It’s really heating up here in the Kingdom of the United. Friday was the hottest day of the year so far, with the mercury making its way up to a rather scorching 27ºC (that’s 80ºF to my American counterparts). I spent the day soaking up the sun at Wireless festival, enjoying the melodic tones of Pharrell Williams and the egotistical rants of Kanye West. Many people however, would have flocked to the coast to top up their Vitamin D levels on one of the countries many beaches.
I do love a good beach, but I must admit that I am not a fan of sunbathing – my short attention span makes sure of that (it’s so short, in fact, that it’s a miracle that I managed to make it to the end of that last sentence). Thankfully for me, Britain offers an array of coastlines ranging from the full-on seaside resorts, complete with candy floss, beach huts and donkey rides to the abandoned sand dunes of almost-forgotten beaches in the farthest corners of the country.
In this piece, I take a look at some of my favourite seaside perfumes. Fragrances that are evocative of the beach, whether that be the hot sands of an exotic getaway or the cold shingle of a British seaside town – there’s even a fragrance that conjures up the image of an alien landscape – a beach on the planet Venus. So pack your sunglasses and your bucket and spade, ’cause we’re going on a short summer holiday and a scented tour of the world’s smelliest beaches.
When one thinks of an idillic beach, the image that comes to mind is of a deserted island complete with pure white sands and shimmering turquoise seas. On said island, one would relax on the warm sands with delicious cocktails on demand and the sparkling sea breeze blowing through the coconut-laden palm trees. Sounds pretty wonderful, doesn’t it? If only there was a perfume that accurately captured this perfect getaway….
It turns out that such a perfume exists – Virgin Island Water by CREED, which serves as a pretty spot-on fragrant equivalent of this island. For one, it has a beautiful lime note (one of the very best, in fact) that is almost drinkable, especially when the fragrance unveils its coconut water accord, which turns the whole thing into the most delicious of cocktails. Underneath this, Virgin Island Water boasts notes of ginger, ylang-ylang and ambergris, all of which capture the essence of skin that has soaked up all of the characteristics of a truly tropical getaway.
Of course, exotic getaways aren’t the only worthwhile oceanic destinations, after all, the British seaside has its fair share of charms. Most Brits will have fond recollections of hot days spent in a seaside town, with memories of; buckets and spades, sunburned skin, ’99 cones with flakes, seaside rock, rickety old piers, puppet shows, dodgy Speedos on bulky gentleman and donkey rides, to name just a few. These wonderful, varying and utterly-British smells can only be captured by one perfumer – Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays.
As luck would have it, 4160 Tuesdays offers up ‘What I Did On My Holidays‘ – a perfume inspired by a summer holiday spent in Scarborough. The main theme of this fragrance is the chewy mint of seaside rock, which is spun into a salty and aquatic fougère that is as weird as it is enjoyable. Vanilla provides an ice-cream like base, offering a olfactory nod to the British seaside staple food – ice cream. Smell this one, if not only just to prove to yourself that perfume can be fun.
Ahh Womanity, the fragrance that proves that Thierry Mugler really is one of the most unique and interesting ‘designer’ houses in the world of perfume. Mugler’s infamous Angel and Alien are beautiful and ‘weird’ perfumes, but it is Womanity that takes pole position as the brands strangest perfume – a salty and fruity gourmand that is evocative of a Greek mezze joyfully eaten on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean sea.
This platter of pelagic delights consists of; figs, capturing both the milky and tart facets of the fruit; parma ham, in its salty glory; with sweet, nutty shortbread to finish. In his review, Nick Gilbert described it as being “a Mediterranean Mermaid peeling figs” and that, as far as I’m concerned, is a perfect description. Womanity is a mythical ode to the sea that displays the common fragrance themes of ‘fresh’ and ‘aquatic’ in an entirely unique way that is surprisingly radiant and long-lasting.
It may be too early to call Womanity a masterpiece, after all, this is only its fourth year of life. That said, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this fragrance is nothing short of a work of art – a modern masterpiece.
I once referred to Bond No 9 as the ‘Octomom’ of the fragrance world, due to their prolific ‘popping-out’ of perfumes, and much to their displeasure (I’m now gladly on their shit list). But as much as I find their new stuff entirely yawn-inducing, their early offerings (i.e. the likes of Chinatown and Silver Factory) are pretty interesting, with one of my favourites being Fire Island – a fragrance that was engineered to recreate “the scent of musky, sun-baked skin.” ¹
This olfactory ode to bronzed skin is actually pretty accurate. Creamy white floral notes of gardenia and tuberose are blended with a salty and almost-powdery musk to create the illusion of suntan lotion, bronzing oil and skin that has spent a day sizzling under the hot sun to soak up the UV rays, and the salty sea air. Fire Island is a retro scent evocative of New York beaches in the era of Coppertone and I genuinely feel no reluctance in admitting that it is really quite brilliant.
So now we move from the sublime to the ridiculous, ending up in the freaky-deaky and surreal world of legendary artist Salvador Dalí. Not satisifed with the world of art, Dalí turned to perfume in the 1980s and was involved with the creation of Dalí, a rather gorgeous floral-chypre that is very much in keeping with the style of the decade. The Dalí brand has exploded since then, but there are only two offerings from the house worth bothering with – the original and 1991’s Laguna.
Created by legendary perfumer, Mark Buxton (the dude responsible for, amongst many others, Comme des Garçons’ 2 Man), Laguna creates the image of a strange lagoon coloured an unnatural shade of blue and sparkling with misshapen waves. It is a perfume that smells aquatic but also oriental, mixing strange fruits with salty sea air, pure water and iris powder, creating a surrealist landscape that feels completely substantial and fresh in an ocean-like manner.
This beach may not exist on this planet or in this dimension but in the time that it stays on the skin, Laguna acts as a teleportation device, transporting one to an abandoned and alien smellscape.
Join the Discussion!
What’s your favourite beach-y perfume? What’s your favourite type of beach?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments box below!
Image 1 via northamptonvintagefair.blogspot.com. Image 2 [cropped] via creedboutique.com. Image 3 [cropped] via roullierwhite.com. Image 4 via tendance-parfums.com. Image 6 via mimifroufrou.com. Image 7 via parfums-salvadordali.com. ¹ via bondno9.com.