Much like fashion, the trends of perfumery are cicular and what is in favour now, is likely to be garbage tomorrow. This is the nature of trends – we overdose on the good stuff for a period of time until we get sick of it and something else comes along, and perfume is no different. Just look at the 1980s, when syrupy atom bomb florals existed to; a) be so distinct that one knew what they were smelling a mile away; and b) to terrify the masses. Of course, those scents are as on trend today as leg warmers and zoot suits are, which is to say that they’re not. Heck, one can even look at the ’90s, with its sterile repentance of calone and white musk and see how those things too, are no longer ‘in’. It all comes in to fashion, goes out and then comes back in again in a never ending cycle.
Of course, some trends stick about and the lucky ones take their place in the hall of fame as an entirely brand new genre that constantly develops without falling out of favour. Oud is one such trend – a style that has stuck around for so long now, and in so many guises, that it’s arguably the newest olfactory family. A perfumery trend that has not stood the test of time however, is green. Green was massive in the ’70s and ’80s but fell quickly out of favour. Why? Well, these perfumes have a tendency to be harsh and bossy, rubbing people up the wrong way with sharp edges. Also, as lovely as plants and grasses are, who really wants to smell like them? Exactly. But, as we’ve established, all trends make a comeback and right now we’re seeing a verdant renaissance of green scents both in mainstream and niche perfumery: the new green.
Personally, green has always been the toughest of fragrance families to get on with. There’s just something so standoffish about green scents – something so impersonal and too redolent of nature that puts me off. I admire abstraction in my scents and too often, green fragrances are either too rooted in nature or are simply too harsh. But I’m an evolved perfume sniffer, I can appreciate beauty even in those places where I feel as if I’m likely not to find it. So I’ve put together a list of six green fragrances that actually tickle my fancy. These scents also represent the modern revival of green, which all kicked off with Maison Martin Margiela’s Untitled in 2010. So, Dear Reader, you won’t find your CHANEL Nº19 here nor your Vent Vert, but you will discover six modern green fragrances that will completely destroy that old idiom that says it’s not that easy being green. In fact, for these six scents, to be such a thing is really rather marvellous.
Amazingreen was the first green scent I really ‘got’, which is no surprise because it’s neither particularly; a) amazing; nor b) green, but hey ho. Amazingreen presents a very different idea of green, one that is entirely palatable and almost stealthy, luring one in to a hidden world of emerald beauty – a stepping stone to the green delights within. So Amazingreen is a good place to start on our little exploration of this green revival, because it’s the perfect entry-level green scent.
The greenery that Amazingreen evokes is sweet and dewy tropical vegetation. Sniffing it, one feels as if they are walking through a rainforest, but there’s an urban, concrete-like facet to it that places that forest on a city sidewalk. Amazingreen is gigantic palm leaves filled with rain water but it’s also dry grasses growing between the cracks in the pavement. It’s a contrasting, contradicting scent that never feels overwhelming, or overtly green for that matter. Amazingreen is a green ninja. It’ll sneak up on you and before you know it, you want more – more Amazingreen and more green.
CHANEL Nº19 is as much a bastion of the world of green as it is a totem of the house of CHANEL. It is green at its greenest and CHANEL at its most CHANEL, capturing the acerbic and determined spirit of Coco Chanel perfectly. The problem with Nº19 is that, whilst beautiful, it’s a difficult perfume that comes across as cold, aloof and hard-faced. In today’s market such angular beauty is a tough sell (although I’m sure Nº19 sells very well) especially when executed in the big hair, power dressing style of the 1970s.
Nº19 Poudré is a wonderfully updated interpretation of the iconic original that presents a softer side of Nº19 as well as a softer side of green. Orris (iris) is the key here and Poudré makes good use of the earthy, powdery nature of the note, pairing it with the mossy, grassy and let’s face it, the more than a little bit arsey galbanum (girl’s got attitude, that’s all I’m saying). The iris softens Nº19’s haughty green air like a layer of talcum powder, whilst an airy breeze of silk-like musks add a modern touch. Nº19 Poudré is a snuggly green fragrance with all the class and luxury of CHANEL, which makes it pretty damn lovely to sniff, I must say!
Tom Ford knows a trend when he sees it and he also loves a touch of the retro in all that he does. It’s no surprise then, that last year he launched a capsule collection of green fragrances within his niche Private Blend line. All four scents within the collection (Vert des Bois, Vert de Fleur, Vert d’Encens & Vert Boheme) renewed the tired idea of green, hinting at vintage styles but bringing them firmly up to date thanks to the help of fancy aromachemicals and a fastidious eye (or nose, that should be).
The most notable scent in Tom Ford’s Les Extraits Vert collection is the dark, brooding Vert des Bois, which pairs spiky greenery, with smoke, woods and moss to create an intriguing, yet dangerous green affair, which feels as if it’s been fastidiously cut like a bespoke suit. In an instagram post I described Vert des Bois as follows; “Vert des Bois is like a woodland fantasy: it’s damp moss, crunchy leaves and wood smoke, accompanied by a dark stranger lurking with unknown intentions”, which I thought was a really good description until I realised that I’d inadvertently described ‘Eau de Dogging’. Whatever floats your boat, I guess, and in Vert des Bois’ defence, he’s sartorially sexy so all is forgiven.
Do you like to dress ironically and listen to bands nobody else has heard of? Do you like your coffee served with an artisanal illustration in the foam? Have you found yourself strutting about town with a vintage polaroid camera around your neck? If so, you’re a hipster and you need to sort your life out. Also, I’ve found a green fragrance that would be right up your street, especially seeing as it takes its inspiration from the world of photography. I know, it would be perfect for your instagram feed, right? #Blessed.
All hipster-bashing jokes aside, Olfactive Studio is a fantastic brand that marries the idea of visual art, specifically photography, with the odorous art of olfaction, and it executes the concept perfectly. Panorama, their greenest scent, is inspired by Miguel Sandinha’s photograph of the legendary Sheats Goldstein house in Los Angeles, California and it uses some rather unusual green notes to create the feeling of modernity and expanse. The most notable note (heh) is wasabi, which here adds a waxy sourness that is weird but wonderful. Paired with the mouthwatering tones of lemon and fig leaves, it all smells like the juiciest, most tropical plant on the planet. It also smells like green cling film, which is pretty cool. Panorama is my favourite green fragrance of all-time, which is quite something coming from somebody who hates green fragrances. How about that for an endorsement?
Jo Malone London know a thing or two about green. Just last year in fact, they launched the delightful Basil & Neroli, which was a stunningly juicy blend of orange blossom and green leaves. But tis not that scent I wish to shine a light on today, no, that honour falls upon the wonderful Blue Hyacinth from their new and limited edition Bloomsbury Set collection. Yes, that’s right, I said ‘blue’ in a post all about ‘green’, don’t say I’m not a renegade, y’all. Inspired by the wonderfully artsy-farsty types of the Bloomsbury Group, you know, the likes of Virgina Woolf and E.M. Forster, etc. this scent is a wonderful green scene of throwback beauty.
Forget ‘blue’ because Blue Hyacinth is GUH-REEN, at least to my nose anyway. When I first sniffed this scent I couldn’t help but smile. It made me think of one of my mother’s favourite perfumes: Ralph Lauren’s Safari, which is a green mossy chypre with oodles of class. Blue Hyacinth paints a watercolour of a gorgeous woman dressed head to toe in cerulean green. She’s an artsy type but she knows how to dress and the aldehydic trail of her floral perfume, which boasts creamy white petals and spiky green stems a plenty is her calling card.
I’ve saved Fathom V by Beaufort London for last, because it’s by far the most innovative and challenging example of the modern revival of the green genre. Beaufort London certainly haven’t held back with their compositions, offering up scents that catapult the senses to new and exciting places, providing many an olfactory challenge on the journey. It’s true that you never know what to expect when sniffing a Beaufort London scent; you may recoil in horror , or your may fall madly in love, what’s guaranteed is that you’ll never be bored.
Fathom V is the greenest scent on this list. It is in fact, olfactory chlorophyll. At once it smells like a florist’s fridge filled to the brim with luminous, verdant stems and leaves, but also like murky green sea waters at the same time. It has a smoky, mineral facet to it that evokes gunpowder and barnacles, placing one’s mind straight at the bow of a decaying pirate ship in ancient waters. Fathom V is a tremendous piece of work that is unapologetically green but is also evocative of the ocean in an entirely unique way. You’ll either be fascinated by it or frightened, but I know that you’re going to want to sniff it either way.
Join the Discussion!
What are your favourite green fragrances, both classic and modern? Let me know in the comments box below!
Samples via; CHANEL, Olfactive Studio, Tom Ford, Jo Malone London & Beaufort London. Images are my own.