For every Baby Boomer who grew up near a beach there is one scent which will immediately conjure childhood summers: Coppertone. Coppertone was the leading suntan lotion/sunscreen throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. As far as I can tell it remains #1 in 2020. Which makes me wonder if it will be as indelible to the current generation.
My first memories of going to the beach was as a five-year old. We made the short drive out to Cape Florida State Park. I was ready to go. I wanted to run into the crashing surf. Before that could happen, my mother took out the brown plastic bottle of Coppertone and applied it all over my exposed skin. Putting an extra layer on nose and cheekbones. I share the experience with millions who grew up in this time.
I have read that Coppertone spent a lot of time refining the scent of their product. To find something which would mask the chemical smell of what performed the protective reason for wearing it. What they settled on was an orange blossom focused accord. The interesting part is the chemical part blends with that to form something still pleasant while being completely unique. The smell of Coppertone was part of my wardrobe for most of my life in S. Florida. In a lot of ways it felt like a more solid version of the Florida Water which scented our home. I should probably consider making Coppertone the answer to the question of what my first fragrance was.
It is such a unique scent, perfume has not allowed it to pass by. There are two that I own which capture it dead to rights. One is Bobbi Brown Beach where perfumer Claude Dir also mixed in a healthy dose of Calone to put some sand and surf into the bottle.
CB I Hate Perfume Day at the Beach 1966 is the closest to capturing that childhood memory I have. Perfumer Christopher Brosius’ Coppertone accord is so good it feels photorealistic. He chooses to create his beach accord without relying on Calone which makes it closer to what I remember.
There are few scents which can immediately call to mind a specific product. Coppertone is hard wired into my memory of the beach.
There are many things that are not perfume which smell great to me. One of those things is sunbaked skin coated in suntan lotion. The Coppertone my mother slathered on me before allowing me to make sandcastles. The Bain de Soleil the European women wore poolside at the Fontainebleau Hotel on South Beach. As much as the salt and the sand it is the smell of the tanning products that evoke the beach. The five fragrances listed below all remind me of lotion coated tan skin glinting in the sunlight.
Jean Patou Chaldee began its first incarnation as Huile de Chaldee an actual sun tanning product which was mostly castor oil which Patou perfumer Henri Almeras added orange blossom, narcissus, and vanilla to make it smell better. They knew they had a hit when they found women wearing it at night as a fragrance. Perfumer Thomas Fontaine has re-formulated Chaldee and in that reworking has hewed closer to its suntan lotion beginnings, which I really like.
CB I Hate Perfume At The Beach 1966 is constructed around a central “Coppertone” accord. Coppertone was the suntan lotion of my youth exactly in 1966. The suntan lotion used an overdose of coconut to attempt to disguise the medicinal sunblocking agent. It turned into a pleasant smelling tropical laboratory accord. Christopher Brosius gets this picture perfect and he places it in a beach milieu full of drift wood, crashing surf, and sand. It is a time machine in a bottle for me.
If I wasn’t on the beach I was spending time by the humongous pool at the Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach. This was where I came into contact with Europeans using this tube of orange gel called Bain de Soleil as their lotion. In Bond No. 9 Fire Island perfumer Michel Almairac captures that odor plus the sun warmed skin underneath. I can almost see the row of chaises and smell the breeze blowing this to my nose. It is another perfect rendition of a scent memory for me.
The more modern takes on the smell of less scented sun products come from two of the great fragrance producers. Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess is a very close wearing fragrance which takes the warm skin accord in the base and over the top of it adds magnolia and tiare. Perfumer Alberto Morillas turns out a summer perfume which is all about living in the sun.
The final suggestion is the new Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum 2014. Guerlain in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser takes the same sparkling tiare flower and sandwiches it with coconut milk and bergamot on top and the signature Guerlinade of vanilla on the bottom. This is a limited edition only available for 2014 and it is as good a mass release as Guerlain has done in years. It is perfect for the summer.
I am not recommending wearing perfume instead of sunscreen as you head out this summer. If you want to carry the day into the night any of these five will keep the summer vibe going into the wee hours.
Disclosure: I purchased botlles of all the perfumes mentioned.