As Memorial Day approached last week I was busy refurbishing my summer music playlist. The songs have to be light fun and made for singing at the top of my lungs in the car. It gets a little longer every year as a couple of songs from the previous summer are added to my evergreen collection of songs I associate with long sunny days. At about the same time I was arranging the perfume on my shelves to get the ones I like on my perfume playlist out in front. As I was looking at them I realized that there is also a group of five I like wearing every summer because they are part of what makes the season for me. I thought I’d share my summer perfume playlist in this month’s My Favorite Things.
It might be the alpha perfume, or more accurately the alpha cologne, but there is nothing I enjoy more than spraying myself with a healthy coating of Roger & Gallet Jean Maria Farina Extra Vieille. Reputedly the original cologne recipe: lemon, rosemary, and orange blossom. It lasts for a short time, but it refreshes just as much as any three-chord rocker like “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” by The Ramones. Gabba Gabba Hey.
When I want something as bright as the noonday sun I choose Chanel Allure Homme Edition Blanche. Perfumers Jacques Polge and Francois Demachy open with a fantastic shiny fanfare of lemon before heading to a lightly woody base. I seem to hum “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves when I wear this.
Summer isn’t summer unless you spend some time at the beach. The Different Company Sel de Vetiver captures the smell of salt water on skin matched with vetiver and grapefruit to capture the dune grass and the sun. Perfumer Celine Ellena makes a fragrant version of “Surfin USA” by The Beach Boys.
What might be the omega cologne, Thierry Mugler Cologne, is one of the best reinterpretations of a classic fragrance style that exists. Perfumer Alberto Morillas uses the same lemon and orange blossom seen in many colognes but by threading a lot of white musks through that duo he creates something brilliant. This is the summer perfume I wear when I want to smile like “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.
I discovered Diptyque Philosykos near the end of a particular summer. It conjures end of season memories for me with perfumer Olivia Giacobetti’s transparent fig providing the coda to the summer before fall arrives. Just like “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley.
For the next three months all five perfumes and five songs will be on heavy rotation. See if you want to add them to your summer playlist.
When it comes to trying the original perfumes that formed the beginning of modern perfumery that usually means a trip to the Osmotheque in Versailles. Or a friend with a very deep collection of vintage perfumes. There is one of these olfactory historical touchstones that you can still buy and try for, usually, around $25. It is the original Eau de Cologne created by Jean Marie Farina. Roger & Gallet has produced this original formula under the name Jean Marie Farina Extra Vieille for years and years. It is supposedly the same formula M. Farina created over two hundred years ago.
There is a lot of reason to be skeptical of that claim but this cologne is simplicity itself. In a vacuum you might pass it by without a second thought. That is why it is not a real stretch to believe that what is in the bottle in 2015 is pretty close to what was in the bottle in 1806. That previous sentence probably seemed sort of underwhelming as an endorsement but of any of the classic colognes this one is by far my favorite. There is nothing that compares to it on a hot summer day. The crisp herbal and citrus pick-me-up is like drinking a glass of ice-cold lemonade.
The Original Eau de Cologne Recipe
M. Farina wrote to his brother after he had created this first Eau de Cologne, “I have discovered a scent that reminds me of a spring morning in Italy, of mountain narcissus, orange blossom just after the rain. It gives me great refreshment, strengthens my senses and imagination.” He could never realize that the last part of that statement would become true for generations of perfumers to follow. From those words I realize he wanted his Eau de Cologne to be bracing and strengthening. The best Eau de Colognes have always done this for me. What is nice is the very first one still does this for me.
As I said this is as simple as it gets in construction. It opens on a focused snap of lemon with bergamot. Petitgrain adds even more tart citrus to the beginning. Rosemary adds an herbal greenness which puts metaphorical sunglasses on all of the sunny citrus. It ends on a very lightly floral bouquet of orange blossom. Each of these notes runs one into the other in a fast moving kind of development that is done from beginning to end in a couple of hours. It is that fleeting longevity which is emblematic of many of the classic colognes.
Jean Marie Farina Extra Vieille has 2-3 hour longevity and above average sillage. This is a fragrance you apply liberally and keep doing it throughout a day.
I’ve said often we are in a new golden age of cologne as current perfumers have been taking this venerable architecture and turning out amazing new constructions. It is worth going back to see where it all began and when you can do it for such a low price there is almost no reason for a perfume lover not to own a bottle of this.
Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle I purchased.