The treasured scents of childhood
He had travelled to London to create a scent for a customer who was mad about the idea of English smells
IF you have more money than sense (or scents, as we shall see), you can have a bespoke fragrance made by Christopher Brosius, a Brooklyn, New York perfumer who runs a company with the unambiguous name of CB I Hate Perfume. I watched a documentary about him on a recent flight and he had travelled to London to create a scent for a customer who was mad about the idea of English smells — damp tweed and tobacco, old leather-bound books, bulldogs and roast beef dinners, rain and fog, and even the muggy interiors of red telephone boxes.
After scratching and sniffing his way around London libraries, pubs and wet pavements, Brosius came up with a mix of ‘‘mildewed frockcoats and hansom cabs, shortbread and cobblestones’’, and his Anglophile client was terrifically impressed.
It makes me think of what I would like to have in customised bottles of perfume. I’d love one labelled Bali, for starters, redolent with the island’s smells of frangipani and tuberose and sizzling chilli-rich foodql and even those Indonesian clove cigarettes that have an aroma so unlike any other kind of fag, as if smokers are puffing on shredded spice.
But my signature flask would have to be filled with the treasured smells of childhood — there’d be the aroma of the sun-warmed sheets that Mother and I brought in from the clothesline on summer afternoons. There would be the coconut oil of days at the beach and the salty tang of sea air and the delicious smell of corned beef sandwiches with home-made pickles at picnics on new-mown grass. There’d have to be the roses, gardenias and daphne of Grandma Grace’s garden and the sawdust and cherry pipe tobacco of Uncle Mick’s workshop with a jot of damp dog for good measure.
A few years ago I met Lyn Harris of the Miller Harris fragrance company. She is regarded as one of Britain’s best ‘‘noses’’ and has a reputation for mixing unusual fragrances, such as the sharpness of the salt marshes of Normandy with the woodiness of ‘‘walks through London’s Regent’s Park’’.
Harris blends tea, too, with ingredients such as bergamot, rose absolute and tangerine vert. Sipping elevenses with her was a revelation. The teas are so heady it’s hard to know whether to drink from the cup or dab a bit behind the ears. My nose twitched, I breathed deeply and felt slightly giddy. So let’s add Grandma Grace’s famously strong black afternoon brew to my special childhood bottle, with top notes of Iced VoVo and buttered currant buns.