|'Spring Sycamore'. Rose Strang|
From 'The Magician's Nephew' The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis
That description from The Magician's Nephew has stayed with me since childhood. The excerpt describes Digory's arrival in 'the wood between the worlds' - a strange and magical place, beautifully described by Lewis.
|Digory in the woods|
I'm unlikely to wear a perfume while on holiday up north, but when I'm back in the city it's therapy really. Green perfumes do tend to suit the warmer months (with a few exceptions).
Today the wind is howling outside and I'm as drawn to my smoky orientals as green perfumes, but in honour of the occasion I'm wearing a couple of green favourites as I type!
Here are few of my favourite greens
(with a few more updatesfor St Patrick's Day!):
Chanel No. 19, by Chanel
I feel it's fitting to begin with one of the grande dames of green.
The numerous perfume reviews of Chanel 19 that can be found online are testament to the affection many women feel for this perfume. To me it's a feminine take on the aroma of the 'great outdoors'. This gives it the sense of being freed from a corset and is presumably why in the early 70s it was marketed towards the emancipated and more 'up-front' kind of woman when it was first released.
But really its message is gentle: I have yet to smell a perfume that so beautifully and abstractly conjures up the aroma of the countryside - from river valley flowers and hedgerows to sun warmed woods and mountain tops. There's even the mildest suggestion of the perfume of a wood-smoke fire and the idea of home-coming. We're used to the dry down of vanilla and musks, but here it's the idea of being gently brought back to earth through green galbanum resin and oakmoss after the cooler lily of the valley and hyacinth opening
Goutal perfumes often aim to evoke ideas, emotions and experiences, and with Ninfeo Mio inspiration was sparked by the mythical garden of the Hesperides. Camille Goutal and perfumer Isabelle Doyen searched for a real-life garden to further explore this idea and during their travels discovered the walled gardens of Ninfa in Rome.
If you seek the unusual and you're bored with flowery feminine classics, I think this might appeal very much because it's as far removed from the clean, bright cheer-leader/ivy league aesthetic of perfumes such as Hillfiger's Tommy Girl or Lauder's Pleasures as it gets. I'd quite like to spray Britney Spears with this liberally and see if she melts, like candy floss. Who knows, it could even bring Miley Cyrus to her senses! There is life beyond the city.
Sillage moderate to strong at first. Longevity 4 to 5 hours.
Iris de Nuit, by James Heeley
I believe Heeleys wins out over these two in terms of a classic elegant English aesthetic, though Heeley's is a contemporary perfume company.
Infusion d'Iris, by Prada
I sought out this perfume in 2008 while working on a year-long contract in Stoke on Trent in the West Midlands. A strange time of mixed emotions. Inevitably when I first moved there I pined for the sea, hills and forests of Scotland, and began to search online for a suitable fragrance to evoke a homely mood, which is really when my love and appreciation of perfume began to deepen.
One of these days scientists will invent an app that allows us to smell a perfume at the click of an internet button, anything's possible. But all I had to go on was descriptions of notes since Stoke on Trent shops didn't yet stock this. I bought it blind and when it arrived I reverently unwrapped it, taking my time to fully appreciate the experience. Infusion d'Iris isn't a 'high-end' perfume, it's affordable with most budgets and it's now one of the best selling perfumes out there.
It was created by Daniela Roche-Andrier for Prada in 2007 and although it's by a mainstream designer, to my mind it was fairly ground-breaking. As other reviewers have pointed out, its inclusion of Orris (Iris flower root - one of the most expensive ingredients in perfumery) was perhaps due to the fact that orris extraction methods had become more streamlined and therefore cheaper around this time.
Orris nearly always lends a nostalgic mood to perfume, some might say sad, even funereal and it has a slightly vintage feel since it was used extensively by high quality perfume houses such as Guerlain and Chanel in most of their perfumes from the 20s to 70s in particular.
To me it never tips into funereal, it's evocative, slightly dreamy, and this is why Infusion d'Iris's earthy vetiver, subtle woody incense and creamy orange blossom combined with the drifting nostalgic note of orris to produce the perfect perfume for that time of my life. Breathing it in was the olfactory equivalent of an imaginary walk in the Highlands - a gentle caress of perfumed forest.
Sillage soft, longevity around 4 hours, the opening is citrus/floral and it dries down to iris/vetiver
Sun-dappled Leaves and Herbs
Philosykos, by Diptyque
Now that I've had a few years with this as one of my favourites, I feel I know its personality inside out. The fig is deliciously dusty, silky and slightly under-ripe which gives it an astringent green tone. The cedarwood is sun-warmed, restful and comforting and there's a smidgen of coconut which adds the slightest edge of warm sweetness to round out the perfume as a whole
But alongside that loveliness there's a subtle quality in this perfume like the fresh air of a perfect beach holiday in Greece - it's late afternoon, you're lying underneath a cedar tree, the beach is quiet now - just the slight echoing sound of children's voices playing near the lapping water. A delicious breeze wafts past,the first breeze of the afternoon, wonderfully refreshing - you feel awake to nature, fully in the moment.
This is Oliva Giacobetti's second take on a fig-centered perfume, the first is Premier Figuier by L'Artisan, but for me and most others Philosykos is fig tree perfected. Giacobetti's perfume are nearly always characterised by a slightly drifting atmosphere which lends an abstract quality alongside recognisable notes
I recommend the EDP for longevity, though the EDT is more affordable and also lovely, but you'll need to re-spray or use more than usual for it to last.
Au thé Vert, by Bulgari
Baiser Vole by Cartier
This deceptively simple lily soliflore has an elegant, yet fluffy cloud-like quality that belies the listed ingredients of 'lily and green notes'. On opening I'm reminded of a floral shampoo scent, but into its heart notes Baiser Vole (meaning 'stolen kiss') develops green, peppery facets, alongside a subtle and very light vanilla - like fresh-cut lilies just beginning to release their angelic scent on a sunny morning.
(Previous review here, scroll down to review - Baiser Vole)
A La Nuit by Serge Lutens
Lutens perfumes often tend towards challenging for those more used to mainstream perfumes, and A La Nuit's opening notes feel like no exception - there's a quite powerful fruity, pear-like note that almost reminds me of nail polish remover! But within 15 minutes a dewy, mildly indolic and very authentic jasmine appears.
Jasmine absolute has a fresh aromatic green quality alongside a fleshy, slightly fecal heaviness, the former quality in mainstream perfumes is usually more enhanced to create a clean aroma not dissimilar to jasmine scented tea, while the latter's heavy, animalic qualities are often enhanced in perfume classics such as Patou's Joy. In A La Nuit a balance is struck with addition of fruity grenadine which opens the bouquet so it resembles the aroma of true jasmine flowers that wafts in the evening air, clove, which subtly cuts through the viscous feel of jasmine, and warm benzoin with a clean musk dry-down which extends longevity.
Sheldrake (the in house 'nose' for Serge Lutens) has used three jasmine absolutes in A La Nuit which is maybe why it was descried by Tania Sanchez in 'Perfumes, a Guide' as 'Death by jasmine'. I get the feeling though, that she didn't stick around for the dry-down, which is almost skin-scent light. It does last on clothes till the next day, like a little touch of warm tropical steam from a green-tinted glass hothouse, on a chilly afternoon in Edinburgh I love it, but if you're not keen on jasmine it's best avoided!
All photos © Rose Strang