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

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 5

Scented Advent, December 5

Today’s Advent scent is another Guerlain sample from the collection “L’Art et La Matière”, Épices Volées, which debuted in 2021 in its current form (commenters note that it is a slight reformulation of the earlier Arsène Lupin Voyou). Fragrantica lists it as a “woody chypre” with top notes of coriander, lemon, artemisia and bergamot; middle notes of clove, cardamom, sage, and Bulgarian rose; base notes of sandalwood, patchouli, benzoin, and labdanum.

I really like artemisia (sometimes listed as davana) as a note in fragrance. It is a shape-shifter, changing with each wearing and on each wearer’s skin; also, it is a bitter green herb, and I tend to love those. I don’t smell much lemon in the opening of Épices Volèes, my nose is captivated by the artemisia, coriander, and bergamot. The bergamot is very light, it comes and goes quickly. The coriander segues into the spices of the middle notes; to my nose, they are mostly the cardamom and sage. I pick up some clove but it doesn’t smell dominant to me. I assume the rose is there, because there is a smooth floralcy to the heart phase, but to be honest, I don’t smell it as a stand-alone note.

Containers of various spices
Variety of spices; image from

The warm spices of the heart phase give way gradually to the warmth of sandalwood, benzoin, and labdanum in the base, with a hint of patchouli. This base is much gentler than what I usually associate with chypres (which I love, by the way), without the backbone of oakmoss. It is very appealing, though, and I think the whole fragrance would appeal to many who don’t enjoy chypres. If there is one word I might associate with Épices Volèes, it is “ingratiating”, in a good way. This is not a dramatic fragrance that demands one’s attention, it is comfortable like a well-loved cashmere sweater. In fact, it steals up on you not unlike the namesake of its predecessor, Arsène Lupin, which is named for the beloved fictional French “gentleman thief” who appeared in many novels at the turn of the twentieth century.

Actor Omar Sy, who plays Arsène Lupin on Netflix, wearing a soft sweater
Actor Omar Sy, who plays Arsène Lupin on Netflix.

This fragrance is definitely unisex. If you are a woman who likes to wear spicy sandalwood and resin fragrances, you might love it. I particularly like the resins among the base notes; I also appreciate that the spices don’t hit you over the head, they are subtle and well-blended. Do you have any favorite spice-focused fragrances, or spice notes in fragrance?