Scents for the Season

Photo: iStock/Shironosov.

Treat yourself to something new

By Lola Augustine Brown

n a Canadian winter, you either hibernate until spring or embrace the spirit of the season and enjoy every opportunity to get dressed up and gather with friends. And with getting dressed up comes the opportunity to make a statement with your clothes, your accessories, and the fragrance you choose to wear.

Winter is the perfect time to be a little more adventurous when it comes to scent, both for ourselves and in terms of what we encourage our partners to wear (after all, fragrance can make a perfect gift). We asked experts for their recommendations on the fragrances to wear in the colder months and how to wear them, and for suggestions for those who want to splurge on a perfect new scent.


’Tis the Season

Fragrance connoisseur Lizzie Ostrom, author of Perfume: A Century of Scents (Hutchinson, 2015), says that once party season hits and there’s often something tinselly or sparkly in our attire, we can get away with big party perfumes.

“Why not? This basically translates as vampish, Theda Bara-type perfumes. Loads of moss or leather or dark, bloodied roses,” she says.

Many fragrance houses bring out special, often more intense versions of their signature scents in fall and winter. These are sometimes marketed as limited editions and will often bring something a little different to much-loved favourites. This can be an excellent place to start if you want to try something new without going for something completely different from a fragrance you know and love.

If you aren’t a fan of heavier scents or aren’t in the mood to wear the one you may have, there’s no crime in going for something lighter.

“Quite often I’ll be tempted to wear Estée Lauder’s Bronze Goddess in the middle of December, just for a bit of tropical island fun, and hate the idea that this somehow isn’t appropriate,” Ostrom says. 

Seth Harman, managing director of MenEssentials, a Toronto-based men’s grooming store, says that the most important factor when choosing a new scent is context.

“What is the purpose of the fragrance that you’re considering—is it something you’re going to wear casually, for office use, or for mixed use? Because there are definitely some party-centric fragrances that would be wildly inappropriate to wear in a business setting,” he says. “And then there are these offshoots of context such as whether the fragrance evokes a memory or whether you need fragrances that your partner isn’t sensitive to.”

When shopping for a new fragrance, it’s always a good idea to try before you buy, and to give that fragrance a few hours on your skin to make sure that it mixes well with your body chemistry.

“You may think it smells great just out of the bottle, but then as soon as it reacts with your skin, it smells like turpentine or ammonia,” Harman warns.


Ditching the Traditional

There are, of course, legions of people who detest the usual perfumes and aftershaves and are never able to find anything that they think suits them. If you’re among them, you might consider heading to an independent store instead of a drugstore or department store to look at the different mould-breaking brands of scent available.

MenEssentials features several of these lines, as well as lines of hypoallergenic fragrances that are less likely than regular scents to bring on headaches or allergic reactions (a common problem these days).

One such brand is CB I Hate Perfume, developed by Christopher Brosius. Each scent is designed to provoke in the wearer a positive emotional reaction. After all, Brosius says, “the sense of smell is the strongest trigger of emotions in the human brain. These emotions in turn will trigger memories.” The very names of the scents are evocative: Winter 1972, Burning Leaves, and The Fir Tree are some examples.

As winter-appropriate as these names sound, Brosius insists that there is no such thing as an appropriate scent for a season.

“We at CB I Hate Perfume believe that scent is a very personal experience and we encourage our customers to wear scents that they truly love,” he says.


All in the Application

As for how to wear fragrance in the winter, rules different from those appropriate to the summer months apply. Being all bundled up, for example, may require a heavier hand when applying scent.

“In general, the best way to wear fragrance is to spray it onto your chest, because when you wear clothing over a scent, it dissipates more slowly and therefore sticks with you longer,” Harman says. “The problem with that in the colder months, when you wear more layers of clothing, is that scent might not be very noticeable at all, so you’ll need to spray it on your forearms, your wrists, or behind your ears.”

“We can probably get away with wearing more because in cold weather, especially outside, fragrance can be a little bit more hesitant to unfurl, whereas warm air can speed up the evaporation curve,” Ostrom says.

As an aside, she observes that spraying scent on a furry winter coat (if you have one) is delightful: “The combination of that texture and scent is highly appealing.”


Love Your Scent

What’s most important about any scent is that you love it and that wearing it makes you feel good.

“We often get asked, ‘Which perfumes will make me appear sexy?’ Our response is, ‘Which fragrance makes you feel sexy?’ If you feel sexy, you will appear sexy. It does not necessarily work the other way around,” Brosius says.

Of course you want that scent to appeal to others, so take the time to find scents that make you feel good. Scent shopping can be a fun date, and some couples love to find scents that complement each other’s.

If you love scents, you needn’t stick to just one, as the notion of having a signature scent is somewhat outdated. Fragrance connoisseurs these days have what they call a fragrance wardrobe, with a number of favourites that they use according to mood and occasion.

Ostrom describes fragrance as the ultimate lazy person’s treat: “You take two seconds to spray a bit on and it lasts for hours to interest, intrigue, and delight us whenever we want to tune into the scent. Wearing a beautiful perfume is often like being accompanied by a particularly fun, outrageous, talkative friend.”

Have fun with scents and don’t be afraid to try something new in your quest for the perfect scent for this season.



Here are some scents to try this winter:

Calvin Klein’s Euphoria Essence comes in men’s and women’s versions (100 ml eau de parfum for women, $114; 100 ml eau de toilette spray for men, $94). Both are rich, fruity, and seductive oriental-type scents. Notes include raspberry, pink pepper, and blackberry, with a base of patchouli, cashmere, and white chocolate.

Dunhill London Icon (50 ml eau de parfum, $88) is a spicy and woody sophisticated scent for men, with notes of Italian bergamot, neroli, black pepper, cardamom, and lavender, and base notes of wood, leather, vetiver, and oak moss.

Lise Watier Neiges (50 ml eau de parfum, $70) is a classic women’s scent perfect for this time of year (“neige” is French for “snow.”) Crisp, powdery, and sophisticated, this blend of magnolia, orange blossom, musk, woody tones, jasmine, lily of the valley, and rose is quite lovely.

So Elixir Bois Sensuel by Yves Rocher (50 ml eau de parfum, $61) is a warm and woody feminine blend of iris, vanilla, and patchouli. Sexy and rich, it’s perfect for cooler weather.

Boucheron Place Vendôme White Gold (100 ml eau de parfum, $119) is a gorgeously warm and feminine blend of Williams (Bartlett) pear, bergamot, pink pepper, jasmine, peony, and pomegranate, with undertones of cedar, sandalwood, and vanilla.

Azzaro Pour Homme Intense (100 ml eau de parfum, $93) is a manly, sexy blend of cinnamon, brandy, veti­ver, amber, and tonka notes. It smells old-school and very classy, like something Cary Grant might have worn.

CLEAN Cashmere (30 ml eau de parfum, $44) is warm, sexy, and sophisticated. The warmth comes from tonka bean, sandalwood, and musk, and it has gorgeous notes of bergamot, lime, cedar leaf, mimosa, jasmine, and lavandin.


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