Today is National Fragrance Day and to promote the importance of our sense of smell, The Fragrance Foundation are encouraging everyone to share their most poignant scent memories. Whether there is a particular scent that transports you to a time, place or person, or perhaps an odour that reminds you of something or someone important to you, we want you to share your scent memories. So, in honour of National Fragrance Day I have badgered a few of my family and friends into sharing some of their favourite scent memories. They really are beautiful and I encourage you to share yours too.
The scent of lavender is something I always associate with my husband, Nigel, but it’s not a fragrance he wears. Our first holiday, which we took not too long into our official relationship, was a trip to Paris where we spent time in Disneyland and in the uniformed streets of the city of lights. One day we paid a visit to the Etat Libre d’Orange boutique and picked up a bottle of their soapy lavender scent Antiheros. We both wore it to death on that holiday and have seldom worn it since, but whenever I smell lavender I think of that trip, of hot summer days, of Paris and of falling in love for the very first time.
Nigel, My Husband
When I was a teenager I very often felt like I did not fit in and was alienated from the crowd. This made me feel lonely and I sought out ways to switch off from the world. One way was to visit theme parks as these places felt other worldly and a solace for all my worries. My scent memory is the smell of freshly fried doughnuts, the sweet sugary aroma and the irresistible urge to devour them. Much like a theme park they are sickly sweet and a real thrill. To this day, the smell takes me back to being a teenager and reminds me that there is always a happier place.
Jane, My Mother
The scent of my youth is patchouli oil. It takes me back to an evening spent in the loft apartment of a boyfriend, with a group of friends, listening to Bohemian Rhapsody for the very first time, the day before its release. His father owned a record company and we were allowed a preview. It was unlike anything any of us had ever heard before and we played it over and over again.
Another very happy scent memory for me is the smell of horses and the stables. It takes me back to days in my teen, when during the long school holiday in the sweltering summer of 1976, my sister and I would be dropped off at the stables for the day, and left to our own devices. I loved the sweet scent of the straw in the stable and smell of the leather as we tacked up the horses. We would ride into the woods, packed with bluebells where we’d set up small jumps. We’d tie up the horses and share our picnic lunch with them.
I have never liked the smell of schools. I was happy at school until aged 11 when I won a scholarship to a public school. Consequently I was separated from all my friends. Everyone was so proud of me that I didn’t have the nerve to say I didn’t want to go to the new school. From then on my schooldays were a very unhappy time. When I had children and had to venture into their schools for parents evenings etc. I would always have sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s something that has never gone away. I even experienced it when I went to my grandson’s school before Christmas for a Christmas crafts session.
Finally, for a while after my father died the scent of Yves Saint Laurent’s Kouros had the power to stop me in my tracks when someone wearing it passed me in the street.
Diana, My Stepmother
My favourite scent memory? Hmmmm, tricky!
Freshly ploughed fields and the smell of the earth, makes me feel in touch with nature, and I only smell it when I’m out in the countryside hearing birds, seeing the sky. It’s sensory overload and it’s not a common smell, you need to be in right place at right time. It looks wonderful too, deep rich colours and the sods shining in sun. Memories of my youff when I rode a lot and galloping through a ploughed field is awesome!! Very grounding and for some reason reminds me of my mum and times gone by when there seemed to be more space and fewer people. Then there is newly cut grass, looks lovely, bright colours, many of the same country side feelings. And finally my all time favourite perfume CHANEL Nº5, worn at so many special events, bathing in the Nº5 Bath Oil prior to said event, the amazing feeling it gives me, like I can walk on water, like life is totally awesome, and something about the luxury and privilege of actually having it. It’s warm and sensual and classy, what a winning combination, and it lasts for ages and just gets better and better. Never wasted on regular daily events, always on that special occasion, that’s why I chose it above all others for my wonderful wedding day to your amazing dad!!
Cara, My BFF
I guess I am torn between a few scents. If I was to go for a memory for being much younger it would be victoria sponge , from the time when we were stopped by the police hanging out with everyone and Matt shoved cake in my face. Whilst this was potentially a very silly act in retrospect, it reminds me of every single weekend spent with great friends and our (or well your love of birthday cake) and how we would enjoy unless hours of chatting and hanging out as a group of friends.
But then Hugo Boss Deep Red takes me back to meeting Dom (my ex) and the idea of first love which is deep and meaningful but like the scent does not have the staying power to last forever.
Another food smell would be pecorino which reminds me of the year i spent in Sardinia dancing for the performance company Caravana SMI. We did one performance in an ex-cheese factory and the smell was so potent that it lingers in my nostrils to this day. Whilst pecorino wasn’t originally produced in the factory it was a similar style of local hard cheese and it always conjures up images of the festival, the workshops that accompanied it and the musicians we met along the way.
Finally, Dior’s Leather Oud is another option as it symbolises Aaron, my boyfriend, to me. it is complex sultry and decadent! Ha!
Katie, My BFF
It’s not very original but my mother’s perfume: Rive Gauche. It reminds me of childhood. It makes me think of her putting on lipstick and of Christmas days. Also, Red Bull makes me think of nights out. It’s foul but vodka Red Bulls were the cheapest drink you could get so we drank doubles.
Kasia, My Sister-in-Law
I shared this story with a few of my work colleagues three years ago, in a pub in Belfast. It might have been the beer talking or the smells coming from the nearby Christmas market, but ever since I said it out loud, I’ve realised how olfactory experiences can lodge in one’s memory.
We were having a relaxed conversation about life and whatnot, when the subject got changed to the obligatory Christmas plans sharing. Now, since coming over to the UK, I haven’t been home for Christmas due to work schedules or ridiculously overpriced plane tickets. So, every time someone mentioned Christmas, I got a little emotional and sometimes teary.
That time wasn’t different. When the sharing train arrived at my station, I remembered why I missed Christmas so much.
I am a child of the eighties born in a communist country, with memories of mainly nothing and how that nothing belonged to everyone. So, just imagine that when you were growing up with Milky Bars, After Eights and Terry’s Chocolate Oranges, chillies, lemons and clementines, I could only dream of your standard sweets or citrus fruits. It just wasn’t a thing behind the Iron Curtain. If you were lucky to know someone who mastered the art of contraband, you could have had some of the Western European treats; bubble gums or German chocolates. Anyway, I remember how once, when I was five or six years old, I experienced my own little Christmas miracle.
But a few facts before the story; 1) prior to Christmas, we observe Saint Nicholas’ Day, when kids wait for St. Nicholas to come and put presents under their pillow; 2) my dad’s friend used to travel around Europe, and just so happened to master the art of swindle and smuggling; and 3) when you grow up with nothing, even a little something makes you super happy.
So, on the 6th December in the middle of the eighties, a little girl in the north of Poland had the best Saint Nicholas’ Day that she ever remembered. It was a very frosty morning. The sky was steel grey, with some sporadic snowflakes falling here and there – a typical early winter’s day. Typical you’d say, except for one slight difference: an amazing package arrived overnight. It felt a bit heavy, wrapped in baby blue wrapping paper printed with tiny snowmen. It arrived next to my pillow. Not only was it impossible to get a fancy wrapping paper like this back then, what was hidden within was also exclusive oranges! Two juicy oranges! Not one, but TWO! With thick peel. They smelled like heaven to me. Like I imagined Christmas should smell; sweet with just right the offset of sour, and slight underlying notes of bitter pith hiding under that thick skin. I was the happiest kid under the sun that day! Not only had I been given fruit unavailable in any shops – I had two of them! Not to mention the fact that they’d been delivered in a funky wrapping paper coloured in orange and blue – a perfect contrast.
It is hard to describe how amazing that smell was, but even now when I buy oranges, I can recall that exact composition and it is usually navel oranges that bring back the memories. They make me feel happy like a kid I was back then.
Over to You!
What are your favourite scent memories? Let me know in the comments below!
Image is my own.