My festive grumpiness traditionally treads a fine line between Alan Partridge and Victor Meldrew. I’ve mellowed over the years, but one Christmas convention still provokes my cantankerousness: TV scent adverts starring Hollywood A-listers. I’ve nothing against the scents themselves – just the adverts, with all their rugged glamour of Johnny Depp digging holes in the desert. I’m not immune to their appeal, though: Dior Homme held me in its heady grip for many years, until, by chance, I picked up an eau de toilette that set me free and spirited me back in time.
Although Atlas (£65 for 100ml EDT) by Laboratory Perfumes claims to evoke the mountains of Morocco, it transports me back to a Somerset childhood. Its top notes of cinnamon, orange and raisin conjure up the olfactory recollection of my grandmother’s Christmas kitchen; the tang of hot apple pie, homemade mincemeat and winter spices. Wearing it throughout the day, I found that the aromas of burnt wood and tobacco develop – the memory of cosy evenings before blazing hearths – while its base notes settle to a dark musk with hints of patchouli and vanilla, as if a fine scented candle was burning as I voraciously tucked into my grandmother’s dessert accompanied by a sizeable dollop of ice cream.
Shoreditch-based Laboratory Perfumes was started by former fashion distributor Aaron Firth in 2011. Its gender-neutral scents – there are five (all £65 for 100ml EDT), including the juniper- and verbena-laden Samphire and citrussy Gorse – are “scientifically formulated to react to the wearer and evolve over the day”. Having bought (and finished) two 100ml bottles, I can back up this claim. The best scents are personal time machines in a bottle. For me, Atlas is a sensory portal to Christmas past and, for such a grinch as myself, a surprisingly sentimental reminder of the value of family at this time of year.