Scent and its brother flavor have such an immense role in our perception of the holiday season that people actually look forward to the annual re-release of pumpkin spice lattes and peppermint mochas from Starbucks. Many a hipster could identify their unique aromas clear across the mall, and may even be willing to overlook the blatant war on Christmas that is the new minimalistic cup design for 2015 for a sip of this sacrilegious yet deliciously festive beverage (heavy cream and sarcasm intended).
So it is no wonder that for many Christmas has its own set of fragrances that bring fond memories to mind: roasting chestnuts, smoky fireplaces, cozy flannel, and all the glorious foods, of course. For others a more traditional Christmas is the smell of spicy cloves and zesty oranges, homemade fruit jams and lovingly decorated gingerbread cookies. And still for some the holidays smell of latkes, Sufganiyot, and chocolate coins – I’m looking at you, fellow Jews of the world!
Demeter Fragrance Library is a company that feeds off of these happy Yuletide memories, like the Dementors of the cosmetics world (in the best way possible!). Their fine fragrances are called pick-me-up colognes because they are exactly that; low-concentration, linear scents meant to recall specific objects or instances and in result provide metered doses of joy. In the past I have talked about a few of them, including Wet Garden ($20*), which I enjoy in the summer when I go on long walks. When I got a whole boxful of new scents to try in August, I couldn’t wait to share my top picks for the holiday season and tell you a little about what each one reminds me of. I hope that with this guide you’ll find a favorite scent that recalls joyous recollections, and maybe even form a new holiday tradition of your own.
Manhattan, December 2014. For the first time ever my entire family made the eight-hour drive south together to visit the Big Apple in winter, after falling in love with the city the previous spring. It has not yet snowed but the weather is frigid and standing in Times Square on New Year’s Eve is too farfetched even for us Canadians. Instead we visit Saks Fifth Avenue and see the festive displays, then play in FAO Schwarz on Fifth Avenue and 58th Street. We enjoy the busy crowds, the hustle-and-bustle of the underground, and the whole time I’m snapping away on my dad’s old Pentax Program Plus 35mm camera. This is what I am reminded of when I smell Demeter’s Christmas in New York, a totally bizarre yet yummy combination of chocolate and hazelnuts, spices, milk and a hint of evergreen trees. Like sitting in a coffee shop above the city and watching people go about their holiday business in comfortable relaxation. Very strong, and smells kind of like something you’d find at a candle store. It’s definitely a literal interpretation of the season.
One of the best things about Demeter scents is that they are easy to and indeed mean to be layered. Preassembled blending trios are now available in foolproof sets, but it’s just as easy to do it yourself. One of my favorite holiday traditions is lighting the Menorah’s 8 candles (one family member at a time), singing Hanukah songs (“Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, I made it out of clay…”), and eating jelly-stuffed donuts with powdered sugar (but who wouldn’t love that?!). I love recreating the intoxicating bakery smell of these treats with Raspberry Jam and Angel Food (1 to 2 ratio), a truly delectable duo that smells pretty close to the crisp sugary goodness of the original. Angel Food can also be worn on its own as a nice plain vanilla, but Raspberry Jam is a bit of an aggressive synthetic fruity scent that can be overwhelming alone.
These last two will resonate with many people, I’m sure, as they are universally comforting around the chillier months. Mulled Cider reminds me of being 10 and going to a local winter fair, drinking steaming, spicy apple cider huddled around an outdoor log fire. And Log Cabin – a dusty, musty, slightly dirty, warm and oh-so-comfortable sleepy smell – takes me back one year to spending time with someone I cared about, laughing despite the cold and enjoying the type of warmth that comes from within.
Verdict: These scents are unlike anything else on the market, because few are brave enough to throw conventionality out the window for the extreme yet extremely familiar. Each time I experience a new Demeter I am whisked away in a tornado of memories, and I am 100% positive that within their extensive lineup you will find what speaks to you on a truly intimate level. Merci beaucoup to Blair from Demeter for arranging these fragrances for me, and joyeux Noël to all!
*Prices true at time of writing.
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