It’s no secret that I’m a warm-weather girl with cool-weather perfume tastes. Spring is a hard time of year for me to pick a scent, because my great loves are the deep, rich, sexy ones that are too overpowering for spring weather. Here are a few that I can enjoy almost as much as I enjoy the end of winter.
Golden Cattleya by Olympic Orchids ($65, Olympic Orchids)
This stuff is gorgeous. It’s all about the honey, so it’s sweeter than I usually prefer, but the floral notes from narcissus and orange blossom keep it from being too syrupy. It also has this cream-soda accord in it that gives a touch of the unexpected, before it dries down into amber and sandalwood. “Golden” really is the right word to describe this, and it’s perfect for a sunny spring afternoon.
The other great thing about buying from a line like Olympic Orchids is that you’re buying from a small business where the person who formulates the perfumes is the same one who started the company, rather than some international mega-corporation like LVMH, which owns brands like Guerlain and Dior. You’re not pumping money into the pockets of billionaires with something like this. You’re buying from an artisan perfumer named Ellen Covey.
Desert Rose by Dame Perfumery Scottsdale ($10-85, Dame Perfumery)
Rose is by far my favorite note in a perfume, and this to me is everything a rose scent should be. It’s complex and sweet, with the geranium and carnation making it slightly spicy, and the peach giving it a mouthwatering juiciness. The first time I tried this on, I put my nose to my wrist and said, “Oh my gods,” right out loud. Love at first sniff, and perfect for a time of year when everything is in bloom. This has enough nuance to be seasonal without blending in with the smell of spring in the air.
Dame Perfumery is another small business with a personal touch, where you’re supporting a hardworking businessman and his family instead of some faceless corporation. Perfumer Jeffrey Dame and his son Cullen are involved with the fragrances, and Jeffrey’s father V. Dave Dame is the artist who creates the pen-and-ink drawings that appear on the labels for Desert Rose and the other perfumes in the Artist collection. Jeffrey Dame has also been active in the perfume community and did a lot to make contact with enthusiasts before his line launched, so he’s done his part to actually make connections. He even takes that drive for connection so far that if you send a postcard from your city with your address and what you’d like to sample, he’ll send you a free sample of one of the fragrances. I have a lot of respect for the Dame Perfumery business/customer service model, and I really feel good about recommending these guys.
B by Balenciaga ($28-148, Sephora)
When I have migraines, there aren’t a lot of scents I can wear. Anything with a lot of projection or the wrong notes will make my migraine even more unbearable than it is already. This is one of a very few that are safe bets for me. This perfume has the green freshness of spring without the citrus sharpness that so often goes with it. In fact, that buttery green vibe comes from accords of violet leaf and edamame, of all the unusual combinations, with heart notes of cedar and powdery orris root and a soft suede base. It’s nice to have the option of a scent that smells clean and feminine without the citruses and musks that exacerbate a migraine. Bonus points for the way the opening reminds me of the much more expensive Bond No. 9 Madison Square Park.
L’Ombre dans l’Eau by Diptyque ($90-125, Diptyque)
This is another one that’s safe for me to wear during a migraine, but it also has a soft spot in my heart for another reason. When I was growing up, my mother had a big garden. All of us helped to build her flower beds with her granite block retaining walls (which, btw, shoot me if I ever want to build anything myself out of granite blocks–those things weigh a freaking ton), but the plants and the credit were always distinctly HERS. Everything, that is, except the two little rosebushes at the end of the porch, which were mine. I took care of them for years, keeping them alive even after the dog chewed the smaller one almost down to the root, past where the bloom stock had been grafted on. The interesting thing about this perfume is that the way the blackcurrant leaf note blends with the rose makes it smell like the whole rosebush, with leaves, stem, and all. Also surprising is that this one has been around since 1983 and yet somehow doesn’t smell dated like so many others from that decade.
I want to take a moment to encourage you to do what I’m trying to do more of with my perfumes going forward, and make a point of seeking out small businesses to buy from wherever you can. They may not be able to afford to be as generous with freebies (though Dame Perfumery goes HARD on the samples with your first order), but even aside from the artistic risks indie perfumers can take that corporations can’t, small businesses are the backbone of our economy. If we want a thriving middle class where there’s room for creative people, the way to get that is by shopping small and supporting artists and artisans wherever possible. There are so many fascinating indie fragrance lines out there, and most of the ones I’ve tried offer samples for purchase before you spring for a whole bottle. So there’s no need to limit yourself to the huge, well-known corporate brands at the mall. While I don’t have any from their lines that particularly say “spring” to me, I highly recommend checking out Mirus Fine Fragrance (available exclusively at Tigerlily Perfumery; perfumer Neal Peters is doing beautiful work, and he’s a great guy) and Deconstructing Eden (especially her Dangerous Women collection, and by the way, her prices are AMAZING).
The change of seasons is the perfect time to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. So go out and take a risk! If you’ve got a favorite spring scent you think I should try, or a favorite indie perfumer I should check out, let me know in the comments!