As the days grow darker, it’s no surprise that our olfactory cravings are for simple but satisfying comfort food in a bottle, the fragrance equivalent of huddling under a faux-fur throw on the porch with hot apple cider.
Many of this season’s bottles satisfy that need. Aerin’s Ambrette de Noir, for example, is like a vanilla cashmere hug. The creamy macaron Rêve à Paris, by Quebec’s La Grange du Parfumeur, provides a different sort of escape, evoking that holiday trip to Paris that wasn’t in the cards for 2020.
Whether you’re treating yourself to a winter pick me up or last minute shopping for the fragrance enthusiast in your life, I’ve taken a whiff of what’s new to help you find a new favourite.
Perfect Marc Jacobs
As is often the case with a Marc Jacobs fragrance, the main event here is the elaborate bottle cap. This one is a collage of cutesy emoji charms: miniature cherries, a peeling banana, dominoes and more, all tied together with a bow. The scent’s marketing campaign, about acceptance and inclusivity featuring several dozen people chosen via a social media casting call, is more interesting than the juice. It’s briefly white floral then mostly creamy almond milk, girlish and sweet without being sugary. Not unlike a cheery Bath & Body Works lotion.
$115 for 50ml at major department stores and fragrance retailers (marcjacobsbeauty.com)
Narciso Eau de Parfum Ambrée by Narciso Rodriguez
Depending on your vintage, this bottle’s pinkish tan hue is either the colour of a Farrow & Ball heritage paint shade or will remind you of millennial Instagram vignettes. The scent, on the other hand, is somewhat ageless, all lush yellow flowers and rich cashmeran musk. The waxy banana-like ylang ylang, which brings out frangipani’s sunny, peachy side, at first contrasts then gives up and melts into the lush ambrosial musk Narciso perfumes are known for.
$120 for 50ml eau de parfum at Hudson’s Bay, Shoppers Drug Mart, Sephora and independent boutiques (narcisorodriguez.com).
Goutal Paris Le Temps des Rêves
The late Annick Goutal founded her namesake Parisian perfumery nearly 40 years ago and it’s now under the artistic direction of her daughter, Camille. This aromatic elixir is an explicit homage to Grasse, the cradle of French perfumery. The region is renowned for its fields of flowers and bitter orange groves so naturally, the bracing keynote is orange blossom but it takes an herbaceous turn. Earthy and almost salty nuances of myrtle conjure garrigue, the scrabbly vegetation that grows on Mediterranean hillsides.
$95 for 30ml at Hudson’s Bay and Holt Renfrew (goutalparis.com)
Zoologist Musk Deer
Historically, the perfume industry relied on animal secretions such as ambergris, the goop that sperm whales hack up. Niche perfume house Zoologist aims to interpret their olfactory power while eschewing the use of animal-derived materials. The latest brainchild of Canadian creative director Victor Wong is Musk Deer. It renders the pungent and sweetly aromatic scent of the near-extinct Arctic animal with a combination of lab-synthesized musks, dollops of cardamom, gingery calamus oil and a husky and vegetal Laotian oud. It captures the elusive effect of real musk – simultaneously raunchy and elegant – and it’s formulated right here in Canada.
$250 for 60ml extrait de parfum at Etiket (www.zoologistperfumes.com).
Giorgio Armani My Way
Part of the Armani’s commitment to sustainability, My Way’s new refillable bottle system will reduce environmental impact with significantly less cardboard, glass, plastic and metal, according to the brand. I searched in vain to find the connection to Ol’ Blue Eyes that the name implies, but all I found was that the cap and lettering are blue. This lively concoction is straight from the feminine white florals songbook: a hit of Egyptian orange blossom before fruity jasmine dominates the barely-there tuberose, floating on a vanilla cloud. The overall after-effect is curiously evocative of strawberries.
$120 for 50ml at department stores (armani-beauty.ca).
The buttery extract of iris root, among the most expensive raw materials in perfumery, has a diffusive silvery-grey aspect that’s distinctly aristocratic, often with a serious disposition to match. This interpretation is a more haute-bohemian slant inspired by Uzbekistan’s “fairytale city” on the Silk Road, Bukhara. Here, bergamot and caraway bring out iris’s carroty facets. After a prickle of clove, saffron and a rich woody strain of amber-tinged benzoin ensure the composition retains the alluring texture of suede when it glides to a damp, earthy finish. Beautifully done.
$130 for 30ml at Etiket (gallivant-perfumes.com).
Maison Francis Kurkdjian L’Homme À la Rose
In addition to his own luxury fragrance brand, Francis Kurkdjian remains a freelance perfumer (he’s the nose behind juggernauts Armani Mania and Le Mâle). Although men have worn florals since ancient times, even the most progressive modern perfumers still cater to the constructed his and hers distinctions in the marketplace. Hence this cologne is the masculine counterpart to Kurkdjian’s radiantly clean À la Rose. It’s all dewy white roses and their just-cut green stems, flanked by crisp grapefruit, which enhances the airy bouquet. Casual and easy to wear.
$355 for 70ml at Holt Renfrew (franciskurkdjian.com).
Guerlain Patchouli Ardent
Patchouli often has a cloying “please don’t feed the hippies” association. This is not that sort of patchouli. The latest foray in the historic French house’s Les Absolus d’Orient collection explores raw materials. Smoky Turkish rose on one shoulder and jammy fig on the other bring out parched, rattling dry wood facets and highlights sharp resinous leather notes. It’s slow-burning, peppery and, occasionally, medicinal. When people talk about a grown-up perfume, this is what they mean. It smells the way that melancholy feels.
$221 for 125ml at Guerlain boutiques and Holt Renfrew (guerlain.com).
Philipp Plein No Limit$
The aesthetic of Philipp Plein, the self-anointed “King of Now,” could be described as Upscale Car Show. No Limit$ is a follow-up to The $kull, both names that would likely earn a moderate rating from the internet password police. The surprise here is not that it doesn’t smell like every other cologne. It’s that it doesn’t smell like every cologne in a good way. Look past the holographic carton and bottle designed to look like an exclusive credit card and you’ll smell dark chocolate dusted with pie spices such as clove and cinnamon. It dries down to a woody incense that’s brash rather than garish.
Jo Malone Midnight Musk & Amber
With its new fluted art deco-inspired bottle, this limited edition is like the Gatsby themed party many people threw to ring in 2020. Had we known then what was in store, we would have made more effort to kick up our heels. After an energetic citrus start, it’s a powdery amber that finishes on a plush trio of reassuring musks. In spite of the zingy juniper berries reminiscent of gin, the aromatic cologne doesn’t bring any new tricks to the party. It’s just a crowd-pleaser here for an uncomplicated good time. As with many Jo Malone colognes, you’ll have to splash it on regularly, with abandon.
$192 for 100ml eau de cologne at Sephora, Nordstrom, Holt Renfrew, Saks on Fifth Avenue (jomalone.ca).