Oct 2023

SCENT MEMORY

In 2023, nothing smells as good as nostalgia – whether you lived through the time you’re yearning for or not

PHOTOGRAPHY by LAUREN BAMFORD
STYLING by POPPY BUNTZ
WORDS by LISA PATULNY

Of the five senses, smell has the closest thing to the full power of the past. Smell really is transporting. Seeing, hearing, touching, tasting are just not as powerful as smelling if you want your whole being to go back for a second to something ... It’s a neat way to reminisce.

So said Andy Warhol – and the artist would know. Over his lifetime, he was committed to collecting perfumes, switching up his fragrance every few months and cataloguing the scents by era. In effect, he was creating an olfactory time capsule – one he regularly used to revisit his own past.

Scent memory and nostalgia have a storied history. Since Marcel Proust wrote about the sudden rush of feelings he experienced upon biting into a tea-soaked madeleine in 1913, we’ve been pondering the mystery of the olfactory bulb and its effect on our emotions. Everyone has had their own Proustian moment, where the smell of something familiar has triggered a flood of memories. The scent of your grandmother’s favourite hand cream, a whiff of chlorine from your local pool, the aroma of cinema popcorn – fragrance has a unique ability to unlock

hidden memories. And in these deeply nostalgic times, it’s more powerful and potent than even your digital camera or dumbphone.

Right now, we’re not only longing for a simpler time though; we’re yearning for things we haven’t actually lived through. Take the slew of perfumes crafted to evoke the ’60s counterculture protests (a surprisingly popular point of inspiration in niche perfumery). These stirring blends of patchouli oil, spice and weed smoke conjure up what we imagine the era to have smelled like. A fusion of nostalgia and fantasy, they allow us to immerse ourselves in a past we can only envision in our dreams.

Can you drop into a 1920s speakeasy? Until a bored billionaire manages to come up with a time machine, no. But breathe in a perfume that recalls booze, freshly snipped cigars, spilled coffee and polished chrome bar stools, and you can get pretty close. Unlike, say, a novel or a movie, scent can transport you to a specific time and place in stereoscopic detail – even if you’ve never been there.

’90s club kids

Step into the intoxicating world of the NYC dance club. The scent is androgynous and strangely seductive, and the air is thick with sweat and Stoli. Infused with bitter notes that add a touch of intrigue, these modern fragrances will transport you to the dance floor, while the hints of coffee, tea and tobacco nod to the morning after, when euphoric nights stretched into dawn.

Try: BYREDO Mixed Emotions EDP (a woody scent with notes of maté and sweet cassis), from $226, TOM FORD Bitter Peach EDP (which has a heart of rum-infused davana oil reminiscent of the era’s spiced rum cocktails), from $360, ETAT LIBRE D’ORANGE

Y2K WeHo

LA at the turn of the millennium smelt like glitz and glam. Like lychee, champagne and berries. Like the candy-pink hue of your Juicy Couture tracksuit. There’s coffee and vanilla too (Starbucks, of course), plus ‘blonde’ notes that defined the chunky high- lights of early aughts hair.

Try: OUAI Melrose Place EDP (was there ever a name more fitting for a scent with hints of lychee, bergamot, cedarwood and white musk?), $108 (50ml), YSL Black Opium Le Parfum (with notes of vanilla, coffee and white florals), from $132, HERMÈS Un Jardin à Cythère EDT (the perfect blend of citrusy and woody – a bit like Paris and Nicole), from $95

’60s counterculture

All peace, love and liberation, these captivating scents evoke the subversive spirit of the 1960s. A kaleidoscope of earthy sweetness (patchouli, vanilla, hemp and, ahem, herbs), they’ll take you on a jour- ney back to a time when psychedelia reigned and The Beatles were bigger than Jesus.

Try: MALIN+GOETZ Cannabis EDP (a spicy yet floral scent with sandalwood, magnolia and black pepper), from $154, 19-69 Higher Peace EDP (mid notes of hemp and fresh hay and top notes of bergamot and cardamom), $299 (100ml), JUSBOX 14 Hour Dream EDP (with saffron, patchouli, cedarwood, sandalwood and ginger: all the decade’s faves), $279 (78ml)

’20s speakeasy

Opulent, rich and a little rebellious, a contemporary crop of fragrances serve up the essence of the extrav- agant jazz age. Notes of liquor, fizz and smoke recall not only the illegally mixed cocktails, but the clan- destine clubs themselves. Spice and warm woods pay homage to the fashionable perfumes of the day.

Try: LE LABO Thé Noir 29 EDP (a rich concoction with aromas of black tea, fruity fig, vetiver and musk), from $369, MANCERA Tonka Cola EDP (smells like the tinkle of a jazz piano thanks to Sicilian lemon, fizzy cola and warm vanilla), $279 (120ml), GIORGIO ARMANI Armani Privé Magenta Tanzanite EDP (with notes of tobacco, spicy cinna- mon, coffee and myrrh), $430 (100ml)

’80s mall life

What did a suburban shopping centre smell like during the greed decade? Money. Sweet and a little strange. You’d swing by to pick up new clothes, hairspray (Elnett, always) and big, bold flowers. Synthetic notes Paradisone and Ambroxan recall new plastic and the woody pine of freshly mopped floors. Spritz to relive the glory days of the food court.

Try: COMMES DES GARÇONS Concrete EDP (evokes a shiny new multistorey parking lot with its unique combination of cumin, carda- mom, rose and musk), $240 (80ml), LA PERLA Invisible Touch EDP (powdery, heady florals meet rosewood, benzoin and Ambroxan), $499 (120ml), DIOR J’adore L’Or EDP (with the quintessential florals of the decade: orange blossom, jasmine and rose), $295 (50ml)

Read more from this issue

The Story of Sarah Ellen

READ MORE

Dinner of Truth

Are you as SELF-AWARE as you think? An intimate (and terrifying) new dining TREND lets you find out, so Lauren Sams sits down to supper

READ MORE

If The Shoe Fits

Rediscover the joys of FANCY footwear, from sandals to slingbacks, brogues and ballet flats. No prince required to find your perfect PAIR

READ MORE

Bronze Age

The pursuit of “I just got back from Mykonos” skin is rising like it’s 2003 again. Laura Agnew delves into the dark RETURN of tanning culture (and new ways to GET THE LOOK safely)

READ MORE

Ranch Life

Dubbed the Hotel of Good Times, new Byron estate Sun Ranch lives up to its moniker

READ MORE
Editor-in-Chief
JUSTINE CULLEN
Managing Editor
ELLE GLASS
Executive Editor
LAURA AGNEW
Creative Director
HANNAH MARTIN
Fashion Director
RACHEL WAYMAN
Commercial Director
NICOLE CORFE
Associate Editor
KATHRYN MADDEN
Digital Editor
COURTNEY THOMPSON
Market Editor
ANNIE DOIG
Content Writer
MAEVE GALEA
Content Writer
NONI REGINATO
National Partnerships Manager
ANNIKA ROSE
National Sales Manager
ANALISE GATTELARO
Client Services Manager
GRACE HANNAH
Junior Advertising & Sales Executive
JULIE WILLIAMS
Editorial & Advertising Coordinator
DELANEY ASHTON
Publisher and
CEO
SIMON BOOKALLIL
COO
DAVID ASTWOOD
TRUE NORTH MEDIA
INSTYLE AUSTRALIA IS PART OF TRUE NORTH MEDIA. © COPYRIGHT 2023 TRUE NORTH MEDIA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. EVERY PRODUCT IS INDEPENDENTLY SELECTED BY OUR EDITORS. THINGS YOU BUY THROUGH OUR LINKS MAY EARN US A COMMISSION.