On the rocks: the trend for iced accords

27th January, 2016

Whilst fragrance brands might not necessarily be listing ‘ice’ as a note in press releases, a trend that is burgeoning in recent commercial launches is that of cold, icy, and frosty-fresh accords. The idea of heat communicated in perfumery has a longer and more established history, defined by the archetype of Dior’s 1988 Fahrenheit with its blend of desiccated violet, scorched leather, and leaden sandy vetiver. Overall, evoking a hot atmosphere is a more accessible task as there are a greater range of fragrance ingredients that display perceived characteristics associated with heat (such as smokiness, density, piquancy, carnality, humidity). It is harder for the Perfumer to render the idea of the cold as low temperature environments lower the diffusion and volatility of molecules, meaning that one’s detection threshold is raised (the amount of material required to successfully detect it), and therefore to one’s nose cold objects have less of a smell. 

Adidas Ice Dive
In many ways, the scent of the cold could be considered an anti-scent – defined by neutrality and vacancy. Serge Lutens explored this very idea with his L’Eau Collection, beginning in 2009 with L’Eau Serge Lutens, followed by L’Eau Froide and Laine de Verre, all circling around the theme of a crisp wintry cold with varying proportions of aldehydes, aqueous notes, mint, musks, and incense. These were not novel ideas – the concept of ice in both marketing and juice has gained traction since around the turn of the millennia with products as diverse as Adidas Ice Dive, Aramis Ice, Thierry Mugler’s fresh series of flankers (Ice*MenA*Men Pure Energy) and Carolina Herrera 212 Ice for Men and Women, through to the more recent Armani Code Ice and DKNY’s Delicious Delights (Cool Swirl, Fruity Rooty, and Dreamsicle). Importantly, there are now a far greater number of releases exploring cooling accents than before (whether stated or not), and these are more daring, ambitious, and varied, inspiring neologistic notes such as ‘creamy pistachio sorbet’ (DKNY Cool Swirl) rather than just mint. 

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The mechanics of cold effects in perfumery most often cannot be decoded through one or two stand-alone materials, but are constructed by sometimes surprising note combinations that serve to underline, highlight, or exacerbate different segments of the observed experience of breathing, eating, and smelling the cold. Inhaling deeply on a bitter winter’s day, it is possible to detect a plethora of eddying and contrasting olfactory indicators that make up the feeling of polar air in one’s lungs; in other words, the scent of the cold. The three most important as manipulated in contemporary fragrances are:

The bracing cold 

Declaration L'Eau (2014)
Examples: Dior Homme Cologne by Dior, Déclaration l’Eau by Cartier, Terre d’Hermès Eau Très Fraîche by Hermès

Significant notes: Grapefruit, bergamot, lemon, rosemary, geranium

Effect: All three of the above fragrances demonstrate a bracing, frosty, and icy opening that serves to highlight the sharp, monolithic, and bitter sensation of a stagnant freezing atmosphere. Whilst the citrus fruits clearly provide the pointed tang at the top of the fragrances, subtle herbal notes (especially with green accents) are the essential contributor to the bubbling, acrid, and plastic-like harshness of an ice effect.     


The dull cold 

Daisy Sorbet (2011)
Examples: B by Balenciaga, Daisy Sorbet by Marc Jacobs, Alaïa by Azzedine Alaïa 

Significant notes: Lily of the valley, violet, sweet pea, musk

Effect: The numbing effect of extremely low temperatures can create the sensation of dullness, opacity and, somewhat paradoxically, a feeling of extreme freshness in a high olfactory register, whilst at the same time your sense of smell is weighed down and heavy. It is this tension between soft mass and subtle sparkle that articulates a snow-like impression in perfumery, such as in The Different Company’s De Bachmakov, achieved through the contrast between aldehydes, bergamot, shiso, freesia, and nutmeg. Substitutions can easily be made to this type of structure with similar end results as long as an effervescent top, textured grainy floral middle, and soft musked base is retained. This is the case with all of the above examples - each conveys a snowy dullness with its own peculiarities and undulations.


The saline cold 

Paco Rabanne's Olympéa
Examples: Aqva Divina by Bulgari, Spicebomb Eau Fraîche by Viktor & Rolf, Olympea by Paco Rabanne

Significant notes: Sea salt, aquatic notes, bergamot, pink pepper, ginger

Effect: The scent of the cold is often not as mute as is assumed, but could certainly be described as muted. Whilst it might not possess the full-bodied vivacity of warmth and hot spices, it can induce an animated and dynamic sensitivity, comparable to subtle chalky spices such as white pepper and, in this case, salt. Saline highlights are very popular in commercial perfumery at the moment and, when combined with fresh aquatic notes and citruses as in the above fragrances, can vividly communicate the frigid vigour of the cold. Arguably they are in the same vein as the infamous Sécrétions Magnifiques, but are wearable and enjoyable variations on the theme. 




This trend is important because it reflects a renewed interest in freshness and allows for greater olfactory diversity than in the typical execution of eaux fraîche, providing a new context for innovation. Significantly, the colder a fragrance profile becomes, the more abstract the notes must be rendered. Cold fragrances are much less likely to be wet, rich, thick, and sweet; the much more likely they are to be dry, savoury, and spicy. Perhaps ice is the answer to sugar. 

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About the author: Eddie Bulliqi

Eddie Bulliqi is a perfume writer and aspiring perfumer, based in London, working on perfume theory, the semiotics of olfaction, and the relationship between smelling and philosophy. He read History of Art at the Courtauld Institute and is currently part of the Global Marketing department at Jo Malone London (Estée Lauder Companies).


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      • MrsDalloway | 27th January 2016 22:16

        Interesting, thanks. Iris is often and more traditionally cool too, as names of iris scents reflect: Iris Silver Mist, and Lune de Givre (frost moon) by Cloon Keen Atelier.

        On edit - and Iris de Nuit. I think it's understood the night is a cool one.

      • hednic | 27th January 2016 22:23

        Very informative and interesting.

      • faeman | 29th January 2016 11:31

        dunhill desire silver which was not long released has an oxygen aqua like cardamon accord to it.

      • EF44 | 6th February 2016 03:53

        hmmm. im already having a tough time describing scents as other than good or junk, now i have to add icy to my frag vernacular?

      • littleengine | 18th February 2016 16:35

        When I think of "icy" in a fragrance, Jade by Hans Hendley comes to mind. It links mint with a bit of anise. Yeah, it could go all mouthwash-y, but it doesn't. It is the most satisfying use of mint I think I've ever smelled. I just love it.