The Girls from Corona del Mar — the scent of a hometown

But when Lorrie Ann and I were girls, Corona del Mar was half empty, somewhat decayed, beautifully perfumed. Always there was jasmine on the wind, or the subtler, greener scent of potato vine, or the almost hostile peppery scent of bougainvillea. — Rufi Thorpe

I love passages about scents, which are after all closely linked to memory, and, having recently moved just one hour north of Corona del Mar myself, was interested in this description. From my experience, I have seen a lot of jasmine, lavender, and rosemary planted around neighborhoods and corporate buildings alike. I also think that southern California has a lot of “greener” scents that don’t trespass into the floral scents. Where I disagree with Thorpe is the bougainvillea, which I have never thought of as having a strong scent let alone a hostile one. Most species, including the one I’ve seen most abundantly in LA, are almost odorless. I have also recently been getting interested in perfumes and how they are made.

Naturally, I tried to imagine how this scent might smell as a perfume and to find a similar, already existing product. Perfumes have three chords that relate to the volatility of the molecules. The top notes (“head”) of a perfume are what you smell first and thus gives the first impression of the perfume. The middle notes (“heart”) appear after the top notes have dissipated. These notes last for a few minutes and give a fullness to the perfume. The base notes (“body”) are the scents to emerge last and which stay the longest. They are typically richer and add complexity to the perfume. With that in mind, I think a perfume to capture Corona del Mar based on Thorpe’s description would open with very sweet top notes, such as jasmine and lavender, and maybe just a touch of citrus, which is pretty abundant in southern California. For the middle notes, I would introduce a light touch of spices such as cardamom and cloves as a substitute for bougainvillea along with some wood aromas like teak. I think the base note of California would be the smell of dirt, but I guess that’s not really common in perfumes. Maybe something like sandalwood or rosewood or vetiver?

Since I don’t have a lot of experience with perfumes (in fact I just bought my third bottle ever recently), I relied heavily on the community at Fragrantica to find a perfume that matched my idea of Corona del Mar.


Trend Lei by Les Copains for Women
This perfume from 2001 opens with bergamot, peach, cardamom, and violet leaf. The middle notes are jasmine, iris, lily, and cinnamon. The base notes are sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla, and musk. It is a little spicy, a tiny bit floral, and woody fragrance. One reviewer calls it “good for youths, very optimistic.”


Boum Pour Homme by Jeanne Arthes for Men
Described as a woody spicy fragrance, it has top notes of rosemary and lemon. Middle notes are nutmeg, lily, tea, jasmine, cloves, and cardamom. Base notes are sandalwood, patchouli, musk, vanilla, and cedar. Reviewers say it is “perfect for the summer daytime” and “refreshing, comfortable… simple.”


Nio by Xerjoff for Men
Part of the Shooting Stars Collection, this perfume is meant to be elegant and romantic. It opens with neroli, bergamot and green notes, has delicate middle notes of nutmeg, cardamom, jasmine, and pink pepper, and has base notes of vetiver, amber, Virginia cedar, patchouli, and Guaiac wood. Reviewers describe it as “simple,” “natural,” and evokes memories of “the sun on a bright spring day.”

I want to end this post with these questions: if you designed a perfume to capture the happy scents of your hometown, what would be in it? How would you want it to smell? What images would you want it to evoke? Comment or message me your thoughts!

2 thoughts on “The Girls from Corona del Mar — the scent of a hometown

  1. If I designed a perfume to capture the scents of my hometown, which is also your hometown, I think I would want top notes of gardenias, middle notes of cedar and grass with base notes of water. What do you think? That is what I think the backyard smells like after a nice long thunderstorm!

    I was thinking the smell of dirt and smoke would be nice too, and water and salt (but not in a sweaty way). I wonder if there are dirty smoky perfumes out there – I’ll have to investigate!

  2. Pingback: The Sound and the Fury: Caddy Smelled Like Trees | Like Bears to Honey

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