United Scents of America is a small company offering fragrances dedicated to the various United States of America. For its debut in 2011, United Scents rolled out an initial line of five fragrances: New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, and Texas. The company's press release states, "Everyone comes from somewhere, has a sense of belonging and calls some place home. United Scents of America is meant to to evoke nostalgia for the individual United States of America."
The idea of location-inspired fragrances is nothing new, but it still seems to have plenty of "mileage": from classic evocations of the City of Light, like Yves Saint-Laurent Paris (and, even earlier, Midnight in Paris) to the recent airport-coded creations of The Scent of Departure, we're offered opportunities to fantasize and to remember through travel-oriented fragrances. Even smaller houses like Bourbon French have focused on their scents of their hometowns (such as New Orleans). Of course, the tricky thing about this genre is that every person has his or her individual memories and expectations linked to a particular place.
Let's start with New Jersey, where I was born, grew up, and have resided on and off for a significant percentage of my life. Like many a Jersey native, I've gone through a love/hate relationship with my home state, ending up on the side of love. (Feel free to cue up some Bruce Springsteen here.) United Scents' New Jersey combines notes of fresh buttered popcorn, cotton candy, caramel, coconut, vanilla extract, peach, patchouli, and musk in an olfactory homage to Jersey Shore culture. Even though I don't regularly go "down the Shore," I've been there recently enough to assign a very specific location to this fragrance: it reminds me of the Asbury Park boardwalk where it cuts through the historic Convention Hall. Inside the Hall, beside the various souvenir stands, a vendor sells hot flavored popcorn that scents the entire arcade with its warm, salty-sweet aroma. If you buy some you can eat it as you walk back out onto the boardwalk, into the sunlight and the crowd of Coppertone-coated beach-goers.
United Scents of America's New Jersey is definitely a gourmand fragrance. Its first hour or two is a potent haze of caramel popcorn: it's so realistic that anyone nearby might think the wearer really was carrying some treats in her purse. There's also a dose of a buttery coconut (for the suntan lotion!) and syrupy vanilla. This particular sweet-on-sweet development is a bit too close to Pink Sugar for my taste, but if you're a fan of dessert-y perfumes, you'll want to try this one. Then, a few hours after I'd applied New Jersey, I really did enjoy the nuzzly vanilla-musk dry-down, which reminded me of warm milk. The scent had drifted away from the Shore, but it had become subtler and more comforting.
Have you made any Jersey-related jokes yet, by the way? Even my husband (who should know better!) teased, looking over my shoulder at the title of this review, "What does New Jersey really smell like? the Turnpike?" Well, ha hah, yes---but for me, a child of central NJ, it also smells like freshly-mowed suburban lawns and blacktop driveways, the air-conditioning of shopping malls, the chalk dust and hairspray and freshly printed "ditto" sheets of my public school, so on and so forth; you get the idea. That's what I mean about personal associations with any particular place. United Scents' New Jersey does remind me of Asbury Park, but that's certainly not the entire sum of my Jersey experience.
I've "visited" two other "states" from the United Scents collection so far. New York, which made the weakest impression of the three, has a strong apple top-note that must be an homage to "the Big Apple." (But hasn't DKNY Be Delicious already worked that angle? Not to mention that Bond no. 9 has pretty much cornered the market on the smells of New York City and the surrounding region.) After its top-heavy apple opening, New York features a nose-tickling strain of ozonic notes and a peach-melon-kiwi fruit-salad heart; not my thing, basically, although it will seem familiar and possibly pleasant to anyone who usually buys her perfumes at any of New York's many Sephoras.
Lastly, Texas is a gender-neutral blend of bright citrus (mostly orange) and sheer woods with an interesting cedary base. I might have expected a stereotypically big, showy floral or something that evoked dusty earth and woodsmoke (like Tauer Perfumes' Lonestar Memories), but this take on Texas will probably please a broader audience than something along either of those lines. Overall, I'm thinking of United Scents of America's fragrances as olfactory postcards. They don't say everything there is to say about a particular place, but they offer snapshots with wide appeal, and they would work well as souvenirs or gifts.
Is there any fragrance that reminds you of a place where you've lived or traveled? Feel free to tell us in the comments.
United Scents of America New Jersey, New York, and Texas are available for $58 (1.7 oz.) each at the United Scents of America website. Florida and California fragrances are also available.