The Scent of Vacation

Why a perfume makes the perfect travel souvenir.

The Scent of Vacation

Souvenirs are an important part of the travel experience. They serve as physical reminders of the getaway—artifacts that prove you have been elsewhere. This vacation, skip the kitschy key chains and T-shirts and bring back something that not only visually sparks your memory but also serves as a subtle scented reminder of your voyage: the perfect fragrance.

Memory Trigger

“Scents can recall very specific memories,” explains Dr. Jay Gottfried, an associate professor in Northwestern University’s Department of Neurology. Smell is the only sense that is directly connected to the part of the brain where emotions are created and emotional memories are stored. Specifically, odor receptors in the nose send messages through the body’s synapses directly to the olfactory cortex (located in the brain’s limbic system) and amygdala—both of which play primary roles in processing memories and emotional reactions. It takes only two synapses for a message to go from the nose to the olfactory complex, says Gottfried, whereas it can take up to eight synapses for a message to travel from the eyes to the brain. If it were a race, the nose definitely wins.

To find a perfume or cologne that’s evocative of your vacation, Gottfried says that “you’ll want to find fragrances that will spark your memory.” Every time you wear the new elixir, you will be brought back to where you were when you got the first whiff, to the island store where you purchased it, to the places you went after you first spritzed it on your skin. Choosing a scent that recalls a specific moment—strolling through the spice markets of Grenada or feeling a warm coconut-tinged breeze as you sail away from port—can be the key that unlocks the memory long after your vacation ends.

Fragrant Trademark

“There is no hard-and-fast rule to picking perfume,” says Lyn Leigh of The Fragrance Foundation, an international source for historic, cultural, scientific, and industry-related reference materials. When you wear a fragrance that is ineffably you, you are unconsciously creating a subtle aura that becomes part of a universal language, so it’s important to find a scent that suits your personality as well as your body’s chemistry. “The best way to understand the language of perfume is to look at fragrances as a pyramid,” explains Leigh. “The top notes are the tip of the pyramid, they are your first impressions and are often lighter scents, like lemon.” The middle notes, usually flowers or spices, take a bit longer to open up. The base notes round out the fragrance and provide its foundation, binding all the nuances together.

When you are selecting a new fragrance, open up your mind to the possibilities. While the classic choices such as Chanel No. 5 and Armani’s Acqua di Gio are classic for a reason, an island adventure is a good chance for you to find a new aromatic trademark that may seem outside of your comfort zone when browsing the stores back home.

The Art of the Bottle

Fragrances do more than just stir up fond memories. In some cases, the beautiful bottles in which the scents are stored are akin to must-have designer accessories. In the introduction to the gorgeous coffee-table tome Glamour Icons, Marc Rosen, designer of perfume bottles for Burberry, Elizabeth Arden, and Karl Lagerfeld, writes, “Real glamour has always been based on quality and value. As a perfume-bottle designer, I hope to appeal to a woman not because [the bottle] is quirky or of the moment, but because it has an allure that matches her dreams.

Glamour today, as always, is aspirational. Icons of glamour are the mirrors in which we see an ideal version of ourselves.” Choose well, and rather than tucked away in a cabinet, the right fragrance bottle can be proudly displayed on your vanity. And when the substance eventually runs out, you can re-purpose the bottle as a keepsake vase, a chic storage container, or an objet d’art.

If you are choosing between two equally alluring options, opt for the one in a bottle that best matches your decor. Or, while browsing the island shops, look for a great silver platter or a colorful tray that can display a collection of bottles and create an olfactory centerpiece.

The Fragrance Foundation’s most recent trends report predicts that perfume packaging will continue in the collectible/luxury trajectory with “iconic, high-quality packaging that offers an emotional connection with the consumer so she ‘has to have it.’” Also predicted: technology-inspired, user-friendly themes; an increased momentum toward sustainability and eco-friendly packaging; and an emergence of more creativity and innovation in this arena.

As for the classics, The Fragrance Foundation says that they will always be important. The story and craftsmanship behind the creation of the time-tested scents remain an integral part of the allure. A classic can just as easily be the scent of your vacation as a new twist on tradition. Your signature scent is up to you.

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