There’s a Danish word that sums up everything that is great about cold winter nights. The word is ‘hygge’ (pronounced ‘hoo-guh’) and it simply means cosiness and a state or feeling of warmth and friendliness. Hygge is slightly hard to define, but its essentially the feeling one gets when they don thick knitwear and sit by the fire with a book. It’s not just about being comfortable though, it’s also about belonging and feeling socially accepted. Autumn and winter are the seasons for hygge, and the dark, and cold nights, of these two magical seasons can be accented by fragrances that exude warmth, comfort and a little bit of fun. Here are my top scented picks for dark nights!
By the Fire with a Good Book
My three siblings and I grew up in an old Tudor cottage without central heating. In winter, the only ways to keep warm were to; a) pile on the blankets, duvets, socks and jumpers (I was pretty much the Princess and the Pea until my late teens, but with blankets rather than mattresses); b) beat each other up until we were suitably warm; or c) light a fire. There really is nothing quite like a real, wood-burning fire on a cold winter evening and I remember many occasions when we would commune around the open flames, cooking toast and eating it with a variety of jams, whilst drinking numerous mugs of hot tea. Now, if anything can be described as a hygge experience, then toast nights around the fire would be it, and looking back, these times weren’t only moments of sensory pleasure (melting butter on crusty bread, c’mon!) but also important moments of family bonding. Although, I’m sure that wasn’t my parents’ intention – they perhaps just didn’t fancy cooking that night!
So what scent could accurately portray times spent in front of a crackling fire? To my nose, Amouage’s Interlude Man is a perfect olfactory interpretation of a night by the fire absorbing a good book. Interlude possesses a whirlwind of leather and birch tar, both of which are pushed to their smoky extremes, hinting at woody embers glowing with intense heat. The bookish vibe comes from the heavy underpinnings of vanilla that sit within Interlude’s base, adding a clash of velvety sweetness that is creamy and irresistible. Old books are well known for their vanilla smell, thanks to the cellulose & lignin within the paper, both of which break down gradually over time and produce the sweet smells of vanillin, ethyl benzene & tolune, and the almond odour of benzaldehyde. Interlude captures this book-like sweetness remarkably well and whilst it may seem big and brash at first, it is easily one of Amouage’s most cuddly and cosy fragrances to date. Of course, if that doesn’t quite float your boat and you want to take a trip down my memory lane to those toast nights by the fireplace, I can also recommend the buttered buns and apricot jam of Serge Lutens’ Jeux de Peau.
Underneath the Sheets with a Loved One
There are many ways to keep warm as the nights draw cold: warm fires, cosy pyjamas and even spicy food, just to name a few notable choices. But there is one that may appear slightly more, shall we say ‘attractive’ than the others and that is spending time in bed with a loved one. There are a whole raft of activities that one can get up to under the sheets, and I’ll let your imagination fill in the gaps, but let’s just say that Scrabble is not one of them. Of course, it doesn’t have to be just the rude things, it can be time spent huddled together talking or perhaps, time spent together simply just existing. What could be more peaceful and pleasant than that?
Guerlain’s famous Jicky has always struck me as the perfect ‘under the sheets’ scent. Created in 1889 (the same year as the Eiffel Tower) by Aimė Guerlain, Jicky is often regarded as the world’s first abstract perfume and it fascinates with its bracing, yet warmly animalic blend of lavender, civet and vanilla. Jicky is the smell of warm bodies intertwined. The odour of yesterday’s perfume lingers on the skin as the warm breath of a loved one diffuses steamily in the air. The vanilla brings that familiar cosiness we all know and love, and it comforts telling one to relax, breathe slowly and simply just be.
Out in the Air with the Elements
Cold winter nights aren’t to be entirely avoided though, after all, it wouldn’t always be fair to reach for our familiar winter antidotes of teas, soups and hot water bottles. Sometimes it’s worth spending time out in the open amongst the elements, with the cold wind cutting against one’s cheeks as our pockets of warm, the hands, head and feet, all of which are shrouded in knitwear, (winter’s armour) keep the soul suitably balmy. There’s a freshness to the air in autumn and winter that is not found in spring or summer – a lung-filling expanse that is peppered with the smell of decaying leaves and distant bonfires, but also feels rich in minerals and somehow more satisfying than usual.
As you may have read on this blog, one of my favourite launches this year is Alaia Paris by Azzedine Alaia. In fact, that’s an understatement – I am obsessed with the stuff. To me, this scent feels just like a gigantic gulp of fresh winter air sucked straight into the lungs and breathed out in a intense flourish of hot steam. Smelling Alaia Paris, one gets the impression of an ethereal air, capturing the way that winter air feels slightly heavier and sharper than the warm breezes of the summer months. This is the perfect scent to wear on a night time walk when one feels contemplative and seeks solace from the quiet reassurance of stars beaming silently in the night sky.
Trick or Treating in a Ghastly Costume
Finally, I simply cannot write a piece on perfumes for dark nights just a few short days before Halloween without throwing in a suggestion for something ghoulish and costume-like. That would simply be impolite! All Hallows Eve has always struck as me as an interesting holiday. Beginning the three-day observance of remembering the dead, Halloween seems more about sexy outfits, endless amounts of sweets and apple bobbing, than anything remotely sombre of macabre. It stands to reason then that, to celebrate this occasion in scent, one would need something entirely inappropriate, over-the-top and terrifying to bring the spirit of Halloween back to its roots.
May I suggest Etat Libre d’Orange’s Secretions Magnifiques? Have you ever wanted to go to a Halloween party dressed as an episode of Dexter or CSI ? With metallic instruments and tortured bodies? Perhaps, you’ve fancied trick or treating in a costume that resembles a night out that one will lead you to question your life choices for years to come. Well, if either of these fit, then Secretions Magnifiques is your rather horrendous guy. This scent smells like spilled milk on a wet, robotic dog. It’s disgusting, fascinating and utterly awesome in every way. In fact, forget the costume, just spray ten sprays of this on watch people clear a path to the sweets.
Whatever scent you wear on those dark and cold winter nights, make sure you wrap up warm!