The Smells of Winter

Rocco guards our front door.  This is him in winter "furs".

Rocco guards our front door. This is him in winter “furs”.

One of the reasons that I enjoy living in Connecticut is the four seasons.  There are precisely four and none of them is rushed or hurried past ( perhaps Spring comes too quickly or slowly for my taste) but otherwise there are four, and there are smells that go with each one.

Perhaps I should explain my recent musings on winter scents. Yesterday I spent five hours in the car driving home through the remains of winter storm Helena and that was an experience. We must have driven through just about every permutation of snow precipitation.  Fluffy snow, the three dimensional crystalline kind, then broad white flat flakes that look  beautiful under magnification, then melting one directional sleet that freezes on your windscreen, and even the whirling snow dust that imitates sand, drifting in spiraling, glittering sheets, fine as the sub Saharan fesh- fesh. You begin to understand how some  indigenous people have so many suffixes on their snow vocabulary.

A picture of the heavy snows two winters ago on the Cape. Probably not too different from this year's.

A picture of the heavy snows two winters ago on the Cape. Probably not too different from this year’s.

Still, ice and snow rarely  translate into the vocabulary of scent.  All these winter forms of precip do have detectable odors.  There’s that ozone on the cold air we are all so familiar with, “It smells like snow,” some folk say.  You know what they mean.  Myself I don’t wish to smell that scent in July, but  understand why the fragrance Industry might want to reproduce it. That would be the much searched for air conditioning in a bottle.

Chanel No  5 is of course, the most famous snow inspired scent on the market.  Said to have been partially inspired by Ernest Beaux’s stint in Siberia where the fragrance rising from the frozen lakes charmed him.

To my mind though the master of this sort of reproduction is Christopher Brosius.  If you have been interested in the perfume scene anytime in the last ten years, you must be aware of him and his work, first for Demeter, and  then for his own business CBIHATEPERFUME. The point of which is that he does not create perfumes according to recipes or conventions, but strictly to replicate the smells and the experiences we all have had at one point or another.

Two of his relate to snow, one is Winter 1972, and the other is Walking on Air.  I’ve smelled both and they do recreate those fragrances in the uncanny way that Brosius scents have.  Marvelous as they are, these are mostly atmospheric perfumes, in fact Walking on Air is a home scent.  That’s the way it should be, as skin may be a less practical place for ice than atmospheres.

Snow under magnification from

Snow under magnification from

Otherwise I’m not certain how many fragrances are really for winter.  I love the packaging of Aromatics in White, but the fragrance while nice is your basic woody musk and not very striking and not wintry at all.

I suppose that for the evocation of winter I’m in favor of newer aldehydes, like  ELDO’s Vraie Blonde, or Krigler’s Sparkling Diamond.  They have that ice cube rattling, nose stinging quality, that is similar to cold air’s, and work quite well, but only in the short run. VB soon becomes an incense scent, and SP runs to strawberries and coconuts when the aldehydes wear off.

That’s the trouble. Snow is such a temporary thing. It always melts in the end.

Have a particular scent for winter of your own?

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6 thoughts on “The Smells of Winter

  1. I love Rocco in his furs, hehe. Snow is a real rarity and treat here, though they say some may be on its way. I have been caught as a motorist in US snow, mind you, and probably didn’t appreciate its diversity as much as I could have done. 😉

    I am sure I smelt a Demeter fragrance when I was with Carol Spiros and her friend that was called ‘Snow’. Her friend owned that one and Fireside if my memory serves me. It may have been discontinued since of course.

    Do you know the Louis MacNeice poem, Snow? My favourite poem of all!

    • I could have done with some pink roses on the other side of the windshield, in preference to all the snow. That’s quite a lovely poem btw.

      There were more interesting Demeters when Brosius worked for them and a number of the frags have gone downhill since he did. Snow was in the lineup, I think, right along with the classics Dirt, and Grass. I used to love Gingerale. Still do actually 🙂

  2. Sadly i’ve never really spent enough time in snow to get over the excitement of being in snow so only use my other senses for it.
    Next time…
    Portia xx

    • There might possibly be some people who would envy you in the Northeast US, in January, for having little experience of snow.

      So long as I’m not shoveling it, driving in it, or planning to take a flight during it, then snow is magical. Otherwise…

  3. Yeah, you don’t want to have to drive in snow. (Or feed cows in it, for that matter.) I love it, and am sad that we haven’t had nearly enough of it this winter. One measly storm that produced 4 inches, really? Pthbllbbbpp.

    I haven’t tried either of those CBIHPs, though I’d probably like them. I think I’m put off by the website (though why, I don’t know, because I am tolerant of DSH’s chaotic candy-store site). I liked Burning Leaves but would never wear it; To See a Flower made me cry so I don’t think I could wear that one either. To have the scent in the air of my home might be perfect.

    • You know I think Chris Brosius reminds me of Patricia de Nicolai in that his scents are so uncluttered. They both make fabulous home frags and it’s because of that lack of baroque this n’ that and then the other thing. Though honestly plenty of the de Nicolais are complex-they just don’t seem like they are. If that makes sense.

      My Hub bought In the Library from the Brooklyn shop and I was amazed normally the Hub cares nothing for smells. Go figure.

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