Almost everywhere we go we come away with olfactory memories that lodge deep in our unconscious. I grew up in South Africa and today I would know where in the country I was simply by catching the scents wafting on the air.
This year a number of fragrance houses are attempting to capture the essence of places that are special to them. Carthusia Fragrances, founded in 1380, has teamed up with the Central Park Conservancy in New York to create The Essence of Central Park (£90 for 50ml parfum). Artemisia, a lush green accord, evokes the wide, open spaces of the 843-acre park and soft summer breezes. Then there’s magnolia, sharp citrus and earthy geranium at the heart and, giving it depth and a certain earthiness at the base, light woody aromas and amber.
Fragrance brand Eight & Bob’s rather offbeat moniker stems from the fact that John F Kennedy once ordered eight bottles, plus one extra for Bob (his brother Robert), of this lovely cologne created by French aristocrat Albert Fouquet. He’d discovered it in the 1930s when he came to Europe and remembered it. Fouquet was inundated with requests from America for “Eight & Bob”, but when he was killed in a car accident in 1939 his colognes were discontinued. Two years ago the original, slightly spicy formula was rediscovered and the brand Eight & Bob launched. There are two other fragrances also retrieved from Fouquet’s archives. Cap d’Antibes (£125 for 100ml EDP) has mint and moss blended with other woody accords to capture the essence of the gardens of the Eden-Roc hotel, and cinnamon to add some warmth and sunshine; Egypt (also £125 for 100ml), evoking a country that had fascinated Fouquet when he visited it in 1935, is a head-turning collection of spices – cardamom and nutmeg, patchouli, sandalwood and an unusual combination of leather and citrus.
Then there’s Iranzol (£100 for 50ml EDP) by Bruno Acampora, an oriental chypre inspired by the heat of the Iranian desert and the spices and resins found in its markets. The fragrance is the colour of tobacco and opens with musk and sandalwood giving way to a heart of briar rose, jasmine, amber, galbanum, a warm patchouli and nutmeg oil.
At Les Senteurs is The Dark Heart of Old Havana (£60 for 50ml EDP) by Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays (who created the joyous What I Did On My Holidays). According to Les Senteurs perfume archivist James Craven, it reminds him of stepping off a flight “into balmy midnight air full of scarlet hibiscus, mauve oleander and a battery of new and unknown smells”.
Lastly, Irish fragrance house Cloon Keen Atelier launched Tulum (£65 for 60ml EDP) in 2014, which smells of Mexican sunshine, mangoes and grapefruit and reminds one of nothing so much as carefree days by the sea.