This summer, we’re experiencing a high tide of aquatic scents inspired by the sand and surf.
Since the time of the ancient Greeks, people have wanted to smell like the ocean. Archaeologists have found perfume vessels from around 550 B.C. shaped like the mythological sirens of the sea.
The modern zeal for aquatic scents roared back in the 1980s, when a briny Neptunian aroma chemical called calone became popular at fragrance houses. By the ’90s, minimalist seaweed smells were all the rage: CK1, Acqua di Gio and L’Eau d’Issey were among the most popular scents of the decade, all with shimmering nautical notes of sea grass, cold melon and pulverized oyster shells.
This summer, we’re experiencing another high tide of aquatic scents. Here are five new fragrances inspired by coral reefs and blue depths.
Strangelove NYC Silence the Sea ($55–$475 at strangelovenyc.com. Most sea scents rely on a gloss of coconut-y sweetness, but not this new perfume, which does not shy away from its pungent ambergris heart. Ambergris, for the uninitiated, is a waxy secretion from the bile duct of a whale, the result of indigestible matter such as eel beaks. It smells like no other substance on earth: ancient, musty, almost feral. Silence the Sea rounds out its edges with oud and tuberose, but — make no mistake — this is a perfume for the adventurous.
Carner Barcelona Costarela ($120–$180 at carnerbarcelona.com). A fizzy top note of bergamot and a buttery hint of saffron are layered on top of a marine base, creating a kind of wearable boating cocktail. A base of cedarwood is meant to mimic the smell of old ships.
Santa Eulalia Marinis ($165 at neimanmarcus.com). Think of this one as a mojito enjoyed with an ocean view. It features herbal notes of mint, frozen grapes and bay leaves.
Art de Parfum Sea Foam ($140 at artdeparfum.glopal.com). From London, but developed in the South of France, Sea Foam smells like a stay in Cap d’Antibes. Sandalwood and salt combine to hint of fresh brioche, and heavy doses of fig and seaweed deliver a refreshing snap of green.
Eight & Bob Mémoires de Mustique ($45–$165 at Sephora). Eight & Bob is technically a reintroduction, as far as fragrance houses go. In the aughts, the house was restored to life with a riff on its original formula, worn by John F. Kennedy, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. It has since released six additional scents, including Mémoires de Mustique, a tropical homage to an island beach, with watery neroli, bitter oranges and a creamy layer of jasmine.