Scientific studies confirm that, of all the senses, smell offers the best recall. In “Scent Memories,” the Cut asks people about the scents they associate with different times in their lives.
Next up are Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel, the creators and founders of Atelier Cologne, the unisex fragrance line known for its fresh, original scents, long-lasting concentrated colognes, and use of rare extracts from around the world. Their latest travel-inspired launch is Lemon Island, a spritz that smells like the sunniest vacation of your life thanks to bright lemon from the island of Rodrigues, warm jasmine from India, soothing vanilla from Madagascar, and juicy clementine from Italy. The Cut caught up with the married couple to talk kittens, clean diapers, and where to find the best-smelling oranges.
My first scent memory:
Sylvie Ganter: The first that comes to mind is my parents’ perfume, which was very opulent, very French, and really filled the room. My first scent memory for myself is a perfume I chose in a perfumery that my mother dragged me to. I chose an eau de cologne by Hermès, which was very cool at the time; today, it’s known as Eau d’Orange Verte. It was happy, fresh, clean, not heavy; a child-appropriate scent. That’s the first scent I wore, and I wore it for many years. I even ended up working for the company as my first job.
Christophe Cervasel: I remember when I was around 10, I had a dance party at my home, and one of my friends — not a girl, but a boy — gave me a perfume. I was so surprised because I got all the other classic gifts. You know, music, clothes, books, cartoons, whatever. But he offered me a perfume! For one second, I thought he was in love with me, which was cool, but really, he just liked the scent. I loved it too; it was a masculine cologne, and at the age of 10, I started wearing it, even though I thought I would start much later in my life, at 16 or something like that.
Happiness smells like:
SG: Citrus and sunshine, and for me, that’s Orange Sanguine, which is still our most beloved Cologne Absolue. It’s full of life, full of energy, very sparkling, and very sunny.
CC: Same for me. Citruses symbolize moments of joy. In our collection, we have more than 35 scents, but eight of them are really pure citrus scents and we always come back to citrus. It’s an addiction. We’re both from Italian origins. Sylvie’s from Genova, and I am from Venice but we both love Southern Italy — the Positano area, Calabria, Napoli, which all have good orange and lemon bergamot. Sylvie is more into those, but on my side, it’s more about grapefruit, like our scent Pomélo Paradis.
Love smells like:
SG: Vetiver. It’s very rooted, earthy, and extremely masculine. The scent comes from the roots, and it grows in the earth so it’s grounding, very reassuring, and very strong — just like the perfect guy. [Laughs]
CC: That is my natural scent. I was sitting in a bathtub of vetiver since I was 10. [Laughs] I could say love smells like a camel because I fell in love with Sylvie on the back of a camel. Or love smells like sandalwood. Sylvie loves it, and I love when she wears woodsy scents, especially sandalwood. That’s the smell I like most on her skin.
Regret smells like:
SG: I don’t know if regret is the right word, but it’s more like nostalgia for something that doesn’t exist anymore and you wish existed longer. And that smells like my grandmother’s lipstick. There was something very powdery about that smell, like that old-fashioned makeup. Whenever I smell that kind of smell, it reminds me of my time with her, missing her, and it makes me wish I could have spent a longer time with her.
Success smells like:
CC: Smoky notes, like after you light something in celebration or see some fireworks. I see success as the moment after you have achieved what you wanted to achieve, and in those moments, you can almost always find some smoky notes. I don’t think they are a waste.
The worst smell is:
SG: I have so many. Puke? Horrible. Puke would be the worst for me. The smell of that just makes me sick.
CC: Rotten food.
SG: Which is basically the same as vomit.
CC: It is. Anything rotten. Although some ingredients do smell very good when they’re rotten, like wood. Oud is rotten wood.
My ideal vacation smells like:
CC: Oh, this is our latest scent, called Lemon Island. We really created that scent to bottle the ideal vacation smell. We went to Polynesia two years ago, and it was a confirmation for us that we had to give life to this scent we were already working on.
SG: We really tried to bottle that specific scent of when you’re on the beach, you probably put some suntan lotion on a while ago, and you’ve already been in the water, so your skin smells a little salty with some remnants of sunscreen. You can smell the sun and the warmth of the day, and it’s all becoming your own scent. Not like a perfume scent but what your skin smells like naturally.
Our home smells like:
SG: In the winter, it’s very much the scent of a fireplace because we love to have a fire. In the spring and summer, we’re very lucky because we have a little garden, and that garden is covered with a wall of jasmine so the smell takes over the entire house.
The first thing I smell in the morning:
SG: My husband’s skin.
CC: [Laughs] So romantic. I smell our cat, Rio. Sylvie and the kids gave me a cat for Christmas, and in the morning he comes near my head to sniff and smell me; you know how cats do, just to mention the fact that he is hungry. He’s still a baby, and he does smell supergood without any perfume. It’s amazing, that cat smell. It’s actually unbelievable. We could create a scent …
The last thing I smell before I go to bed:
CC: My hand cream. I like to put a lot on before going to bed. We have a few, but my favorite is, again, the one with the grapefruit.
SG: For me, it’s Bite Beauty lip balm. I love that brand. She [Susanne Langmuir] started the brand to ensure it’s safe to eat what you put on your lips, so that’s the one I wear before going to bed. Now my husband wears it too, so when I kiss him, I sort of taste my own lip balm. It’s very dense, efficient, and it smells like sugary honey.
A scent or smell I love that others usually don’t:
CC: Easy for me: benzina, the gasoline that you put in a car. I love that scent. Also vanilla. Gasoline enriched with vanilla.
SG: It’s a little weird to say, but I love the smell of clean diapers, like when you put brand-new diapers on a baby. It really reminds me of my kids and that time in their lives.
I smell like:
SG: I created a perfume to wear myself, which ended up being part of Atelier Cologne, and that scent is Bois Blonds. I started wearing it a long time ago, and I still wear it today. What I love the most about it is that it doesn’t smell like perfume. I actually pretend it’s the scent of my own skin. It smells very clean, very pure, very fresh, very comforting. I like to compare the feeling to wearing a very old cashmere sweater that you’ve had for many years and you feel very comfortable in.
CC: I would say I smell like nature. I wear many scents, but you can smell nature in all of them, whether it’s jasmine, grapefruit, or vanilla. And they all make me feel like I am not where I actually am. They’re exotic, transporting scents and very often feature ingredients that are not from my home country.