What better scent to start with than the wonderful smell of pine? It's one of the best smells on earth, in both perfume and in nature, and I can't imagine anyone actually hating the smell of pine. It's a brisk, woody and invigorating smell, and it never fails to lift my spirits.
Unfortunately there aren't a lot of pine fragrances available in the U.S., and I think that's because many people in this country associate pine oil with the smell of Pine Sol or other industrial bathroom cleaners. Even though I don't agree with that assessment, that's fine by me. I like Pine Sol.
I look at pine as having two different smells.
The first is the smell of the pine tree's needles and sap. This is a woody, sharp and resinous smell that is intense. Just crush some pine needles up in your hand, sniff them up close, and you'll know what I'm talking about.
The needles are where the essential oil of pine comes from, and is what is added to perfumes. It's a great smell, but unfortunately it's a smell that usually disappears within a few minutes. Typically, you'll smell the pine oil when you first spray the cologne on, in the cologne's top notes, and its smell is usually gone in about ten minutes. A well constructed pine fragrance will use other, longer lasting coniferous (i.e., of trees that have needles rather than leaves) woody notes like cedar, cypress or juniper to sustain that piney smell for a number of hours. I'll discuss those later in my Top Three.
The other type of pine smell is that of a pine forest. Although I love the smell of pine needles, for me the smell of pine trees in the woods, in perfume form, is even more impressive. Unlike the scent of pine sap or needles, what we're talking about here is the smell of pine as it mixes with the outdoor air. In other words, what pine smells like when you're standing a distance away from the tree, rather than having your nose pressed up against some sap on the bark of the tree, for example. It's a much airier, more transparent, warmer and less intense scent than that of pine sap.
Now on to my Top Three. I know there are a number of expensive niche fragrances that contain good pine smells, such as Blenheim Bouquet (Penhaligon's) and Eloge du Traitre (Etat Libre d'Orange), but my personal favorites happen to be bargain basement cheapies, price-wise, not scent wise. These are superb fragrances. Each can be purchased online for less than $30 US for a big 100 ml. bottle.
This old-school classic is a no-brainer, as it's often the first fragrance people think of when the word "pine" is mentioned. The bottle is shaped like a pine cone, so what do you expect?
Pino Silvestre is the best example of what I described as the smell of a pine forest. It's an aromatic fougere that uses a whole slew of green herbal notes to create what smells like a warm breeze blowing through a pine forest. It's airy and transparent, and most importantly, it smells extremely green! I've walked through a lot of pine forests, and Pino Silvestre does a better job of replicating the incredible smell of forest air than any other perfume I've ever smelled.
Interestingly, Mavive (the company that makes Pino Silvestre) on their website does not list pine as an ingredient in this fragrance. This is surprising when you consider this is a fragrance with the word "Pino" ("pine" in Italian) in its name and a pine cone-shaped bottle. However, as I said earlier, this fragrance is not the intense smell of pine needles, so in that respect it's not such a surprise.
Pino Silvestre is an incredible fragrance, and it costs almost nothing. It's one of my favorite perfumes, period. For any fan of herbal, pine or old-school Mediterranean-styled fragrances, there is no excuse not to own a bottle of this.
I give this a rating of 10 out of 10. It's that good.
Carlo Corinto Classic
This fragrance isn't generally considered to be a pine fragrance, but for me it is. I'm not going to rehash my prior review of this, except to reiterate that Carlo Corinto captures the smell of having a Christmas tree in your house, needles, sap and all. Unlike Pino Silvestre, Corinto has the smell of pine needles close up. It's classified as an oriental fragrance, but any amber or vanilla in this merely gives warmth to the bright, cheerful and crisp pine tree smell, rather than bogging it down with sweetness. While I wouldn't call it a dry fragrance, it's far from being a typical sweet syrup-fest like many oriental scents ae.
What I love about Carlo Corinto is that it manages to sustain that wonderful pine tree smell for several hours, and I suspect it does so with its skillful use of cedar and juniper. So what if technically it's not pine I'm smelling all this time? If it smells like pine and my brain thinks it's pine, then it's pine enough for me.
Agua Brava, by Antonio Puig, is legendary in Spanish and Latin cultures, and rightfully so. It's a quintessential Mediterranean fragrance - herbal, citrusy, woody and totally natural - and it happens to also be one of the best representations of pine and coniferous aromas I know of.
What's great about Agua Brava is that it captures both the smell of pine needles and the smell of a pine forest. I suspect that this is what Pino Silvestre would smell like if it contained large amounts of pine needle oil or pine sap. For me, it's the smell of Mediterranean sunshine in the woods. Everything is well balanced, with every ingredient contributing to the greater whole. The pine and herbal notes blend beautifully together to create that foresty smell, and everything is rounded off smoothly with a very light and dry dose of leather.
Like with Carlo Corinto, I suspect that cedar and other woody notes are in Agua Brava to help sustain the pine-like smell. Even so, I still think of pine trees when I wear this, and that's what counts.
Like Pino Silvestre, I also think this fragrance is fully deserving of a 10/10 rating.
So there you have it, my three favorite pine scents. Don't be scared off by their cheapo prices; I picked these three purely on merit, not to make a pitch for inexpensive perfumes. This list may change as time goes on and I try new pine fragrances, but I'll always at least love these three. If I find a new pine scent that trumps any of these, I'll be sure to let you all know!