Fall's Top Notes, New Fragrances

Too many fragrances try to please everyone at the same time and become nondescript as a result. The most interesting fragrances this season take one idea and illustrate it well. They have structures that are rooted in the past, but they are not copies -- they are very good, modern renditions of classics. Here are my favorites of the forty-one I tried. --Frederic Malle

Excerpts from a fragrance editorial, Fall's Top Notes, in Allure Magazine, October 2011 issue.

New Fall Fragrances

Green Floral-Oriental

Cartier Baiser Volé is colorful -- and much like traditional French perfume. It's reminiscent of Guerlain's classic Chamade, but much greener and more floral. It's twisted with lily and a nice hyacinth green note, which gives the fragrance modernity and makes it appropriate for the fall. It's probably the most original fragrance of all the ones...tested.

Fruity Chypre

In the '70s, a fragrance called Coriandre [by Jean Couturier] initiated a wave of scents with patchouli, rose, jasmine, and fruits. This season, there are fragrances that are reminiscent of all of that, and Diane von Furstenberg's Diane is the best. It's similar, with patchouli, but it's done in today's way; the result is cleaner, urban, and elegant. Another new fruit chypre is Elie Saab Le Parfum, which has a thick note of jasmine sambac that gives a sense of Mediterranean opulence.

Warm Iris

There is a trend toward skin fragrances right now -- things that are soothing and comfortable. Chanel No. 19 Poudré is a good example of that. It's a soft, musky iris with a bit of vanilla, and it feels cozy and initimate. It's like a current version of Guerlain's Après L'Ondée, which is one of the great fragrance masterpieces.

How to Choose a Scent

Compare it to Clothes - Just as you wouldn't wear a light dress in October, you wouldn't wear a fragrance that's extremely fresh. Likewise, as you wouldn't wear a heavy winter coat in the fall, you shouldn't go with a heavy fragrance, either. Look for something in between.

Don't Overplay the Notes - Individually, they don't mean anything. You can't just say "rose notes are for fall," because a rose can be fresh or potent. It's what perfumers do with the notes that makes a fragrance what it is.

Be Specific - The language of fragrance can sound romantic or technical, but hardly anyone understands it. When you're shopping, describe an actual thing, mood, or circumstance to the salesperson. Say, "I like the smell of gardens" or "I want a fragrance to wear to dinner with my husband." That's information [they] can really use to advise someone.

Trust Your Instincts - The most important thing is to be comfortable with the way the fragrance smells on you. The key is not to be influenced by the bottle, the brand, or the fact that something smells nice on your best friend. Really pay attention to what you like.

(Malle, Frederic. "The Fragrance Guy: Fall's Top Notes." Allure Oct. 2011: 124.)

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