The power of scent

Lilac — the best!

Like some of you, perhaps, I’m obsessed with fragrance, and not a day goes by (unless an appointment in small shared spaces) without wearing perfume — currently in rotation are Terre by Hermes (winter only), L’Eau de l’Artisan by L’Artisan Parfumeur, Chanel No. 5, Prada Iris and Herbae, a spontaneous purchase this year, by L’Occitane.

So this story from Spain was perfect.

He leads “smelling tours”:

“Smell goes directly to your emotions, you are crying, you don’t know why,” Mr. Collado expounded as the others leaned in. “Smelling has a power that none of the other senses have, and I must tell you now, it is molecular, it goes to the essence of the essence.”

Our lives are filled with scents, some pleasant, some less so and they can so powerfully evoke memories.

When we married, in September 2011 in a small wooden church on an island in Toronto harbor, I was so deeply comforted by the smell of sun-warmed wood — a cherished memory of my summers at camp, where we slept in wooden cabins and all our buildings were made of wood.

Some of my favorite smells include:

jet fuel (!), motorboat gas (I think it’s the connotation of motion/travel!), cut grass, sun dried pine needles, the ocean, coffee grounds, Balkan Sobranie pipe tobacco, gardenia, lilac, the peppery scent of marigolds, the briny smell of fresh oysters, good leather — shoes or a saddle or a lovely old jacket, new books!

Jose and I have an odd scent we both love, from our childhoods — the distinctive but subtle fragrance of an olive green Spanish soap and perfume called Maja. It still comes wrapped in black tissue paper.

Created in 1921, here’s a description of it:

Top notes are Geranium, Citruses, Tobacco and Orange Blossom; middle notes are Carnation, Cloves, Nutmeg, Rose, Lavender, Leather and Jasmine; base notes are Patchouli, Cypress, Tonka Bean, Amber, Benzoin and Oakmoss.

I adored a Roger & Gallet soap with the spicy scent of carnation as well but (sob!) it seems to have been discontinued.

The night I met Jose in March 2000 he wore a delicious scent — 1881 — whose top notes also include carnation, juniper, lavender and cypress, created in 1990. He was wearing a red silk Buddhist prayer shawl (!) as a muffler and, at the end of the evening, took it off and wrapped me in it.

DONE.

Perhaps my favorite memory of scent is the week I spent alone traveling across the Balagne, the northern tip of Corsica, by mo-ped. It was July and I drove across endless fields of the low, scrubby brush known as maquis, a mix of fragrant plants — sun-warmed, their fragrance filled my nostrils. So sensual!

What are some of your favorite smells, and why?

More simple pleasures…

By Caitlin Kelly

At my Dad's house
At my Dad’s house

The smell of Jose’s cigar

A fab new watch — $11

IMG_20150608_115938965My first facial. Oooooohlala.

Having friends come for dinner, savoring hours of good food, good wine and lively conversation

We love to have dinner on our balcony, a pleasure we eagerly await all year long
We love to have dinner on our balcony, a pleasure we eagerly await all year long

The sound of wind soughing through the trees

The fragrance of sun-warmed pine needles

Birdsong to start the morning

Sunset over the Hudson river, our view

IMG_20150604_203602942_HDRA mid-afternoon nap

A birthday phone message from my best friend who lives a six-hour flight away, who I met in freshman English class a bazillion years ago

A fun pair of sunglasses, scored for $12 at a London flea market

A silly winter selfie...
A silly winter selfie…

Treating myself to lunch at Cafe Saks, at Saks Fifth Avenue, with its great view of midtown

IMG_20150606_135522501Fireflies

A bouquet of roses

Lunch under the trees at Maud’s with my co-ed softball team, friends ages 20-something to 70-something, a group that includes a former network TV producer, a retired ironworker and a few lawyers

Watching tugboats pushing huge barges along the Hudson River

Living in a town filled with beauty, even in unlikely places, like the walls of a newly-emptied store

IMG_20150227_115203336

A cocktail on the roof at Red Hat at sunset at the river’s edge

The thwack of a well-hit golf ball

Pretty earrings, a gift from Jose for my recent birthday

An X and an O, one for each ear
An X and an O, one for each ear

Butterscotch pudding — only 130 calories!

Hitting to the outfield, (ok, the edges anyway)

My crisp, citrus-y new fragrance, Oyedo, by French brand Dipthyque. The original name of Tokyo — Edo — is apt, given my love of Japanese design and ukiyo-e prints

Yuzu -- yum!
Yuzu — yum!

Setting a pretty table for guests, place cards and all

IMG_20150530_152345263_HDR

Late afternoon tea, loose leaves, made in a pot and drunk from my Moomin mug

IMG_20150603_173122437

What are some of yours?

The power of scent

By Caitlin Kelly

The first time I met my husband, the evening ended with an unusual flourish when he took off the red silk Buddhist prayer shawl he’d worn as a muffler and wrapped me in it. Its soft folds smelled of his cologne, 1881.

Done!

I love fragrance, especially those  created by L’Artisan Parfumeur, Diptyque, Creed, Joe Malone and Hermes.

I discovered this one, Escale a Portofino by Dior, in a duty-free shop. Created in 2008, it’s light and citrus-y, as are many of my favorites like this, “O’ de Lancome, launched in 1969. Delicious!

Have you ever sniffed “Diorissimo”, created in 1956? It’s like stepping into a huge field of lily of the valley and jasmine! As a teenager, I used to babysit for a woman who wore it — her home smelled so delicious as she prepared to go out for the evening.

Scent has such tremendous power.

My late stepmother, a ferocious creature, wore Caleche, a crisp number by Hermes. I’d like to wear it as well, but still consider it “hers.”

One of the craziest/sexiest beaux in my past wore Kouros. If I smell someone wearing it today, my knees still buckle a bit at the memories…

Twinings brand Earl Grey tea leaves
Twinings brand Earl Grey tea leaves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the worst days, a few smells can instantly soothe me — Earl Grey tea, fresh lilacs, pinon, the ocean, dried, sun-warmed pine needles, sweetgrass, Roger & Gallet’s carnation-scented soap, well-worn leather, Balkan Sobranie loose pipe tobacco, a clean dog or horse.

Catholics are accustomed to one of my favorite smells — that of the incense, swung vigorously from a censer, during Mass — which Episcopalians use much less frequently, often deriding its use as “smells and bells.”

Jose and I share an unlikely childhood memory of Maja soap — a favorite of his father, (a Baptist minister in New Mexico) and my mother, (a sophisticated bohemian traveling the world for years.) It was created in 1921, and is Spanish, still made by Myrurgia.

English: Display bottle by PENHALIGON'S, Londo...
English: Display bottle by PENHALIGON’S, London, UK. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wear a British scent created in 1902 for men, Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet, which Burberry designer Christopher Bailey recently named as the smell he’s been wearing since childhood. The bottle is elegant, understated, with a stiff gray grosgrain bow and a little bulbous cap.

As someone working alone at home most of the time, I can (sadly) go for days without putting on nice clothes or make-up.

But I wear scent daily.

Other favorites include Tiempe Passate and Prada Iris.

What are some of your favorite smells?

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?

Sniff! My Favorite Smells

Grasse
Grasse, France, home to many delicious smells! Image via Wikipedia

As spring sunshine slowly warms the earth, you can smell the new season. Where I live, in  a small town north of New York City, the pungent and specific odor of fresh wild onion — their thin, bright green sprigs poking up everywhere — is one I look forward to every year.

One of my most powerful scent memories, decades old now, was driving through the North Carolina night down a winding rural road when a huge, delicious whiff of wild jasmine suddenly filled the car. Yum!

Some of my favorite smells:

Good leather

Clean dog

Warm horse

Old wool

Jet fuel (I’m going somewhere!)

Woodsmoke

Balkanie Sobranie pipe tobacco, lit or unlit

Lilacs

Hyacinth

Maja soap, a classic with the most elegant black tissue paper wrapping

Oilliet-Mignardise soap by Roger & Gallet, a spicy smell of carnations. Heaven in a box!

Tiempe Passate, a super-hard-to-find perfume made by New York perfumer Antonia Bellanca

Sun-dried pine needles

1881 cologne, the 1955 classic by Nino Cerruti, the one my sweetie wore the night we met 11 years ago

Cedar

The ocean

Moist earth

A well-made gin martini

Earl Grey tea, freshly steeped (yes, it’s the bergamot)

Grasse, in the south of France, has been a center of the perfume industry for many years and has a museum of scent.

Here’s a link to a Mallorca museum with some rural smells of the past.

What are some of your favorite smells?

If You Smell Great, Come Sit By Me! The Power Of Scent

Perfume bottles II
Image by Stepheye via Flickr

If I had to choose between almost any other luxury and knowing there is a bottle of lovely perfume in my closet, scent would win. Today’s Financial Times’ magazine, whose nose-thumbingly grandiose name is “How To Spend It”, carries an interview with Serge Lutens, one of the world’s greatest “noses”, the men and women who create great perfumes. (The link, unfortunately, doesn’t include that interview for some reason.)

To those of us who spend our lives drafting behind people who smell really good on the street or subway (trying not to be scarily obvious about it, of course), Lutens is a little like Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods. A legend; here’s an interview with him.

It’s well-known that scent can weaken our knees with specific memories. Whenever I catch a whiff of Kouros, a distinctive man’s cologne from the 1980s, there’s the oooh-la-la memory of Bill, one of the ex’es in my pantheon, who chased me down the Rue de Rivoli. My sweetie caught my attention as much with his wit, kindness and humor as his signature scent, Cerruti 1881. Yum.

Have you read Luca Turin? He explains perfume, how it’s created, why it affects us and how great scents are made. Here’s an interview with him and some helpful links. Scent-lovers thumb through his guide to perfume, eager to see if their beloved has won a nod or a sneer. Check out Sniffapalooza, the place where scent obsessives hang out.

On October 21, at Barney’s in Manhattan, four perfumers, American Antonia Bellanca (creator of hard-to-find Antonia’s Flowers and Tiempe Passate, which I wear), Ben Gorham, of Byredo Parfums, Frederic Malle (Editions de Parfums) and Fabrice Penot of Le Labo will speak on a panel chaired by Elle magazine EIC Roberta Meyers and beauty director Emily Dougherty.  Talk about your all-star team. Can’t wait!