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We travel with each breath, memories unlocked: sudden snapshots of childhood holidays, all sun-baked and smeared with ice cream, the smell of your dad’s Ford Cortina – cigarettes, petrol fumes, one of those Traffic Light Air Fresheners and thighs stuck fast to hot leatherette seats. A wafting past of an ex’s scent and waves of dissonance, you’re somewhere on a boat with him, he’s kissing you that way he did, you’re in the moment, conflicting emotions and flashbacks of everywhere you ever travelled together uncoiling, unbidden, in a split second of scented remembering. Our noses are hungry to pounce on these time-travel moments we’d forgotten we carried so deeply in our souls, but just as ready to leap upon olfactory odysseys we’ve not yet encountered and, perhaps, never will. Perfumers are inspired by the evocation of place more than any other fragrant stimulus – capturing the elusive, exotic or unexpected essence of somewhere just as travel diaries and scrapbooks (now Instagram and Facebook) attempt to trap fragments of a life well lived. So then, stick a pin in a map, flip a bottle’s lid: where shall we escape to, today…?
Let’s say, for instance, that it’s 1931 and we’re in La Pausa (‘the pause’) – Mme Chanel’s labour of love, her holiday home in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. The double doors are wide open, sunlight streams in through windows clustered together in groups of five (her lucky number), ecru curtains undulate in the Riviera’s lethargic breeze. Perfumer Olivier Polge has created an imagined white flower from a bouquet of many – a sketch of a flower, a place, a woman we never knew but somehow recall.Gabrielle ChanelEau de Parfum £82 for 50ml
The ozonic fizz of citrus sizzling on volcanic stone; a warm breeze across the Mediterranean carrying salt-laden, herbaceous drifts: the Mediterraneo collection expands to allow jet-setting with every spritz – and now we can hop over to Liguria for a sunny morning’s stroll beside the sea. And wherever we choose to travel in the range, there’s always that blue – that colour so vibrant we could dive into it, somehow encapsulated in scent and rippled through with bitter Chinotto and juicy mandarin, the hot fleshy hedonism of jasmine shot through with a wake-me-for-cocktails zip of rosemary and geranium. Yes. Lets visit all of these islands soon.Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Chinotto LiguriaEau de Toilette £66 for 75ml
Perhaps, instead, we are at the juice stall in Dizengoff, nonchalantly smoking a cigarette and checking out the local talent (but it’s the 70s, so it’s still okay). White sand, white linen shirts worn open to the waist, gold jewellery hot to the touch against tanned skin. Above us men and women flirt across floral bedecked balconies, down at our level the tarmac’s beginning to go sticky in the heat – all around the laughter, the gossip, excitement at being alive in such a place, at such a time and feasting on fresh fruit, guzzling the juice, drinking everything in.
Galavant Tel Aviv Eau de Parfum£65 for 30ml
Pick a bottle – any bottle – and let’s party with Edith Piaf, surreptitiously snog on the upper deck of a Piccadilly bus, circumnavigate the Spice Route while ruling the empire in a ruff, crack open that coconut and gulp the water down, ride a wild horse while the dew still sparkles. Wherever you’re wishing to escape: know that your journey will always be a fragrant one.