It’s Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas …

It’s Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas …

Is there any season to compare with Christmas in the range and variety of lovely fragrances it evokes? From the balsam-scented boughs of wreaths, garlands and decorated trees to the delicious smells emanating from kitchens; from the incense of Midnight Mass to the smoke of fireplaces hung with stockings; from the spiced scents of oranges pierced with cloves and meat roasting with rosemary and garlic, to the narcotic perfume of paperwhite narcissi forced in pots — the fragrances are everywhere.

I make some holiday drinks mostly because of their wonderful smell, although they also taste terrific. One favorite is the Scandinavian mulled wine Glögg, a concoction of red wine, port, aquavit and brandy mixed with fresh ginger, orange zest, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, raisins and almonds. I make it in a slow cooker and let it simmer all day. Heaven! One must approach it with care, though — one mug makes you feel lovely and warm inside, with holiday goodwill toward all coursing through your veins, and a second mug will likely leave you on the floor, relying on others’ goodwill to take you home and put you to bed. There are many variations on recipes for Glögg, easily found online; I encourage you to try it. So easy and festive.

One of my favorite blogs, Bois de Jasmin, has had posts in which readers recommend various perfumes to wear on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and throughout the holiday season. So much fun to read what others recommend and enjoy! I decided to layer the gorgeous attar of Taif Rose that my husband brought me from Dubai with Aramis Calligraphy Rose, for the notes of rose, frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense and myrrh are obvious candidates for Christmas, but rose, you ask? “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” is my response.

On a more serious note, Victoria at Bois de Jasmin is again running an online fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders, an admirable and effective organization that provides medical care to civilians and refugees in some of the most dangerous, war-torn parts of the world. As the Christian world gathers to worship the homeless newborn of a refugee family, born at a time of armed strife and conflict, we should remember the children and families who today find themselves in similar danger. My teenaged son’s Christmas gift to me was an IOU for a gift of fragrance that I could choose; I will ask him to donate to Victoria’s fundraiser and Doctors Without Borders on my behalf — the fragrance connection being that each such gift enters one into a drawing for some marvelous fragrance-related prizes. Check it out! You can enter until January 15, 2017.

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), treating refugee mother and baby in Africa

Doctors Without Borders treating mother and child; photo Stephanie Christaki/MSF

The weather here has been so unseasonably warm that we are running around outside doing errands and chores without coats! I plan to do some gardening this week while I am away from my office, which will surely bring more scents to my attention.

What does Christmas smell like to you? Or if you celebrate another holiday at this time of year, what are its most evocative scents?


Christmas altar with Nativity creche and roses

Fragrance Friday Special Edition: Taif Rose

Fragrance Friday Special Edition: Taif Rose

Wow. I delayed posting because I had asked my globe-trotting husband to bring me a small bottle of real Arabian perfume from his business trip to Dubai. And he did: Taif Roses by the fragrance house Abdul Samad Al Qurash. This is the real deal, friends. It is a traditional Middle Eastern perfume oil that comes in a small, one-ounce bottle which will probably last me the rest of my life as it is so concentrated. I have it on my wrists right now but I just opened the bottle, so I can’t yet describe its progression. Here is the only longish review from

This is a very potent oil to dab on your wrist, inner elbow, behind the ears, at your neck or at your temples. I am not a floral person, generally appreciating orientals and sweeter perfumes or those that are unique in some way. That’s where this one steps up to the bat.
Obviously, you must appreciate the taif rose. It is said that this particular fragrance contains the extract of 12,000 taif roses. In other words, you Must Love Taif Roses.
The first aroma is of course pure rose, a delicious, pure, rose bush. You are nestled amongst a bed of roses, surrounded by the ethereal, heady bouquet. It’s creamy, smooth, perhaps you can even imagine the morning dew in the essences of Taif rose. And then it sweetens slightly, just ever so. The oil stays this way for about an hour. Then the magic begins.
Suddenly, I felt as if I could smell the wet earth the roses were planted in, the leaves that had dropped and mixed in with the rich soil, pieces of branches that had fallen to the ground and begun to decompose. This was such a rich, decadent odor yet very real. Nothing seemed synthetic. As I felt I had my hands in this rich soil and was inhaling the richness of it, suddenly, the Taif rose came back to wrap itself around the entire perfume. And that’s how it continued to stay for hours. A mixture of reality. This is purity, not to be taken lightly.

The writer is exactly right about the first flush of roses. Nothing about this smells artificial or synthetic, it smells as if you are in the world’s largest, most fragrant rose garden with your nose buried in blossoms. The fragrance is very smooth and warm without being spicy. I look forward to smelling it as it develops today! I’m sure that’s how long the two little dabs will last.