Autumn is one of the most magical times of the year. The many changes that happen before our very eyes as the earth cycles can really make us reflect on the ebb and flow of life. A time to thrive and a time to be dormant. Mother Nature surely has much to teach us about taking our time to rejuvenate and rest.
What sparks these images in our minds? The onset of crisp air is certainly one thing, but I believe the major culprit is the colors. The inspiration of the various shades of brown, orange, and yellow hold such powerful emotions that tap directly into the memories of our past. There is such a raw beauty in being able to recall the chilly bonfires, warm apple cider at the fair, and the hayrides that last a lifetime. There is just something about fall that makes us reminisce about those joyous times with the ones we love, and we want to live those memories all over again.
Fragrances have an entirely unique way of portraying the kaleidoscope of colors that autumn brings. Just one subtle whiff and we are carried away to those happy times in our life. These are only a few of the many fragrances that could represent these tones, but they are meaningful for me.
Lalique Encre Noire A L’Extreme:
Encre Noire is something of a cult hit that somehow became mainstream. Doused in dark earthy vetiver with a generous helping of Iso E Super and evergreen cypress. It feels like a dimly-lit forest to me. It doesn’t have that warmness that I associate with the vast array of warm autumnal spices.
That is where the younger brother comes in. He’s not quite as popular, but he is just as interesting. Haitian vetiver and Indian vetiver combine to create a grassy, yet earthy and dirty fragrance. These rooty notes are why I associate it with brown due to the color of the soil, and also the color of the tree bark on the noble cypress trees that are also featured in this version. The addition of balsamic piney elemi helps this feel more forestry, but it also portrays a pop of freshness that keeps it from going as inky as the original. A waft of incense smoke puffs out from the concoction to remind you of a small campfire in the distance. Warm benzoin resin works wonderfully with the natural sweetness of patchouli, which is bridged into unison by a soft sandalwood.
The feeling is that of a trip into the heart of the forest, where warm memories and bonfires seamlessly meld into a smile, even in the midst of a shadowy woodland. The younger brother surely has intiguing experiences to share with us.
What is the first thing that comes to mind for autumn and brown? For me, it’s coffee! The lovable fuel that keeps many of us sane in a busy world. The fall season recalls drinking a hot cup of joe in a cozy cafe with the orange-hued leaves falling outside the window. This slice of heaven isn’t complete without a good book and one of my favorite perfumes.
Kilian Intoxicated is themed after a sweet cup of Turkish coffee. This isn’t your typical bitter coffee scent, it rolls off the palette in a pleasant smoothness, while still retaining that wonderful roasted aroma. A warm spicy mélange of cardamom, ginger, and nutmeg dance with a very subtle sweet tobacco accord, while marshmallow and roasted tonka bean add some sweet creamy nuances.
Intoxicated is aptly named for its seductive mysteriousness. It’s simply euphoric in its clear and concise use of well-ordered ingredients. It’s one of those scents that makes you want to celebrate, and there is no time better to do it than the harvest season.
Montale Honey Aoud:
The golden nectar of honey is a welcomed addition to any dish that needs some sweetness. From coffee (my personal choice) to delightful confections, honey has found its way into many hearts…and stomachs. As it so happens, it also smells amazing. The thick saccharine aroma with floral nuances entices us for more, like a siren calling out to sailors lost at sea. Its hard to resist the temptation…and I don’t want to.
What happens when we add exotic ingredients to the already scrumptious allure of honey? Luckily, we don’t have to wonder because Montale’s Honey Aoud does just that. A slightly smoky and medicinal oud meets syrupy honey with spicy cinnamon to create a scent that feels like a hopeless romantic.
The warm tones of vanilla and amber work in cohesion to add richness to the honey and create something truly magical.
Honey Aoud is not for the faint of heart though. Don’t take its mystique as a weakness, this oud scent is not shy in the least bit. However, it’s just as lovable as your favorite knit on a chill day as it wraps you in a cozy charming hug.
When people think of vanilla, they often associate it with white. I think ice cream may be culprit behind this association and I can’t blame them, vanilla ice cream is amazing. However, the flower of the vanilla plant is more yellow. Vanilla’s rich and warm sweetness certainly lends itself well to the whole vibe of autumn, so I call that a win in my book.
Xerjoff Lira has a lemony feel to it, even though no lemon is listed (which is another yellow checkmark). My assumption is that the bergamot is creating this, or it has some type of lemon that is just simply not listed in the notes. Either way, it smells like a freshly picked lemon that merges with silky smooth vanilla that is spiced up with cinnamon. Many people liken the scent to a lemon cookie or cake, and I can’t disagree. It does come off as almost confectionary in nature, but I cannot pinpoint the actual source of this distinction.
Lira is a rich and inviting fragrance that begs you to give in to the sugary temptation and submit yourself to an olfactory food coma. Just as the leaves turn yellow and fall from the trees which reminds us of summer’s last flicker of warming sunlight, so does Lira with its glimpse of fresh citrus that give way to warm spices and sticky treats.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Grand Soir:
What is more romantic than this time of the year? This is what Francis Kurkdjian’s lauded Grand Soir attempts to bring to the fold, a romantic Parisian night. The City of Light has been touted as one of the most romantic places on earth, so they are clearly not a stranger to the concept.
Grand Soir touches on the fiery kindling of romance that gives way to that familiar warm and fuzzy feeling. A thick ambery accord of benzoin, labdanum, and vanilla showcase the main performer for this masterpiece. It is rooted in the sweet almond-like facet of tonka bean with a gentle kiss of sweet orange. A soft and woody trail of peppery cedar adds a bit of spice and a base to hold up the composition.
Francis Kurkdjian has created many successful perfumes in his tenure, but none of them move me like Grand Soir does. I can just imagine a crisp night under the stars with the skyline of Paris in the background, while holding someone dear to you. It’s the addictive embrace of love, and it is captured perfectly in this offering.
Hermes Terre d’Hermes:
What is more orange than…well, an orange? Citruses are not a very common theme in perfumery that is more suited towards colder weather. Although most fragrances do have contain some manner of citruses, it’s in a much lower dosage than the fresh and vibrant summer offerings. It’s somewhat difficult to find an orange scent that is not mixed with bay rum or Christmas spices. I don’t know why that is, but I assume it’s due to brands still conforming to classic ideas when it comes to orange for the chillier months because it almost always comes in a sweet form. Luckily for us, Jean-Claude Ellena was no conformist. He was a visionary and created a new trend by doing so.
Terre d’Hermes an earthy Indian vetiver fragrance in which the roots grasp at an orange to take it back into the earth once more. This is not an orange that is smothered in toasty yuletide spices. This is a dirty citrus, which sounds terrible as face value, but it pairs wonderfully with the balance in this particular fragrance. A flicker of smoke drifts past the bitter rind of a grapefruit, while black pepper tickles your senses.
The offering from the steadfast house of Hermes is either adored or scorned, depending on who you ask. However, I do not think anyone can deny that it has had a meaningful impact on the perfume world by bringing dirty vetivers into the public eye and doing it in such a welcomed style. Speaking of style, Terre d’Hermes is like your favorite flannel shirt. It might be a bit dirty and rough around the edges, but that just means it’s living life to the fullest.
Autumn lends its shades to us to remind us of the intricate beauty of the simple things in life. While they are not simple, perfumes can offer an even more complex look into the world around us and summon up images that we didn’t know existed. The world is full of inspiration. We just need to take the time to see it, but most importantly, we need to feel it.