Five Decades of #Scent Memories: National Fragrance Day 2017


Dear reader, I am now in my fifth decade and due to toast the start of my sixth in 2020 when I turn 50.

To me, scent is like a Tardis. It takes you back in time so fast that you can be stepping out the Tardis door into 1976 after one whiff of Panache.  More instantly evocative than a photograph or a song,  a fragrance can whisk you back to the scent of the primary school teacher whose name you forget, but whose perfume you can recall as if a switch has been flicked in your head.

Please join me on my mini odyssey through the smell of the 70s, 80s, 90s, Noughties and Twenteens and do share your #scentmemories below.

The Smell of the 1970s.


I was born in 1970. The first ten years of my life can be summed up, at least in the olfactory sense, as a combination of cigarette smoke (not mine), the smell of a roast cooking, mud, ferns, bluebells, Woogiraffedleigh Green Apple Shampoo, Avon Pretty Peach and Avon Occur, in a giraffe shaped bottle, no less. Quite how giraffes and perfume go together, I never thought to question, but he literally had some brass neck.

My teachers wore Cacharel Anais Anais, which hasn’t changed to this day, as long as you sidestep the “Delice” version. I can’t remember what scent my mother wore, but she always smelled nice.  My grandmother wore Coty L’Aimant, which I didn’t recognise then, but which moves me to gusty sighs of melancholy  now she isn’t here.

BeFunky Collage70s home

The Smell of the 1980s.

Formative years mean a thirst to both stand out and blend in at the same time. I was groping for an identity and slowly moving into and out of adolescence. It was 1981 before I gradually weaned myself off

sindyplaying with Sindy dolls. I can still vividly recall the smell of the vinyl heads and strange nylon hair, inevitably knotted to all hell within a week of ownership.

My first ever scent that I paid for myself was a splash bottle of Bluebell perfume from Boots No 7. Long since discontinued, I have sought that bluebell scent ever since.  My mother bought me a bottle of Jontue from a trip she went on, and one Christmas I had a bottle of Cachet.  I wore this A LOT.  I also remember Avon Eau Givreé: a beautiful green hesperide that has long since been discontinued.

My teens saw me receive my first ever bottle of proper fragrance from my father for my 18th birthday. It was Estee Lauder Beautiful and I still love it now. 1988 saw me leave home at go to Exeter Uni, where the most memorable scents were Marlboro cigarettes, red wine and lashings of Cacharel LouLou.

1980s collage

Meanwhile, over in Denver Colorado, Alexis Carrington was cracking the whip.  Excess, big shoulder pads, big hair and big smells were all the rage.  On the High Street, there was the unmistakable cloud of Giorgio Beverly Hills and a miasma of Dior Poison mingled with Body Shop White Musk and Dewberry. The Nightclubs smelled of Calvin Klein Obsession, and my one little egg shaped bottle took me into the 1990s.

The Smell of the 1990s

The caring, sharing Nineties sobered everyone up and made us wear ozonic scents in an urge to cleanse ourselves of the Eighties excesses. All my friends smelled of Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey, which is no bad thing. I had discovered Chanel Cristalle, also a light scent that was the opposite side of the spectrum to Poison, Obsession and Giorgio. The 1990s saw me graduate and move to London, which smelled very different to Devon.  London air is thicker, dirtier and there were more cigarettes smoked and more traffic fumes, but reader, to me it was the smell of freedom and wonder and possibility.

collage 1990s

1992 saw the launch of the iconic Thierry Mugler Angel. I remember smelling it for the first time in Harrods Perfume Hall and thinking “but why would I want to smell like chocolate?” I appreciate it now of course, for the multi-faceted classic it is, but back then it was revolutionary among the ozonic and airy fairy Nineties scents. Meanwhile, in 1997, Gucci launched the now much-mourned Gucci Envy.  So good was this floral green scent with a vein of metal running through it, that I dumped Cristalle and remained almost exclusive to Gucci Envy until it was cruelly taken from us in 2007.

The Smell of The Noughties

The Noughties saw a revolution in celebrity fragrance.  Elizabeth Taylor had been churning them out since 1991, but they were largely seen as fan fodder until 2002 when Jennifer Lopez launched the brilliant Glow. It was a clean, white fragrance that pleased the crowds and began a snowball of celebrity fragrances taking off.  Britney Spears got in on it, as did many of her contemporaries and soon the perfumeries were chock full of celeb scents. Sarah Jessica Parker brought new possibilities with SJP Lovely and some of the snobbery dissipated when we realised that celebrity stuff can be pretty darn good. (I’m still a celeb scent geek)

noughties collage

The noughties also mark the only two years of my adult life where I have been without any fragrance and that’s because I had my sons during that decade.  Their first scent memory is of my skin.  No deodorant, no perfume, just me.  It wasn’t easy getting those babies, but it was worth it.

The Smell of the Twenteens

Now things really start to spice up. I started my blog on January 2nd 2013. It was a combination of an urge to write and a channel for my reawakened perfume passion. This was brought about by a lean period, during which Chanel was very much out of reach.  As a result, I developed a bit of a cheap and cheerful habit as my receipts from will attest.  From that, and the three huge boxes of samples that dear Lisa Jones let me borrow, the floodgates opened.


The biggest scent launch of the Twenteens has to be the seminal Lancome La Vie est Belle. The fruity floral explosion of the early ‘teens segued into a river of caramel and praline   Hot on its heels was YSL Black Opium , which dismayed many Opium fans, but brought a  cohort of new fans to the brand.

In recent  times, I’ve been coming across the semi-ubiquitous jasmine sambac note that  seems to be so popular right now.  You can find it in  Paco Rabanne Olympea,  Givenchy Dahlia Divin and Versace Eros. The big launch of 2017 is Mon Guerlain, and whilst it’s not my cup of tea, I do harbour hopes that it will  lead us into a big lavender  trend.

As we point in the direction of 2020, I’m looking forward to the alleged forthcoming trends of milk notes, peony and a renaissance of my favourite genre: green notes.

Interestingly, celebrity fragrance sales are on the wane, but guess what’s on the up?  Niche perfume.  Which is very good news indeedy.


How about you?

What scents bring back instant memories for you?  It doesn’t matter how random or everyday they are, I always love to hear from you.


15 thoughts on “Five Decades of #Scent Memories: National Fragrance Day 2017”

  1. My earliest perfume memory is Body Shop’s Fuzzy Peach and Charlie Red, to my shame.

    L’eau d’issey and JPG Le Male reek of my student days and always make me feel that heady mixture of power and unending possibilities within my grasp that youth offers.

    I’m delighted to hear that green notes are coming back! My favourite note in perfume is the tea note, but despite an on/off relationship with both Bvlgari’s The Vert and Arden’s Green Tea they never last on my skin. I’ve hunted many tea perfumes down, but no luck. Sorry to send you back to your Aunty Sam role of the previous few blogs, but is there any tea fragrance that does last on the skin I wonder?

    1. Hi Jane and thanks for dropping by. Don’t worry about making me an agony aunt again. I love it! Charlie Red is still my sister’s favourite. I don’t mind buying it since it’s cheap as chips. There’s bound to be a long lasting tea note somewhere. My first port of call would be Atelier Colognes. But I will answer this in more deptyh if I may use it on my problem page? xxxx

  2. My first perfume bottle was exclamation! I acquired a small bottle of this a few years ago for old times’ sake…. don’t wear it but fun to sniff. I also had a big bottle of Giorgio Red, not as ubiquitous as Giorgio but just as potent. And I still mourn the loss of a splash bottle of Chanel No. 5 edc from 1987, sent to me by a French boy (met over the summer during college that I was an exchange student). It got lost during our last move a few years ago, before I got serious about perfume. Tragedy!

    1. Hello MMKinPA and thank you for taking the trouble to write in. I remember Giorgio Red. You can still find it sometimes and its super cheap. I’m nostalgic for the big 80s scents now.

      How you must mourn that splash bottle of Chanel No 5! What a loss.

      best wishes
      Sam x

  3. Yardley are now doing a Bluebell scent; I recall that number 7 one well. They did a rose one and a clover fragrance too in the same range.
    My main memory of the 80s scent wise was the perfume bar at the Body Shop, which is where I really began to experiment. You could get a perfume oil for a few quid. The Chypre one was a huge favourite; I found one identical a year or two back, a drupe type thing off Amazon.
    I had Cristalle, a duty free bottle splurged on with francs on my way back from a trip to Taize in 1991, but I realised eventually that it was that which gave me a headache every time I wore it, not the social event I wore it for.
    My first adult(ish) perfume I bought for myself was probably the original Charlie; my mum gave me Yardley lavender a year or two later, which I loved but felt was old fashioned.

    1. Hi Viv,

      Always a pleasure to hear from you. I tried the Yardely Bluebell and although it was very pretty, it wasn’t very bluebell. I’m so glad someone else remembers the perfume I mean. When you mentioned the Clover one, I thought “yes!” I’d forgotten about that one until you said.

      As for Yardley Lavender- it’s very good but i can see it’s been a little out of favour. I’m hoping that Mon Guerlain will help to bring lavender back inot fashion again.

      warmest wishes

      Sam xx

  4. My first perfume memory is my mum’s Tweed, mingled with cigarettes. She liked to think her signature was Cahnel No.5, but she wore it so infrequently I’ll always associate Tweed with her. I still have a bottle to wear to remind me of her, though strangely it doesn’t smell as good without the side of smoke.

    The other perfume I’ll never forget is Chloe Intense, my husband bought for me when my daughter was born. I didn’t like it and she screamed blue murder when I put it on. A definite no, but probably the strongest reaction to a perfume I’ve ever had.

    I loved this post and all the perfume memories to trawl through, in particular the line @It wasn’t easy getting those babies, but it was worth it.’ A fabulous post.

    1. Hello Rachael and what a lovely post. I actually agree with you about Tweed and cigarette smoke going together. My Mum wears Tweed and smokes and somehow they really complement each other.

      Isn’t it funny how babies don’t like perfume? Sometimes my cats won’t let me pet them if I’ve just sprayed something . The strongest reaction I ever had to perfume was when I tried Bal a Versailles and my husband jumped up from the sofa and backed away saying “what the hell is THAT?” So funny.

      Thank you for liking my post. Those babies were hard won, but the smell of a new babies’ head will always turn me to jelly!

  5. Hi Sam

    I’ve already started in on my sixth decade (how the hell did that happen) so I’ve got more scent memories than I can even remember, haha.

    But here’s a few that stick out in my mind. My mother wore Cachet quite a lot, with some Tweed and Evening in Paris thrown in occasionally. But the one that sticks in my memory best is her one time only bottle of Youth Dew, and what became of it. She had gotten it for Christmas and shortly thereafter my then toddler nephew was visiting. He had disappeared down the hall for a little while when we got the blast of Youth Dew. Mam ran down to her bedroom and found the bottle broken with the contents splashed up the curtains, soaking the wallpaper, and a massive puddle on the carpet. She wasn’t so much worried about the loss of the perfume, but was was lamenting the state of the curtains and carpet. Her room smelled of it for ages, as the carpet held onto it, so it was the most glamorous-smelling bedroom ever! In her later years she developed a love of Anais Anais, which was pretty much her favourite perfume.

    My own perfume journey started when I was about 7 or 8 with a bottle of something from Avon, I can’t remember the name of it. Then at around 10 years old there was Hartnell In Love, it was a gift box of perfume, talc and bath cubes, I remember mostly a powdery scent from that. My older sister was wearing Fabergé Kiku around this time. Moving on a couple of years and from a friend I received a present of Stevie B, in the little red and white canister, which I adored. But it was her big sister’s perfume that suckered me, she had Fidji parfum, and both my friend and I used to take off the cap and just sniff it, we didn’t dare use any as it was only a tiny bottle. On through my teenage years there was Lentheric Panache and Tramp, Babe, Max Factor Le Jardin and Epris, Charlie, Yardley Liberty, Prince Matchabelli Chimere and Aviance (I was still too young for the Aviance nights though). There were probably several more that I’ve forgotten but that’s just a little perfume timeline for me. When I moved to London at 18 and started to earn decent money my first big, serious perfume purchase was, you guessed it, Fidji parfum. There have been so many in the intervening years that I would be here all day listing them, so I better quit now!

    P.S. Following on from my post here recently, I’ve scored a bottle of vintage Fidji edt on ebay, and am awaiting its arrival. Fingers crossed that it’s still good juice.

    Ciao for now.

    1. Dear Cassieflower, always a pleasure to hear from you. I love how many scents you remember. Some people stick to a signature (and nothing wrong with that, of course) but you’ve moved with the eras and tried the on trend stuff and the classics too. I remember Kiku with the yellow ball shaped bottle? Also Hartnell’s In Love was the wedding perfume of a reader’s mother and she remembered it so vividly. I’d forgotten about Epris until you mentioned it! Do you remember Blase? They all used to be standard fare for Mums at Christmas. My Mum wears Tweed and smells great in it. It’s really under rated in my book, as is Panache, which reminds me of Rive Gauche and lasts about fourteen hours on me. It’s an excellent scent and its outdated image does it a disservice.

      By the way, since looking at Fidji again after you wrote in, I fell in love with it again. I know what you mean though- I want it to have more OOOMPH.

      let me know how your vintage purchase works out. I’ve been pretty impressed with stuff from ebay in the past.

      Thanks so much for writing in and sharing your scent memories. I enjoyed our stroll down memory lane.

      Sam xxx

  6. I’m older–and my scent memories are so different. They are tropical: ocean, green, my mom’s Arpege. Patchouli, Tabu and Aliage. Oh, let’s not forget Heaven Scent. Growing up in South Florida seemed to go by so quickly. Thanks for the prompt.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing those lovely memories. I can’t imagine growing up in Florida, but you have given me little glimpses into what it was like. Thank you! xxx

  7. My Dad, who passed away 1.5 years ago, told me that every lady should have a perfume collection. He was the one who sparked my love of scents.
    When I was 12 and we lived in Port Moresby, he bought me Lou lou and Byzance. It was very grown up but I loved wearing them and would receive so many compliments. When I was 15 my favorites were Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflower and True Love. My mother picked those out for me. My mother also gave me a bottle of Tendre Poison, one of her signature scents at the time and it remained a firm favorite throughout my teen years. My Dad always favored bolder fragrances for me while my Mum to this day prefers light, fresh feminine and unobtrusive scents. When I started exploring night clubs and staying out late, it was Jean Paul Gaultier I sprayed on my wrists. When I landed my first job, I used to spend my tiny salary on Gucci Envy. My mid-twenties when I moved into my first apartment was when I fell in love with Stella. My favorite thing to do was to go to the perfume shop close to where I live and sample perfumes for hours and spend much more than I wanted! Many of my bottles ended up with Mum. She, like me, has many favorites over the years. Unlike us, my Dad only ever wore Fahrenheit, whenever I smell it it brings tears to my eyes because I miss him.
    Whenever I’m going through an intense period, I purposely wear scent I like but don’t love. Such is the association scent has to me that sniffing it would bring back emotions and memories and I wouldn’t be able to wear it anymore once that period had passed because having that fragrance on my skin would be overwhelming to my senses.

    1. Dear Mia, I am so grateful for this beautiful mini autobiography told via scent memory. I can totally empathise with you- i lost my dear Dad just two years ago and it still feels so unreal. I loved reading your story told via perfume. It was sweet, poignant and moving. Are you a writer? or do you have any plans to be? xxx

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