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Scent is perhaps the most powerful mood alterer and memory retrieval system known to humankind. All it takes is a whiff of certain scents for whole realms of ones childhood to be brought back as real and fresh as if they had just happened. One sniff of the perfume my mother wore for most of my childhood takes me back to evenings in the kitchen. The light is the golden yellow of incandescent bulbs. The radio is tuned to a BBC drama. I am cuddled up in my mother’s lap, head against her heartbeat. Her big wool sweater is wrapped around both of us.
Where I live now it is frequently chilly, dark, and incredibly wet. Seattle is one big living cliche this winter. By March the whole region is down right cranky. So I’ve broken out my spring perfumes. It is spring, even if it doesn’t feel like it outside.
I’ve got three favorites this spring with a little something for everyone (unless you hate flowers, I’m sorry, in that case I cannot help you.)
The first is Penhaligon’s Ostara. I hesitate to bring this one up because it is discontinued. Bottles are still available at online shops and on eBay for reasonable prices, however.
Imagine picking a big huge bouquet of narcissus, daffodils, and hyacinth. They are drenched in dew. (Oh, let’s be honest, this is Seattle that’s rain). There’s also the smell of new fresh honey, and a hint of the wet earth. The whole thing is a heady, glorious spring bouquet that I can’t get enough of. Right now I need sunshine and cool breezes and growing things, and that describes Ostara. The flowers are incredibly realistic. Ostara is utterly enchanting, and perfect for spring. On me it wears for quite a long time, despite being an eau de toilette, a good eight hours. The dry down is creamy, and still floral. But it is woven with warm amber and supporting balsamic notes that keep the whole things from being overly fluffy or too sweet.
Penhaligon named this perfume after the ancient Celtic spring festival of the same name, Ostara. Easter’s timing and many of the spring trappings that go with it are inherited from the older rite. It is the perfect name for a perfume that so perfectly calls to mind the spring equinox.
Narcissus can be an overwhelming note if over applied and has a sharp edge to it in the beginning, so go easy with this powerful perfume. Expect to pay around $100 for bottle of this discontinued beauty.
If Ostara is a bit too powerful or sharp for you then Zoologist’s Hummingbird might be right up your alley. Hummingbird fits its name perfectly. It is light, sweet, and beautifully floral without being overwhelming in anyway. The notes are so well blended you may have trouble picking out anything specifically but the result is a fragrance that sings of spring mornings and the first sweet flowers of lilac and honeysuckle on a cool breeze. There are armfuls of other floral notes but they blend together into a singing background garden supported by honey.
The base is finished with the barest hint of whipped cream to make the whole delicious, fun, and light. This isn’t a serious perfume, and goes just as well with jeans and your most comfortable sweatshirt as it does with a fancy evening out. The only thing this doesn’t go with is melancholy. I cannot wear it without smiling, it is just too innocently sweet, too unrepentantly happy for frowns or grumpiness.
For such an incredibly delicate scent it lasts well, I get six to eight hours of wear and it lingers, occasionally reappearing in gentle wafts for hours longer. Reapplying is so much fun that I respray in the late afternoon and float into the evening on a heavenly cloud of florals. My garden outside may consist of just hardy heather right now, but my perfume is in full bloom.
Hummingbird is not cheap. The perfumer sells the bottles himself on his Etsy store or website. Full bottles are $125 for 60mL but you can also buy 11mL travel sprays for just $30. If you are an infrequent perfumer wearer, these are a perfect solution for your spring wardrobe. Large spray samples are also available. My Hummingbird sample has lasted me about 10 wearings which is fantastic for the price.
Gres Lumiere Rose
And finally a fun little number in case you don’t want to shell out that much money for perfume. I discovered this fragrance quite by accident and am rather surprised it isn’t more popular. It costs roughly $20 for a 3.4 oz (100ml) bottle. That’s right, $20. Gres’s Lumiere Rose is simple, but don’t think that doesn’t mean delightful. It is first and foremost rose but not a heavy or dated sort of rose fragrance. This is one just about anyone could wear and enjoy, it is easy and effortless, the rose supported by beautiful bright orange blossom, clean musk, and wood notes so creamy they are down right chewy.
Officially licorice is listed as a note but I don’t smell a trace of it. Lumiere Rose has a powdered sugar sort of chewiness to it that perhaps comes from that phantom licorice. It’s as if someone made rose Turkish delight, tossed it in powdered sugar and then laid it out with a bouquet of white flowers. It’s a sweet, light fragrance that is playful and easy to wear. It isn’t likely to offend anyone. I would call it safe for the office, or other environments that might be less than friendly to in-your-face fragrance. Despite a fairly large fragrance collection that includes heavy hitters like Chanel and Guerlain, I find myself coming back to Lumiere Rose.
It is simply fun, easy to wear, and like slipping into a comfortable fluffy pink sweater. This is one of those fragrances that delights me with how clearly it expresses a color. The roses in Lumiere Rose are most decidedly pink. They smell pink which makes no sense outside the world of fragrance. It’s a fun journey to say the least and a great break from the seriousness of winter and our world right now.
What are your favorite ways of marking the slow start to spring? Favorite fragrances? And just how advanced is spring where you live?