Daffodils on the Wind

Daffodils in full bloom

Daffodils in full bloom

February is about to turn into March, it makes me think that I should clean out all my wardrobes, take the coats to the dry cleaners, wash the sweaters, and clean out the perfume closet because one day soon incense will make me recoil.  Does everyone wear perfume seasonally?  I always have, partially because everywhere I have lived there have been sequential seasons, and it was difficult to ignore their cold and heat, and wear the same thing.  You could stock a rudimentary scent wardrobe by selecting one scent for summer and one for winter, but even that strained the Spring and Fall dichotomy.  Unsettled weather, weather that changes from day to day, is hard to plan for and hard to choose for, your old favorites are too stuffy and warm or too evanescent and light.   What can you wear in between perfume seasons?

The green floral scents do this for me.  I’m not quite sure why.  Oh well, maybe the idea of shoots sent up from the earth or the half dozen huge clumps of daffodils I’ve discovered in our old garden.  So I’ve been looking for perfumes that celebrate the narcissus.  Balmain’s Ivoire, Guerlain’s Un Air de Samsara, also Le Temps d’un Fete the great discontinued scent by de Nicolai.  All of them capture that fresh grassy softness that is the harbinger of Spring and which goes with suddenly warmer weather, windows cracked at night, and the rich dark smell of rain soaked soil in the garden.

Let me begin with the greatest loss here, Le Temps d’un Fete.  This is perhaps the best of all the narcissus fragrances. It has the pollen scent of the daffodils down cold, and is wonderfully choral and full, as though you were smelling a hillside’s worth of daffodils at once. I used not to like it myself, but came around after a couple of years and bought a bottle, because I knew something this lovely would not last.  It hasn’t.  I really can’t think of anything that is like it.  There are a couple of perfumes with daffodil openings, but they segue into cheaper and flatter scents. Much less formal than Caron’s also discontinued Montaigne, and Cradle of Light, Christopher, Brosius’ grande dame of a narcissus floral, Le Temps was not only beautiful, but wearable.  It spun a springtime atmosphere around its acid green core.  Le Temps was a perfume in the tradition of Vent Vert- only modern.

Daffodils and narcissus from Whiteflowerfarm.com

Daffodils and narcissus from Whiteflowerfarm.com

Oh well.  My other two options are still out there. Vintage Ivoire* is easy to find, and although. like a lot of scents of its era, it has many listed notes the  whole impression is of smooth pale celadon, rather than the advertised ivory.  Ivoire tamed the notoriously strong galbanum  and incorporated that into a bouquet dominated by lily of the valley and rose, with a little hyacinth thrown in  to intensify the springtime effect.  The musky woody ending was also gentle, with just a whisper of sweetness from raspberry. Altogether Ivoire was a study in the proper way to craft a green perfume: not as a bustled, vetiver trimmed, whale boned Worth ensemble that itched, but like a Fortuny dress that draped in a velvety texture against the skin.  Ivoire was comfortable.

Un Air de Samsara on the other hand, was and is airy.  Big jasmine and big sandalwood, hiding under a mist of pale mint in the head notes like a morning fog destined to burn off by noon.  All this is more pleasant than you might think.  Myself I’ve never been able to wear the expansively sandalwood Samsara so the flankers are my preference.  Un Air is a good scent for those prematurely humid days when it has gotten too warm too fast, and you struggle with yourself about turning on the A/C in April.

Narcissus tazetta "Geranium from Netherlandsbulbs

Narcissus tazetta “Geranium from Netherlandsbulbs

These are not the only choices.  If you like new things, Penhaligon’s Ostara is a lovely floral based on the daffodil, but jump because like many Penhaligons, it seems to be a limited release.  Some people call it a  soliflore daffodil ( which would be a good idea, they’re rare) but probably Ostara is a springtime bouquet and I have not smelled it.

Among other narcissus fragrances you can find…

Retro: L’Artisan Parfumeur, Fleur de Narcisse: a very animalic, haylike narcissus, with a good many other things (not necessarily floral) going on.  Very expensive if found, very good on men.

Original Weil de Weil: This is a really beautiful 70’s version of the green floral idea with a  distinct hay scent in the heart.  Beautiful and expensive on Ebay, but worth it.

Original Lauren Safari:  This was a green perfume to begin with but changed over time.  The first version did contain a narcissus in the middle.

Caron Narcisse Blanc: Now very hard to find, a real perfume for connoisseurs, made up of narcissus and iris notes.  It begins with daffodils and ends with elegant dry iris, simply stunning.

In production:

Narcisse Noir:  The classic fresh faced cologne on top of a dark narcissus centered oriental floral.  Very sexy, very sophisticated, even reformulated, not a young girl’s scent, but easily a man’s these days.

Vicky Tiel Couture:  Like many of the VT’s this is a floral and an aldehydic one with a lot of similarities to NO 5, but it is gentler on skin, and a more affordable fragrance. Possibly a pocket square scent for a gent?

Do you have a favorite daffodil scent?

  • The new release of Ivoire in the square bottle does not contain narcissus and is rather different.
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9 thoughts on “Daffodils on the Wind

  1. My favourite daffodil scent is DelRae Debut, though it was good to hear of some of those vintage and dear departed ones you mention. Ostara went a bit indolic on me, sadly, as did that L’Artisan one Fleur de Narcisse, come to think of it. it seems I love the idea of narcissus scents more than the execution – on my skin, certainly. Have some hyacinths in the house at the moment, which feel wonderfully springlike and cheery, though they too can be a ‘bit much’ over time.

    • Narcissus are a wee bit earthy…um, if you know what I mean, and in the case of Fleur de Narcisse produced some startling reviews on Makeupalley. So not really surprised that Ostara went a bit sweaty on you.

      Debut is an under-rated perfume. I think it tells a little story about lost innocence, and for that reason I can’t wear it because I can’t shake this impression. Debut is Diorissimo with a back story.

      My favorite hyacinth lately is the old With Pleasure which seems to be white roses, hyacinth and musk. Actually a polite, very soft green, somewhat similar to DSH’ s Celadon. As I once posted, the favorite of Andy Warhol!

  2. Ahhhh, Le Temps d’une Fete. Nothing like it.

    I do like Ostara, though I swear I didn’t get as much ylang from my mfr sample as I do from the bottle (purchased at 40% off in November). And I adore Safari; I go through days and days of being addicted to it. I have to admit that the newer version isn’t that much different to my nose, though it does not last *nearly* as long. Maybe it’s the “any Safari is better than no Safari” effect. Doesn’t matter, because I’ve got three older bottles now. EBay FTW!! I have a small bottle of Weil de Weil, but it seems rather age-damaged.

    I did not like the L’A Fleur de Narcisse (musty, but I think it’s the hay note) nor Narcisse Noir (too soapy, which is usually an orange blossom issue). Same deal with Ivoire – mossy soap is just weird.

    Have not tried Couture, but I suspect it might be up my alley. Perhaps Un Air de Samsara as well (I like the original, but it does that weird LOUDthensoft thing that makes it so hard to dose).

    If I may suggest one to try – Dame Perfumery is now putting out a Narcissus soliflore which you might like. It’s dirt cheap ($8.50 for 5ml) and, appropriately, has a bit of a wet-spring-dirt angle. It’s deep, almost ragged, floral but not.

      • Oh I remember Sabi and yes, it’s gorgeous. Haven’t thought of that in years but thanks for reminding me.

        The Fleur de Narcisse thing really broke down along the musty line, those who thought it sexy, those who just thought it was …un-aired.
        Dame perfumery is doing a narcissus? Hm… my daughter detonated the Dames for me by saying that they smelled of “baby powder” which since she was talking about the heliotrope and mate one may have been fair comment, but has spooked me a little bit. Shall have to try again.
        Meanwhile maybe I’ll track down some Sabi…

        • Good luck with the Sabi. That was amazing stuff.

          Dame has a set of six soliflores – gardenia, narcissus, rose, umm… I forget. But I’ve been hearing good things about all of them. Oh yes, there’s an osmanthus one I wanted to try, too.

  3. You’re constantly a couple of steps ahead of me! Seriously, at least once every couple of months I read your post on the topic that I was mulling over.
    While it pleases me to some extend, there is a silly “problem” with it: I feel like I’m holding back in my comments to such posts – not to “give away” too much of what I’m thinking for my post.
    I like Le Temps D’Une Fete but not enough to go for a bottle while I could. So once my decant is gone, we’ll see if I regret that decision. Out of those that are still in production I like Hermes Eau de Narcisse Bleu and Ostara.

    • Eau de Narcisse Bleu! You’re usually a few perfumes ahead of me, if I steal a march on topics. EdNB is one. I never seem to smell the Hermes when I should, and by the time I get around to something good, it’s been refo’d.

      Le Temps is still being sold by The Perfume Shoppe in Canada which has a couple of bottles left. That is, should you miss your decant when it’s all gone. As for me, I must really stop by a Hermes store-maybe this summer? We’ll be traveling so who knows?

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