City scents! I think we’ve all felt the attraction. Could this scent transport me to my beloved Marrakesh? Will it be the ultimate armchair travel to exotic places? I have my olfactory associations, whether real or imagined, but I’ve often been disappointed.
I laughed out loud when I tried Santa Maria Novella‘s Alba di Seoul. Perhaps the outskirts of Seoul smelled like this in the Joseon era, all conifers and freshness but Seoul smells absolutely nothing like that today. Does Kyoto really smell like sakura? No, because most varieties of cherry blossom have no scent, and those that do are very faint. But we now have a sakura note in perfume which oft times is just left of peony with a dash of jam. You can bet any fragrance with Kyoto in the name will either be an incense or a light, pretty thing featuring “sakura”, that magical Japanese word.
The first time I saw Olfactive Studio’s Flashback in New York, I was excited. I grew up in New York, and having left it a long time ago, the word “flashback” captures the impact of my olfactory memories perfectly. They’ve faded over the years, but there are some odd smells that make me intensely nostalgic. Bus fumes is one. I associate the smell with the Port Authority bus terminal, a dark and greasy cave of a place choking in diesel. The smell of bus fumes still makes me wildly happy and full of anticipation of traveling. I rarely smell buses where I live now, so these memories have never been replaced with new ones.
Olfactive Studio pairs each scent with a photograph. The photo for Flashback in New York is of the Chrysler building in a blizzard, very atmospheric, but with one sniff the scent flashed me right back to New York City in the high days of summer, a much more pungent season. Flashback in New York smells like fruity garbage, exhaust and the skunky weed that filled the air before the young ones turned marijuana into an art form. The cumin phase is nicely sweaty and I can almost feel the sooty sheen on my face again. My city of Melbourne, Australia does not smell like any of these things. I have not been back to New York City in many years, perhaps it smells very differently today. I found Flashback in New York wonderfully evocative, a whole bunch of crazy memories flooded me (oh excuse me, flashbacked me) and continue to do so every time I wear it. I went through a sample, and I knew if I didn’t have a bottle I would dearly miss it. It’s the clearest olfactory place memory connected to perfume I’ve ever experienced.
I’m sure some of you are wondering why you would wear perfume described as fruity garbage and weed. Let me assure you they are my very personal notes, my memories. For you Flashback in New York might smell like clary sage and leather, smoke and saffron and a dose of cumin. The clary sage is dry, herbaceous and tweaks Flashback in New York into something quite interesting. Unlike many of the Olfactive Studio fragrances, this scent has good lasting power. Just like New York, it will make an impression.
Tell me about your favourite city perfumes, which ones really speak of the city to you!
Olfactive Studio Flashback in New York (Jerome Epinette, 2018)
Top Notes: cumin, clary sage, white linen, saffron
Middle Notes: violet, Tuscan leather, jasmine
Base Notes: birch smoke, papyrus, vetiver, tonka bean
Photos of New York City taken by teenage Narth