Fragrance, Take Me Away

2020 . 09 . 04 | written by Karen Marin

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Fragrance lovers



"I felt something so intense, I could only express it in a perfume." ~ Jacques Guerlain

Years ago there was a brilliant bubble bath ad campaign from Calgon. A young woman, frazzled by slow moving traffic, a demanding boss, a crying baby and an overzealous dog, calls out “Calgon, take me away!” And while soaking in a luxurious tub, the worries of the day are forgotten. And like Calgon, fragrance has the power to transport us to another time and place, to stir our memories and emotions, to comfort and soothe us. Never has this power been so important as in 2020, as we live through an unprecedented time where our movement is restricted, our nerves are on edge and we are in serious need of comfort. The one constant that we have all been blessed with, however, is the freedom of our thoughts which means we can still imagine. How can fragrance enhance our thoughts and dreams?


"Fragrance takes you on a journey of time. You can walk down the street and pass someone and get taken back 20 years. It's very Proustian that way." ~ Daphne Guinness

Scent can take on the role of a time-machine, stealing us away to another world, bringing us back to days gone by. An eau de cologne can drop us into the royal courts of 18th century Europe. Smelling the elegant soliflores of the 19th century encourage a reverie of elegant ladies in voluminous ballgowns, dancing and flirting with dandies, while aldehyde and vanilla scents from the 1920’s take us to the era of the flapper, where women dressed in short skirts, bobbed their hair and behaved scandalously while brazenly smoking! We can even step back to the roots of the “politically correct” generation in the 1990’s through transparent, unisex, subtle scents that remind us of younger days when chat rooms and virtual reality were a new way to escape from the day to day.


“ Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived,” ~ Helen Keller

I was just talking to a friend today, both of us wishing we had been able to travel to a far away location for summer vacation. “If I can’t go to Italy at least I can conjure up the smells of the land with a zesty bergamot and crisp basil fragrance, accompanied by suntan lotion and an Aperol Spritz. It’s a mental vacation that takes me to a poolside sun lounger in Amalfi”. Amber and spices with rich woods carry me away to the Spice Market in Istanbul or Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square in Marrakech. Fresh aquatic scents remind us of sea breezes while salty notes evoke the tang of the ocean. Grassy green and juicy fruit accords bring us back to picnics, lying on the lawn staring up at the sky. Sugary sweet cotton candy and gourmand blends set the stage for the boardwalk, amusement parks and summer festivals.


"A fragrance is like a cat burglar in your brain, it has the key with which to pick the lock and unleash your memories." ~ Roja Dove

The sense of smell is extremely powerful. A scent can bring back memories, reminding us of an occasion or a person. I had a former boyfriend who wore Tsar from Van Cleef & Arpels: One whiff reminds me of him and the moments we shared. Why is this? Because of the way scent and emotion are processed by our brain. In short, scent particles pass through the nose to the olfactory bulb in our brain where they become readable, before continuing on to the amygdala, where emotions and emotional memory are processed. Consequently there is a special link between scent, memory and emotion that we do not experience with our other senses. I recently came across a vial of a fragrance my grandmother used to wear, and by smelling it I was spirited back to childhood days spent with her in her home. At a time when many of us are physically separated from loved ones, fragrance can make us nostalgic, bringing back a flood of emotions. Even wearing our own signature scent from years ago – or even six months ago - can take us down memory lane. Wearing a scent from a happier time in our life can give us a shot in the arm, an emotional rescue that so many of us would welcome.


"Go inwards. Find your inner space, and suddenly, you will find an explosion of light, of beauty, of ecstasy -as if suddenly thousands of roses have blossomed within you and you are full of their fragrance." ~ Rajneesh

Whether it’s the delicious smell of freshly baked bread, the calming scent of lavender, or our current favorite perfume, there is no denying the fact that fragrance has the power to comfort us. If you doubt me, just spray your pillowcase with your beloveds’ fragrance when you’re apart. If we look back to the Middle Ages, we learn that people started believing that pleasant scents had disinfectant properties and could protect them from disease. Wealthy people wore scented pomanders filled with amber, musk or aromatic resins to ward off illness. This tradition lives on in the Turkish culture where kolonya plays an integral role in hospitality and health, so much so that Turkish media has suggested that its widespread use may have helped contain the spread of COVID-19. And indeed as we all grapple with social distancing, self-isolating and lockdowns, we are in serious need of comfort. Is it any wonder that sales of home fragrance, candles and diffusers have skyrocketed? As we spend more time at home, we seek a cozy environment that is enhanced by comforting and soothing smells. Scent has the power to make us feel good and lift our mood. Certain scents relax us whereas others empower us and make us feel invincible. As we dress differently for various events, we may not always want to wear the same fragrance all the time – hence the importance of building a fragrance wardrobe. What’s important is to wear what you love and feel good, which adds to our sense of well-being and self-esteem.


“Perfume is the key to our memories” ~ Kate Brown, author, The Perfume Garden

Clearly, scent can help us achieve feelings of peace, tranquility and balance. It can trigger emotions and bring back memories. It can take us on a mental trip to another place and time. Fragrance is a meeting of science and art where the end result must evoke feelings, provoke dreams or quite simply smell fantastic. We must treasure and appreciate our sense of smell, so often underrated. Let us not be like the average man, described as such by Leonardo da Vinci:

“Looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragrance, and talks without thinking.”