By Chantal-Hélène Wagner
To be honest, you can herald spring any which way you choose to - of course. There are no diktats that one should follow - naturally.
If however, you are looking for perfumes that can bring to you something to replace the sometimes elusive feeling of spring, then we are talking about an entirely different matter...
Just like when you look at Botticelli's iconic painting Primavera and then cannot doubt for a moment that the painter was entirely focused on conveying the idea of spring in allegorical form, likewise there are elixirs that distill the essence of spring, its feeling of renewal and young nature more clearly than others. So, just before summer sets in with all its ripe, juicy notes - and its hot, dry nuances - this is the season for fresh, green, meadow-y perfumes evoking cool, innocent flowers, and grassy accents.
The way I view possible moods for spring is in terms of transitions and slow, possibly erratic, progress. Spring is spring, but still, there are shades of it.
I will start with what I believe is a rather unconventional choice, with Jicky by Guerlain. It goes back to my realization during my teen years that wearing Jicky in the spring is like stressing the fact that winter is transitioning into spring in the shape of a comet's tail.
The warm animalic base contrasts with lavender and the cool and airy aspects of the perfume. It feels like starting to discard your wools and downy feathers, and moving into breezier clothing susceptible to be slightly lifted by the softest, most caressing of kissy air. The briskness of the fragrance is also indicative of new energy. I must really appreciate Jicky, without necessarily wearing it that often, because I realize I already wrote several articles about it.
Tracing another olfactory orb from winter to spring is the much more modern The Different Company De Bachmakov. Inspired by designer Thierry de Bachmakoff's life and composed by perfumer Céline Ellena, it is an affectionate tribute to the creator of the flacons of the fragrance house, who is also a member of the perfumer's family.
The Russian background to the scent can be felt in the cold, snowy accords from which emerge crisp, tulip-like flowers. I find the olfactory landscape it creates quite compelling.
Perhaps more predictable a choice, although not a common one by any means, is Après L'Ondée by Guerlain which since 1906 attempts - and succeeds - at capturing the poetry of the countryside made wetter by a spring shower.
Right after the rain down poured, the aromas are cooler and purer thanks to water. It is one of the early perfumes, which before the existence of Calone, was interested in an aquatic motif.
It is exemplary of the impressionistic style of the Guerlains which is influenced by the eponymous pictorial movement. You can wear it for a stroll through the galleries at the Musée d'Orsay contemplating 19th century art. You can think of all the English-countryside scenarios and stories you can imagine, including Jane Austen's, and know that it would fit right in.
One of the most distinctive affective effects of spring is the sense of rebirth of the flora. L'Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse aux Papillons relies in part on linden blossom and also on a light-handed tuberose to convey a general impression of walking across a meadow populated by thousands of barely opened buds and simple flowers. The Eau de Toilette is better than the Extrême version, in my view, at creating a subtle half-tint style and an impression of the happy frailty of spring.
Cartier Cartier de Lune likewise is the smell of a medley of tiny meadow flowers. More precisely to me it smells intriguingly exactly like the spring breeze wafting from the Bois de Boulogne in the west of Paris at night in the springtime.
The night air freer from daytime pollution is filled with subtle, enchanting pollen, honeyed accents, crisp, verdant flowers, bits of grass. It is so very much intoxicating you stay at your window hoping the neighbors won't do the same because it looks strangely smiliar to the stance of a vampire to smell the night air deeply at midnight.
The fragrance, to me, offers this authentic shampooey quality found in floral bushes in gardens, when floral scents in the springtime are both effusive and vague.
For this part, I am forced to rely less on personal experience, for some reason. After thinking about it and smelling a few candidates, it seems I gravitate towards lightly fruity-citrusy perfumes. Serge Lutens Fleurs de Citronnier is a mix of fruity, hesperidic and floral notes with an understated gourmand quality about it since Lutens is really also always a pastry chef thinking in terms of layers of edibles and pinches of spices when he works on his fragrances.
Hermès Eau d'Orange Verte smells of freshly turned damp soil in the spring thanks to the at once loamy and fresh patchouli, but also thanks to a Mediterranean breeze blowing through the orange grove.
The scent dries down to an elegant, timeless eau de Cologne trace on the skin.
The new scent by Stella McCartney L.I.L.Y. reviewed recently offers an unusual mixture of vernal and fall notes ranging from the scents of veggies and fresh soil in a kitchen garden in the spring, to vintner references evoking deeper notes of wine, oak wood and dark truffle.