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  1. #1

    Default What does the ocean really smell like?

    After returning from the beach and washing all of our towels in hot water (and drying them), they still have that specific smell of the ocean - the Atlantic Ocean in the Northeastern USA.

    So does anyone know exactly what isolated fragrance chemical is clinging to the fabric, that still smells like the ocean? It's not sunscreen or perspiration, but true ocean water after you've dried your skin with the towel. I've always noticed this, but could never figure it out. Some mineral? Fish or seaweed? Other?

    Thanks. I know this is a bit offbeat, but I love the real smell of the sea, and am not too fond of artificial aquatic fragrances.
    Last edited by Herb_Lady; 9th August 2006 at 03:49 AM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    I live in the Ocean State and to me it is the smell of the iodine from the sea plants that tends to stick to everything. I know nothing about Marine Biology, that is only my humble "average jane" coclusion.

  3. #3

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Iodine and salt are my guesses too. ;-)

    The overall smell of course is more complex, since you are also smelling the beach and the people and the cool air and everything, but since you asked on what clings to the towels...(and it's the same on skin, I might add)

  4. #4

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    My guess is salt too. That's what the oceans smell of here. :-)

  5. #5

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Good question! I live near the ocean and on some days you can just smell this wonderful "briney" smell coming off the cool breeze.

    When I was in Greece I noticed the Atlantic Ocean smells different than the Aegean Sea. The Atlantic really does smell salty and sea weedy- maybe that whiff of iodine? When I was in Greece the water didn't have that odor at all- it was a "clean" salt water smell- not briney at all. I wondered if it has something to do with different variations of sea weed?

    I know my mussings probably don't help you very much. In the end I don't really know what that ocean smell is. I like it a whole lot though too!
    Scent is such a lovely, simple pleasure!

  6. #6

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Artisankey
    Good question! I live near the ocean and on some days you can just smell this wonderful "briney" smell coming off the cool breeze.

    When I was in Greece I noticed the Atlantic Ocean smells different than the Aegean Sea. The Atlantic really does smell salty and sea weedy- maybe that whiff of iodine? When I was in Greece the water didn't have that odor at all- it was a "clean" salt water smell- not briney at all. I wondered if it has something to do with different variations of sea weed?

    I know my mussings probably don't help you very much. In the end I don't really know what that ocean smell is. I like it a whole lot though too!

    Exactly! The ocean here really does smell of brine, salt, seaweed (especially eelgrass right now) and marine life. At low tide, I can smell the ocean from a few miles away, although then it predominately smells of seaweed, mucky sand, and perhaps stranded shellfish (oysters, clams and mussels mostly). Maybe it is iodine that I'm smelling, mixed with salt. The ocean off Bermuda or the Caribbean smells sweeter, lighter and cleaner to me - not so briney.

    So, with that in mind - what commercial fragrances have iodine and that briney salt smell? Anyone know?

  7. #7

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Demeter's Salt Air; Hawaiian Surf (some say it's the same fragrance re-packaged.) I have the Salt Air and it does have a bit of what we're talking about. Also CPS Aqua Moto. Those are really the only two that come *somewhat* close.

    IMHO a "real" sea-air fragrance has yet to be captured perfectly.
    Scent is such a lovely, simple pleasure!

  8. #8

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Also try Bulgari's Aqua and Creeds Erolfa
    -

  9. #9

    Smile Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Artisankey
    Demeter's Salt Air; Hawaiian Surf (some say it's the same fragrance re-packaged.) I have the Salt Air and it does have a bit of what we're talking about. Also CPS Aqua Moto. Those are really the only two that come *somewhat* close.

    IMHO a "real" sea-air fragrance has yet to be captured perfectly.

    Quote Originally Posted by zztopp
    Also try Bulgari's Aqua and Creeds Erolfa

    Thank you for these suggestions! I'm always amazed to see how many perfumes are out there evoking the very familiar everyday fragrances I'm trying to recreate!

  10. #10

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Sandflowers ---------------> Montale

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    These two might peek your interest too

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    Vijay"Maisonstinky"

  11. #11

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    One fragrance that really brings the ocean to my mind is Calypso Marine. It truly has the "feel", if not the exact components, of Laguna Beach at sunset in the early spring.

    I think the smell depends upon the location of the ocean and the components in that particular body of water, like Limestone, iron compounds, copper, algae, high dissolved mineral content, etc.

    Here's some trivia:

    Elemental composition of ocean water (by mass):

    Oxygen 85.7 Sulfur 0.0885
    Hydrogen 10.8 Calcium 0.04
    Chlorine 1.9 Potassium 0.0380
    Sodium 1.05 Bromine 0.0065
    Magnesium 0.1350 Carbon 0.0026

    Calypso Marine Notes:
    bergamot, raspberry, bamboo leaves, nutmeg, patchouli leaves, lotus flower, driftwood accord, sandalwood, musk, white amber

    Il Profumo Nymphea is very oceany to me, as well:
    Nymphea notes:
    bamboo, white peach, sweet orange, white water lily, lothus flowers, water jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, white rose, white fig, honey

    And (this is very subjective, of course), Nica is very oceany to me:
    Nica notes:
    blueberry, grape, tangerine, violet, freesia, cardamom, cedar wood, sandalwood, musk

    But the Crème de la Crème of ocean fragrances to me is Les Parfums de Rosine Ecume de Rose.
    Ecume de Rose notes: blackcurrant leaves, waterlilies, dune roses, strawflowers, St. John's Wort, vetiver, amber, and white musk.

  12. #12

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    I grew up next to the Pacific Ocean, and it also had a sea weed, salt, and a slight petroleum smell, too.

    Now I live close to the Gulf of Mexico and it has a much higher concentration of salt smell, with more animal organic smells (I am sure because there are shrimp and crab beds/farming etc., so close to shore).

    As far as fragrances that remind me of the ocean, I like Vivara by Emilio Pucci.
    For some reason, almost anything with a strong vetiver note also reminds me of the ocean.

  13. #13

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Ayala Moriel's L'Ecume des Jours has a marine plant extract (I think) that gives a haunting, briny kind of tang. I really like that scent, it is a work of art.
    odysseusm

    "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower // drives my green age..." Dylan Thomas

  14. #14
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    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Fun read for those of us who've never smelled saltwater. Your comments are pretty evocative.
    In a world where 6 million people are added each month, every landscape matters.

  15. #15

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by zztopp View Post
    Also try Bulgari's Aqua and Creeds Erolfa
    I'm with you on that. Those are my true two favorite aquatics. I don't really care for Bulgari Aqua Marine as much even though I have a bottle of it.

  16. #16

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    I grew up right next to the Pacific and the sea there smells salty, briny, cold, fresh. Except at low tide, which I have come to appreciate but that still seems to evoke 'farts' to vistors. Best sea air frag I have experienced is Profumum Acqua di Sale (salt water). Marine frags in my experience are very, very difficult to get right.
    "It's now very common to hear people say "I'm rather offended by that." As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well so fucking what." - Stephen Fry

  17. #17

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Herb_Lady, I love what your question does to my mind. It's pretty different than the usual questions about aquatics. A couple things. One is that the actual smell of the ocean is not always that pleasant, esp. at the beach. It often smells like piles of rotting stuff. Out on the water, it's quite different, but so subtle that it's hard to describe. The second is that the ocean is such a huge force that it's hard to imagine taking away a strictly olfactory impression. The ocean is so active, vast, powerful, and quick to remind you that it's in charge. So anything that seems tame or narrowly pleasant fails to evoke the ocean for me. I've sort of given up the ocean as something to be carried around as a fragrance. But I do love it, I dream about it.
    The closest thing I know to the actual ocean in a fragrance is Laura Tonatto's Oltre, and I decided it was too stark and harsh to actually wear. But I do wish I hadn't sold it, actually. I may have to get another bottle.
    Great thread, thanks.
    Last edited by Strollyourlobster; 13th October 2008 at 12:07 AM.

  18. #18

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quarry View Post
    Fun read for those of us who've never smelled saltwater. Your comments are pretty evocative.
    no!? you really havent?

    my grandparents bathroom is the best sea smell. a million baths for seawater soaked grandchildern mixed with the southern cali soft water & a strange bottle of perfume honeysuckel scent, I think, among other things, plastic bath toys from the 60s, clean towlels, the wall paper wet, the garden air coming in the window, someday i'll bottel it just for you.

    but in anycase every body of water smells different. the are all so interesting. i like the smell of the blackberrys vine fresh & rotting berries, river water, the mud, the green, the wet. so portland!
    Hi there, I really want Muscs Koublai Khan, Le Beige de Chanel, The Unicorn Spell, original Samsara. Will you contact me if you can send me a decant or bottle or those or anything on my wishlist? Trade, buy, whatever. I have 100% positive Ebay feedback & bottles that are not yet listed on Basenotes. =)

  19. #19
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    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by DebraJean View Post
    plastic bath toys from the 60s
    Rush! Instantly shot me back in time, Soakies--Popeye and a half dozen others plastic characters. Mom and Dad threw away nothing--ever. I sent the Soakies out to auction just seven years ago and hadn't thought about them until now.

    In the upper Midwest, you took the kids swimming in one of our many fresh water lakes in order not to have to give them a bath. This was especially helpful to families with lots of kids. You still came home with a beachy smell, but no brine.
    In a world where 6 million people are added each month, every landscape matters.

  20. #20
    Basenotes Institution 30 Roses's Avatar
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    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Hampton Sun Privet Bloom smells of beach/beach grasses without the typical ocean /aquatic noes that are so overused.

  21. #21

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quarry View Post
    Rush! Instantly shot me back in time, Soakies--Popeye and a half dozen others plastic characters. Mom and Dad threw away nothing--ever. I sent the Soakies out to auction just seven years ago and hadn't thought about them until now.

    In the upper Midwest, you took the kids swimming in one of our many fresh water lakes in order not to have to give them a bath. This was especially helpful to families with lots of kids. You still came home with a beachy smell, but no brine.
    mmmm thats sounds good. kids smell so compelling & mixed with freshwater, not the ick water of today either, clean water, I want to smell it all the time.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/1976-Donald-Duck...3286.m20.l1116
    that guy right? oh man i love that plastic smell. my grandparents are the same way, they don't toss away anything. i know what every room in that house, the garden, & the garage smells like. I would love to recreate it like that Perfume the movie boxed set.
    Hi there, I really want Muscs Koublai Khan, Le Beige de Chanel, The Unicorn Spell, original Samsara. Will you contact me if you can send me a decant or bottle or those or anything on my wishlist? Trade, buy, whatever. I have 100% positive Ebay feedback & bottles that are not yet listed on Basenotes. =)

  22. #22

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    http://cgi.ebay.com/VINTAGE-PLASTIC-...3286.m20.l1116

    & i know it sounds crazy but I can taste this one
    Hi there, I really want Muscs Koublai Khan, Le Beige de Chanel, The Unicorn Spell, original Samsara. Will you contact me if you can send me a decant or bottle or those or anything on my wishlist? Trade, buy, whatever. I have 100% positive Ebay feedback & bottles that are not yet listed on Basenotes. =)

  23. #23

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Two amazing scents: i Profumi di Firenze Brezza di Mare and Antonia's Flowers Sogni del Mare!!

  24. #24
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    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Different seas smell different; the Pacific (California coast) smells like kelp, a kind of seaweed that forms huge beds near the shore, and often washes up on it -- fishy, iodine and brine.
    Olfacta
    also at http://olfactarama.blogspot.com
    Musings and random thoughts about the genie in the bottle

  25. #25

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    The Mediterranean smells of salt, of course, but also of sun tanned skins (a bit of sweat, also salty), and perhaps some suntan lotion. Add the flair of a paella and you get the picture.Now, would I like to smell like that? No, I don't think so.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by LedByMyNose View Post
    I grew up right next to the Pacific and the sea there smells salty, briny, cold, fresh. Except at low tide, which I have come to appreciate but that still seems to evoke 'farts' to vistors. Best sea air frag I have experienced is Profumum Acqua di Sale (salt water). Marine frags in my experience are very, very difficult to get right.
    I have a couple of posts in other threads about this topic here and here, and part of this post. I agree that Profumum Acqua di Sale is the best there is, but I will also add up near the top of my list the new oceanic scent Hyle by Farmacia SS. Annunziata dal 1561. I tried some at The Scent Bar here in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, and it is about 99% as good as Acqua di Sale ... at half the cost. If it had been available in the United States at the time I bought my Acqua di Sale, I might have opted for it instead and saved the extra $120 for other smellies.
    Last edited by Astaroth; 17th October 2008 at 09:12 PM.

  27. #27

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Thanks Astaroth - I have been pondering whether or not to get Hyle in my next Luckyscent sample order, and you've just confirmed that I will. I hope it's as good as you say!
    "It's now very common to hear people say "I'm rather offended by that." As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well so fucking what." - Stephen Fry

  28. #28

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    I agree that Profumum Acqua di Sale comes closest to the smell of the Northeast seacoast. A big part of this is its myrtle note, pretty close to the smell of the bayberries, Myrica pensylvanica, that grow along the shore in most parts of New England. Bayberries are tolerant of salt in the soil and have a salt note themselves that lies underneath a penetrating, spicy, herbal smell, somewhat like lavender but less floral. The blue-gray berries have been used for hundreds of years in New England to make scented candles. (It takes bushels; after one stab at doing it myself I'll gladly pay any price to buy them ready made as long as they are the real thing and not synthetically scented,)

    For less aggressive scents than Acqua di Sale, I think Lostmarc'h Aod is pretty good, too, with a salty rose note that's reminiscent of the rosa rugosa that grow alongside the bayberries. And then there's Antonia's Flowers Tiempe Passate for a less wild, more cultivated seaside garden-- perennials with a seaweed mulch.

    However, for salt water and just salt water without the smell of aromatic seaside plants, my pick is Hermes Eau des Merveilles. For me, this is as close as it gets to the smell of saltwater drying on my skin after swimming in the ocean.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by LedByMyNose View Post
    Thanks Astaroth - I have been pondering whether or not to get Hyle in my next Luckyscent sample order, and you've just confirmed that I will. I hope it's as good as you say!
    I haven't tried Hyle and Acqua di Sale side-by-side, but I would order samples of both and see which one you like most. Acqua di Sale is twice as expensive, but it also has tremendous longevity.

  30. #30

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    No immediate comment, just love the subject, love the ocean & the smells of the ocean...must read more when I have more time...commenting in order to keep the thread...I should / will / must leave JFK's quote on this subject although it has little to do w/ aromas...

  31. #31

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Here's the quote:
    I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it is because in addition to the fact that the sea changes and the light changes, and ships change, it is because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. (We also have the same percentage of water in our bodies as there is between the sea and the land.) We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came.

  32. #32

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    That reminds of a Seinfeld episode where Kramer is trying to launch a fragrance that smells like the beach through Calvin Klein:

    KRAMER: Go ahead smell, smell.
    STEVE: Yeah, so?
    KRAMER: Do you recognize it? ... The beach.
    STEVE: What are you talking about?
    KRAMER: Oh, I'm talking about the beach.
    STEVE: What about it?
    KRAMER: You know the way you smell when you first come home from the beach?
    Well, I want to make a cologne that captures the essence of that smell. Oh yeah.
    STEVE: That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard.
    KRAMER: Oh, wait, Did you here what I just said?
    STEVE: Do you think people are going to pay $80 a bottle to smell like dead
    fish and sea weed? That's why people take showers when the come
    home from the beach. It's an objectionable offensive odour.

    There you go. An objectionable offensive odour. Thats the ocean! lol

  33. #33

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    That pungent, salty ocean smell comes from a gas produced by bacteria: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16928653/. It's called dimethyl sulfide.

    I believe that bacteria living in and on things are probably responsible for other smells we associate with them--like the smell of wet earth.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Decomposition of plant material and microbes, I agree, are part of the ocean smell complex. Think of the ocean as a huge pot of soup with minerals (including salts), iodine, microbes, other sea animals and their bi-products, and plants in various stages of life and decay. The question is; does one really want to smell like this?



    Quote Originally Posted by Strollyourlobster View Post
    Herb_Lady, I love what your question does to my mind. It's pretty different than the usual questions about aquatics. A couple things. One is that the actual smell of the ocean is not always that pleasant, esp. at the beach. It often smells like piles of rotting stuff. Out on the water, it's quite different, but so subtle that it's hard to describe. The second is that the ocean is such a huge force that it's hard to imagine taking away a strictly olfactory impression. The ocean is so active, vast, powerful, and quick to remind you that it's in charge. So anything that seems tame or narrowly pleasant fails to evoke the ocean for me. I've sort of given up the ocean as something to be carried around as a fragrance. But I do love it, I dream about it.
    The closest thing I know to the actual ocean in a fragrance is Laura Tonatto's Oltre, and I decided it was too stark and harsh to actually wear. But I do wish I hadn't sold it, actually. I may have to get another bottle.
    Great thread, thanks.

  35. #35

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Does anyone smell something oceanic on eau de rochas? To me, there`s something on that one that has a beach aura...

  36. #36

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    CSP has one called Eau de Biarritz which has a strong iodine top note. I've had it, and thought it came pretty close.

  37. #37
    DeepSilence
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    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Something with Fish or Shrimp smell. Kouros !!

  38. #38

    Default Re: What does the ocean really smell like?

    Different seas definitely have different smells - I can't help but notice the difference between home and Miami, for example, where the seawater is very light and mild-smelling, none of that not-nice but kind of nice salty-soupy-planty smell we get here. Also find European Atlantic to have a slightly different smell from here, though more similar than that of down south.

    Can't say I've smelled a realistic rendition of any ocean I've come across.

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