Posted in fragrance, memories

A signature scent

You know those little cologne advertisements infused with a designated scent? You know, the ones inserted into department store ad brochures that come in the mail or you find inside a women’s magazine.

I like them. I enjoy getting a whiff of perfume or men’s cologne that I probably cannot afford to purchase. I like those freebie samples so much that I often save them in a little pile on my desk so I can open them, one at a time, one day at a time, to smell the scent of that fragrance.

Some days, after sniffing one, I chuck it into the trash can immediately. Yuk, didn’t like the odor of that one. Too strong. Too flowery. Too spicy. Too….something.

But often I find one that just smells sooooo good to me. And you know what I do? I swipe that rectangle of scent over the inside of my wrists to see if I can continue to catch a whiff of it all day long.  Am I weird or what?

I’m writing this as I occasionally lift my wrist to my nose and inhale a lovely scent of perfume. Right now, it’s Romance by Ralph Lauren, which ironically is a fragrance I happen to actually have.

Thinking about aromas brought some memories to my mind today. I’ve written before that my oldest memory is not a picture or an event but is actually a smell. And some aromas seem permanently attached to memories in my quirky brain.

Take the scent of a perfume named Chantilly for example. You may have never heard of it because it’s an old fragrance and has been around for almost 80 years.  A company named Dana debuted Chantilly in 1941. Even though I wasn’t even born yet when the perfume hit the department store counters, the scent of Chantilly immediately makes me remember someone dear to me – my mother-in-law. Chantilly was the perfume she always wore. You might say it was her signature scent.

After my husband’s mother passed away, we performed the task of going through her belongings and choosing what to keep and what to dispose of or give away. I found it interesting that both of our daughters chose to keep small bottles of half-used Chantilly as keepsakes to remind them of their grandmother. To this day, if I happen to catch a whiff of that perfume, I automatically think of her.

My own mother wore an assortment of colognes, many of them from Avon, from time to time, so I can’t identify one in particular that was her signature scent. I do recall her wearing Here’s My Heart and I even have two small empty fragrance bottles of that particular perfume. But there is another fragrance that always reminds me of my mom – a clean, fresh scent – the smell of bar soap.

There’s another old-time perfume that also reminds me of someone – my maternal grandmother. I have only a few memories of her because she passed away when I was nine years old. But I do vividly recall a fragrance in a cobalt blue glass bottle that she wore and kept in her bedroom. Evening in Paris was created in 1928 by Bourjois, a French company. 

During a trip to Vermont in 2018, I was tickled pink blue when I spotted a bottle of this fragrance for sale at The Vermont Country Store. When I smelled a sample bottle, my grandmother was in my thoughts. Evening in Paris seems to be my grandmother’s signature scent.

I think my father also had a signature scent. He wasn’t one to wear men’s colognes, but he did splash an after-shave lotion on his face every morning. I can remember watching Dad spread shave cream over his face and being amazed at the way he shaved off his daily whiskers by razor without cutting himself. The smell of Old Spice always reminds me of my dad.  Introduced as a scent for men in 1938, the original Old Spice products were made by the Shulton Company. Today this 83-year-old brand is owned by Proctor and Gamble.

I find it amazing that certain fragrances bring particular people to my mind. My oldest daughter dated a wonderful young man in high school, who happened to always wear Obsession for Men by Calvin Kline. They parted amicably when they went off to college and I rarely see him unless it’s an occasional post on Facebook. But if I happen to smell that particular men’s cologne on someone nearby, I think of this fellow. For me, it’s that young man’s signature scent.

My husband truly doesn’t have a signature scent. Over the 40+ years we’ve been married and even during our three years of dating, he has worn a variety of fragrances, from Ralph Lauren’s Polo, Lagerfeld, and Royal Copenhagen to Drakkar Noir, or none at all. Lately though, his signature scent might be coming from a brand of soap he discovered and likes to use in the shower, Duke Cannon.

And what about me? What is my signature scent?

It has changed over the years as I’ve grown older, ahem….become more mature. As a young teen, I liked the flowery and powdery kind of scents. In college, I wore a lot of musk oil based perfumes because they were popular and I liked the earthy aroma of them. Then I latched onto more spicy scents.

I’ve tried a lot of different fragrances in my lifetime, but I keep coming back to one. It’s not a popular, trendy perfume. You don’t see it advertised. It’s not found in the pricey section of department store cosmetics counters. Matter of fact, I can purchase it on Amazon, at Wal-Mart, or in other discount stores.

My signature scent comes in a triangular shaped bottle with a blue cap and is simply named Claiborne by Liz Claiborne.

It’s a throwback to the 1980’s and it’s described as a refreshing, floral fragrance.  According to numerous fragrance websites, it “captures with carnation, lily, freesia, mandarin, marigold, green notes, bergamot and peach at the top, followed by a floral wave of jasmine, narcissus, rose, ylang-ylang, lilac, tuberose, lily-of-the-valley, and violet at the heart. Base notes include warm sandalwood, amber, oakmoss, and musk.”

It’s a conglomeration of aromas, some flowery, some fruity, some earthy. Kind of like me, a mixture of various things. That is the essence of me. And I wonder, will my signature scent ever remind someone of me?

“I think a fragrance is more of a signature than even what you wear – something you’ll remember more down the road than a shirt.” ~ Ryan Reynolds



Mama of this empty nest, I’m content to live a quiet, country life with my husband of 40+ years and to view the gorgeous sunsets off my own back yard deck. Mama to three adults and Nana to adorable grandchildren, my empty nest fills up again with noise and laughter when they all return 'home'. A former English teacher, reporter/editor, education director for a non-profit organization, and stay at home mom, I retired after a season of substitute teaching at a private academy. Now I enjoy time spent with my grandchildren and family and writing words that seem to pour out of my soul or wandering around the countryside with my camera. Foremost, my faith sustains me as I meander through the empty nest stage of life. My favorite scripture is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

11 thoughts on “A signature scent

  1. Such a unique post that I completely enjoyed! It’s incredible how a scent has the ability to draw you immediately back to another time in life. Another amazing thing about our brain/body connection God created.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a nice post!!! My late sister wore Jean Nate, and I remember that fragrance when we cleaned out her apartment (after her death as a result of domestic violence), Sometimes, if I see it for sale now, I’ll try to catch a whiff just to remember her. I once dated a guy who wore Obsession, so I’m sure if I were to smell that now, it would bring back those memories. My ex husband gave me L’air De Temps, and that has memories of its own. I switch around with fragrances, too! My current one is called Miami Blossom, and I discovered it through one of those little advertisements you mentioned at the beginning of your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such an interesting post because I also think of certain family members when I smell a certain perfume or cologne. My mom is allergic to most perfumes so she always wore something called Emerade. Poor lady, we bought it for her year after year because we couldn’t think what else to get her. She finally stopped wearing it and I think I know why. My grandmother was a bottle collector and there is an old bottle of Evening in Paris in her collection and I think it still has perfume in it.

    So your post and your particular smell reminded me of a story from a friend recently who had lost his mother last year. He and his daughter were walking in a mall when he smelled the perfume his mom used to wear. He knew his daughter had kept some and he asked if she was wearing it. She said no. He sniffed the woman in front of him and asked her if she was wearing Clairborn. She was and he told her his mom always wore that and asked if he could hug her so for a moment he could feel like he was hugging his mom. The woman was touched and told him that he could definitely hug her. He said “and for that brief moment I felt like Mom was still there.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One of my strongest memories is invoked when I pass a field with certain weeds in it (I couldn’t tell you what they are); I’m right back at our early 1960s summer cottage! My mother always wore White Linen; Dad bought her a bottle every year and she had several unopened bottles in her dresser when she died. I don’t wear perfume much but when I do its either Lily of the Valley (spring/summer) or something Lavender scented. My husband’s signature scent is a mix of gasoline and other ‘garage’ smells. LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

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