Perfume can connect us to our roots and make us think of home and family, says Sarah Halliwell …
Perfume has the power to take us away, sure, to the cerulean waters of Capri or the rose fields of Grasse. But, perhaps even more potently, it can bring us home, too. A scent from the past can take us back to a time and a place, or a person, we remember, a case of familiarity breeding contentment. I have a lasting scent memory of my granny’s perfume, Blue Grass, created in the 1930s and inspired by the land around Elizabeth Arden’s home in Virginia; its clean woody spiciness (along with the scent of my grandmother’s creamy Camay soap) was a comfort blanket to me. For some, a memory can be triggered by merely a fleeting waft of their mother’s scent (No5, perhaps, Rive Gauche or Samsara). It’s why Elnett remains the only hairspray everyone loves – its familiar, timeless scent and its associations may entice us even more than its practical use.
Perfume expert Frédéric Malle notes, “a perfume speaks of who you are. People choose a perfume that speaks to their deepest nature.” For Malle, Miss Dior (incidentally created by Malle’s grandfather) is nostalgic, reminding him of his parents. Perhaps pipe smoke or shaving foam are your equivalent of Miss Dior. Homecoming scents can be prosaic or sophisticated – it depends on your own olfactory memories. Mine are centred on my dad’s garden, so I’m drawn to the juicy pink rhubarb in Caudalie’s Fresh Fragrance in Rose de Vigne; and perfumer Christine Nagel celebrates the spring crop to joyful effect in Hermès Eau De Rhubarbe Écarlate eau de cologne.
Beyond these personal hits of liquid nostalgia, something intrinsically Irish will always remind you of your roots. Cloon Keen’s Bel Étage, a modern take on cologne, was designed with men in mind but it’s really a unisex scent. Marine scents rarely capture the sea with full seaweed gusto but The Burren Perfumery’s Aran eau de toilette (€58) has a fresh and salty quality that’s rugged and beautifully outdoorsy. And 1990s Armani scent Acqua di Giò is having a fresh moment, with its suave marine notes. Here are a few ideas to remind you of home while you’re away.
1. BELLA FREUD CIAO DIFFUSER fills your home with fig leaf, sweet orange and vetiver; not too sweet or “girly”. £155stg; www.bellafreud.com.
2. An Irish handmade fragrance to remind you of home: MAN OF ARAN EAU DE TOILETTE, €58; www.burrenperfumery.com.
3. AVOCA NO 2 SEA SALT & LEMON SOAP, €3.95, at Avoca stores nationwide; www.avoca.com.
4. A combination of armagnac and tobacco make BON PARFUMEUR 902 an affordable unisex scent. From €38, at Brown Thomas.
5. HERMÈS EAU DE RHUBARBE ÉCARLATE, €106, at Brown Thomas.
6. GIORGIO ARMANI ACQUA DI GIÒ, from €91.50, has clary sage, mandarin and patchouli for herbal freshness.
7. CLOON KEEN BEL ÉTAGE, created by Meabh McCurtin, is a cologne-style scent, €130; www.cloonkeen.com.