Making Sense of Scents

This post contains affiliate links.

When my husband was taking a biology class in college, he learned that the sense of smell is closely related to memory.  That explains why when I smell hot cocoa, I think of my mom, who always had a warm mug of cocoa ready for me when I came in from sledding on a cold winter day.  Or if I smell fresh-mown grass, I immediately connect it with rolling down my favorite hill as a kid.

Scent doesn’t just evoke memories, though.  It makes us feel.  The memories tied to scent often have an almost visceral reaction.  They bring back the emotions, good or bad, of specific moments of time.

Melessa and I were talking about our favorite perfumes the other day, and both of them have special stories behind them.  We laughed at how fancy they made us sound, as we each discovered our perfumes in Europe, even though we’ve both only been there once.

greentea2I was  on a layover in London’s Heathrow airport, en route to Paris to meet my friend and do some research (theatre history isn’t lucrative, but it has its perks). I was exhausted after flying through the night with barely any sleep, and I felt grimy.  As I reached the top of an escalator, a perfume shop was straight ahead.  I figured I’d spritz a little something on so I could stand myself until my next shower.

I sniffed a few and quickly rejected them.  Too floral.  Too musky.  Too strong.  Then I found it.  Elizabeth Arden’s Green Tea.  It smelled exactly like I wanted to feel–clean, fresh, and happy.  I put it on, and the scent enveloped me, giving me a little pick-me-up throughout the day.  It’s still the only perfume I use.  I’ve tried others over the years, but could never justify the expense for something that didn’t make me feel as good. And, oddly enough, I never use it in the winter.  Maybe it’s just too cold to feel so brisk and refreshed.

Melessa and Nate went to Europe this past spring for their anniversary, where she discovered her new favorite scent. Here’s how Melessa describes what perfumes she wears…

“When I was in Venice, Italy I stumbled across a little parfumerie with the most beautiful Italian woman working inside.  She was so feminine and stunning to look at with thick, shoulder length, wavy ebony hair, light brown eyes, thick long lashes, perfect olive skin and red juicy lips.  She was lovely.  Her voice was lovely, too.  I asked her to show me the most unmantorossoique Italian fragrance that wasn’t common in department stores.  I probably smelled 5 or 6 before she showed me Laura Bosetti Tonatto perfume. I should have asked what she was wearing first and what brand she loved, but that’s hard, because we all like different scents.  AND the same scent on one person will smell different on another person.  There were many scents in the Laura Bosetti Tonatto line that were just delightful, but Manto Rosso was the one I fell in love with. The two main ingredients are jasmine and mandarin.  It’s beautiful. I love how complex this perfume is.  It’s light but has a very rich, real, deep, full smell (if that makes any sense).

Also, I love Anthropologie’s Tocca Cleopatra perfume, but it still doesn’t compare to the rich, complex smell of my Manto Rosso.  I wear Manto Rosso in the spring and summer.Another fabulous perfume is D.S. Durga Coriander.  There are many awesome scents in the D.S. Durga line that are now becoming more popular, but the Coriander has a lovely, soft, fresh smell for spring & summer.

For the fall & winter I wear Origins Ginger Essence with a vanilla body lotion.  I smell like a spicy gingerbread girl cookie, and I love it!”

I think I have fragrances on the brain because of the book I’m currently reading, The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro.  It’s the story of 1950s London socialite, Grace Munroe, who doesn’t quite fit into the social circles that her husband was hoping she would.  When she receives a massive inheritance from Madame Eva d’Orsey, Grace embarks on a journey to Paris to discover the character of her mysterious benefactor, and why she chose Grace as her heir.

The book is elegantly written, which is ironic because we soon learn that Eva d’Orsey is part of the world’s oldest profession.  But she isn’t just a common prostitute.  We meet her as  a fourteen-year-old orphan who has a brilliant mind for mathematic equations and a strict moral code.  She also happens to inspire one of the world’s greatest perfumers, truly becoming his muse.  As the story weaves through the decades and across continents, our assumptions and judgments are challenged, and the power of memory and scent are reinforced. Tessaro helps remind us that we all have choices in our lives, even when the world would tell us otherwise.  It’s up to us to keep moving forward.

Melessa and I stopped at Ulta the other day to check out some of their popular fragrances.  They didn’t carry either of our favorites, but there were a few we liked.  For winter, we loved the warm scents carried by Yves Saint Laurent’s Black Opium and Si by Georgio Armani.  These two also just happened to make the best sellers for 2016.

For 2016, here are the most popular perfumes ladies like all year round… 

  • Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum: This fragrance targets younger Chanel fans. It was introduced in 2001 and is still consistently ranked on top.

  • Chance Eau Tendre Eau de Toilette: Chance means luck in French, and this fragrance has been a best-seller since it was launched.
  • Light Blue Eau de Toilette Spray: Described as “Italy in a bottle,” notes include citron, lemon, Granny Smith apple, jasmine, rose, bamboo, cedar wood, amber and musk.

  • La Vie est Belle: “La vie est belle” is a French expression meaning “life is beautiful”
  • Flowerbomb Eau de Parfum: A floral, this scent has notes of patchouli, freesia, rose and orchid, and consistently ranks one of the best perfumes for women.
  • J’adore Eau de Parfum: More of a summer scent of rose and jasmine.

  • Amazing Grace Fragrance Eau de Toilette: A clean, classic and feminine scent.
  • Black Opium Eau de Parfum Spray: Rich feminine scent that combines floral notes with black coffee and vanilla.

  • Angel Eau de Parfum Shooting Star Refillable Spray: Mix of spicy and yummy notes.
  • Giorgio Armani Si: There are a few good scents in this brand, but we liked the SÌ Eau de Parfum. A super soft, clean, floral sent.

If you like to change it up like we do for Fall & Winter, here are this year’s favorites:

  • My Burberry Festive: A floral scent that has rose, with a hint little geranium. Inspired by glitz and sparkle for the holiday seasons.


  • Bond No. 9 New York New Haarlem Fragrance: A long lasting, unisex scent with notes of coffee, vanilla, patchouli.
  • Jo Malone Nutmeg & Ginger Cologne: A warm but fresh scent.  Notes of sandalwood and cedarwood mix with nutmeg and ginger.  Jo Malone perfumes can be worn alone, or layered with other fragrances in their line for a true signature scent.

  • Black Opium Eau de Parfum Spray: Rich feminine scent that combines floral notes with black coffee and vanilla.
  • Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille Eau de Parfum: A unisex scent of tobacco flower, vanilla and cocoa. Finishes with dry fruit accord enriched with sweet wood sap.

  • Elizabeth and James Nirvana Bourbon: This fragrance is a sultry mix of vanilla bourbon, oakwood, and tuberose.

  • TokyoMilk Dark Femme Fatale Collection – Novacaine No. 85: Notes of Crushed Ginger, Thai Pepper, Frankincense, Vanilla Orchid.  Perfect for the girl who isn’t into overly floral fragrances, and just likes…different.

  • Hermes ’24 Faubourg’ Perfume for Women: Notes of white flowers, with plentiful woods, warm vanilla & ambergris.  A classy, earthy scent with great staying power.
  •  Maison Margiela Replica By The Fireplace: A cozy mix that’s smoky, woodsy and sweet.  Just like snuggling by fireplace on a cold winter’s night.


  • Flowerbomb by Viktor & RolfThis popular mainstay still remains to be the winner.  Light notes of jasmine, rose, cattleya orchid and patchouli.

  • Juliette Has A Gun Not A Perfume: Ladies allergic to perfume, rejoice!  A single note of Cetalox can be worn as is, or layered with your favorite.

  • VERED Signature Scent: Organic & vegan with zero synthetics, signature Scent blends vanilla, rose absolute, jasmine, orange blossom, with a touch of patchouli and geranium bourbon.

  • CLEAN Reserve Sueded Oud: Warm, earthy and clean.  A mix incense oil, temple oud, and soft suede.  Can be layered with other Clean fragrances.


  • Chanel Coco Noir Eau de Parfum Spray: Notes of grapefruit, bergamot, rose and jasmine with the warmth of Indonesian patchouli and sandalwood.
  • La Prairie Midnight Rain Eau de Parfum: A scent of sensual woods, juicy top notes and natural florals.

Melessa has a friend named Bethany who always looks fabulous and smells amazing, so we quizzed her on her favorite fragrances, which are Jo Malone’s Orange Blossom and Jo Malone’s Wood Sage & Sea Salt.  There are many excellent scents in Jo Malone’s line.  Melessa, in fact, is eager to test a few for this winter.


Oh! Turns out that VICTORIA’S SECRET Bombshell Eau de Parfum acts as a mosquito repellent.  Who knew?  Sounds perfect for Minnesota in the summer!

So, what’s your favorite scent?  We’d love to know and test them. Comment below to share your favorite, and the story behind it if you have one!

Previous Story
Next Story

You Might Also Like

  • Allison T.
    October 10, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    Ok Ladies, I am sorry it has taken me so long to leave a comment…I have been having technical difficulties with my devices, but all good now. Absolutely love your blog!!! I hope you both know how much I love and respect you. One as my sister and the other as a dear friend. Speaking of my sister, while she was on her wonderful trip to Europe also snagged me a bottle of that amazing eau de parfum Manto Rosso. I have loved wearing that so much and am sad to say it is all gone. So being that you have given us so many great ideas for perfumes, especially for this time of the year, I will go out and try something new! Love you both!

    • Laura
      October 10, 2016 at 6:35 pm

      Can’t wait to hear what you try, Allison! Love you!

  • Melessa
    October 11, 2016 at 12:41 am

    I love perfume! I’m going to try some new fragrances this fall too:)

  • Melessa
    October 11, 2016 at 12:45 am

    Love you too Allison!!

  • Louise
    October 12, 2016 at 7:50 am

    I am SO excited! I am feeling very “with it” and contemporary…one of the fragrances you wrote about, Chance, is one that I have been using for the past year and a half! I chose this fragrance because it is both floral and spicy, but not too heavy. Very often, strangers who pass me in out in public will tell me they love the fragrance and ask what it is. Quite the boost for an old gal!

    • Laura
      October 12, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      Ha! I love that! And I can’t believe I’m saying this, Mom, but I actually like Chanel Chance on you better than Chanel No. 5 now. What is this world coming to? 🙂

    %d bloggers like this: