Arrive in Style: Scents of Place

By Gretchen Kelly

Our sense of smell is the longest lasting sense memory we have. Long after we’ve forgotten the voices of our childhood friends, an open can of Playdoh will bring our past rushing back to us in the form of that unique scent that our reptilian brain remembers.

Good perfumers know this and try to make their scents so unique that one whiff will bring back a world of experiences. Experienced travelers, too, know that an entire vacation can be “bottled” by wearing a special signature scent on a journey.

Try this the next time you take an important trip that you want to remember. Buy a scent that you’ve never worn before, wear it on your vacation and then bottle it up and put it away. When you next open the bottle, and take a sniff, the experience will flood through your memory.

Another great way to remember your journeys by nose is to buy local scents and use them on your trip. Tahiti is known for its floral fragrances, used in soaps and also offered in colognes available throughout the island. Bali has a fragrance called “champak” – a marvelous woody scent they blend into incense and body oils. India, Egypt and Morocco are known for their rich heritage of scent making and you can get intense and wonderful oils in their souks and marketplaces that use the same ingredients as the most expensive perfumes but cost a fraction of the price.

The experience of scent plus travel is so heady that some hotels are taking note and creating their own signature scents. The Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, the Mamounia Hotel in Morocco and now, the Four Seasons Hotel in Maui have their own signature fragrances.

Perfumer Jane Hendler (whose Ajne Rare and Precious scent boutique in Carmel, California lures celebs like Reese Witherspoon) was asked by the Hawaiian hotel to create a scent that captured the delicate woods and florals of the island. Today, the hotel uses the scent in its spa but also wafts the fragrance through some of its public places to give guests something scent-ual to remember it by. Guests can take home the fragrance for personal and home use, too. When everyday life starts getting you down, you just open a bottle and your Hawaiian idyll comes drifting back.

Ajne also makes a wide range of ready-to-wear scents and custom blends, as well. The oils (no alcohol is used) come in small, TSA approved sized bottles (our favorites are the little treasures done in Czech glass, find them at

Other scents that travel well include Hermes Eau de Nil (Egyptian nights spent floating on the Nile), Guerlain’s Shalimar (one of the world’s all time favorite scents because of it’s vanilla base), and Bulgari’s Green Tea range, found in many of Europe’s most expensive hotel suites. Bulgari also has it’s own hotel in Milan, so if you’re a perfume fanatic, it’s the place to be in Italy.

Remember, too that your favorite fragrances are sometimes available in travel-sized candles. Etro fragrances (luscious!) are offered in candle versions that will have your whole house redolent of all the spices of Samarkand (to paraphrase Shakespeare). A gentle reminder that, when it comes to scent-ual travel, you can take it with you.

More SMW Travel features

Rome Alone: Sex and the Italian City

Ibiza: A Single Woman’s Paradise

Rainforest Romps: On the Road to Nowhere

Key West Fantasy Fest