Spritz, Splash, Repeat: 7 New Scents That Capture the Feeling of Summer
Warm weather calls for fresh fragrances. Photo: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images via Getty Images
In the summer months, warm weather calls for fresh fragrances. Shelve the cloying vanilla and heavy oud until there’s fire in the hearth and the snap of fallen leaves underfoot, and reach for a scent inspired by classic eau de cologne.
Personally, I love a splash. A few years ago on the low shelf of a rural pharmacy, I discovered a dusty stash of Jean Naté. Just a glimpse of the signature yellow and black bottle evoked acute nostalgia for my childhood idea of what being a grown-up would smell like: carefree. (Another age-old scent called 4711, which has been wrapped in the same signature teal and gold since 1799, has the same effect.) But these standbys are hard to come by in Canada and the point is to lighten up your summer scent – if not with the splash of a classic eau de cologne, then with the same notes that have the same refreshing effect.
Italian perfumer Jean Marie Farina used bergamot essential oil to create the first Eau de Cologne, his storied scented water named after the German city, in 1709. That original unisex tonic was made with potato alcohol and purported to have medicinal properties to ward off disease and ailments. Those medicinal roots conjure well-being (real or imagined) since apothecary products were originally created to cure both physical diseases and emotional griefes. Rose water, for example, was a purifying remedy known both for its antiseptic qualities and prescribed “for the strengthening of the heart, and refreshing of the spirit, and likewise for all things that require a gentle cooling.” Guerlain’s lime-infused Eau de Cologne Impériale was likewise crafted to alleviate Empress Eugénie’s migraines.
According to Theresa Levitt’s Elixir: A Parisian Perfume House and the Quest for the Secret of Life, her new history of science and scent, the popularity of true Eau de Cologne peaked in early 19th-century France, when Napoleon was said to go through 60(!) bottles a month. Nowadays, established perfume and cologne brands call themselves summer scents by simply adding dashes of seasonal ingredients (like coconut or marine notes) and dressing their limited-edition bottles up in festive packaging. The term “eau de cologne” has instead come to refer to any scent category with sparkling top notes (yet still composed with base notes like blond woods or musk for tenacity). Citrus is a perennial — its effervescence has an uplifting quality that cuts the heat but can be as fleeting as a Mediterranean breeze, for the simple reason that their molecules dissipate more quickly.
Perfumers are coming up with inventive variations all the time. If I could bottle the feeling of summer, it would smell something like these seven new favourites.
L’Eau Rêvée d’Hubert by Sisley Paris
Stealth wealth French skincare brand Sisley Paris recently launched Les Eaux Rêvées, a collection of six fragrant unisex waters, each inspired by the dreams and inspirations of different generations of its glamorous founding d’Ornano family. Patriarch Hubert’s namesake is my hands-down favourite. Classic aromatic mint, patchouli and geranium notes get a twist from the the bright citrus tang of shiso leaf. Even the packaging is a work of art with handwritten names and watercolours by artist Elzbieta Radziwill, befitting the eclectic family’s reputation as art patrons and collectors,
$150 for 50ml at Holt Renfrew (Sisley-Paris.ca)
Chance Eau Fraîche by Chanel
The sparkling floral Chance range is like standing by an open window – it puts you in a good mood. Since it was first unveiled, the sparkling Eau Fraîche has been a summer go-to; after the initial peppery citrus zing, its vibrant jasmine melds with transparent woody notes. Aficionados who love the uplift of the eau de toilette will be thrilled that this new eau de parfum formulation has a longer lasting effect. (Now if only summer would last as long.)
$148 for 50ml eau de parfum at CHANEL beauty counters from Aug. 15 (chanel.com)
Un Jardin à Cythère by Hermès
The creamy radiant new addition to the historic Parisian house’s Gardens range interprets what’s best described as a gentle cooling garden breeze (from the perfumer Christine Nagel’s memorable trip to the Greek island of Kythira). It’s more of a kitchen garden – camomile, basil, oregano – or perhaps an olive grove, with hints of grassy olive oil, as though drizzled on the melting fizz of lemon pistachio gelato. It’s that rare thing: a mouthwatering and faintly nutty gourmand light enough for the hottest days.
$134 for 50ml eau de toilette at Hermès boutiques across Canada (hermes.com)
L’Eau Papier by Diptyque
Soft and delicate, the fragrance company founded in 1961 by a trio of French artists honours that heritage with a new fragrance as crisp and clean as blank paper waiting for inspiration. That translates to a delicate and abstract woody scent with airy and luminous mimosa, cereal-like sesame and rice (yes, really) on blond woods to evoke paper grain.
$169 for 50ml eau de toilette at Diptyque Yorkdale, Holt Renfrew and SSENSE (diptyqueparis.com)
Aqua Media Cologne Forte by Maison Francis Kurkdjian
Viral TikTok fame made Kurkdjian’s fortunes with his sultry Baccarat Rouge 540, a powerhouse that took off during the pandemic and became the platform’s No. 1 scent. But the perfumer’s stock in trade is an obsession with smelling clean, through variations on you-but-better sudsy shower freshness. (The posh version, of course, is owned by luxury behemoth LVMH). Forte emphatically expresses the concept with a salty metallic white musk that has cheerful hints of bergamot, verbena and fennel.
$185-$565 at Holt Renfrew, Saks and Etiket (FrancisKurkdjian.com)
M+ Ginger by Escentric Molecules
The cult following single-molecule brand is an exercise in radical minimalism but has lately been expanding its offerings in a seasonal range called M+. Each pairs the brand’s hero Iso E Super, one of the great molecules of synthetic chemistry that usually appears in perfume formulas to smooth out the edges and make it more-ish, with another single ingredient. In this simple construction, it’s teamed with peppery and cooling wet ginger stalk – a bite that’s sharply bitter-fresh.
Wanderlust is the inspiration behind Gallivant’s handcrafted unisex fragrances – perfumed escapism of global destination cities such as Abu Dhabi, Istanbul and Gdańsk. Accra purports to bottle the pulse of “Africa’s capital of cool” on the gulf of Guinea and the general energy of the region. It’s both lushly tropical (papaya and mango) and reminiscent of sunbaked climes (that’d be the dry spices, like saffron and carrot seed), while eucalyptus makes it redolent of astringent beach air. The scent of locals, not tourists.
$130 for 30ml at Etiket in Montreal (etiket.ca)