Niche Fragrance Magazine

Scented souvenirs

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I keep a bottle of supermarket Eau de Cologne in my fridge and just soused myself in it after hanging the washing out in the hot sun. It was gratifyingly cooling and refreshing, and its scent flashed me back to summers spent in France and Switzerland, where it was often this hot, and I learned this cooling trick.

Because I’m writing a review rather than simply enjoying my favourite eau, which by the way is Mont St Michel Eau de Cologne Ambrée, I took notice of the barbershop-ish initial impression it gives me. As a confirmed anti-frou-frou woman who loathes ruffles, pink and florals, I spent years trying to find fragrances that worked for me. (Thank goodness for Yves Saint Laurent, is all I can say.) Anyway, I came across this particular favourite of mine via soap (another weakness). I was in France and needed to buy a bar to use while I was away. After sniffing several packages, I found the soap version of this eau de Cologne and was pleased by its non-floral spicy and ambery notes. I used it the whole time I was away, and now it is one of my favourite ‘flashback’ scents.

The spritz of this from lunchtime is still there at teatime, close to my skin and delicately spicy. It reminds me of Penhaligon’s Elixir and Lubin’s Idole and Akaad, with the traces of woods and spice they leave behind when they are all but gone. Given my fondness for spicy, resinous and woody fragrances, it’s small wonder that I have a stash of this, plus all the soap, showergel and anything else I could get my hands on, This became my baseline personal fragrance for quite a few years, precisely because of the unisex ambery spicy woody trail it left on my skin. Enough to be fine on its own with its gentle spices, not so much that it did more than deepen whatever fragrance I did spray on top of it.

The key thing about this particular eau is that it’s very, very cheap, so I feel no pinch in my pocket when I slosh it on liberally while praying for yet another shower when I’ve already had one today and it’s only 11am. It’s rather more of a squeak to douse myself in Eau de Guerlain, because it’s quite expensive, so I spritz it more delicately and almost lose the point of it. That’s why I enjoy the Berdoues range so much – they are what I think an eau de cologne really should be: delicious, and cheap enough to souse yourself like a herring in their cooling delights. I also like that they are clever in their blends and create things like their Figue Blance and Cedre Blanc, both of which I plan to buy if this hot spell keeps up.

Equally, I’ve realised that my first trip back to France in 6 years will be this autumn, and my stash of precious Mont St Michel soap is declining, so my first stop will be my favourite supermarket for a major restock. This and Bioderma cleanser, squidgy plastic ‘sausages’ of Le Petit Marseillaise liquid soap refills for handwash dispensers, some good sausisson sec, and a lot of Madeleines will be cached in my car before you can say Jaques Robinson.

Perfume makes such a wonderful souvenir of a trip – whether you buy a bottle of simple eau de cologne in France or something more elegant by Guerlain or Caron. I was in Rome a couple of years ago, and because I couldn’t find any eau de Cologne, I bought a bottle of Roberts Rosewater instead. It was gorgeous, and I was able to spritz my face as well as my throat and arms, so I enjoyed La Vie en Rose in the city of La Dolce Vita.

Just recently, I was on holiday in Tenby, in Pembrokeshire here in Wales (I recommend it highly, it’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to). I brought home a bottle of prized Caldey Island Lavender, made by the monks at the monastery on a nearby island. Can you imagine a better way to remember a week of holiday than wearing this pure blue sky of a fragrance?

What will you be bringing back from your holidays? Or what is your favourite scented souvenir from past vacations? I would love to know.

A decade ago in a little secondhand bookshop, I bought a biography of an obscure biophysicist written by a New York Times journalist and my life changed. Yes, I blame it all on Luca Turin and Chandler Burr; thanks to them I fell in love with L'Heure Bleue and haven't looked back since.

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