Scents Of Lost Love

Hey Posse, Portia filling for Patty today. Sadly her oldest brother lost his battle with cancer this week so she has other stuff to do and places to be (Please leave a note of support in the comments section below). Death is a hard thing and we perfumistas are lucky in some ways because we understand the power of scent in recreating people from our past who have gone before us. I thought we could chat today about the scents of lost love. Macabre? NO, another useful tool in the remembrance of our loved ones.

Scents Of Lost Love

The first person in my immediate vicinity to die was mt Dad. I was around 22 years old. Dad was a bitter/sweet lost love, filled with anger, guilt and regrets as well as happy memories. His fragrance was Tabac Original. I still use it as my shave soap, have a deodorant and an enormous bottle of EdC that I sometimes use on my body but mostly use to scent my bath. It’s still a fantastic fragrance and every time I smell it my mind goes immediately to happy times with my Dad.

Lost Love Tabac Original Maurer & Wirtz FragranticaFragrantica

Fragrantica gives these featured accords:
Top: Petit-grain, bergamot, neroli, lemon, pepper
Heart: Lavender, chamomile, geranium, oak tree absolute
Base: Carnation, sandalwood, vetiver, musk, amber

Mum went next, I was 33 but still it’s way too early to lose your Mum. Through the tough years Mum had always been my champion, barracking in the sidelines or taking the fight ahead of me. She was tough, I mean it, and took no prisoners. We changed churches because our parish priest and primary school headmaster said I was going to hell for being gay. We also changed banks because someone made a remark, that was a really big deal back in the 1970s when you would be really close with the bank staff and would have the manager for dinner, and once in the car mechanics she went into such a rage at a comment that we received free work for a year and the offending mechanic was sacked. She was always a softly simmering pot of rage my Mum, ready to explode. Obviously, I also did my fair share of poking the bear too.

Giorgio Giorgio Beverly Hills FragranticaFragrantica

Fragrantica gives these featured accords:
Top: Orange blossom, peach, apricot, bergamot
Heart: Ylang-ylang, tuberose, gardenia, jasmine, rose, orchid
Base: Sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla, amber, cedar, oakmoss, musk

For all her ferocity she was also a great Mum and I thought she was the most beautiful woman alive. Blonde hair in a French Roll and beige/coral lipstick was all she needed to be movie star glam. Her fragrances were many but I best remember her in Guerlain Shalimar or Samsara, CHANEL No 5 and Giorgio Beverly Hills. I picked Giorgio to use as the photo because through the 1980s Mum’s car smelled so strongly of Giorgio that it was like a thick gooey texture as you jumped in, it was her daily respritz purse bottle in her handbag and she would always top up in the car. That smell is comfort and lost love to me.

Glenda Bruce wedding day Mum Dad

The photo has become stuck to the glass and ruined but this is my mum & Dad on their wedding day in the mid 1960s. I always thought them the most dashing couple, even as they got older each of them had a sparkle about them.

One thing I am super glad about is how easy it is to recall them through their fragrances.

What scents remind you of your Lost Love? Send a comment hug to Patty too.
Portia xx

  • Sun Mi says:

    A truly beautiful post, Portia. Patty, my heart also goes out to you in this difficult transition, I hope you can find peace in the loving memories.

  • Melissa Rosen says:

    So sorry for all of the above losses. Xx

  • Kandice says:

    Patty, I’m so sorry for your loss. My prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time.

  • nozknoz says:

    Portia, thanks for giving us this opportunity to write to dear Patty, who has brought all of us such great delight through this blog. Patty, please accept my condolences, virtual hugs, and thanks for all you do.

    Portia, I don’t associate scent with my parents, but my mother encouraged my interest in perfume and bought my first bottles. (She could never have imagined that I’d end up with hundreds one day!) I do have another perfume memory: I was staying at a good friend’s pied a terre in DC when she died suddenly in Florida. I remember trying on her Caleche and wanting to take it with me but deciding I shouldn’t (maybe her sister would want it). Of course, when I later fell down the ebay vintage perfume rabbit hole, one of my first quests was to find a similar vintage bottle. Thank the perfume gods for the ebay time machine! 😉

    What super parents, thanks for sharing these memories!

    • Portia says:

      WOW! That would have freaky and devastating Nozknoz. Yes, thank goodness for the eBay time machine, what once would have been thrown or given away becomes memories.
      Portia xx

  • Georgette Stout says:

    Firstly, to Patty . . . my deepest condolences . . . sending healing light your way.

    Portia, loved this post. Scented memories for me were Arpege . . . for mom,who passed in ’98 fiercely supportive of me, like your mom . . . and my dad, who passed in ’69 on my 14th birthday. had a bottle of 007 I bought him when I was 10 or 11. . . he wore when he went out . . . to please me, I think.

    • Portia says:

      WOW Georgette Stout sorry about your Dad, what terrible timing for such a shitty thing so young. Arpege! Great scent for a tigress mother.
      Portia xx

  • Lisa D says:

    Portia, if you want, you can scan that photograph at high resolution and send me the file via email, and I can restore it for you, so that you can print a new one without all of the damage.

    Patty, I am so sorry about your brother. Sending you supportive thoughts of strength and balance, and some hugs.

    • Portia says:

      WOW Lisa D,
      That is a wonderful, amazing offer. I’ll get Jin to scan and send to the email address attached to this comment?
      What an incredibly thoughtful thing to offer.
      Portia xxx.

      • Lisa D says:

        Yep, have Jin scan it as a color photo, at the highest resolution your scanner can produce, and send it to my email address. I’ll remove as much of the damage that I can, restore some of the lost tone, and send you a new file. If the photo is really stuck to the glass, he might want to simply scan it through the glass (trying to get it unstuck might damage it further).

  • tammy says:

    Portia, what an amazing post! Your parents could have been movie stars; they are both stunning.

    Patty, much love and prayers for you and your family. I hope you can all find some comfort in your terrible grief.

  • Ann says:

    Oh, Portia, thank you for the lovely, bittersweet post. And how lovely that you shared the photo of your mother and father — he was so handsome, and she so beautiful! And sending love, hugs and many prayers to Patty and her family at this time. Thinking of you often, dear!

    As for my scent of lost loves, I dated an architect while I was in college. He was traveling the world on a fellowship and took me with him for a whirlwind two weeks throughout Europe. To this day, I cannot smell YSL’s Kouros without his image popping into my head, even though I am very happily married.

    • Portia says:

      Thanks Ann,
      WOW! What a stunning memory. Kouros! I have a vintage bottle that takes me straight back to my early clubbing days, so sexy. You had to be completely self confident or it would wear you. How lucky you were, I bet it was a scandal!
      Portia xx

      • Ann says:

        It smelled so wonderful on him, and that white, opaque, clean-lined bottle was perfect for an architect, My DH sniffed it once at a dept. store and didn’t care for it, and frankly, I was a little relieved, ha!
        P.S. Saw the comment below that you will get your lovely photo restored — yay!!!

  • Fazal says:

    Your mom was, especially, awesome! You know I also got a vintage Tabac because I came to know my dad’s elder brother used to wear it. He was in the airforce and his jet crashed. He died even before my parents got married so I never met him. My mom had very unusual preferences. One of the perfumes she loved was not a feminine creation but Eau Sauvage Extreme in the late 90s after a friend of my dad gifted it to him. I don’t really remember what she wore in 1980s but my sister says it was a Givenchy creation. I guess it might have been Ysatis or Interdit.

    • Portia says:

      Interesting Fazal, My Dad was Air Force too.
      LOVE that your Mum was a pioneer of unisex scent. Totally cool.
      Portia xx

  • Musette says:

    Portia, this is a lovely post and I adore that photo of your gorgeous parents! I am not usually affected by perfume memories, oddly enough. Except when my sister died. She loved Juicy Couture and I was the only person to ever give it to her – I’d gotten her a little gift set, not realizing she was beyond the capability of wanting to even smell it, let alone wear it. So I kept it. I didn’t give it much thought until nearly a year later, when I was clearing out the armoire. I came upon it, opened it…and nearly fainted from grief.

    That was 3 years ago. Now I can smell Juicy Couture and feel only good thoughts about how much she loved it and how good it smelled on her. And I wish that for everyone who has those scent memories, that one day it is equated with love instead of grief.


    • Portia says:

      Heya Musette,
      Lovely to see you.
      That’s a great story about the memory power of scent and the change the charge can take with time. How weird it must be to be overcome by grief for something as fun and sweet as Juicy Couture, glad you’ve found the other side.
      That picture is on the photo rail as you enter our apartment, along with a bunch of us, our friends and family. It’s a lovely way to enter and be greeted by love.
      Portia xx

  • pats133 says:

    Dear Portia,
    Such a beautiful photo of your parents – your dad was so handsome and your mum such a pretty lady – they looked so full of fun and happiness in that photo. Your mum must have had such a strong lioness personality to stand up to the parish priest – not many people do! Well done to her in support of her ‘cub’ 🙂 An era ends when parents depart this world and we are left with no-one to fight our battles. I would give anything to have spent more ‘adult’ years with my dad who died of cancer when i was 24. I am instantly reminded of him when i smell Brylcreem – none of that fancy perfume or aftershave for him – but the smell of the Brylcream meant he didn’t need to use any scents. LOL Mum always stole mine after her flirtations with Miss Dior and 4711. She was also very fond of a squirt of Tweed or indeed Charlie (and was always very amused that a perfume would be called after my dad) hehe. I have gone from a little tear to a big smile as i write, imagine the smells and remember……. i guess that’s what its all about ….. we will never forget when scent and memories are involved….. xx

    and finally, dear Patty – please accept my condolences for the loss of your brother. Sending you virtual hugs and strength in your time of sadness.

    • Portia says:

      Hi there Patsi33,
      Thanks, when Mum & Dad were happy it was a really wonderful house to be in. They both had excellent senses of humour and were good company.
      It’s amazing how losing parents changes the world.
      Glad to have given you a smile and some happy memories.
      Portia xx

  • Jenny Katz says:

    What a very *living* post. Our lives are made up of these specifics—as my eighteen-year-old just told me this weekend, “We have to notice the details that get our attention, because they’re like little glimpses into the flow of rightness that we should be following.” Thank you for sharing your details, Portia.

    And, Patty, I am so sorry for your loss. As Martín Prechtel says—grief is praise for what we have lost. Grief and praise, grief and praise.


  • Elle says:

    It’s been literally centuries since I’ve commented here, but just felt compelled to do so today after your beautiful post (and I do also want to say to how very much I’ve enjoyed all your posts since you joined the Posse). I’m very sad you lost your parents, but what an incredible blessing to have a mother who was so fiercely supportive – not something to be taken for granted at all. And she was astonishingly beautiful. And your dad – quite handsome. Again, Portia, thank you for this post.

    My heart breaks for your loss. I know what it means to lose someone that close to you and I know there are no words that could possibly ever be adequate, but my thoughts and prayers are with you.

    • Portia says:

      Thank you Elle and welcome back. Mum and Dad set me up well in so many ways, they were a blessing. Even when Mum was alive I knew she was particularly special.
      Portia xx

  • maggiecat says:

    As I read Portia’s wonderful article, I thought that I didn’t have any scent memories of my parents. But then I remembered that Dad often wore a clean musk scent he bought from me when I sold Avon – he wore it for years – and that I have a strong preference for musk in perfumes. Hmmm…
    Patty, I’m sending virtual hugs and real condolences for your loss. I can only imagine how difficult this is for you and your family.

  • zelda1947 says:

    Patty, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I am so very sorry for your loss.

    Portia, amazing post! I loved the pic of your mum and dad. Your mum was quite beautiful! Thank you so much for posting the photo and your thoughts.

  • Moira says:

    Portia, you are so right about the power of scent. My grandmother was everything to me. I was 17 when we lost her. I never knew what that lovely smell was she wore, until a few years later I casually sprayed No 5 in the department store. I was a perfume newbie. When that smell hit, my grandmother was there, and I was sobbing at the perfume counter.
    To Patty, I hope that you find as much peace as possible in the coming months. Warm hugs.

    • Portia says:

      Hey Moira,
      Yes, Grandma. How great to read that you loved yours too. I was going to add my Grandma into this post but couldn’t find a photo she would have been happy with me showing and I can’t recall the name of her fragrance. It was a super cheapy and it came in a set that Mum would get for her every year, she loved it and the whole house smelled of it. It must be long discontinued because I never see the box come up on ebay and in shops.
      Was the SA nice to you while you sobbed at the counter? I hope so.
      Portia xxx

  • Marilee says:

    Patty, So sorry for your loss. I am a regular reader but felt I had to step up and comment. Prayers for you and your family.

    My mom used perfumers workshop Tea Rose a lot in her last years (she had ALS.) I can’t wear it but I keep her bottle to sniff and rose fragrances always remind me of her.

    • Portia says:

      Hi Mailee,
      Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis sounds particularly awful. Sorry she, and you, had to deal with that. Tea Rose! I have a friend who wears it exclusively, a guy, and smells unbelievably good in it. How lucky to have something like rose as a memory scent, you must get wafts of memory regularly on the street?
      Portia xx

  • eldarwen22 says:

    Patty, I am so sorry for the loss of your brother.
    There is no strong tradition of perfume wearing in my family. They might have one or two bottles that they might wear once or twice a year. But I remember finding Old Spice aftershave in my grandparents’ half bath after my grandfather died.

    • Portia says:

      Hi Eldarwen22,
      You will have to start the trend in your family. When you are gone they will smell fragrance and remember you, and your addiction, fondly.
      Did you keep the Old Spice? I love it. It’s very like vintage Opium.
      Portia xx

      • eldarwen22 says:

        My uncle used it up because he wears it too. My dad (still living) if he is going to wear anything, it’s going to be that 15 year old bottle of Cool Water. Most of my family knows about my collection and it blows their minds. Very rarely do they comment on it unless it is ‘too weird’. They don’t know what they are missing.

  • Ellen says:

    Dear Patty, May the memory of your brother be for a blessing. So sorry for you and your family’s loss. Be kind to yourself in your grief.
    Portia, It sounds like you were blessed with a wonderfully supportive mother. How great for you. Thank you for sharing your memories of your mother and father.

  • Deb says:

    I am so sorry, Patty. I echo Dina’s sentiment that you take care of yourself with gentleness. I hope everything that was to be dealt with goes smoothly.

    Portia: My mom was kinda like that. She could be harsh with us, but boy. You didn’t want to be someone else treating us badly in her presence. She became downright scary. The only fragrance of her that I remember is EL Youth Dew. I purchased an old bottle of it, and would like to get a newer one to wear sometimes. (The old one has turned and is only good in the basenotes for scenting a room after the turned notes have dissipated.)

    • Portia says:

      Hey Deb,
      Ferocious Mums are a blessing and a curse, he he he.
      Do you ever have a bath? When the tub is full enough spritz your turned Youth Dew over the water. Leave the room for a minute while the turned citrus and aldehydes burn off then come back to a bath full of gorgeously scented memories.
      I do this with an old CHANEL No 5 EdC that has turned at the top.
      Portia xx

  • CC says:

    Dear Patty, I am so sorry for your loss. Words are so inefficient at this time so I will light a candle with specific wishes to the universe for love and light to you and your loved ones.

    Portia, what a lovely post. Your mum looks dazzling and your dad was very handsome. Gorgeous couple.

    My dad died when I was almost 32 years old and I miss him dearly. He was gentle and wise and when I smell Guerlain’s Eau de Cologne Imperiale I close my eyes and think of him near me.

    • Portia says:

      Hey there CC,
      Thank you. They were gorgeous, especially to me.
      So sad you lost your Dad early but Guerlain’s Eau de Cologne Imperiale is a wonderful scent, so fresh and alive. I bet you smile in dreamy remembrance when you spritz?
      Portia xxx

  • Dina C. says:

    Dear Patty,
    Sending you my deepest condolences on the loss of your brother. Grief is hard, exhausting work. Take extra-gentle care with yourself. Sending prayers and long-distance hugs.

    I loved the scent memories you shared about your parents. Their photo was so glamorous and charismatic. No wonder you’re such a bombshell! Loved how your mum was a fierce lionness for you.

    My dad died of cancer 24 years ago at the youngish age of 52. He was an attractive man who enjoyed nice things like clothes and fragrance, since he grew up with just the essentials of life. During his years, he graduated from Aqua Velva and English Leather to Pierre Cardin and (mom’s and my favorite) Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel. I have a bottle of Grey Flannel that I’ll dab on from time to time. Instant Dad.

    • Portia says:

      Thanks DinaC,
      Grey Flannel, You’re Dad was super cool. It’s so nice when people have a signature, it makes the memories easier to bring back. If ever I get sick I will wear Shalimar from diagnosis to grave. Hopefully they’ll scent my coffin with same.
      Portia xx

  • Queen Cupcake says:

    Dear Patty, so very sorry for your loss. I am sending prayers for you and your loved ones, and wishes for well-being and peace.

    Portia, thank you so much for sharing that photo of your beautiful parents! I loved the story about your mother standing up for you–kind of rare for those times, yes?

    My parents were simple Ohio farm-folk who grew up in the Great Depression, so not really perfume people. My mother did eventually have a few perfumes like Evyan Gardenia and Charles of the Ritz but I don’t have a strong memory of her wearing them much. Wish my dad had used a fragrance, it would be something I could hold onto as a memory, but no luck there.

    I really like what Neva said about how we have to learn to deal with loss. My husband is about to go through that with his mother, and I with a dear brother-in-law.

    • Portia says:

      Hey Queen Cupcake,
      I was brought up religiously and Mum always said that God is perfect, if God is perfect then everything he creates is also perfect. Anything that is a part of me, born into me, God has chosen for me to have. Ergo, I am perfect. What I choose to do with that perfection is how good or bad I will be judged to be at the end. This was the same fight she had with the priest.
      Good luck to you and your husband dealing with the loss of loved ones. I wish them peaceful passing and only happy memories after.
      Portia xx

  • Chris says:

    Portia, no matter what you write about, you always manage to strip away the inessentials and get right to the bittersweet heart of what it is to be a human being. I adore you for that alone.

    I have no words for your loss, Patty, other than my most sincere sympathy. My only sister and I have been estranged (her doing) for the past decade. Losing a beloved sibling to death or quarrel is hideous. No one knows us as well as a sibling does. It feels like they have taken a part of us with them when they are gone.

    In the early 1980s, my very best friend fell in love with a dear young man-Richard. Chaz, my friend, is a professional chef and wanted to make a special dinner for me so I could meet Richard. As I recall, wild boar medallions were the featured menu item. Richard really was as wholesome, charming, gentle and sweet as Chaz had said but there was one thing I never got to find out. Chaz always told me that Richard’s knees smelled like vanilla. Richard died of AIDS in the mid-80s before his 30th birthday. Every time I smell vanilla, in a perfume, a food, a cosmetic, incense or the pages of an old book-I remember of Richard.

    • Portia says:

      Thank you Chris. That’s quite a compliment.
      Now every time I smell vanilla I will add Richard’s vanilla knees to my list, was Richard a redhead? I’ve often noted redheads having an extra vanilla kick in their scent. I have a slew of vanilla memories myself.
      Portia xx

      • Chris says:

        Hello Portia.

        Funny you ask; Richard was a strawberry blond. I guess technically he was a red head!

        Thanks again for this beautiful post today.



  • rosarita313 says:

    Thanks for including the marvelous photo, Portia. It’s never easy to lose your mum and I’m glad she was your champion.

    Patty, I’m so sorry that you and your family have had to experience this loss. My heart goes out to you all.

  • Tara says:

    Dear Patty, I am so terribly sorry for the loss of your brother. Sending you a hug down the wires.

    Portia, wow what a glamorous looking couple your parents were! I love how ferocious your mother was in her support of you. That must have contributed to you being so comfortable in your skin. Good on her. The 70s were a very different time.

  • ScentBound says:

    That’s a beautiful post, Portia. Thank you for sharing.

  • March says:

    Oh, honey. I love these stories. That photo is fantastic. I have a soft spot for Giorgio anyway, and you’ve just made me love it more. Those were the good old days! It’s terrible about Patty’s brother; reaching out to her separately.

  • poodle says:

    For me at least, perfume brings back the memories of those lost in a much stronger way than even a picture can do. Portia, your mom sounds like a real firecracker. You’re lucky to have someone that supported you like that.
    Patty, I am so sorry for your loss. I imagine losing a sibling is a terrible sorrow and I hope you find comfort in happy memories and the support and love of your family and friends.

    • Portia says:

      Yes, me too Poodle. Scent is the real link. It had it’s good and bad points, he he he. For both of us.
      Portia xxx

  • Neva says:

    Wonderful picture of your parents Portia! They look so modern, as if the picture was taken today and not in the 60-ies.
    It’s a shame no one ever teaches us how to deal with losses of our loved ones. We have to figure it out for ourselves and it can be a lifelong task. So let’s hope we’ll all find a consolation that will work for us and give us comfort in the saddest moments.
    My beloved father died eight years ago and the hardest part was watching him suffering the last year. His perfume was Armani pour homme and I kept his last bottle, of course.

    • Portia says:

      Thanks Neva,
      They were cool.
      Watching death arrive is shit. Dealing with its aftermath is worse. Fraught on so many levels.
      I too loved Armani Pour Homme for years. YUM
      Portia xx

  • Julie Lease says:

    I’m so sorry for this terrible loss Patty. Please know we are all thinking of you during this time.

  • lena says:

    Thanks for such a beautiful post, Portia.

    My thoughts are with you and your loved ones, Patty; please accept my sincere condolences.

  • taffyj says:

    Patty, I am so sorry about the loss of your beloved brother. My heart goes out to you and your family. Your brother sounded like a wonderful man. My condolences to all who loved him.

  • marjo56 says:

    Thank you for this beautiful post.

    Party, my heart goes out to you. My condolences for you and your loved ones.

  • jillie says:

    So true, Portia, perfume seems to summon the spirit of our loved ones and gives comfort ….. your mum was amazing.

    Patty, my heart hurts for you and I can only send you condolences.

  • Alyssa says:

    What a beautiful post, Portia. Patty, I’m so sorry for your loss. What a hugely difficult thing. Xoxoxo