RAIDERS OF THE LOST SCENT


May 05, 2016

Nothing can transport you back in time like a fragrance. They say your sense of smell is the most powerful and evocative sense, and it’s true: YSL Champagne is my mum, Kouros the powerhouse fragrance of the 80's is dad and Brut – well that reminds me of being a teenager.

Strangely I blame my omnivorous appetite for perfume on my dad. He made perspex display cases for fragrance companies in the 80s; it is only for this reason his scent collection is somewhat sophisticated. I can recall the exact shapes, heights and colours of the row of bottles lining his side of the bathroom counter. Aramis first, then a blue bottled Rive Gauche, next was Kourous and my all time favourite- a spicy foguere called Jazz in a black and white bottle. 

A gentleman's scent can be a pure or catastrophic arrow in Cupids quiver. A whiff of Lynx Africa and I’m back in a classroom circa 1996 with teenage boys marking their terrain leaving a trajectory of unmistakable scent in their wake….'Lynx, making teen girls gag since the 90s'. For those of you who grew up when I did, the smell of CK One is sure to take you back… Um, I think your baggy jeans just came out of the wash. And Tommy, the pubescent back-of-the-movie theatre scent, triggers thoughts of a teenage crush, still can’t believe I fell for that horrid Nissan Skyline.

It’s funny how a fragrance can have us skipping down memory lane. It was around this time I started using Sun In, who remembers that? The hair lightener that promised to ‘bring out natural highlights just like the sun, only faster’. Yep, let’s just say it wasn’t made for my hair and after having to explain why my locks were turning orange I soon graduated to salon care. Other 90s tragics will remember rice necklaces. A grain of rice. With your name on it. In a vial. On a leather choker. Around your neck. I had one too many of them too.

It seems our noses have a clever way of sniffing out nostalgia. Petrol, Pomade and Old Spice prompts fond recollections of my Grandad.The dress up chest at Grandma’s had a particular smell too. I cannot tell you what it was, but sometimes now, as an adult; I will catch a whiff of it. If you follow your nose you’ll find many things that evoke special memories. The smell of toast wins by a nose for me and if there were a Yankee candle for it, I would own it. Freshly cut grass is the smell of summer, freedom and opportunity. Pencil shavings; a box of fresh crayons; fish food; scratch and smell stickers; the sweet scented plastic of Strawberry Shortcake dolls and vanilla lip smackers- that fragrance will forever permeate in my brain- are the smells of my childhood. Scientists have long known that smells are one of the best ways to evoke the past. Studies have shown that memories triggered by scents are more vivid and more emotional than those triggered by sounds, pictures or words.

Scent can be a very individual thing, what makes one person feel like a deity can make another want to retch. Perhaps popular wisdom reigns true; that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and good smells are in the nose of the sniffer.