Essence of the Earth

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When it comes to spring scents, I’m definitely with author Margaret Atwood, who quipped, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Although this may appear rather odd to some, I’m inclined to agree. Spring is nature’s way of saying “life goes on”, welcoming new life after several months of darkness and bare bony trees, cold mornings and chapped hands. It’s about digging your hands deep into the soil, planting bulbs, getting dirt under your fingernails, picking flowers, crushing herbs under your nose, and digging your feet into the mud (sadly the closest thing in London to walking down a tide-soaked beach).

This might explain why I tend to favour “dirty’ scents over “clean” ones. Where there’s dirt, there’s life. And whether we like it or not, our animal instincts are trained respond to it a great deal more than clean sterilised scents. Penhaligon’s have launched a suitable earthy fragrance for spring created by legendary nose Bertrand Duchaufour in the form of Ostara, named after the ancient Germanic goddess of Easter. Inspired by the humble daffodil, it’s a beautiful yet simple concoction, bringing out the flower’s earthiness, yet remaining as light and elegant as their 1976 Lily of the Valley (another Penhaligon’s classic I urge you to try). In short, it’s a world away from the sweet, sugary florals that are churned out year after year at springtime.

Penhaligon’s Ostara

Penhaligon’s Ostara

While so many other French perfumeries are trying to be achingly hip and lose a bit of their soul in the process, the house of Lalique have stayed true to their heritage of producing sophisticated scents that an adolescent and an octogenarian would both adore – and as one might expect, a beautiful bottle to boot. (As an aside, why do perfume houses think young girls want to smell “young?” In my teens and early 20s I craved rich “grown-up” orientals that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in a Victorian bordello …) Their latest offering Living Lalique has a woodsy, earthy quality to it. But with Lalique being a Parisian brand, it has a few dazzling jewels in there too, namely rich vetiver and iris in abundance making this an intoxicating and memorable number – a scent you’d wear to a night at the opera, having flown in on a private jet.

Living Lalique

Living Lalique

And gents, I hope you don’t think I’ve left you out … I understand many of you like to have a “clean-shaven” scent, hence my above diatribe glorifying dirty scents might have made you roll your eyes to the heavens. Well, bear with me, for I would suggest you (and the ladies too) douse yourselves in Frederic Malle’s Cologne Indelebile, created by master perfumer Dominique Ropion.

When it comes to fresh, citrus scents that don’t disappear after five minutes, Editions de Parfums are one of the few houses that do this type of fragrance really well. Its bright top notes smell like they should be crackling and fizzing in the bottle (thanks to the dash of precious Narcissus absolute in there), while its rich musky base grounds it, making it “clean” enough but without being too flighty – a fresh scent with a sincere soul.

Dominique Ropion

Frederic Malle Cologne Indélébile

by Viola Levy

Penhaligon’s Ostara is available at
Living Lalique is available at
Frederic Malle Cologne Indélébile is available from Liberty in April