“The Sugar Plum Fairy bade Marie and Nutcracker sit down while a feast was brought before them: teas, cakes and the rarest of fruits… Marie hardly had time to nibble at her sweetmeats before the next diversion was presented: the music abruptly changed to an adagio tempo. Arabian dancers dressed in gauzy veils garnished with gold medallions and jewels swayed hypnotically past… The rich aroma of coffee drifted past.” The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by ETA Hoffmann.
As a former ballet dancer, I can’t think of winter without associating it with the magic of Hoffmann’s tale and Tchaikovsky’s music. For me, the season has a strong whiff of rosin on ballet slippers, but it is a time of fairy kingdoms, groves made of candied fruit and coffee-scented dancers.
My pointe shoes are rarely in service these days, but my Nutcracker fantasies find their expression in perfume. These allow me to become the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Arabian dancer, Prince Coqueluche or any other character I wish. No wonder the great American choreographer George Balanchine picked fragrances for his favourite dancers and encouraged them to wear perfume to class.
If I want to get myself into the winter-fairy-tale mood, I reach for Lolita Lempicka (from £35 for 30ml EDP), a delicious combination of almond praline, candied cherries and liquorice. Its ornate, tinselly feel is balanced by iris and vetiver, notes with a cool, earthy character. The effect is mouthwatering, addictive and impeccably polished.
Serge Lutens’ Fille en Aiguilles (from £88 for 50ml EDP) must have been created with the Sugar Plum Fairy in mind, because its melange of candied fruit, cloves and cinnamon sounds like a recipe for a luscious confection. The surprise here is the bold layer of pine needles, fir balsam and incense. It makes me feel like a fairy-tale princess and a vamp at once – an intriguing proposition.
If my thoughts turn to Coffee, the Arabian dancer, a part I have performed more than any other in the ballet, then my scented costume would be either Kilian’s Intoxicated (€215 for 50ml EDP) or Comme des Garçons’ Kyoto (£60 for 50ml EDP).
The former is a dark, rich blend of patchouli swirled with sweet mocha, but the latter is a smoky incense accented with bitter coffee. Intoxicated lives up to its name, while Kyoto has a serene, introspective character. Both are equally perfect for playing out Nutcracker fantasies on cold winter days.