Only in the Summer

Brigitte in the summertime from

I think there are some notes and some perfumes that simply don’t perform well in winter.  Back in the days when I knew relatively little about perfume I used to assume those were light citrus based scents, all this time later, I am not so sure.  Many  good perfumes really only come alive in warmth and they include formulas you might have assumed were good in winter, like floral orientals, or even incense perfumes. There is a special pleasure in feeling a scent spread itself like petals in the sun, blooming in the heat, and for some perfumes the key to this flowering really is high temperatures.

Recently there have been a few perfumes that bent the old stereotypes of winter and summer fragrance. One that I have yet to smell is Aedes de Venustas’ Copal Azur which is built on the premise that copal is an incense associated with Central American jungles. This 2014 scent was composed by Bertrand Duchaufour and he astutely included a sea salt/ozone element to it that makes this scent much more legible in summer.

What I like about  the composition is the way that it includes incense at every level of the scent, in the headnotes, again in the heart, and in the drydown.  Those layers are clever too, notice how there is cardamom, which like vetiver, is cooling. So is patchouli especially if the patchouli is camphoraceous, and that too is in the heart, then the end of the fragrance has the slight warmth of tonka bean and almond, but the warmth is minimal, and the fragrance ends on incense once again.  If I understand the intention, then this is

Salt in a natural form…

something you wear most successfully in July and August, and what a departure for

Incense! M. Duchaufour was creative here and the structure reminds me of Feminite du Bois, only incense plays the central role that cedarwood did in Feminite.

Similarly there is the 2006 Maharanih from Patricia de Nicolai.  In the little anniversary book the firm published a couple of years ago, she described this fragrance as, “Doubtless one of our most beautiful perfumes!”  She characterizes Maharanih as an accord built on rose and patchouli*, with a fine cinnamon developing the fragrance into its later stages.

This is a perfume I had trouble understanding because the beginning, which I found very orangey indeed, can overpower the flowers in wintertime.  I of course, tried it in January, and really never smelled roses or carnations at all.  This seems to be a common reaction, many posters on Fragrantica have said that they smelled Orangina and didn’t get the perfume.  This I think comes from the inclusion of the bitter orange in the first notes of Maharanih.  Give this perfume time and heat and you may enjoy a completely different experience.  The flowers come out and the loveliness of the composition shows itself.  Don’t make my mistake and smell this when there is snow on the ground.

Like Anita Ekberg you cannot pass unnoticed wearing Golconda…

Carnations are not flowers that are associated with summer but I do love one version in the summer and that is Golconda from 1988.  I can hear the groans already, since this highly priced perfume from JAR is not easy to find or to wear, because you feel as conspicuous as Marie Antoinette at a Sans Culotte Convention; but the basic idea of Golconda is  lavish and beautiful. The fragrance begins with one of the most high grade jasmines I have ever smelled, and this includes anything I ever came across at Guerlain. That opening note by the way, is so sustained it reminds me of one of the interminable notes La Streisand could hold, and hold, and hold in her youth.

Jasmine loves heat of course, as I found in July in Rome, when the city was covered in  those little white flowers.  Golconda therefore is out of this world to wear on date night in summertime. After that jasmine, the perfume dives straight into a pile of high end roses,carnations, and possibly a few vanilla beans. The vanilla, I suspect is vanilla tincture, the real thing, not vanillin.  Gorgeous in winter, when most admirers probably wear it, Golconda is spectacular in the heat.

Now that I have made you seriously lust after the fragrance and you don’t have upwards of five hundred dollars to spend, try Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s dupe Fleuriste. This too has a large jasmine note and  an extravagant floral carnation heart.  The whole experience is much more reasonably priced. ( In fact most of Dawn’s carnations are worth a good try.)

I could go on, but here is a short list of counter-intuitive fragrances for the heat, do you wear incense in the summertime?

  • Patchouli Homme fans may recognize a kinship between their favorite and Maharanih and I think it would work well on men in summer.



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2 thoughts on “Only in the Summer

  1. Funnily enough, I wore Immortal Beloved by House of Cherry Bomb the other day and a 4160 Tuesdays number called Blue, both quite incense forward. I wasn’t sure if it would be the weather, but have decided I am a year round incense wearer. Copal didn’t work for me, I have to say – I found it rather manly, but don’t be put off by that!

    1. Someone on Basenotes described Copal as a “very good bathroom cleanser” which had me giggling but sort of got the idea.

      I suppose one could be a year round incense person, I mean there’s always Vraie Blonde though that smells “Churchy” according to my Hub, and come to think of it, Narcisse Noir which is summery in a slithery sort of way and chock a block with Nag Champa!

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