BY Vicci Bentley | issue 14
The heat wave came early this year, with some truly stifling, energy-melting days. When the weather’s as close as this, and the journey to work becomes leaden hell, the last thing we want hovering in the airlessness is a heavy, cloying perfume. We need to lighten up – and nothing hits the spot like bracingly fresh cologne spritzed straight from the fridge.
Colognes of course, were the original pick-me-up perfumes, designed to energise the body and sharpen the mind. The original recipe was imported into Germany (hence ‘Eau de Cologne’) by Italian émigré Giovanni Maria Farina in the early (18 century and has remained the backbone for energizing eaux ever since. (Roger & Gallet’s Jean Marie Farina Extra Vieille Cologne is a modern version of Giovanni’s great-great nephew’s from 1806).
Colognes were the original pick-me-up perfumes
Back in the early days, colognes were rubbed vigorously onto aching muscles, dabbed onto migrainous temples and even sipped (a little stiffener to ward off bad breath and the plague) such was the invigorating reputation of their ingredients.
Rosemary, bergamot and lavender gave them a relaxing, albeit antiseptic herbiness, but the real mood breakers were the citrus notes. Numerous modern studies have confirmed that the scent of lemon lifts depression and sharpens concentration: perhaps not surprisingly, volunteers for ‘Mood Mapping’ studies conducted by molecule makers International Flavours & Fragrances (IFF) overwhelmingly rated citrus scents as happy and stimulating.
The problem is, citrus molecules are highly volatile – in hot weather they evaporate even faster. Modern colognes have overcome this by upping the perfume oil to alcohol ratio from around 5% to 20% and even higher, to keep that zesty-fresh feeling alive for longer.
The scent of lemon lifts depression and sharpens concentration.
And there’s another trick in the box. Neroli, the spicy, floral bitter orange oil that’s been a star in colognes from the start, now assumes diva status in today’s ‘blue sky’ eaux fraîches – the spray and spray-again favourites that can’t help but remind us of the sun-spangled Med long after the fake tan’s faded. This uniquely beautiful ingredient manages to be uplifting, profoundly relaxing and, say aromatherapists, even a banisher of grief. Prozac in a bottle? Here’s what I reach for to put a spring in my step…
Eau de Guerlain, £68
Not a lot of people know about this one, but it’s been around since 1974 and it’s one of my old, old favourites. Provençal herbs, lemon, bergamot and verbena make a beautifully fresh, yet soothing combination. But it’s the hint of mintiness that clinches it for me.
Lola James Harpur, Little By Little With Joy 25, from £59
If the name alone doesn’t do it, the explosion of orange blossom will. ‘It’s about family, childhood, simplicity and lightness. Taking small steps in life…’ says the press blurb. Olfactory self-help, say I
Sisley Eau de Campagne, from £65
This is one to drench yourself in! Grassy, sappy and dewy-cool, this was the first time the tangy tomato leaf note that makes it so compulsive was used in perfumery. Formulated by the legendary Jean-Claude Ellena in 1974 (evidently a very good year!) it more than deserves its place on my classics shelf.
Christian Dior Collection Privée, Granville, £290
For a while, I swear I was addicted to this grand master of fresh, aromatic blue sky scents. Definitely a go-to on sluggishly down days, François Demachy’s evocation of sea breeze gusting through the pines of Dior’s childhood Normandy home should blow the cobwebs away. The price might give you a jolt, but it’s worth every last drop…
Atelier Cologne Cologne Absolue, Bergamote Soleil, £110
The sharp, almost limey bergamot settles to a skin-friendly, velvety vetiver and oakmoss base. Jasmine and orange blossom give this green, super-strength cologne a creamy, sweet little kick.
L’Artisan Parfumeur, Histoire d’Orangers, £118
Brand new this summer and bursting with orange blossom, neroli and white tea, this smooth, cool refresher is inspired by Moroccan sunsets. It’s that ‘something long and chilled’ relief that comes at the end of scorchio day…
Vicci Bentley is a self-confessed scent addict who regularly contibutes perfume features to FT How To Spend It and is a 5 times Jasmine Award Winner.
You can find her on Instagram as @craftycrone