Top 10 Winter Fragrances 2009

Along with Now Smell This, Lee and Nava will be attempting to refine, reduce and produce a ten item perfume list that represents the best of winter.  This particular winter, at any rate.

Lee’s Turn

Now, I’m not a lister – anything but. And normally, winter in the UK is a strange extended segue of moisture and decay that exists between the russets of autumn and the lime greens of spring. This year, however, though we can’t claim the seasonal intensity of Fairbanks, Alaska, or Whitehorse, Yukon, it has actually been cold. We’ve had three weeks of frost (unheard of in recent memory) and on two days, the freeze lasted for 24 hours. Incredible. I recall, as a child, those hoar-frosted skeletal branches of trees and icicles forming on gates and roadsigns. This winter has been a reminder of my past. And, in honour of that, I’m prepared to do a little listage – of what I’m wearing this winter, more than what might be winter-appropriate.

Eau Noire / Sables – take your pick of the rich thick comfort brew. A warm blanket that’ll stick with you for days, these two immortelle brutes are snugglesome to me. Eau Noire is maple syup curry tempered with lavender; Sables is straight up herbalised syrup. Both are wonderful.

Tumulte pour homme – a bargain basement scent from Christian Lacroix (darling), still remarkable easy to find – for pennies – in the UK, though apparently increasingly rare elsewhere. This is a plain and simple woods scent. Somewhat synthetic, it nevertheless performs a  go to function for me and sundry other folks I know. Fills a space in one’s wardrobe (ideally one’s cedar wardrobe) oh too perfectly.

Five O’clock au Gingembre – now, plenty people have knocked this recent release of Serge Lutens. Not me though. It’s the one I reach for when none else will do. It strikes me as a remarkably refined men’s scent, beginning with spiced tea with a sharper acidic tone to keep it on the lively side, before heading into bezoin softness in the drydown. My winter no brainer.

Timbuktu / Dzongkha – to irritate March, I’ll celebrate both of these Duchaufour wonders. I wear Dzongkha more out of the two – the iris lends it a quiet, contemplative quality, whereas Timbuktu can seem a bit too bright sometimes. I prefer that one in summer. When will Luckyscent release their Duchaufour-created l’Artisan number?

Finally, le Labo Poivre 23. Ridiculously expensive, ridiculously limited availability (though Liberty will post, you know), this is nevertheless my favourite release of 2008. A perfect incense, vanilla, pepper and labdanum combo, it’s everything winter needs. Thick without suffocating. I can’t imagine it disappointing anyone.

Nava’s Turn

Profumum Olibanum: Dry incense and sandalwood tarted up by the slightest bit of orange blossom. Every time I wear this I feel as if I´m getting a bear hug from a defensive lineman.

Chanel Coromandel: If there is such a thing as elegant, ladylike patchouli, this is it. I don´t normally go for elegant and ladylike, but I love this one. The vibe totally changes in warm weather, but for now, it´s perfect.

Josef Statkus Eau de Parfum: Vanilla, patchouli and incense – oh my! Honestly, I can barely smell the patchouli, but the vanilla, incense and whatever else is in there is a wonder to behold.

Etat Libre d´Orange Nombril Immense: I´ve been feeling about as insignificant as navel lint lately, so not only is this scent aptly named, it echoes my mood. Really, after the umbilical cord is cut, what purpose does the belly button serve? Seriously though, I fell in love with this the first time I sniffed it. One of the all-time greatest cold weather comfort scents that doesn´t smell like maple syrup or cupcakes. Not that it´s bad to occasionally smell like maple syrup or cupcakes.

Donna Karan Chaos: If I had to go through life without this now, I´d have some serious issues that could require extended hospitalization. The name should infer that the scent would literally be “chaos” in a bottle, but it truly is the most calming, soothing, liquid equivalent of Xanax and Prozac. Figures I fell for this the second time around. But, the second time around is supposed to be better, no? Chaos also has year-round potential, which is totally out of character for me. Yeah, I love it that much.

And now, dear poppets – what are your choices?

image: Colibita lake – snow crystals macro, bortescristian,

  • E says:

    Funny enough, I LOVE Coromandel in oppressive, sticky heat (it blooms wonderfully), but it doesn’t do much for me in cold weather. I wish it did! I miss it.

  • Gina says:

    In So. CA we are not having winter. It’s really not normal for it to be 80 degrees in January, but I have to admit, I love it.

    I just want to say I’m so glad to see Josef Statkus on Nava’s list. This perfume is one of my favorites – I’ve almost used my entire bottle, and that is a rarity for me. I find it beautiful in cold and warm weather. Utterly perfect.

  • Natalie says:

    Ooh, a sample of Olibanum just arrived today — kismet! — and my resolve not to order a sample of Poivre 23 is crumbling as I write. The two on your lists that I’ve already tried don’t really do it for me (5 O’Clock is sickly sweet on me, and Josef Statkus has so far been unremarkable), but I’m just a nutjob who actually loves shoveling snow in the bitter cold. Lately I’ve been swooning over Black Tourmaline, which is cozy and butch all at once — the perfume equivalent of a lumberjack shirt!

  • Faucet says:

    I just discovered Etat Libre d’Orange’s “Rien”. It totally captivates me. The reviews of it make me nervous though. To me it smells like a sauna (wood) and walking by a building that has a fire burning and I get a little spice. I think I’m responding more emotionally to it because when the notes are listed I don’t really smell the leather that people have mentioned. To me it is divine but do I really want to wear something that other people might find repulsive (from the reviews)? 8-|

  • helenviolette says:

    Thanks for sharing your lists! More love for SL 5 oclock- strong bell jar contender (if and when I make it to Paris some day)

    Heavy rotation of Jasmine de Nuit, Cuir de Lancome, Tea for Two- with a sprinkle of Chene, 5:00, Tabac Blond, and Vol de Nuit to keep things interesting.

    I too bow to those if you in miserably cold climates- I am a big wimp in that dept. (but while the winters in these parts are not so bad- we pay for it in scorching summers!)

  • Rappleyea says:

    Yikes! This was supposed to be in reply to Lee’s comment above!

  • Rappleyea says:

    I’m very close to using my Christmas money to order a bottle of V de N perfume.

  • ggs says:

    YES, to the SL 5:00. Love this in the winter. I’m a woman, BTW. :d
    Also, pulled out my DSH Cimabue around the holidays, and have enjoyed it’s warm spiciness this winter too.

    Haven’t tried the Josef Statkus, before, and I must be one of the last perfumistas not to try Chaos, I’m guessing. Both are going on my sample wishlist… thanks, Nava.

  • Lee says:

    Joe – it’s taken me a VERY long time to come round to Noir Epices (I used to detest it) but at last I understand the love, even if there’s still something in it that’s not quite me…

    You need that sample. So sorry.

  • Joe says:

    Lee: Oh, how I love Timbuktu and Dzongkha, and they’re especially delicious to me in cool weather. I need to put the finishing touches on my shrine to Duchaufour. Thanks (/sarcasm) for another reminder that I have to get a teensy sample of that hideously expensive Poivre.
    Nava: Not familiar with your five, but you’ve incited interest in Olibanum & Statkus.

    As for my picks, as I mentioned on NST, I recently fell very hard for FM Noir Epices and had to buy a bottle. That’s the scent that will signify Winter 2009 for me (and not much of a “winter” we’re having so far in Southern California… I need some rainy, stay-indoors weather!). I’ve also been enjoying Kenzo Winter Flowers.

  • Disteza says:

    After experiencing a singularly explosive flat tire this morning, waiting in the cold for an hour for the tow truck that never came, then finally walking the 1.5 miles in the -expletive deleted- cold, I can honestly say “Thank goodness for indoor heat!” I threw on Amandes Orientales rather on a whim this morning, but it did wonders to help me maintain my calm, and who knows, maybe even helped warm me up (you know, on the inside). DSV has been in heavy rotation, and when I feel like I need a hint of spring there’s Miel de Bois (I know…”oh! the horror” 8-| ), and SIP’s Tosca. I’m caving to the point of buying a bottle of Tosca–I think the agreed rule is you have to have emptied at least 2 samples, right?

    • Lee says:

      Glad you were safe – a blow out can be terrible! And good to hear your ‘fume aided in your sangfroid.


    • Nava says:

      Yikes! That is my worst nightmare. I can barely get the snow off my windshield, let alone change a tire. Glad you’re safe, warm and calmed by your AO. 🙂

  • dleep says:

    Love Coromandel. If I was going to have a signature scent it would be this. Today,I am wearing Burberry Brit Gold which is another cold weather love of mine.

    • Lee says:

      Share the love. And keep warm (my feet have turned sympathetically cold, and I’m quite toasty really).

    • Nava says:

      Great choice. If there have to be flankers, they should all be as good as Brit Gold and Red. I have to go turn my heat up now…;)

  • Vasily says:

    Today I’m wearing Ava Luxe Incense Noir – smoked woods and incense. Yesterday it was Comme des Garcons Sequioa, and earlier in the week a bit of Parfum d’Empire Ambre Russe. I’ve been wearing Ava Luxe’s Kretek and Cafe Noir this winter, too, along with Tauer’s Incense Extreme and Incense Rose and a bit of his Lonestar Memories. I like Creed Orange Spice with its hint of civet this time of year, and am almost through my decant at this point in time. I might buy a full bottle. Five O’Clock is fantastic, I think: to me the acidic quality comes across as a kind of freshness. It’s at least decant-worthy in my book. The other winter frag I’ve been wearing quite a bit is Knize Ten – have a full bottle. I have a friend I work with who reacts violently to it, however (allergic to the castoreum, I suspect), so I have to be careful when I wear it.

    The immortelle thing I’ve never gotten … it makes me think I’ve just had a plate of pancakes with maple syrup and spilled some on my shirt. Here in the western suburbs of Chicago it’s been 15-20 below zero Fahrenheit, with highs just below zero Fahrenheit. Tomorrow we get a heat wave – 23 above! I’ve been wearing long johns, two pairs of gloves, a hat plus a face mask, ear muffs, a scarf, a sweater, and a down jacket when I go out. If you prepare for it, it’s not too bad. Haven’t had to eat the sled dogs yet (just kidding).

    Wish I was back in the Carolinas, though, where winter is much more civilized.

    • Lee says:

      Excellent choice of scents. I understand the immortelle connection, though it makes me think of southern Europe before pancakes, I guess. Sables is very un-pancake like to me….

      Vasily – that weather is brutal. Stay wrapped up!!!

      • Vasily says:

        A book I read this past year (I think it may have been The Scent of Desire) suggested that wintergreen was a popular flavoring for candy in the USA but not in England due to the association with liniments. I think the maple syrup connection is a cultural thing that affects mostly North Americans.

        The cold here can be brutal, and the summers can be unpleasant, too. My hope is that in a few years I can orchestrate a move back to North Carolina, where highs this time of year are typically in the 40s Fahrenheit. And where a two-inch snowfall is a once a decade major event. 🙂

    • Nava says:

      Vasily, you smell wonderful under all those layers! 🙂

  • violetnoir says:

    I love your lists! Sables, Timbuktu, Poivre 23 and Chaos would be on my list, too!

    Onda also smells lovely in cold weather.


  • judith says:

    Hi all! This is why I enjoy reading Posse. Different viewpoints bring out the best of everything including fragrances. I feel like the odd one out,I’m in the upper midwest with below zero temps and all I have been craving are musks. Currently wearing Reminiscence Musc.

  • Kathryn says:

    Dear Lee & Nava, Up here in the frozen north where it hasn’t been above zero all week, I find myself protesting the forced asceticism of winter. As Catherine and Musette have already pointed out, it is nice to be reminded that somewhere on earth there are flowers blooming. To amplify your excellent lists of woods, incense and spices, I would add a bit of rose and amber (Attrape Couer/Guet Apens), a bouquet of flowers on the table next to the plate of gingerbread (Un Crime Exotique) and a spray of tropical tuberose to perfume a cold house (SL Cedre). These are all a bit sweeter than the perfumes you are suggesting, but perhaps the extra calories can be justified as necessary to give us the energy to fight off the cold!

    • Catherine says:

      Attrape-Coeur is another of mine, too! It’s so gorgeous right now.

    • Lee says:

      You keep fighting the good fight. And you mean below zero Fahrenheit, right? Yuck.

      I remember Thunder Bay, Feb 2000 (I think – could’ve been 99). Windchill to -50. I NEVER want to experience cold like that again.

    • Nava says:

      Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose is another good choice for the cold weather, if you really need to smell the roses. 😉

    • Joe says:

      Kathryn: I just have to chime in that Cèdre is amazing in cool weather (I’d find it oppressive in heat). I wore it last Saturday evening and it made me really glad that I own it.

  • Rappleyea says:

    Piping up from sub-zero central Ky. Great lists, and a few that I haven’t tried, but sound like I need to. Thanks for sharing.

    I can’t get away from Spiritueuse Double Vanille for long, but when I do it’s Vol de Nuit or once in a while Coromandel. After the depth and complexity of VdeN, Coromandel seems more like an accord, but I do enjoy it.

    Nava, sending light and love your way.

    • Catherine says:

      I’m from Kentucky originally…and I can barely wrap it around my head that it’s so cold there. I hope you aren’t getting snow, too. It’s like they gave up snow plows a decade or so ago. (The horrors of December 2004!)

      • Rappleyea says:

        Thankfully just a dusting yesterday. But we’ve had two or three days of ice, which is the worst!

    • Lee says:

      I hear what you’re saying about those great ole Guerlains…

      Stay warm!

    • Nava says:

      Thank you! SDV is another favorite, and I waffled between it and Coromandel for my list. I chose Coromandel because even though SDV isn’t a “foodie” vanilla, the booziness of it just doesn’t sit well with me these days.

  • Musette says:

    Hellooooo! Great post!

    Braving incredibly dangerous cold here in the Midwest, you’d think I would be going for the warmer scents but stress has done to me what it’s done to Nava (a soothing~o) for you, my dear. I’ve been away else I would’ve added my support to everyone else’s. Your drama will sort itself out in timely fashion. Just breathe!). My winter standbys are bringing up my lunch. So I went a really bizarre route for this time of year – I’m wearing No 5 parfume and the lovely L’Artisan Verte Violette. Normally I wouldn’t touch these fragrances until April at the earliest – and it’s not like I’m attempting to replicate spring – I’m acknowledging winter in all its vicious glory – it’s just that it seems that right now those are the only two things I can manage.

    I am going to try Jeanne Lanvin today, though. I got a nice sample in a little gift bag and I figure, why not? It’s my 2nd Brave Thing for the Day (the first being venturing outside, it’s that cold). Once it gets on me (and my many layers), it’s on for the day, so I hope I don’t :-&


    • Lee says:

      How cold is cold? You middle-of-the-continent types are a hardy breed. I dunno how you do it. I’m a winter wuss.

      • Musette says:

        Sweetie –

        It is so cold that (apparently) we are currently colder than the North Pole, which just seems absurd. No one ventures out without all extremities well covered and after dark, no one ventures out at all!

        Eau Noire was a scrubber for me today; I doubt it will remain thus. Jeanne Lanvin was inoffensive and actually quite pretty – but this’ll tell you something about the Power of Noire – it actually blasted through the scrubbing!:o and ate Mme. Lanvin’s lunch on my left wrist. She fared a bit better on the right, where no Noire had gone before. Certainly not FB worthy but charming.



    • Nava says:

      Thanks for your good wishes, Musette. I really feel for all you Midwesterners; the weather is just one more blow to a really battered region. Do what you must to stay warm and sane. 😡

  • March says:

    Hey, Lee, and thanks for the shout-out! I am sure Duchaufour’s magnificent creations smell dreamy on you… Sables wears me down after a while, but Eau Noire is just about perfect. I also love the immortelle in Declaration Essence (? I think that’s the right name).

    • Erin T / Tigs says:

      Hey, I almost added that Declaration Essence to my NST Winter Top Ten today. (Saving it for my upcoming best flankers list…)

    • Lee says:

      Oh, I think Sables can wear anyone out. But twice a year, it’s just perfect.

      I’ve only ever sniffed Declaration, not any of the flankers. More fool me!

      • Louise says:

        Hmmm, if Sables is wearing you out, how about some nice CDG Luxe Patchouli? My Immortelle of the day 😡

  • March says:

    Nava — yes, Poivre is really that good. But if you wait until we meet, you can have a sniff of mine. 🙂 I bought in on a split so the pain was a little less.

    And you made me smile yesterday because I was wearing Coromandel as I was adding your portion to the post, and thinking it deserved to come out and play more often. I got all obsessed with 31 RC and ignored the others.

    • Lee says:

      What was the one that smelled like a pickling factory?

    • Nava says:

      If I may butt in on the pickle front: Yosh Ginger Ciao. Straight dill pickles for the first hour, then wonderful, tropical gingery coconut yumminess for the rest of the day. It’s one of my summer faves.

      I can’t wait to smell the Poivre, March. The only non-New York Le Labo I’ve smelled is Dallas Aldehyde 44 (?) and didn’t like it. Why, why, WHY do that have to make the really good ones so unattainable? I know why, but me no likey. 🙁

  • Nava says:

    Wow, Lee! Forgive me for dissing immortelle, but given what I just posted on Wednesday, I think you understand. 🙂 Sables has a place in my heart, it’s just buried for the time being.

    Just so you don’t think you are universally reviled when you wear 5:00, I happen to love it. I almost fell over in Barneys the first time I smelled it. And is Poivre 23 REALLY that good? We are in the middle of a recession you know!

    • Lee says:

      You are, of course, totally forgiven! 5pm is great isn’t it? And yes, poivre is unfortunately that good….

  • Catherine says:

    Both of your lists sound positively yummy. Lee, I just might cave for that Eau Noire after such a passionate description. Nava, Josef Statkus sounds like I need to run for a sample.

    It’s currently -23 degrees F in my neck of the woods. It’s been that way for a few days. My immortelle of choice right now is Chypre Rouge (although that’s true all year round). Iris Ganache and Carnal Flower are fragrances I specifically pull out in winter. They make me happy and remind me of spring and summer. Other favs: OJ Orris Noir (draining the bottle fast), Les Larmes Sacrées de Thebes, and Bois de Violette (thanks to two incredibly marvelous perfumed ladies).

  • Mrs.Honey says:

    I have also been reaching for Five O’Clock au Gingembre when the weather is cold (at least as cold as it gets in Florida). Although it is less unisex than, say, Chergui, it works on me as a not-to-sweet, warming spice scent.

  • rosarita says:

    You’ve each listed a current favorite of mine: Tumulte Pour Homme and Coromandel. I’m in the midst of a patch attack this frigid winter and I’m loving Les Nereides Patchouli Antique for the long evenings; it’s rich and deep, with an endless drydown that’s like a thick comforter. Perfect for hibernation. |-)

  • Louise says:

    Thanks, both, for sharing your lists.

    We’re also freeeezing here, and I am generally craving my ambers and patch-ies. A great combo (thanks Chaya!)-Histoire de Parfums Marquis de Sade with a touch of Madini Ambar Gris…yum:d/

    Oddly for me, I am also craving aldehydes-no. 22, Jubilation 25, vintage Sortilege. Must be some sort of rebellion 😕 !

  • Elizabeth says:

    Great lists from both of you! I adore both Dzongkha and Coromandel right now, even during this crazily warm weather in NorCal.

    • Lee says:

      How warm? Go on, make us pea green…

      • Elizabeth says:

        Um, well, not Miami warm or anything…just warm enough that I comfortably walked home at 6:45 PM in a long-sleeved shirt. So, maybe 63 or so? Positively balmy for us!:)