What Decade — Or Century — Do You Smell Like?

A Horse With No Name

A woman ran down the subway stairs past me, leaving a trail of Anais, Anais, the first fragrance created by French fashion house Cacharel.

Boom. It’s 1982. and I’m living in Paris and that’s the scent my then-beau gave me, an intense floral.

If a man trails Kouros, my knees weaken. The guy who gave me the Anais, Anais wore it. Sigh.

The night I met Jose, aka the sweetie, he wore a red silk Buddhist prayer shawl as a muffler. It was scented with his fragrance, 1881, a wonderful cologne created in 1955, “recommended for evening wear.” At the end of our first date, he took off this warm, scented silk and wrapped me up in in. Double sigh.

Eleven years later, here we are.

The cologne I love for summer was invented in 1902, Blenheim Bouquet, by English house Penhaligon. And O de Lancome, from 1969, with all the zingy bright-green optimism I recall from those years.

I often wonder what the world smelled like in 1933 or 1868 or 1743. Or 1572, as I’m currently reading a biography of Queen Elizabeth I.

Gunpowder. Leather. Sweaty horse. (Horse dung.) Coal. Fresh-cut hay. Unwashed skin. Cold, dry stone. Wool. Woodsmoke. Ordure. Blood. Freshly-cut lumber. Mud. Peat. Tallow. Tar. The ocean.

When Jose took me to Santa Fe, New Mexico, his home town, I learned several new smells: hinoki (cedar), used by the amazing local spa, Ten Thousand Waves. Sagebrush. Pinon. Chile powder.

One of my favorite smells in the world is that of sun-dried pine needles, a scent I associate with my happiest times, up north in Ontario at summer camp.

What will 2020 smell like? Or 2086?

9 thoughts on “What Decade — Or Century — Do You Smell Like?

  1. Isn’t it funny how a scent can bring you back to place and time like no other sense? I believe I read something about smell and distant memory. I love the smell of old (not musty) books and of pine needles and beach sand yet one of my favorite smells is that of an old house basement–again not musty–I can’t describe it but it’s the scent of my grandmother’s house in Irvington, NY. It brings me back to such a wonderful place.

  2. skybluepinkish

    Pears soap – bathtime when I was little (you know, so small you think you might go for a swim in the bath). Mitsouko – my first grown up perfume and still a favourite. Eau Sauvage – my first boyfriend. Sweaty horses – childhood summers. Butter melting in the pan – Shrove Tuesday and lots and lots of pancakes (in the days when we only got pancakes on Shrove Tuesday!) …. I could go on and on, but it’s all right I won’t 🙂 Lovely post thank you.

    1. Pears! It’s in our soap dish right now — our go-to facial/hand soap. It’s so gorgeous, isn’t it?
      My first grown-up perfume was Quartz…my mom gave it to me when I was 17 and in bed for a month with mono.
      MMmmmmmm. LOVE Eau Sauvage….My major beau of my 20s wore that.

      Thanks for sharing….these are so powerful. 🙂

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