On the Scent Trail

loves | Apr 12, 2024

After a long, depressing winter, it’s time to shake off the dust and embrace the olfactory occasion brought by Spring. If Winter demands deep amber and leather notes, the warm sun and cool evenings of April are a welcome excuse to switch things up – I’m talking grassy aromatics and fresh fruity accords.

By Matteo Pinni

Say it with me now: “Florals for Spring? Groundbreaking.” Miranda Priestly had clearly not been acquainted with Italian brand Monom, whose flower-forward Cloride is a refreshing take on a well-worn cliche. A creamy bouquet of magnolia, tuberose and lily-of-the valley, Monom’s oil-based perfumes are uncut with alcohol or other dilutents, closer in spirit to the attar perfumes of the Middle East than the watery European Eau de Colognes. A small swipe of the roller ball across my pulse points and I was overcome with springtime freshness, memories of village fetes and homemade botanical cordials. 24 hours and one shower later, my wrists remained perfumed with a languid afterglow, like an absentmindedly picked leaf discovered months later in a trouser pocket. For all its potency, Cloride is never overpowering: its projection is deliberately intimate and discreet, an impression aided by the jet-black applicator and modernist plexiglass box the scent is housed in. For friends and lovers only.

There are few sights more redolent of spring than the cottony floret of a bloomed dandelion head floating wistfully in the breeze (even if you might need to keep a pack of antihistamines on standby). Perfumer H have bottled this atmosphere with the wonderful Dandelion, without the Piriton. Longtime readers will know my love of mint notes, and the titular dandelion is all vegetal grassiness and mentholated brightness – no mojito aroma here! It slowly dries down to a waxy vetiver note and a pungent oakmoss, a true anatomy of a dandelion from flower to soil.

Monom are not the only ones making florals to write home about. Bibbi Parfum recently launched Rainbow Rose, a technicolour replication of its titular flower. The Bibbi range is inspired by the visions experienced by co-founder Stina Seger as a result of her meditation practice, and Rainbow Rose’s origin story is suitably mystical. During a visit to the Vatican, Stina noticed how a book with a rose embroidered onto its spine was being illuminated by a rainbow cast from her bedroom window. The fragrance, housed in Bibbi’s now iconic Yves Klein Blue packaging, performs similar mythmaking. Resting on a musky ambroxan and orris base, a raspberry note opens the fragrance, yet it is piquant and sprightly, with no cloying, jammy sweetness. It interplays beautifully with the Grasse rose at the perfume’s heart, realistic without that sickly heaviness that plagues rose perfumes. I’m an agnostic, but some divine intervention is clearly at play here.

Fantastical vibes continue with the swoony elegance of Dries Van Noten’s Mystic Moss. The third in the brand’s Eaux de Toilette series, Mystic Moss is part of the chypre fragrance family (whose name itself suggests wizardry, but actually refers to a perfume with a citrus top note and an oakmoss base). Opening with a citric cardamom and green mandarin notes, the fragrance is forest-fresh yet with something deeper and stranger contained within. A middle note of algae is a bracing swerve into marine territory, before resolving with a meditative incense at the base. Housed in their gorgeous bottles, a lime green giving way to a chocolate brown, Mystic Moss earns its name.

If you’re looking to spend the season stumbling down the stairs of a sweaty basement club rather than frolicking amongst the earthly delights of the forest, the grubby glamour of D.S. & Durga’s Black Magenta might be more your energy. If last quarter was pioneered by the New York brand’s wholesale embrace of edible notes – waxy pistachio notes and rich vanillas – the gourmand gauntlet shows no signs of slowing down. When I spoke to David (the D.S. half of the brand name, Durga referring to his wife Kavi), he described the inspiration for Black Magenta being raucous nights out on the New York streets in the mid-2000s, all bright makeup and the darkness of night. The opening note, a wonderfully realistic pink pineapple, gives way to a sexy iris note and the faintest hint of tobacco. It’s a brilliantly bolshy offering, all smudged lipstick, glittery fringe curtains and a drunken snog with someone whose name you’ve already forgotten. Indie-sleaze bottled, if you will.

For London-based perfume brand Bleu Nour, the afterparty is where it’s at. Inspired by the fragrant streets of East London, the brand launched their new roll-on perfume oil Canna Crush last month. “The challenge was to create a sexy cannabis fragrance that would be sensual and addictive”, Nour explained to me at the launch event for the fragrance. Encouraged to create our own formulations of Canna Crush, we played around with different concentrations of osmanthus, pink pepper and leather until Nour unveiled the (not-so) secret ingredient: the scent molecule of pure cannabis. As I took a deep inhale, I was immediately transported to high school house parties sat stultified on a sofa, mainlining cookies and Lucozade. Mercifully, once blended with the other notes, the sour tang of the cannabis softened into something more refined whilst still maintaining its narcotic pull. Nour’s fragrances are inspired by her synaesthesia, and the brick red, purple and black colour scheme of Canna Crush speaks nicely to its mood, approachable but with a daring undercurrent.

While notes may differ, the overall impression from this quarter’s releases is the capacity for surprise, refreshing new takes on old classics.