Otis & Me by Jazmin Saraï — This scent, for me, is both wakeful and soothing. Bold black pepper, gritty dry coffee grounds, curling wisps of incense smoke. Simultaneously “clean” and “dirty,” sharp but somehow it also has an undercurrent of softness.
Our Wedding Day
Last February, I got married.
On our wedding day, I wore Blondine by Frassaï, and my husband wore Bois d’Ascèse by Naomi Goodsir.
At our reception, we sent our guests home with perfume sample packs accompanied by a little zine of scent descriptions. The four perfumes were our wedding day scents, along with two of our other favorites:
A’s wedding day perfume. Seemingly effortless, yet reveals itself to be deceptively complex. To describe it in three words: buttery lily musk. Abstracted gourmand notes of caramel and cocoa envelope a white floral heart. Castoreum, traditionally from beavers, suffuses the blend with an enigmatic, animal edge.
Bois d’Ascèse, Naomi Goodsir
K’s wedding day perfume. A meditative swirl of smoke among autumn trees, moss encroaching upon crumbled stone. With cade wood and tobacco, the smokiness of this scent brings to mind both incense and Islay Scotch whiskey.
Remember Me, Jovoy
A favorite of A’s. Cool and soft, a chai cloud of cardamom and ginger form a delicate pillow for frangipani flowers. Milky vanilla lends a subdued sweetness, while lemon and bergamot add lift.
The Duke of Burgundy, Folie À Plusieurs (possibly reformulated but available at Fumerie)
A favorite of K’s. Smooth osmanthus, peach, freesia, heliotrope, and artemisia create a texture like soft skin. This delicate facet meets an unusual pairing of leather shoes polish, creating an intriguing effect, at once clean and a little bit unctuous.
Find more wedding pictures at aubreyandkyrill.com. Photography by Kristen Marie Parker. Floral by Leah Erickson. More of our incredible wedding vendors are listed here.
Perfume Note: Ginger
The smell of ginger is bold and complex. It has a bright, lemony facet; a warm, zesty spice facet; and a deep woody/earthy facet.
Filigree and Shadow Incurable is a superlative ginger perfume, warm, zesty, deep yet powdery, accented with saffron, coriander, clove, green pepper, earthy patchouli, and a woody, oakmossy base.
Perris Monte Carlo Cedro di Diamante is a bright, lemon-lime ginger scent.
Monsillage Pays Dogon is fresh-cut flower stems, fruity-tart hibiscus, with ginger and pepper for spice and a light, vetiver and guaiacwood base.
Etat Libre d’Orange Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes is green shiso leaf and citrusy ginger, with a soft sweetness that emerges with its rice-and-coconut-milk dry down.
Pierre Guillaume Intrigant Patchouli is a honeyed patchouli with sweet ginger and smooth sandalwood.
Stora Skuggan Silphium is black pepper-forward, with dry ginger and clove, smoky incense, geranium, leather, and wood.
Masque Milano Hemingway sets ginger and rhubarb atop a leathery vetiver.
And of course, ginger lends itself beautifully to warm, spicy gourmands. L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two is candied ginger and cinnamon-sweet honey. Serge Lutens Five O’Clock Au Gingembre is soft and warm, ginger-spiced tea with honey and a hint of pepper. Serge Lutens Baptême du Feu is sharp and powdered, gingerbread and tanned leather, a dense fruitcake carved out of wood. Etat Libre d’Orange Noel au Balcon smells like gingerbread at a holiday party with your closest friends.
Olfactive Studio Woody Mood is a delicious ginger and cocoa wood, with saffron, patchouli, and sage. On my skin, a sweet campfire smoke note emerges and crackles underneath the ginger.
Empty: Lavande 44
My first empty perfume bottle: Rania J Lavande 44.
I’ve been reaching for this scent almost exclusively for the past few months, and each time I think about the different reasons I put on a perfume—some make me feel cozy, or confident, or beautiful, or powerful, or any number of things. Sometimes, wearing perfume is less about making me feel a certain way and more about creating an environment or a space to inhabit that day, or experiencing a narrative unfold around me.
Lavande 44 has become so familiar to me, in some ways it does all of these things: it soothes and fortifies me, makes the world around me feel more structured while simultaneously softening the hard edges. Strong and soft together.
A Wedding Perfume for M & J
In early 2020, I had the joyful assignment of selecting some curated perfume sample options for a couple who was engaged to get married in the desert near Santa Fe. They wanted to both wear the same perfume on their wedding day, which I love. Like many couples, the pandemic changed their plans, and although they didn’t get married in the desert as planned, the perfume they selected brought the feeling of their Southwest vision back into their wedding day in Portland, Oregon. Profumum Roma Arso, which they were able to pick up at their local perfume shop Fumerie, is dry woodsmoke and incense, comforting cedar and pine.
Congratulations to the wonderful couple M & J, and I hope this striking scent will bring back wedding memories for years to come!
Curated Perfume Sample Set: Rose
Recently I put together a perfume sample set for my friend, a gift for his wife as they are both now fully vaccinated and celebrating getting back out into the world. They were looking for a naturalistic rose perfume currently available in the US, with a budget limit of $190 for a full bottle. I had a lot of fun with this assignment—I don’t usually seek out rose perfumes for myself, so I discovered some beautiful perfumes in the process.
The biggest revelation for me was the house Perris Monte Carlo, which I had never tried before but found at Indigo Perfumery. Their Rose de Mai and Rose de Taif are platonic ideals of rose scents, lifelike and pitch-perfect. Rose de Mai is delicate where Rose de Taif is richer, spicier.
Masque Milano Love Kills is a bit darker in mood, inspired by the life and death of a rose stem in a vase.
Ormonde Jayne Ta’if is a sweet rose with orange blossom, candied yet still fresh.
Chronotope Perfume Spite EdT is a green rose garden with wings of leather and burned sugar.
Hendley Perfume Rosenthal is a woody rose with wisps of incense.
Essential Parfums Rose Magnetic is a light daytime rose with grapefruit, soft woods, and a whisper of mint.
Villa des Parfums Toujours Espoir is a big floral charmer of a perfume, petally with peony and jasmine alongside rose. I was also able to include an assortment of rose materials—oils, absolutes, and accords—I had kept from an online event with Villa des Parfums through Tigerlily Perfumery, a perfect supplement to an assortment of rose perfumes.
Lastly, I like to include a perfume that’s somewhat adjacent to the actual assignment, for fun and because sometimes it opens up a whole new avenue you didn’t know you wanted to go down. So I included Arquiste ELLA, a beautiful chypre with a rose-jasmine heart. The brand story features a ‘70s disco queen, which is a fun take on the celebratory occasion for this set, but also, ELLA is a lovely, subtly earthy floral perfume that deepens into a beach-vacation skin scent. Plus I got to include its corresponding “masculine” perfume, EL, a bold fougère—in case my friends want a “his and hers” set!
What rose perfumes would you include in a sample set?
Perfume Notes: Black Pepper and Pink Pepper
Black pepper and pink pepper are two popular top notes in perfumery, though pink peppercorns are not, strictly speaking, true pepper. Black pepper—true pepper—comes from the Piper nigrum plant. Its essential oil is distilled from the dried berries, or peppercorns. Pink peppercorns are the fruits of the Schinus molle tree. Both have a woody, stimulating, warm, clean-spice character. Black pepper is more sharp, where pink pepper is softer, and sometimes has subtle floral or fruity aspects. Pepper has high odor intensity, and a little bit can help bring definition to a blend.
Jazmin Sarai Otis & Me is, to me, the ideal black pepper-forward scent. Accented by incense smoke and the grit of dry coffee grounds, its character is simultaneously “dirty” and “clean,” like black pepper itself.
And of course, Blackpepper by Comme des Garcons does justice to its namesake: dry and woody, crackling with cedar and agarwood, with just a hint of tonka bean to smooth out the sharp edges.
For pink pepper, Xinu Copala is a beautiful example—bright and sweet with vanilla, made monastic with copal resin and mesquite smoke. Pink pepper bridges these two sides and forms the backbone of the perfume.
Anna Zworykina My Vanilla puts black pepper at the top of a complex, spiced vanilla, with woods, resins, green galbanum, and a sweet floral heart.
In Pink MahogHany Gent, black pepper and rosewood provide balance for a soft pineapple note.
In Oriza L. Legrand Les Tourterelles de Zelmis, black pepper and saffron add depth to a waxy geranium-rose.
Parfums de Nicolai New York Intense is a powdery, aromatic cologne with citrus and black pepper.
Filigree & Shadow Eperdu is a bright scent with pink pepper and citrus fruits on a dry, woody-sweet vetiver base.
Perfume Note: Fig
Fig in perfumery can be interpreted in several different ways. A perfumer can focus on the fruit itself—though they rarely do. Often, a fig scent encompasses the whole tree: leafy, green, and woody. Fig scents often have a milky or creamy facet (in perfumery this is often described as “lactonic”) that lends itself to coconut and sandalwood pairings.
There is no natural material distilled or created from the plant (there was once a fig leaf absolute, but it is no longer made due to its irritant properties), so it is made through combinations of aroma molecules. One way to make a simple fig accord is to combine a green tomato-leaf note such as stemone, a blackcurrant/fruity note such as labienoxime and/or damascones, a creamy/milky note such as gamma octalactone, and something woody like vertofix coeur.
Classics of the fig genre include L’Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuer, a prolific fig tree, leaves rustling, pungent with sap, with whispers of almond and sandalwood. Diptyque Philosykos is a glossy landscape of leafy fig trees and cool, clear water. Hermes Un Jardin En Mediterranee transports me to an idyllic scene, somewhere sunny and manicured by the sea. Fig leaf combines with cedar, cypress, and lemon-citrus notes to create the idea of salty ocean air.
My favorite fig perfumes hover in the soft milky-green family, such as Nishane Wulong Cha—oolong tea, stems, wood, and milky lychee and fig.
Go further in the direction of coconut and you’ll find DS and Durga Debaser, a blunt snapped fig branch, unsweet coconut shavings, iris and dry woods.
Maya Njie Tropica uses fig to temper its beachy pineapple. Fig blends on one side with coconut and sandalwood, and on the other side locks arms with iris to create a boundary line, gentle restraint.
On the woodier side of fig we find Pierre Guillaume Bois Naufrage: clean musks and the condensation of salty marine air on the wood of a fig tree.
Profumum Roma Ichnusa is a warm, dry, woody fig. Dambrosia focuses more on the fleshy fruit, along with creamy sandalwood and almond.
Lubin Figaro combines green fig with greener vetiver and apple for a scent that is bright and bold and juicy as all get-out. I would call this fig green but not milky.
In Neela Vermeire Ashoka, fig plays a part in a much more complex whole: green fig leaf accents watery florals, including lotus and hyacinth. Its lightness moves into heliotrope and osmanthus, which in turn gives way to a leathery texture, complicated and soft.
One of the more interesting uses of a fig note is in Jazmin Sarai Fayoum: ripe figs and dates in a clay pot, warming in the sun, dust and dirt in the air.
Aftelier Fig is an interesting perfume because Mandy works only with natural/botanical materials, so she has none of the synthetic molecules listed above to draw upon. Her Fig is not a fig tree scent, but the scent of the fruit itself. She uses a jammy fir absolute, jasmine sambac, a fruity lavender, and citrusy yuzu to create the illusion of a ripe, fleshy fig.
Last December, I used up my decant of Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles (“girl in needles,” a resinous, jammy pine), so this year I ordered another. It smells to me like an elegant Christmas forest with accents of Gothic cathedral.
Aftelier’s solid perfume Fir imparts that Christmas tree scent: pure green fir needles.
Slumberhouse Norne smells like jammy fir absolute and the incense-scented forest floor. Luca Turin called it a “feral growl” of a perfume.
Olympic Orchids Seattle Chocolate is dry dark chocolate and darker evergreen woods, with an undercurrent of incense.
Etat Libre d’Orange Noel au Balcon is a playful gourmand, sweet-spiced-honeyed gingerbread, orange zest in the air, and a subtle smooth plastic note that I’ve heard people describe as “plastic dinnerware.” It smells like a holiday party with your fondest friends, and not over Zoom.
Arquiste Nanban is smooth and elegant with its saffron-spiced leather, soft osmanthus, black tea, balsam wood, frankincense and myrrh. Something about it smells like Christmas to me—a very stylish Christmas, like attending a holiday cocktail party wearing suede in taupe and burgundy.
What perfumes and smells do you use to evoke Christmas?
First Day of Autumn Perfume Picks
Today is the first day of fall, the beginning of my favorite perfume season. The air is getting cooler, my vibe is getting cozier, and I’m excited to revisit some old favorites and get more intimate with some new scents. After picking out these perfumes I realize they’re basically all gourmands. Any other gourmand enthusiasts out there? Anyone with favorite fall scents that are not gourmand?
Naomi Goodsir Or du Sérail is a voluptuous cornucopia of ripe red fruits dripping with honey, soaked in rum, and edged in tobacco. In other words, it’s a sexy Thanksgiving perfume. The nose behind it is Bertrand Duchaufour, who also created Olfactive Studio Woody Mood: delicious ginger and cocoa wood, with saffron spice, patchouli and sage. On my skin, a sweet campfire smoke note emerges and crackles underneath the ginger.
Chris Collins Sweet Taboo by nose Nathalie Feisthauer is cinnamon- and cardamom-spiced balsams with a slightly nutty coffee character.
Two of my favorite chocolate perfumes: Fzotic Ummagumma is chewy, leathery chocolate incense smoke. Slumberhouse Ore is smoky woods and bitter cocoa, heavy forest cabin vibes.
Nasomatto Baraonda is the classic image of a cozy (boozy 🥃) autumn evening: old books, antique wooden furniture, honeyed red fruits, and a few generous pours of whiskey, all rendered in such as way as to make them sheer.
And of course, my beloved Serge Lutens Borneo 1834 by Christopher Sheldrake (2005 formulation). Velvety, vampy cocoa patchouli.