Spring scents that confound expectation

Seductive dark notes add dramatic twists to three launches

From left: Aedes de Venustas Musc Encensé, €215 for 100ml EDP. Hermès Eau de Citron Noir, £77 for 100ml EDC. Neela Vermeire Creations Niral, €225 for 60ml EDP
From left: Aedes de Venustas Musc Encensé, €215 for 100ml EDP. Hermès Eau de Citron Noir, £77 for 100ml EDC. Neela Vermeire Creations Niral, €225 for 60ml EDP

Among the thousand and one reasons why I find fragrance fascinating, its ability to transport me into the realm of fantasy ranks high. This spring, I’m picking three perfumes that let me dream and offer a tantalising glimpse into another world, that of their creators.

If there is one fragrance style that defines effervescence, it’s the cologne genre. Citrusy scents have a verve and freshness, but Christine Nagel, the perfumer behind Hermès Eau de Citron Noir (£77 for 100ml EDC), wanted to add darkness. Usually, fragrances with balsamic, woody and incense notes are rarely transparent, given the nature of ingredients that give the illusion of darkness, but Eau de Citron Noir takes a different route. Its inspiration is the black Persian lime, which serves as a focal point of the composition and a bridge between the zesty, lemony top and the rich drydown. Black limes are a popular flavouring in Persian cuisine. They are sun-dried until the peel becomes beige and the insides turn black and acquire an ambery aroma reminiscent of incense. They’re simmered whole in stews and soups, or ground into a fine obsidian powder to perfume fish and vegetables. The haunting Persian lime fragrance is captured by Nagel to create a cologne that feels like a piece of black quartz, luminous and dark. The accents of black tea and smoky woods support the panoply of citrus notes, and wearing it feels uplifting. Yet, Eau de Citron Noir has an aura of mystery, which adds to its memorable character.

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Another invitation to dream is Niral by Neela Vermeire Creations (€225 for 60ml EDP), a fragrance created by Bertrand Duchaufour, who interpreted Vermeire’s French-Indian vision without recourse to clichés. A chord of violet powder and rose petals, Niral – a Hindi word connoting uniqueness and serenity – starts as a flower fit for a corsage, yet beneath its softness and candied violet sweetness hides the darkness of sandalwood. Finally, a cool touch of angelica gives a sleek shape to this opulent composition.

Musk is a chameleon among fragrance materials, and in different contexts its character can change. In Serge Lutens’s Muscs Koublaï Khan (€190 for 75ml EDP) it feels animalic and almost indecent, while in Frédéric Malle’s Musc Ravageur (£120 for 50ml EDP), its darkness evokes retro glamour. Aedes de Venustas Musc Encensé (€215 for 100ml EDP) follows the baroque trail of these two gold-standard musks, but it adds an accent of frankincense that turns a soft, warm note luminous. This is only the beginning, however. Perfumer Ralf Schwieger then does something interesting to amplify the musk's warmth. He layers it with almonds, both fresh and toasted. Such a twist creates a deliciously seductive effect of warm skin. At the same time, Musc Encensé retains radiance and freshness to its scent that complements the many moods of spring.

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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.

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