April is the cruelest month,” wrote T.S. Eliot in the opening of his poem “The Waste Land.” One of the most famous lines in literature, the phrase sums up the vagaries of spring weather in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere: beautiful sunny days filled with flowers one day, only to be slammed back into winter by an unexpected storm the next. I grew up in Connecticut, where April was often filled with wet slushy snow that quickly turned to mud. I now live in Los Angeles, but even here spring does not always translate into warm and sunny weather—we can have clear skies one day, and gray, sometimes damp ones the next.
Regardless of the weather, most of us are programmed to think of spring as a time of renewal—of budding trees, bright flowers, and a new start. So at this time of year I dig in for some serious spring-cleaning, and head to the flower market to buy daffodils, lilacs, and tulips.
In the spirit of renewal, spring is also a time when I think about changing my perfume to lighter fragrances that echo the spring flowers I love so much. With the new season, many perfumers unveil scents to tempt us back to their counters after winter hibernation. This spring has been no exception, and over the past month I have sampled a number of new fragrances that are perfect for the season.
Chanel 1932 may become my new spring favorite. It is the latest release in the Chanel Les Exclusifs line, which are limited-release fragrances sold only at Chanel boutiques, online and in select department stores. There are fourteen scents in all, each inspired by the life of Coco Chanel. Some, like Chanel No. 22 and Bois des Iles, were originally created in the 1920s by Chanel and her house perfumer Ernest Beaux, and have been reissued as part of the Les Exclusifs line. Others, such as Beige and the new 1932, were created by the current house perfumer, Jacques Polge.
I have not sampled the entire Les Exclusifs line, but those I have seem to be based on the DNA of classic Chanel fragrances: elegant, very French, and frequently incorporating the aldehydes that make Chanel No. 5 so distinctive. 1932 is no exception. Named for the year Coco Chanel launched her first fine jewelry collection—which was called “Bijoux de Diamants”—1932 is an elegant floral blend that is soft and slightly woody, but also sparkles like those 1932 Chanel diamonds. According to the Chanel website, 1932 has a heart of white jasmine, and the famous Chanel aldehydes are also there, providing the sparkle. The Chanel boutique in Beverly Hills gave me samples to try, but those won’t last very long—time for a spring splurge.
Yves Saint Laurent Manifesto technically launched in late 2012, but in limited release. It is now available widely, with a new advertising campaign featuring Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain that premiered in the spring issues of major fashion magazines. I first became a fan of Yves Saint Laurent fragrances when I was a teenager, and have worn several over the years, including Rive Gauche, Opium, Y, and Paris.
I have been less tempted by some of Saint Laurent’s recent releases, but Manifesto may reverse that trend. I like it very much, perhaps because the composition was developed by perfumers Anne Flipo and Loc Dong, who between them have contributed to many of my favorite scents, including Marc Jacobs for Women and L’Artisan Parfumeur’s La Chasse aux Papillons. Manifesto has opening notes of green leaves, bergamot and black currants, a heart that includes jasmine and lily of the valley, and a slightly oriental base of sandalwood, vanilla and tonka bean that gives the scent warmth, but without too much spice. It is available online and at major department stores. I sampled it at Saks.
Two of my favorite scents year round are Kelly Caleche by Hermès and Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum, so I was excited that both houses had new launches this spring. Neither disappointed.
Bottega Veneta Eau Légère is a sheer, bright version of Bottega Veneta’s signature Eau de Parfum, which has been one of my go-to scents since it was released in 2011. Bottega Veneta is best known for its beautifully made leather goods, which are minimal and elegant and often employ the house’s signature basket weave design. The original fragrance has notes of jasmine, pepper, bergamot and oak moss, woven with, as you might expect, a note of leather. It is ideal for Fall, but a little rich for spring and summer days. Eau Légère solves the fragrance’s warm weather challenge. It’s softer and fresher than the original—more organza than leather, with a wash of citrus and white flowers. The overall effect is sunny but sophisticated. If Bottega Veneta’s signature scent is a trip to Venice, then Eau Légère takes you to Italy’s Mediterranean coast—Portofino or perhaps Positano.
Few perfumers are as renowned or have as distinctive a signature as Jean-Claude Ellena of Hermès. To me his perfumes are like Impressionist paintings—he seems to create fragrances that evoke gardens and water and flowers by blending scents the way Monet blended paints. His new Jour d’Hermès is distinctively his—with the signature combination of elegance and delicacy that mark many of Ellena’s fragrances. The heavy glass bottle is as beautiful as an Hermès bag, and the perfume inside blends watery notes with fresh citrus, green leaves and white flowers. No one note dominates—instead Jour d’Hermès. reminds me of an armful of bouquets sitting in a bucket of water in a sunny flower shop.
Of course, nothing evokes spring more beautifully than the smell of fresh flowers and the feeling of sunlight, which makes Jour d’Hermès an ideal fragrance for the change in season. It truly is spring in a bottle, and has inspired me to learn more about Jean-Claude Ellena and the House of Hermès, a topic I will explore in future posts.
I hope you find a new favorite fragrance this spring. Happy exploring!