There's something about loving the smell of rain that's almost instinctual to those who enjoy it. If you want to get super scientific, many factors, including plants, soil, bacteria, and even lightning, influence how rain smells. However, the most well-known factor is usually petrichor, the molecule produced by soil bacteria and released into the air when rain hits the dry ground.
The scent may differ slightly depending on where you live, and it's as unique as the feeling that comes with it. Unsurprisingly, many fragrances have set out to interpret rain, and newer launches are putting the underrated category of misty scents inspired by the water element back on the map. Ahead, find everything you need to know about smelling like rain and why you might consider smelling like the great outdoors this season.
What Is a Rain Fragrance?
Because a rainstorm can smell different before, during, and after, there are endless ways to interpret rain into a fragrance. These scents fall squarely into the aquatic family, a category inspired by water's cool, invigorating freshness. Aquatic scents became popular in the '90s with releases like Acqua di Gio, Davidoff Cool Water, and Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme taking center stage with sporty, oceanic notes, a trend that's still popular today.
As with any fragrance family, perfumers can take aquatic scents in almost any direction, from bright and juicy to earthy and mineral. Often, aquatic scents feature notes like citrus and bergamot, herbs like neroli and rosemary, florals like freesia and jasmine, and base notes like blonde woods and musks. Yes, you can find those notes in many fragrance categories, but that's where the perfumer comes in: blending the notes to paint a picture and invoke the smell and the feeling of rain.
The Rise of Rain Fragrances
Something about the smell of rain connects us to the earth. While rain can sometimes be catastrophic, it is often a relief for the planet and us. The cool of the air after a storm is fleeting, but it's a feeling that brings a sense of calm. So when you use that concept to develop a fragrance you can wear all day, it's almost always a hit.
Rain fragrances are easy to love. They run the spectrum of clean, fresh, sporty, sweet, earthy, and musky, so there's something for everyone, despite their preferences. The smell of rain has always been captivating, so it's no surprise that many fragrances have set out to interpret it. The latest is Bvlgari Man Rain Essence. Bvlgari has a legacy of incredible fragrances that push its boundaries to new, imaginative levels. Knowing this, my interest was piqued when I learned about the brand's unique take on rain. If the "Man" moniker is a turn-off, I get it, but don't let that stop you from exploring it because it's pleasantly surprising.
Rain Essence is a fresh, sweet fragrance with a floral heart and a mineral base. It starts with green tea and orange at the top, with dewy white lotus in the middle and a base of mineral amber accord and guaiac wood. It's a balanced take on water and ozone that feels timeless, nostalgic, and futuristic. It's refreshing and delightful, like the air after a thunderstorm.
Bvlgari Parfums' creative senior director, Amandine Pallez, says the anatomy of a raindrop was interpreted in the way this scent plays on the skin. "When creating the perfume, I had this big raindrop in mind. If you think about it, rain is transparent, but if you take a picture, a raindrop mirrors all of its surroundings."
Rain Essence was created to enhance the skin's natural scent, so it wears differently on everyone. It's light but consistent, almost airy, like a gust of cool breeze on a cloudy beach. When this fragrance family first heated up, options were often hyper-masculine, cold, musky, and metallic. As the category grew, so did its wearability. Pallez worked alongside master perfumer Alberto Morillas, who created many scents that defined the aquatic, citrus, and aromatic category that preceded this new Bvgalri bottle.
Morillas created defining fragrances, including Acqua Di Gio and Ck One, much of the Bvlgari collection, and other global hits. Notably, Ck One was the first mainstream genderless fragrance, which, in 1994, was way ahead of its time. Though Rain Essence and Ck One are very different, they share a similar refreshing, clean quality. Rain Essence is the latest in a long lineage of beautiful water-inspired scents that are perfect for anyone. If you’re looking to explore other takes on rain, check out the below.
It’s fitting that a new Issey Miyake is on this list, as the house helped define that aquatic rain category. This offering took an already watery fragrance and made it a fraiche, a type of fragrance known to be lighter, literally translating to “fresh water.”
This one opens with a singular rain top note, giving way to a heart of lilac, rose, and a base of wood and ambrox, a synthetic molecule that smells like amber and musk. It’s a rain scent that’s easy to wear and impossible not to love.
This scent is earthy and musky but still refreshing and sweet. Bergamot welcomes the scent onto your skin with pink pepper essence and a vegetal accord. You'll find a marine, aquatic accord, rose petal essence, and a jasmine superinfusion, with a classically earthy base of pine, patchouli, and musk at the heart of the scent.
Inspired by the moment after a storm when the sun comes out, this scent is earthy and musky but still refreshing and sweet. Bergamot welcomes the scent onto your skin with pink pepper essence. You'll find a marine, aquatic accord, rose petal essence, and a jasmine super infusion, with an earthy base of pine, patchouli, and musk at the heart of the scent.
As the name states, this is a clean and classic take on rain. It opens with a dewy melon, daffodil, and watermint, followed by a heart of spring daisy, water lily, and violet. A blend of musk and woods make up the earthy base. It's a light, linear take on rain that wears light as a crisp white button-down.
The smell of rain has been captivating for ages and will continue as long as we innovate fragrance. If Bvlgari Rain Essence and the great water-inspired scents that came before it indicate where the category is heading, then it's safe to say we'll all want to smell like rain this spring.