Photo Credit: Creative Commons / Vetiver Aromatics

GEMs Of Beauty:
The Best Of Summer Fragrances


A friend of mine once looked at the puddle of goo leaking out from a trashcan on a sweltering New York day, and said, “Yuck. Garbage juice.” I think of him saying that when I have to take the NYC subway after it’s been really hot for a while, when the air is just rank–and many of passengers aren’t much better. That’s when knowing you can burrow your head in the crook of your arm, where you applied your intoxicatingly lovely new summer fragrance, can save the day. Try one of these:


1. Hermes Le Jardin De Monsieur Li


Deceptively simple, this gorgeously complicated fragrance is, alas, the last to be concocted by Hermes’ brilliant nose, Jean-Claude Ellena. Imagining the perfect Chinese garden of his dreams led him to create a mix of citrus, jasmine, kumquat, musk, and almost watery woods. Inhaling this is the antidote for any miserably stinky heat-drenched day.

Buy it for $135 at niemanmarcus.com

2. Annick Goutal L’Ile Au Thé


A trip to Jeju Island off the coast of South Korea inspired the perfumers to create blend of mandarin, green tea, the white osmanthus flower, and white musk. The top notes is intensely citrus, which almost immediately dries down to the tea and osmanthus (which has an apricot tinge). It’s light, subtle, and utterly delicious. Don’t be surprised if the man in your life wants to wear it, too.

Buy it for $149 at saksfifthavenue.com

3. Terry De Gunzburg Terryfic Oud Extreme


On the opposite end of the scent spectrum is this astonishing Extrait de Parfum by Terry de Gunzburg. Oud is a highly spiced aromatic resin made deep inside a tropical agar tree. Perfumes made with it have a distinctive smoky, almost incense-y feel—as if you’re surrounded by a fire overlaid with a spicy tinge—and this one has notes of leather, rose, patchouli, and oud. If you choose it, be warned. It is not for anyone who likes simple florals or delicate scents. It’s intense.

Buy it for $495 at barneys.com

4. La Parfumerie Moderne No Sport


The genius nose of La Parfumerie Moderne, Philippe Neirinck, has concocted three amazing unisex perfumes: Désarmant (lilac scent with spices, rose, and vanilla), the spicy, leathery Cuir, and No Sport (green notes, patchouli, vetiver, and sandalwood). All of them are extremely sophisticated—what you’d wear on date night or to impress a new fashionista client. No Sport gets the top spot if only for its hilarious name, based Winston Churchill’s maxim that “No sports, just whiskey and cigars” is all you need if you want to live a long life. He ought to know.

Buy each for $220 at barney.com

5. Elisire Ambre Nomade, Poudre Desir, Jasmin Paradis, Elixir Absolu,
and Eau Papaguena


Another great nose is Franck Salzwedel, who is as adept as a painter as he is with painting evocative images with the five fragrances in this line. (I already loved him because he worked on Viktor + Rolf’s yummy Flowerbomb.) These are for serious scent junkies, and they’re all very, very different. It’s deliriously tough to decide between Ambre Nomade (spicy amber), Poudre Desir (iris, white flowers, musk), Jasmin Paradis (jasmine tinged with bergamot), Elixir Absolu (rose, jasmine, tiara, citrus), and Eau Papaguena, which I think if the most summery with its blend of green notes, citrus, and orange blossom.

Buy each for $325 at elisire.com

6. 0.2 Eau De Parfum


If your taste runs toward the fresh, you’ll love this vibrant perfume by nose Holly Riddel. With top notes of bergamot and spearmint, and a base of amber and oak moss, it’s an ideal unisex fragrance that will transport you to a minty forest as soon as you smell it.

Buy it for $40-$120 at 0point2.com

7. Tocca Isabel


Those of you who adore delicious florals with a hint of sweetness, fear not—I haven’t forgotten you! I think you’ll love Tocca’s Isabel, with its citrus and pear top notes, a rose middle, and an amber and vanilla base. It’s perfect for a garden party.

Buy it for $68 at tocca.com

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Fragrance taste is completely inimitable, and what you love might make others wrinkle their noses (their loss!)—and it might smell completely different on them, too. Remember that you should never buy a perfume on first sniff, as it take at least 20 minutes and often longer for the base to fully develop. A truly fine perfume will have a distinct top (what you first smell), a defined middle (appears within a few minutes), and a wholly different base. I’ve tested some perfumes that had amazingly delicious top notes, but soon became unbearable. Don’t let pushy salespeople try to entice you into an instant purchase. Take your time — and have fun sniffing around!