Smells like New Zealand?

It’s around this time of year that I feel a certain longing for the old country. It makes sense, of course. Just as we slip undeniably into winter here in the north, carefree Kiwis are making summertime plans downunder. Then there’s Christmas, when it’s all about family — and mine is halfway across the world, sporting shorts & tees, toasting bubbly over the BBQ. It’s hard not to be jealous. New Year’s eve is a beach getaway, two-day music festival, camping trip or party in the back yard. It’s the time of year when a massive culmination of warm, celebratory, tingly feel-goodness is concentrated into one sunny season. And I just miss it.

Mmm, smells like hydroxypropyl beta-cyclodextrin!

Luckily for me, I can have a wee taste of home here in Toronto, without forking out the three-grand airfare to get there. That’s according to Febreze — the anti-odour mega-brand that wants to douse the world in artificial fragrance — which reckons it’s managed to capture the essence of an entire country in one sprayable product (or candle, or wall plug-in).

Turns out, New Zealand has made the elite “exotic” top five scents, along with Thailand, Brazil, Hawaii and Morocco. So, million-dollar question: just what does New Zealand smell like? In the interests of investigative journalism I skipped quickly down to my local Shoppers Drug Mart to find out.

Let’s get straight to it. Febreze says the scent is “Inspired by New Zealand’s south island where springs feed glacier-carved streams and verdant vistas”. That’s some serious copywriting right there. I would’ve likened it more to a generic ‘fresh’-scented toilet spray — a little bit green, mostly overpowering. Basically like any unnatural, chemically formulated air-freshener that I’d hate to be trapped in a bathroom cubicle with.

Obviously, Febreze doesn’t do subtle. And it’s not like I was expecting to unleash a flood of memories with one spritz. It’s just funny, really. But it did make me sit and think about smells I do associate with home. Like the wet, damp grass smell from Auckland’s torrential rain; or the black tarmac roads on a scorching hot day; the salty air around the waterfront; newspaper-wrapped fish’n’chips on the beach; or a tasty Christmas ham smoking away on the barbie. Now, that’s a memory I’m happy to return to. I’m not sure you could bottle those smells successfully, at least not into a product that Febreze buyers would snap up, but that’s what I’d call an eau de NZ.

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