Friday, June 24, 2011

Beauty & the Beach, The Fragrance Edition: Beachy Scents for Varied Tastes

It's enough to think about the beach and a dip in the ocean to have a hankering for that particular ambience which involves not only the tactile feelings of cool spray and sugar-spun sands, we're so familiar with, but also a scentscape of the mind. The remembrance of those scents that enhance our exprerience, be it in swimming lazily off the costa del Sol in the Spanish Riviera or plunging one's self oh-so-carefully in the vastly wild waters of eastern Australia, keeps us going even in the dead of winter. The aromas that comprise this scentscape however are varied, depending as much on the particular circustances of the place and time, as of our own preference for the elements that compliment it, such as peripheral activities (sipping those Pina Coladas in Miami Beach and oiling up with monoi in Hawaii).

the Sarakino beach on Milos, Greece
Generally speaking however in fine fragrance "beachy scents" have formed enough of a niche to form their own unofficial category. Usually they involve accords reminiscent of suntan lotion with the unmistakable hint of coconuts and/or aquatic notes (marine/ozonic or just "watery"), but they can also bypass the actual elements of just the beach and expand into tropical florals (gardenia, tiare and tuberose mostly, with the occasional pikake/sampaquita inclusion) or the fruity cocktails served at the beach-bar.
Other times in this category we could lump sweet, ambery scents that reprise the "skin baked in the sun scent" of a good holiday on a sunshide basking country, or the salty, ocean-dipped smell of a body that has dried up with the salt still on it. Sometimes, they can even be inspired by the driftwood found in beaches across the world, more abstract, poised between "wet" and woody, producing interesting combinations. Local cosmetic products in tropical parts also provide inspiration for "notes" in fine fragrance, the most famous being monoi.

Monoi, in its authentic state, is simply tiare (Tahitian gardenia) macerated in coconut oil; a viscous, gorgeous oil that is supremely nutritious to skin. Both Nars and The Body Shop make their own version, although the authentic product can be easily got at tropical islands at drugstores and souvenir shops.
For the purposes of this guide of scent to take with you on a beach holiday, I divided them into categories of evocation. 

the Vai beach at Preveli, Crete, Greece


Dissecting the "suntan lotion accord" we come up with two categories: the Coppertone inspired ones (more coconutty) and the Ambre Solaire ones (more floral), the latter rich in salicylates which naturally occur in the flowers of the tropics and which are referenced often as "solar notes". Both of these are skin scents, but they can vary in intensity. Here are some of the best examples.

Bobbi Brown Beach
An authentic experience of sunny mood, straight suntan oil smell, melting in the sun, relaxed and a small subfacet of sea mist mingling in the air and a hint of jasmine. Guilty pleasure in the winter, and a no brainer for summer holidays.

Bond No. 9 Fire Island
Immediately recognised as the scent of Ambre Solaire , beloved of Euro-sunscreen using people at the Riviera, Capri and Mykonos, Fire Island fragrance encapsulates the pleasing aroma of warm sand and warm skin.

Estee Lauder Azuree Soleil & Bronze Goddess
Inspired a frenzy when it launched as a body oil spray as the anchor of the Tom Ford Azuree collection, it also featured subsequently an Eau Fraiche Skinscent version. Azuree Soleil was discontinued when the contract with Tom Ford was over and substituted with Bronze Goddess. Beware, the new 2011 edition of Bronze Godess Soleil is a different fragrance (read our comparison).

Guerlain Terracota Eau Sous Le Vent
A specialized body mist which moisturizes the skin while enhancing its color (via Tan Booster complex), but it also lightly perfumes the skin with Tiare flower. Another one of the suntan lotion type scents with decent sillage.

CB I Hate Perfume At the Beach 1966 
Old school Coppertone never had it so good in an alcohol formula, and the addition of a "North Atlantic" accord by Christopher Brosius makes this a cult favourite among perfume enthusiasts.


Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vanille Abricot
The addition of vanilla and sugar sweetens the already sweet, fruity aromata of papaya and apricot. It's cuddly and soft and a perennial best-seller in the line.

Guerlain Terracota Voile d'été
This solar fragrance by Guerlain is composed out of the combustible notes of spicy carnation fanned on salicylate-rich ylang ylang. It smells succulent, while non fruity or particularly sweet and is an underrated marvel. 

Escada Pacific Paradise
Part of the limited edition summer fragrances by German brand Escada, Pacific Paradise wasn't surypy, nor was it sanitized. The fruity floral core kept a bit of balance between sweetness and dryness, resulting in a pleasant offering.

Moneyette Monyette Paris 
Decidedly tropical, rather heavy smelling floral and warm fragrance with a coconut-amber base, it comes in oil form and was especially popular with young Hollywood a few years back.

Chios island, Greece

Lancaster Aquasun 
Not to be confused with "Sunwater" (to which the name amounts anyway!), this is a warm amber evoking caramel-hued sands, as if seeing them from an helicopter flying above the Sahara desert, dunes forming and rippling at the gusts of wind. Wonderful for winter-wear as well.

Dior Dune & Dune pour Homme
A clever construction (more smoky oriental than "marine":  bitterish interplay between the tarriness of lichen ~alongside the distinct bracken feel of broom~ with the sweeter oriental elements of the base. Dune is a marvellous, diaphanous oriental and unique! Also credible in the men's version, which is less orientalised.

Prada L'Eau Ambrée
The refreshing top, cypress-like and with a micro-facet of white flower progressed to sweet, slightly salty sweat musk in Prada's L'Eau Ambrée; not a tetrapod's raunchy howl, but the smell of seashore in spring and the bodies that lie down on its fluffy texture.

Ava Luxe Johri
A unisex fragrance that smiles through slightly sweet, slightly coconutty elements, producing a delightful skin scent.

Greek seascape in the Aegean sea

CB I Hate Perfume Monsieur Hulot's Holiday
Commentably not sharp, it incorporates a hint of algae into the sea breeze proceedings and a trace of leather, like carrying an old suitcase on some Mediterranean adventure.

Ava Luxe The Beach
Like its programmatic name suggests, salt-air-and-ocean-and-driftwood.

Hermès Eau de Merveilles 
One of the few feminine fragrances devoid of floral notes, this is a harmony built on woody notes, an abstract orange top, salty skin  and a saline effect; very easy to wear on whatever occasion. It wears beautifully and lasts very long, like the most delicious imperceptible aura. Its Eau de Parfum counterpart, Elixir des Merveilles, is more orangey and chyprish, great for winter as well.

Heeley Sel Marin
A salty fragrance with backbone and a true niche offering. 

Christiane Celle Calypso Marine
More in line with what "marine" came to mean: sharpish, aqueous, with a good dosage of ozonic notes for good effect, but not eye-watering in this case. 

beach at Elafonissos at Southerneast Peloponnese, Greece

Comptoir Sud Pacifique Aqua Motu 

Aqua Motu is the steady best-selling eau de toilette in Europe since its release in 1995. What's the secret? It recreates perfectly that shore-ambience blend of marine views, warm sands, kelp and a hint of lily of the valley. A very credible "beachy scent".

The Different Company Sel de Vetiver
Inspired by exactly what its name suggests, a glass of vetiver water, letting the salty nuance of the Eastern grass permeate the liquid, it's refreshing and sophisticated.

Andree Putman Preparation Parfumee
The quintessence of a large body of water, a little bit left to its own devices, driftwood coming down the stream, a hint of decay.

DSquared2 Ocean Wet Woods
Take the woody goodness of the original Dsquared2 Wood He and splash it with ocean spay. You're there!

the Myrtos beach, Cephalonia, Greece


Creed Virgin Island Water

Lime and coconut and tequila with sticky tanginess that last well throughout the day. Even fit for work, when you're feeling that boredom setting in at the beginning of yet another week at office months away from your paid leave.

Guerlain Homme L'Eau
Referencing the refreshing recipe of Mojito cocktail, this minty cologne is fresh enough for casual summer wear and not totally predictable, although it lacks the backbone of a proper Guerlain. 

JLo Miami Glow
A sweet, heady mix of fruits (passion fruit with its erotic undertone, blackcurrant with its slightly sour whiff) blended with musk, warm amber and sweet vanilla. Latina-inspired and quite good for a celebrity fragrance.

Do you have other favourite beachy fragrances? Let us know in the comments.


  1. Wonderful list. I really want to try Eau de Merveilles and the elixer, both sound like something I would like.

    I also love PG Bois Naugrage. It has a salty, woody, green coconut vide that I call "fig at the beach."

  2. Sorry that was Bois Naufrage

  3. What a great list! I like your different classifications. I am always searching for "beachy" scents but do not want anything that smells like Coppertone. Thus, anything like Bobbi Brown's Beach are out for me. I'm actually considering buying Guerlain Terracota Voile d'été unsniffed.

  4. I love Eau des Merveilles... and Sel de Vetiver, but I'm not a beach person AT ALL (for me, a horrifying vacation would be at a beach)! ;)

    Though why is it I'm dying to sniff the Bronze Goddess!

  5. What a wonderful theme for a post!

    I wore "S-eX" in Mykonos last year -- it was a PERFECT warm-weather, sensuous scent with a killer drydown that lasted far into the very late Mykonos nights! (Got some awesome compliments as well; one New Yorker exclaimed how exquisite I smelled. Not bad!)

    Another wonderful beach scent which has -- alas -- long since been discontinued is "Gucci Rush Men". The drydown was never anywhere near longlasting, but that breezy-balmy sandalwood vibe, slightly synthetic in a cool chill-out kind of way: nice! Miss that scent. (Tam Dao was very similar at first, but alas, they changed that formula as soon as sandalwood started running out, which is why I believe Gucci Rush Men faltered; it sure was a hit here in Europe upon release!

    Hey, I'm off to Mykonos next week. Will you be there by chance?
    XO, Michael (There's this wonderful hidden-away boutique near Kalogera which carries the entire Comme des Garcons line -- a rarity anywhere, let alone in the middle of the Aegean!)

  6. Great list-to which I would add Profumum Acqua di Sale. It's such a perfect mix of salt air, light driftwood and gentle flowers. Really does smell like a beach, but in cool weather.

  7. I must add two: Lostmarch Aod and Ael-Mat. Lostmarch is a wild shore in Brittany and these scents reflect just that - wild, maybe stormy with little wildflowers. No Coppertone here! Aod offers a dash of gardenia and coconut to a well-done sea air note and Ael-Mat is a tangy chamomile, bit of jasmine, wildflowers on a stormy beach scent. Very unique, affordable and beautiful.

  8. Wonderful list! I'd add Annick Goutal Songes.

  9. I like your different classifications. I am always searching for "beachy" scents but do not want anything that smells like Coppertone.

    The Best Perfumes For Women As Said By Men

  10. I'm very fond of Lili Bermuda's South Water - coconut milk, guava, and sea salt. Tropical, but not suntan lotion-y

  11. I love Eau d'Italie (the first scent) for summer; even if I can't be at the beach everyday, this scent transports me to the sun and sand and blue waters of an Italian vacation.

  12. Wonderful list! I really want to try CB I hate Perfume At the Beach now!
    I second spring pansy and would add Lostmarch Ael-Mat ans Aod, I love those two, beachy, but very unusual.

    1. Yes! Aod is such a refreshing take on the beach fragrance--coconut, sea, and gardenia--yum!

  13. Anonymous22:21

    Wonderful list! I would add Rem by Reminiscence. To me this smells like the sea.

  14. What a meticulously edited list. : ) Which do you suppose is the one to go with Plein Soleil?

  15. SL Datura Noir conjures up a sophisticated tiki/beach vibe for me.

  16. This is a bitchin (as the surf kids would say) post! What a wonderfully curated collection you've presented here. I can't wait to try Terracota Voile d'été. To your sand dunes and skin category, I'll add L'Artisan's Côte d'Amour.

  17. Great list, E.! The Costa de la Luz will now be forever scented with Saharienne for me. I also had original Monoi body oil and above mentioned EL's Bronze Goddess dry body oil in my luggage. Nothing does the suntan lotion smell better for me than tanning in "Hawaiian Tropics" products, though! :-)

  18. Fiona21:09

    Jennifer Aniston's new fragrance! It's actually kind of great! Gardenia and sea breeze and warm skin.

  19. Anonymous10:22

    Cacharel Pour l'Homme is for me instant beach aroma. I'm not even sure exactly why - it's a holiday in a bottle.

  20. Anonymous19:30

    Iv been searching alot for beachy smells. Based on reviews iv read, iv bought ones that pple say really do smell like beach......avon tahitian holiday.....just pure coconut not beach at all. Cb i hate perfume.......not even close!!!! Hermes des merveilles....smells nice but nope!!! Not beachy. Closest is bobby brown beach but not that beachy like how everyone describes. Iv wasted money for sure!!

  21. Answering to Anon right above me (and appreciating everyone's comment in the process), I guess this is where perfume become subjective! It all depends on what kind of a beach you go to and what associations are tied to it. Different beaches in different places smell quite different! ;-)

  22. Amy,

    I'm taking your word for it. *noting it down*

  23. Very enlightening! Thanks for sharing

  24. Anonymous02:41

    Two materials that unexpectedly reminded me of the beach when I first smelled them were hexyl salicylate and ylang ylang. Sometimes pine has that effect too since most trees along the coast of Virginia are pines. I also associate the beach with dryness, although that certainly wouldn't be the case for everyone. I guess you could say that sunscreen and seawater notes are universally associated with the beach, while other notes would be regional and vary from person to person. My ideal beach fragrance would probably be Duchaufour's Cipresso di Toscana, which is extremely dry and somewhat coniferous. People seem to write it off as a sports fragrance only suitable for unsophisticated jocks in the locker room, but it reminds me of going to the beach when I was a boy. I rarely wear it, but I often take it out and smell it. -Todd Huyett

  25. Anonymous23:22

    I love Bobbi Brown!! I think it's light-ish, not heavy and oily. Get compliments every time I wear it. Also Jo Malone's Lime Blossom is similar... close to suntan lotion-like.


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