Friday, June 15, 2012

Perfume Broadens The Mind - Top Travel Scents


We're fast approaching the longest day of the year (Christmas is only 27 weeks away, folks!) which means it's time for me to join forces with my fragrant side-kicks again and indulge in a spot of list-making. On this occasion, it was Olfactoria's turn to choose our subject, and she decided to set us the task of selecting perfumes for specific holiday destinations. So, check in, feed your bags into the x-ray machine, pick up a massive Toblerone at Duty Free and take a trip around my seven scented wonders of the world.

Dubai
It's strange when a place that was once home turns into a holiday destination: you know it far better than the tourists do, but not as intimately as its current residents. I could've picked several fragrances to represent the world's fastest growing city - anything from Poison, which was the ambient scent of each of the Emirate's shopping malls in the 80s, to Mukhalat Malaki from Swiss Arabian, which I hope to review soon. But I'll make life easier for myself and simply choose the last scent I took with me to the Gulf: Chanel's Bel Respiro. It's green, optimistic and refreshing, and it also suggests wide, uncluttered views of vast landscapes... something you don't get in Dubai as often as you used to.

Shiraz
I haven't been to Iran since the early 80s, but the smell of Etat Libre D'Orange's Bladerunner-inspired Jasmin & Cigarette always takes me back to my grandparents' Shiraz house and visits to the city's many parks. There's something about the pitch of the jasmine note in this composition - a certain soprano-like clarity - that invariably evokes childhood memories in a way that no other jasmine scent ever manages. And who knows, maybe somewhere in my mind, the tobacco note spells 'childhood' too.

Warsaw
Polish winters frequently plunge to Siberian levels and add all sorts of unexpected dimensions to the term 'wearing layers'. YSL's Body Kouros is an excellent antidote to any sub-zero harshness. The coffee and patchouli spark a fire, which is then kept aflame by the coumarin-heavy tonka bean drydown, allowing the wearer to cut a confident swathe through the deepest of snowfalls.

Côte d'Azur
Jean-Claude Ellena's perfumes make most sense against the backdrop of lavender fields, high-def sunshine and the Med: they seem specifically designed for an environment where the wearer wishes to project sophistication, refinement and wealth, without burdening themselves beneath something baroque and overly ornate. His Un Jardin Sur Le Nil for Hermès is a flawless representation of this style. It's genuinely intriguing and multi-faceted, but it is never oppressive, thanks, in part, to an incense note so astonishing, it could only have been the work of a master. Incidentally, if you've never read Chandler Burr's The Perfect Scent, which tells the story of the creation of this perfume, order, borrow or steal a copy without delay.

Udaipur
Sorry to be predictable, but I'd like to repeat my assertion that Trayee from Neela Vermeire Creations is one of the most accurate evocations of India I have ever had the pleasure to smell. The sweet notes and the spices stand in for the country's endlessly enjoyable food. The incense represents the culture's spiritual dimension, not to mention the smell of almost every street corner in Udaipur. And the sandalwood is the indescribable magic that holds everything together. Take me to the Lake Palace now!

Fes
Going to Fes was the closest I've ever come to time travel. The city's modern sections feature all the trappings of first-world development: skyscrapers, neat boulevards, bins filled with disposable coffee cups. But the old souq is a mirage from the Middle Ages. Its 'streets' are too narrow for motorized transport, which means that all the merchandise has to be carted around by donkeys and mules. Shopkeepers serve mint tea in gold-rimmed glasses. Women embroider their trademark cross stitch into miles of fabric. And the tanneries... well, they fill the air with an indescribable smell that simultaneously seems to affirm and condemn all of life itself. The only perfume I have ever tried which conjures the shock of coming into contact with that particular odour is Montale's Aoud Cuir D'Arabie. One sniff, and the centuries fall away.   

London
Although Britain's capital is very much a city of the past, I always think of it as having an extremely futuristic outlook: in terms of its attitude to its residents and visitors, it is unquestionably one of the most liberal spots on the planet, setting social norms that other cities take decades to absorb and adopt. I've struggled to find a perfume that sums up this cosmopolitan, forward-thinking ethos. I thought that perhaps one of the more eccentric offerings from Comme Des Garçons might fit the bill, but none of them seems quite right. I wondered about something from Penhaligon's, but their quirky aesthetic doesn't fully tie in with my personal vision of electrically-charged air on the Tube, or the lights of the London Eye reflected in the Thames, or the smell of apple sheesha wafting across Edgware Road. I nearly settled on Byredo's M/MInk, which balances a superbly weird ink note against a more traditional incense base. But in the end I decided to cheat and pass the ball into your court. So I leave you with this question: what would you say is the perfect London perfume?

Don't forget to check out more lists on Olfactoria's Travels, Eyeliner On A Cat and Fragrant Moments.

Persolaise.


22 comments:

  1. I love your exotic (to me) choices. The middle east is a region where I have never been, but that fascinates me very much.
    I'm off to daydream about Fes right now with a little help of Uncle Serge (lacking the Montale). :)

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    1. Olfactoria, thank you for inserting "to me" in brackets. I often find myself having conversations with Europeans about definitions of exoticism ;-)

      Fes was one of the most interesting cities I've ever seen; I'd go back any day. In fact, I'd love to return to Morocco soon.

      As for the Middle East, it's certainly worth visiting.

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  2. Hm, you did cheat a bit, didn't you? :)

    There's a tannery about 10 miles south of where I am, right next to the Chicago River, that belches out a horrid stink every day. Kitty corner from that is a bona-fide Vienna beef hot dog factory. Double blergh. Oh, the smells of home!

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    1. Carrie, it was pretty harmless cheating, wasn't it?

      As it happens, after I wrote the post, I was introduced to a range of London-inspired fragrances called Bex (which I may review soon) as well as a new UK-focussed brand called Union (about which I may write too).

      Tannery + hot dog. Hmmm...restful.

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  3. Such exotic travels, sir. Another awesome list with scents I need to experience. I love it.

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    1. Barney, one person's exotic is another's back garden, right? One day, I hope to make the trip to the exotic lands on the other side of the Atlantic ;-)

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  4. I really like these list posts, and I really have to try these Neela Vermere perfumes.

    Thanks for the travel suggestions.

    Preeta

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    1. Preeta, all three Vermeire scents are well worth trying. And I must say, I enjoy writing the list posts too :-)

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  5. Thanks for the list. I've got to say, it made me laugh, because before I started reading it, I thought, I bet nobody will mention Australia. And I was right. Why does nobody link Australia with perfume? LOL.

    But anyway, I love the list, and the other ones too.

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    1. Mik, perfume and Australia... I don't know the answer to that one. I've never been there myself, but I'm sure the place must have its fair share of scentusiasts.

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  6. A truly enjoyable posting. It's nice that there's still something new to say on the subject of the connection between perfume and travelling.

    Altha

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    1. Altha, I suspect there will always be something to say about the link between scented and geographic travels.

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  7. LOL! I'm glad I'm not the only one who picks up a Toblerone.

    Thanks for the lovely post.

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    1. Anon, flights wouldn't be the same without a Toblerone purchase for someone, would they ;-)

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  8. I'm intrigued by Swiss Arabian, I've never heard of that brand. Are they linked to Montal?

    Great post, and great links to the other bloggers.

    Jayms.

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    1. Jayms, thanks very much. As far as I'm aware, there's no connection whatsoever between Montale and Swiss Arabian. The latter is a fairly well-known brand in the Middle East, specialising in decidedly 'Arabic' style scents.

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  9. Lovely post, noticed the destination scents on indiescents.com today so it was fun to read your post and then browse through their offerings.

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    1. Michelle, thanks very much. I'll have to check out the post you mention.

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  10. Thank you for the post. I've been to Morocco (but not Fes) but I've not made it to the Middle East. I remember Casablanca so well. My perfume for that place would have been Tauer L'Air: classic but also modern.

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    1. Hubert, thanks for stopping by. As it happens, I never made it to Casablanca. Maybe next time ;-)

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  11. What a lovely post. I used to live in London and my favorite moment was to spend my free time in Hyde Park and some of the many Greens of the city (even when it was raining!).
    The fragrance which best evokes these moments is probably Fleurs de Bois by Miller Harris, which was actually inspired by a walk through London's Regent's Park.
    It perfectly evokes the floral crispness of the Park's Secret Garden thanks to its fresh, green and floral notes combined with some woody undertones.
    Unfortunately, this fragrance is not available anymore but it is one of my favorite olfactory interpretation of London.

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    1. Christa, thanks very much for the mention of the MH. I'll see if I can track it down somewhere.

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