Our Fragrant Fascination With The Sea

The essence of the French Riviera is bottled in every Grace de Monaco fragrance, infused in every candle, and woven into every silk. Our premier fragrance, Promenade Sur Le Rocher, was meticulously crafted by master perfumers to embody the sophistication and refinement synonymous with this coastal paradise. Fragrant with vibrant notes of bergamot, jasmine and rose centifolia, Promenade Sur Le Rocher is like stepping into the world of Princess Grace and being transported to the radiant shores of the Mediterranean.

The Reverie contributor and perfume historian, Dimitri Dimitriadis, discusses the enigmatic allure of the sea and our desire to stay connected to it no matter how far away it may be.

The smell of the ocean has a powerful effect on us. It is a scent, singular in its distinction, that has been with us since the beginning of time, and one that we have been drawn to for millennia. It possesses a unique olfactory profile, one which comprises a curious marriage of salty air, seaweed and other minerals suspended in the water. Oftentimes when approaching the seaside, long before we hear the roar of waves crashing to the shore or witness that sweeping expanse of endless blue, we sense a change in the atmosphere; all those shimmering negative ions accompanied by the smell of brine, cartwheeling on the air. The ocean possesses a breathtaking majesty...it is no surprise then, that many people are drawn to perfumes that smell like the sea.

This arresting aroma has been used as a touchstone by perfumers for decades to create fragrances that evoke nostalgia; ones which perhaps bring back fleeting memories from childhood or past holidays spent at the seaside. It could be the endless summer one might experience in a bottle of Jil Sander’s ”Sun Man”; the blanched salty driftwood notes found in Paul Smith’s ‘Extreme’, or the romance of the misty low-tide mudflats surrounding Mont St-Michel as explored in Hermès’ ”Épice Marine”.

But what is it about the smell of the tides that draws us in? Is it the memory of times past, or perhaps the notion of relaxation and reward? The joy and exhilaration one feels when they’ve earned that holiday in some far-flung tropical isle. That time of release when all of life’s stressors melt away as we dip our legs in the azure and fill our eyes with blue. By way of the perfumer’s palette, we have immediate access to that very same sentiment anywhere in the world... we can hear the rumble of the waves on the reef and sense the sting of sun on our legs with just one whiff of Carthusia’s “A’mmare”, or perhaps a spritz of Miller Harris’ “Fleurs de Sel”.

Grace Kelly

Ocean-smelling perfumes also bring with them an association with adventure and exploration as they remind us of our connection with nature and of our place in the world. Our ancestors traversed the oceans; moving from one continental land mass to another, opening trade routes and sea-faring highways. The sea became our lifeblood; a source of commerce as well as a source of sustenance. Indeed, the world’s most epic adventure, ”The Odyssey”, written by Homer almost 3,000 years ago, or perhaps Hemmingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ both strike a chord, reminding us of our primordial connection to open water. Our deep respect for the ocean lies within our DNA: an ancient sentiment that we are all born in possession of... one which unfurls when we gaze out into its imposing vastness.

Why then, would we not wish to honor its beauty and its potency and revisit it at will; even if only by way of a glass bottle that might be tucked away neatly in your purse? How fortunate we are in that something that covers 70% of the world’s surface can be carried with you in your breast pocket; a tiny arrangement of scented molecules that will bring you right back to the edge of the hot sand, with waves lapping at your feet. Every day a summer day, and indeed, every day a holiday.

Dimitri Dimitriadis is a perfumer, perfume writer, speaker, curator and historian based in Perth, Western Australia. He has designed and hosted perfume exhibitions and frequently holds speaking and educational engagements for luxury fragrance brands and independent perfumeries across Australia. When he is not burying his nose in a fragrance tome, you’ll find him trawling the antique markets on weekends; having a leisurely game of tennis; or adding to his vast 80’s heavy metal vinyl collection.

Follow Dimitri on Instagram @eaudorangeverte and discover more of his writing here and on his blog The Fumery.