There’s something about these long and cold winter nights that fills my heart with joy. Whilst it’s dark and icy outside, one can seek solace in the warmth of home, in onesies or under blankets, flanked by the warm sleeping bodies of mini-storage heaters (also known as cats) and supported by cup upon cup of beautifully sweet Earl Grey tea. Well, that may not be how your winter nights go, but it certainly is how mine do, and they reach an almost dizzying level of comfort, if I do say so myself.
Scent can offer comfort too; after all, it’s not all about purring felines and adult-sized romper suits now, is it? The truth is that, perfume can provide just as much warmth and softness, if not more, for example; the soft crackle of pepper and spice, or the slowly burning embers of birch tar can be the perfect antidote to the relentless chill outside, and perfume acts as a wearable force field to fend of the biting wind, and bitter rain – an armour that is more effective then any coat or scarf.
One of my winter staples is Caron’s Parfum Sacré. Launched in 1990 and created by perfumer Jean-Pierre Béthouart (Burberry Touch for Men, Versace The Dreamer and Givenchy Ange ou Démon), Parfum Sacré is an ode to incense seen through a veil of French face powder, flowers and lace. It’s a perfume that calms the soul whilst warming the heart, and it never fails to be an essential component in my winter survival kit.
Top: Cloves, Cinnamon and Pepper
Heart: Orange Blossom, Jasmine and Rose Absolute
Base: Musk, Vanilla and Myrrh
How Does it Smell?
Parfum Sacré opens with a gentle wave of warm spices. Clove feels most prominent at first, but pepper joins the foray quickly and together they fizz and crackle in a delicately savoury manner. Underpinning the warmth of clove and the shimmer of pepper is the exotic sweetness of cinnamon, which creates a blazing dust cloud in varying shades of auburn and orange. What’s intriguing about Parfum Sacré’s opening is the fact that, despite the mélange of feisty spices it contains, the texture of the fragrance is remarkably smooth and delicate right from the very outset. Never once does it feel dry or harsh.
As the cloud of spice subdues, it makes room for a heart of rose. The rose here is a surprising one and doesn’t come across as a spicy, oriental rose, as one would expect from such a fragrance. What sits at the very core of this fragrance is a big powdery rose that is sweet enough to be reminiscent of French dressing tables caked in make up, and animalic enough to be evocative of the skin found on intimate parts of the body. This makes for a surprising twist and sets Parfum Sacré apart from other spicy rose fragrance in the sense that it opts for plushness, rather than the bold exoticism of many orientals.
The base sees even more softness as vanilla, musk, patchouli and myrrh combine to create a velvety bed of purple roses. In a fascinating turn of events, Parfum Sacré starts to give off the impression of incense despite the ingredient being M.I.A. from the list of notes. This is not the cold and mineral-like odour of frankincense though; instead it conjures up the image of rose-scented incense cones bought from the local head shop. The effect is familiar and comforting, and also rather demure, ensuring that this fragrance isn’t a glamour puss beyond approach – instead it’s a familiar face clothed with soft fabrics and a kind heart.
Parfum Sacré is a fragrance that I only wear during the winter. For the rest of the year it lays dormant within my perfume box, and for that reason it’s quite special. Most of my fragrances can be enjoyed at varying times of the year but this one has a distinct time and a place, which means that I always look forward to wearing it and spraying it on each time, it always gives me that reassuring feeling that I’m greeting an old friend with a warm smile.