The general global mood is very far from celebratory at the moment – for very obvious reasons – even if personally I can’t deny I am truly enjoying the beginnings of summer. Weather-wise, as we come out of winter and enter the warmer months before they get sweltering, at this time of year I often find myself hankering for a mid-point between the heavierness of the hibernation perfumes and the freshness of flowers : some anchoring, still perhaps a hint of darkness (the hallmark of the chic chypre?) – but not too weighed down or white flower euphoric.
Sydney-based botanical perfumer Samuel Gravan’s delicate creations are ideal for this time of year and capture precisely some of what I am craving above. Vetiver Absolute, a scent that I would say is based more on the Indian patchouli that lies at its heart, but indeed paired beautifully with a dry, clear vetiver – is a light, herbaceous perfume initially (notes of lime, basil, juniper, bergamot and lavender) that once settled, becomes a delightfully subtle, but long lasting and enigmatic, aromatic patchouli (with notes of pine needles and cedar) that puts me in mind of some of the early L’Artisan Parfumeur perfumes like Vetiver and Patchouli – long gone, but still very much missed by the likes of myself. Those scents were extraordinarily ‘clarified’ (rarified, even), while retaining much of their natural earthiness that edged into the stylish abstract, and Vetiver Absolute has a similar quality: walking around one afternoon with a few sprays of this scent on I felt that the perfume was doing exactly what the perfumer say sit does (‘elegant, comforting, grounding’) – and I would like to get a bottle.
We all need a little gravitas in our scent collections sometimes and Decadence, another perfume in the Samuel Gravan collection is more tactful than its name might suggest (and mercifully, smells nothing like the horrifying perfume by Marc Jacobs). Like Vetiver Absolute, this refined and cultivated, very natural smelling rose leather maintains a playful weightlessness throughout its development, even when anchored pricklingly with a perfect patchouli note that is melded effortlessly with the rose. The top notes of the perfume – lemon, basil, mandarin, black pepper and cardamom – are fleeting and less essential than what happens next for me, but the incense in the base rounded off with a touch of vanilla make for a dose of the properly dry chypric – this one will give you a very elegant – but not overeffusive – sillage.
Another complexly chypric rose leather patchouli incense perfume I have come across and rather enjoyed recently is the ridiculously named ‘ManRose’ by esteemed Italians Etro – who do make a lot of good scents, it does have to be said, so we will forgive them this gauche and clumsy name just this once. I picked a pristine boxed bottle of this up cheaply the other day from a second hand clothes shop in Yokohama thinking that one of us could wear it when feeling darkrosey, but on me, despite all bergamot and elemi resin clustering the Turkish rose essence in the heart, there was something rather flat – for a similar vibe I would rather wear vintage Voleur De Roses or my Tiziana Terenzi Orion, which is brasher and has a hint of pineapple, red currant, birch and thyme along with the rose and patchouli and is good for hotter days out when I am feeling assertive – but surprisingly on D, who is not usually a rose person, somehow the notes of geranium and Sichuan pepper along with the freshness of the cardamom (one of his very favourite tastes and smells in the world) really made the central rose theme smell very alive on him, robust and almost juicy : he thus seems game for trying this perfume when we go out on Saturday – as I think I would find a scent trail of this one rather dashing.
For a darker, more gothic rose (much darker, actually), Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s excellent recent Halfeti rose, based around the concept of the actual black Turkish roses of that name – which apparently do actually exist (see pictured above) is the perfect shroud of summer, when you are perhaps not feeling up to pretending to be bright and cheerful with everything that is going on and want a floral that smells more serious. Ultimately, while quite unsmiling in temperament, you might call it solemn, even, this perfume also smells undeniably gorgeous : unyielding, not changing nor developing very much on the skin, but if you like the central theme, as I do : rich, deep clay-like Turkish rose absolutes and ottos fused with oud (but in a ratio I can tolerate, and I hate oud – here it is a soft, animalic echo rather than a bludgeon); resins, incense and a touch of galbanum, you may, like me, enjoy the morose, luxuriant seamlessness of a perfume that surrounds your person, and your mood, like night mists descending on a rose garden.