I have just returned from the tropical haven that is Thailand and am seriously suffering the post-holiday blues. The Thai islands are truly paradise on earth; seriously, what could be better than lying on a sandy beach, sipping on a coconut flavoured cocktail, looking out at the turquoise water, surrounded by palms trees? Thailand is one of those countries which delights in assaulting all your senses; Sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. But as I am obsessed with the sense of smell, I was particularly taken by the olfactory gems that I discovered on my holiday, and Thailand has more than its fair share. Just take a deep whiff of any Thai dish and you’ll get the citrus blast of lime and lemongrass, the sweet, creamy scent of coconut, the freshness of galangal and ginger, the spiciness of white pepper and chili and the herbal notes of Thai Basil, mint and Coriander. The overwhelming melange of these key ingredients can be found in almost every dish which is placed in front of you. However, I will focus only on coconut for this entry, because let’s be honest, there is absolutely no other scent in the world that can transport you to the tropics like coconut. This is in part due to the fact that many suntan lotions use the scent, so the smell of coconut triggers images of sun, sand, and sea even for people who have never been to the tropics.
The coconut palm is grown throughout the tropics and has historically been integral to the lives of the people in this part of the world, even featuring in the origin myths of some South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Ocean cultures. The whole tree was used; the edible seeds provided food, the hard shells provided charcoal, the oils were used for frying and in soaps and cosmetics and the fibrous husks and leaves were used as building materials and for decoration. The love of the coconut palm and its usefulness is reflected in the name; in the Philippines, the coconut palm is called the “tree of life” and in Sanskrit, it’s called Kapavriksha, which is a mythological wish-fulfilling divine tree.
Even the English name “coconut” has mythical origins. It is said that when the Portuguese sailors of Vasco da Gama first encountered the coconut, the hard shell reminded them of a skull and the mythical creature the Coco, a bogeyman which would spirit children away…
The scent itself is comforting, lush, sweet and milky. For most people, it would be put in the same category as the scent of tonka bean, and this is hardly surprising, as the classic coconut note is a lactone (from the Latin word for milk) and falls in the same compound class as coumarin (found in tonka bean).
When coming up with my top 5 coconut scents I tried to choose fragrances that featured the note prominently, however, all the scents below do so in their own unique way.
Soleil Blanc by Tom Ford (Feminine)
The mix of Coconut, tuberose and ylang-ylang make this the ultimate beach fragrance for women. It’s sexy, sultry and luxurious.
Notes: bergamot, cardamom, pistachio, pink pepper, jasmine, tuberose, ylang-ylang, amber, tonka bean, benzoin & coconut
Virgin Island Water by Creed (Unisex)
Here the coconut is accompanied by the boozy notes of rum and the citrusy notes of lime, bergamot and mandarin. Imagine sitting on a beach while you sip a strong tropical cocktail.
Top Notes: lime, coconut, Sicilian mandarin, bergamot, ginger, Indian jasmine, hibiscus, ylang-ylang, musk, sugar cane & white rum
Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens (Unisex)
Un Bois Vanille mixes coconut with bitter almond, liquorice and vanilla creating the most delicious dessert. This one is for the gourmand lovers.
Notes: sandalwood, beeswax, liquorice, bitter almond, coconut, musk, vanilla, benzoin, guaiac wood & tonka bean
Coccobello by James Heeley (Unisex)
Green, salty and woody. This one is for those who don’t like the sweetness of the typical coconut note.
Notes: palm leaf, gardenia, coconut, sea salt, vanilla, Virginia cedar, benzoin & sandalwood
Hypnotic Poison by Christian Dior (Feminine)
Hypnotic Poison mixes coconut with almond, apricot, plum, sandalwood and vanilla for a truly bewitching oriental vanilla fragrance.
Notes: apricot, plum, coconut, tuberose jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, rose, Brazilian rosewood, caraway, sandalwood, bitter almond, vanilla & musk