When the sun has left the premises, the color gold replaces it especially during the Holidays when we are invited to think warm, golden-colored thoughts. We are encouraged to do so thanks to a culture of shadow and light which sees the passing into a new year in particular as a moment of revelry filled with sparkle, fizz, shine, glow, brilliance, indoor congregating and which ultimately ought to feel full of golden promises...
Gold has an uplifting aura as it is the metal which is most like a symbolic extension of the sun. Associated with solar light, the metal becomes glaring and unwatchable - like the divine - hence its religious connotations of perfection, plenitude, and power in many religious traditions.
In the middle of winter, one appreciates warm light even more pondering over how to best renew one's spiritual energies. Wearing a golden-feeling perfume can therefore be more than just a frivolous, show-off gesture; It can become an act leading to securing more moral energy. The aura of saints that has dazzled obscure church corners can step down from high cathedral ceilings to envelop you in olfactory form.
Perfumes in general may more or less consciously play upon a principle of light and solar quality by displaying ambery reflections in a flacon while adopting golden metallic trappings on their bottles.
On a social level, perfume and richness have always been linked. This constraint on scent as a status signifier, a symbol of "social distinction" as French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu put it, has classically most often translated into sensations such as opulence, a lingering sillage and an avalanche of notes meant to "stuff" a perfume like one does a bird for a banquet. This is perfume seen as a peacok fit for a medieval feast served in all of its ostentatious glory in a social aristocratic context. In this type of society, the royal partakes of the divine. It is only in the 20th century that other, more sophisticated and varied aesthetics in perfumery have emerged - including minimalism - although simpler perfumes existed in the past if only with the genre of the soliflore.
This tradition of richness in perfumery however is not dead although some continue to bemoan the loss of its dominance in contemporary perfumery calling perfumes too pale, thin, or even anorexic. In today's world however, eclectism allows for the cohabitation of many trends of perfumeries.
A golden-feeling perfume nowadays is more of a stylistic choice like for Dior J'Adore scent and as the leitmotiv-like advertising campaign shows featuring a Charlize Theron who is portrayed goddess-like in a halo of shimmering light which has intensified over the years as the commercial success of the fragrance has consolidated itself. This success incidentally is deserved as the perfume is a veritable masterpiece, perfect like a circle of gold, yet moving.
As the palette of the perfumer has become increasingly technologically advanced, color is one of those sensations that can be worked upon with more nuances. in 2008, Comme des Garçons released 8 88, a perfume which was meant to answer the more literal and intriguing question: "How does gold smell like?" Molecule Safraline was part of the answer for the brand and its supplier especially, Givaudan.
In 2012 going into 2013, fragrance can smell golden in its coloring along a spectrum of variegated shades of gold, but also more generally speaking tap back into into the tradition of scent as status-signifier.
There is even today's hip-hop and rapper twist called "bling". Some perfumes smell moneyed and we intuitively recognize that.
Yet, perfumery has also never given up on its religious foundations and continues to want to smell out-of-this-world "divine".
A fragrance jus is also tinted otherwise it would be simply transparent or indifferently opaque. Marketers are very much aware of the synesthaetic ramifications of perfumes, playing upon a palette of colors just like illustrators and painters do to add a layer of meaning and sensation to the experience of wearing perfume. The idea of gold therefore can appear at several levels of meaning of the perfume: the name; the advertising; the coloring of the jus; the decoration of the flacon; the olfactory sensation created by the perfume; and the spiritual and mental associations it elicits.
François Coty launched a perfume in 1912 called L'Or, now discontinued, which is described today by Coty Inc. as a floral fragrance which aimed to blend with the scent of blond tobacco. This was seven years before the launch of Tabac Blond by Caron (1919), a fragrance explicitly designed to recognize the emancipating gesture that smoking blond Virginian tobacco was for flapper types in that era. Tabac Blond (Blond Tobacco) is still produced today.
Going by it we can see that what was meant by "gold" in perfumery then was most probably along the spectrum of deeply burnished golds, for lack of certain qualities of materials. Today, when a perfume offers a "gold" or "blond" facet, it has the ability to express this idea with much more freedom.
Mitsouko by Guerlain launched in 1919 is often described as a perfect embodiment of the shimmering light during fall as it is highly suggestive of all the golden hues of the season. It is also a chypre, and a fruity chypre at that, adding further roundness, plenitude, and the unmistakable effect of the luminous contrast of a chypré to the sensations it creates for us. If you want to wear a perfume which evokes golden brocades, this is an apt choice. It is perhaps no mere coincidence that this particularly glowing and warm perfume was imagined right after the end of WWI.
Roja Dove Diaghilev, a passeist - this said in an objective sense - take on Mitsouko darkens it making it feel richer than literally golden-hued although it reveals a glimmering quality of its own.
Arpège by Lanvin issued during the Jazz Age in 1927 seems to capture the effervescence and sense of excess of the period, images of Champagne pouring out of fountains made of crystal cups just before the Crash of 1929. It is a perfume with a particularly rich golden note. It is a precious and shimmery composition somewhat neglected today -- and it is a real shame. This is a floral symphony strumming all the liquid notes of gold it can. Housed in a golden ball, its personality is well reflected by its flacon.
After the economic crash of Wall Street in 1929, Joy by Patou was launched in 1930 as a statement of creed in luxury and as a gesture of support by couturier Jean Patou for his hard-hit American clientèle. Dubbed the most expensive perfume in the world - just like L'Or by Coty 18 years before- its sparkling floral accents make you irresistibly think of Champagne and the high-life. Expensive jasmine and rose are used in perfumery to create this classic sensation of moneyed means, but also aldehydes for their bubbly quality.
An additional floral note that can feel golden without much effort, is ylang-ylang.
A number of Chypres can convey the sensation of a main golden note. Three that are particularly good at this are Paloma Picasso (1984), Hermès 24, Faubourg (1995) and Divine (1986). The latter is a descendant of Mitsouko.
A golden-hued fruity-floral would be Frapin 1270 for its vintner associations.
Floral perfumes constitute a group of perfumes which translates well into an olfactory perception of gold. You can try Giorgio (1981), Jardins de Bagatelle by Guerlain (1983), Ysatis by Givenchy (1984), Montale Oriental Flowers (2008), Chanel No.5 Eau Première (2008), and of course, J'Adore by Dior (1999). J'Adore L'Or (2010) composed by François Demachy - the original is by Calice Becker - is an explicit attempt to mimic precious gold in liquid form.
Amongst the recent releases, Lady Million and 1 Million Absolutely Gold editions for women and men by Paco Rabanne (2012) are fair approximations of gold in perfume forms.
Because of its rich symbolic and synaesthetic connections as well as popularity, the metal gold and the color gold will continue to be a classical theme of inspiration in perfumery. It is actually one of the easiest ways to buy yourself a measure of gilt and sparkle, aside from wearing gold in makeup and sartorial fashion.
You can also read the following for more New Year's Eve fragrance suggestions & synaesthetic pleasures:
Have a Very Happy New Year in 2013!