Just Summer - Stalks & Bars © CHANT WAGNER 2016
Five Unexpected Summertime Olfactory Life-Savers ≈ Rhubarb, Vetiver, Licorice, Oud and Chypre
When it's almost too hot to wear perfume, but then you think that perhaps perfumery could help you overcome the big hot blahs of homogeneous heat coming down from above - and laterally from walls - try these five fragrance notes which are great alternatives to your more classic hesperidic or orange blossom scents. They work particularly well in very hot weather. We would know, we hope, it's been hot as Hades in Paris this summer...
Rhubarb / Rhubarbe
Paris at the end of August 2016 is in the midst of a brutal heatwave, so much so that two or three days ago, the very thought of wearing perfume felt like an unnecessary torture device to apply to yourself. Why be a masochist ?
At the end of that dog day afternoon which left no room for extra niceties, it seemed, we could only come up with one faint notion : « tart », « tartness », then « rhubarb », then « let's test Hermès Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate now » an idea born in that state of mind when you almost cannot bear the thought of wearing any scent but feel it's also perhaps the right time to test limits and seek help from the art of perfumery - smelling salts are out of fashion.
The result was that Christine Nagel's scent, which is perhaps not really what you would call a show-stopper under normal circumstances, revealed some very subtle and refreshing green nuances, which felt creative, while functionally speaking, the eau took on all its meaning. It's what you can turn to when a heatwave has relented slightly, only slightly, and the degrees of temperature allow for civilisation to make a comeback via perfume.
So, we give high marks to Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate for its efficacious functional aspect. Look at it as a sun-hat or an umbrella of a perfume and rely on its refreshing tartness to revive you.
Vetiver / Vétiver
When it was less crazy hot than two days ago but still respectably « too-hot », vetiver appeared like a life-saver out of nowhere - or rather from an Yves Rocher boutique shelf. We reviewed this scent earlier this summer. It is excellent for summertime and to counteract summer heat. The fact that vetiver is often enlivened by a drizzle of citrus is all the better, but mostly, rooty and greenish vetiver by itself is a serious alternative to your more classic agrumes imported from Sicily. In India, they use weaved vetiver roots as curtains which once drenched with water let the breeze gently blow towards you with uplifting notes.
Licorice / Réglisse
Licorice is not normally seen as a summer note. Its olfactory coloring is dark. It's associated with the candies of fall. One day however riding on an overcrowded bus full of human steam, it occurred to us that someone had had the genius idea of wearing a fragrance which smelled like Eau de Réglisse by Caron. It was the ideal counterpoint to the baseline notes of humanity on the bus. Not that it smelled that foul, but it did smell palpable as if air might bounce back at you if you touched it with your finger. Licorice is absolutely delectable under such conditions - but also outside of them. It smells soft, elegant, lightly medicinal and roborative. It seems to whisper « Zut ! » to the melting temperatures, reintroducing an off-season olfactory element which takes your mind off the obviousness of it all. In France, eau de réglisse has been drunk as a refreshing and discreet beverage outside of mainstream trends thanks to Antésite, since 1898.
Oud / Bois d'Agar
Now that oud or oudh has become an incredibly mainstream perfume note even sold in mass-market outlets, you're bound to experience it not just in the beaux quartiers - and by Dior, Diptyque or Editions de Parfums - but everywhere. It's become affordable. Again, the bus is a great lab for smelling urban perfumes and their effects. Enter one in the summer at peak temperatures and you know you've entered a pot-pourri of sorts. So oudh, a powerful, strong note, known for its predatory character, for its prowl-like moves and overbearing personality might sound like the least compatible scent with a summer day. This pre-conception I cast aside when I caught whiff of a man's oud sillage which was not designer yet very efficacious as a roborative scent. It was not heavy. It was just spicy enough. It turns out oud can chew summer up and spit it out. So, find yourself a single-note oud scent - or showcased prominently in the new Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Noir or Yves Rocher Rose Oud - it works very well and this is why - of course - it is beloved in the Middle-East, pre-air-conditioned era.
Chypre / Chypre
The blend famous for its elegance reveals itself to be particularly adequate for summertime. It has an unadvertised bracing effect on the senses. Being laced with citruses and mosses or earthy notes somehow, its bright effect and tailored style puts you back into shape like an invisible corset would. It awakens the mind thanks to its inherent intellectual, man-made character. Here again, perfume, and a chypre fragrance at that, allows you to waft of the triumph of the spirit over matter - and soaring temperatures - in no time. Eau du Soir by Sisley, a simpler composition than its sister Soir de Lune, was a revelation in the summer. Aromatics Elixir by Clinique is perfect. Why not try a less well-known yet beguiling chypre such as La Perla Eau de Parfum ?