I've Smelled Hundreds of Fragrances, and These 12 Spark the Most Joy

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fragrances
Tanya Akim 

Frags are a funny thing. Years ago, I developed a habit of changing perfumes after the end of a relationship. Now, I have a habit of changing perfumes every month in an effort to stay present, and to constantly create new memories.

In 2016, Dr. Rachel S. Herz published this medical journal on odor-evoked memory and how it affects psychological health. Scent is a central feature of olfactory cognition. That means your brain is able to recall whether it has smelled an aroma before, and oftentimes where it was experienced. When I smell Issey Miyake cologne, I’m bombarded by a cacophony of thoughts of being in love in Greece and Monaco over a decade ago. Or when I get a whiff of grain alcohol, I’m transported to a forest-green flatbed truck in Russia. Wet leather and oud remind me of a frozen foods heir and a dinner where I wore full (vintage Paco Rabanne) chainmail.

Odor-evoked memory is also called the “Proust phenomenon.” In In Search of Lost Time, Proust took a bite out of a madeleine cookie he’d dipped in Linden tea and was suddenly transported to a vivid but long-forgotten childhood memory. The scent of the tea mixed with the cookie brought right him back.

Have you ever smelled Alien by Mugler or CK1 and thought about high school? What about Clinique Happy? Abercrombie & Fitch employees reportedly used to walk around the store hourly, spraying the brand’s Fierce cologne. It may not be as refined as a madeleine cookie in Linden tea, but they’re certainty all triggering childhood memories for me.

Byrdie’s editorial director Faith and I have similar tastes in fragrance. We both think we were noses in a past life (she definitely was; I might’ve been an assistant). I use this as a metric of good friendship. I just don’t think I could ever be close with or even friends with someone who liked weird perfumes and artificial-smelling body sprays.

There’s definitely something profound to be said about scent. Most recently, I was followed out of a grocery store and stopped in the street while I was wearing Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Bacarrat Rouge 540. It’s definitely a new ride-or-die on my list. It has cedar, saffron, jasmine, and a touch of something sexy. It’s light but it definitely lingers. I love the chic Globe Trotter travel component; it makes me feel like a Bond girl.

If you feel like you regularly live in the past, or romanticize nostalgia, try changing up fragrances—your life and memories may change for the better. As someone who has spritzed more fragrances I can count, I recommend trying one of the 12 fragrances below for an instant mood boost, no matter where you are.

Escentric Molecule 01

escentric molecule 01

This is my secret weapon. I’ve had more people ask me what I was wearing with this than anything else. The molecule is Iso E Super, and it brings out your body’s natural pheromones. I actually now layer it under every fragrance I wear every single day. If I had to pick one thing to be buried with, it would be Molecule.

Le Labo Gaiac 10

gaiac

This Tokyo city-exclusive fragrance is my other desert island fragrance. Sorry, but it can only be bought in Tokyo, or during Le Labo’s City Exclusive month (usually September). My friend Kayla brought it back from me from a trip to Japan and she regularly tells me I smell like liquid Yen. The good thing is, if you already have a bottle, Le Labo stores can always fill it. You just can’t buy a new one. A guy I was dating said I smelled like an exotic tree, and that’s exactly what Gaiac is made of. I should’ve kept him around.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Bacarrat Rouge 540

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Bacarrat Rouge 540

Like I mentioned above, this is a new favorite. It’s my current flavor of the month. Do yourself a favor and go buy this today. You won’t be disappointed.

Tom Ford Santal Blush

Tom Ford Santal Blush

I live for all the Tom Ford Private Blends, but especially this one. This is like a hot-and-heavy exotic sandalwood with the right amount of musk. It’s feminine but bossy, and I’m obsessed with it.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud

Maison Francis Kurkdijian Oud

This is another new favorite. It’s a sweet oud from Laos that evolves over time while you’re wearing it. It feels mysterious and spicy, like taking a bite out of something exotic that you’ve never tried before.

Louis Vuitton Rose des Vents

Louis Vuitton Rose des Vents

There’s only one way I can describe Louis Vuitton frags: decadent. This is the perfect woody floral. I get in about sx hours of wear-time with this. Jacques Cavallier is the decorated master in-house perfumer behind this line, and like any native of Grasse, his nose knows.

Mad et Len Terre Noire

Mad et Len Terre Noir

This niche French brand is hard to find, but totally worth it. This is sweet, spicy, and woody—it reminds me of a long, fun day of exploring in Sri Lanka. That’s not exactly a relatable experience, but it’s dead-on.

The Harmonist Metal Flower

The Harmonist Metal Flower

This line of Feng Shui fragrances is so chic. I love their store on Melrose Place because it’s covered in malachite, and just feels Zen. With Bulgarian rose and ylang-ylang, this Yin frag gets it right.

Byredo Reine de Nuit

Byredo Reine de Nuit

This was always a luxe and insanely expensive concentrated perfume from the line until recently. Byredo released a line of Night Veils and re-formulated Reine de Nuit into a spray bottle, and it’s absolutely incredible. It has blackcurrant, saffron, incense, and rose. It’s perfect for date night or whenever you want to leave a lasting impression.

Eric Buterbaugh Fragile Violet

Eric Buterbaugh Fragile Violet

Eric is a friend of mine, and I feel lucky that I still have lab samples of his first few fragrances—talk about creating great memories. I knew this line would be major the minute I smelled the samples. Fragile Violet is a sophisticated scent, and still my favorite one. I definitely don’t feel fragile when I wear it, and I just can’t get enough.

Xinú Monstera

Xinú Monstera

This niche brand from Mexico City is a dream. This fragrance is a nod to Monstera Deliciosa (“delicious monster”), a lush Mexican rainforest plant and what I wish my parents named me. This smells so complex and unique; imagine wet dirt, bitter moss, and musk, with subtle white florals.

Bond No. 9 Greenwich Village

Bond No. 9 Greenwich Village

Don’t let the turquoise gator-embossed starfish bottle fool you; this is an unbelievable summer scent. It features two of my favorite words in existence: peach musk. I would wear it every single day if I could. Everyone from men to women to children compliment me when I wear it. Don’t take my word for it; go see for yourself.

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