Amid a trade week comprised of appointments, I arrived at a high-profile hotel and immediately relaxed. The reason? The property smelled simply wonderful, an upscale woody scent that instantly evoked thoughts of luxury and tranquility, creating a moment that was intoxicating in the best possible way. A question at the concierge desk revealed that yes, the scent was available to purchase as a candle.
Hotels, restaurants and other businesses increasingly rely on custom fragrances to help set the style of their overall message. Smell ranks first as the sense that creates a memory.
It’s no accident that hotels and resorts are capitalizing on the concept. After all, you may not want to take home the scent memory of your last visit to the Apple Store or Bloomingdale’s (both of which employ custom scents in their locations), but an unforgettable vacation or conference at a resort you loved? That idea wins by more than a nose.
Le Meurice, Paris
Like many custom scents, the fragrance for this legendary 1815 hotel on the Rue de Rivoli was designed by a respected perfumer—in this case, Paris-based Hervé Gambs, whose work as an interior and floral designer made him a natural choice to craft the olfactory vibe at Le Meurice. A fan of nature, Gambs designed a scent that’s meant to evoke thoughts of cut herbs, a nod to the hotel’s close proximity to the Tuileries Garden, which preceded Le Meurice as a Paris icon by roughly 250 years. Like the offerings of many exclusive hotels, the Le Meurice candle can only be purchased in person. Request to buy the candle at the front desk, and a few moments and 57 euros later ($61 at current exchange rates), you’ll be taking it home.
Orli La Jolla, California
A boutique hotel that’s part of the seaside community of La Jolla, Orli is located within a cozy 1913 building that reopened in 2022 following a complete refurbishment. That also meant the opportunity to design a custom scent, inspiring Orli cofounder Maxwell Waitt to work with Air Aroma, a scent-marketing firm with offices in New York and Melbourne, Australia. Waitt ultimately chose a fragrance highlighting notes that include citrus, cedar, rosemary, leather and lavender: “It invoked the feeling of what I wanted guests to experience—an inviting warmth that complemented the rich and dark design finishes of the lounge area with a dash of energizing rosemary and citrus,” he says.
$65, at shop.stayorli.com
Le Sirenuse, Positano, Italy
Few places in the world are as romantic as Italy’s Amalfi Coast, and chief among the places to stay is Positano’s Le Sirenuse, a palazzo-turned-hotel opened by four siblings in 1951. Fifty years later, the family celebrated the milestone with the release of a signature fragrance, Eau d’Italie. Available as a scent collection that includes a seven-ounce candle, Eau d’Italie is crafted in small batches, with notes that include bergamot, incense and black-currant buds, all warmed by a note of red clay, designed to evoke a scent memory of the terracotta-tiled terrace at Le Sirenuse.
$75, at beautyhabit.com
The St. Regis New York
New York-based perfumer Carlos Huber founded his Arquiste brand in 2011 and has gained attention and awards alike for scents that often take their cue from his research into historical sites and details. The bespoke fragrance Huber designed for St. Regis Hotels & Resorts is used today across its properties worldwide, but he was inspired by the first St. Regis, built by John Jacob Astor IV and debuting in New York in 1904. Huber dubbed the scent Caroline’s Four Hundred, named for the legendary ball Caroline Astor hosted each year, inviting 400 members of the upper echelon of society. Notes include the American Beauty rose, white lilies, apples, quince and cherry blossoms, a blend that’s meant to transport you either to a Gilded Age ballroom or any St. Regis.
$85, at stregisboutique.com
Wynn and Encore Las Vegas
Las Vegas hotels historically have been ahead of the curve in scenting their spaces, largely to combat cigarette smoke. As Las Vegas resorts increasingly became luxury-focused spaces, their custom scents likewise have grown decidedly upscale. Among the best is Asian Rain at Wynn and Encore Las Vegas, a more delicate fragrance than the heavy florals that continue to populate other resorts on the Strip. With notes that include peach, raspberry, violet and amber, Asian Rain is popular among guests and available as a 13-ounce candle both at The Drugstore at the resort and online.
$60, at wynnathome.com