Monday, July 13, 2015

Guest Post: Summer Scents For Those Who Shun The Sun

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When I was younger, summertime, to me, meant curling up on a sweaty vinyl chair on the screened-in back porch with a pitcher of powdered iced tea drink and reading stories of ghosts and monsters and possessed children. If I was lucky, the skies would darken at midday, the winds would pick up, and a fearsome storm would thunder through the area; this is a common occurrence on a summer afternoon in central Florida, and normally would not last more than ten minutes.

I avoided the sun when at all possible; I did not relish playing outside with my sisters or the neighbor’s kids, I did not care for trips to the beach, I didn’t like being hot and sticky and gross. And I didn’t really have any friends to do any of those things with, anyhow. But I’d never had many friends, so I really didn’t know any better and I didn’t feel badly about it. These long, sweltering days on the back porch voraciously tearing through stacks upon stacks of cheap, lurid used bookstore finds are some of the happiest memories I have from my pre-teen years. This was how summer was supposed to be, I thought, and at the ages of 11/12/13, I was young enough to have the luxury of spending that time however I liked. And after the daily rains, which were impatiently anticipated and perfectly inevitable -that was my favorite part of the day: a few glorious moments when the humidity dropped the tiniest bit, the air cooled a few degrees, and the sun disappeared entirely, culminating in a rich scent that still tugs at my memories and the edges of my dreams many years later. The musty scent of disintegrating paperbacks, the air heavy with the sweet, musky fragrance of jasmine, the tang of ozone, just before a heavy rainfall. This was the scent of my summers.

Years later when it comes to scenting myself for summer weather, I steer clear of many of the perfumes marketed for these sizzling, stifling afternoons when the evil day star holds sway. I don’t want to smell like the synthetic coconut of greasy suntan lotion, nor do I want to smell like those generic aquatics that are supposedly “crisp and refreshing” or the ubiquitous green tea and cucumber/melon melange which smell like so many country club air fresheners. Yes, I do want something lighter, for anything richer and heavier would certainly suffocate and strangle me in our notoriously murky, muggy Southern summers...but I want a scent that also evokes some sort of nostalgia, triggers a memory, conjured a long-forgotten dream.

 Below is a list of my five preferred fragrances in this vein; scents for these summer months that are at turns cooling, invigorating, revitalizing and imaginative. Summer scents for those who shun the sun.


Coriandre by Jean Couturier is a light, lovely chypre launched in the mid-70’s. If you are not familiar with chypres, well, they seem to be a rather divisive grouping of scents, with perfume lovers falling squarely in either the Love Them or Hate Them camps. To me, generically, chypres smell a bit cold and astringent, distant; but Coriandre is on the warmer, more familiar end of the spectrum. It does remind me of something from the 70s; it’s got a hazy Polaroid quality to it. A warm, grassy summer day recalled through the yellowed veil of memory. It's dry and woody and musky and I think it smells a bit like a lovely little secret that you might never be ready to share.

Annick Goutal's Mandragore reminds me of a scene in the 1980's vampire film The Lost Boys, when the main characters' grandpa says "....well that's about as close to town as I like to get." My perfume shelf is filled mostly with deep, dark, resinous fragrances, and Mandragore, with its bright lemony/peppery opening that quickly fades to a soft, minty bergamot, is as close to a "summer scent" as I like to get. It's a lovely, (softly) zingy scent that calls to mind some sort of mildly alcoholic herbal shandy one might drink to refresh one's self at the close of a balmy June afternoon. Unfortunately, much like the buzz from this weak cocktail, the scent lasts but a moment and is gone.

 Safran Troublant by L’Artisan is a wonderfully restorative, heart-warming/opening scent. It should be part of a comforting bedtime ritual at the end of a long, hot day where one has done a lot of yard work or gardening. There’s a comforting sweetness to it, though not at all sugary or cloying. A creamy sandalwood pudding, a lukewarm bath lightly infused with milk and rose petals and a deep, enveloping hug. You’ll sleep quite well and be visited by the loveliest midsummer dreams.

Danube, by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is a beloved scent that is, for me, more about memory than the actual fragrance itself. It is a deep blue aquatic scent - but not salty, ozone-y, beachy aquatic, nor is it murky, swampy aquatic. Like a cold swimming pool on a hot day (maybe if you were adding grapefruit to your pool instead of chlorine) with every blue flower imaginable floating on top of it. Imagine being 6 years old and holding your breath and submerging yourself in a swimming pool, then slo-o-o-wly sinking to the bottom. The water is chilled, you feel like the only person in the world and everything is totally silent. Imagine peering up and seeing the sun streaming down into the water, between all of the blue petals. It's calm and soothing and serene and is an absolutely a must for hot, sticky weather and for people who haven't got a swimming pool. For other other unique summer scents from BPAL, sniff out Fae (sweet, floral, peachy), and Zephyr (light musk, soft lemon and florals), and Aeval (dried herbs & sweet pea & tonka and it smells like all of my favorite occult bookshops at once -herbs and oils and stones and crystals and and the crisp pages of unopened books filled with unlearned knowledge.)

When I was 18, I was dating the boy who used to live next door to me, but who had since graduated high school and moved to Indiana to attend Notre Dame. We spent a week together on summer break, during which time he had flown down South to stay with me and my family. It was early in this visit that he proposed to me on the beach one night, and I accepted...though something told me that this was a doomed venture. I knew it was not going to last, and yet I agreed anyway; I suppose I just liked the idea that something interesting loomed in the distant future for me. One late afternoon a few days later, we took a drive; the sun hung low on the horizon, the windows were down, and on the wind that ruffled our hair was the musky, sweet scent of orange blossoms, as we had just driven past a massive orange grove. Jo Malone’s Orange Blossom smells like that summer afternoon, sweet blooms and dying suns and the melancholy of tears yet to be shed for reasons you’re not quite sure of.

A bonus scent, which I have mentioned before, so it didn’t seem quite fair to list it above: Comme des Garcons Incense Series: Kyoto. To be honest, Kyoto is my go-to fragrance no matter what the season; it’s austere and meditative and calls to mind a dark prayer in a cool, shadowy forest temple. But there is something exceptionally wonderful about it in the summer months. On a day of wretched, heated summertime oppression, do this: draw the curtains, dim the lights, strip naked, and liberally spritz yourself with Kyoto. Lay on your bed, mid-afternoon in the dark. Nap for a time. Dream of cooler places.


What scents do you dream of in summer time? What cools you down & soothes your brow when the temperatures soar?

 Leave a comment with your ideal summer fragrance, whether it is based on a memory, a story, or a combination of your favorite summer smells, and be entered into a giveaway for samples of the perfumes listed above, as well as, various other “summer scent” samples! Giveaway will close and a winner will be chosen on Monday, July 20 !

*So many thanks to S. Elizabeth / Mlle Ghoul for joining me on my blog again. This lady writes about scent ( & many other things )better than anyone I've come across and I'm thrilled to have her on the blog again. For her previous scent post, take a peek here. She'll be returning soon for a guide on Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab  scents ! *

21 comments :

dianne tanner dot co dot uk said...

ooff all of these sound so perfect. In summer I am always more drawn to richer, more masculine scents. I have one called HORSE which smells like a stable, I wish I could remember who made it. But its all I want to smell like in the Summer time, like I'm back on the farm with the horses, heading for the dark cool forest.

Samantha Barker said...

My favorite summer smells are honeysuckle and the way it smells right before it rains on a hot day.

queenofpeaches said...

Love this post!! Thank you for these great descriptions. Summer is so great for smell memories (as is of course winter, and spring, and fall!). One of my recent fave summer scents, perfume-wise, is Profumi del Forte's Tirrenico, which smells like a wet dock stretching out over a slightly dingy Midwestern lake (in the best way possible). But, beyond perfume, my favorite summer smell will always be the memory of the inside of my dad's old van that, as a musician, he used to cart his gear around in. It was just this huge brown box that would seal in every last bit of the heat, since he purposely got one with as few windows as possible (to prevent break-ins). I always loved the way it smelled when it was first opened after a long time sitting outside in the sun--like hot electrical wiring, rubber, and dust. (Etat Libre d'Orange's Fat Electrician approximates for me this pretty effectively, actually.)

facemagician said...

Reading this felt so right. I also grew up in Florida, and I also shun the demonically burning sky orb. There was a time when I was younger that I wanted to smell exactly like a fresh orange rind, but as a grown up lady I prefer deep, rich fragrances. I like the idea of wearing a heavy scent during the summer, maybe because it reminds me of the oppressive humidity I associate with this time of year. I want to smell like a deserted swamp mansion, surrounded by Spanish moss and orange blossoms, with the metallic kicked up dirt smell in the air after a storm. As of right now I don't have a favorite summer fragrance, but I'll take whatever you've got.

Christine said...

Oh! I would LOVE to win samples of these scents.

Currently, my favorite summertime scent is Dasos by Essential Apothecary Alchemist. It's cool and earthy, with a touch of warm woods. It's like getting lost in the middle of a sun-kissed forest and reminds me of all the best summer camping trips.

Rommy said...

I think my favorite is one that isn't made any longer. It was called Sweet Androgyny made by an etsy seller called For Strange Women. I bought extra when she announced it was being discontinued, but I miss it so.

Tai said...

As a native born and bred Californian, my ideal summer scent would capture those days I spent languishing naked in my bed at the day's apex, simultaneously massaged and bludgeoned by the dry heat. It would be suffused the the suffocating scent of ripe and rotting plums, clouds of jasmine and hibiscus, cloves, anise, allspice, the bleached scent of the golden hills and faded sky, Rosemary and mint bushes steaming in the sun , and the unrelenting but cooling sound of the cicada singing through it all.

Jean Batzloff said...

I am always drawn to resins and herbal scents in the summer. CdG Kyoto is a big one for me, too! I also have this India Temple Incense oil that I picked up from the local co-op years ago that gets a lot of wear during the warmer months. It's such a nostalgic scent for me, as well. I am also drawn to those herbal, cool, used bookstore sort of scents, since that was always a huge part of my summers as a child. Exploring the old used bookstores and finding hidden gems to add to my bookshelves.

Essbee said...

I LOVE Aeval and was heartbroken when it was discontinued.

My favorite hot weather scents are Lush's Big (citrus-vanilla that smells just like the shampoo), CB I Hate Perfume's Just Breathe (green tea and woods), and BPAL's Ultraviolet (violet mint, very cooling on sticky days). Sometimes I like something heavier, with a lot of musk or resins, but only if the humidity is low.

Laurel Barickman said...

I think all I ever want to smell like in the summer is warm, fresh cut grass that's a little dewey, maybe with a spritz from freshly peeled satsuma thrown in for good measure.

i really love the way you write about scents. <3

Unknown said...

I know this is weird, but I love the smell of sunscreen. It just screams summer camp to me!

- Judith

flutterby3 said...

Sarah, you always describe scents in a way that make them come alive. They are beings and they are sexy, and I want to press up against them just so I can leave with their scent.

BPAL makes one of my favorite summer scents - Ultraviolet. It's the lightening and rain that hit the summer ground, the rain pools in the almost spent blooms. The eucalyptus & mint touch your skin and you know where the scent has kissed you. Lush violet and neroli linger, leaving a faint floral that you can't place.

Buccaneers and Ball Gowns said...

My favorite scent for summer (and most of the time) is "I am" perfume in "Hot." It is a little spicy and sexy without being cloying.

Hannah Weaver said...

how beautiful,these all sound so dreamy. I am from north Florida and have been away from home for a year and these descriptions make my heart swell. I would love to find a scent that makes me feel home again - dripping spanish moss,yellow amber tinted afternoons..a faint salty breeze that picks up the scents of the flowers from the alleyways,and yes jasmine! jasmine flowers falling all over me like snow!

→lisa said...

Wow. I wish there were a way to dab Mlle Ghoul's descriptions of perfumes onto my sticky, overcooked, midsummer flesh. These words could magically heal my sunburn, I'm sure of it.

Stephanie said...

Love Hermes elixir des merveilles in summer--bitter chocolate oranges with a touch of patchouli!

Kaitlin Guardino said...

My favorite summer scents would be honeysuckle (I know, original!), jasmine (my family used to go to a beach house every summer and the whole place ALWAYS smelled of jasmine for whatever reason, so now I associate it with summer), and anything with sandalwood. I like the flowery, yet smokey and woody smells that make me think of nighttime summer bonfires or heated trances.

phoenix said...

Whoa, your descriptions are intriguing and visual as usual. They make me want to try every one of those scents. As I may have already mentioned, my current summer favourite is Verveine by L'Occitane, because it is very light and zesty - but I'm definitely interested in the darker, murkier ones too, and not only because I, too, love thunderstorms much more than sunlight...

Celephais said...

This isn't quite a commercial fragrance (in the sense of many of these others), but the Nivea for Men "Cool" body wash has a scent that reminds me (in a good way) of mosquito repellent. Oddly specific and evocative.

Jen Respa said...

My ideal summer scent is coconut milk, summer sun, cucumber, mint and a a tang of vinegar on top of it. Sounds weird but I think it would be great and definitely reminds me of my weird summers growing up. (I hope this doesn't double post, if so obviously ignore one of the posts).

Elizabeth Levesque said...

In the summer I love a simple fizzy, ginger ale type of scent. I buy Demeter's Ginger ale. I love it for the bite it has and how you really can smell carbonation in it. I also love it because someone I loved very much told me it made me smell like a freshly sharpened pencil