I’m generally feel most myself in thick and wintery fragrances- scents that wrap you up in a musky blanket or a whirl of fireplace smoke. But we always miss out when we try to play exactly to type- and most often delightful things come to surprise you from unexpected directions…
That’s probably why my collection of bottles is neither here nor there- it covers a lot of bases, with little overlap in genre or category- no easily articulated cohesion beyond that indefinable something that makes them feel like me and like mine.
And that has a certain logic to it, but when you trust to fragrance love and the vicissitudes of perfume fate your collection comes together a little spuriously. You end with more of some type of fragrance, a few of another, and none of a third. The classical spring fragrance- the fresh floral- has historically been poorly represented in my cabinet.
(Which is not entirely fair: A bottle of vintage Diorissimo holds the ‘fresh spring floral’ banner; beautiful, proud, and tragically alone. She could use a little company).
But I don’t sample much anymore, even if I do keep up a massive list (classic) of fragrances I’d like to try. My acquisitive feelings about perfume have subsided and I feel very content with my collection as it is. But I’m lucky enough to have a few friends who look out for me and send things over, and when I travel I do try to stop by local fragrance shops: in sort, samples do somehow find their way to me.
A few of them have sort of caught me unawares, winnowed their way into my affections, particularly during this particularly cold-snappy March, when I’m most in need of a hint of spring. So maybe I was a bit vulnerable, but isn’t so much of love finding the right thing at the right time?
That was a long-winded way of introducing these four- four underrated and little discussed fragrances this side of quirky and that side of beautiful, and sure to please you whether it’s the snows or cherry blossoms falling.
Hansa Yellow, DSH
From DSH: “The most brilliantly happy perfume you will ever find! A friuty-floral-gourmand, Hansa Yellow is the epitome of sunshine. Euphoric notes of neroli, jasmine, and ylang ylang sing a merry song while softly fruited notes of lemon juice and banana harmonize with the creamy Tahitian vanilla, sandalwood, and butter notes.”
Hansa Yellow is a beautiful sunshiny pigment discovered in 1909 and the name fits beautifully. Beyond being a fragrance composed of yellow ingredients, the fragrance itself smells of the yellow happiness of bright and balmy days. The sweetened neroli and other florals stars, and the butter lends a smooth creaminess without leaning too far to the culinary. I don’t find it fruity- there’s certainly a fizzing drizzle of lemon in the top, but that’s not unusual and, like most top notes, it doesn’t last. There is a gourmand edge. I would call it a hint of orange blossom pastille, but it has nowhere near the gourmand cojones of its lemon meringue cousin, Kerosene’s Unknown Pleasures.
Promenade des Anglais, Guerlain
From Guerlain: “Promenade des Anglais invites women to an elegant getaway along the Côte d’Azur. A sweet and fresh escape, bathed in the Provence sun. Bergamot, entwined in Iris and fig, is the promise of a sunny walk in the heart of winter. The fragrance is composed as an homage to the subtle and contrasted Mediterranean aromas. The citrus freshness melts with the vegetal facet of the fig, a double faced delight, whose round and fruity flesh embraces the powdered elegance of Iris.”
Heliotrope and ozonic violet also deserve a mention. This is perhaps one of the most wearable perfumes that I love. It hits a low common denominator- it is simple, it is easy to appreciate. The powdery iris and lightly sweet heliotrope mesh beautifully with the fig. I see what they mean by double-faced; the fig has both a luscious green side and a juicy ripeness. Overall it comes across as dewy and rain-soaked. A dewy and rain-soaked city. A dewy and rain-soaked garden. One of those beautiful cities that combines nature and street life. It does remind me of Paris, but perhaps that is just because I wore it when I was there last summer.
Please humor me, the ad copy for this fragrance makes me giddy and I have to share it, it’s so overblown and at the same time so delightful.
From Zoologist: “From the ethereal perspective of the exquisitely adorned hummingbird, the world is an endless kaleidoscope of colourful, fragrant blooms offering up their tempting delights. An insatiable desire for sweetness propels the hummingbird as it floats from flower to flower, sampling the nectar with a gentle touch of its delicate tongue. Retreating to its lichen and moss-lined nest, it settles into the cozy cocoon and dreams of sweet ambrosia.
Hummingbird Eau de Parfum mingles light floral tones with delectable fruity nectars to create a harmonious balance. This diaphanous scent alights upon you in a pastel bouquet of honeysuckle, mimosa, lilac and peonies, with just the lightest dusting of natural sugars found in pear, cherry and honey. A finishing dollop of velvety whipped cream melds the tantalizing notes, completing this irresistible and opulent perfume.”
From Lucky Scent: “Nectarous honeysuckle and yellow mimosa flutter in the air to the beat of a thousand tiny wings, their honeyed bouquet summoning tiny, extravagant birds to feed. Moments later, crystalline muguet, lilac and peony begin to float around trees heavy with fruit, as birds and insects buzz dizzily in the morning heat.
Hummingbird, Zoologist’s ode to the jeweled avian, is a lovely floral that, like its namesake, is at once sumptuous and ethereal. As it opens, a giddy host of spring flowers swirls around rich honeyed notes. Pears and green plums, dripping with sweet juice, tantalize as Hummingbird’s blooms open in quick succession, each flower’s characteristics instantly recognizable. Alighting on a rich base of sweet amber and white woods in the dry-down, Hummingbird is simply one of the prettiest florals around.”
Well, I don’t have much to say about that- I hardly know how to add to it. I will simply warn you against looking too deeply into the notes and description. Please don’t be intimidated by the concept or the extremes of poesy. Hummingbird is to my nose a pollen-loaded linden blossom, despite the absence of that flower from the list of notes. It’s a warm garden, moist air, bare feet. And as I know pear in anathema to many perfume-lovers (it can so often be scorchingly synthetic or limpidly watery), I find it incumbent on me to assure you that the pear is not prominent on me.
Ninfea, Profumum Roma
From Lucky Scent: “A secret garden where the dew-drenched roses wantonly overstep their boundaries, traipsing outside their trellises to flirt with the other flowers. Violets lose their shyness and gossip and giggle with the vivacious honeysuckle and a waft of green stems adds a touch of freshness to the petal-sweet air. An idyllic early summer morning in such a garden was surely what inspired this scent, but when we sniff it we are also reminded of another place – the ivory satin-swathed boudoir of a starlet headed off to the Trocadero. She primps at her gilded vanity and makes her final touches with a giant powder puff and dangerously red lipstick, blowing herself a kiss in the mirror before gliding off into the glittery night. Amazingly, this soft, powdery rose manages to evoke this delicious sense of kittenish glamour, while still feeling like a comfort scent. Ultra-feminine, but not overpowering, this sweet, cuddly floral is not a diva, but an adorable ingénue. Delectable, gentle and oh-so-pretty, this makes us instantly feel all dolled up. A perfect date scent.”
Oh my. Speaking of ad copy. I feel the need for a cool drink now *fans self*. Anyway, never mind that- the fragrance is nowhere near so unnatural as that contrived and stilted nonsense would have you believe. The notes as listed by Profumum Roma (notorious for giving only partial lists) are rose, violet, honeysuckle, and cut grass. The rose and violet are not makeup-powdery initially, so forget the boudoir madness, at least for now. It’s a full blown rose, not one of those long-caned, tight-petalled and red Valentine’s Day ones you buy in a dozen from any supermarket, but a billowing cottage rose of pale pinks and eggshell, on stems bent by the weight of their own blooms. God I miss spring and summer. Ninfea also has a lovely undertone of grass- taking this out of the boudoir and putting it squarely into a more or less well-manicured countryside garden. The dry down, which comes rather quickly, is more powdery and cosmetic, but the hint of outdoor greenery remains. Unfortunately, Profumum Roma is known for its aspirational (read: unreasonable) pricing, and at $250 for 100 mL, Ninfea won’t be making it onto my wish list. Thankfully the field of rose perfumes is a well-populated one. Perhaps I will stumble on one that keeps its freshness after Ninfea’s blooms have withered and dried into lipstick and powder compacts.