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  • Writer's pictureMcWhat

Smells Like Nostalgia

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The way our brain interprets fragrance has always amazed me.

For as long as people have been recording history, they’ve been touching upon the use of fragrance as a treatment for a variety of concerns from mental and spiritual to physical. For thousands of years civilizations in India and Egypt have been using aromatherapy as an alternative therapy, and even now in traditional medicine; essential oils and fragrance have been utilized in the treatment of many disorders such as digestive issues, eczema, stress-induced anxiety and depression.

In our day-to-day lives, fragrance plays a huge part of our day whether we notice or not. Scent has the ability to trigger specific receptors in our brains like memory and emotion and can induce physical changes in our bodies, such as pulse rate, brain activity and muscle tension.

It’s no wonder we light scented candles when we try to relax.

When we breathe a scent in, the first part of our brain it hits is the part hosting the emotion and memory centres. All of our other senses travel via the ‘thalamus’ which acts as a switchboard to redirect information into the brain – this means that our brain has a more intimate connection between emotions, memories and scents, often memories that are triggered by scents feel far more emotive.

Association with fragrance is a huge thing too, I remember a friend telling her mum that she ‘smelled like Lucy’s mum’, it turned out she’d recently bought Kenzo Flower – the scent my mum wore for years and I still make a mental connection to her. Sometimes if I’m in my mums and her wardrobe door opens, there’s a faint trace of it on a chiffon scarf or the sleeve of a coat and it hurtles me back to childhood when it was okay to throw your arms around your mum and cling to her, breathing in the perfume on her neck.

Other times, I think I can almost imagine fragrances. The first time I ever drove across the Erskine Bridge I did so alone. The weather was dry and the sky was bright and clear, and yet I was shaking. I could smell Angel perfume, so clearly. It was as if someone has just spritzed it right under my nose, and yet I don’t own it and wasn’t wearing it. My gran did though, who at this point was gone around four months.

I know it’s a reach and understand that people don’t believe in ‘this’ type of thing, but right away I was at ease and felt like she was right there with me. It was so calming, and reassuring as I think when I lost her I was around 80 hours of driving lessons in and I’m pretty sure she thought I’d be an eternal pedestrian.

If you’ve stuck with my this far, thank you. I’d like to share a couple of fragrances that are key to me, and why I like them.


This is a perfume that my mum wore but wasn’t using and gave me, I was about 17. I hadn’t really gotten into scents in a big way yet so I was quite grateful for an ‘adult’ scent – with it being a bit musky it always strikes me as quite a ‘sexy’ scent. I remember spraying a tester of it years later in Boots and when I came home my husband told me that I smelled like I did when I met him, so I know I’m not the only the only one that associates these scents.


I love this, it’s another that my mum wears (can you see a theme?) When one of my work friends joined our team a few years ago I remember commenting to someone that I thought she smelled nice and she also put me at ease. I later made the connection that perhaps it was the familiarity of the fragrance that made me warm ot her so quickly; that or just the fact that she’s cool as shit.


Yes, a New Look original. Believe it or not this was my wedding perfume! At the time I wore Decadance daily, but couldn’t fit the bottle into my handbag so instead bought a little spritzer of this. I didn’t realise at the time how much a wedding person means when you look back, but I don’t regret it – I’m pretty sure it was a Flowerbomb dupe.

Acqua di Parma – Colonia

This was the first proper mad expensive perfume I got. My mum bought it for my birthday, and it’s a proper ‘grown up’ scent. It makes me feel like I have my shit together and can do whatever I put my mind to. The citrusy top notes make for a delightfully light unisex scent, in comparison the other fragrances from Acqua di Parma such as Rosa and Peonie are sweet and floral, but I love that this one has a slightly more herbal nod.

I think fragrance can mean a lot to a lot of people, and I’d love to know - what scents draw memories from you?


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