The best way to cure the end-of-summer blues is by putting on a great fall fragrance. For me, the fall has always been a season of melancholy and reflection. It is when the days start getting shorter and the temperatures drop, that I realize the fun and sizzle of the summer is over.
The falling leaves and changing colours, however, quickly remind me that fall is not the season of gloom and doom. It is a prelude to winter - the time of peaceful snowy nights, twinkling lights and magic that wafts through the air.
Winter and the holiday season it brings are amazing but they are not here yet. For now, we have fall, which is also a time of change and magic. The best way to experience fall and the trepidation it brings is by picking a fragrance that elevates the spirit and warms the soul.
Here are ten amazing fragrances I've selected for fall 2016. I own most of them and I've worn all of them. These scents that epitomize fall for me. I keep returning to them every time the leaves turn yellow.
Some of the juices on this list are made for fall. It's as if they have pumpking and spice in their DNA (e.g. 1270, A*Man Pure Malt, Single Malt). Others have more reflective qualities. They soft jazz on the strings of your soul and quietly remind you why life is worth living (e.g. Grand Soir, Encre Noire A L'Extreme, Florentine Iris). Yet, others are winners all-around. They smell great and make you feel even greater (e.g. The One, Wazamba, Noir Extreme).
Read on to find out which one is right for you.
The One by Dolce & Gabbana (the EDP Version)
"I don't know how to put this but I'm kind of a big deal. People know me. I'm very important."
The One and its character has nothing in common with the self-aggrandizing lead character of Anchorman. Still, it is a big deal in the fragrance community. It's a staple in the top 10 lists of many fragrance reviewers and its virtues are extolled at length in the fragrance forums.
Originally released as an eau de toilette (EdT) in 2008, The One features notes of ginger, grapefruit, cardamom, amber and tobacco. It is commonly classified as woody-spicy fragrance but to me it has always been a light oriental amber.
The best thing about The One is that its elegant and sophisticated smell would fit almost any occasion in the fall. The worst thing about it is that it doesn't last very long.
Aware of the longevity problem, in 2015 Dolce & Gabbana released an eau de parfum (EdP) version. Some reviewers report The One EdP feels denser than the EdT and that it lasts longer (up to 8 hours vs. up to 4 hours). I haven't tested the two versions side by side but I would recommend going with The One EdP. This is the version I have and love. If you can't find it, go for the EdT (it appears it is much easier to find). There is no discernible difference in the actual scent, just the longevity.
You can find The One by Dolce & Gabbana in any major department store.
Single Malt By Kilian
If autumn to you is a superb amber-hued single malt whiskey, then Single Malt by Kilian is for you. The opening uncannily reminds me of the aroma of the oak barrels used to age scotch. I'm not an expert to tell whether the boozy accord is truly of a single malt. Its combination with the gourmand malt and vanilla makes for a fragrance you want to sip off your neck.
Some fragrance reviewers describe by Kilian as Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille with a boozy opening. Indeed, the vanilla and tonka bean in both fragrances account for some of the similarities. The sweetness of Single Malt, however, is more tempered and arguably quieter.
Kilian created Single Malt as part of a line of limited edition fragrances dedicated to different cities. Single Malt celebrates London and and the drink native to its country. After a short period of limited distribution, Single Malt is now available at all stores that carry by Kilian.
1270 by Frapin
Jean-Luc from La Secret du Marais described 1270 as a ball of fruits that have been soaked in brandy. At the time his comment made me laugh but the more I smell 1270, the more I realize how true it is.
Beatrice Cointreau, an heir of the famed cognac maker Frapin, created 1270 to celebrate the aroma of the drink her family has been producing since 1270. As one can expect, the fragrance is a boozy one; very much reminiscent of a good bottle of cognac.
1270 opens with a strong boozy note, supported by symphony of pineapple, orange, and plum. Hazelnut, cocoa and coffee chime in to temper down the fruity accord. Woods, vanilla and tonka bean drive the character of the fragrance after the initial dizziness of the opening has dissipated.
As I smell 1270, I realize that what makes this fragrance so perfect for fall is that it reminds me of all temptations of the season - a nice glass of cognac, a tempting piece of desert, and a sobering cup of coffee. No wonder why my bottle is half empty.
A*Men Pure Malt by Thierry Mugler
Thierry Mugler's approach to fragrances reminds me of a those artisan cupcake shops. They struck gold with making cupcakes and now their whole business is based on making varieties of them. This modularity of food creation can also be observed in Chinese restaurants too. You want sesame chicken? No problem. Make General Tao and add sesame seeds.
If you've smelled Mugler's A*Men line of fragrances, you can reasonably conclude that it is comprised of one fragrance in different variations. Luckily, some of the permutations of the original are worthy of admiration. A*Men Pure Malt is one of them.
Originally released as a limited time edition (circa 2008) A*Men Pure Malt captured the hearts of many gourmand lovers. With its boozy fruit accord, buttery malt note and tarty peat, the fragrance transported me in the midst of Oktoberfest. Dried fruit, pumpkin pies, and foamy beer cascade through my head as I inhale the aroma I sprayed on my left hand. I'm afraid to open my eyes and return back to reality. Not to worry. One spray of Pure Malt will keep the magic going for over 12 hours.
Use sparingly. The projection of Pure Malt is a monster.
Note: In 2015 Thierry Mugler reintroduced Pure Malt on the market. Now, it is available in all major department stores.
Florentine Iris by Zegna
Smelling like you've macerated in an oak barrel is nice but some of us still have to go to work. To stay clear of violating any HR policies, save the boozy scents for the evening and put on Florentine Iris for the office. It's a soft iris-based fragrance, which leans clean and soapy rather than powdery.
Iris fragrances are not always a safe choice but Florentine Iris is as PG as it gets without being boring. Iris, violet and musk are the main players here. I also detect some Iso E Super even though it is not on the note list.
Zegna knows how to make clean and polite fragrances. Unfortunately for him, his creations often cross-over into the zone of boring. Florentine Iris tip-toes there but the quality of the materials add depth and evoke emotions that save the day.
Even though Florentine Iris works for any season, I find it is particularly appropriate for fall. Especially for times when you have the blues or need to show restraint and poise with your fragrant choices.
Wazamba by Parfum d'Empire
Wazamba is unique in many ways. It's an incense fragrance with a beautiful note of red apple. In the dry-down the scent becomes more resinous but it maintains its fresh and airy character.
Wazamba is a great choice for those days in autumn when we get unexpected warm spells. Its smoky-resinousy nature would perfectly compliment a leisurely stroll through the city under the last rays of sun.
Grand Soir by Maison Francis Kurkdjian
Big oriental fragrances are best reserved for the winter. Not Grand Soir. The latest creation by Francis Kurkdjian is a beautiful oriental scent reminiscent of the 1920s. Unlike the classic from that period, however, Grand Soir is lighter and gender-neutral.
Francis Kurkdjian tells us to put our best clothes on and take a casual stroll in the "never-ending night and enjoy the daring radiance of a magnificent Parisian evening".
As we are talking fall fragrances here, make sure you put your scarf on. While the warm ambery radiance of Grand Soir will lift your spirits, it won't do much to keep your neck warm.
The quality I enjoy the most about Grand Soir is that it creates in me a feeling of hopeful anticipation. I spray it on and the cold weather gets a bit warmer, the lights become a bit brighter and the mood in the air gets a bit happier. It makes me smile and this is what a good fragrance is supposed to do.
Honey Oud by Floris
Floris is a British perfume house that has been making fragrances since 1730. In my books they fall squarely in the category of traditional British scents made for Victorian gentlemen. For comparison, Penhaligon's is another British house that makes the same style of perfumery.
Given its heritage and tradition, Honey Oud is a walk on the wild side for Floris. It's a sweet and warm oud-driven fragrance that is sufficiently complex to keep you sniffing your hand every two minutes. On their website Floris says the oud oil for Honey Oud comes from a "certified sustainable source of agarwood".
The reason why Floris brings up the certified sustainability practices of its oud oil is because agarwood, the source of oud oil, has been over-harvested for years. Due to its extinction, getting a high quality oud oil is extremely hard and expensive.
Not discounting Floris' claims on the source of their oud, I am a bit skeptical they are using the real thing. Considering that Honey Oud sells for USD$230 (€210) for 100 ml bottle, I doubt it contains tons of real oud. I suspect it may have traces of natural oud, which have been fortified with oud aroma-chemicals. It's a common practice among many perfume houses, which want to make an oud-based fragrance and sell it at somewhat reasonable prices.
Notwithstanding the source of oud in the fragrance, Honey Oud is a festive fragrance. It is woody, sweet and extremely pleasant to wear. If you are debating what to put on for that November family get-together, Honey Oud would be a great choice.
Noir Extreme by Tom Ford
Noir Extreme is a continuation of the Noir line by Tom Ford. In this edition we get an amber-woody fragrance with an interesting note of kulfi. It is frozen dairy desert popular in India. Kulfi has a creamy, slightly nutty aroma that makes your mouth water. Combined with a soft amber accord, cardamom and woody notes, it forms a smell that is hard to resist.
Therefore, Noir Extreme is a seduction in a bottle for those who can smell it on you. The fragrance doesn't project very far but this is just as well. The art of seduction is the art of exercising subtleties. Beautifully composed, this fragrance if perfect for a gloomy rainy day when you want to cuddle with your favourite person.
Noir Extreme works great for any weather but I get into the mood for it in the fall. Give it a try if you are looking for a versatile compliment-getter.
Encre Noire A L'Extreme by Lalique
You can't have a list of fall fragrances without a proper vetiver representation. Encre Noire A L'Extreme is a dark fragrance with a vetiver note. What I like the best about it is that it puts me in a pensive mood. It is almost like a meditation in a bottle.
Vetiver, incense and cypress are perfectly blended with elemi, sandalwood and benzoin to produce a dark and yet uplifting fragrance. If you are in a brooding, pensive mood, reach out for this one. It's guaranteed to hit the spot.