As I entered the supermarket this weekend I halted to marvel at the arrival of this season’s Christmas trees. I lingered over these aromatic wonders who looked a little trapped in their ‘easy carry’ netting, and took a deep inhalation. Not much entered my nose. I then crouched down and pushed my face into the prickly netting and tried again.. much better. I stayed for some considerable time and arose to the curious glances of my fellow shoppers and a security guard.
As a child we often had a ‘real’ Christmas tree. I wonder if it played a role in the development of my obsession with fragrance and the scents of my world? After my dad conducted some clever tinkering with something to prop it up, the tree would stand in the lounge awaiting decoration. The decorations themselves were an annual delight. I remember clearly ancient family baubles, in particular a glass teardrop dangler that shone with the same shade of purple as a Cadbury’s chocolate wrapper. It enchanted me. If you gave it a sharp twist it would spin rapidly and emit beams of otherworldly shards of light. All this magic took place within a great waft of forestry olfaction that to this day still renders me puddled with joy.
If you wish to smell tree in the absence of tree, or indeed year round, you can scent either yourself or your home. My urban flat is often transformed into forest with essentials oils of spruce or pine that I warm in a traditional aromatherapy burner.
My favourite oil is the Spruce (Tsuga Canadensis) which smells of authentic Christmas tree. Pine (Pinus Sylvestris) is harsher, with the same ‘back of the throat scrape’ that oud tends to give me. That said, mixed with patchouli or rosewood, it retains the forestry feel and lends a meditative atmosphere to my home.
Pinus Sylvestris does not really smell of what we perceive to be the pine made popular with cleaning fluids and in car air fresheners!
Two delightful (but very different) coniferous scents are Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince and Fille En Aiguilles by Serge Lutens.
The first, Enchanted forest, is the result of a collaboration between Elena Knezhevich (founder of Fragrantica) and perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour. It was inevitable that I would relish this scent as it combines two of my favourite notes with equal billing; blackcurrant and fir (in this case - pine needle absolute). There are many notes so I wont write an exhaustive list, but in the top are two extractions of blackcurrant and a bright peppery coriander and carnation combination. It is utterly effervescent, if it were possible to drink this I’d be glugging bottles of it and growing giddy on it’s fizz! In the base is a whole bunch of deep ambery/balsamic notes that thankfully are obliterated by the overwhelmingly beautiful scent of fir tree. If this scent were to only smell of blackcurrant and fir it would be an acrid concoction, tart in the extreme. Although you cannot really detect a distinct and specific base note in the dry down other than the fir, the rich accompanying notes must effect a tenderness and depth that stop this bright perfume from becoming a forest feerie and spiriting away.
Enchanted Forest does exactly what the name suggests – it’s smells of forests and enchants you. It’s very straightforward.
A much more complex composition is Serge Luten’s Fille En Aiguilles. Ranking at number 3 of my (long and unpublished!) list of most beguiling perfumes, this should really deserve a fulsome review in it’s own right. However, in the interest of the Christmas tree theme, I shall keep it brief.
Fille En Aiguilles is as dark and opulent as Enchanted Forest is luminous. It’s forest notes are pine, balsam fir and bay (this herb echoes the aromatic feel of the conifers). In addition, Fille contains potent spices, sugary dried fruits and incense adding an oriental genre vibe to what would otherwise be simply an outdoorsy aromatic wood. For me it is seasonally confusing. Whereas most fans associate the smell of Fille with winter woods, cloves pierced oranges, the Catholic church and boxes of sticky dates i.e. the stuff of Christmas, Fille journeys me to summer holidays in the pine forests of the Mediterranean where the blistering heat warms the tree sap to scent the air with aromatic sweetness. As an ‘outdoors type’, this juice elates me, it’s almost spiritual. But that’s just me. For the rest of you, this could be mulled wine drunk under the boughs of your beautiful tree or a hunt through the woods to pick holly for the hearth (if of course you live inside a Victorian Christmas Card).
Other scents of interest:
Ormonde Jayne - Ormonde Woman (a true forest and somewhat witchy scent, to read my review click here)
Parfum D’ Empire – Wazamba (a more biblical version of Fille En Aiguilles, with abundant incense and myrrh)
Pino Silvestre – Original for Men (classic fougere with intense pine)
And for the bath:
Dr Haushcka – Spruce Bath Oil (exactly like bathing in a Christmas tree, emotional rescue)
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