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By the Fireplace – warm and smoky and undeniably seductive

According my copy of the Farmer’s Almanac, first frost is just around the corner. The days are getting shorter, and the nights are finally cool. At my house, that means the first wood fire of autumn. Like the first snowfall or the first crocus, the first fire heralds the new season.

There’s something compelling about a real wood fire in a fireplace. People are inexplicably drawn to them. Maybe it comes from prehistoric times when people gathered around a fire for warmth, for safety and for cooking. Grouped around a fire, they relaxed, bonded over food, talked and shared stories. This hasn’t changed – just watch people gather round a fireplace at Christmas.

And nothing sets a scene for seduction like a roaring fire.  Snuggling in front of the fireplace, watching the oranges and reds of the flickering flames to the sound of crackling logs, feeling its warmth, inhaling the smell. Add a platter of runny cheese and some good wine and every sense is engaged, heightened and ripe for exploration.

All to say, this is time of year for By the Fireplace by Maison Martin Margiela.

By the Fireplace is part of the Replica line, where each scent is, as it says on the package, “A reproduction of familiar scents and moments of varying location and periods.” By the Fireplace was signed by Marie Salamagne, who excels are creating fragrances that evoke a specific time and place. I would never be without her Venice, September 22nd 2007, 8:00 am Vaporetto to Lido de Venezia, or her 6 Marzo 2008, ore 11 - Piazza Duomo, Ortigia, Siracusa – Sicilia.

By the Fireplace is the scent of burning wood and chestnuts, the location is Chamonix, in the French Alps, in 1971. Chamonix is one of my favourite places in the planet. The skiing in the winter, the hiking in the summer. In summer the days are long and warm but the nights are cooled by mountain breezes. In winter the wood chalet restaurants are close and cozy, warmed by log fires often in huge stone fireplaces. Cheese fondues with bread dipped in kirsch before being dipped in the molten cheese, is shared with friends and creates a closeness and conviviality with other diners that carries on later in your own chalet.

This is the mood, the feeling, that By the Fireplace invokes.

It opens with pink pepper, which smells rosy, not spicy, and a fresh, sweet note of orange flower petals. This floral start is quickly warmed with a note of spicy, aromatic clove so the opening smells fresh and warm. As it warms on the skin, a soft, sweet, mellow chestnut accord appears. It reminds me of the marrons glacé my father-in-law so adored. Then the Gaïac wood appears with its gorgeous woody, smoky and tar-like aspects – this, for me, is a show stopper. Cade oil brings more smoke – aromatic and dark it’s the kind of smoke that swirls up through the wood in a fireplace. This is a beautiful smokiness – soft and true – that doesn’t overpower the fragrance but quietly dominates it. At the base, creamy, rich vanilla emerges. It stands up to the smoke and without it, the whole works might spontaneously combust. And wafting from the forest is the woodsy, balsamy smell of Peru Balsam, its cinnamic and vanillic facets echoing the spiciness and sweetness that came before it, while cashmeran is perfectly musky and woody.

The drydown is smoky, warm and gently sweet and packs all the seduction of a roaring blaze in a fireplace. It has all the compelling qualities of a fireplace - wearing it draws people to you.

True story. The first time I tried By the Fireplace was in a Duty Free store in Montreal. I spritzed it on my wrist, and within a nanosecond I asked a sales assistant for a bottle of it. As I was waiting, a middle-aged, quite handsome, gentleman touched my shoulder and asked “What are you wearing?” I held out the tester of By the Fireplace and said “This perfume” and spritzed a little into the air between us. Soon a woman came up to him. “What are you doing, darling?” she asked him. He spritzed her. She inhaled it, paused a moment and said “We buy this one”.

Be warned, when you wear By the Fireplace, you are wearing a weapon of mass seduction. Good thing it’s unisex.

By the Fireplace is listed in our Decant store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.