With spring in full effect, everything from our skin- and hair-care routines, to our wardrobe and workout regimen is getting a refresh. The most anticipated update of them all, though, has to be fragrances. And this year, we’re all about vacation scents. By which I mean mood-boosting fragrances that send us straight to the locale of our long-awaited PTO with every sniff—take, for example, a body mist that transports us to a Rio beach party or a perfume that makes us feel like we're sunbathing on a park lawn.
Yep, vacation scents can really do that, here’s how: “When we come into contact with an odor, the olfactory receptor cells in your nose send a signal to a part of your brain called the olfactory bulb, which is responsible for interpreting those signals as smells,” explains Carlos Huber, fragrance developer and founder of Arquiste. Huber says your olfactory bulb has a direct line to the parts of your brain that process emotion and memory, which explains why we learn to associate certain smells with specific memories—and why the connection can be so strong and transportive.
When we smell something new for the first time, our olfactory bulb will register that connection in order to identify it in the future, according to Huber. “That's why a lot of smells take us back to vacation, especially childhood vacations where we were taken out of everyday routine and everything was new,” he explains. “I also think that when we're in leisurely situations, where you're truly present and taking in the setting, our brain has more time to process and strengthen these connections between odor and experience.”
Just like the destinations they evoke, vacation scents can run the gamut. Finding one that’s right for you will depend on your idea of a dream getaway—whether it's skiing in the alps or hanging by the pool. Read on for the vacay inspired scents that smell as good as setting your OOO feels.
7 vacation scents worth trying
Smells like: a beach/pool-side hang
With sunscreen-y coconut and banana notes, and essences of pool water and sea salt, Vacation’s signature scent is truly summer in a bottle. “We sought to recreate the full experience of a summer day, lounging by the pool, the warmth of sun-kissed skin, palm trees swaying in the breeze,” explains Huber who developed the scent alongside Rodrigo Flores-Roux. From the familiar, yet elevated, scent to the retro ‘80s branding, Vacation clearly aced the assignment. Plus, the scent has serious lasting power—which you can’t beat for 60 bucks.
Smells like: a fancy ski trip
If a winter wonderland is more your speed, you’ll fall in love with Ellis Brooklyn’s Après. Featuring notes of fresh juniper berries, warming bourbon, and earthy cedarwood, the woodsy unisex perfume whisks you away to the slopes. It’s jam-packed with nuance—starting out with the crisp and clean scent of forest greens, and developing into a smoky, spiced aroma with a pinch of comforting sweetness as it wears on your skin. Reviewers say the scent sticks around too.
Smells like: a dreamy trip Down Under
For a fresh floral take on a classic beachy scent, meet Tocca’s Simone. Thanks to a winning combo of watermelon, tropical frangipani flower, and sweet ylang ylang, the bright-and-breezy scent is a total mood-booster. “It was originally inspired by the summer lifestyle of Sydney’s Bondi Beach—sun-kissed surfers and the surf crashing on the white sands of the beach,” says Joyce Barnes, the brand’s chief operating officer. “It makes me think of sunny, breezy days spent on the beach in Nantucket.”
Smells like: a weekend in Lake Tahoe
Rosie Jane’s aptly named Lake Perfume captures the essence of lakeside hangs—minus the Adirondack chairs. Notes of zesty lemon and lime, fresh pine, woody sandalwood, and a hint of vanilla give it a scent that’s clean, woodsy, and sweet all at once, making it a perfume that all types of noses can enjoy. And reviewers say it really does encapsulate the lakeside experience. “Lake is my very favorite [scent],” writes one Sephora shopper in a five-star review. “It smells just like being in the woods at the lake—I should know, I live by a lake in the Colorado high country!”
Smells like: a summer getaway in Greece
Inspired by fig trees in the summertime, the undeniably fancy fragrance has notes of fresh greens, fruity fig sap, and soft white wood. It’s the kind of scent you really need to smell to believe, trust me. Plus, it has rave reviews—earning it a 4.5 star rating. “Diptyque’s Philosykos Eau de Parfum is a true work of art,” says one Nordstrom shopper in a five-star review. “The fragrance is elegant, fresh, and long-lasting on the skin.” Agreed on all accounts!
Smells like: a summer in southern Italy
Save yourself the airfare and spritz this Replica fragrance for an instant trip to Sicily. An elevated take on citrus, you’re not getting that synthetic, cleaning product scent—which makes Under the Lemon Trees worth every penny. It features notes of crisp citrus, green tea, and musk for a fresh and clean scent that’s seriously addictive. What’s more, the light aroma lingers but isn’t heady or overwhelming. If Call Me By Your Name was a fragrance, it’d be this.
Smells like: a surf trip to Cape Cod
A stand out in Abbott’s line of destination-inspired fragrances, The Cape is a clean and refreshing scent touting marine notes, cooling mint, moss, and ginger. The effect is a crisp, salt water aroma that smells like crashing waves in Cape Cod. If the ocean is your personal paradise, The Cape’s uplifting aquatic scent will have you hooked.
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