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…’
BOISE / PATYKA
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.
EPICEA / CREED (1965)
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.
MANDRAGORE POUPRE / ANNICK GOUTAL (2009)
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.
FILLE EN AIGUILLES / SERGE LUTENS (2009)
‘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.