Scent Sample Sunday: Clinique Wrappings

Scent Sample Sunday: Clinique Wrappings

Since we truly enter the holiday season this week, with Thanksgiving to be followed swiftly by Advent, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s, today seems like as good a time as any to comment on Clinique’s Wrappings, which for many years was available only during the winter holidays at certain high-end stores. Nowadays you can buy it directly from the Clinique website (maybe they hide it after January?), although the copy describes it as “our once-a-year fragrance, here just for the holidays.” Regardless, Wrappings seems to have developed something of a cult status, although it is very reasonably priced, $47.00 for the gift set of a parfum spray and body lotion, and often marked down after Christmas (so don’t pay inflated prices on eBay).

Launched in 1990, Wrappings fits in well with a house whose most famous fragrance for many years was Aromatics Elixir. It is a gentler sibling, described on Fragrantica as a “floral aldehydic” fragrance. (I disagree with that characterization). Top notes are Green Notes, Aldehydes, Artemisia, Nutmeg Flower and Lavender; middle notes are Hyacinth, Orris Root, Cyclamen, Carnation, Rose and Jasmine; base notes are Oakmoss, Cedar, Sea Notes, Patchouli, Musk and Leather. Wrappings has a clean vibe to it that is well-suited to the decade of the 1990s, which embraced clean and aquatic fragrances. It is sold in parfum format, in a 25 ml bottle, often in a gift set with body lotion.

When I first spray it on my wrists, I smell a note that isn’t on the list above, something citrusy. It might be bergamot, because it isn’t sweet or fruity, and it blends in well with the green and herbal notes that also open this fragrance. I was relieved to read earlier reviews by Persolaise and MimiFrouFrou/The Scented Salamander, in which both commented on the citrusy note, confirming what my own nose was telling me! The reason I don’t agree with Fragrantica’s category is that when I read “floral aldehydic”, I think of scents like White Linen, or Chanel No. 22. And Wrappings is nothing like those. I can sense the aldehydes boosting the opening, giving it lift and sparkle, and a certain brisk chill, but they’re not as dominant as they are in, say, No. 22. The herbal notes are what linger throughout the opening stage, to my nose, especially the artemisia and lavender. Another commenter has called Wrappings a “feminine fougere”, and that sounds exactly right to me.

I barely smell any of the listed floral notes. If the flowers are there, they are not greenhouse-grown, luxuriously tended until they are gathered into bouquets for indoors. No, these are flowers of the Mediterranean growing wild in their natural habitats, wafting over grasses and herbs. And given how faint they are, and how well Wrappings suits late autumn, I would say that they are the last, brave blooms that show up sporadically throughout a sunny fall season, thriving in those cool nights and warm days until the first frost stops them in their tracks and sends them into dormancy.

Many commenters smell pine in Wrappings, but I don’t. I do smell a green woodiness in the middle stage; I don’t think it is the cedar, listed as a base note, it is probably the oakmoss, which continues through the drydown stage. There is an alluring mineral note in the drydown that I think comes from the “sea notes”. The musk that lingers longest at the end, with a hint of the oakmoss, is quite soft, and I don’t smell any patchouli or leather.

Wrappings lasts several hours on my skin, but it is quite faint after 7 hours or so. This seems to be a parfum concentration, per the label on the bottom of the bottle, so I don’t think it carries very far. The Scented Salamander’s review mentions that early advertising for Wrappings compared it to a chemise, slipped on over clean, bare skin, and I think that’s right. The current website says it “hugs skin in layers of warmth and brightness.”

Although I think “feminine fougere” is apt, this could certainly be worn by men. Have you tried Wrappings?

Easy spring outfit. Sarah Butler of @sarahchristine wearing Paige Sela Silk Slip Dress in Dream Blue in Seattle, Washington.

Featured images from SarahStylesSeattle.

Fragrance Friday: First Cut

Fragrance Friday: First Cut

Diane St. Clair is a dairy farmer and artisan maker of butter so good that she supplies it to the legendary French Laundry restaurant, among others. She is also now an artisan perfumer, having launched her first three scents earlier this year under the name St. Clair Scents. I’ve already written about Gardener’s Glove; today, I’ll take a look (or sniff!) at First Cut.

The name refers to the first mowing of a hayfield, in late summer. This is an important time at a dairy farm, as the mown hay will provide fodder for the cows during the winter. Here is the description of First Cut from St. Clair Scents’ website:

The hay harvest is the focus of every dairy farmer’s summer, keeping the fields regenerating and providing hay for the cows in winter.

The mowing and drying of native grasses, clovers, wild flowers, and legumes takes three days of sunshine and many hours of hard work.

This scent is of meadows, herbaceous and green, with wild flowers strewn throughout and splashed with radiant sunshine.

  • Top Notes: Bergamot, Yuzu, Rosemary, Basil, Tomato Leaf Absolute
  • Middle Notes: Lavender Absolute, Rose De Mai, Rose Geranium, Immortelle Absolute
  • Base Notes: Hay Absolute, Tobacco Absolute, Oakmoss, Vanilla Absolute

The opening is strong and appealing — so much so, that my husband suddenly asked, after I had dabbed some on my wrist, “What smells so good?” The bergamot and yuzu really pop. I don’t normally like yuzu in fragrance, but here it really works, as it is dominated by the bergamot I prefer, and accompanied by the herbal notes of rosemary, basil, and tomato leaf. I can’t really pick out the rosemary and basil separately, but all the top notes blend harmoniously into a bright, herbal announcement that something special has arrived.

Kafkaesque offers her usual in-depth, insightful analysis, noting that First Cut merges aspects of both a traditional “fougere” fragrance and a “chypre”. As fougere scents more traditionally appear in men’s fragrances, I’m not as familiar with them, so I’ll share some of what I have learned. Most notably, the classic fougere includes a strong presence of lavender combined with oakmoss and coumarin, the latter widely considered to evoke the scent of sweet hay. And no wonder, based on this information from Fragrantica:

Coumarin … is a synthesized material in most perfumes, but it’s also found in abundance in natural products, such as tonka beans (Dipteryx odorata) where it is the principle aromatic constituent (1-3%). In fact the name derives from “cumaru”, an Amazonian dialect name for the Tonka bean tree. But that’s not all: apart from tonka beans, coumarin also occurs naturally in “vanilla grass” (Anthoxanthum odoratum), sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), sweet clover (Meliotus L.), sweet grass (Hierochloe odorata) and cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum) among other species.

First Cut is all about hay, and there among the base notes is “hay absolute”, so we see the relationship to a classic fougere, together with the traditional lavender, oakmoss, and tobacco notes. Unlike a traditional fougere, though, here the lavender is clearly present but not dominant, which I prefer.

In my review of St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove, I described the meadow that bordered my father’s vegetable garden, the garden that Gardener’s Glove evoked for me. First Cut evokes that meadow and the same sense of a French potager, an enclosed garden that includes vegetables, flowers, fruits, and herbs. This potager, however, is not in New England but in the South of France, with its classic Mediterranean notes of lavender, rosemary, basil, rose de Mai, and citruses. It is on a farm, bordered by hay meadows and lavender fields which figure as much in this fragrance as the kitchen garden.

Filed of lavender and hay meadow on French farm in Provence

Lavender field in Provence; image from

One of the many interesting things about First Cut is that it dries down in a way that mimics the maturing of a hayfield! The initial phase is very fresh, herbal and green, especially with those green herbs and tomato leaf absolute, like the fresh greenness of early summer. The middle stage is more floral, but in the way that midsummer clover is “floral”, nothing like the Big White Flowers. I think it is the immortelle that starts making the fragrance feel drier, as the middle stage leads into a base of dry tobacco, dry hay, dry oakmoss (and vanilla, which adds the creaminess and sweetness that Kafkaesque noted, and balances the dry notes). I love this creative progression and how it summons up the months from early summer through the peak of summer, ending with the late summer hay harvest known as the “first cut.” Brilliant! Even the lingering sweetness in the base is reminiscent of late summer honey from bees that have gorged on meadow flowers. I wonder if Diane St. Clair keeps honeybees?

Wooden beehives in multi-colored wildflower meadow.

Beehives in wildflower meadow; image from

I like First Cut very, very much — and if you are a man, or have a man in your life, who loves fougeres, try this!  So far, of the two St. Clair Scents I have really tested, my heart still belongs to Gardener’s Glove, but First Cut is beautiful, pleasing, and clever all at once. As the late great perfumer Guy Robert is said to have told many people:  “Un parfum doit avant tout sent bon (A perfume must above all smell good).” First Cut smells very, very good.

Samples kindly provided by St. Clair Scents; opinions are my own.