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The Season’s Best Scents

by Abbie Kozolchyk

Candy and flowers are the top-selling tokens of affection this time of year, per Ipsos global research. But right behind them, in the number three spot on that list, is where you’ll find the love language of so many in the wellness world: scent.

Your sense of smell, after all, is the only one with direct access to your brain’s emotion and memory centers. And while aromatherapy may be the purest way to harness that power, the fast-growing field of natural perfumery is poised to become the sexiest. Granted, sexy is in the eye (or nose) of the beholder, so these Valentine’s Day picks range from foodie to floral, with every conceivable note in between.

Maison Louis Marie Antidris Cassis Eau de Parfum

The backstory to this brand is as intriguing as the fragrances themselves. The perfumer’s 18th-century ancestor—the château de Boumois-bred botanist Louis Marie Aubert du Petit Thouars—spent the French Revolution in exile among some of the Indian Ocean’s most biodiverse islands, where he collected thousands of tropical plant specimens. Upon his eventual return to France, he became a member of the vaunted Académie des Sciences and prolific author of natural history tomes.

Two centuries later, in keeping with the family calling, Marie du Petit Thouars grew up experimenting in her mother’s greenhouse before launching this botanically based, nontoxic line with her husband. And while each of the scents is beautiful in its own right, Antidris Cassis is unabashedly luscious—a fruity blend of pepper, bergamot, cassis, rose, oakmoss and tonka, among others.

Henry Rose the Playdate: Jake’s House and Flora Carnivora Eau de Parfum

Fun little coincidence: The founder of this brand got her first Oscar nomination for playing a contemporary of the aforementioned French botanist, Dangerous Liaisons’ Madame de Tourvel. But it was Michelle Pfeiffer’s real-life role as a new mom a few years later that led her to perfumery. Suddenly questioning everything she put on her skin for fear of exposing her kids to potentially harmful chemicals, she swore off scents, though not for long.

Missing perfume, she decided to formulate a nontoxic collection in concert with the Environmental Working Group and Cradle to Cradle—and Henry Rose was born. Everyone will find a favorite in the collection, but if you can’t choose just one, a new offering lets you pick pairings instead. Called Playdates, these limited-edition sets include mini versions of scents that “play” especially well together—our favorite being Jake’s House (clean and watery with honeyed neroli) and Flora Carnivora (a heady bouquet of orange flower, jasmine and tuberose, among others).

Abel Golden Neroli Eau de Parfum

Clearly, creatives of all backgrounds are drawn to natural perfumery, and Abel adds viticulture to that list. The brand’s founder—a former winemaker named Frances Shoemack—swapped one kind of magic in a bottle for another in her quest to create entirely natural perfume “without compromising on ethics or aesthetics.”

A clear success, the resulting collection tends to highlight single notes in its names (White Vetiver, Pink Iris and Green Cedar, to name a few). But the actual fragrances go well beyond their namesake naturals, perhaps none more gorgeously than Golden Neroli—a blend of bitter orange blossom, matcha, jasmin sambac, petitgrain, ylang-ylang and santal.

Sana Jardin Jaipur Chant Eau de Parfum

A longtime veteran of the nonprofit world, Amy Christiansen wanted to create a luxury line of sustainable scents that served to empower women economically—in particular, the female harvesters from a Moroccan flower-growing region who’d traditionally had only limited, seasonal work. So with the launch of Sana Jardin came not only a collection of gorgeous fragrances, but also a way to turn their organic by-products into candles and orange blossom water that the flower harvesters can sell year-round through a cooperative.

Little wonder that Moroccan jasmine stars in one of the line’s standout scents—Jaipur Chant—along with notes of tuberose, lemon, narcisse, clove leaf and musk. Designed to seduce and intoxicate, this blend unfailingly does its job, as much on the wearer as anyone else.

Vahy Tarkine Perfume

Another fascinating way in to the world of natural perfumery? Improbably, a law degree. In her capacity as a corporate attorney, Kate Macdonald was researching personal care labeling requirements and discovered that conventional perfume brands had the ability to obscure potentially toxic ingredients through ambiguous terminology. Deciding to use her newfound knowledge for good, she partnered with Anna Weatherlake, a friend with a passion for animal rights and nontoxic beauty. The widely heralded result is Vahy.

Distinctive, sexy and often earthy, the collection is full of warm, wintry scents, none more so than Tarkine, a blend of nutmeg, cedar and vanilla—among other notes that make you want to cozy up by the fire with your Valentine.

Tocca Olio Sublime Profumato, Florence

Of course, some prefer to wear their fragrance differently—skipping traditional parfums and eau de parfums in favor of scented oils. Enter Olio Sublime Profumato, Tocca’s new line of nontoxic dry oil blends (think argan, jojoba and sweet almond) in eco-conscious packaging and a range of gorgeous options.

For gardenia lovers, Florence uses the flower to hypnotic effect, with pear and bergamot costarring in the skin-softening, winter-defying blend.

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