A few years ago Guerlain, which likes to come out with sets of things, came out with a set of four fragrances. It was called Les 4 Saisons, and the idea was that you had an instant seasonal wardrobe of perfumes.
The perfumes in question were Muguet de Printemps, which is that first of May issue that Guerlain does every year like clockwork, the second was Quand Vient L’Ete, or translated into the demotic of online retailers Terracotta Voile d’Ete, and Winter Delice the old Christmasy Aqua Allegoria was the winter choice. But what about autumn?
Other people like Autumn, or love Autumn, and seem to be really good at picking scents to match the season. They wear leathers or ambers, or they find a truly wonderful gourmand.
Me, I trudge off to my bottle of Caron Farnesiana, and my bottle of Que Sais-Je year after year, well maybe, this year I will wear the comforting old L’Origan as well. But that’s it. That’s my list.
Guerlain, however, seem to have been stumped as well. There were no Mitsouko variations. Instead they came out with Brume d’Automne (Autumn Mist) which was supposed to be a woody floral with aromatic touches. The notes, which began with pink pepper, coriander and rosemary, over ylang ylang and absinthe in the heart, ended with sandalwood and vetiver. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But you would have thought that somewhere in the extensive Guerlain canon, there would have been an autumnal perfume?
But it goes to make my point here that autumnal scents are hard to list, much more so that Spring and Summer lists, because with Spring you get flowers and with Summer you get fruit and flowers and with Autumn you get- pumpkins? Foliage, very nice, but not aromatic, and some fruit but it begins to be dried fruit, you know raisins, dried figs.
It all has a smell and it’s all evocative, but of what precisely? Dying vegetation, cooking spices? I wish we were still allowed to have leaf fires. Robert Louis Stevenson said it best:
Sing a Song of seasons,
Something bright in all,
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall.
So like Guerlain, I struggle a little bit with fall. I don’t care for hammer blow ambers or over tooled leathers. Besides Farnesiana and Que sais-Je and L’Origan (and if you haven’t smelled vintage L’Origan*, try to, because it smells like L’Heure Bleue, only softer and more warm, L’Heure d’Or, they might have called it).
There is always D’Orsay’s Le Dandy which expresses the apply side of fall, the apple turned to armagnac. There is Anima Dulcis which is a beautiful butter pastry/incense, although I’ve read that some people call it a chocolate incense, and there is Hilde Soliani’s Bel Antonio, a lovely meld of coffee and tobacco, and there is Divine Folie the old leather perfume from Jean Patou, that is soft and supple on skin, less apricoty than Daim Blond, more gentle than Lancome Cuir.
A find, if you come across it, and there is Ineke Ruhland’s Field Notes from Paris, one of her best compositions a charming spicy coffee blend over tonka beans which accomplishes the feat of making an oriental perfume accessible and even friendly and chatty.
So I find I’ve written a list, but the list is made up of things that work, none of which is a jury-rigged scent, they are all, now I come to think of it fire side scents, one way or another, oh well, there is that one bright thing about the dark side of the year, those fires in the fall.
* My sample courtesy the kindly Meg of Parfumieren!