Summer Perfume Guide: Niche Fragrances
It’s once again the time of year when the sweltering heat and high humidity are constant reminders that Washington, D.C., was built on a swamp. You might also find that the rich, spicy scents that enveloped you so cozily all winter have become too overwhelming as the mercury rises.
Just as you lighten up your wardrobe, so should you lighten up your scent. Heavy florals, spicy orientals and sweet notes such as vanilla can be cloying and suffocating; you’ll want to replace them with light fresh scents that won’t induce a migraine when the heat is on. Think natural notes: accords of citrus, tea and light florals, woody and green elements work best in a summer fragrance.
Although the high temperature can intensify perfume, it also evaporates the alcohol more rapidly, which makes wearing a light summer fragrance a fleeting experience. The secret is to find scent with tenacity — one in which the lighter top notes harmonize with more potent elements that keep the fragrance from fading too quickly.
I must confess that my nose has been inured to an endless succession of fruity floral candy floss magazine scent strips, so these days I look to my favorite niche brands for relief from olfactory ennui. Parfums de Nicolai, which showcases the work of acclaimed French perfumer Patricia de Nicolai (the grand-daughter of Pierre Guerlain), has a superb selection of summer scents. My two current top summery picks are L’Eau Mixte and Eclipse, but you should explore her full line at www.luckyscent.com or better yet, take a trip to Paris.
L’Eau Mixte opens with sharp note of citrus — a dry blend bergamot and Calabrian lemon and smoothly transitions to its heart of jasmine, Damask rose, blackcurrant, finally revealing a base of oakmoss and musk. This complex unisex scent has great staying power and a whiff of it instantly transports me to the Amalfi Coast.
Lily of the Valley is one my favorite light florals for spring and summer. Its delicate scent cannot be extracted from the flower and must be recreated by the perfumer — a true test of a perfumer’s skill. In the hands of a less skilled perfumer, lily of the valley can come across soapy and somewhat insipid, but in Eclipse, de Nicolai has created a lily of the valley with a deep green undertone and unexpected spicy notes. The clear, light note of lily is imbued with a peppery richness with the addition of basil, oakmoss, black pepper and anise.
Other summery scents from de Nicolai: Eau Soleil, Eau d’ Été and Eau à la Folie.
When seeking a good hot weather scent, one can’t do better than look in a city with even hotter summers than Washington — New Orleans. On my last trip there, I discovered Bourbon French Parfums, a 170-year-old perfumery in the heart of the French Quarter. They boast of a wide range of scents, including one created by the perfumery’s founder in 1843. In addition to their delightful soliflores — including such Southern favorites as magnolia, jasmine, sweet olive and others, I found two summer favorites == La Vie Nouvelle and Marguerite.
La Vie Nouvelle is a crisp, refreshing white tea fragrance blended seamlessly with a delicate bouquet of tuberose and lily of the valley.
Marguerite is described as a “light, clean spicy fragrance.” It has a clean, crisp quality — piquant green and spicy notes peek through a veil of aldehydic white floral creaminess.
Both these scents are well-crafted and easy to wear. You can order samples and try the other fragrances from the line at www.neworleansperfume.com
Other great summer options from this fragrance house: Eleftorea and La Pluie.
Bourbon French Parfums fragrances are made with a high concentration of natural ingredients and are blended by hand in small batches. The owner and house “nose”, Mary Behlar, believes that “the best methods are still the simplest, the most direct and most natural.” Pay them a visit the next time you’re in New Orleans — your nose will thank you.