My First Memory of Scent

In a special interview series, we spoke with writers, artists, and digital creators about scents that bring back memories

memory of perfume

Smell, emotion, and memory are intertwined. Scents trigger memories—exposure to a specific odour immediately brings back emotional experiences that may date to as far back as childhood years. We, at Olfa Originals, asked writers, artists, and digital creators about their favourite memory of scent, the first fragrance they wore, and the smell they identify themselves with.

Aparrna Gupta, content consultant and beauty writer

My first memory of scent: It takes me back to my childhood and summer holidays at my grandfather’s home. The day would typically begin with my grandfather taking me for a short walk around the garden. I distinctly remember the soothing scent of the wild rose shrubs. But, it was never the fragrance of rose alone; it was the smell of the rosebuds with grass and wet mud. He would tell me to go and pick the best rose for him—I was allowed to pick only one! There was also raat ki raani, but I was told that snakes rested near it. So despite the scent, I would be wary of it.

My first fragrance: While growing up, I wasn’t that particular about fragrances. I just borrowed it from my mother's vanity. My first fragrance, whose notes I remember, would be Burberry Women. It was my husband's first (and perhaps last) gift to me. Now that I go back to the notes, I describe them as floral-fruity, but at that time, it meant going out and discovering. However, the first fragrance I fell in love with would be Chloe by Chloé. It was a fresh, rose-based fragrance with green notes.

The smell I identify myself with: A blend of pure rose oil mixed with petrichor, the smell of wet earth.

Pavleen Gujral, actor, anchor, and nutritionist

My first memory of scent: The first fragrance I vividly remember was wet mud on a rainy day. I’ve always liked being outdoors, and I absolutely love the monsoons.

My first fragrance: One of the first few fragrances I wore was one from Victoria Secret. I was in a Victoria Secret store in the USA with my mother and wanted to try all the different fragrances they had (they weren’t available in India at the time). I didn’t buy my personal bottle, I preferred to use my mother’s.

The smell I identify myself with: I love the fragrance of eucalyptus oil. My after-bath oils have a little eucalyptus, and I use eucalyptus vapour in my room. It has a calming and soothing effect. As a perfume, I’d prefer something herbal and earthy. It signifies the kind of surroundings I like and how I would like it to smell. It’s more about what I’m smelling rather than what people are smelling.

Shaurya Athley, fashion consultant and stylist

My first memory of scent: It would be of my grandfather’s—a musky smell mixed with cinnamon. Last year, he passed away because of COVID. When I went to his room, that is the smell I could still feel there, and it brought me even closer to him.

My first fragrance: I remember wearing The Tiger Eye fragrance purely because of how the bottle was designed. It had Shah Rukh Khan’s image on it and had a moving eye! The other fragrance I have always loved (for its scent, not design) is the Davidoff Cool Water. I discovered it in high school and haven’t been able to move on since. They say you feel good and powerful when you smell good; I feel good about myself when I put on that perfume.

Smridhi Sibal, fashion consultant and stylist

My first memory of scent: Whenever I was at my nani’s house during the summer break, I slept in her room. Before going to bed, she would take a shower and walk out smelling of coconut oil. That is my first memory of scent. Since then, whenever I smell coconut oil, balm, or body butter, I’m always reminded of my nani.

My first fragrance: It was Victoria Secret’s body mist, and I still wear them. My first adult fragrance, however, was Coco Chanel No. 5.

The smell I identify myself with: A bit of oud mixed with something sweet or floral.

Sukhneet Wadhwa, digital creator

My first memory of scent: It takes me back to school days; to being at a gas station when the school’s bus driver pumped gas while the kids enjoyed the smell of petrol! Another vivid memory I have is of my neighbour cooking some delicious Indian food. Everyday, on my way back from school, I stopped by my neighbour’s window and asked “what’s for lunch today?”.

My first fragrance: It has to be Davidoff's Cool Water because that’s one perfume my mother wore every day. I also liked stronger fragrances, like the Brut.