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Five Decades of #Scent Memories: National Fragrance Day 2017

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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.

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 allbeauty.com will attest.  From that, and the three huge boxes of samples that dear Lisa Jones let me borrow, the floodgates opened.

twenteens

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.

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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.

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National Fragrance Day: How Scent and Memory Go Together

ME AND FRED HEAD TO HEAD
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From an early age, scent plays a huge part in our olfactory memory. Even if someone hasn’t got perfumania like me (and you probably have too if you’re reading this), you can bet your bottom dollar that they can at least remember their mother’s perfume from when they were a child, or the smell of their grandparents house, or even the soap in the school toilets.  Revisiting a familiar scent can be like flicking a switch in your memory bank. Perfume and memory are intrinsically linked. The Alzheimers Society has recognised this and is examining it.

“We only have very preliminary results from this test, but together with mounting evidence in the field, we believe odours may be much better facilitators of memory and emotions than, for example, pictures and trigger quite different parts of the brain. These are brain areas that cannot be probed in any other way, yet which are central to diseases like Alzheimer’s.”-Dr Jason Warren, Alzheimers Research UK.

The full article can be found here and is well worth a read.  It’s early days as far as research goes, but it is an indisputable fact that smell can trigger not just recollection, but emotion.  On a personal level, and leaving my groaning dressing table of bottles alone for a minute (if I must), I can trace my whole life journey through an odyssey of scent: there’s the fresh cut grass of my childhood and the wildflowers you don’t see as much now. The smell of dirt and tomatoes and broken ferns can rush me back in time faster than any modern digital device. Scent is primal.

Pentacon

It’s no coincidence that the very first perfume I bought as a young teenager was called “Bluebell” from Boots, now long discontinued. Near where I lived as a child there were  fields and woods full of them and Mum always had a posy from me in a yogurt pot on the kitchen windowsill.

sambeach

Holidays provided their own unique library of scent too: coconutty sun screen, weak orange squash with sand in the bottom, and the malty smell of Dad’s pint of John Smiths. Don’t worry, my parents were never drunk in charge of three scamps, but they must have needed one after taking us all to a caravan for a week. Add the smell of roast lamb, real chips cooked in lard (Heavenly then, prohibitive now), and the smell of soil from my mud pies, and that pretty much sums up the smell of my seventies childhood.

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As I got older, perfume played a bigger part in my life. In the 80s, you still had to take a roll of camera film to the chemist and wait three days to see if you had any good ones. As a result there are blessedly few photographs of my hectic social life throughout my teenage years and university, and no selfies at all. One sniff of Cacharel LouLou though, and I am transported to the exact songs I danced to in the Timepiece in Exeter, in a cloud of Marlboro Lights and the smell of feet that you get in dark nightclubs. I still have a bottle of LouLou, but it’s not the same now I’m a non smoking mother of two with firm dance floor inhibitions. My only late night fantasies now involve an early night and a good book, but one sniff of LouLou? Ah, those were the days.

www.myluxury.itIn my early twenties I discovered Chanel Cristalle and it got me through five years of 90s Cool Britannia London. I barely wavered from it, apart from a flirtation with original Monsoon fragrance with the brown pointy cap. Only Gucci Envy in my thirties made me stray. Once I hit 42, I fell headlong into the fragrance portal that made me want to try them all with a thirst I couldn’t shake and here I am, having written 653 posts about fragrance.

 

My favourite smell, perfume aside, is the smell of my sons’ hair. One sniff and it tells me the story of them. Elder son smells of football games in the park. Younger son smells of school and still a little bit of baby. They don’t seem to mind their mother giving their heads a good sniff during a hug and I’m making the most of it before they get too tall for me- not difficult as I’m five foot two. Scent plays a huge part in my life, past and present. And you don’t have to own a flotilla of pretty bottles to think so ( but it helps!).

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What smells take you back? Can you remember your mother’s perfume? The smell of holidays? Grandma’s house? The smell of your first kiss? Do share your thoughts. I always love to hear from you.

Photo credits: Top photo of Photo of me with my son Freddie aged two. Taken by Alison Oddy. LouLou ad from beautyofdawn.com. Cristalle photo from artofcosmetics.com. All others my own.

Goya Black Rose: Hello Again

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Goya Black Rose, like Aqua Manda, went away and came back again, and I’m so glad it did. Thanks are due to Beauty Brand Development who had the good sense to bring it back to a willing audience. They also had the good sense to send me a sample.  I am very grateful indeed. Opinions are my own.

The brainchild of Douglas Collins, Goya Black Rose, Aqua Citra and Aqua Manda were created in the 50s and 60s respectively and were a great hit until dwindling sales led to them being discontinued.  Gradually the hum of longing for the good ole days of these classic fragrances reached the right ears , and all three scents have been brought back, using the same formula, with the cooperation of Christopher Collins, son of Douglas.

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Rose perfumes have been done in a thousand ways, for all budgets and throughout all trends and eras.  So what makes Goya Black Rose worth buying and trying in a market where Roses are prolific?

It’s a dusky rose that’s teamed with green notes and something retro- like those rose breath sweets.  It’s not quite Turkish Delight and it’s definitely not jam.  It’s a feminine pink rose with big waxy satin petals.  It’s the kind of rose that goes with a twin set and pretty shoes. But it’s more complex than that.  Just as you think you have it labelled “classic, feminine rose” here come the cloves!  Now there’s spice and a daring edge to it.  Add a peppery geranium or two and then soften the whole thing with a pretty white musk flourish and you have Goya Black Rose.

There’s something almost borderline foodie about this- maybe it’s the cloves, but it has a tang of bitterness  that complements the pretty florals which makes this a good girl with a dark side.  I’m just relieved that in this case foodie doesn’t mean saturated with vanilla, and for that I am jolly grateful.  In fact, I would call it an almondy finish.

Goya Black Rose is elegant, beautiful and classic and I’ll gladly call myself a fan, whilst drenching myself in it.  It makes me want to trot around town wearing smart gloves and saying Good Morning to passers by.  Longevity is great.

Stockists

Goya Black Rose is very reasonably priced- you can start with a purse spray if you’re not sure ( I LOVE a purse spray!) and you can buy it for around £15 for 15ml  on allbeauty.com or just under £40 for a big 100ml bottle. You can also try Amazon UK

Meanwhile elsewhere…

The Perfume Society has a lovely article about the Goya fragrances right here.