Summer Scents

by Margaret Powling-


Today I thought I’d return to a favourite subject of mine – scent.  I have loved scent since I was a child, being taken to one of our town’s department stores by my mother, and being introduced to the scents she loved, such as Guerlain’s Mitsouko and Lanvin’s Arpege. 

Over the years I acquired my own favourites – and yes, Mitsouko is still there, but Arpege is now, sadly, a shadow of its former self.  

My ‘taste’ in scent changes with the seasons, so that in the autumn I use Hermes’ Caleche , Hermes’ 24 Faubourg and Jour d’Hermes …  However, I was wearing 24 Faubourg in the summer of 2015 when we were in Stourhead Gardens in Wiltshire …


An elderly gentleman, one of the National Trust guides, came up to me and mentioned that as I passed by he smelt the lovely floral fragrance of my scent, and what was it?  as he’d like to buy some for his wife!  The last time I had my scent remarked upon was when I used to use Worth’s Je Reviens (and still a fragrance I love.)

As the days lengthen and thoughts turn to summer, so I change my scent accordingly …


Here you will see ‘O’ de Lancôme and several other floral scents:  Rose Exquise (by Plantes & Parfums) has a very light rose fragrance, as is Rose Regenerante by Panier de Sens.  (Both of these I bought from www.frenchsoaps.co.uk)

Roses in the rose garden at RHS Rosemoor, Torrington, North Devon, UK 

What surprises me is how different all the various rose scents I have, including  Acqua di Parma’s Rose and my rose room spray and pillow mist, actually smell! 


Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet is an old favourite – this can be used by both men and women – and forever it will remind me of the many lovely visits my husband and I had to Combe House Hotel near Honiton, Devon, which until 2015 was  owned by friends of ours, Ruth and Ken Hunt.   After almost 20 years at Combe they sold their hotel and moved to Australia, and Combe House, a Grade 1 Listed Elizabethan manor house, the centrepiece of the 3500 acre Combe Estate, is now The Pig At Combe, one of the group of Pig hotels.  Our friends chose Blenheim Bouquet as their ‘house’ scent, for the toiletries of the guests’ rooms, and I will forever associate this fragrance with beautiful Combe.


My latest purchase, and which triggered today’s post,  is Quelques Fleurs L’Original by Houbigant (right, above).

However, in their book Perfumes A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez (published 2008) they are somewhat scathing about Quelques Fleurs and say:

“One has to regard with some suspicion a perfume that claims to be the ‘original’ version, much as one does those who preface a statement with ‘I’ll be honest with you.’  It was a 1912 composition, and it is pretty clear that easily half of the materials in the current version did not exist in 1912. I would be prepared to forgive everything in the name of progress if the fragrance were remotely interesting.  But it is as dull as floral can be, an olfactory dumb blond that would work well only as an air freshener.” 

I don’t know what the perfumers at Houbigant would say to that but I find it delightfully floral and sophisticated.  I sometimes think that, as with wine, a lot of remarks are made simply for effect. 

In an article some years ago in The Lady, Kate Shapland says: “1912 was a vintage year for scent. Guerlain brought out L’Heure Bleue which, as the first ever oriental, was pronounced scent of the year; Houbigant’s refined Quelques Fleurs came into being; and Caron unveiled Narcisse Noir, a scent based on daffodils and became Gloria Swanson’s signature (she had it sprayed all over the set of Sunset Boulevard before every performance.)”  Sadly, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez haven’t many kind words for Narcisse Noir, either, but as I’ve never smelt this fragrance, I cannot comment .  But I can say that I have a passion for perfume!


Margaret Powling


  1. Jo

    There’s lots of scents that you’ve mentioned that I’ve never come across before. My favourite perfume is Ysatis by Givenchy, I’ve used it since my teens and I love it just as much now as I did then. Ghost is another favourite and I tend to wear Anais Anais for every day. I agree with you about people making comments for effect, perfume is a matter of taste and it can smell different being worn by two different people.

    14 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Jo. Years ago I used Ysatis by Givenchy. Indeed, my husband uses a very old bottle of Incense by Givenchy which he bought on a busiess trip many years ago and it’s still as lovely as it was then (more than 20 years ago! Perhaps because it’s in an atomizer which doesn’t allow the air to ruin it.) I’ve never tried Ghost but I found Anias Anais just a little too sweet on my skin. At one time I remember everyone using Youth Dew and I found that cloyingly sweet, but as you say, a scent changes depending on who is using it. My scent memory goes back to the early 1950s, and of course, a lot of scents, as with many things, are no longer being produced. A shame as I remember some I would love to have today!

      14 . Mar . 2017
  2. Fifitrixiibelle

    Je Reviens was my first perfume.

    Love Tatiana by Diane Von Furstenburg.

    Winter for me, is Chanel 22. Summer is Chanel 19. For work, it’s citrus, nothing strong, just the passing of grapefruit.

    The perfume blog a kafkaesque life goes into great detail as to why today’s perfumes don’t match our memories of them. It is indeed the ingredients, more synthetic to reduce costs.

    14 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Fifitrixiibelle … I loved – and still love – Je Reviens, but I don’t know Tatiana by Diane Von Furstenburg. I also love Chanel 19 (but not had Channel 22.) I have an atomizer for that, but I don’t know whether you can still get refills for it. I must have a look at that perfume blog you mention. I also like the scents produced by the old English company, Floris, and the newer company, this year celebrating it’s 50th anniversary, Cotswold Perfumery. And Miss Dior was my first grown-up scent, bought for me by my mother the summer I was 12 years old. Happy scent memories!

      14 . Mar . 2017
  3. Eloise

    Oh my goodness………Houbigant Quelques Fleurs! It was THE perfume to wear for the group of girls that I was a part of in my late teens. We all wore it one summer and I haven’t heard it mentioned since then. How lovely to be reminded of it. My favourite summer perfume is Estée Lauder’s Pleasures (original). Which is very floral. Woods of Windsor have some lovely floral scents. I like the Redoute Rose picture – I remember having some prints years ago.

    14 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      What a coincidence, Eloise! Someone else who loved this perfume. I used to use Freesia by Woods of Windsor (I think it was Woods of Windsor). It was sent as a gift to me many years ago when I was in hospital and you’d think the memory of it, using it in hospital, would put me off but I loved it. It then went off the market and when it returned, it had been changed out of all recognition, sadly. I also loved Houbigant’s Chantilly but that seems to have been discontinued.
      We have four Redoute prints on our bedroom wall – I love them.

      14 . Mar . 2017
  4. Sarah

    I love reading your scented posts Margaret. I think I’ve said before your (exquisite) taste for scent reminds me of my mother. Last week I tried the new Bloomsbury scents made by Jo Malone and liked Blue Hyacinth the most. I must also tell you that we stayed at the Pig hotel last November on the way home from a few nights on the Cotehele estate. I thought it had the most beautiful view over the valley and the clear night sky was wonderful for star gazing. We have now stayed at four of the five Pig hotels and enjoy their unstuffy friendly atmosphere and especially appreciate their ethos for growing and raising their own food or sourcing it from within a 25 mile radius. After a few nights self-catering in a National Trust cottage it is lovely to be spoilt at the Pig. I also have four Redoute prints on my bedroom wall hung in a grid formation. Mine are of a crocus, a narcissus, a honeysuckle and a summer snowflake with a coral hesperantha and they are framed in ready-made bird’s eye maple frames bought from Heal’s 25 years ago. I enjoy reading your posts, but don’t always have time to comment. I think you have an enviable ability to live in the moment and to enjoy each day as it comes.

    16 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, Sarah, I’m delighted you stayed at the Pig at Combe! I was so worried, when I saw the new website for it, that they had thrown the baby out with the bathwater as it was so gorgeous in Ruth and Ken’s day (but I am biased as, over the years, they became friends; I was the first writer to write a piece on Combe after they took it over and my piece was published in Devon Life). I am sure it’s now in a very different style, but equally as lovely, and as you say, the view is amazing. My best experience was when we stayed there one night in late November several years ago and we woke to a landscape as if out of Narnia, for snow had fallen in the night and it totally transformed that landscape, it was just magical.
      Oh, I’d love to do self catering in a NT cottage, what a great idea! I trust you visited Cotehele? I love that small Tudor house, and also Lanhydrock?
      What a coincidence that you have four Redoute prints on your bedroom wall also in grid formation! Great minds, eh? I love it that instead of roses you have other flower paintings framed, and the birds’ eye maple frqmes from Heal’s sound wonderful, reminiscent of Art Deco.
      I’m so glad you like my posts, when readers tell me they enjoy them, it makes me feel that the time I’ve spent choosing photos and delving into bits of history (as I sometimes do) makes it worthwhile. Thank you so much for looking in.

      17 . Mar . 2017
  5. Fiona

    Your posts are always elegant and uplifting Margaret, and combined with your beautiful photography are a real treat to enjoy. I agree, you do have exquisite taste in fragrance. I love to read about my favourites old and new at fragrantica.com. I used to spend too much time there reading reviews and note listings of perfumes from the past.

    17 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Ooh, that’s a lovely thing to say, Fiona – that my posts are elegant and uplifting! Well, if I succeed in uplifting rather than depressing readers, that’s more than I could ever hope for. As for fragrances, I often have a look on fragrantica.com, such a very good fragrance website. I have just s(c)ent for a bottle of Hermes’ Le jardin sur le Nil as I had a sample phial of that and it’s lovely and citrusy for summer.

      17 . Mar . 2017
  6. Joy

    What a delight to come across a blog about such pretty and feminine things! I also love perfume… I had forgotten about Tatianna, I did like that. Now you’ve inspired me to head to the department store and select a few scents. Yes, Estee Lauder’s original ‘Pleasures’, that’s on my list. I fell in love with Chantilly as a teen, hadn’t thought about if for years.

    21 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Joy, and may I say “Welcome!” I hope to be posting again soon, perhaps even later today. I am delighted you like my blog about feminine things – I have tried, since starting my blog last August, to include all kinds of topics, things which interest me and which I hope will interest others, in other words, rather like a personal magazine – scent, soap, flowers, housekeeping, visits to historic houses, gardens, and so forth. I don’t know the two scents you mention, Tatianna or Estee Lauder’s Pleasures, but I loved Chantilly, such a soft, gentle, powdery fragrance. Please, do look in again.

      22 . Mar . 2017

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