Forests, as David Lynch once said, are full of mystery. They never fully reveal their depths. And some perfumes, such as Ormonde Jayne, with its compelling central note of black spruce absolute, or Rochas’ peaty, dank and powerfully erotic Mystère, draw you into these shadows with their air of brooding, impenetrable chic.


But forests are also hale, alive; and scents made with the essences of evergreens – pine, spruce, fir – can be very revitalizing.  The medicinal, almost antiseptic power of coniferous notes can be found in their purest form in Patyka’s Boisé, an organic perfume with an exhilarating pulmonary charge. Radox-like pine scents such as Knize Forest or Silvester by Geo F Trumper are familiar and welcoming in their classical, masculine structure, while more abstract, conceptual interpretations of forest life and its dreams exist in scents such as Serge Lutens’ pine, ginger and frankincense-filled Fille en Aiguilles.


For those less interested in a sylvan-inspired ‘perfume’, but who instead want a more holographic rendition of the forest, there is also Demeter’s Christmas Tree or Giant Sequoia; CB I Hate Perfume’s The Fir Tree; or Wild Hunt, which seeks to capture not only the trees of the forest but also ‘torn leaves, crushed twigs, old leaves, fallen branches…’






E.M Forster’s ‘Maurice’ originally ended with the exiled Edwardian lovers living in homoerotic bliss as exiled woodcutters. Boisé, a rough, sharp perfume from organic perfumer Patkya, for me perfectly conjures up this fantasy: a small, well-loved wood cabin nestled tightly in an immense, dark green forest. Mint-laden, powerful essences of fir and pine (harsh in their fresh-felled newness) segue slowly to a dry, vetiver and cedarwood base that captures well the turpentinic breeze of the natural, breathing forest.







A sharp intake of pine, then the cones: dense: shut hedgehog-tight. Resins, and the sap of Russian pine cones are at the heart of this scent, rather than the usual brisk of the needles. Accentuated with spices, leather, and dry citrus notes, the accord in Epicéa is warm, subtle, and very sensual.  While in some ways the scent is underwhelming compared to the majestic throw of much of Creed’s more recent ‘moneyed extrovert’ range, this deceptively simple perfume has a calm, decided beauty that is ideal for the silent rugged type.






A movement in the undergrowth: the blinking glow of a creature looking back…



With Mandragore Pourpre, (‘purple mandrake’) the house of Goutal veered off in a new direction: that of the velvet-clad goth girl. This perfume, which seemed to tie in well with the seemingly ever-popular  teenage fad for all things dark and vampiric, is a peculiar, sharp and very natural forest scent of myrtle, rosemary and mint, with a contrasting aniseed and powdery heliotrope finish. Dark, rooty patchouli, incense and black pepper absolute form the drydown, which has a bewitching, poisonous, feel. Somewhat confused in its initial stages, the scent eventually settles into a convincing Stevie Nicks of belladonna, bitter nettles and twilight winklepickers.






‘Girl on pins’: ‘Girl in high heels’: Mr Lutens’ eau de parfum haute concentration is a conundrum. Like an enveloping blanket of woods, spice, and ashen frankincense crystals, the perfume begins with a daring blast of pine up top that endures to the end of the scent through various stages of gourmand, gingery warmth. It is an unusual and delicious scent that is as pastoral as it is urban: a stilettoed secretary, impeccably turned out, striding exuberantly across a needle-strewn forest floor.


Filed under Flowers

38 responses to “THE FOREST

  1. The deep end of the forest. Thank you for the guided tour to these parts.

  2. Winklepickers? I had to look that one up. Being a David Lynch fan of the dark absurd, your choices are whispering to me.

    • Mandragore is a mess in a way, but it ends up kind of gorgeous.

      Lynch….just gets better and better. Inland Empire is unbelievable. I really hope he makes another film – there are rumours that he finally has inspiration again…

      • emmawoolf

        thank you Neil, if I ever find myself alone in a selva oscura (it’s not only Mr Lynch who writes well about forests, is it?) I would love to try one of these. Layered with Kneipp herbal bath oil perhaps? (have you ever tried it? powerful stuff). Purple mandrake sounds divine, though I doubt very much I could carry it off. Your boskiness is delightful, as always, ti ringrazio x

      • I adore Kneipp bath products, expensive though they are; the tingle of the salts in the water, the strange colours, very invigorating.

        I actually can imagine you wearing the Mandrake; a bit odd at first, but it warms up beautifully. Try it next time you are somewhere near Annick Goutal.

  3. Lilybelle

    Those sound so appealing! The enchanted forest is calling me now. I have a cedar essence oil that I like very much. It is the essence of the resiny green leaves, not the scent of wood shavings. It has a grounding, calming effect. I think I would enjoy a dark forest fragrance to dream in.

    • I never knew there was an essence of cedarwood leaves: it sounds lovely. I am cedar man myself as well, even though the ‘sugi’ trees here cause mass hay fever….I joined the throngs last year.

  4. Nancysg

    I recently tested Arizona by Olympic Orchids. I enjoyed the combination of pine with the dry sage of high desert. A different kind of forest, but one I experienced growing up.

  5. Martha

    I also had to look up winklepicker AND Radox. Radox!!! A nuclear name for a bath product. And winklepickers, I adore those shoes. I own a pair of vintage, black velvet winklepicker sneakers made by a long-gone company in the U.S. called Red Ball. The forest (particularly the boreal type) is one of my favorite outdoor places because of the fragrance of pine, fir, spruce, etc.
    Thanks for the education, and the amusing imagery of your reviews.

    • Thanks for reading.

      I think this post was more for other people than myself, as I would probably actually never wear anything foresty. I adore cedar wood, but coniferous scents are too harsh; frightening, almost.

    • I forget that the language I use is British, but then again I think there is pleasure in discovering trans-Atlantic differences. I read nothing but the New York Times, and I enjoy the subtle differences and lexical curiosities that crop up.

      (I was once a bit of a teenage Goth as well, which would account for the winklepickers….)

  6. This is really interesting! Thank you! My go to forest scent is Norne by Slumberhouse! It is such a realistic resinous forest scent, full of dark green conifers and a haunting air of mystery!

    • Thanks for the info. I shall have to seek them out.

      • emmawoolf

        Neil, for Annick Goutal one only has to walk down the road and hotfoot it to Jarrold’s (not a forest alas) and I tested the mandragore pourpre this morning on your recommendation. It’s actually quite pretty, and a little smoky, and sweet, but I preferred Nuit Etoilee, which could possibly come into this category, and is beautifully sharp, unusual and bitter (plus I can’t help but like the Don McLean associations of the name). Have you tried it? Would be interested to know your thoughts, as always x

      • I haven’t tried it properly, but I know that Nina was raving about it. Tell me more!

  7. elf

    Love serge lutens fille but my absolute favorite walk in the woods is Sonoma Scent Studio’s Forest Walk….have you ever tried this one? I am crossing my fingers that SSS perfumer will one day make this one in a natural version.

  8. Natalie

    Such enthralling descriptions (to follow that great image). I am a fan of Mandragore, and of the “forest” perfumes in general. I like the ones that teeter on the edge of disturbing without going in fully. For me, Iris Silver Mist is in this category.

  9. Nice, this got me wanting to re-wear my Mandragore Pourpre. I’d only worn it once, then dismissed it, and now I’m starting to wonder what it smells like again.

  10. I think my extensive perfume collection is missing quite a lot of forest fragrances.

    • Perhaps, like me, you like the idea of them more than the reality. In aromatherapy oil terms, for example, I never buy pine, fir, or anything like that as they don’t quite sit right with me. Too harsh or depressing in some way. I think I prefer scents that come from meadows.Having said that, Duncan wore Guerlain’s Arsene Lupin yesterday, and he smelled (in a really good way) rather like a Christmas tree and I rather enjoyed it.

  11. I live in a cedar and fir rain forest and your descriptions are perfection.

    • You actually live IN a cedar and fir forest? How divine. Your lungs must be so clear. I love that you still like perfume though. So many Canadians are holier than thou about it. Have you been arrested for perfume infractions?

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