When I was in my twenties, a boyfriend gave me a bottle of ‘Le Must de Cartier’ perfume. I was too young to understand the concept of a ‘signature scent’ but I wore that scent everywhere. It smelled woodsy and spicy and exotic to me. He owned a jewelry store, so picking up a bottle of Cartier perfume was easy for him, but with the end of our relationship came the end of my pipeline to that particular perfume, and I had no practical reason for shopping in a jewelry store. My connection to that scent faded away. I think someone may have even commented to me that the smell reminded them of their grandmother. At the time I didn’t take it as a compliment.
This was before internet shopping became a thing.
Apparently, unbeknownst to me, my youngest daughter believed ‘Le Must’ was my signature scent. She had strong memories tied to it and to her childhood during the time I wore it and was determined to track it down. She remembered it was from Cartier and she stood in a Cartier jewelry store sniffing bottle after bottle until she recognized the distinctive musky scent of ‘Le Must’.
When I opened the birthday box and found that bottle, I sprayed some on my wrists and began to cry, not only because it triggered the memory of how much I loved that scent, but for the realization that my daughter always associated it to her mother and went through so much effort to find it for my birthday.
That’s how powerfully scent is connected to memory.
After that bottle was completely gone, I searched for its replacement everywhere, and it was hard to find. For a while it even felt discontinued so I scoured airport duty-free shops for bottles of Le Must. My husband brought home assorted Cartier perfumes from his overseas trips, but he never remembered the ‘Le Must’ part. I now have a beautiful collection of Cartier perfumes that I seldom wear. I just have no emotional response to them. They are not ‘Le Must’.
And, I think eliciting an emotional response is what perfumes aspire to do. When it happens, you know it.
I’ve since learned even Nordstrom carries Le Must now, so I began buying it for myself, as a treat when I’m very good. I hope one day my granddaughter will get a whiff of that scent and think of me the way her mother did, and that it elicits an emotional response in her too. Now I’d take that as a compliment.