Nothing is as readily associated with fragrance as spring. Even if you aren’t putting on a scent of your own, nature provides plenty of olfactory inspiration, be it in the ever-present blooming flowers, plentiful fresh fruits, or simply the desire to spend more time outdoors. Spring 2021 may come with caveats—you should keep that mask on even if you’re stopping to smell the roses—but its themes of renewal and reinvention are intact. As such, the fragrances that resonate now are those that have rich histories, channel a feeling of cheerful happiness, or diverge from the norm with unexpected ingredients or sustainable craftsmanship. Big on personality and filled with new ideas, they represent the season’s optimistic sense of promise.
19-69 Villa Nellcôte
If you’re in search of escapism, it doesn’t get much better than thoughts of a trip to Villefranche-sur-Mer on the Côte d’Azur. There above the sea, you’ll find the famous Nellcôte, the Belle Époque mansion commissioned by businessman Eugene Thomas in 1854. With its coastline views and parapets overlooking the sea, the property has inspired its inhabitants for more than a century, but 19-69’s founder, Johan Bergelin, had a specific moment in mind when creating a fragrant tribute to the property. Namely, the period from 1971 to 1973 when Keith Richards leased the property, and the Rolling Stones descended on the South of France to record portions of Exile on Main Street.
Setting up shop in the mansion’s cellar, the Stones—plus Bianca Jagger and Anita Pallenberg—brought their seventies counterculture vibe to a location steeped in tradition. It’s that mix of past and present that informed Bergelin’s Villa Nellcôte, an airy fragrance that combines discordant elements into a fresh proposition: pink pepper, magnolia, osmanthus, patchouli, and black tea all feature within the spicy citrus. Still, they’re blended so beautifully within the unisex eau de perfume that they become a wholly new concoction, and you feel transported to a groovier time and place.
Louis Vuitton On the Beach
The California-themed fragrances of Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with artist Alex Israel have always centered on the carefree aspects of life in the golden state. On the Beach, the latest, is all about a refreshing “surf’s up” sensibility embodied by its campaign star, actress and avid surfer Eiza González. With Israel’s serene gradient paintings on the bottle and a chill mix of yuzu, neroli, rosemary and pink pepper inside, the fragrance should strike a chord with cool girls and aspiring beach bums everywhere.
Bottega Veneta Parco Palladiano III
Even before temperatures began to rise, the woven leather sandals and puffy clutches Daniel Lee designs for Bottega Veneta had become ubiquitous amongst the brand’s chic admirers. Lee’s designs resonate in part due to their elegant simplicity so it makes sense that Bottega’s perfumes adhere to the same logic. The brand’s effervescent Parco Palladiano collection is all about capturing life’s simple pleasures—in the most luxurious manner possible. Pera, the third fragrance within the range, is meant to evoke a stroll through a pear orchard filled with ripening fruit. On paper, that sounds like sweetness overload, but as with all things Bottega, sophistication is vital. Pera’s lightweight blend of pear and mint makes it a refreshing experience that leans herbaceous and proves as versatile as any of Lee’s accessories.
Cultus Artem Alba
Even before you smell a fragrance from Holly Tupper’s Cultus Artem line, you’re guaranteed a unique experience. Tupper’s focus on clean beauty, natural ingredients, and recyclable packaging make her range an ethically minded option, one that harks back to old school apothecaries. Based in San Antonio, Tupper’s scents are crafted by hand in small batches. Each of the eight within the collection is beautiful, but the most seasonally appropriate of the bunch is Alba. Inspired by the magnolia, a tree whose origins trace back to Southeast Asia but has become a fixture in America’s southern states, it’s a soft white floral with hints of woods. Bulgarian rose, geranium, and mandarin serve to amplify things, but magnolia—which symbolizes purity and nobility—is the star.
Etat Libre d’ Orage She Was an Anomaly
When a fragrance gets the Billie Eilish seal of approval, you know it’s cool. Last week, when asked by her fans to share what smells she loves, the star uploaded a photo to Instagram detailing her current rotation, composed mainly of bottles from French niche house, Etat Libre d’Orange. While she featured the brand’s recycled ingredient-based I Am Trash, and the apocalypse film-focused La Fin du Monde, the scent most attuned to Eilish’s image is She Was An Anomaly, a tribute to women who deviate from the norm. The name comes from Lisa Simone’s quote talking about her mother, iconic singer and civil rights activist Nina, but it can apply to anyone who defies categorization. Fittingly, the scent by perfumer Daniela Andrier heads in an unexpected direction with green tangerine, vanilla, purses, and Amberfix, a synthetic ambergris note merging into a surreal blend that takes the idea of perfume and turns it on its head.
Carner Barcelona Tardes
The joys of a lazy afternoon are apparent to all, but Barcelona-based fragrance house Carner chose to bottle the sensation. Capturing the mood of a warm day in late spring or early summer is the idea behind the understated floral, which mixes powerful notes like Bulgarian rose, Egyptian geranium, tonka bean, and cedarwood into a subdued fragrance that is easygoing and appropriate for all occasions. Whether you’re strolling down Parque Güell or simply sitting at home with a cool drink, the scent’s calming energy comes through.
Vilhelm Parfumerie Moon Carnival
Even in the age of social distancing, spring is synonymous with romance. Love is in the air the moment plants start to bloom, and Vilhelm Parfumerie founder Jan Vilhelm’s tribute to the ultimate long-distance relationship feels fitting in 2021. Beginning with a myth about the creation of Rio Carnival, a man falls for a dancer obsessed with tuberose then proceeds to traverse the globe in search of the rarest flowers; a citywide celebration then blooms out of their courtship. Perfumer Jerome Epinette took tuberose, a note with seductive connotations, and gave it a tropical makeover. Contrasting the flower’s richness and depth with passionfruit’s tanginess and smooth vetiver for fragrance imbued with passion.
Chloé Atelier des Fleur Tuberosa 1974
Of course, there’s more than one way to tackle a note. In 1974, when Karl Lagerfeld was the creative director of Chloé, the brand launched its first scent, a creamy tuberose-heavy white floral by perfumer Betty Busse that would become one of the best-selling and most influential fragrances of the decade. The Atelier des Fleurs version is a contemporary update of the original that plays up the spiciness of its base notes, amber and benzoin.
Maison Margiela Replica Bubble Bath
If spring cleaning were to become a perfume, it would smell something like Maison Margiela’s Bubble Bath. The entire Replica line takes familiar aromas and remixes them into Margiela-style provocations; here perfumer Violaine Collas was moved by the scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts sings along to Prince’s “Kiss” while enjoying a foamy dip in the bathroom of a five-star hotel. The iconic moment led to a fragrance that is part nostalgia—you can’t smell this without thinking back to Mr. Bubble—and sophistication. Collas’s addition of coconut milk, white musk, and rose elevate a concept linked to childhood and add to the overall scent’s comforting nature.
Parfums de Marly Delina La Rosée
The explosive popularity of Parfums de Marly’s Delina means that someone you know has adopted the Turkish rose and lychee blend as their signature scent or is in the process of discovering it. While the original remains addictive, its sparkling counterpart, Delina La Rosée, adds a new verve. Fresh with a focus on peony and pear, it still has a fruity-floral quality, but one that has been tempered. If you can imagine rose petals floating through the water, you have a sense of the direction perfumer Quentin Bisch takes his audience.
Byredo Mixed Emotions
Unpredictable highs and lows have defined the past year, and Byredo’s Ben Gotham thought 2021 ought to have a fragrance that reflects that. Enter, Mixed Emotions, a perfume meant to evoke the tumultuous uncertainty that is modern life. Perfumed precariousness isn’t an easy concept to sell, but Mixed Emotions’ charm lies in its fearlessness. Opening with a bracing burst of blackcurrant, it settles down to soothing Ceylon tea and birch wood, evolving from bombastic and almost medicinal to soft and gentle over time. An accurate representation of duality, it’s sure to be unlike anything you’ve experienced before.
Hermetica Peony Pop
Don’t let the green bottle fool you; Hermeitca’s Peony Pop is as sparkling and pink as a glass of rosé, dedicated to the richly scented perennial and its positive energy. Every year visitors flock to the Luoyang Peony Festival in China’s West Henan province to get a whiff of the many fragrant gardens filled with pink, red, and white blooms. If you can’t book a ticket, a spritz of Peony Pop gives you a hint of what you’re missing. The vibrant flower takes center stage, but raspberry and osmanthus round out the notes and add an extra touch of sweetness.
Veronique Gabai Le Point G
While it’s tempting to pack up all the sexier, deeper scents until autumn rolls around, Veronique Gabai’s Le Point G challenges the notion that a spring fragrance needs to be light and unobtrusive. Gabai’s cheekily named scent is meant to build to a climax, literally. The notes are layered such that the drydown reveals new facets as time progresses, moving from a peppery rose and iris blend to a deep musk over several hours for an experience that plays out like a slow seduction.
If you believe in good luck charms and trinkets, their importance requires no explanation, but Dior’s lily-of-the-valley tribute, Lucky, is even better once you know the story behind its creation. While bringing the New Look into women’s lives and revolutionizing fashion, Christian Dior relied on tarot cards, rituals, and a habit of stitching a piece of muguet into each dress to bring the wearer good fortune. To honor the house’s founder, perfumer François Demachy envisioned the scent of the flower sewn into silk and came up with a fresh gem that captures the essence of one of the most beautiful flowers around.
Henry Rose Smyth
Michelle Pfieffer’s 100% transparent fragrance line, Henry Rose, is a prime example of sustainable perfumery done right. Cruelty-free with bottles made from recycled glass and scents devoid of parabens, sulfates, and other elements that don’t meet with the Environmental Working Group’s standards, it’s a clean living enthusiast’s dream. Still, even if you aren’t versed in the inner workings of eco-beauty, the line’s charming apple-centric scent, Smyth, would be appealing. A fresh jolt of fruit balanced with the wood’s warmth is even more satisfying than taking a bit out of a Golden Delicious.
Bond No. 9 Governors Island
Getting to Governors Island only takes a quick ferry ride, but the isle between Manhattan and Brooklyn feels like a trip to another time. As old New York as it gets, Governor’s Island is filled with historic buildings and parkland. The Bond No. 9 scent named after it captures that outdoorsy vibe. Like a walk through the forest on a clear day, it centers on woody and resinous notes like cedar, amber, and vetiver. In another perfume that would amount to a heady, hedonistic journey, but the Bond version is cool and crisp.
Floraiku Cricket Song
Ella Fitzgerald’s glass-shattering voice was the catalyst that led to Floraiku’s Cricket Song. A harmonious eau de parfum with a powdery dry down, it was inspired by the jazz legend’s songbook and its ability to induce nostalgia in listeners. Delicate yet powerful, its magnolia, vetiver, and bergamot make for a refined, if slightly vintage, scent ideal for the season’s crisp first days.
Aerin Rose de Grasse Pour Filles
If perfumery has a capital, it’s Grasse. The French prefecture is known for its flowers, including a stunning variant of Rose Centifolia that was at the heart of Aerin’s first edition of Rose de Grasse. The timeless scent released in 2015 quickly became a favorite of fashion classicists, but its 2021 revamp was designed with a younger audience in mind. Crafted to be shared between mother and a child, the new version is softer with hints of pear and orange blossom. Undeniably spring-y, it’s an ideal choice for Mother’s Day or any moment you want to celebrate femininity.
When cult-favorite fragrance house Commodity relaunched at the tail end of 2020, it brought back several of its beloved scents, among them one aptly named Nectar. The notes for perfumer Mathieu Nardin’s ripe and juicy tribute to citrus read like a cocktail mixer, its combination of pomelo, tangerine, and bergamot appealingly zesty. All that Vitamin C gets mixed with orange blossom for a white floral that is invigorating. An ideal transition scent, it will be perfect for the warm spring days that pop up towards the end of the season and remain enticing well into the summer months.