This has been a particularly hard and unpleasant winter on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, and in fact in the US generally, so to make up for some of our collective chilblains and blocked driveways and backs thrown out by snow shoveling, I am offering my readers a bouquet of roses and violets plus a small selection of chocolate spiked perfumes, as a virtual Valentine. Who doesn’t need a little scent and color this February? I think we all deserve a treat just for surviving till March.
Before I get on to all of that, I want to add to my Overlooked series by pointing out a scent that passed the majority of us by: Summersent*. This was produced in 2007 by Marjorie Midgarden Fragrances, the company of Marjorie Kitzrow, and the fragrance is a pure French garden floral.
Say what? Well, there is a convention that has perfumers trying to re-produce the scent of a June garden in bloom. Similar perfumes include L’Artisan’s discontinued L’Haie Fleurie (roughly Hedgerow in Bloom) or Guerlain’s Jasminora, or Delrae’s Amoureuse and Debut. You begin to catch my drift. The idea behind this sort of scent is to reproduce not just a floral smell, but a green tinted rural air, an atmosphere that includes living things: grass and roots, leaves and shoots rather than white flowers alone.
Garden fragrances introduce the smeller to a whole cast of vegetative characters, everyone from the clingy honeysuckle and huffy wisteria, to the abashed violet and gaudy rose. This kind of perfume swirls all these olfactory impressions together into a humid pastel haze. If you would like a visual comparative, I’m guessing that Monet is your man. In fact I think a garden floral was made based on his plantings at Giverny, and Caron’s Fleurs de Rocaille was a floral aldehydic evocation of them. By any measure, Summersent belongs to this floral atmospheric category.
Except that quite frankly Summersent does a better job of this than many recent French fragrances. To start with Summersent is very skin friendly. I don’t find that its garden is too full of overly smelly specimens like say, Manoumalia’s was. Manoumalia was a very taste specific perfume, but Summersent is not. It’s less indolic than either Jasminora or L’Haie, and not soapy like Lady Primrose’s Tryst. If you find the reality of certain Classic French perfumes and their flowery BO less alluring than you thought you might, Summersent is a very good alternative.
The perfume is supposed to be mandarin and cassis, afterwards jasmine and orange blossom over musk. The mandarin and cassis notes are noticeable in the beginning of Summersent, then the perfume goes to ground on your skin. That packed like Thumbelina’s bedding into a nutshell, is Summersents’ essence. The end is musk and honey, and the civetty animalic notes captured along its winding route are very gently released into the tame countryside of this perfume. Though the mandarin-cassis introduction does not last, Summersent can be detected on my skin softly, ten or twelve hours after application when it begins to mimic Peut Etre the Lancome LE of some years back.
If it has a fault, that might be a lack of originality. You may have smelled this sort of thing before, but seldom organized into so lissome a landscape. But here is the thing about Summersent: the fragrance is very versatile. This is no small matter when you consider how idiosyncratic and sometimes difficult niche perfumes can be, then again it is pleasantly worked out, and softer than many mainstream releases are. Summersent is much gentler than the current synthetic Lauders.
Summersent can be worn to a picnic and a party, will go to a baseball game, or a barbecue, to the office, to Church, and to bed with you, or merely dawdle on the back porch and read Hans Christian Anderson and seed catalogs. How many perfumes are so comfortable? Not many these days, and that’s why, although it won’t shake the world loose from the usual orbit, Summersent gets my endorsement. This is a scent that goes on very well in comparison to many niche and high end perfumes. You can’t really wear Manoumalia to a Japanese restaurant, Summersent by contrast might just squeak in there.
Although it’s described as the personification of a particular flower, nowhere did I see which one. The perfume smells like jasmine but not a specific kind. This is a fairy tale jasmine, properly holding a parasol over its levitating tendrils.
Summersent is a pathetic fallacy of a fragrance, anthropomorphized at the bottom of a garden, like an addled fairy suddenly shaken out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but not Puck, and not Titania either. Summersent is a ladylike fairy, who lives the length of a summer solstice, and reminds you of orange blossom, but not exactly, and lilacs but not precisely, and lilies but for the life of you, you can’t recall which kind.
* The packaging of this perfume is particularly satisfying to the feminine soul, gold filigree winking with pink and green crystals on the perfume and scented cream bottles. This is a complete girlathon, no shortcuts, no apologies. I got my sample from Beautyhabit while ordering something else and think Summersent is-for once-fairly priced: 90 for 60 mls in a pretty bottle and the body cream is romantic too and 80.