I’m an iconoclast when it comes to seasonal perfumes. Citrus colognes and weightless florals appear in my winter fragrance wardrobe because they evoke summer with their bright scents of petals and sun-warmed fruit. Balmy days, on the other hand, lead me towards the crisp and cool – and often somewhat unexpected. Thus Frédéric Malle’s Angéliques Sous la Pluie (£155 for 100ml EDP) is one of my summer favourites. Based on an accord of fiery black pepper and soft musky angelica, the perfume has a luminous, uplifting quality as it evolves on skin. It reminds me of a gin and tonic with a twist of bitter orange and lots of ice.
Even more unusual, however, is the coolness suggested by myrrh, a rich and complex ingredient hinting at liquorice, driftwood and green sap. In ancient times, it was burned as incense, added to wine as a digestive or blended into perfumes to give them a lingering, suave finish. The latter is the reason I seek out myrrh-based fragrances; they are at once velvety and cool – the most intriguing of contrasts. One of the best examples is Serge Lutens’ La Myrrhe (£170 for 70ml EDP), a languid rose, smothered in myrrh and bitter almond. The champagne-like effervescence of aldehydes, the aromatic compounds found in rose petals and orange peel, lights up the composition. But for all its mellow, languid personality, myrrh is a potent potion – and so is La Myrrhe. It makes a bold statement when applied straight from the bottle onto pulse points, but a drop mixed into unscented body lotion modulates its intensity, rendering its presence subtle and teasing. Either way, it’s best to apply this perfume with a light hand.
Etro’s Messe de Minuit (€110 for 100ml EDT) is another myrrh-based blend, and one I wear year round, since the cool incense and wood composition is too beautiful to be set aside for a specific season. Yet, on warm summer evenings, Messe de Minuit is particularly appealing. Evoking old libraries, chilly Gothic churches and damp stones, it feels dark yet refreshing.
When I crave a floral in the summer, more likely than not it’s an iris I select. Iris is not a typical floral note because the source is the root of the plant as opposed to the petals, and the scent is green, cool and woody with a delicate violet undercurrent. Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena, who created Angéliques sous la Pluie, understands iris like few others. When working on another fragrance for Frédéric Malle, he used it to suggest frozen branches and iced petals. The perfume is called L’Eau d’Hiver (£155 for 100ml EDP) – winter water – which happens to be perfect for summer.
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.