My Favorite Things: Lemon

Every spring I get overwhelmed by the number of new rose releases for spring which pile up on my desk. I have become openly grumpy about this and hope every year for something different to show up as the weather begins to warm up. Last year I realized I was wearing several specific perfumes as a palate cleanser versus those rose fragrances; lemon focused perfumes. I made sure to remember when this time came around this year to share my favorites. Here are five which I love.

One of my favorite summer treats is to take a cold lemon and cut it into wedges and coat it in sugar. Then I bite into the wedge for a cold sweet and sour treat. When I want the same effect, I turn to Fresh Sugar Lemon. Perfumer Cecile Krakower mixes two sources of lemon and adds it into a heart of orange blossom, lychee flower and ginger. Those three ingredients provide the sugar part of the equation. It is one of the interesting aspects of perfumery that I can tease apart the strands but it is when I stop doing that the sugary effect is balanced contrast to the lemon. The base is found in caramel tinged sandalwood. Sugar Lemon is an example of how simple can be very good.

Diptyque Oyedo is a true melange of all citrus; especially in the very early going. The lemon rises out of the crowd as the herbal green of thyme along with apricot lift it up above the other citrus ingredients. As it was with Sugar Lemon the base is a mix of wood and gourmand as cedar and a praline accord take on that role. Of all of the perfumes on this list this is the most dynamic.

It is a very rare thing where I think the flanker is way better than the original; Chanel Allure Homme Edition Blanche is one of those. The original Allure Homme was composed by Jacques Polge and Francois Demachy in 1998. Ten years later the same team of perfumers reworked the original formula by replacing the original softer citrus opening around mandarin with one centered on a burst of lemon. The heart is a sandalwood and tonka down to a very different base of vetiver, cedar, amber, and vanilla from the original as the latter two notes take over from the first two.

One of the best recent variations on lemon has been Atelier Cologne Citron D’Erable. Perfumer Jerome Epinette splice lemon onto a fabulously rich maple syrup accord. By trapping the exuberant citrus in the sticky syrup, he creates a true shoulder season citrus which is at its best on cold mornings followed by warm afternoons.

I finish with what I consider to be one of the greatest rich citrus perfumes ever and it is all about lemon; Balmain Monsieur Balmain. Originally composed by Germaine Cellier and brilliantly re-worked by Calice Becker in 1990 this is what I think a spring fragrance should be. Three styles of lemon are combined in the top with lemon, petitgrain, and verbena. They are given lift by a brilliantly restrained use of mint. Then herbal thyme, rosemary, and sage along with ginger and nutmeg swaddle a spicy rose which provides deeper harmonies for the bright top accord. It all ends on fabulously constructed light chypre accord.

If you want something to freshen up your days as things begin to thaw try these five lemon perfumes to provide some light.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Tonka

For the first part of my life if you said “tonka” to me I expected it to be a diecast truck for me to play with in my sandbox. Even when I left my sandbox behind and picked up a perfume bottle if you still said “tonka” I probably still would have thought about toys. It really wasn’t until the release of Thierry Mugler A*Men that I ever heard about this perfume raw material called tonka. Over the years since I have come to enjoy the perfumes which put it out in a prominent way so I can enjoy its sweet toasty warmth. Here are five of my favorite fragrances which have tonka out in front.

Tonka had existed from the beginning of modern perfumery as part of the classic fougere accord. But for me it was Thierry Mugler A*Men which showed me the way tonka could be used. Perfumer Jacques Huclier used it as a key component of the gourmand base which has become the DNA of nearly every subsequent A*Men flanker. This came full circle with last year’s A*Men Pure Tonka where M. Huclier put the tonka out in front in the recognizable accord. It is the “one thin mint” of tonka perfumes.

The best use of tonka’s sweeter effect comes in Givenchy Pi. Perfumer Alberto Morillas hard on the heels of the gourmand trend produced a perfume which many will incorrectly call a vanilla perfume. It is because tonka has a very sweet nature like vanilla but it has more warmth and a less aggressive sweetness. Which is why Pi is often the “vanilla” perfume for people who don’t like vanilla. Taking the tonka in the heart and surrounding it with herbal rosemary, pine needles, and benzoin this has become one of my favorite cold weather comfort scents.

Perfumer Geza Schoen would also find tonka a good running partner for balsam and incense in Ormonde Jayne Tolu. In this perfume that accord doesn’t arrive until after an herbal and floral interlude. It provides a different version of the same trio that was used in Pi by going even warmer.

The warmest most embraceable version of tonka appears in Guerlain Tonka Imperiale. Perfumer Thierry Wasser uses gingerbread, honey, tobacco, coumarin along with tonka. This is the perfume equivalent of a Snuggie.

Then there is the perfumer who looks to find some different way to display tonka. Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena in Hermes Hermessence Vetiver Tonka. M. Ellena takes traditional grain notes and matches them with dried fruits. Then where vetiver would provide a sharply green and woody counterpoint he softens the barb with tonka and hazelnut. The vetiver and the tonka go together beautifully and as with the other four perfumes above the wamth it provided the cooler vetiver really makes Vetiver Tonka stand out.

If you need the perfume equivalent of a warm blanket in front of a fireplace these five tonka fragrances cah provide that comfort.

Disclosure: this review based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Caramel

From Halloween until the New Year candy seems to be everywhere. One of the more ubiquitous versions is the chewy goodness that is caramel. Caramel was only a recent addition to the world of perfumery when perfumer Olivier Cresp created the caramel base accord which has become synonymous with Thierry Mugler Angel in 1992. That fragrance created the gourmand genre of fragrance and since then it has been an ever-expanding sector of the market. I have come to really embrace these perfumes especially in the cold weather. Here are five of my favorite caramel perfumes.

Sure, Angel may have started everything but it was 1996’s Thierry Mugler A*Men which made me a caramel fan. Perfumer Jacques Huclier was able to successfully create a masculine partner to Angel without being an imitation. Starting with lavender and aldehydes into a patchouli and coffee smudged with just a bit of tar before that signature caramel, chocolate, and vanilla finish. This is every bit as great a perfume as Angel; catch me in the right mood and I can make the argument that it is better.

Neil Morris Fragrances Afire reminds me of those Brach’s Raspberry Caramel Royals that have waned a bit in popularity. The raspberry ones were my favorite and when I smelled Afire for the first time it was what immediately popped in to my head. The heart of Afire is raspberry and caramel viscous and sticky. Then the fire arrives as swirls of incense, woods, and vanilla ignite the final stages. Another of Neil Morris’ perfumes I wear again and again.

Acqua di Parma Arancia di Capri is the subtlest caramel fragrance on this list. Part of the Blu Mediterraneo collection this is a gorgeous sunny citrus full of grapefruit and orange. Cardamom and mate add some zestiness. Then as it ages all the crisp citrusy nature fades to leave a musk-laden caramel which is like warm sweet skin. If the idea of caramel seems like too much Arancia di Capri is a good example of what it can do when used sparingly.

One of the candy trends of the last couple years has been the combination of sea salt with caramel. Shay & Blue Salt Caramel is a simple perfume equivalent. Perfumer Julie Masse takes a slightly ozonic sea salt accord and lays it over a rich caramel. She uses tonka, vanilla, and sandalwood as supporting notes but it is the salt and caramel that are out front almost the entire time. If you’ve ever opened a box of salted caramels this is almost exactly what Salt Caramel smells like before becoming softer over time.

Prada Candy came out almost twenty years after Angel but it feels like the next evolution of this style of gourmand fragrance. Perfumer Daniela Andrier swirls in a full octave of white musks and an overdose of benzoin before coating it all in a torrent of caramel. Candy is a fantastic example of perfume composition as Mme Andrier finds complex combinations to create simplistic effects. It is a perfume that contains interest on multiple levels.

If you’d rather wear some caramel than eat some these five should satisfy your sweet tooth.

Disclosure: I have purchased bottles of all the perfumes mentioned.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Holiday Spices

I’ve been spending the past few days assembling my Holiday staples. Find the Santa hat, check. Assemble the Holiday earrings, check. Locate the blinking Christmas tree hat, check. Get the family gingerbread recipe out, check. Pull my favorite perfumes I like to wear this time of the year to the front of the shelf, check. I knew I wanted to do this column on a note which held them all together. As I looked at the bottles I am looking forward to pairing with my Ho Ho Ho! I realized there was not one consistent theme other than they were all spice focused compositions. Which then got me thinking that was my theme Holiday Spices; cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, anise, and clove. Here are five of my favorite perfumes I’ll be wearing through the New Year.

Aroma M Geisha Amber Rouge despite the name is one of the fragrances I own which just feels perfect for the Season. This was the first perfume I tried of perfumer Maria McElroy’s line of fragrance. Geisha Amber Rouge is a flanker of the earlier Geisha Rouge except it is the better of the two, a rare feat. A simmering mixture of clove, cinnamon, and anise is dusted by a fabulous Moroccan amber while being rounded out with incense.

diptyque-leau

Diptyque L’Eau is my choice as the smell of Christmas. One of the first perfumes for the brand in 1968. Composed by Desmond Knox-Leet back then and recently re-formulated by Norbert Bijaoui. Mr. Knox-Leet wanted to create a perfume version of potpourri. Instead it is a wassail bowl of spices and fruit infusing the air. A gigantic spicy opening of all the Holiday spice shelf with lemon and orange floating on top of it all. Rose and sandalwood fill out the punch bowl.

Slumberhouse Jeke in its extrait formulation is at first a giant smoke bomb. Once the exhaust fans have kicked in what is reveled behind the smoke is patchouli, dark tea, and clove. Perfumer Josh Lobb completes Jeke with a duet of vanilla and benzoin.

Suleko Baba Yaga ends up in a cloud of smoke but before we get there the holiday spices are in charge. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian combines nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove with rich orris. This is my seasonal iris choice because it is so precisely balanced. Cade, leather, and musks tilt this towards a smoky animalic finish.

I spend a lot of the holiday season with a hot chocolate containing a cinnamon stick. The perfume which comes closest to this is Arquiste Anima Dulcis. Creative director Carlos Huber guided perfumers Yann Vasnier and Rodrigo Flores-Roux into smoking hot spicy hot chocolate perfume. Cinnamon is made savory with sesame and oregano. Clove, cumin, and chili pepper spice up a dark rich cocoa. Above all of this is a cloud of jasmine. It ends with a rich vanilla providing some heft to the spicy chocolate.

If you’re looking for some Holiday olfactory cheer these five might do the trick.

Disclosure: this review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Smoke

One of the things I like about autumn mornings is the smell of smoke which hangs in the air in a visible haze. Smoke is a longtime part of fragrance. It can often be used poorly overbalancing a composition. Yet when it is used in balance it provides one of the more unique chords in perfumery. Here are five of my favorite smoky perfumes.

The perfume which made me fall in love with fragrant smoke was Tauer Lonestar Memories. It was the third fragrance by Swiss independent perfumer Andy Tauer. It was also after he had become the first independent perfume star due to receiving a 5-star review from Chandler Burr in the NY Times for L’Air du Desert Marocain. Hr. Tauer did what has always made me enjoy independent perfumers he set this anticipated release on fire. This is the figurative campfire scent of the American West. The early moments are the herbal slightly spicy greenness of the prairie. Then the campfire accord is formed around birch tar, labdanum, and leather. This smolders enchantingly before giving way to woody embers of sandalwood, myrrh, vetiver, and cedar. Hr. Tauer has always shown the admirable quality of following his muse; Lonestar Memories laid down an early marker to the truth of that.

My introduction to another independent perfumer was also shrouded in smoke. Olivier Durbano Black Tourmaline was a perfume with a smoky charcoal-like color to the juice. M. Durbano would layer on multiple versions of swirling clouds of smoke. Starting with skirling curls of frankincense swathed in cumin and cardamom. Leading to an intensely smoky heart accord of leather and oud before grounding it all with an earthy patchouli and musk. It was M. Durbano’s third release but it has always been near the top of my personal chart.

2nd-alan-cumming-500x500

One of the few celebrity fragrances which rises to be able to be included on this list is 2nd Cumming. A collaboration between actor Alan Cumming and perfumer Christopher Brosius. Together they made a fragrance of whisky and cigars on the Scottish heath which has a fantastic haze of the peat fires burning. There are amazing fun grace notes to be found throughout like rubber, truffle, and mud but it is the burning peat which makes 2nd Cumming a smoky stunner.

Most smoky perfumes are either cade or leather. Perfumer Mona di Orio chose to use both in her Les Nombres D’Or Cuir. She wisely keeps it simple with a mix of cardamom and wormwood on top providing a twisted absinthe accord. The cade and leather could have become incredibly boisterous but Mme di Orio keeps it all controlled. The animalic is accentuated with castoreum and opoponax in the base. One of Mme di Orio’s best.

Australian designer Naomi Goodsir and her partner Renaud Coutaudier started the Naomi Goodsir brand in 2012 with an example of how to use cade for the smoke effect in Bois D’Ascese. Perfumer Julien Rasquinet leads you to it with a progression of mandarin, tobacco, labdanum, and incense. Then mixing cade with oak he provides a forest fire of charred wood which is gorgeous in its simplicity.

If you want to surround yourself in a smoky veil here are five of my favorite things.

Disclosure: this review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Mint

1

Every perfume lover has one or two problematic notes. One reason can be a strong association with something unpleasant. For me mint is that note. When I smell it I think of dental floss, mouthwash, and toothpaste; none of which conjure up particularly interesting images. I will find myself taking extra time when I receive a new fragrance with a strong mint presence because I don’t want this inherent bias to keep me from missing something good. What has probably been a positive by-product of writing about perfume is I felt the need to give some of these mint perfumes a chance. Over the years there have been a few which have managed to leave the dental behind while making a lasting impression. Here are five which have done that.

Heeley Menthe Fraiche was probably the last of the brand I tried because there was “menthe” on the label. I expected to not like it but I should have remembered James Heeley’s way of finding unique combinations of notes. In Menthe Fraiche before it can start getting too minty he cuts it with sharp mate, lotus leaf, and green tea. This is what mint needed; something to shred it a bit. A very pure cedar provides a greenish woodiness. This is as close as I get to a straight mint fragrance.

One of the great underrated collection is the Comme des Garcons Series collections from 2000-2005. Over seven Series they explored great accords using some of the very best emerging perfumers. Series 5 Sherbet had three entries all done by Bertrand Duchaufour. Comme des Garcons Series 5 Sherbet: Peppermint nailed the chill of the frozen dessert best. By applying sheerer applications of both peppermint and spearmint over similarly light versions of cardamom, and white pepper. The real linchpin is a floral note, daphne odora, which provides a light floral core which is similar to neroli but lemon-tinted while also being sweet like vanilla. A cocktail of white musks provide the chill as it curls away from the scoop.

cartier-roadster

In 2008 Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent wanted to design a modern masculine perfume. Roadster was going to be that fragrance built upon an axis of mint, patchouli, and woods. It helps that she keeps the mint tilted slightly towards the herbal side. Roadster has been one of those perfumes I have gone back and forth upon, because of the mint, until I wore it one blazing hot day. In that heat it all of a sudden shifted in to fifth gear with a roar. Now it is a shank of summer staple for me.

If there was a single fragrance which turned around my thinking on mint it is probably Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Geranium pour Homme. Perfumer Dominique Ropion had been one of the select group of early perfumers putting their names on the bottles for the brand. In 2009, I was excited to see what he would do with geranium. What he did was coat it in spearmint oil. This was a mint which was viscous and oozed over the geranium picking up green facets as it flowed over the flower. Underneath it all M. Ropion used ambrox and sandalwood to form a woody base. The oiliness of the mint won me over and Geranium pour Homme is one of my favorites within the brand.

By now I am a tiny bit more open to mint. When Pierre Guillaume showed me an early version of Mojito Chypre for his Parfumerie Generale Collection Croisiere I was caught up in the boozy revelry. The mint was there but so were all the sweet parts of a strawberry mojito. Sometimes perfume needs to just be fun. In the case of Mojito Chypre the mint is just part of an all-day party.

Even for me I’ve managed to find some pleasure in a note I find difficult. The above five mint perfumes are my favorite things.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Neroli

As we head to the final weekend of summer I always find that I turn to neroli to help me keep the lessening of the sunlight at bay. Neroli the blossom that eventually will turn into bergamot is more thought of as a spring fragrance ingredient. Of course I wear it as the warmth is on its way out. I like neroli perfumes at this time of the year because they have a vitality to them I need with that eventual turn of the season just around the corner. Here are five of my favorites.

The new version of Jacques Fath Green Water has been a constant companion since trying it at Esxence in March of this year. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian held her ground on the high concentration of neroli oil in this reformulation. It is why it is not an embarrassment to compare it to the Green Water of the past. As the spices and oakmoss make their presence known it is the neroli which never gives up the spotlight.

vero rubj

Vero Profumo Rubj reminds me that neroli is a white flower too. Independent perfumer Vero Kern makes this crystal clear by matching it with the queen of white flowers tuberose. This is a throwback floral full of snarling indoles and feral musks. In other words, a lovely untamed beast; give yourself over to it.

My favorite neroli straight no chaser version is Annick Goutal Neroli. As part of the Les Colognes collection perfumer Isabelle Doyen takes her neroli and supports it with pettigrain, heliotrope, and white musks. It is simple and compelling in that simplicity.

One of the more unique uses of neroli I have is Le Labo Neroli 26. Perfumer Daphne Bugey gives you a tidal basin with neroli blossoms floating on top of the water. Mme Bugey uses an over-the-top aquatic accord of calone and salt which accentuates the melon-y parts of calone which the neroli plays off of nicely. As the neroli gains more of a foothold a swirl of white musks and driftwood capture the floral again. I love this for the mixture of sea and floral.

When Atelier Cologne was introducing the world to their concept of Cologne Absolue in 2010 the poster child might have been Grand Neroli. Most neroli perfumes have short lifetimes on the skin. Grand Neroli not only had longevity it also took the neroli into deeper places. Perfumer Cecile Krakower turns her neroli richer by surrounding it with galbanum, vanilla, and musks. This taking of traditional lighter cologne ingredients deep into the shadows has become a bit of the brand DNA of Atelier Cologne this was the alpha to that.

If you’re looking for a way to push back the encroaching night these five neroli perfumes might allow for you to keep the light close a little bit longer.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things-Hay

I once had a colleague who owned a horse farm. Every year about this time he would be waiting for the moment that it was time to go harvest the hay that would feed the horses through the winter. I went to visit during the harvest one year. The smell of the dried sweet grass was beautiful in the midsummer heat. Because of that experience I always think of hay as a summer style of perfume. Most others see it as something to be worn in the fall. Because it is the right time of year I thought I’d share my five favorite hay perfumes.

My first perfume encounter with hay came from Serge Lutens Chergui. Named after a desert wind that blows through Morocco, perfumer Christopher Sheldrake would set the table for most hay perfumes to come. He chose immortelle and tobacco as the companions for the hay to replicate the hot wind. On that stiff breeze is also carried sage, orris, sandalwood, leather, and honey. It is one of the best of the entire Serge Lutens collection.

pg-bois-blond

Parfumerie Generale Bois Blond was inspired by the smell of the hay harvest in summer. Perfumer Pierre Guillaume comes the closest to capturing the smell of that harvest. He cleverly marries a green grass accord which as it develops dries out to the hay with tobacco providing more sweetness. It all rests on a desiccated cedar base. This is usually my yearly reminder perfume of the hay harvest.

Santa Maria Novela Fieno is named after hay but doesn’t contain any hay absolute. Instead the heart is a hay accord which is a bit of an abstraction as hawthorn, jasmine, myrtle, and coumarin combine to form this olfactory illusion. When I wear Fieno I always notice the pieces at first. It is only when I stop focusing that I get this beautifully composed facsimile of hay.

Diptyque Volutes is a perfume which has continued to impress me more every time I wear it. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin uses the same immortelle, hay, and tobacco nucleus as Chergui. The difference is he infuses his with resins and spices namely black pepper and myrrh most prominently. It is a perfectly balanced perfume that is nearly flawless.

I have only had my sample of the last choice for a few months but Cognoscenti No. 30 Hay Incense has imprinted itself on me. Independent perfumer Dannielle Sergent keeps it simple. Hay absolute and frankincense intertwine. Immortelle also makes a late appearance as well as birch leaf and vetiver. It is a gorgeous perfume.

I will not be standing in a field this summer but any of the five perfumes above can transport me there if I breathe deep and close my eyes.

Disclosure: I have purchased bottles of everything except Cognoscenti No. 30 Hay Incense which is courtesy of a sample from Cognoscenti.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Caraway

I have a secret crusade in perfumery. I want caraway to stage a coup d’etat on bergamot in the top notes of perfume. Caraway has the same bitter citrus feel as bergamot except this is more akin to bitter lemon. Because it is a spice there are also subtler aspects that go with the obvious bitter citrus. Caraway is one of the least used ingredients within perfumery. In Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World there are only 92 entries which contain caraway. I’ve asked and learned it is not too expensive, difficult to obtain, or fractious to work with. As part of my campaign I am going to give you my five favorite caraway containing fragrances.

Van Cleef & Arpels Tsar was the first place I ever smelled caraway but I was too unsophisticated to know what the different note was I was smelling. Released in 1989 by perfumer Philippe Bousseton it is a powerful fougere which uses bergamot with the traditional lavender and rosemary to start. The turning point comes in the heart as cinnamon and caraway brush aside the bergamot and rosemary to transform Tsar into something much more opulent before ending on a super sandalwood base. In this case the caraway shows all of the depth and subtlety it has available to it.

It was when I first tried Parfumerie General Querelle by Pierre Guillaume which has fueled my caraway enthusiasm. Querelle opens with one of the most beautiful openings of anything M. Guillaume has composed as he combines caraway with cinnamon and myrrh. The bitter lemon against the fire of the cinnamon juxtaposed on the sweet resinous quality of the myrrh is gorgeous. It sets up the vetiver, incense, and oakmoss finish perfectly. Caraway dominates the very early moments. It when I wear this that I most often ask why it isn’t used more.

Dirty-English-Juicy-Couture

Juicy Couture Dirty English is one of my favorite best buy perfumes. Perfumer Claude Dir created an overstuffed smorgasbord of masculine ingredients. Right at the top he sets up a title fight between bergamot and caraway which my guy wins by pairing best with the cypress and cardamom also present. Dirty English is fantastic for the price and it is caraway which starts it all off.

Byredo Baudelaire by perfumer Jerome Epinette is perhaps the most creative use of caraway. From a black pepper and juniper berry opening the caraway provides the citrus pivot to the gin-like character of the juniper berry. Like an exotic gin and tonic with caraway acting as the lime Baudelaire becomes this watery patchouli and incense fragrance. I can’t imagine bergamot being able to pull off the same effect.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Cologne pour le Soir shows caraway can stand up to even the heaviest spicy notes. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian uses caraway as the foil to the cumin within the honeyed top accord. When I tried the first debut collection of this brand it was this single accord which made me swoon hardest. Even as it deepens with ylang-ylang, incense, and vanilla it is the opening which sticks with me longest.

If you need a crash course in caraway here are five which can provide you a full profile of the note I most want to see used more often.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Cedar

Where I live we have received the first signs of the upcoming heated days of summer. When it comes to perfume wearing you have to choose wisely. This is the season when the cleaner less complicated fragrances are the ones I choose. For this time of year when I want something woody I begin to look in the area of my perfume collection which holds the cedar-based fragrances. Cedar is often described as smelling like “pencil shavings” or a “hamster cage”. While these are accurate they turn a woody note which provides structure to so many perfumes into something unappealing. Cedar is what I think of as the unobtrusive frame around the more flamboyant perfume raw materials. When it comes to summer though I mostly want my cedar unadulterated. For that here are five I turn to.

Serge Lutens (Shiseido) Feminite du Bois was the perfume which not only put Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake on the map it would also set the stage for many “Bois” perfumes to come from M. Lutens. Collaborating with perfumer Pierre Bourdon the bois here is cedar throughout. What Messrs. Sheldrake and Bourdon do is to dress it up with rose, honey, and spices. This is one of the great masterpieces of perfumery and it all starts with the very plebian cedar.

armani prive bois dencens

Armani Prive Bois D’Encens is one of the only incense perfumes I can wear in the heat of summer. That is because perfumer Michel Almairic keeps the incense very transparent. When it does become recognizable it is that cool slightly metallic church incense. M. Alamiric chooses cedar as the wood because it can also be pitched at the same level. What remains is a sotto voce duet of cedar and incense that never overstays its welcome, especially in the heat.

IUNX L’Eau Sento is Olivia Giacobetti’s perfume of a steamy sauna with its cedar lined walls. There is a palpable humidity as water droplets form on the planks. The same effect occurs with L’Eau Sento as Mme Giacobetti is able to add a watery sheen to the clean woodiness of the cedar. This is one of the perfumes I keep in the refrigerator during the summer. Not for any preservation effect but because spraying this on chilled is one of my favorite ways to beat the heat.

Les Nez Let Me Play the Lion is the flip side to L’Eau Sento. Perfumer Isabelle Doyen has created a dry sauna with a brazier of lava rocks releasing their heat into the surrounding wood. The effect is meant to make you feel like a lion prowling the savannah. Every time I wear it I am meditating in a small overheated cedar room.

Byredo Super Cedar has rapidly risen to inclusion on this list. Perfumer Jerome Epinette layers so many different sources of cedar it forms a woody palimpsest. This has been the cedar perfume I’ve sought out for these first few scorching days. My recent review of it can be found here.

If you’re looking for clean uncomplicated woody fragrances for the summer these are five of My Favorite Things.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased except for Byredo Super Cedar which is a press sample supplied by Byredo.

Mark Behnke