Most of us can attest to the fact that scents have an uncanny power to transport us to a distant time and place, whether it’s a childhood memory you thought you had already forgotten, or a past experience in a foreign land halfway across the world.
It is not surprising, then, that some of the most well-known fragrances in the world were inspired by the distinctive spirit and essence of a far-flung destination, from the paradisiacal islands of the Caribbean sea, to the opulent elegance of the Gardens of Shalimar in Pakistan.
For those with a chronic case of wanderlust, a whiff of a right perfume can take you thousands of miles away, helping you relive treasured moments of past travels or kindle the imagination for future explorations. Read on for a tour around the world in our round up of beloved travel-inspired fragrances.
Yves Saint Laurent Opium – China
Launched in 1977, Yves Saint Laurent’s China-inspired Opium fragrance became a stunning success while at the same time an immediate topic of controversy. Although creating scents inspired by the orient was hardly new, the use of the drug so historically associated with the region was seen as unseemly, or insensitive at best. Despite or perhaps due to this, Opium flew off shelves and remains today one of the top selling fragrances in France. Created to evoke the exoticism and sophistication of the Orient and the regal imperialism of China, Opium awakens and excites the senses with its unique blend of tangerine, plum, coriander, myrrh and cedarwood. W yslbeautyus.com
Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia – England
Ever since its release in 2010, Jo Malone’s English Pear and Freesia has steadily held its position as one of the brand’s top selling scents. Evoking English landscapes and climates while channelling the spirit of the nation, the crisp, fruity fragrance features the UK-native Williams pear wrapped in a delicate bouquet of white freesias, and mellowed by sensuous notes of amber and patchouli. The scent takes inspiration from the poem, Ode to Autumn, written by English romantic poet John Keats, who too was inspired by the scenic natural surroundings of his homeland. W jomalone.com.my
Malin+Goetz Dark Rum – the Caribbean
This best-seller from Malin+Goetz draws inspiration from bay rum, a cologne widely used by sailors travelling through the sunny Caribbean islands. Bay rum’s traditional dark and spicy character gets a refreshing update in Dark Rum, with the help of sweet notes like ripe plum and crisp bergamot, along with hints of leather, rum and milk. Invitingly warm and fresh, the fragrance recalls memories of lazy days in the tropical sun and late lights breathing in the intoxicating salty breeze. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, indeed. W kensapothecary.com.my
Guerlain Shalimar – Lahore, Pakistan
A classic among Oriental perfumes, Shalimar was created by Jacques Guerlain in the 1920s to honour the enduring love story of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. So great was his love for her that he built her an impossibly grand white marble mausoleum, otherwise known as the Taj Mahal, when she passed away. The Gardens of Shalimar in Lahore was also built by the emperor for Mumtaz, inspiring Guerlain’s perfume bearing the same name. Additionally, the fragrance’s bottle was also modelled after the basins of its eastern gardens. A tribute to the promise of eternal love, this sensual scent is composed of citrusy notes of lemon and bergamot that lead into floral notes of jasmine and rose before finishing with warm Tonka bean and vanilla. W guerlain.com
Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue – Southern Italy
Capturing the sparkling, seductive bliss of the Mediterranean sea in the summer, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue has been a favourite for many since its launch in 2001. Lively, fresh, floral and fruity, the fragrance is said to evoke the natural sensuality of the Mediterranean woman, while its bottle’s blue cap is a nod to the region’s clear skies. Light Blue opens with top notes of invigorating Sicilian cedar and crisp apple, giving way to fresh bamboo nestled amongst notes of jasmine and white rose, before leaving the base notes of citron wood, amber and musk linger in sultry caresses. W sephora.my
Byredo Mojave Ghost – Mohave Dessert, USA
This woody composition’s soulful essence takes after its namesake, the Mojave Desert in southwestern USA. In particular, it pays homage to the entrancing Mojave Ghost flower, which defiantly blooms in spite of the arid, inhabitable environment. To survive the unforgiving landscape, it ingeniously develops markings similar to those of a female bee genus, luring male bees to pollinate it. Inspired by the flower’s captivating allure, the Mojave Ghost bewitches with a blend of Jamaican naseberry and musky ambrette followed by sandalwood and magnolia, before ending with notes of Chantilly musk, amber and cedar wood. W byredo.com
Chanel N°5 – Paris
Likely the most well known perfume of all, Chanel N°5 was created in Paris in 1921 by Coco Chanel to be ‘a woman’s perfume with the scent of a woman’. After becoming a tremendous success, the fragrance has maintained its icon status, encapsulating the essence of its birthplace, Paris, with its time-transcending elegance and sensual complexity. More than 80 ingredients make up the luxurious, feminine scent, including jasmine, mayrose, ylang ylang, hyacinth, orange blossom and sandalwood. W chanel.com
Diptyque Do Son – Halong Bay, Vietnam
This floral fragrance got its name from a seaside resort town in Hai Phong, on the bank of the Gulf of Tonkin, Vietnam. The parents of Yves Coueslant, one of Diptyque’s founders, had emigrated to Tonkin when the region was still a French colony. Coueslant spent his summers in Do Son near the Halong Bay, where the fragrant memories of the flowers of Indochina floating on a light breeze instilled itself within him deeply. The perfume pays tribute to the tuberose, its honeyed notes complemented by hints of Turkish rose and jasmine Sambac, while sparks of pink peppercorns and benzoin add an energetic freshness. W kensapothecary.com.my
Penhaligon’s Halfeti – Turkey
Mysterious and intoxicating, Penhaligon’s Halfeti was inspired by the exotic and precious goods transported from Turkey, its fragrance conjuring images of rare flowers, spices, soft leather and precious materials. Named after a small Turkish village where the hypnotizingly enchanting black rose grows on the Euphrates river, Halfeti boasts a rich, woody, and floral fragrance. Notes of grapefruit, Levantine spice and rose entwine with saffron, cardamom, rose and nutmeg, while leather, oud, cedar and vanilla form a mellow, musky base. W escentials.com.my
Dior Sakura – Japan
Dior’s House Perfumer, François Demachy, was inspired to create this scent when he encountered the famed springtime cherry blossoms in Japan. “Tiny and fragile though it is, it nevertheless releases a fragrance with incredible presence evoking the breathtaking landscape of thousands of cherry trees in bloom,” the perfumer wrote in his notes. Paying tribute to the eponymous blushing flower, Sakura is a poetically soft blend of cherry blossoms, rose, violet and almond. W dior.com