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

 

Scent Sample Sunday: Christmas Roses

Scent Sample Sunday: Christmas Roses

Some of my favorite bloggers are posting about favorite holiday fragrances, and several have created their own fragrance Advent calendars, so clearly ’tis the season! I love Advent, but I was too slow off the mark to organize my own Advent calendar in time, and this is a very busy time of year for me at work, so I’ll just enjoy reading about theirs — although I might get my act together for a few “scents of Advent” or even a fragrance Twelve Days of Christmas, so stay tuned!

As some of you know, I’m an enthusiastic amateur gardener. One of the plants I love most is the hellebore, sometimes called the “Christmas Rose” or “Lenten Rose” because it blooms in the winter. I love it so much that the special china we bring out for the holidays from now through February has hellebores on it.

Spode Christmas Rose

So for my “scents of Advent” post today, I’m going to write about a few of the rose scents that I especially enjoy in the fall and winter, although real hellebores have little fragrance. Actual roses can emphasize so many different facets of their natural fragrance, and then perfumers focus on a few of those, and choose companion notes to heighten that emphasis; this is undoubtedly why there are hundreds, if not thousands, of rose-centric fragrances. I know some perfume-lovers dislike rose, but I’m inclined to think that may be because they haven’t found the right rose for them, or because they have unhappy associations with bad rose scents like poorly made soap.

I love fresh, citrusy, green roses in the spring and summer, but I’m just not drawn to them when the weather turns colder. Luckily, many perfume houses have created scents that emphasize the spicier, darker, warmer aspects of rose, and those are the ones I enjoy at this time of year. I’ve written before about some of them: Aramis’ Calligraphy Rose, Montale’s Intense Cafe, Gres’ Cabaret. Here are a few more:

Tauerville’s Rose Flash: this is one of the best fragrance buys on the market, imho. It is the first of Andy Tauer’s “Tauerville” line, fragrances that are deliberately more experimental (and more affordable) than his main line but still artfully crafted and multi-faceted. Rose Flash comes in a 20% concentration; in other words, parfum extrait strength. At $63 for a 30 ml bottle, and given its high quality, it’s at the top of my list. Here is the description from the website: “A shamelessly diffusive, tenacious, extrait-strength creation, overflowing with the greens, spices, citruses, woods and creamy intimacies which enter your very soul when you stick your nose into a bona fide, scented, living rose.” Be still, my heart! Yes, it really is that good.

Bottle of Andy Tauer's Tauerville Rose Flash parfum

Tauerville Rose Flash; image from www.theredolentmermaid.com.

Penhaligon’s Elisabethan Rose 2018: an update of a former Penhaligon’s classic, Elisabethan Rose, its notes are: Hazelnut Leaf, Almond Oil, Cinnamon, Red Lily, Rose Centifolia Oil, Rose Absolute, Vetyver, Musk, Wood. The unusual opening is just spicy enough to make it clear that this is a deep red rose, nothing pale. The cinnamon note makes it right for this season, but it isn’t strong. The rose notes, which appear right away, are fruity and deep, with wonderful undertones of spices and light wood. This is rapidly becoming one of my favorite rose fragrances — and what’s not to love about a bottle with a white ruff around its neck?

Bottle of Penhaligon's Elisabethan Rose eau de parfum with roses

Penhaligon’s Elisabethan Rose 2018; http://www.penhaligons.com.

Jo Malone’s Tudor Rose & Amber: one of the limited edition “Rock the Ages” set of 2015, Tudor Rose & Amber is meant to embody one of the most notable periods of English history. From Fragrantica: “Tudor Rose & Amber evokes the bloody and turbulent Tudor era. The fragrance contains Damask and Tudor rose as well as ginger in the heart, spicy beginning of pink pepper and clove and the base of golden amber, patchouli and white musk.” The ginger and clove make this a warm, dark rose for winter. Many commenters talk about a boozy or winelike impression; if so, it’s a mulled wine. Even Luca Turin likes this; in “Perfumes: The Guide 2018”, he gave it four stars and wrote:

The distinguished Grasse house of Mane must have been gutted to see Christine Nagel move to Hermes, because she was a priceless treasure. It’s not as if the rose-amber accord hadn’t occurred to anyone before, but Nagel inserts her trademark slug of biblical spices and woods smack in the center, as she did in Theorema (Fendi, 1998) and rescues it from heaviness and banality. Very fine work.

Rock the Ages collection of five fragrances from Jo Malone London

Jo Malone Rock the Ages Collection 2015; http://www.jomalone.com

Do you have any favorite cold-weather rose fragrances? Any fragrances that particularly say “holidays” to you? Please share!

Featured image from www.neillstrain.com.