As I grow older, I definitely appreciate the true meaning of Christmas more and more. Up until a few years ago I was a real yuletide-monster, not the Christmas-hating Grinch kind either, I was more of a Mayor of Whoville type who liked to demand and enjoy a multitude of gifts, many of which were scented, of course. I’m not exactly sure what changed, but as I headed towards my late twenties I started to appreciate the less tangible parts of the Christmas season. It’s now all about family, food and freedom from daily worries, and it’s wonderful.
By being less gift-centric, I’m now able to enjoy all of the little nuances of Christmas – the sights, the sounds and the smells, but also the emotions too. In this piece, I have picked out some poignant festive smells and have paired them with perfumes that capture their spirit. All you need to do is bring a little bit of Christmas cheer!
Tinsel may be slightly out of fashion these days, but I will always have a soft spot for its shiny colours and scratchy texture. Tinsel, much like all good things, sits just on the cusp of ‘too tacky’ and that’s exactly why I love it. If you ask me, there’s nothing better than a bit of gaudy tat, especially when it has as distinct a smell as tinsel. My fragrant choice for tinsel is not a smell-alike (see Comme des Garçons 8 88 or Byredo’s M/Mink for that), far from it, in fact. No, the scent I have chosen as an olfactory representative of ready-to-wear for Christmas trees is Viktor & Rolf’s legendary Flowerbomb.
Flowerbomb is a showy perfume. It doesn’t intend to beautiful or pretty, it intends to be seen and heard in a whirlwind of pink fluff. The scent is centred on an impressive dose of ethyl maltol, an ingredient that smells exactly like toasted candyfloss. It has a touch of rose too, that gives it an even sweeter hue with a hint of darkness, but for the most part Flowerbomb is pure spun sugar. Breathing Flowerbomb in, I get the image of a statuesque Christmas tree completely camouflaged by a mess of baby pink tinsel. It may not be a classy image, but it sure is a fabulous one.
Quality Street for Breakfast
We have a tradition in our house that the first piece of food that touches one’s lips on Christmas day must be of the chocolate variety. Let’s face it, December 25th is a day for overdoing it food-wise, or as I roll, an excuse to be an extreme glutton, so one might as well start off as they mean to go on, i.e. with their face placed firmly in the tin of Quality Street. One tip, please leave the strawberry creams for me, otherwise I get a bit grumpy.
4160 Tuesdays is a perfumery that knows how to handle gourmand notes and Silk, Lace and Chocolate is a sexy blend of wonderfully edible things. For me, this fragrance captures the literal smell of chocolate, but also adorns it with wonderfully shiny colours, shades that are reminiscent of foil wrappers, with notes of bergamot and strawberry. Spray this on, dive into the box of chocolates and prepare for heaven.
Brandy-Soaked Figgy Pud
Do you ever have those foods where you despise their taste but love their smell? Christmas Pudding is one such delicacy for me. I adore the rich, fruity and spice tones that merge into a puddle of flaming alcohol. The scent is heavenly and the whole thing is presented in an act of yuletide showmanship. It’s such a shame that, for me, Christmas Pudding doesn’t taste anywhere near as good as it smells!
Orchidee Vanille by Van Cleef & Arpels is the perfect perfume accompaniment to the year’s most flashy pudding. It has oodles of rich vanilla, hinting at thick, creamy custard, but it also has a wonderful array of fruity and boozy tones too. Natural vanilla is such a complex ingredient with a vast odour profile and Orchidee Vanille sees the note pushed to the gourmand extreme, without causing a tummy ache (the same cannot be said for Christmas Pud). There’s no better way to finish off your Christmas dinner.
The Queen’s Speech
Is it just me or is the Queen’s Christmas address somewhat of a surreal experience? I mean, she is our ever-elusive monarch, cold and untouchable for most of the year, yet on December 25th there she is, right in our living rooms serving regal royal realness. In truth, I think Her Madge is quite fabulous and her inimitable style (the hair, the bag, the Corgis) is as iconic as her title.
When Liz pays her annual visit, it would not be fitting to wear just any scent. Sure, one may get away with their snowman-patterned onesie, but a casual fragrance simply won’t do. I recommend something full of pomp and circumstance with a royal heritage, a scent like Amouage’s Ubar, which comes from a house started by the Omani royal family. Ubar is a whirlwind of heady floral notes amid a typhoon of animalics. Fragrance wise, it’s the equivalent of haute couture and crown jewels. When meeting the Queen, it would be criminal, nay, practically treason, to wear anything else.
Freshly Pulled Christmas Crackers
Some smells can only be found at Christmas. They are elusive flashes of the season that come but once a year, and they pepper the air with little fragrant reminders of the spirit and mood of the season. The best ‘exclusively Christmas’ smell is the pop of burned gunpowder that comes from a freshly-pulled Christmas Cracker. The smell is sulphuric, smoky and a tiny bit addictive, and is easily more enjoyable than the naff prize found within.
Comme des Garçons are who you go for if you want a touch of smoke in your perfume. Their 2 Man is an ode to incense and wood. It’s spicy and awash with candle smoke. Despite its rather robust list of materials (cedar, incense and aldehydes) the whole experience is ethereal and airy, like a soft breeze of smoke in the distance. 2 Man is arguably one of the greatest incense fragrances ever made, which is another reason why it would suit the greatest Christmas smell ever, quite well indeed.
Join the Discussion!
What are your favourite Christmas smells? Which fragrances would you pair them with?