Angel Belsey is a Londoner. She owns too much perfume and too many books.

The Smell of Freedom

Hello! I am back, not only from the clutches of hayfever, but also from a two-and-a-bit-week trip trekking in Nepal. I've been back for about a week, but I'll let you in on a little secret: these entries, even though they appear at lunchtime through the week, are generally written a few days in advance and queued up. So even though you're reading this now, it's actually a relic from the past that is reaching you through the magic of time travel. While I was packing for Nepal, I tried to be sensible: I didn't take a hairdryer or makeup, and my clothes were all basic wicking t-shirts and hiking trousers. But it wouldn't be like me not to pack some perfume for the days we weren't trekking, and indeed I did.

In choosing from what I had available, I decided nothing could be more appropriate than a little Lush sample vial--easy to pack, natural ingredients, and a new fragrance to associate with a new experience. I chose The Smell of Freedom because at first sniff it smelled clean and easy to wear, but it turned out to be more appropriate than I realized until much later.

When The Smell of Freedom first goes on the skin, it's got a clean, sharp citrus fragrance, which to me has an almost marine undertone--I'm not sure where that comes from. The lemongrass oil definitely shines through.

(I do have to admit something, which I hope nobody at Lush takes badly--it's not meant that way. I put The Smell of Freedom on just as we went out on our first night in Kathmandu. I didn't say anything to my husband about it, but as we were walking along he said, "You know, there aren't any mosquitos around; I don't think you needed insect repellent." This is not a reflection on The Smell of Freedom; more an observation that the initial hit is very citrussy indeed, and a little bit reminiscent of citronella.)

While strong citrus is not generally my preferred sort of perfume, the scent quickly warms up and reveals its spicy heart, which is full of ginger and adds a nice complexity. My favorite part of The Smell of Freedom, though, has to be the drydown, which is a soft, gentle, woody scent that just nestles right down into your skin.

So why was The Smell of Freedom an appropriate fragrance to take with me to Nepal? Well, as I've just now discovered while reading the press release for the official notes, apparently its three parts are inspired by three people the perfumer met while travelling, all of whom overcame struggle and hardship. The citrus opening is inspired by an Australian aboriginal artist, and the woody drydown is inspired by a freed Guantanomo Bay prisoner--but the gingery, spicy heart is inspired by a Tibetan monk who made a journey from Tibet to India:

When [the Venerable Ngawang Woebar] was a young man he became an activist in Tibet, protesting for rights of Tibetans and supporting the Dalai Lama. The Chinese authorities imprisoned him for handing out leaflets and waving the Tibetan flag. After four months without trial and suffering interrogation and abuse throughout this time, he was released. Being further victimized and expelled from his monastery he decided to leave.

Without a passport or permission he had to take the treacherous route to Nepal. The three-week journey was a tough one, travelling 30 miles a day across the Himalayas, carrying all the supplies he needed. The day before his group reached Nepal they ran out of food. They resorted to eating rolled balls of snow with salt sprinkled on top. Barely sustained until he arrived at the Nepalese sanctuary he was deported to India where he joined the many thousands of desperate Tibetans who had to flee their homeland. -From the Lush/Gorilla perfumes press release

Hm. I guess I don't get to complain about how the pillows in the teahouses were really hard.

The Smell of Freedom, Gorilla Perfumes/Lush, 2010 Notes: lemongrass, lemon myrtle, neroli, jasmine, ginger, fire tree, clove, black pepper, sandalwood, oudh, orris