Happy Fourth of July to all my American readers and customers just across the border!
There is no other scent more American to me than wintergreen. It’s in American toothpastes and chewing gums, and also in the ever so popular and oddly flavoured root beer. I don’t think there is anywhere else in the world where wintergreen is perceived so fondly (except for Canada, perhaps, but I suspect we can blame it on proximity). In Europe, wintergreen and sweet birch are used only for cleaning purposes, and Europeans are puzzled by the American fondness for root beer. Just recently, a toilet bowl cleaner made its way to my home and it smelled intensely of root beer. It was a very odd reverse association (I can’t imagine how odd it is for someone used to clean their toilets with wintergreen solutions to actually be offered a drink with that stuff!
But peppermint is also very American. The best peppermint oil actually grows in the USA and it’s sweeter and fuller than some other sources. To me growing up peppermint is the scent of toothpaste (the way it should be…) and has more of a medicinal/therapeutic association. It would be an addition to your tea if your stomach hurts, for instance, or you could just rub pure peppermint oil on your tummy instead. In North America, I think most associate peppermint with the Christmas candy cane and it’s more of a sweet childhood smell… More similar to how I perceive spearmint, perhaps.
And there’s cinnamon – cinnamon buns, and cinnamon in apple pie, both of which I’m very fond of; and caramel to drip on both (I can do without that, but adore the scent of a freshly baked pecan pie). And of course the far less flattering scents of deepfried fast food, from donuts to French fries. Just the other day I passed a well-dressed lady, accessorized with an aldehydic floral AND a cone of French fries. The combination was horrendous. I imagine this is how diners smelled in the 50’s when aldehydic florals were at their prime…
I can’t really think of anything else at the moment. The US is such a wide and versatile country I’m sure it has different regional scents - where as here in Canada it’s all just coniferous and maple syrup from coast to coast, pretty much, perhaps with a touch of castoreum... I would love to hear from you what scents you think are typically American.
Just the other day I posted my list of 10 American perfumes on Helg’s excellent Perfume Shrine blog. I will re-post them here today (most have been reviewed here in the past, so I won’t be commenting much on them). They are not necessarily my favourites, but certainly what I consider to be very representative of what American perfumery is (even though I am not necessarily sure that they were all made and designed by Americans in the US). There’s something really bold about most American perfumes, at times even crude; but than there is also the modern school of thought, which is all about clean, clean, clean. As if there is a need for a proof for America’s sanitary system.
Youth Dew – it’s a classic. What else is there to say?
Private Collection – the epitome of what an American nobility should smell like.
Obsession – Another classic, even if obnoxious to some. Is it possible this is where all the candy scents begun?
Lovely – Balances nicely the clean-skin approach with a modern sensuality. And even though it’s very subtle and - let’s face it – a crowd pleaser, it has a boldness about it, its personality, which makes it stand out. Even though it is similar to Narciso Rodriguez for Her.
Glow – Although I can’t get myself to wear this (it is a scrubber on me) on the right person it does smell like coming out of the shower. And that appeal explains why it is such a success. JLo is one of the very few celebrity perfume brands I have respect for (even though, again, it does not mean I love all her scents – very far from it). I personally only wear her Deseo but didn’t think it’s appropriate for this list.
Old Spice – There has to be a drugstore scent in this list, and if I am to choose only one, this would be it!
Aromatics Elixir – speaking about bold!
And last but not least – we must mention some niche perfumes that create that have the starts and stripes all over them:
Anné Pliska – this one actually reminds me of root beer in an odd way. Although while I can’t drink root beer, I enjoy Anne Pliska perfume very much. It’s both distinct and well made.
Bourbon French's Dark Gift (unfortunately discontinued)
Hove Perfumery's Spanish Moss (it's the only scent I tried from the house, but I am sure there are others worth trying)
What notes smell like America to you? And which American perfumes are the most American of them all?