Ask any perfumer about her favorite destination, and she's likely to soliloquize on the subtleties of fragrances in Europe's rose varietals, or the pungent scent of fresh-cut cedar from her grandfather's woodshop. Noses, as they're called in their trade, take a romantic and eccentric approach to travel. Instead of snapping photos, they log location-specific memories into a scrapbook of scents. It beats a slide show any day. Here, five perfumers name the best-smelling spots in the world.
FRédéRIC MALLE Parisian fragrance creator Frédéric Malle, nephew of the late director Louis Malle, collaborates with renowned perfumers to craft his Éditions de Parfums. "I guess I'm expected to talk about far-off places," he says. "But I spent my childhood summers at Pine Island Camp in Maine, and I find the seashore and the flowers that grow there very inspiring." Malle's fragrances have attracted a sophisticated crowd to his store on Paris's Rue de Grenelle and his fragrance "chambers" at Barneys New York.
Signature Scent: For his Lys Méditerranée, Malle evoked the crisp, fresh air of Whitehead Island, Maine, then sweetened it with orange blossom, night-blooming jasmine, and lily.
Early Influence: "When I was in boarding school in Pontoise, France, there was purple lilac on the grounds. I remember feeling totally free with my friends there. I will always, always love that smell." For Malle, there's much joy associated with travel and its collateral memories. His Vétiver Extraordinaire scent reminds him of the forests in the north of France where his grandparents lived. Woodsy, amber chimney smoke recalls the untainted air in Megève, where his family had a winter house.
Favorite Place: Despite his love of America (he notices every scent, including the ones outside JFK airport in Queens, New York), Malle is still a proud Frenchman. Now that the doughy smell of baking baguettes has been eclipsed by diesel exhaust ("It has altered the aroma of Paris," he sniffs), Biarritz is his most cherished fragrant spot. "From the beach and the forest next to it, you can breathe in the heat, the yellow broom flowers, the wood from the pine trees," Malle says. "The scent is so strong, it almost seems to vibrate."
CAMILLE GOUTAL When your mother creates a fragrance in your name, based on the ivy-covered garden where you played as a girl, the template for a lifetime of aromatic impressions is set in place early on. Such is the case for Camille Goutal, the legendary Parisian perfumer Annick Goutal's 27-year-old daughter, who joined the company's creative team when her mother died of breast cancer in 1999. Ten years ago, Annick blended a cologne for her husband that reproduced the sand dunes on the ële de Ré, off the western coast of France, and a business was born. Now the younger Goutal is blending her own delicate and transporting aromas.
Signature Scents: So far, Le Muguet (lily of the valley), La Violette (inspired by the nosegays of violets, once sold on the street in Paris, that her mother loved), Le Chèvrefeuille (honeysuckle), and the jasmine-tinged Quel Amour! are four fragrances Goutal has helped to invent.
Early Influence: Camille's grandfather's house in Aix-en-Provence holds the most powerful triggers. "The scents of dust and stone remind me of family summers in the south of France," she says. "It used to get so hot that we'd go indoors to cool off, tracking in mud and dust and making puddles of water on the cold stone floor. The smell of my aunts' perfume still lingers in the air."
Favorite Place: "I'm fond of tropical climates, because they have different flowers," Goutal says. "I'd like to create a fragrance that conveys southeast Asia—the heat, sensuality, and mystery."