The sweltering days of summer can make picking the right perfume difficult. Some fragrances that ordinarily smell pleasing can feel heavy and oppressive, while others disappear from skin within minutes. Even though there are no strict rules about perfume and seasonality, changes in temperature will affect how a composition develops. A fragrance is a cocktail of aromatic molecules, and the warmer the skin, the faster they evaporate. Small molecules like those present in citrus essences and leafy green accords take flight instantly, while larger molecules – from the family of musks, ambers and woods – are slower to volatilise. In some cases, it means that on a hot day a trusty favourite develops as if on fast forward, and that’s not always a good thing.
Understanding the basics of perfume science can be useful for finding a fragrance that feels refreshing and uplifting. A good fragrance family to explore during the warm months is the floral aldehydic. Aldehydes are organic compounds present in many plants, from oranges to roses. They’re volatile and effervescent, and a good example of their use in a contemporary perfume is Chanel No 5 L’Eau (£57 for 35ml EDT), a transparent, radiant composition. No 5 L’Eau blends aldehydes with sheer jasmine, orange and mandarin, offering all of the shimmer, minus the waxy or starchy facets that some people find challenging about the classical aldehydic perfumes. In the No 5 family, Chanel No 5 Eau Première (£55 for 35ml EDT) is also an ideal choice for a warm day, while those who prefer the original might find Chanel No 5 Eau de Toilette (£65 for 50ml EDT) easier to wear.
Another way to make a hot day more bearable is to delve into incense-based blends. Although incense is often associated with winter and Christmas mass, frankincense is a chameleon among aromatics. Paired with warm and languid notes, it takes on a smouldering character, but put it next to anything bright and crisp and it will begin to glitter. Serge Lutens’ L’Eau Froide (€78 for 50ml EDP) has helped me survive many a summer. Composed around a beautiful incense note, this fragrance is as refreshing as a drink I discovered during my travels in Oman – water infused with frankincense “tears” (hardened beads from the sap of the tree).
Edging closer to a traditional citrus scent is Atelier Cologne’s Bois Blonds (£115 for 100ml Cologne Absolue). The initial impression is of orange flower and pink pepper – one delicate and green, the other sparkling and spicy. Even when Bois Blonds reaches the drydown of mild musk and salty vetiver, the cooling sensation persists.
While as a rule colognes have a fleeting presence, a spritz of a zesty fragrance can feel invigorating on a hot day. To make sure that my perfume doesn’t disappear too soon, I look for colognes that are anchored by woods or musks that aren’t excessively sweet or unctuous. Bergamot is a citrus fruit that smells peppery and lemony, and The Different Company’s interpretation, Bergamote (€99 for 50ml EDT), amplifies its cool character with tart rhubarb, bitter orange and satiny musk. Bergamote lingers for a few hours on my skin, much longer than most colognes, and a small bottle tucked into my purse means instant refreshment, rain or shine.
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 the 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.