Continued from Part 3 of a series where I talk about perfume and smells.
My late grandfather kept a bottle of 4711 Ice Cool complete with its box in the fridge as a quick remedy for headaches and nausea. 4711 Eau de Cologne by Mäurer & Wirtz is the iconic cologne from the 18th century and still widely available today at your local grocery store. 4711 Ice Cool is a flanker with a shot of menthol that cooled on your skin.
There was a day as a child when I wasn’t feeling well. My late grandfather pulled the bottle out and gave me a few drops to dab on my temples. The scent was of light citruses and neroli, although I wouldn’t have learned the names to describe it for another decade or so. I don’t know what happened to that bottle, but today I keep a bottle of inexpensive 4711 Ice Cool (in it’s new packaging) in my fridge as a hat-tip to him.
My grandmother wears a range of perfumes, so many that I can’t recall all of them. She wears tailored dresses and pantsuits in bright floral prints. Her perfume is just as loud. On nights out, she was always surrounded by giant sillages of powerhouse perfumes. I found them overwhelming as a child, especially in enclosed spaces such as cars.
For the life of me I can’t identify any of her perfumes. I remember a seeing a bottle of Jean Paul Gaultier’s now discontinued Fragile on her dresser. The bottle was domed and it had a little figurine of a lady in a black gown suspended in glittery golden liquid. The bottle reminded me of a snow globe. Although I can’t be entirely sure, I am also convinced that she wore Hermes’ Eau de Merveilles and Coco by Chanel. When I first sampled both fragrances at different times, the scents were strangely familiar and reminded me of ‘old lady’, but I couldn’t quite place them. I have a sneaking suspicion that it used to be something she wore.
I only recently realized that my parents wear fragrances too. I grew up during most of my childhood assuming that parents always magically smelled the way they did when we would attend weddings or family dinners. My mum wore Incanto by Salvatore Ferragamo, a scent I associated with her dressing up and making up for a night out. To my knowledge, she has never bought perfume for herself. She only owns scents gifted to her from my father procured during his trips via duty-free stores at airports.
My dad on the other hand, wears cologne regularly. I’ve seen empty bottles of Aramis and Bleu de Chanel EDT on his dresser among others. Just this week, a new bottle of Estee Lauder’s Pleasure for Men. However, the scent that I most associated him with was this random cologne from Marks & Spencer.
When I first started getting excited about perfumes, I asked to raid my parents’ stashes. In my mum’s drawer I found the almost empty Incanto and a small atomizer of the iconic Bvlgari Eau Parfumee au the Vert. Upon my first sniff on the neck of the Incanto sprayer, the recognition of it as her scent was immediate even though I’ve never actually seen her yield the bottle. I hadn’t even realized that I had a memory of my mother’s perfume. The same went for my dad’s fragrances – all it took was a sniff to pick out the one he frequently wore. I also spotted a gifted bottle of the classic Acqua di Parma Colonia in their shared bathroom. According to my sister, was exclusively used as an air freshener.
My first fragrant liquids were two tiny glass vials of aromatherapy oil gifted to me from my rather fashionable, jet-setting aunt. One was labeled as an invigorating blend with ylang ylang and jojoba oil, and the other relaxing, with lavender, which quickly became one of my favorites. She told me that she would use it on her temples when she couldn’t sleep. I treasured them like they were the most precious things, barely using them.
Earlier this year I found them during a cleaning frenzy and tossed them out as they were oil-based and had gone bad. I regret that now – looking back, those scented oils were my first perfume obsession.
End of Part 4. Read Part 5.