100 things to smell before you die…

In anticipation of a very fragrant week, next week – The Fragrance Foundation’s National Fragrance Week (more of which on Monday) – we are sharing with you a wonderful post which first appeared on the website of Les Senteurs, London’s much-loved showcase for independent and niche perfume, where experts have been steering perfume-lovers to new scent loves for over 30 years.

The store itself recently had a wonderful makeover. (Read about that here.) Its experts are known for their wisdom and knowledge – and among them is James Craven, winner of a 2017 Jasmine Award (from the aforementioned Fragrance Foundation), and a fount of knowledge on all things scented. We are excited that we’ll be sharing more of James’s writing on The Perfume Society website – and delighted to kick off with this post…

Why not tell us what you think of this list – and maybe tweet your own favourites, tagging us @Perfume_Society, as well as @lessenteurs?

As James writes…

‘Everyone loves a list.

Here is my own riposte to all those endless ‘must do’s’ – 100 things to see/read/eat before you die – always so popular in the Bank Holiday Newspapers. Yet so many of those recommended experiences are curiously passive, depressingly automatic: they involve buying a ticket, taking out a subscription, visiting some sort of restaurant, theatre or other place of entertainment.

Smells are different. They are trickier to seek out; they take you by surprise at unexpected moments; they rocket you across time and space; they resist control or manipulation. With smell you must take your pleasures where you find them. Most of the following scents are delicious; some are startling. A few are revolting but arresting. Only one I have not yet smelled…

At the time I originally wrote this, reports were coming in from Australia that the Duchess of Cornwall ‘recoiled’ at the smell of a koala: the eucalyptus oil comes out through the koala’s pores, you see, intensified by its own natural odour. Smells never fail to amaze: if you let them.

Here we go…

• Box… and phlox: pink and white phlox was introduced into Europe by the Empress Josephine – a hot white peppery scent; the smell of childhood.

• A new bar of soap

• A traditional eau de Cologne

• Orange peel & marmalade

• Clean sheets – laid up in lavender or simply air-dried

• Fresh-cut spring grass

• Cowslips

• Pigs

• The silk lining of a vintage fur coat

• Apple blossom

• New books: hardback &  limp edition smell quite different.

• Chanel No 5 – it changes and grows continuously, like so many classics: the living legend

• Jasmine – in a pot, in the garden or on the streets of Damascus

ª The hills of home – that indefinable smell of your native air. I can smell Leicester coming a mile off…

• Lilac

• Ether

• Fried onions

• Russian airports – once redolent of over-ripe apples, cigarettes & petrol. Have they changed ?

• Toast

• A glasshouse of ripening tomatoes

• Sweet peas – which is lovelier? The colour or the perfume?

• White sugar – a nasty smell. Used to make me feel quite sick as a child…

• Tom cats

• Hyacinths (though to some they smell of tom cats)

•  Scarlet geraniums – more properly called pelargoniums but you know the plant I mean…

• Christmas and Easter – something indefinable in the air. Unmistakable, impossible to pin-point.

•  Privet hedges

•  Shalimar by Guerlain – celebrating its glory days

• Suede gloves

• Vinegar

• The sea

• Icy iron – an iron railing with a hard January frost on it

• Horseradish – the hotter the better

• Honeysuckle

• Lily of the valley

• A convent chapel – inner cleanliness

• Prison – I have yet to smell this and trust I never shall; but the awful miasma is something that everyone who has been banged up infallibly mentions.

• New shoes

• Ripe pineapples – warm, fragrant golden sweetness.

• Bluebells and wild garlic

• Backstage – of any theatre

• Syringa on a June evening.

• Olive oil

• Snuffed candles – in the second they are extinguished; hot wax and burned wick

• Rosemary, lavender, thyme – the glory of the herb patch.

• Cocoa butter

• Fear –  a sour, foxy reek

• Jonquils in a sunny beeswax-polished hallway

• Chamomile – though not camomile tea

• Bacon, coffee, cigarettes at the moment of lighting – all notoriously smelling better than they taste

• A gardenia and a magnolia flower – often talked-about, seldom experienced for real

• An iris bed in bloom: the flowers DO have a scent – an unforgettable smell

• Daffodils

• Laburnum

• Stargazer lilies

• Hot tar

• Indian basil

• Creosote

• Narcisse Noir de Caron

• Guelder rose –  that gorgeous vibernum shrub reminiscent of expensive vanilla & peach ice cream.

• Broad bean flowers

• Methylated spirits

• Tuberose

• Vanilla pods

• Gorse – coconut frosted with sea salt in May sunshine.

• Incense

• Lemons –  like the sweet peas, the colour and scent are mutually enhancing.

• Clove pinks

• Fresh oysters on ice

• Celery

• Nail polish remover

• Hot custard

• Marlene’s hands, 1972 – covered in Youth Dew

• Linseed oil

• Violets

• Bonfires – in small doses

• A well-soaked sherry trifle

• Rain

• Marigolds

• New potatoes boiling with mint

• ‘Iles Flottantes’ – that exquisite dessert delicacy first tasted at a French service station

• Steaming hen mash

• Kaolin & morphine medicine

• A rose

• Sealing wax

• Newly-washed hair

• Hot mince pies

• The bitterness of poppies

• Scalding hot tea

• Linden blossom

• The inside of handbags

• Myrtle – always a cutting in a royal bride’s bouquet

• Raspberries

Anything from LES SENTEURS….’

Which you can find at: 71 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, London SW1W 9PJ/020-7730 2322

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