The Healing Power of Fragrance

In these difficult times filled with fear and uncertainty, we are all searching for peace and contentment. In times like these, I turn to fragrance. I have a small, precious stash of vintage Bornéo 1834 by Serge Lutens. This is my go-to scent in times when I need to feel empowered and confident. A year ago when I was getting the necessary funding together for Fumerie, I relied heavily on this fragrance to help keep me centered. I can still remember standing in that brightly lit conference room speaking to a panel of bankers with the warm, comforting aroma of Bornéo 1834 surrounding me. The right fragrance can provide comfort on a cold rainy day, confidence when it feels like the world is closing in around you or hope when nothing seems to be going your way.

When I was first dipping my toes back into the world of dating after eighteen years of marriage, it was both terrifying and exhilarating. It had been a year since my divorce and I embraced the opportunity to reaffirm my independence and identity. During that time, L'Artisan Parfumeur's Dzing! was a constant companion—its familiar scent grounded me in this time of change, excitement and new experiences. Of course, these experiences are not unique to me. After decades working in parfumeries, I have had the opportunity to witness firsthand the power of perfumes and the immense pleasure and joy that fragrances can bring.

I recall one instance in which two adult sisters came into the shop looking for a specific scent that their recently departed mother had worn years ago. I passed them each a mouillette and as they sampled the fragrance, one of the women broke into tears. She seemed almost apologetic for her visceral emotional response. After she regained her composure she expressed surprise that the scent had such a profound effect on her. In that moment, the memory of her mother had come into clear focus and she was caught completely off guard. Such is the emotional power of fragrance.

More recently, a man visited us at Fumerie. He was not sure what he was looking for and open to suggestions. I began to guide him through a few scents and he mentioned that he was curious about marine fragrances. When I presented him with Profumum Roma's Acqua di Sale, his eyes lit up. He was so taken by the fragrance that he had to take a step back from the bar. Each time he revisited the mouillette, an unconscious smile overtook his face and at one point he broke into laughter.

Fragrances can have a powerful effect on our mood and, as a result, on the way that we see the world. In times like these, when everything can seem chaotic and disjointed, something as simple as a few sprays from a small glass bottle can make all the difference in the world. It is the little luxuries that get us through difficult times. So spray on a bit of your favorite fragrance and take a moment to enjoy all of those beautiful things right under your nose.

Glossary of Perfume Terms Used In This Essay

marine  A fragrance family characterized by the use of materials that evoke the smell of the sea. These fragrances are also referred to as aquatic or ozonic fragrances. Traditionally, fragrances in this family have relied on an aromachemical called Calone, which possesses a distinctive melon-aquatic aroma but more recently compositions in this family have relied on materials that have an algae-like or salty aroma. 

mouillette  A French term for the paper blotters used by perfumers to sample perfumes and aromatic components.