Fragrances of the Med

What is it that makes the Mediterranean such a magical place?  Perhaps it’s the quality of light that illuminates the azure water and warms the rugged cliffs?  Or could it be the unadulterated joy filling the air which attracts people from the colder climes of Northern Europe and around the world?   As a lover of all things redolent, I also believe it’s the intoxicating fragrances of the Med that seduce the traveler.  The aromatic shrubs that dot the sun-drenched landscape, the scented groves of citrus and fig trees and the bracing fragrance of the sea itself.  It’s no wonder that the Mediterranean has attracted perfumers for centuries, many of whom have been so charmed by their visits, that they have dedicated fragrances almost entirely to their stay.

The Mediterranean, with influences from Southern Europe, Anatolia, North Africa, and the Levant, is the birthplace of Western civilization and amazingly culturally diverse.  However, one thing the entire region has in common is the plethora of beautiful fragrances derived from ingredients the land provides; Lavender, cypress, rosemary, bergamot, and labdanum to name a few.  Yet if I were to choose just one ingredient that epitomizes the spirit of the med, it would be the fig tree.   Evocative and unique, the scent of fig trees scream “Mediterranean summer”.  As the scent encompasses the whole tree and not just the fruit or leaves, it is very balanced, mingling the dusty, earthy notes of the bark, the green, slightly bitter notes of the leaves and the creamy, sweet scent of the fruit itself.

Fig Tree
Fig Tree

Three fragrances that for me most successfully utilise this gorgeous ingredient are Philosykos (1996) by Diptyque, Un Jardin en Méditerranée (2003) by Hermes and Ichnusa by Profvmvm Roma.  All three are of course influenced by a place in the Mediterranean, in this case, Greece, Tunisia, and Italy.  Philosykos literally means “friend of the fig tree” and it is an apt name because this is perhaps the truest interpretation of an actual fig tree.  It is green, earthy, woody and sweet in equal measures, one spray can transport me to a grove of fig trees on a hot August day.  In fact, the three creators of Dyptique, Yves Coueslant, Desmond Knox-Leet, and Christiane Gautrot, were inspired to commission the now iconic fragrance by their travels to Mount Pelion in Greece.  Even though it is the lightest of the three it is never insipid.

My next choice is one of my favourite scents from Hermes and the first in their Jardin range, Un Jardin en Méditerranée (2003).  Jean-Claude Ellena created this gem using Hermes designer Leila Menchari’s garden in Tunisia as inspiration and it truly is reminiscent of a whole Mediterranean garden.  Fig tree is definitely the main player, but we also have the floral notes of oleander and orange blossom, the green, herbaceous notes of juniper and the woody notes of cypress and cedar to round it off.  It is luxurious and sophisticated without the need to shout.

Finally, there is Ichnusa, a fragrance inspired by the beautiful Mediterranean island of Sardinia (Ichnusa is the ancient Greek name for the island).  Take a deep whiff of this gorgeous scent and perhaps the only word that comes to mind is “green”.  Here there is no creamy sweetness of figs, which some may find cloying, just the crispness of fig leaf, joined by the equally green notes of grass, hay, and myrtle.  Simple, natural, beautiful just like its namesake.

So, as the Northern hemisphere enters its dark winter months, why not try one of these stunners and be transported to the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean.


Un Jardin en Méditerranée


 Philo.jpg  Jardin.jpg Ichnusa



 Fig leaf, fig, coconut, green notes, cedar & fig tree


Mandarin, bergamot, lemon, neroli, oleander, cypress, fig leaf, musk, juniper & Pistachio



Fig leaf, myrtle, grass, hay & fig tree