Perfumes, you share, since they walk around with you. Shower gels, soaps and colognes are a more intimate indulgence; a joyful way of sloughing off the witch’s hair of dreams before stepping out into the world.
The chic-er eaux de colognes also work well as gifts: few people actually dislike citrus fragrances, which explains the recent spate of cologne-driven niche brands like Atelier Cologne, Thirdman or La Manufacture (but not the olfactory oxymoron that is Jo Malone’s Oud & Bergamot).
Might be hormones, might be the hotter summers brought on by climate change, or simply the fact that my tastes are expanding, but I’ve recently realized that, after all, I’m more of a cologne lover than I imagined. So here it is: my summer selection of fresh-but-not-bland scents that smell like joy and sunshine… and a couple of beach-y beauties.
Hermès Le Bain
For the past decade, I’ve always refreshed my stash of Eau d’Orange Verte toiletries: there’s practically no day when waking up to its citrus, mint and woods accords hasn’t felt right.
Now all of Jean-Claude Ellena’s lovely Cologne collection is available collection in hair/body shower gels, face/body moisturizers (in travel-friendly flat, screw-top metal tins), liquid soaps and solid soaps that can be mixed and matched in 3-soap sets. Nestled in their orange Hermès box, they make for highly covetable hostess gifts (which, in all likelihood, will never leave your home because you won’t bear to part with them).
They’re all quite true to the originals, and a great, reasonably priced way to enjoy JCE’s glorious variations on the theme without getting annoyed that they’re so fleeting. Though as a fragrance I prefer Eau de Narcisse Bleu, these days I’m quite partial to the Eau de Mandarine Ambrée toiletries, a perfect intro for days when I’ll switch over to Séville à l’aube, since it is on the same area of the scent-map.
Roger & Gallet Bois d’Orange
As more affordable and easier to find morning pleasure (here in France, it’s sold in most drugstores), I lather up with the Bois d’Orange shower gel. A green-tinged, citrusy-balsamic blend on a radiant, transparent wood base that connects with the mandarin top note through spices, this faux-de-cologne by Dominique Ropion can compete with much higher-priced offerings. I always carry a couple of Bois d’Orange wipes in my handbag in summer to freshen up my hands and feet (during air travel, they are a life-saver, since airline wipes are usually nose-searing WMDs).
Eau de Rochas
Though I’d be hard-pressed to pick between this and Eau de Patou, the latter’s insane price point (and spray bottle) prevents me from using it in the old-school, splash-it-all-over style that goes back to the days where cologne was a hygiene product as well as a medicine… I keep a 440ml vat of Eau de Rochas in the refrigerator, for decadently lavish rubs on hot days. Originally called Eau de Roche (“rock water”), it give off that faint flintiness spring water sometimes has – an effect it owes to a touch of incense. The French fashion illustrator Aude de la Morinerie has dressed up the box of its 2014 Limited Edition in an Aegean-sea blue splash of a dress.
Chanel Eau de Cologne
This one I’d rather own in the humongous 400-ml size too, but I’m making do with the 75 ml, which I spritz on warm mornings as a prelude to more long-lasting olfactory commitments. I don’t know whether this Eau de Cologne was conceived atthe same time as N°5 Eau Première (which came out a year later), but to me, it’s as though part of the latter’s radiant halo of lemon and musk had been skimmed off and bottled.
Annick Goutal Vétiver (Les Colognes)
Fans are not likely to forgive the new management at Goutal for discontinuing the original. But though its toughness has been toned down, this new Cologne version does manage to retain some of its mineral, slightly iodic character. By dusting the sea-sprayed skin effect with iris, Isabelle Doyen has given it a fine-grained powderiness that is almost astringent. (In other news, if that’s any consolation, Goutal is bringing back Mon Parfum Chéri).
Frédéric Malle Eau de Magnolia
I’ve only just reviewed this one, so, briefly: Malle and Carlos Benaïm’s answer to Diorella, and to the magnolia Edmond Roudnitska always wanted to do – he even planted a tree in his garden – has the steamy-cool feel of haze rising from petals in the summer sun. Though the structure is cologne-like, it has the radiance and lasting power of an eau de parfum.
Parfum d’Empire Corsica Furiosa
It is my considered opinion that one can never have too many green perfumes. And Corsica Furiosa, Marc-Antoine Corticchiato’s tribute to his Corsican homeland, is certainly, furiously green. The scent fairly spurts and oozes plant juices, opening with the smell of crushed nepita (a type of Corsican mint), tomato and lentisque leaves. Three different extractions of the latter hook the sap green of the top notes to a daisy chain of maquis smells running from the opalescent milkiness of hay to tobacco, leather, liquorish, mushroom and moss.
La Manufacture Cologne Précieuse
I’ve only got small samples of this and Cologne Noble, so I can’t give them the full-body test colognes demand. But with its neroli, rose and musk accords, Cologne Précieuse has a lovely, fluffy, micronized marshmallow vibe that feels very comforting, and if a big bottle wandered onto my shelf, I’d be delighted to spritz it on with abandon.
Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum
This limited edition celebrating the 30th anniversary of the first bronzing powder, Guerlain’s Terracotta, has got nothing to do with the original Terracotta Voile d’été (a spicy floral blend created by Mathilde Laurent). But this tropical-flower spritz, which picks up where suntan lotions leave off, is quite delightful in its own right. Thierry Wasser’s take on the beach-y genre, which also fragrances the Terracotta Tinted Self-Tanning Gel and After-sun Cream, is lushed-up with a faintly woody-tobacco-y vanilla and an exuberant, honeyed floral bouquet dominated by jasmine. It smells like sun-golden skin should taste if you had a lick.
Lolita Lempicka Elle L’Aime eau de parfum
Not to be confused with the more recent L L’Aime eau de toilette, which is a bit of a wimp-out compared to the initial offering. There’s a hint of trashiness in this lime, “coconut flower” and Tahitian tanning oil cocktail. But it’s exactly the kind of Vamonos a la playa, good-natured, over-tanned, underdressed trashiness summer demands – a-jingle with turquoise and gold bangles, matching Tropezian sandals, she’ll have fun, fun, fun ‘til her daddy takes her T-Bird awaaaaay…
For more summer selections, click on the usual suspects:
Illustration: Photograph by Pierre Bonnard, 1900-1901.