A Scent of Summer

By Rose Strang

As a life-long appreciator of perfume, I know how evocative a summer perfume can be; one little spray of a summer favourite can just about transport me to the seaside or to more exotic climes; therapy in a bottle during lockdown!

Thankfully, buying perfume during lockdown need not be a problem; there are numerous websites selling samples, decants and full bottles, so if any of the following summer classics or new releases appeal, you can log onto websites such as Les Senteurs or First in Fragrance or The Perfumed Court where you can try samples before you buy (all linked below).

I’ve enjoyed choosing and posting samples to friends and loved ones too – if they like a sample you can always then gift them a full bottle. I've compiled a list of some favourites, so hopefully you can find a new scent for yourself!

Exotic florals

Flowers such as tuberose, frangipani, jasmine, ylang and tiare are redolent of a tropical paradise and have always been among the most popular summer perfume choices for women. Songes, launched by Annick Goutal in 2005, features an abundance of exotic white florals - jasmine, ylang, tiare and frangipani – suggesting a humid, tropical holiday. Sensual and dreamy in mood, as its name (French for ‘dreams’) suggests.

If you prefer something more contemporary in mood, a little lighter, Diptyque’s Do Son features a lighter version of the notoriously heady floral, tuberose. Inspired by the scent of a coastal breeze in Vietnam, Do Son’s clean woody musks soften the fleshy-petal pungency of tuberose, making this light enough for daytime as well as evening.

Lys Mediterranee by niche perfume house Frederic Malle is on the cusp of 'crisp', especially in top notes, but it quickly develops on skin into a creamy lily with an enticing tingly note of ginger - paired with a subtle spices to enhance lily's naturally peppery aspect.

Herbal or Leafy Perfumes

A hint of green leafiness can be most refreshing on a hot day, not to mention uplifting. One of my all-time favourites, Philosykos by Diptyque is a joyous evocation of the fig tree – wood, leaves, juicy figs and all. With hints of coconut and cedar wood (somewhat reminiscent of pencil-shavings) its green quality reminds me a little of unripe bananas, or plantain perhaps. This unisex, light perfume is perfect for daytime-wear and really comes to life when worn with a muslin dress or linen shirt. Diptyque are masters of the leafy note, so I must also make mention of Eau de Lierre which features the unusual aroma of ivy and green pepper in a bouquet of light florals. Its greenness is astonishingly reminiscent of a forest setting – for me it evokes green ivy growing on a cool stone wall – very calming in hot weather.

Hermes’ Jardin series features interpretations of gardens inspired by the idea of watercolours; light, subtle and very elegant. Un Jardin en Méditerranée for example evokes an island breeze of cypress trees, fig leaf and biter citrus. Any of the Hermes Jardin series are beautiful perfumes for summertime.

Eau de Cologne-style perfumes

The ‘mother’ of all eau de cologne Originale Eau de Cologne was created in 1792 by Maurer & Wirtz for the perfume house 1411. The style is instantly recognisable; refreshing, clean, with dominant citrus notes against a backdrop of subtle herbs and florals. It’s designed to be re-applied throughout the day as a refreshing pick-me-up in hot weather and, like toilet water, doesn’t last very long. In recent decades, perfumers have aspired to the same fresh feel, but with improved longevity.

One of my favourites in this style is Knot, by Bottega Veneta. Though more predominantly floral and feminine, it has an elegant, crisp eau de cologne aspect thanks to neroli, orange blossom, lavender and citrus.

If you’re feeling flush, Creed’s Jardin d'Amalfi Royale Exclusives offers an exquisitely fresh bouquet inspired by Italy’s Amalfi coast, with its delicious citrus top notes, mandarine and juicy lemon based on the Amalfi lemons of that region. Described as unisex, the dry-down becomes (to my nose anyway) a little more masculine, with crisp lime, apple and salty green vetiver notes in dry down.

From Dior’s Cruise Collection, Escale a Portofino offers a sparer, elegantly austere take on the refreshing eau de cologne style, with cypress and petitgrain alongside orange blossom.

Arabian Oud

Originating in Arabia, oud is derived from aged tree fungus cultivated from the Agar tree. It becomes intensely woody, dry, smoky and medicinal in aroma, over time. It’s now a popular note in western perfumery. Perhaps a surprise to the nose at first, its arid, smoky quality makes sense as a cooling perfume material in summer, in the same way that the bitterness of green tea is refreshing in hot weather.

Featuring a soft oud, Guerlain’s Santal Royale by Guerlain combines rose, sandalwood, a hint of cinnamon, leather, jasmine, neroli and peach. The last three alongside sandalwood give this a softer edge than the more typical oud perfume. Very unisex and easy to wear.

In the mid-range of oudiness I’d recommend the sophisticated Oud Silk Mood by Maison Francis Kurkdjian. Dewy, rich red rose and slightly tarry oud dusted with saffron merge in perfect balance. It’s quite unisex. I think that women seeking something a little more avant garde, something to wear with a black silk Yohji Yamamoto dress maybe, would love this! It’s great on men, with its hint of smoky tires and romantic rose. Undoubtedly one of the most pleasing, Gucci’s Voice of the Snake (from their new Alchemist’s Garden series) recently won an award from the Fragrance Foundation for ‘Fragrance of the Year, Men’s Luxury Category’. Voice of the Snake is an unabashedly dark take on Oud, with a background patchouli. Patchouli that’s aged well loses its slightly hippy vibe and becomes dry, almost chocolaty. Saffron has also been added here for its lightening, gold-dust effect.

If you’re looking for the full blast of authentic oud, I recommend a visit to the website of Arabian perfume house Al Haramain; affordable, authentic and sure to offer a fascinating journey into the many facets of noble oud!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief foray into summer perfume recommendations. As mentioned, the websites below offer a wide variety of popular or hard-to-find and niche perfume samples, decants and full bottles.

First in Fragrance/Aus Liebe Zum Duft
Les Senteurs:
Surrender to Chance
The Perfumed Court