The wise men came bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh. Two millennia on from their fragrant visit, we come bearing Diptyque and Chanel perfumes.
A hefty 49 per cent of scent sales take place at this time of year. As Day draws near, I find myself longing for seasonal wonders: Caron’s Nuit de Noel, a heady amber-floral evocation of smoking church candles from 1922; Etro’s Messe de Minuit, a contemporary (1994) take on the midnight-mass theme; and a new pash, Laboratorio Olfattivo’s Sacreste, an incense blend concocted in 2018 (£110, jarrold.co.uk).
My partner and I usually escape abroad over Christmas. Wherever we roam, Terence brings a mini Diptyque Feu de Bois candle as our own portable Yule (£29 for 70g, diptyqueparis.com). Its architect was the brilliant Olivia Giacobetti, who created Hiris for Hermes and Diptyque’s figgy Philosykos.
UK-based columnist Hannah Betts provides some stocking filler fragrance favourites which will get you in the good books in the final days before Christmas (file image)
The sublimely woody Feu de Bois (1999) somehow contrives to both be robustly literal — a log fire — and conjure the primordial desire for warmth, comfort, sanctuary.
December always spells Chanel No. 5 (from £62, chanel.com), which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, yet forever young — not least at Christmas, when it is the scent via which the globe’s menfolk pay tribute to the women in their lives.
Jacques Polge, house nose between 1978 and 2015, asserted that: ‘No. 5 is the only example of a fragrance that becomes more intriguing as time passes. Each year adds to its charm, its mystery, its depth.’
He wasn’t wrong. In an age in which the shelf life of many fragrances is less than 18 months, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s first perfume is less a scent than a cultural phenomenon. Perfumer Ernest Beaux’s creation for Coco remains the best-selling fragrance in the world — a status it has held since the late 1920s.
So famous was it that, during the liberation of Paris in 1944, American soldiers lined up on the Rue Cambon to buy it for their sweethearts.
Later, it was the only thing to come