Scented Advent, December 23 and 24

Scented Advent, December 23 and 24

Happy Christmas Eve! I never got around to posting yesterday because I was so busy creating the first of several family feasts for last night and the next few days. I love to cook, and I love having our kids and their friends around, so this is a great time of year for me!

For December 23, my Advent SOTD was Guerlain’s Embruns d’Ylang, created by Thierry Wasser and launched in 2019. I like it much more than I expected to! Not that I dislike ylang-ylang, but it’s not high on my list of favorite floral notes. I like it a lot as a supporting character in many beautiful fragrances, but I wouldn’t normally seek out a fragrance where it has the starring role.

According to Fragrantica, the notes included are: top notes, Salt and Bergamot; middle notes, Ylang-Ylang, Cloves and Jasmine Sambac; base notes, Iris, Patchouli and Vanilla. I never know how to identify “salt” as a fragrance accord, except as a sort of mineral smell; and Embruns d’Ylang definitely has that in its opening, with a tangy bergamot. Believe it or not, the combination of salt and a bitter citrus has a long history, though mostly involving grapefruit: “Grapefruit and Salt: The Science Behind This Unlikely Power Couple.”

After the opening, ylang-ylang is the dominant accord, and it is very lovely. Interestingly, although I often think of ylang-ylang as falling on the sweeter end of the yellow flower spectrum, here it doesn’t come across as very sweet. It certainly isn’t cloying at all, and it is a ylang-ylang that would work well for all, truly unisex if that is a concern. I don’t smell cloves at all, though given the above article’s explanation of how our taste sensors can cancel each other out, I wonder if cloves are helping to reduce the sweetness of the ylang-ylang. I do pick up the jasmine sambac, but here it is a supporting player.

The ylang-ylang persists into the drydown and the base, which makes for a very interesting combination of yellow floral, powdery iris, soft warm vanilla, and earthy patchouli. I find it quite unique, and very pleasing. It also lasts on my skin for several hours, including overnight.

Yellow ylang-ylang flowers held in hands
Ylang-ylang flowers; image from beezly.com

I find this to be a thoroughly unisex yellow floral fragrance with a unique combination of notes. Its name has a poetic meaning: seafoam of ylang, which takes into account the salt accord. This is different enough that I would suggest trying before you buy it, if you are so inclined, but it is well worth sampling.

Now I have to decide what to wear for Christmas Eve! Truthfully, I have many nice options, so I might have more than one SOTD. Happy Christmas Eve, everyone who celebrates it! Advent officially ends tonight, so I’ll wish you also a very happy Christmas; and to everyone everywhere, a happy, healthy holiday season. Thanks for joining me and other readers here on Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities; I look forward to hearing more from you all in 2023!

Scented Advent, December 24

Scented Advent, December 24

Happy Christmas Eve! Today is the last day of Advent, the period when Christians await the coming of the newborn Jesus on Christmas Day, so it is also the last day of my scented Advent calendar posts. I’ve had so much fun doing this! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading along; thanks for joining me on this journey. Major thanks especially to the lovely reader and active perfumista who sent me the samples that I’ve used to fill my DIY fragrance Advent calendar!

My Advent SOTD is Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ French Linden Blossom. Normally I would say that it is seasonally out of sync, as it is such a spring-like fragrance, but today dawned as a sunny day with temperatures expected to reach into the 60s. Quite balmy for Christmas Eve! However, not that unusual here in the Southeastern US, where people garden, and play sports like golf and tennis, through the whole winter.

Linden blossom is the blossom of “lime trees”, sometimes called “French Lime”. It’s not a scent I know in real life; in my area, when I encounter real citrus trees and their blooms, they are always orange or lemon trees, to be grown in pots that can be moved indoors (our weather is pretty balmy for wintertime, but not so balmy that the more tropical citrus trees can stay outside year-round). Update: some of my readers have clarified that the “lime trees” that are also called “linden” are not related to the limes that produce citrus. There is an excellent article about LINDEN trees here: “What Is Drifting In The Breeze?“. Thanks for the help, commenters!

Flower of linden or lime tree
Linden Blossom; image from selfsufficientish.com

All share the quality of having a light, white floral scent, and that is what I get from French Linden Blossom. When I first sprayed it, I got a hint of cucumber or melon, which surprised me until I read this on DSH Perfumes’ website: “An ethereal, almost cucumber-like floral note with sweet honey-melon nuances.” Bingo!

I’ve written before about cucumber/melon accords in fragrance: Fragrance Friday: Un Jardin Après La Mousson. Apparently they often come from the aromachemical Melonal, so I’m sure that (or something similar) is present in French Linden Blossom. The citrus notes in UJALM are said to include lime, but that refers to the citrus fruit, not the flowers and not linden. The DSH Perfumes website refers to French Linden Blossom as an accord, and that seems right to my nose — it is pretty linear. To my nose, it smells more greenish white. It’s very pleasant, but I think I would like it better in really warm weather like late spring or summer. As it dries down, it gets a bit soapy, also very pleasantly. It is a fresh, clean fragrance that one could wear anywhere. I do think it is more casual than one might choose for an evening out or special occasion, but it’s a great scent to just spritz on in the morning as a casual fragrance.

I’m very happy that my final “Scented Advent” post can focus on an independent artisan perfumer like Dawn Spencer Hurwitz! The last two years have been very hard on many small businesses and it’s important to support the perfume artists we love, who continually advance the limits of fragrance art. One way to do that is to buy directly from their websites, and right now one can use a 20% off code on Dawn’s website, light20, which I think is good through the end of December. I’m not an affiliate, just a fan!

Do you have a favorite linden blossom fragrance? And for those who celebrate them, happy Christmas Eve and Christmas! I’ll be in the kitchen, in my garden, and at church today. All our kids are home, and all’s right with the world, at least our tiny part of it. May this Christmas season usher in a time of happiness, health, peace, and goodwill for all.

Christmas tree and crèche, Metropolitan Museum, New York. Image from metmuseum.org
A Fragrant Christmas Eve

A Fragrant Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! That includes this household, and the air is full of festive fragrances, starting with the fresh balsam Christmas tree and wreaths on the front of the house. My oldest daughter baked a model of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in gingerbread (!!) for a local Shakespeare theater, using Mary Berry’s recipe from the Great British Baking Show, with extra ginger for her ginger-loving mother (me); its scent is still wafting through the house from its place of honor in our dining room.

Gingerbread model of Shakespeare's Globe Theater

Shakespeare’s Globe in gingerbread, on display in theater lobby

Soon, I will set up the slow cooker with our annual Christmas Eve dinner: a Greek stew called “stifado”, which combines lamb or beef with red wine, spices like cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, onions, tomatoes, and currants. We began using this recipe in the days when we went to two consecutive afternoon services on Christmas Eve because our three children were in two different choirs at church, singing in different services. We could leave the slow cooker to do its work, and when we came home, dinner was ready for hungry kids and the whole house smelled like red wine, fruit, and spices. Then there’s the scent of mulled cider (real cider, thank you, not the clear apple juice that gets labelled as cider during the holidays; the non-alcoholic kind we used to buy from a local orchard when I was a child).

Hot mulled cider, Food Network recipe by Ina Garten

Ina Garten’s Hot Mulled Cider

Add to those the fragrance of scented candles and wax melts, according to our mood, and the paperwhite narcissi in a pot, given to us every year by a gardening friend, and each room of the house has its own perfume. Somehow, they don’t clash. I haven’t yet tried the candle labeled “White Balsam”, but it sounds delectable: vanilla and mint combined with balsam fir. And of course, I still haven’t decided which of my many personal fragrances to wear today and tonight! I plan to make the most out of the day, fragrance-wise; I’ll choose one to wear until we get dressed for afternoon church (thankfully, we now attend only one service, although I actually didn’t mind unplugging from the world and attending two in a row); one for church; and one for when we sit down to a festive family dinner and the rest of the evening.

Dinner place setting of Spode Christmas Rose china

Spode’s Christmas Rose

Decisions, decisions! I now own a bottle of Caron’s Nuit de Noel, so I think that will have to be one of my choices, probably for this evening. Thinking of Goutal’s Nuit Etoilee for church, as it will be dark out when we emerge, but I could go with something based on incense instead, like Tauerville’s Incense Flash. A warm or spicy rose is always a good option, especially as our church is often filled with dark red roses and evergreens at Christmastime and my festive china has Christmas roses (hellebores) on it, so perhaps Aramis’ Calligraphy Rose or David Yurman Limited Edition, which beautifully combines roses with suede, oud, saffron, sandalwood, and a touch of raspberry. I often amp up the roses in my rose-centered fragrances with a dab of Abdul Samad al Qurashi’s Taif Roses, which my husband brought me back from a business trip to Dubai some years ago. Montale’s Intense Cafe is a strong contender for the fragrance I will wear before; it has a beautiful rosy heart, and it is one of the few fragrances I own that has prompted a complete stranger to approach me to ask what it was. On the other hand, I’ve been wearing Jo Malone’s Tudor Rose & Amber a lot lately; it is a beautiful, warm rose, and it lasts much longer than many Jo Malone scents without being intrusive or overwhelming. And then there’s Christmas Day to consider!

What fragrances mean Christmas or other winter festivities to you? Will you wear something special for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Are you hoping for any special fragrance gifts this Christmas?

Christmas perfume gifts