Fragrances: The World in a Bottle

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

Perfume and fragrances: When devoted explorers are 'grounded', we still must find ways to transport ourselves. To travel. To recall where we have been, and to dream of where we are going. Smell is the most evocative of the senses so at a time when you can no longer see the Eiffel Tower in person, you can still remember Paris with the help of scents, perfumes, colognes, home scent diffusers, fragrances, and scented candles.


Smell is an important wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived"- Helen Keller

When I smell gardenias, I think of San Francisco. It was a hot day as we walked, thankfully down Lombard Street. The intoxicating floral scent of gardenia bushes spilled over the hedgerows, consumed the air and left petals littering the sidewalk. 'Petrichor' is a term that means the smell after rain; an earthy scent rising up from the dust. To me this is Africa. The fresh smell of dew, dust and wild basil reminds me of early morning safari. I recall speeding along the red-dirt roads, the tires kicking up dust, in search of illusive animals (and champagne breakfasts!). Rain on hot concrete reminds me of my childhood summers, sitting by the screen door, waiting for the rain to stop so we could go out and play. Smells remind you of where you have been, and provoke you to dream of where you want to go. This is why the fragrance industry is valued at close to USD 32 billion, yearly.

We first came to visit London in 1990. It was my first trip to Europe and it was very exciting. We walked around the city for days, seeing all the sights and taking in London life.

Our highlights were seeing the band Concrete Blonde in an empty Marquee Club, stumbling upon the Intrepid Fox pub where all of the ageing punk-rockers of London had migrated, and the excitement of running for the Tube without needing to go anywhere at all. Being let loose in a big city was exhilarating and I loved every second. And London in the early 90's positively reeked of Red Door.

In 1989, Elizabeth Arden launched Red Door perfume. Named after and inspired by the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, it was an olfactory symbol of wealth and elegance. The perfume is a floral scent; jasmine, orchid, orange blossom, lily, violet and freesia. It also has hints of ylang-ylang, sandalwood, honey and vetiver.

Fragrances can transport us in time, remind of us where we have been or who we may have wanted to be.

When I was a child I could have drunk my mom's Chanel No. 5 for breakfast I wanted so much to be a bohemian socialite in 1920's Paris. Now, there is now an entire industry of scent-makers that market their product based on travel.

Olfactory receptors are connected to the limbic system. This is the oldest and most primitive part of the brain and where we store our emotional memories. Attaching a memory of a person or place to a smell is so automatic to the limbic system, we may not even recognise it happening.

Most fragrances, be it Baccarat le Larmes Sacrees de Thebes for $6800.00 per ounce, or Britney Spears Fantasy on Amazon for $15, are based on 12 scent notes. These notes are derived from botanicals harvested all over the world. So when we travel, we pick up these memories of smells along the way, and bring them home with us to recall later. Fragrances are the world in a bottle.

Flower Picture Guide

When purchasing a fragrance, you might want to keep in mind more than just a celebrity spokesperson or the shape of the bottle. Some inexpensive perfumes are made with synthetic chemicals, and no one wants that on their body! Try to purchase perfumes that are made with natural botanicals. This is better for you and better for the environment. They also smell WAY better!

Speaking of the environment, it is always good to be mindful the products that you are buying and what, if any environmental impact their manufacturing process has. Sandalwood, for instance, was over-harvested in its native India and now, most mature sandalwood trees can only be found on private property. Luckily, sandalwood is now being produced in Australia, though it is very costly.

Producing Ylang Ylang on the Comoros Islands is threatened by deforestation and erosion and even vanilla needs special attention on the Reunion Islands to maintain a good balance between the forest ecosystem and vanilla farm crops. Where there is deforestation, ecosystem destruction and uncheck natural botanical diseases, perfumers run risk of losing the ingredients fundamental to their product, but the people who work with the plants also lose their jobs and livelihoods. It is important that the entire process; from production to consumption, stay in balance.

Now a days, you could call Red Door a classic scent, or you could call it your grandmother's perfume. London now reeks of many different smells. But now and again I catch a whiff of Red Door on the wind and I am transported back to London; a young, professional woman of the 90's, out of the United States for the very first time. Loving every second.

Get that 1990's London Look.

I found a lot of inspiration from the book the Perfume Bible by Josephine Fairley & Lorna McKay, first published in 2014. There is a lot of information about how perfumes are produced, bottled and sold. I find the book endlessly informative!

International Flavor and Fragrance is an large, American Corporation that sells flavours, scent products and cosmetics. In 2012 they adopted their 12 Principles of Green Chemistry initiative to make the production of scent and flavour products more responsible to the environment and to local communities. Consult their website for more information. #DoMoreGoodxIFF

TOP TIP I always accept the perfume samples I am offered while shopping for cosmetics. These little bottles are great to throw into hand luggage when traveling. I will sometimes tuck one into my eyeglass case so I have some touch-up scent on hand, and I also leave them in the car, just in case I run out the door without applying.


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