Viewer Mail: The Perfect Beach Perfume








Hi Katie,

I am looking for a summer perfume I can wear during the day. I'd like it to embody the beach where I spent my summer months growing up.

There's a shady dirt path that leads there, the dirt pounded smooth by decades of bare feet. There are roots to trip over if you don't know the geography, and lots of ivy. At the end of this path there's a heaping helping of dark pink rugosa rose (I call it beach rose), white and orange honeysuckle, and granite rocks to sit on that are bleached by the sun.

Here the sky opens up and is full of space, like it only can be over the sea. The air is punctuated by a salty breeze, along with the smell of hot fine sand and wet seawater-soaked sand, where waves meet the beach and the sand is coarse.

Maybe there are other ocean smells -- swamp grass? Seaweed? Fish? When you add yourself, you smell salty warm skin, dry beach towel, and a touch of Coppertone. There might also be some cut grass from someone's nearby lawn.

It's a ridiculously tall order. I like Bobbi Brown's Beach a lot, but it's too much jasmine for what I'm imagining. Most of the time I wear Eau Dynamisante, or Eau de Sud. And sometimes something woody-spicy because I like sandalwood. Maybe you can point me to some things to smell? This would make me very happy!

Looking forward to going on a smell adventure,

Alice



Alice,

Not only have you gorgeously phrased your query, but now I want to smell like that, too! I'm currently spending time in Los Angeles, land of the Beach Boys' Endless Summer, which owing to the punishing heat wave has been recast as Endless Hades.

In an attempt to embrace the swelter of 100-degree-plus days, I've been on the prowl for a properly old-skool suntan lotion-y perfume. Weirdly, though I have zero interest in broiling on sand to build up a suntan, I love smelling like I do. Here's what I've come up with.

Starting with your enthusiasm for Bobbi Brown Beach, which I share, I ambled down the Beach path and ended up with something I like even more: Beach Body Oil.


The body oil version tempers the initial shrillness of the perfume's jasmine, while playing up its perfected-Coppertone bouquet. The fragrance hovers close to the skin, signaling fun-in-the-sun-kissed you-ness with a nuzzle of salt. Plus it moisturizes, leaving a lovely sheen. I've been living in Beach Body Oil non-stop for the past three months.

Coppertone's European cousin is Ambre Soleil, so if you want to do it Continental-style, try Bond No. 9 Fire Island, inspired by Ambre Soleil's solar elements. It's airier and more floral than Beach.

Mick, Catherine & Andy hangin' at Fire Island, 1975.

Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess airlifts you you into Mai Tai cocktail territory, which is beach-adjacent, but perhaps not the specific seascape hologram you're after.

Also sticking closer to boardwalk than beach is Martin Margiela Replica Series Beach Walk. Specifically, under the boardwalk, perhaps after too many Mai Tais. My sniff of Beach Walk conjured salty skin and a distant waft of vomit, though your mileage may vary. I hope.

CB I Hate Perfume has two fragrances that provide sun 'n' sand satisfaction. At the Beach 1966 is based around Coppertone with a marine layer of driftwood and seashells. (Posh talk for woods and minerals.)

Mr Hulot's Holiday features an itinerary filled with seaweed/leather/salt flava to which you've alluded, less sweet than At the Beach 1966, more earthy.

If getting lost on Mr Hulot's deserted beach sounds good, I can direct you towards the entirely unpeopled wilderness encapsulated in the smell of Iroaz by Lostmarc'h. Iroaz conjures roses in the salty air of a cold, cloudy beach, but I'll warn you, it is the most ephemeral of all the perfumes suggested here.

In the course of reacquainting myself with fumes on the sunny side of the strasse, I've rekindled a delight in Gendarme, one of the earliest niche perfumes. Floral without screaming “flowers!”, Gendarme's jasmine and bergamot is Malibu cool. I smell Ali MacGraw and Steve McQueen circa '73.


Still in the Gendarme zip code, but softer and prettier, is Jennifer Aniston's truly fetching namesake perfume. It's pale but present, with jasmine and salty rose smudged with faintest musk, alongside rose, violet and sandalwood. Check out my review here.

Sadly, Jennifer Aniston is officially discontinued (the perfume, not the person), but is still available here.

My hunch is that Jennifer Aniston, Gendarme and Bobbi Brown Body Oil will all float your pool raft, but I have one final suggestion.

It's a wild card: Frédéric Malle Dans Tes Bras. I first reviewed it when it was released in 2008, and my appreciation for it has deepened considerably since then.


Billed as “the smell of warm skin”, Dans Tes Bras is an enigmatic confection of musk, salt and sun, aglow with heliotrope and violet. It's a full, rich but subtle perfume that dances between comforting and strange. It's not literally “a beach”, but it's the feeling of a beach: hedonism, freedom, release.

My own recent smell adventures have found me floating in a perpetual cloud of Dans Tes Bras, supplemented by the divine matching body butter.

Katie


Fumies, any more beach perfumes for Alice's smell adventure?

Jagger/Deneuve/Warhol photo by Peter Beard

48 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Meehna, I once chatted to another customer at a perfume counter who loved wearing Sel Marin with Frederic Malle Une Rose to turn it into a "beach rose". I've never forgotten that - but have yet to try it.

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  2. Oltre by Laura Tonatto is full on dirty seashore! x

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    1. Don't know this one...looks like my smell adventure continues!

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  3. My favourite beachy or sea scents are by Mikmoi. There is Mikmoi Aldwych which reminds me of a British seaside town. Then there's Mikmoi Ao, which is a lovely tuberose and coconut with beach bonfire

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    1. Good tip. We're getting some travel in during this beach survey.

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  4. Don't forget Coty Sand and Sable. The smell of the beach and suntan lotion. Except the opening - that's when you've laid your blanket down right next to where the old guy just took a pee. You get ready to freak out when your BFFE says, very practically, "just move the damn blanket!'. So you do. And all is well again in your beach world. And Colleen Corby (from Seventeen Magazine) comes by wearing a polka dot 2-piece and Brian Wilson brings you an icy Coke in a little glass bottle.

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    1. Anita, I've been swallowed up by this vignette and I don't believe I will ever re-emerge. Please forward my mail to Gilligan's Island.

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  5. What a lovely note from Alice. Poetry indeed. Loved your suggestions Katie all perfect. Might I add one to the list? St. Tropez Dispenser by Smell Bent. To me it is ....Brigitte Bardot on the beach in the south of France circa 1959. Bikini top optional!

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    1. Lanier, what I adore is how so many of these perfumes come complete with their own movie star or pop idol!

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    2. Yes me too...movie magic in a bottle!

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  6. For suntan smells, I've been wearing Jean Charles Brosseau's Ombre Bleue, from a Laliquey bottle. FM's Eau De Magnolia is rather nice too, more summery than beachy perhaps. Funnily enough it reminds me of Dans Tes Bras. Keiko Mecheri's Tarifa smells like the Mediterranean seaside to me and won't offend anyone, if you're at the office rather than an actual beach, say.

    Some great recommendations in the post and comments above---I feel another scent-hunt coming on in the last rays of sun this summer....

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    1. hanamini, thanks for coloring in the seascape even more fully with your suggestions. I know exactly what you mean about recommendations triggering ever more scent hunts. Every time fume-luvvas pow wow, my "to smell" list gets longer and longer.

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  7. My advice to you Alice is to walk in to wherever and start picking up bottles and smelling them. Trying to so fiercely match an experience to a smell is not much a "smell adventure" in my mind. I'm sure you had a great time exploring that beach when you were a child and finding all the weird things beaches have in all their nooks and crannies. Well, think of perfume as that beach, except not so literally, and every bottle and sprayer you lift as a rock under which you might find a pirate treasure. Personally, I think that's the best way to recreate the experience you had as a child.

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  8. Fleurs de Sel and Sel de Vetiver :)

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  9. Ms KP, it is so very good to see you back in action! It just made my day a little brighter!
    I loved that Jennifer Aniston perfume - I had a bottle which I used up in short order, forgot for a while and then, poof!- it disappeared. It IS like Child perfume oil, however much the Aniston PR folk protested otherwise. Both have a thoroughly California beach vibe to me - and can that ever be a bad thing? I think not.
    The new Tom Ford Fleur de Portofino just screams beach to me too - it's got the lot, don't you think? White flowers, ocean breeze, refreshing citrus, something warm and sultry and sticky at the heart.... I commend it to the house, in fact, I'm wearing it right now.
    Justineantonia xoxo

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    1. Thanks for chiming in, Justineantonia! And thanks for bringing this Portofino flanker to my attention. Anything honey-esque makes my antenna go "boing!".

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  10. Oh, I just remembered another floral suntan oil perfume I've encountered recently: Ilha do Mel by Memo. It's a pretty, lilting song of gardenia, jasmine and orange blossom.

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  11. Hi Katie:
    Thank you! It has become clear to me that I should be looking for a perfume that is complimentary to this memory instead of being a mirror image of it. This makes sense, as the elements of the walk present themselves singularly, depending where you are, step by step.
    I have tried most of the recommendations on your list, except Gendarme, which I haven't found (on foot anyway) and Jennifer Anniston.

    The closest thing I have found to my original quest is Beach Walk, layered with a light spray of fresh rose. I used Rose Chic by Hayari but Une Rose works pretty well too. Its kind of like rolling over on your beach blanket and getting a whiff of something new. CB at the Beach is nice but it fades extraordinary quickly on me. Bond Fire Island was too sweet, like it was hiding a secret pineapple. (Sag Harbor was pretty, a chilled, wine-sipping', all around upbeat summer day scent) Side note: is it just me or are the perfumes from Bond heavy-handed? Jury is out on Mr. Hulot's Holiday and Iroaz but I'll keep the samples for a further go, not give them away. Dans Tes Bras is great, but a hot summer date at night. Like it was concocted out of a plunging silk neckline, still warm sand, barefeet and candlelight. I still like Bobbi Brown Beach, It is a keeper, as is Nuxe Huile Prodigieux. I think they'd both work with the rose spritz too. (Is it uncouth to do this? would a perfumer cringe?)
    By far the best thing to come out of this quest is finding MiN Apothocary in NYC. It is down the block from where I work which is good because I never, ever make it uptown to Bergdorf Land. It is the King Tut's Tomb of niche (and weird) perfumes. It is very unisex, lots of Oud's. I feel like it's out of my league a little, since I am a novice, but the salespeople have been helpful and generous. Oddly, veering way off track, I fell in love with Pure Addiction by Paul Emilien, even though my daughter says it is too masculine. It is no longer summer and the spicy charmed my Fall mood into submission. I have to go back, because I wore (also off track) a fresh Verbena, green orange raspberry leaf number out of the store that I liked but forgot the name. Plus, I now have a bunch of new things to find from the comments section. Thanks everybody!

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    1. Alice! I love how thoroughly immersed in your quest you are. Your feedback is so welcome, because the more noses we have on the case, the more thorough our findings. And fumeheads of the future will always have this post as a resource in their search for sunny smells.

      You are so right, Bond No. 9s are heavy-handed and lead-footed: they're pedal-to-the-metal for longevity and BIGNESS. And those CBs are at the opposite end of the spectrum, since they're water-based and not built for longevity. (I should've mentioned that.)

      A perfumer may well cringe at your mad scientist mix of perfumes, but only if it doesn't smell good. If you find a successful way to "give your rose a tan", then combine away. I recommend spraying the different fragrances on different parts of your body, though, allowing the mix to happen in your immediate orbit, rather than directly on your skin.

      How wonderful that you've found your "perfume Cheers" (where everybody knows your name), and you're lucky that MiN is so convenient. Your independent study program will now speed into high gear, and you may never re-emerge from King Tut's tomb.

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  12. Katie! I love your work, your YouTube channel is my "non-PhD" pleasure viewing in my last three months of my thesis. Seriously, You are a goddess...because of you, I now own a bottle of Shalimar, No. 19, and am just getting my hands on some Jennifer Aniston (not the actual actress because that sounds like an awkward caper) and/or Bronze Goddess! Many thanks, Katie and I hope you grace YouTube with some more scentacular videos soon!

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    1. Thanks sweet Sara, for your cockle-warming remarks! And I'm tickled to be your perfume "playground pusher".

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  13. Reading this makes me want to fight off the arrival of fall and make me wear my favorite summer beach scent a little longer! I love Tirrenico by Profumi del Forte. It is a salty oceanic fragrance, with hints of fennel and drift wood. It's absolutely gorgeous.

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    1. Thanks for another to add to my "to try" list. Your description is makes me lick my (salty) chops!

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  14. I'm glad someone has requested a search for beachy scents - there's something so nostalgic yet exotic about them. As for my two cents, I was really surprised by Kate Spade's Live Color Fully as a great beachy scent. It starts out very luminous and aquatic and then dries down to reveal the heat of coconut water. I think the coconut makes it smell sort of "beach dirty" as there's that exotic heat but it still exudes remnants of the aquatic floral top notes. Also it lasts a lot longer than I would have expected. Alice, I could see this being part of your fragrance cocktail to add some heat and dirt. I could be way off, but you never know! Good luck in your search.

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    1. Love this analysis, Kendra. Worth more than two cents!

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    2. Last year jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth launched a fragrance available at Barneys. She was quoted in the LA Times: "Growing up by the beach, I wanted it to smell like Coppertone suntan lotion but more sophisticated."

      I have a bottle and she described it perfectly.

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    3. I want to smell this, Fredric!!

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  15. Given Alice's love of woody-spicy perfumes, I'm going to suggest Miller Harris Geranium Bourbon. Also because I think it shares some elements of the base of Ms. Harris's wonderful Fleurs de Sel.

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    1. I'm a Geranium Bourbon fan from way back, and am crestfallen that Miller Harris has discontinued it. But! They have brought back Fleurs de Sel. And there's a newer Miller Harris that's might fit the beach-and-rocks-etc bill: L'eau Magnetic. It's a stylish, contemporary take on CkOne, and is *really* good!

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  16. Comptoir Sud Agua Motu.

    I got a bottle years ago, decided it was too sweet as I had wanted something more windswept and interesting, or so I thought (this was in summer).

    But then..

    ...opened it one wet and miserable Irish November night and found happiness in a bottle. However, I don't know if I'd wear it in any other situation than lolling around in a dressing gown avoiding the sleety reality outside the window - it's more of a virtual reality bubble than a perfume.

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    1. You set the scene perfectly for why "out-of-season" perfumes are such a curative for the spirit.

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  17. I come from a tropical island, so here, the beach is everywhere. I don't enjoy the beach during the day, but I do at sunset or at night. Skin tends to grab that saltiness and it makes me think of Sensuous Nude by Estee Lauder.

    Now, this one's not my favorite at all. I'm more of an original Sensuous or Sensuous Noir kinda girl, but I have to admit Nude is a great fragrance. There's this persistent smell of coconut, salty (in a good way) smell that lasts forever on my skin.

    Give it a try. You won't be disappointed and you'll get plenty of compliments :D

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    1. Good call on Sensuous Nude, Countess.

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  18. Oh crap. Why I cannot make a comment so the person can get Secretions Magnifique? It smells like under monkey and clean but sweaty strippers at the beach.

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    1. Hahaha "under monkey". I'm havin' that!

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  19. The original lady should just get Eau Des Merveilles. SM is too pricey to smell as fonky as it is, But it leaves a good smell to your nightshirt the next day. True but only if you love sweaty coconut flowerish. I am glad you like under monkey Katie Puckrick.

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  20. Eau de Merveilles is a sleeper and a solid performer. It's kind of a niche classic within a mainstream brand. I love it.

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  21. Yes this one is a good. Also for the lady she should try the Estée Lauder sensuous with coconut. I can see it from t j max for ten dollars.

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  22. Can't stop sniffing Jennifer Aniston ( the perfume). JA reminds me of the softer sand, barrier beaches that I frequented on the South Shore of Long Island. It's the fragrance of jasmine flanked paths, suntan lotion and warm sand. Eau des Merveilles has a saltier, shellier driftwood vibe of the North Shore beaches. EDM is post-water dip; JA is pre-water dip. Like em both. Which reminds me, I was never a Copper-tone guy. Bain de Soleil was my sun worshipping, skin roasting glaze. I must have loved the smell but sadly the scent memory is lost.

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    1. My neighbor give me 20 dollars to feed 5 cats. So I went to Marshalls to get a cheap perfume. There was Jennifer Anniston for 9.99. I got that and pizza later. Maybe the pizza is better but JA is not bad. I feel like Ft Lauderdale now.

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    2. Scott, I love the smells of everything you just listed.

      Anna, your tale has everything: perfume, food and kitties. Very satisfying.

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  23. HI Katie, Sorry this has nothing to do with what you were discussing but ..first I miss your video's so much, but still love watching the old ones. This is sad because there are so many perfumes I love but I have been trying to use natural products lately what is your favorite natural perfume? Thanks! Rae

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    1. Rae, I don't encounter many natural perfumes in my sniffing rounds. (By "natural", I assume you mean without any chemically manipulated ingredients?) But there are a bunch of gorgeously-scented skincare oils that I love and use all the time: the bizarrely named "Skin Deep Dry Leg Oil" by This Works (UK brand); "Fabulous Face Oil" by Aesop (Aussie brand); "Rose and Jasmine Body Oil" by The Organic Pharmacy (UK brand); "Rose and Pomegranate Bath Oil" by Neal's Yard Remedies (UK brand) are some that come to mind.

      Hmmm...I feel a post coming on...

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