Desert Island Scents

What scents would you take to a desert island? Here in the UK there is a long-running weekly radio programme called ‘Desert Island Discs’ where a famous actor/author/composer/painter takes us through the ten pieces of music they would take to a desert island and why. They are also allowed the complete works of Shakespeare, the Bible and the choice of one luxury item. After listening recently, I got to thinking about desert island perfumes and what I would bring with me. What would I take if I didn’t need to worry about sillage, appropriateness or cost?  (In my fantasy, I am allowed to buy as much of whatever I choose- hey, a girl can dream, right?) Would I bathe in Bal a Versailles with no one around to raise an eyebrow? Would I lavishly spray MKK and worry about fending off amorous wildlife later? What would I choose with all the choice before me?

Well, I started to compile a list, certain that it would be difficult to do but rather found that I very quickly had a list comprised of lifelong favourites and seasonal scents. The idea of living on a desert island, under perpetually sunny skies, caressed by sultry breezes and cooled by turquoise waters, made me immediately wish to conjure up the seasons that I would miss. In fact, tempting as I  find desert islands, with their implied escape from reality and their peace and tranquillity far beyond the reach of deadlines, door-to-door salesmen and traffic jams, I would be bored stiff after about 2 weeks, maybe a month at the extreme outside. Sure, reading as much as I wanted with no’ to-do list’ guilt and eating fresh coconut with my toes in the surf would be fabulous but the monotony would do me in. (Not to mention the fact that I am violently allergic to fish so my diet would be a bit limited!) I want, no, I NEED, to have brisk days with smoke in the skies  and autumnal leaves flickering like firelight; moody grey days with rain that blunts the edges of the world; bitingly cold winter days with snow that sparkles like shards of glass; glorious spring days where you feel so full of life that your heart could just burst.  I need my favourites as well: I fell in love with Shalimar when I was 15 and she has seen me through other first but less enduring loves, world travel, marriage and children and to not have her would leave a hole in my soul.  Chaos just spoke to me from the first moment I sprayed her and is always right and always me, like a favourite pair of jeans that make your bum look just right or that cashmere scarf that goes with everything. And, as I adore libraries and bookshops, In the Library would be a comfort scent of the first order.

(Mmm, the smell of books – now a Kindle just doesn’t hold a candle to that does it? My husband keeps offering to buy me one but, whilst I love the idea of having lots of books with me at all times, I would really miss the sensory experience of reading an actual book. The smell, the feel of the paper under my fingers, the sound of those pages turning, the act of placing the bookmark to hold my place- all so personal and integral to the experience for me that I can’t get behind the idea. Yet, at least. – Kindle lovers, please don’t flame me!)

…Right, sorry for the digression there. So, my Desert Island List would look like this:

  1. Guerlain Shalimar- of course and always
  2. Editions de Frederic Malle L’eau d’Hiver
  3. CBIHP Burning Leaves/ Gathering Apples
  4. Caron Nuit de Noel
  5. CBIHP Black March
  6. Donna Karan Chaos
  7. CBIHP In the Library
  8. Guerlain Chamade
  9. Ormonde Jayne Woman
  10. Hove Verveine or Tea Olive

And my luxury item? MacGyver, so he could get me the hell out of there and back to my daughters and husband. Using only duct tape and a paperclip, of course.



Over to you- What would your Desert Island list look like and why? And what would your luxury item be?

  • mariekel says:

    I have often pondered this one… tough to pin down, because my tastes shift frequently. But since I am an inveterate list maker, I have to join in:

    1. Gobin-Daude Nuit au Desert
    2. Guerlain Chamade EDT (vintage)
    3. Andy Tauer Orris
    4. Caron Tabac Blond parfum
    5. Le Labo Poivre 23
    6. DSH Cafe Noir
    7. Dior Jules
    8. Bella Bellissima Perfect Night
    9. Patou Vacances
    10. Miller Harris Rose en Noir

    • Ann says:

      Mmmm … forgot all about the lovely Vacances as I rushed to pack for the desert island. I’ll be rowing over for a visit soon … 😉

  • Teri says:

    I love this kind of question and I love how my answers change every time it’s asked.

    1 – EL Bronze Goddess – because, well, island implies a beach, right?
    2 – SL Chergui
    3 – Vintage Ma Griffe – because I’d need something aggressively green to counteract all the ‘desertness’.
    4 – YSL’s Y
    5 – AT L’Air de Desert Marrocan – for those days when I was craving something a bit more masculine
    6 – Patou’s Joy
    7 – Giorgio Red – some days you want to go big or go home
    8 – Max Mara – my personal ultimate comfort scent
    9 – Faberge Tigress – she didn’t fare too well in her recent review in NST, but she’s still my BFF
    10 – Fath’s Iris Gris – hey, it’s my fantasy and in my fantasy world, a ginormous bottle of this discontinued beauty just happens to wash up on the shore of my island. Deal with it. 😉

    My one luxury item would also be a full range of body products (particularly shampoo, who could live happily on an island with greasy hair? Do ya feel me, ladies?) In my case it would be BBW’s Coconut Lime Verbena (“put de lime in the coconut, mix it all up, put de lime in de coconut, den you feel better”)

    • FragrantWitch says:

      These kinds of polls are fun, aren’t they? And it is your fantasy so Iris Gris can wash up daily if you like!
      Good thinking on the Ma Griffe for greenery. Giorgio Red is an excellent go big or go home fragrance- and I like it too. :Approve:

    • Aparatchick says:

      I’m right there with you on the BBW Coconut Lime Verbena – it cuts right through humidity (and now I have that earworm!).

  • Aparatchick says:

    I love Desert Island Discs! I listen to them online –

    All my favorites are coming with me, since I won’t have to worry about anyone else’s thoughts about my perfume.

    1. Sonoma Scent Studios Tabac Aurea
    2. Parfum de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete
    3. Parfum de Nicolai Eau d’ete
    4. Andy Tauer L’air du Desert Marocain
    5. Parfum d’Empire Amber Russe
    6. Parfum d’Empire Wazamba
    7. Annick Goutal Ninfeo Mio (or Parfumerie Generale Jardin des Kerylos, I can’t decide)
    8. Ava Luxe No. 23
    9. Ralph Lauren Safari
    10. Pacifica Tibetan Mountain Temple

    Songes and Manoumalia get left off the list, since my desert isle will already smell like them.

    Of course, that list would change tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that……

    Luxury item? The softest possible cotton sheets.

    • FragrantWitch says:

      I adore Safari! In fact, I really like a lot of your list- possible scent twins? Sheets are an excellent idea- all that sand will be gritty as all get out!

  • sonomavelvet says:

    I think the list I would come up with today would not be the same as the one I would come up with in 3 months say, or especially in 6 months when the cold winds are blowing snow around and all I can think about are warm and cuddly scents. I’m also thinking I’m going off on my own, don’t have to worry about pleasing/offending anyone else, how much silage etc, totally to please myself. Right now I think I’d take in no particular order

    1 Epic Woman
    2 OJ Tiare
    3 Coromandel
    4 Serge Lutens Un Lys
    5 Le Temps d’un Fete
    6 Amber Narguile
    7 SSS Velvet Rose
    8 ?? OJ Tolu ??JM Dark Amber Ginger Lily
    9 ?? Sycomore ??Filles en Aguilles
    10 ?? Chergui ??Beige ?? mmm more floral?? wait, I don’t have anything citrus?? er, good thing this is only pretend.

    • FragrantWitch says:

      I’m wearing Chergui today and I think it would be a great desert island scent! Another Nazgul fan -. Maybe I need to revisit it in the heat? I tested it in winter so maybe summer is where it’s at.
      I am SO glad this is just in fun because I would definitely panic when it came time to actually commit to my choices. Only Shalimar and Chaos would be definitely in my suitcase!

  • Capillary says:

    Ooh, this is much more fun than preparing for my conference tomorrow.


    1. Bois des Iles
    2. Le Parfum de Therese
    3. Mitsouko
    4. L’Heure Bleue
    5. Cristalle
    6. Feminite du Bois
    7. La Myrrhe
    8. Shalimar
    9. Ormonde Woman
    10. Parfum Sacre

    None of them are very appropriate for tomorrow, though. I’ll probably wear a runner-up, no. 19.

    • FragrantWitch says:

      Way more fun than conference preparation!
      I could happily live on your island except for Parfum de Therese which is already melons rotting in a hot car so on a hot island it would be just :Distort:

      • Capillary says:

        Haha, I know a lot of people hate that one. I have to say, I don’t find it especially melony, and really not at all after fifteen minutes. I just splurged on a bottle that I’ve been wanting literally for three years.

        I like your list too! Chamade is amazing stuff. If it weren’t my best friend’s scent, I would wear it often.

    • nozknoz says:

      How could I forget La Myrrhe!

  • Well, let’s see now. 1. Bandit – Piguet
    2. DSH’s Nag Champa
    3. Jolie Madame Extrait – Balmain
    4. Ambre Sultan – Serge Lutens
    5. Original Vent Vert Extrait – Balmain
    6. Miss Balmain – Balmain
    7. Gloria – Cacharel
    8. Reminiscence Patchouli
    9. Agent Provocateur
    10. Steven Tyler – to share it with!

    • FragrantWitch says:

      I can totally see Steven Tyler nicking your Bandit!
      Hm, now I am thinking who should be on fantasy island – Alexander Skarsgard, Johnny Depp/Capt Jack Sparrow or ….?

  • OMG! Great topic but unanswerable. Sorry.
    I am going to spend time thinking about it though, tic tic tic
    Portia xx

  • Tom says:

    Good lists! My list of Desert Island anything would be waaaaaay too long..

    In defense of Kindle, I felt the same way as you. I used to be the book buyer at Rizzoli in Beverly Hills back in the day when there was one and worked at an independent shop before that. I love books and have possibly far too many of them, to the point where I have some coffee table books that are practically coffee tables in and of themselves. I don’t have a Kindle, but do have the Kindle for iPhone app, as well as iBooks and my local library’s app, which lets you “borrow” wireless titles for two weeks. I don’t carry a bag, so it’s nice to have a bunch of books I know I’m going to love to read with me on my phone when I’m waiting for someone to show up for an appointment, or even just sitting in the park.

    As a matter of fact, a few months ago when I had a cold I decided to re-read “Mapp & Lucia” for about the bazillionth time and got out my copy, the hardcover omnibus. After about 15 minutes of trying to get comfortable with that giant tome, I got out the iPhone. Heresy, I know..

    • FragrantWitch says:

      I can definitely see the appeal of the Kindle and its ilk. I just worry that it is a slippery slope and where so many lovely independent bookstores are struggling in the wake of Amazon and the Internet in general, this just seems like it could be a final nail in the coffin of their livelihoods. It would be awful if future generations didn’t feel that books were living things and as such deserve respect and to be among their peers, on a lovely shelf . I realize that I sound like a complete Luddite here and I don’t intend to be. Technogy is great- I just want it complement the reading experience rather than subsume it.

  • Amy K says:

    In no particular order:

    1. Nuit de Noel
    2. Chinatown
    3. Theorema
    4. Eau des Merveilles
    5. Sweet Redemption
    6. Sacrebleu
    7. Apres l’Ondee
    8. Ormonde Woman
    9. Luctor et Emergo
    10. Ambre Narguile

    My luxury item would be a kit containing toothpaste, a brush and floss because I definitely wouldn’t want to deal with cavities on some distant isle!

    • FragrantWitch says:

      Yay- another OJ Woman lover! Eau de Merveilles almost made the list and Theorema is just well, you know..
      And the Nazgul, you are a brave woman. I think the heat and the Nazgul together would conspire to suffocate me in a great ambery wave. As ways to go it’s not too bad but I would much rather fall into a bottomless vat of Shalimar!

  • jen says:

    My list is simple: I’d bath in current faves cuir de russie and chinatown. Luxury is always ripe mangoes-unlimited supply.

    • FragrantWitch says:

      And you would smell great, Jen! And I’m with you on the mangoes- so delicious.

      • Musette says:

        Mangoes. I want to love them. Latinas are supposed to love them. But most of the time they smell like detergent and make my lips itch. Occasionally I’ll get lucky and get a mango that smells exactly like a mango ought. Then I’m in LOVE. And my lips don’t itch.

        xo :Devil:

        • FragrantWitch says:

          Make them into mango lassi- heavenly!

        • nozknoz says:

          Some people are very allergic to mangos! Take care! I have to say I love the dried ones from Sunsweet (I think it is).

  • Patty says:

    Oh, lists like these make me break out in hives!!

    1. FM En Passant
    2. Hermessence Osmanthe Yunnan
    3. Xerjoff Irissss

    um, crap. *head explodes*

    • FragrantWitch says:

      Oh noes! :Amazed:
      I’m not really trying to kill you, Patty! Maybe Surrender to Chance could deliver decants to you? Or you could row over to neighbouring perfumed islands for a chance of pace?

      Btw, thanks for the 750 words website- Im in the process of writing away some of mental cobwebs and it feels really good!

  • nozknoz says:

    A lot of great lists here!

    I’d want my three L’Artisan harvest scents (Iris Pallida, Fleurs d’Oranger and Fleurs de Narcisse), Pd’E Cuir Ottoman, one of the weird Duchaufours (maybe L’AP Timbuktu or Ed’I Paestum Rose), an Amouage (Lyric? Homage Attar?), one of the Calice Becker Killians (Rose Oud? Liaisons Dangereuses?), VdP Mecca Balsam, a vintage Guerlain (Vol de Nuit?) and a great vetiver (Turtle Island Front? AG or Guerlain Vetiver?). I’d probably change my mind a few times before departure. Why not Tabac Blond, for example? What about Serge Lutens? Or vintage Lanvin Scandal? Tough choices!

    And I’d have to have sunscreen!

    • FragrantWitch says:

      Mecca Balsam- how could I forget! That would be fabulous on a desert island- somehow I feel I would need Captain Jack Sparrow too, if I wore Mecca Balsam. :Jack-Sparrow: ( I have been dying to use that emoticon and I finally have my chance!) Of course, the fact that he is actually Johnny Depp would be just amazing! From what I hear, the Homage attar would be great in the heat.
      Sunscreen is definitely a great idea!

  • Ann says:

    Hi lady, what a fun topic! Although I must admit that I’m with you on the whole
    desert island scenario, it’d be way too boring (and way too much heat and
    sun for me, anyway), but here goes, in no particular order:

    1. Le Labo Tubereuse 40 (my all-time fave mood-lifter, a blues buster if there ever was one!)

    2. Byredo Gypsy Water

    3. Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower

    4. Le Labo Vanille 44

    5. Indult Tihota (it’s discontinued, but it’s my fantasy!)

    6. Armani Prive Ambre Orient, Dior’s Mitzah or Moni di Orio’s Amber (any one of these will do)

    7. Jo Malone Orange Blossom

    my beloved batch of vintage Cartiers (to remind me of my ’70s and ’80s glory days):

    8. Cartier Must EDT

    9. Cartier Must II EDT

    10. Cartier Must II EDP

    my luxury item: a time machine to travel back and forth, or at least a spacious tent, complete with a king-size bed and solar-powered electricity (for the A/C, natch!).

    • Ann says:

      Oops, forgot Clive Christian C for Women for when I want to feel like a million bucks. Guess one of the Cartiers will have to go!

      • FragrantWitch says:

        Lovely list, dear A! I would go with the Mona do Orio Amber myself and I think the J M Orange Blossom would be great in the heat. I like your line of thinking on the luxuries! :Approve:

  • Cybele says:

    In my experience, on a desert island one does not need any fragrance in the strong sun, bright colors, salty air, it would just attract flies and sharks. On an inhabited tropical island it is different, my favourites in humid salty air are:
    1. Envy -always
    2. Vanille Galante – in the evening and in combination with Envy
    3. Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia -evening
    4. Manoumalia- evening
    5. Ambra di Venezia- for special occasions
    6. Osmantus Different Company -to wear to bed
    7. Timbuktu -soothing
    8. L’Eau Neuve Lubin -cooling (more so than Heeley Sel Marin)
    9. Outrageous Frederick Malle worn in combination with
    10. Fleur de Cassie
    Perfume is my luxury item, besides that, Chanel 5 soap.

    • FragrantWitch says:

      Sharks and flies, yikes! Thanks for the tip. I will definitely give L’eau Neueve Lubin a snifff. Thanks!

      • Cybele says:

        my list for the metaphorical desert island would look different, this is my applied island scent list

        • Musette says:

          well, what is your list for the metaphorical desert island? Nosy people wanna KNOW! 😀


          • Cybele says:

            Chanel 5
            Osmanthe Yunnan
            Halston vintage
            Jil Sander Woman 2 vintage (I only have a faint, heavenly memory of the soap)
            Narcisso Rodriguez Musc Oil for him
            Le Labo Rose 31

          • Cybele says:

            one is missing: Vetiver pour Elle

          • Cybele says:

            oh no, I forgot one very important:
            Amouage Homage Attar.
            Either NR, Le Labo or Vetiver goes

          • Musette says:

            I can see them huddling in the back of the box, praying ‘don’t pick me! don’t pick me!) I would vote NR off the island but that is because I have difficulty smelling it!

            xo :Devil:

  • Musette says:

    1. Vintage Mitsouko
    2. Amouage Jub25 bath and body
    3. Amouage Epic bath and body (2 &3 take the place of the perfume)
    4.Chanel No5 parfum
    5. Chanel Cuir de Russie parfum
    6. A vat of Guerlain Imperiale
    7. vintage Diorella
    8. Xerjoff Irissss
    9. Liz Zorn Violets and Rainwater
    10. Rosine Rose Kashmire

    luxury item: a neverending bottle of Krug ’90

    xo :Devil:

    • FragrantWitch says:

      Nice list! I particularly like how you have solved the moisturising problem
      by choosing gorgeously scented body products. :Approve:
      I so wanted to love Violets and Rainwater ( such a great name!) but sadly all I got was Puddle. Underworld was a contender for the list but wasn’t evocative enough of a particular season.
      You might find you have stowaways in your luggage if your luxury is Krug is a bottomless bottle! :Cheers:

      • Musette says:

        As long as one of those stowaways is toting a neverending supply of smoked salmon pate and a baguette, we’re in business!!!

        V&R turned to Puddle on you? Waaah! It is the definitive early-Spring scent for me. Underworld (like Vero Kern’s Onda) feels like cold, middle Spring. But I am interested in trying both in the dead heat of Summer.

        xoxoxo :Devil:

  • 1. Cuir Beluga
    2. Amouage Jubilation 25
    3. Vol de Nuit (vintage)
    4. La Tulipe
    5. Iris Ganache
    6 Secrets de Sophie
    7. Candide Effluve (I’m dreaming big! 🙂 )
    8, Vega
    9. Oriental Brulant
    10. L’heure Fougeuse

    Luxury item would have to be lots and lots of Lady Primrose Tryst and Royal Extract bath products to keep me from getting all dried out.

    Love reading everyone’s list; gives me ideas what to try next! Thank you Meredith!! 🙂

    • FragrantWitch says:

      My pleasure Sherri! I adore lists like these as well for getting ideas of what to try next. Definitely dream big on the Candide Effluve- just think of the money you could make selling decants! We share several of the same loves- Jub 25 is right up there for me as well as Vega and Vol de Nuit. In fact, if I had to choose my desert island scents from one house it would hands down be Guerlain. CBIHP features heavily in my list above because Christopher Brosius is so damn good at evoking a specific time and place.

      • Ann says:

        Sherri, I didn’t have room for the lovely La Tulipe — wah 🙁 !! Could I row over to your island and get a spritz now and then? And Meredith, your wonderful Chaos, too!

        • FragrantWitch says:

          But of course! Speaking of which…I’ll email you later about parcels. 🙂