Oooooh, that smells good!

The best smell!

By Caitlin Kelly

I was at the Santa Monica Airport flea market — so much fun! — at the start of the day, inside an elegantly arrayed tent full of lovely things.

“Something smells good. Is that your fragrance?” asked the vendor.

It was — one of my favorites, L’eau de l’artisan by L’Artisan Parfumeur. But (!) I couldn’t find it on their website and am now panicked.

Here’s a fun recent story from Elle magazine about four perfume collectors.

Fragrance is a huge part of my life, and one of the things I always notice and appreciate; on our first date, in March 2000, my husband Jose wore a delicious classic men’s fragrance, 1881 by Cerutti. Swoon! I love a classic perfume or fragrance, and much prefer some of the older ones — from the 50s, 60s or 70s — to what’s on offer today.

I’m careful about when and where I wear fragrance — never to medical or dental appointments or on long airplane rides; you never know who’s allergic or just sick of smelling other people all day long!

A terrific summer fragrance, super-green and citrus-y is O de Lancome –– launched in 1969.

Another is Blenheim Bouquet, launched in 1903 by the British firm Penhaligon, a man’s cologne.

And this one, Herbae, from L’Occitane.

One of the many pleasures of my California trip was the delicious scent of jasmine, which I saw and smelled everywhere, including right outside two of my rooms, growing wild.

An astonishing sense memory, from the summer of 1996, was my solo mo-ped trip around La Balagne, the northern bit of Corsica, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The low-lying brush, le maquis, is a mixture of vegetation that, when sun-warmed, threw off the most delicious scent — in my nostrils as I slowly made my way through the landscape. Heaven!

I know many people associate a specific perfume or cologne with a loved one; the very distinctive men’s cologne of the mid-80s, Kouros, is a very powerful one for me, worn by a mad beau 10 years my senior, and our passionate affair.

Funny, but Jose and I both share a childhood love of Maja, an ancient scent (1926) from a Spanish house. We often use their soap.

Do you have favorite smells, natural ones and manufactured fragrances?

38 thoughts on “Oooooh, that smells good!

  1. My wife doesn’t wear fragrance that often. She does have one that I really like, Dune by Christian Dior. It has a floral attack, understated but still sharp enough to capture my attention. This transitions into a sweet exotic spice, drawing me in without being overbearing, and ends with a light powdery finish. It’s complex, sophisticated and very, very sexy.
    I’m not even joking here. The person who figures out how to make WD-40 after shave is going to be a billionaire. Most guys think it smells great and girls like guys who know how to do things and a dab of WD sends the message.
    I also like the smell of Asian food coming out of my kitchen.
    Good post, Caitlin, I enjoyed reading and commenting. 🙂

    1. Dave Holzman

      I think a scent has to harmonize with a person’s natural scent for it to work. And although I’ve used a lot of WD-40 in my life (mostly on my bicycle) and being car crazy, I’ve never liked the smell of it. So I’m advising any entrepreneurial person reading this not to bother developing a WD-40 aftershave. But I do like very much your description of Dune’s activity.

  2. Dave Holzman

    Interesting about your husband wearing a particular scent on your first date. In my early 20s, I was in a passionless relationship with a woman. Every now and then, I would smell a fragrance on a woman that I found very compelling. I’d often ask what it was. About half the time, it was Halston. I bought my girlfriend some Halston. It didn’t do a thing to enhance my appreciation of her. With that, I concluded that to be effective, a perfume has to harmonize with the wearer’s natural scent.

    As for other scents that I have loved in my life, one was the new car smell on the ’57 Chevy. When I conjure that up, I’m back on Hollis Street, in Cambridge, there’s snow on the ground, but the sun is shining bright, and one of my parents is about to take me to nursery school.

    And then there’s the scent of the ground in Menlo Park, where we lived on Perry Lane, a two block long lane, the summer before we drove to Cambridge. I can’t conjure that scent up anymore, but it was wonderful. Perry Lane was wonderful, with the big live oak in the middle of the street, and the charming cottages, and the land snails, which I liked to squash (my word then and now) that summer, for the smell, and for the very satisfying crunch, but which I stopped squashing one day after I thought about the fact that they were alive. I never squashed them after that. Ken Kesey would come to live on Perry Lane the following summer, and he first dropped acid there, if my sources are correct.

  3. I’m not into perfumes, but I do like the smell of pumpkin. It brings back good memories and tends to put me in a better mood. I usually have some pumpkin incense for when I’m writing, and I like to bake pumpkin muffins a couple of times a year. I also love the smell of the ocean. There’s something so clean and pure about it that relaxes me. In fact, the next time I travel for a vacation, I hope it’s somewhere with a beach (but that could be a while).
    Speaking of fragrances and smells, I’ve been doing a bit of research on what mummies from Egypt smell like. Let’s just say, the answer will surprise you.

    1. Dave Holzman

      I love the smell of the ocean as well. When I lived in DC, it was always a major pleasure to fly back to Boston, get out of the airplane and be hit with the salt air. Travel to Cape Cod or coastal Maine and you can get plenty of salt air

      1. Dave Holzman

        I’m not in Rhode Island often enough to know whether you’ll get much salt air there or not. But you might, and you wouldn’t be far from Massachusetts and southern Maine.

      2. Dave Holzman

        None of King’s houses are on the coast. His summer house is in Lovell, about an hour and a half from the southern part of the coast. I didn’t know where his house was at the time I went to Bridgton, with a girlfriend who had land there where she camped, but Lovell is adjacent to Bridgton. An antique shop had something marked with King’s name, and at the time, I thought he was just trying to get more customers that way, but whatever it was, now I think the shop owner may really have been saving it for King. And King’s house was supposedly on Kezar pond. I can’t remember how I got that info, maybe from an article on King somewhere, but when we kayaked to Kezar pond I looked hard and didn’t see any people, and I don’t think I saw any houses, but I’m not sure about that.

        King’s winter house is in Bangor. I can’t remember where the other house is, but all of that info is in this article, which is well worth reading, about when King was hit by the van, and the aftermath of that.

        I’m not interested in horror, but King’s 11/22/1963, about a high school teacher who goes back in time to try to save President Kennedy, just uses a little bit of horror–well, I might add–but this is not a horror story, and it’s my favorite novel of all time. I read it three times, and then I read it again, in the latter half of November, 2016, to distract myself. King’s book on writing is also really good, and there’s zero horror in there.

      3. You could visit any of them. Anyway, if you get to Maine, I hope you get to see at least one of his houses, and maybe him! I don’t usually feel this way about authors, but I’d love to meet him.

  4. lovely sharing of the power of scent and memory. I really lean toward naturals – lemon, vanilla notes. I have a light perfume made by fresh called sugar lemon, that is just enough for me -. as for memories, my mother wore Chanel no. 5 when going out on the town with my father, so that immediately sends me back to those nights.

  5. What a fun read! I admire your love of the classic perfumes and I appreciate that you are fond of the perfumes that you wrote about. I want to smell all of them now. My favorite cologne is called Burberry Touch. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Herbae is a nice fragrance. L’Occitane has a new perfume out called Osmanthus. Very tempted to buy myself a bottle. Sadly they’ve discontinued one of my favourites (Terre d’Lumiere L’Eau).

    I know what you mean about the smell of maquis, it’s absolutely gorgeous. One of my favourite parts of travelling to the Mediterranean. Can’t wait to go back to Greece and smell it again, hopefully next year.

      1. I think a sailing trip around the Greek islands would be wonderful. When my boyfriend and I were having a late lunch one afternoon at a beach-side taverna in Agios Stefanos (picturesque village on Corfu), an older American couple sailed in on a beautiful boat, moored it then rowed to shore in a little dinghy to dine. Looked like a very nice way to spend a retirement!

  7. I’m one of the unfortunate souls whose nose starts to run and throat closes up when confined in an area with someone wearing cologne. Yet, I love to smell cologne in passing and have been known to tell a stranger “wow, you smell good” as I hurry past so as not to seem too inappropriate. I’ll never forget the smell of the Jr High and High School hallways: RL Polo, Drakkar Noir, and Aqua di Gio for the guys. For some reason, I only have vivid memories of the men’s fragrances and even the men in my life. My dad smelled of Old Spice, my grandfather owned a gas station and always smelled of motor oil and cigarette smoke, the other grandfather always smelled like coffee and something distinctive. The women however, nothing??? My grandmother always gave us Chanel No. 5 as gifts because she said it was her favorite fragrance yet I don’t associate its smell with her. 🤔 Wonder what it means???

    1. David Holzman

      From what you said, I’m understanding that your grandmother was giving you the Chanel #5, but you didn’t say anything that indicated that she was wearing it. If I’m right, there was no reason for your to associate the Chanel #5 with her. If I’m misunderstanding, please forgive me.

      1. Right. I should have put more time into my response. It wasn’t clear that I have no memory of her wearing Chanel No 5. I can’t recall a smell for her, or my other grandmother, or my mother. That’s what I was finding strange.

      2. David Holzman

        Your grandmother may remember it fondly from when she was a young woman, yet feel that it fulfilled it’s purpose back then, but hasn’t worn it since. The scents you describe for the older males in your life are connected with their habits and their work.

        I remember fondly the new car smell of the ’57 Chevy, and the memories that go with it–Mom or Dad driving me to nursery school, and the snow on the ground in Cambridge. My Honda Civic doesn’t have any particular scent, but I love the responsiveness of the engine when I hit the gas, and the taut handling.

      3. David Holzman

        I did understand that that is what you meant–no scent to go with your female forebears. Scent is powerful, but other things–the love you got–are as important, or really, much more so. And it does sound like you have a close family.

        That said, as a coffee fiend and a car nut, I enjoyed reading about your grandfathers!

    2. Love these details!

      I remember NO one in my boring Toronto high school wearing any fragrance. I used to lean over to women at university to ask what they were wearing and once discovered a great scent doing this in a Soho (NY) bar.

      My granny must (?) have worn perfume but I don’t remember it.

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