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.

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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: Chocolate

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With Halloween just a week away my mind turns to candy and confections. Specifically my mind turns to chocolate; big piles of chocolate. Hershey’s, Kit Kat, Twix, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers; you get the idea. My dentist probably wishes I didn’t get the idea. For the next week there will be plenty of chocolate to eat. What if you’d rather wear some chocolate? There are some really amazing chocolate perfumes out there and these five are among my favorite perfumes with a prominent chocolate note. This kind of chocolate my dentist approves of.

When you speak of chocolate in perfumery you have to start with Thierry Mugler Angel created in 1992 by perfumer Olivier Cresp. It is the perfume which single-handedly created the gourmand category. It is a great perfume but when I want the Thierry Mugler version of chocolate I reach for perfumer Jacques Huclier’s A*Men from 1996. M. Huclier took the patchouli, caramel, vanilla, and chocolate base of Angel and stripped away all of the fruit and replaced it with strong black coffee and lavender. When I get the urge for chocolate my eyes always alight on my bottle of A*Men.

My favorite kind of chocolate is a dark chocolate and orange bar. Montale Chocolate Greedy by perfumer Pierre Montale in 2007 is just that. Chocolate Greedy has a bit of the bite of high percentage cacao dark chocolate with bitter orange. This is as simple a perfume as it gets but in that Montale over the top way it seems like much more.

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Serge Lutens Borneo 1834 by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake is a luscious mix of chocolate and patchouli. M. Sheldrake turns this as dark as it can get even adding in a few licorice whips to tint it even darker. One of my favorite of the entire Serge Lutens line it completely re-invents the chocolate and patchouli beat from A*Men into something much deeper.

I think it was 2009 when I discovered perfume Charna Ethier’s Providence Perfume Co. I am sure it was Cocoa Tuberose which was the first perfume I tried from the very talented Ms. Ethier. This all-natural perfume delivers exactly what it promises although if there was truth in labeling the cocoa would be in all caps while the tuberose would be in lower case. Ms. Ethier’s cocoa is rich and nearly overwhelming so it takes an extroverted white flower like tuberose to make any headway at all. It’s an uphill battle all the way for the white flower but once she gains a foothold the tuberose really proves to be an excellent companion to the chocolate. Ms. Ethier has delivered on the promise I felt when trying Cocoa Tuberose as she is now among the best independent perfumers working.

One of my favorite cold weather drinks is Mexican Hot Chocolate where high quality cocoa is dissolved in milk and adorned with cinnamon and chile powder. Perfumers Yann Vasnier and Rodrigo Flores-Roux capture the rich spicy drink as a fragrance in Arquiste Anima Dulcis. From the sprinkling of cinnamon in the opening into a piquant heart of not only chile pepper and cocoa but also clove and cumin with a hint of jasmine blowing in through the window. The heart of Anima Dulcis is one of the most unique gourmand hearts in the genre. It finishes with cedar and vanilla to soothe the palate.

If I come Trick or Treating to your doorstep give me candy but I’ll be wearing one of these favorite chocolate perfumes as I walk my neighborhood. Happy Halloween to all the readers of Colognoisseur.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of the fragrances I purchased.

Mark Behnke