Perfumes for the Christmas season

Every perfume has its rightful place, whether that’s a cocktail party or a visit to the bank manager. Here are five for the party season.

It’s an interesting thing, perfume, because it’s very very personal. I know this from the perfume evenings I sometimes hold here. Because I get a lot of perfumes in for review, and because I have now become a perfume collector, there are over 100 samples to try, and it’s very interesting to see what people absolutely loathe and absolutely love. 

The thing I love most about perfume is that it gives me the chance, every day, to decide who I want to be. It’s like picking out your clothes. Some days – Mondays, meeting with the bank manager, presentations at work – you want some armour. Other days, or other times of day, you might want to be seductive or flirty, cosy or kittenish, Zen-like or meditative.

There’s a perfume for every mood, and for every style of dress, and when you add personal taste on top – whether it’s white florals or woody orientals – the choice is limitless.

Here are six of my favourite fragrances that you might want to try out this winter.

* Shalimar. A leading light of the Guerlain range, Shalimar remains the epitome of vanilla-based perfumes. But it’s not only vanilla – we’re a long way from the ice-cream parlour here. With smoke, bergamot and incense, creamy, boozy Shalimar is a complex, subtle perfume that is perfect for dinner (vanilla perfumes go well with food), seduction, snuggling up with your beloved or going to the cinema or theatre. It remains close to the body, so it won’t disturb other diners or theatre-goers, but close-up it is utterly libidinous. 

* Ambre Sultan. One of the best amber fragrances on the market, Ambre Sultan, by Serge Lutens, has herbal top notes and a drydown of amber with resins such as benzoin. This makes it a very warm fragrance, and it’s one on which I’ve received many many compliments. Great for dining, close encounters of any kind and especially winter – makes you want to pull up a mug of hot cocoa and dive right in.

* Séville à l’Aube. This Artisan Parfumeur concoction mixes top notes of fresh petitgrain with orange blossom and a drydown of beeswax that it so sexy and melting it defies belief. It also apparently includes incense and lavender, though I can’t detect it, but for me, it is the sexiest perfume I own, bar none. In fact I’ve just bought a second bottle so that I never, ever run out. Don’t wear it to the gynecologist or you might get more than you bargained for…

* Pour un Homme. Forget the idea of lavender being for a man – we don’t actually have that tradition anyway in the UK, where lavender is often thought of an an old ladies’ fragrance. Pour un Homme, probably Caron’s best-known fragrance, is a smooth, creamy mixture of lavender and vanilla. My vintage version has strong herbal top notes, but the modern version, though more linear, is still very good. A great fragrance for days when you can’t think what to wear – a bit like pulling on your favourite jeans. 

* Arpège. Lanvin’s classic fragrance is fabulous for anyone who feels Chanel No 5 is vile (which I do). This is a classy perfume that smells like red lipstick, stilettos and furs – it smells like money. Arpège has been reformulated a dozen times but try a miniature in the small black bottle and you won’t go far wrong – just a dot or two is fine, don’t go spraying it everywhere like mustard gas. Great for cocktail parties, intimidating the bank manager and cowing minions at work.  

* Incense Avignon. All perfumes by Comme des Garçons are well worth a try and this one is one that some people might say is more of a smell than a perfume. It is exactly the smell of an old, cold, stone church: the burned-out candles, the incense, the dust, the leather hassocks. What could be more Christmassy? One of the few fragrances I’ve fallen in love with at first sniff. 


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