Scent is one of the most unique aspects of beauty. It’s evocative, personal, creative, and has more range than any other beauty product. Which also makes it one of the hardest to write about, so bear with me here.
As the seasons change, great opportunities to switch up your beauty routine present themselves. While there’s a practical aspect to this (i.e. you need more moisture as the temperature drops), the more exciting side of seasonal switch-ups comes in the form of fragrance. When winter starts to roll around, you no longer want a light, bright, summery scent. There’s something cozier in order, and for that, I have an array of excellent recommendations for you.
My first suggestion is the most overtly wintery fragrance out there: Marigela’s By The Fireplace. I mean, c’mon—the clue is in the name. It smells so cozy: a blend of sweet toasted marshmallow and smoky, burning wood. It also has some of the best lasting power I’ve found in a fragrance. This is a great “staying home” fragrance.
On a similar, though less edible, vibe is Diptyque’s Eau Duelle. It definitely has a vanilla note, but also offers a slightly incense-y, perfume-like aroma. Like a delicious, sexy church, if you will.
Speaking of sexy churches, Comme des Garcons makes an amazing collection of religion-based wood fragrances. Sounds weird (although, quite frankly, what do you expect from CdG?), smells incredible. The best two are Incense Kyoto and Incense Avignon, based on Shintoism and Catholicism, respectively. Both are truly fantastic options if you like a wood-based scent. The former is more fresh, the latter more smoky—but both are undeniably warm, cozy, and wintery.
A classic when it comes to cold weather fragrances is Chanel No. 5. It’s kind of vintage-smelling, but in a really, really good way. If you want to smell like a femme fatale in an old movie, or a super-cool grandma who has the best and most outrageous stories, this is the one for you. It’s undeniably classy, but somehow never boring.
It’s also expensive, and if that price tag is simply out of your budget, I point you in the direction of Coty’s L’Aimant. Coming from a brand which is so markedly uncool, this fragrance is shockingly lovely. It has the same vibe as Chanel No. 5 without trying too hard to be a dupe, giving you that sense of sophistication, even if your bank balance begs to differ.
I’m also extremely partial to a winter musk. There’s something both icy and cozy about a musky note—like snuggling under a furry blanket while riding in a sleigh. The best musk out there is Serge Lutens Clair de Musc. Where traditional musks can stray into “dirty animal” territory (seriously—look it up!), this remains light and sparkly. The quality, like with any Serge Lutens fragrance, is second to none.
It’s definitely a treat though, so if you want a similar vibe, I absolutely love Jovan White Musk. It’s a very simple scent, but for the price it most certainly gets the job done. And when that job is smelling nice, it’s kind of important to do it right.
If you like the idea of musk but find the scents a little too sharp or harsh, then you may wish to consider Glossier’s You. It has a hint of musk, but is also sweet and creamy. It’s surprisingly subtle, and has a strangely metamorphic quality, giving each person a unique (but delightful) custom scent.
Another fragrance which smells different on everyone is Escentric Molecule’s Molecule 01. There’s a science to this scent which I’m not going to pretend to understand—but essentially, it’s designed to combine with your own scent-producing pheromones to make everybody who smells you fall in love with you. Does it work? I mean, no. But it does smell seriously, moan-inducingly, annoyingly, and indescribably good.
Sometimes wintery scents can veer too far into cloying territory, so for those who prefer a sharper, fresher fragrance yet still want something appropriate to the cold weather, I’m here for you, too. Clean Sel Santal is a fantastic choice—it has a slightly sour, cucumber-y note which is honestly mouth-watering. If you like Le Labo Santal 33, you’ll love this slightly more wearable sandalwood scent.
Across the board I love perfume brand Commodity, and they have some excellent fresh-but-wintery options, too. My top two picks are Wool and Bois. Wool is sweeter and softer, while Bois is a little sharper, but both offer a light and non-gourmand take on a winter perfume. I also find the longevity Commodity’s products to be distinctly above average.
However, if you do favor a scent that’s good enough to eat, I have some truly delicious options. My top pick is the new Tom Ford offering, Lost Cherry. It has a candy-ish vibe thanks to the sweet and juicy cherry, but this slightly teenage vibe is countered by a smoky, dangerous base note. Cherries on fire, shall we say?
Unfortunately, like all Tom Ford fragrances, it costs basically a million dollars ($320). If you want to approximate this cherry vibe, a great option is Cacharel’s Yes I Am. It’s very sweet and fruity, but with a creamy, slightly smoky base. The bottle of this option is also one of the best I’ve ever seen—a retro, plastic lipstick lookalike.
A classic gourmand suitable for year-round wear (but most delicious in cold weather) is the original Lavanila Laboratories Pure Vanilla. I don’t really need to explain this, except to say if you like to smell sweet and delicious, look no further. One of the best vanilla fragrances on the market, and, not to show off, but I consider myself a connoisseur.
My final recommendation is a little offbeat, but hear me out. Imaginary Authors is an independent brand which make scents inspired by works of literature, combining two of my greatest loves. They make a graphic novel-inspired scent called A City On Fire, and it offers the best “recently burned match” scent of your wildest dreams. While I don’t tend to wear it alone (it’s a little too on-the-nose in terms of a fire fragrance) it’s absolutely perfect to layer up with sweeter fragrances to add a wintery twist. Combine with any gourmand to add a hint of sexy danger.