For decades, I was turned off by nutty fragrances. Nuttiness is such a trademark of the gourmand fragrance family – all vanilla, chocolate and nut-brittle that make you whiff of Ferrero Rocher – that those of us resolutely outside of it can feel robbed of its wider potential. It wasn’t until I first sniffed Frédéric Malle’s exquisite almond-milky L’Eau d’Hiver (now one of my favourite and most worn perfumes; £79 for 30ml) that I truly appreciated how quiet, tasteful and clean nutty aromas could be. Take Guerlain’s Après L’Ondée (£79.20, 100ml), for example. The original (and to many minds, the best) of the nutties, it’s as far from that “mechanically frosted cupcake” genre of modern gourmand as one could imagine. Light and powdery, like wet blooms dusted in ground almonds, it’s far too elegant and restrained to clash with pudding course, and feels clippy enough for a professional setting.
“Nutty” is just an overall impression, of course – it doesn’t mean a perfumer has been within miles of the real thing. In fact, what you may assume is almond is often the heliotrope plant or its synthetic counterpart, heliotropin, both of which have a tendency to smell like marzipan. It’s deployed to great effect in Dior’s quietly filthy Hypnotic Poison. (I know many of you will stop reading here because Poison – understandably but mistakenly, in my view – is so widely disliked. But I promise that this variant, £48 for 30ml, does its own thing.) Stronger, spicier, blowsier than those above, it has a sort of soft, boozy but uncloying creaminess that feels sexier for party season. It gets even better by the hour.
For the more modest but unfeasibly rich is Heeley’s L’Amandière, (£170, 50ml), a truly beautiful women’s scent smelling of green almonds, sappy white flowers and dew-drenched moss. It has not a hint of sweetness and is admired whenever I (frequently) wear it.
If you actively like a little sugar but still find most gourmands too sticky for comfort, it may be wise to choose one created for men, where metaphorical calories are cut. I expected to hate Paco Rabanne’s 1 Million Lucky (£48.50, 50ml), mainly because of its name and packaging, but I’m glad I persevered because it’s quite lovely. Like a tall coffee with hazelnut syrup and honey, it just about knows when to stop pouring. Have a wonderful Christmas.
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