How to Find the Perfect Summer Perfume

Simple scents inspired by afternoons in the garden are the inspiration for the the hottest summer perfumes of the season.

01Perfume

The scent of simplicity

Perfume houses around the globe have set out to bottle these “simple moments,” and many take root in the vegetable patch of all places. One whiff of a vegetable-garden-inspired scent and it’s easy to imagine days gone by, with your Gran mucking about in her backyard on a sunny day, mud on her wellies, dirt on her day dress, as she tends to her tomato plants. It’s not an exotic image, but there’s something compelling and even romantic about the notion of soil and sweat and sunshine. Jo Malone London, Hermès and Byredo are but a few fragrance houses that have taken inspiration from humble vegetables and herbs and gussied up the scents from these unsuspecting plants.

Take Jo Malone London’s new collection called The Herb Garden. The five fragrances explore the world of fragrant foliage, employing gritty rosemary, cool clover and striking coriander among other garden-fresh ingredients. These notes may sound like they belong in an herb box or on a kitchen windowsill more than a bottle of perfume, but they perform perfectly in each quirky fragrance. From Carrot Blossom & Fennel to Wild Strawberry & Parsley, each scent is like a walk through a fragrant garden at the height of summer – simple but arresting.

Then there’s Byredo’s Seven Veils and Hermès’ Un Jardin Sur Le Nil. In the hands of the right perfumer, even the most common vegetables, herbs and fruits can become rich, luxurious notes worthy of a fine fragrance.

Wearing your vegetables

“It’s not so much that the notes themselves are simple but that each one is allowed the space to be appreciated for its own unique character,” says Céline Roux, fragrance director for Jo Malone London. Roux says she relished the chance to push boundaries with notes that may be common in the garden or kitchen but are atypical in fragrance.

“Sorrel is green but also unusually tart when you taste it, and carrot brings a sweetness but not in a typical gourmand way,” she says. Working with edible plants like fennel and parsley, which are virtually unheard of in perfumery, presents some challenges, too. “Sorrel, for example, has virtually no smell, but its taste is completely unique,” says Roux. “We wanted to take that flavour and translate it into fragrance – that’s something that requires real artistry from the perfumer.”

In the world of fragrance, simple isn’t, well, simple, says Greta Fitz, director of global marketing for Fusion Brands/CLEAN fragrances. But CLEAN Reserve, a new line of dynamic yet pared-down scents blended with raw and sustainable ingredients, pulls it off. “Just like the iPhone is really simple to use but took a genius to create, these fragrances smell simple but have a very complex background,” she says.

The nine eau de parfums – reimaginings of bestsellers Warm Cotton, Skin and Rain, as well as six new scents – are designed to be linear, meaning that what you smell when you first spray one on your wrist is what you’ll smell when the fragrance dries down on your skin over time, too. “There are no surprises, and I’ve learned that creating that consistency is one of the hardest things to do in fragrance,” says Fitz.

Enjoying the moment 

Effortlessness is one of the hallmarks of summer. Think minimal makeup, easy-breezy dressing and, hopefully, a slower pace of life, like evenings in the backyard with a glass of Chardonnay or long, languid days at the cottage, with toes dipped in the lake. The idea of slowing down and taking life as it comes informed the creation of the CLEAN Reserve fragrances, which are incredible options for a go-to summer perfume. 

Fitz says they looked to Scandinavian countries (where the CLEAN line outsells Chanel No.5 five to one) for inspiration and were compelled by the Danish concept of hygge. The word is pronounced “hoo-ga,” but there is no English translation. “It’s like their carpe diem,” says Fitz. It’s about living in the moment, focusing on quality time with friends and family and the soulful comfort and fulfillment that brings. “That idea influenced our concept of creating new moments that haven’t been experienced – new fragrances that you’ve never smelled before,” says Fitz.

Enjoying the simple pleasures in life, no matter how small the moment, influenced Elizabeth Arden’s Green Tea Nectarine Blossom as well, says perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. “We decided that nectarine was the perfect embodiment of summer,” he says. “It’s juicier and more fragrant than peach and also more watery and modern.” It’s a succulent scent that’s like biting into a ripe nectarine on a hot summer day, juices dribbling down your chin and over your fingers. “There is nothing more wholesome, delicious or easy than summer, with all of its simple pleasures,” he says.

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