I’m big on smells (aren’t we all), and one thing I’ve had scorched into my brain by the perfume industry is that fragrance and memory are intimately bound; however, I often find that there are smells I love (or loathe) but can’t describe the specific scent.
“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. Still, when we try to describe a smell, words fail us like the fabrications they are. The physiological links between the smell and language centers of the brain are pitifully weak [...] Smell is the mute sense, the one without words. We use words in terms of other things to describe smells (e.g. floral, fruity, smoky). We tend to describe how they make us feel.” —Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses
I may not be able to perfectly describe a specific note — though I can list them in many fragrances — but I can recount memories elicited by a culmination of smells, comforting or otherwise. Years ago, Marc by Marc Jacobs Lola used to be my scent of choice; I’d spray it on everything. If I smell the eau de parfum today, a wave of images, starring a distant ex, would crash over me. Needless to say, I don’t whip out that bottle often.
But, I’m not talking about fragrance to discuss exes, lovely Winnie. I’m talking about all of those scents that evoke soothing and happy memories, whether common (cookies, lavender, bergamot, etc.) or completely odd (a mixture of cigarette smoke and liquor?).
Bergamot is a smell I’ve only recently started to love — it’s a traditionally masculine scent, and was a major component of Farina’s original Eau de Cologne. Lately, I’ve become partial to the citrusy fragrance because it reminds me of my guy, who practically secretes American Crew pomade. Trust me on this one…
This olfactive association isn’t strange because of the memory it evokes, but because Crew doesn’t include a lick of bergamot. The pomade’s tangy, masculine essence comes from ginseng extract, sage extract, quilaja saponaria bark extract and citronellol.
How in God’s name my mind links Crew’s hodgepodge of extracts with a curious, lime-looking fruit is beyond me!
Cigarettes and booze, on the other hand, is an…umm, unique…combo, even for me to rationalize. I figure, it reminds me of my grandfather who used to chain smoke in between two-finger glasses of E&J (on the rocks) when I was little — fortunately, he’s given up the chain smoking for health reasons.
Though I may not be able to find eau de alcoholic-smoker at the department store, I like to rest easy with a little bergamot-infused, nightly ritual, courtesy of my client Boots — one part hot shower, one part body wash and on part body butter = a good night’s sleep!
What scents bring you comfort? Any wonky stories about a snowball fight, which led to a dusk clambake on the beach?