The last week of summer I was in South Carolina. I love South Carolina, but  flying in from New York always astounds me because the atmosphere changes so much and by atmosphere, I mean the barometric pressure, the humidity levels – the whole meteorological enchilada.

New York was hot, and it was humid yes, but it was the customary played out heat of late summer in the city.  You could smell a little garbage, a lot of soot, a lot of diesel exhaust, some urine -  basically, New York smells.  (And please don’t get on my case if you are a resident New Yorker, because I was one too for years, and I know exactly how the city smells, and at all seasons. No matter what Laurice Rahme may market, the actual Smell de New York is perennially pee inflected.)

However, the atmosphere is never as heavily humid as it is in the Carolinas.  New York’s atmosphere at this point is largely man made, like its weather, and so it’s generally warmer and muggier than its surroundings.

Anyhow, let us point out that I had miscalculated – badly.  Samples came with me of course, for consideration and possible write ups but…

Okay, let me tell you what I brought so you can feel the numbskull up close and personal.

Private Collection Amber Ylang- Like taking a shawl with you to a steam room.

Bel Antonio- Coffee and ciggies when it’s 98 degrees and humid? Not Smart.

Farmacia SSAnnunziata Chia- Prada Candy for the 1%. Cloying.

Profumi del Forte By Night White – Amber sledge hammer. Like a Cymbalta sucker punch.

Etat Libre d’Orange Tilda Swinton – Like This- Pumpkin Pie- Girl are you crazy?

Let me put it another, more southern way – I had been hit by the stupid stick, and hard. You can not wear these sorts of perfumes in the Low Country.  You will suffocate, there are no two ways about it.

I bagged the lot of them.  Simply didn’t wear any perfume at all, and just went swimming.  But it occurred to me that what would smell good in the Low Country wasn’t what smelled good in Manhattan.

When I had the chance to smell around me frankly, I didn’t smell very much perfume.  What little I did  came from just two olfactory families, the florals and the hesperides.

This actually makes sense.  That much humidity on the air makes scent carry much further, just as voices carry further across water, so scent molecules seem to travel horizontally on the water saturated air, and frankly the very idea of an Oriental was painful.  Possibly Charleston ladies do reach for the Opium or the Obsession in December, but it’s doubtful they’d do it any earlier, and those who do may be transplanted Northerners.

Here’s what I did find in Carolina, Rance, specifically a rose musk perfume called Eugenie that sold in a Beaufort shop.  They also did well with Lady Primrose Tryst and Celadon, oh and yes, lemon verbena, there was a lot of that around too. In fact lemon verbena was their best selling soap.

So there it was, in hot house conditions what flourishes? What else? Flowers and citrus fruits.

And not even a hint of urine.





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6 thoughts on “Atmospherics

  1. I would love to see SC again. My dad was stationed at Parris Island Marine Corps Base and my grandparents loved the area so much, they moved to Beaufort. My very best memories are of the summers my family would spend there. My dad got transferred not long after they had moved there. The historic homes are so beautiful and the locals all seemed so friendly. I’d love to see the area again but without my grandparents, I’m sure it would just make me sad.

  2. Beaufort is lovely, lovely, and those friendly people are still there. My husband and I spent a lazy afternoon in Beaufort, looking out at the shore, and it rained a little and produced that silvery light you see in the photo.
    Places where you’ve had family can be hard to go back to. So I sympathize, but there is always Charleston or even Savannah- if you like your Southern Charm funked up just a little bit. I love all of the South’s moods, from wacky to nostalgic, from cotillions to Nascar racetracks.

  3. Under the weather conditions you’ve described nothing would have smelled good for me… Well, I’d still give Bronze Goddess a try – it worked in tropical climat for me – but I still have my doubts.

    • BG might have worked there, but I certainly forgot about perfume for a week. There was plenty to smell just walking around there, although no gardenias! Darn it.

  4. We vacationed in SC a few years ago, and only Moschino Funny! (grapefruit-tea-rose, and LIGHT) kept me from losing. my. mind. Gah, humid.

    But the magnolias were wonderful. And the osmanthus, I ran across a few of those blooming as well.

    • Ooh! No osmanthus when I went, but plenty of crape myrtle which doesn’t smell.
      “Funny!” I tried a while ago briefly, know “I Love Love” better, and that one is mostly grapefruit, they would both do pretty well in SC, so I can see why you relied on it. I had to remember that the volume on all smells went to eleven there!

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