Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Fresh, The Tropical, And The Supposedly Inappropriate- Top Perfume Picks for Summer

Recently I've realized that for someone who doesn't believe in seasonal perfumes, I actually have certain ideas about what would smell best on a particular day; some of these scent of the day decisions do depend on the weather, even if I'm prone to wearing my vintage Eau d'Hadrien to cheer myself up mid-winter, or pick an amber that soars to high heaven on the hottest day of the year. When it comes to summer perfumes, my choices often come from three main categories:
Big, Bigger, Biggest (sillage)

Dennis Wojtkiewicz, 2013

  • Light & Fresh

This is the most obvious for most people. It's hot and perhaps muggy outside, of course you want something that will make you feel cooler, even for five minutes. These are the citrusy colognes, the fresh leafy greens, and the sunny herbals. Here are the ones I'm wearing this season:

1. Parfumerie Generale- Papyrus de Ciane. An imaginary trip down the Nile in the 19th century. Green, soapy, and refreshing.
2. Acqua di Parma has an entire range of summer perfumes, the Blu Mediterraneo one. My favorite among them  is still Fico di Amalfi, a citrus and fig scent. But even the fresh and breezy Ginepro de Sardenga has a wonderful peppery hook that keeps things interesting.
3. Nothing in the world beats the classic Guerlain eau de colognes, and Eau de Cologne du Coq is my catnip.

Leo Lloyd Sexton, Still Life of Magnolia and Mango, 1973

  • A Tropical Vacation with a Twist
The tropics with their heady flowers and juicy fruits are summer staples. Tuberose and gardenia are especially intoxicating in the heat, and the promise of sexy nights on the beach, little white dresses and salty tan skin is irresistible (said she who lives under a thick layer of SPF50, a large hat, a silk scarf to protect the neck, and in general avoids the sun):

4. Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777- Soleil de Jeddah . Sensual, juicy, and fleshy fruit, with an incredibly complex dry-dow.
5. Not every day can be a wild  Fracas day, so sometimes it's the very modern and elegant Rubj by Vero Profumo. The extrait is my favorite, but the eau de parfum is laced with a delicious passion fruit.
6. Aftelier- Cuir de Gardenia. An all-natural perfume that takes luxury and sultriness to unimaginable heights. An animalic floral with a leathery twist.

Danish Finest,  a beauty editorial inspired by Danish furniture designed by Arne Jacobsen, 2012

  • Things That Go Bump Bloom In The Heat

This is probably the most controversial category. If most people choose perfumes that are almost guaranteed to feel fresh and not offend anyone in the already suffocating soup that passes as air on a NYC August day, sometimes the only way to beat the heat is to join it. Five years ago I listed a somewhat crazy selection of not so summery perfumes for summer, and I still stand behind it. To the list above I will also add:

7. Serge Lutens- Vetiver Oriental. Vetiver, a dry and grassy green(ish) note is actually actually very appropriate for summer, but Uncle Serge has turned it on its head making it sweeter and more buttery by adding orris and chocolate.
8. You've got to have a big amber on a list like this, and Andy Tauer's L'Air du Desert Marocain is just one option. But since it's my favorite I'm putting it here.
9. Tom Ford- Black Orchid. This one is kind of related to the lush tropical perfumes in the previous category, thanks to a gardenia note and various fruits (pineapple?). But Black Orchid has always been more than the sums of its part, and thanks to the nuclear burst and the sillage in its wake I'm putting it here. One spritz only. Two in winter.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Garden at Arles, 1888

And one last perfume:
During all the years of blogging about perfume I've tried to avoid repeating this cliche, but Annick Goutal's Eau d'Hadrien was one of the ultimate summer fragrances. Deceivingly light in its  citrusy opening, morphing into a summer in Arles as painted by Van Gogh. In the  many years since I got my first bottle of Eau d'Hadrien the fragrance has been reformulated more than once and has lost every last shred of what made it so beautiful. I've missed my chance to include it in my lists and I never even wrote a proper review. But if you or someone you know has an old bottle of the real thing give it a spritz and remember its glory days.

For more summer picks please visit my friends at Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This, and Perfume Posse.

Top image via


  1. I've been bathing in Onda lately and it's amazing how it just blooms in hot weather. The hotter it is, the more carnal it becomes. I should layer it with Rubj...

  2. I know I sound like a broken record about this, but for quite some time now, what I want/need most from perfumes are scents which provide a sense of extreme comfort and grounding and I seem to get this from vintage perfumes, which for me invoke a wonderful imaginary past - no disagreeable social issues invade this imaginary past. It's all about fabulous style, gorgeous architecture and interiors, great jazz, etc. Anyway, although I happily wear Opium and Nuit de Noel in July, I find that I've been going through my now substantial collection of vintage magazines and seeing what they recommend for whatever month or adjacent month we're in (as an aside, an all time fav is the '58 June Vogue with the black kitten on the cover) and then I'll go wear their recommendations or what I see in the ads (if I have them and if I don't, I start looking for them online). The end result is that this is keeping me somewhat more seasonal than usual this year. Today it's Charles of the Ritz Directoire (a bridal recommendation, but not particularly summery). This evening I'm switching to a Dior - probably Diorling or Miss Dior, since I've been inspired by the mystery Dior in the scene in the bathroom in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, which I watched last night. Yesterday it was Corday's Possession and tomorrow it will be Bandit (this is a permanent summer favorite). Although it might be Mandy's Wildflowers, Haute Claire or Cuir de Gardenia as I'm so impatiently waiting for a sample of her new scent. I do still wear a lot of current scents (love all the ones you mentioned), but definitely over half of what I wear are vintage.

  3. I love Annick Goutal's Songes on a warm summer's's enchanting any time of year but extra magical in the summer!

  4. Talking of Annick Goutal I love a big spritz of Eau de Sud in the warmer months.
    Portia xx

  5. Hmmm, today with the heat and humidity of Oklahoma in July I think I'll go for a sprigs of my Aqua Universalis travel spray. I find its salty dryness refreshing, and associate it a lot with beach vacations. 😊I also am enjoying a sample of penhaligons Empressa, love it's soft creamy peachy scent, like a silk dress! My third pick is one I need to find and restock as I'm out of it, Elisabeth Arden's green tea, fresh and clean, I find it perfect for those days at home or for quick trips in this heat.


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