I’ve always been someone who strongly associates scent with memory, and I’m not alone. Memory and smell are intertwined. Interestingly, mental disorders that impair memory also damage the sense of smell, as well as the ability to distinguish scents. So it makes perfect sense that when it comes to remembering periods of my life, I always think about the perfume I was wearing at the time.
One whiff of Bath and Body Works Cucumber Melon takes me back to the summer after I graduated high school and was working at a record store. If I spray Anna Sui One Love, I am immediately transported to dating a tough but sensitive musician who broke my heart (a few times.) The smallest sample of Opium reminds me of my mother, while anything coconut-scented reminds me of my late grandmother. So when I’m figuring out what my next go-to scent is going to be, I think about what kind of memories I would ideally like to associate with it. For me, it’s not just about smelling good—it’s about a particular scent pulling me into a frame of a mind. Perfumes are powerful ways for me to enhance different parts of my personality, and I love matching them to my mood.
Summertime is my favorite season to experiment with scents, as the warmer weather means more body chemistry off-setting fragrances and fewer clothes between my perfume and the world. I pulled together a round-up of the perfumes that will be in rotation over the next few months, and the kinds of days I picture having while wearing them.
Tauer Pentachord Verdant
This is a green scent, but don’t get it twisted. You won’t find any basic grassy notes in this strange potion. Hints of ivy, wet earth, smoke, tobacco, and leather intertwine, leaving an essence of pure, lush, forest. Pentachord Verdant leaves me feeling witchy, like a magical creature hidden away in a vine-coated greenhouse deep in the woods. I’d wear this on overcast, humid summer days where I long for rain and maybe a little bit of mystery. It brings out the darker side of summer: black sundresses, shadowy hikes, bare feet with gold toenail polish, and dewy skin with a hint of berry-stained lips. Everything about this scent screams haunted cemeteries on hot days, making it one I will reach to all through the warmer months.
Atelier Cologne Pomelo Paradise
With its top notes of black currant, Calabrian mandarin, and pink grapefruit, it could be easy to dismiss this scent as just another summery citrus. But you’d be missing out on a truly exquisite fragrance. Under the crisp, sweet notes are orange blossoms, rose, and amber, anchoring the sugariness with a depth. To me, this smells like adventure. Although this is a high quality fragrance, it warms quickly on the skin and feels casual, like you just hiked through an orange grove. I will reach for this as my scent for early morning hikes, days at the beach, or outdoor picnics. Something about the pink grapefruit feels exuberant and youthful, like a vintage bathing suit by the pool.
Van Cleef & Arpels Gardenia Petale
Imagine a garden party filled with fireflies, flowering trees, twinkling fairy lights, and a twisting brick path freshly dampened by a light rain. This scent is a kiss on the lips in the moonlight, hidden behind jasmine bushes away from prying eyes. It’s romantic, floral, and elegant without being overpowering. It captures the elegance of a just bloomed gardenia, tempered with green notes and lily of the valley, adding a hint of sensuality to the otherwise pure fragrance. For me, this is the ultimate summer date perfume. It lingers on the skin for hours, but has a close range—people aren’t going to smell it on you until they’re very close, creating a certain sense of intimacy. This fragrance is wonderful when blended with other scents, like a swipe of patchouli oil or a fine mist of sea-salt based scents. Think of it as a perfectly sweet, intoxicating layer to build upon.
Kerosene Black Vines
When I have that certain summertime sadness, this is the scent I want to wrap myself in. It’s moody, sharp, angsty, and sexy, like a leather jacket on sun-warmed skin. The darkness of fig, fir, and cinnamon blend together as a formidable base, while vanilla, incense, and licorice sweeten Black Vines into a ripe and dangerous companion. Think dark, glittering beach boardwalk midways, matches striking a bonfire, salt water taffy melting on skin, and the roar of motorcycles after midnight. When my inner goth comes out to play, Black Vines lingers on my wrists and neck, clinging to everyone I leave in my wake.
Demeter Salt Air
This classic marine scent is as close as you can get to sea spray without getting wet. Like all Demeter scents, this is just one note: salt air. It’s ideal for layering to bring heavier, winter scents into spring and summer, but works beautifully by itself. It’s not artificially beachy, like coconut sun block, but gentle and natural, like the first breath of ocean air. I reach for this when I’m stuck indoors on summer days, longing for the sun on my skin and the sand between my toes.