Aromatic scents breeze into spring

Aromatic scents breeze into spring

Lavender and sage, basil and bergamot, jasmine and ginger: A new crop of herb-loving scents wafts our way this season

By Adriana Ermter

Fragrances have changed dramatically over the last 150 years, but one truth remains: Aromatic scents are the universal fragrance family. “They are related to a sense of being clean and fresh, and hence, unobtrusive,” explains Barbara Herman, author of the just-released Scent & Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume (Lyons Press, 2013). “They’re not considered seductive or challenging.”

And, they’re steeped in history.

One subsection of aromatics, fougères, comes inspired by Houbigant’s 1882 classic, Fougère Royale—which was named for its fern-like smell. Generally speaking, aromatics, as the name would suggest, combine myriad herbs and spices in creating their unique characters. The easy-to-wear scents often mix notes of zesty citrus and woods as well. And as a family of fragrances, aromatics evoke a sense of reliability, stability and groundedness. “They are timeless,” says Herman. “And freshness doesn’t really go out of style.”

Clean and uplifting, the aromatics are a perennial favourite of men. Aromatic, after all, is shorthand for the invigorating quality these herbaceous, green and sometimes-spicy notes impart. 

“For aromatherapy practitioners, essential oils from aromatic plants such as juniper, rosemary, lavender and mint are used to treat depression and anxiety,” adds Herman. “So it makes sense that they’re used in a similar fashion for perfume.”

We certainly wouldn’t argue that fragrance has therapeutic, mood-boosting power.

No wonder there are many iconic aromatics still in rotation: from Givenchy’s 1959 Eau de Vetyver to Chanel’s 1955 Pour Monsieur and Dior’s 1966 Eau Sauvage. These scents boast these uplifting notes, alternately mixed with wood, ginger and jasmine—they’re also considered the olfactory definition of masculinity. Fortunately, their descendants include a growing number of unisex spritzes, along with those tailored just for women.

The current crop of aromatics offer inspiration for both sexes. CB I Hate Perfume’s Cedarwood Tea distills Himalayan and Moroccan cedars, black tea and insense; and Bond No. 9’s Union Square mixes aromatics to channel an urban experience, lush with flower markets and cement-meets-Central Park greenery in notes of green stem, white birchwood, lily of the valley, blue freesia, amber and musk.

The new Bottega Veneta release, Essence Aromatique for Women (due to hit store shelves in March), is lighter but warm and sunny, smelling delightfully like a walk through an Italian garden in the summer thanks to a top of bergamot and coriander, a rose-and-patchouli heart, and a sandalwood base. And John Varvatos Artisan Acqua for Men (also debuting next month) includes more than 15 notable aromatics according to the official press release, from herbal and floral to woody and balsamic notes. Then there’s Giorgio Armani’s Eau d’Aromes for Men, which combines herbs (sage, vetiver, cardamom) with citrus, ginger and patchouli. But we’ll have to wait for that one—it’s not due out until May.

CB I Hate Perfume Cedarwood Tea, US$100 (15 ml), www.cbihateperfume.com

Bottega Veneta Essence Aromatique EDC for Women, $100 (50 ml), at Holt Renfrew (March 2014)

John Varvatos Artisan Acqua for Men, $76 (75 ml), at Holt Renfrew, March 2014)

Giorgio Armani Eau d’Aromes for Men, $tk (50 ml), www.thebay.com

Bond No. 9 Union Square for Women, $205 (50 ml), www.bondno9.com, www.thebay.com

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Deborah Fulsang has spent the last two decades as a journalist covering news and trends in the worlds of style—in fashion and beauty, design and décor, food and entertaining. Her long-held love of fragrance led her to launch The Whale & The Rose, a destination for all things perfume-related. Now, when she indulges in a crazy-expensive bottle of fragrance, she can do so guilt-free. Well almost. It’s all in the name of research after all.