see what the museum will offer in the shop.
As for your cat’s dandruff. I HIGHLY recommend the Douxo line of products for dry/dandruff-y conditions on cats: Seborrhea PS spot-on; Seborrhea PS Mousse, MicroEmulsion Spray and Shampoo. The main ingredient is a miracle worker: phytosphingosine.
If you haven’t tried it, I think you would love Harney’s Holiday Tea. Black tea with citrus, almond, clove and cinnamon. We always keep it on hand in our house and order the loose tea by the 1-lb bag!
Sapphire: I need to explore Harney & Sons teas…thanks.
Nice list of comforting smells and tastes. I respond with melancholy to the changing light and weather too…even though I really love autumn and winter. I guess it’s biological. Now I wanna see that kitty! <3
Thom: that’s him in the post. He has to be in profile to see his monstrous mane…always makes people gasp…it goes all the way down to his toes when he sits.
Autumn has been so ABRUPT here…didn’t give me time to mentally prepare. I’m actually chilly today…but refuse to turn on the heat in September.
I have to agree with the Tauer soap Solar Engineer. I have a bar in my shower at this moment and I feel like getting another before Fall/Winter
The soap layers beautifully with Gucci Guilty Absolute Pour Homme, too.
I share your feeling about fall, Kevin, I found your post very cheerful: like you I am a lover of soap among my favorites Roger&Gallet as I grew up with them so to speak, in France: Oeillet Mignardise scents my bathroom at the moment.
And the Tauer soap sounds great!
Aurora…so far I like ALL the Tauer soaps…and R&G is always great.
Ugh. I recently left Seattle after having lived there for 15 years (it’s also where I grew up.) I’m now in the Midwest (with a terrifying winter ahead.) I happened to check the Seattle weather last week and thought, “Yep, looks like summer ended a while ago.”
It occurs to me living elsewhere that unless one has lived in Seattle it is not possible to wrap one’s head around how oppressive the weather is. I do not miss the panic I felt every mid-August knowing that sunny days were numbered and would not return until the following July. Depressing barely expresses the weight of 9-10 months of interminable dreary, gloomy, nasty, wet, and dark that’s ahead. It’s not just that winter is long; it’s that summer is so fleeting and short.
Hope your list of goodies brings some golden rays of brightness.