Pass the pepper | new perfume notes | sizzling summer scents |

Sexy and glamorous. Red carpet ready. Did someone say 'rescue fantasy'?

Why pepper, lily and Cognac are on the wishlist of perfume connoisseurs

This summer, luxury perfumers are drawing inspiration from the Silk Road, warm sun on citrus, 1980s pop culture, ancient opulence, heady islands like Madagascar and Sicily, and warm, after-dinner ambience.

Among the new season’s surprising A-list invitees are pepper, lily, Cognac, and that aromatic anchor, tonka bean.

But, first, pass the pepper…

The rare Madagascan pepper, voatsiperifery

Pepper adds an instant brightness to perfume. Those who love Yves Saint Laurent Opium, Commes des Garçon Black Pepper, and Moschino Couture will know this!

Malagasy, by Miller et Bertaux, has a pepper that really lets its hair down. The perfume’s underpinning is voatsiperifery, a wild pepper that grows in the tropical forests of Madagascar.

It’s a pepper typical of “the Red Island” (Madagascar is the former French colony located off the south-east coast of Africa), sweeter than black pepper in taste, its scent fruity, woody and intense.

It can be black, red, or white, depending how ripe it is. Pepper’s accomplices in Malagasy are bergamot, cedar, patchouli, nutmeg and cloves.

Matsukita, from Clive Christian’s new Crown Collection, is inspired by an elegant Japanese princess who turned up at Queen Victoria’s court. It was first launched in 1892, when aristocracy, politicians, artists and actors couldn’t get enough of Clive Christian.

This recreation is a woody chypre boasting 252 ingredients, whose top notes include pink pepper and black pepper layered over a Chinese imperial jasmine and mate tea then sensual oils and woods.

Blue Gin, from Mizensir Parfums, does indeed smell like a gin cocktail, with a mandarin infusion, but has at its heart Sichuan pepper essence and juniper berry.

Fresh and fragrant, spiced up with Sichuan pepper

Trvdon had fun with pepper in three of the house’s inaugural releases a while back. Bruna and Mortel both include top notes of black pepper, while Olim has mid notes of pink peppercorn and cloves.

Lust for lilies

Lilies have been used in perfume for centuries. One perfumed Egyptian ointment was said to be based on 2000 of them. The ancient Greeks used Madonna lilies to make a perfume called Susinon (aka 1000 Lilies).

This summer, everyone wants Lily – Madonna lily, Casablanca lily, Oriental lily, lily of the valley – on their dance card. Joining the roll call of lily-inspired luminaries such as Diorissimo, Anaïs Anaïs,  Cartier’s Baiser Volé and the fragrance India Hicks delivered for Crabtree & Evelyn, Island Living Spider Lily, is Lys Sølaberg, from Maison Crivelli.

Representing the new lust for lily

Lys Sølaberg has been created by perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer to evoke “lilies during a night hike on a fjord”. While that’s not something in our skill set, we can confirm that at its heart is a pearlescent smoky lily wrapped in a gossamer floral cloak; a peaty, mossy undertow glows with spice and amber.

Other playful interpretations of lily are the bubble gum notes in Lily Fantasy from Juliette Has A Gun.

In a nod to the evocative embrace of Cognac comes a wider availability of Amouage’s Overture Man which works a room trailing smouldering Cognac, frankincense, and sensual iris.

Overture Man is tapping into the current lockdown lust for Cognac notes, evidenced by the popularity of By Kilian Angels’ Share, Byredo Slow Dance, Tom Ford Bitter Peach and Roja Dove Enigma.

Tonka bean is also having a moment. It is popular in men’s fragrances because of its tobacco undertones, which sit well with the Christmas cake comfort of almond, cinnamon and cloves.

Tonka bean turns up in Trudon’s Aphélie, the ingénue interweaving green ivy with rose essence over blackcurrant and moss. The exquisite other-worldly pastel and watercolour artwork for the campaign (our featured opener shot) is by Paris-based artist, Bastien Coulon.

Tonka bean is there, too, in BDK’s Velvet Tonka, and Mizensir’s Blue Gin. Symrise perfumer Alexandra Carlin is a tonka bean tragic. “The tonka bean absolut from Brazil is for me an emblematic material in perfumery. It enriches the perfumer’s palette with its warm and sensual almond notes.”

Already on the radar for tonka bean aficionados are Le Labo Tonka 25, Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka, Salvatore Ferragamo Uomo, and Bottega Veneta Knot.


Malagasy, $199 for 100mls EDP; Matsukita, $598 for 50mls EDP; Blue Gin, $299 for 100mls EDP; Lys Sølaberg, $200 for 100 mls EDP; Aphélie, $299 for 100mls, EDP; Overture Man, $459 for 100mls EDP. For information on stockists:



Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab.

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