One of the most interesting principles in Japanese garden design is the idea of borrowed scenery (shakkei). Using existing landscape elements – distant mountains, ponds and neighbouring structures – a creator plans the garden in such a way as to incorporate the surroundings into her composition and create her personal vision of nature. Perfumery is generally more about artifice and fantasy, but as summer fades, I too become inspired to borrow autumnal scenery for my fragrant accompaniment. My perfume choices become led by the scents of fall.
Even in the deodorised urban environment, autumn is a fragrant season. The moment that leaves start to fall, the air is filled with a mellow sweetness reminiscent of walnut shells and faded leather. On my way to the Metro, I take a roundabout way through a park, kicking the golden leaves and glossy chestnuts with the tip of my boots. On my scarf I carry Serge Lutens’ Chypre Rouge (€170 for 75ml EDP), a perfume that smells of maple syrup and bittersweet moss. Or I might select the delicate Bulgari Eau Parfumée Au Thé Rouge (£58 for 75ml EDC), an infusion of tea, ripe figs and maple leaves.
The Belgian autumn is an étude in gold and grey, and as the rains descend, an earthy, damp scent becomes an ever-present leitmotif. An old favourite for such days is Etro’s Messe de Minuit (£76 for 50ml EDT). It evokes damp stones, wet paper, mossy bark – a strange but beguiling combination. Messe de Minuit is a perfume to wear for oneself, for walks in the autumnal drizzle or for evenings by the fireplace.
Tender and wistful, Dusita’s Issara (€295 for 50ml EDP) is another perfect companion for the grey days of fall. Dusita’s creator, Pissara Umavijani, wanted to pay homage to her father, renowned Thai poet Montri Umavijani. Issara is her olfactory poem, a juxtaposition of lavender and vetiver, leather bindings and roasted hazelnuts, antique woods and musky mosses. Perhaps I’m seeing some of my own visions in it, but a good perfume should inspire reveries and fantasies, and Issara certainly does that.
Another element of my autumn is the green scent of chrysanthemums. Florists around the city set out buckets filled with variegated curly mops, and the spicy, dense aroma lingers in the street. I too borrow it, and when I wear the chrysanthemum-inflected Chanel Bel Respiro (£230 for 200ml EDP), the fragrance of real chrysanthemums seems even more vivid. Another perfume with a similar effect is Serge Lutens De Profundis (€165 for 75ml EDP), a composition that oscillates from incense ashes to bitter flowers. It’s a fragrance with a melancholy, pensive character that occasionally can be too brooding. But in the autumn it feels exactly right for the season that inspired the Japanese poet Buson to write:
Utter solitude – fine! –
Still another pleasure
Of autumn twilight.
Victoria Frolova has been writing her perfume blog boisdejasmin.com since 2005. Her explorations of fragrance touch upon all elements that make this subject rich and complex: science, art, literature, history and culture. Frolova is a recipient of three prestigious Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards for Editorial Excellence and, since receiving her professional perfumery training, has also been working as a fragrance consultant and researcher.