Citrus, green leaves, tart fruit and lily of the valley are all described as cool scents, but only a few aromas are actually cooling. The difference may seem subtle, but while a cool perfume merely evokes pleasant associations, a cooling one has an instantly refreshing effect. One of the most crucial cooling ingredients is mint. Menthol, the main component of mint essence, triggers the cold-sensitive TRPM8 receptors found in the skin – a curious trick that is responsible for the icy burst one experiences when drinking a mint julep.
My staple on hot days is Guerlain’s Herba Fresca (£59 for 75ml EDT), which makes me feel uplifted the moment I apply it. The composition is based around mint and green notes, and has a vibrant verdancy that calls to mind crushed petals, leaves and buds. Mint can sometimes smell too much like toothpaste, but in Herba Fresca it’s blended seamlessly into the green bouquet so that its presence is gentle. The cooling effect, however, is dramatic.
Mint also marries well with white flowers – I’m reminded of this every time I drink green tea flavoured with the herb and orange blossom. The same pairing gives Cap Néroli by Nicolaï (€45 for 30ml EDT) its bold character: mint balances the warmth of orange blossom and jasmine in a gauzy perfume that is both refreshing on a hot day and alluring on a balmy evening.
Another perfumer bringing mint to his craft is Dominique Ropion, who uses it to augment a fresh, green, geranium-based scent: Frédéric Malle’s Géranium Pour Monsieur (£123 for 50ml EDP). It’s marked for men, but the elegant and radiant spice-laced composition suits both sexes, and has a distinctive cooling sensation that comes from high-quality mint absolute. It evokes the sensation of an ice cube melting on skin, and it lingers for hours.
To enhance the cooling effect of my summer perfumes, I decant small amounts into little atomisers and chill them overnight in the fridge. The next day, refreshment is guaranteed.
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.