National Food in Perfumes: United States, Russia, Netherlands
Fragrances and Cultures







Barbecuing, which means exposing raw foods to fire and / or smoke in an enclosed setting, is one of the oldest forms of cooking, with prominent geographically specific strands developed in Korea, Mexico, and Argentina. In the United States, there are four main traditions, each originating in different states: North Carolina-style (venerating “whole hog” shredded pork mopped with a spicy vinegar marinade during cooking); Kansas City-style (dry-rubbed smoked meats served with a tomato-based BBQ sauce); Memphis-style (celebrating pork ribs, designated as “wet” if with sauce or “dry” without); and Texas-style (simple salt and pepper dry rubs on smoked beef, served without sauce).



Perhaps more so than any other barbecue tradition, Texas barbecue relegates side dishes to second place and focuses all its attention on the meat – its quality, cooking, flavour and texture. Success is predicated on the amount of time the protein spends in the smoke (up to 18 hours for some dishes!), temperature, as well as the types of woods use (with every variety imparting a different olfactory colour to the charr of the meat). In Texas, brisket reigns supreme, seen as both the benchmark and signature of pitmasters, smoked with oak or mesquite for a more intense woodiness, or pecan or alder for a milder sweetness. The end result is judged on tenderness, succulence, smokiness and depth of umami. Vary one component of the process, and the result will shift in terms of taste and mouthfeel.

Walking into a barbecue joint, the pit’s sweet-spicy woodsmoke saturates the air with the promise of a mouth-watering meal, as exciting and comforting to smell as it is to eat. Walking out, your hair and clothes will carry that memory for days unless you wash them.

Birch is the most obvious choice to communicate barbecue’s aromatic aesthetic for a perfumer, with its characteristic smokehouse-leather DNA accented by bitter green and sappy wood. Beaufort London have taken these facets as their own signature – almost all of their fragrances possess a deep tannic smokiness reminiscent of a great barbeque. If I had to pick one, I’d go for their boozy-inky Coeur De Noir. Honourable mentions from further afield include the smoke-stained Air by Bel Rebel, Tauer’s dense Lonestar Memories, as well as the astonishingly evocative Post-Hume by Son Venïn with its uncanny summoning of a winter’s woodfire, pitted against a cold Scandinavian landscape.









Which of the traditional Russian foods makes a good perfume note?

Wild berries. Russia is known for its vast forests. Traditionally, everyone used to go pick berries, and women and children are often depicted in paintings picking berries. They would fill up baskets so big that only men could carry them, strapping them to their backs. Specifically if they went on a more difficult journey, for instance, to the swamps for cranberries, they would take lunch with them because they would spend the whole day "on berries."



Black currant is the most popular Russian berry. Before it was cultivated, which first happened at monasteries' gardens and later by individuals, black currant grew in the wild. In Europe, people became interested in currants much later. Its Russian name (смородина - smorodina) is derived from the old Russian word which means to smell strong.

There are many perfumes with the black currant note, but most of them are focused on the fresh and sharp smell of its leaves. Perfumes with black currant berries are usually very sweet and recall the taste of it in jam, or to be precise, of a summer preserve called '5-minutes jam.' The real freshly picked berry can be found in perfumes as well: Eau de Froehliche No. 3 by Erik Kormann, Cassis by Reflexion, Junk, and The Comforter by Lush, and the sadly discontinued but unforgettable Ode à l'amour by Yves Rocher. An exquisite black currant is hidden in the rich bouquet of Beautiful by Estée Lauder.

My favorite black currant perfume is Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince. The fragrance conveys the natural sweetness and aromatic flavor of black currant growing in the garden but is paired with a fresh forest accord. All its green and woody nuances – this dense and velvety rich, concentrated fragrance is built from black currant leaf, bitter grasses from the dark depth of the forest, the smell of pine needles and wild strawberry leaves, warm wood resin, and bitter-cool mist – are there to frame the dark jewel. It's the most natural black currant fragrance imaginable.

Raspberry is the sweetest of all the berries that are traditionally grown in Russia. It used to be valued not only for its taste, but it was also a synonym for 'desirable' and 'precious.' The raspberry note comes out very natural in perfumes, but mostly in combination with leather or rose; I enjoy the raspberry note in Tuscan Leather by Tom Ford, Yes I Was Madly In Love, But That Was Yesterday By Kilian, Fiori D'Amore by Bvlgari, La Fille de Berlin by Serge Lutens, Superlady by Pierre Guillaume Paris, and Balkis by Nicolai Parfumeur Createur.

The freshest and gentlest raspberry, scattered over wet moss, I find in Izia La Nuit by Sisley. The most natural, aromatic, ripe, dry, and mouthwatering raspberry is in the first edition of Une Rose Vermeille by Tauer Perfumes (it may still be found in all subsequent batches, but I've smelled only the first one).

I have already written about mushrooms in perfumes, but in an article about Russian cuisine in perfumery, one cannot fail to mention the smell of fresh mushrooms in fragrances such as in Wild Hunt and November by CB I Hate Perfume, Mushroom by Demeter Fragrance, and the weird, piquant Sister Fox by Ladanika, which smells of pine cones, wild berries and mushrooms dipped in caramel.

Perhaps, in all of the abundance of Russia's traditional foods, I most of all love mushrooms, both the smell and the taste. Fresh mushrooms are deliciously fragrant, but the smell of dried, fried, and stewed mushrooms is also very appealing. Mushrooms enrich other meals, like, for example, buckwheat porridge or cabbage soup. For me – they upgrade any food. I even love ice cream flavored with porcini and chanterelle.








Oh, the Dutch cuisine! How I love this topic when it comes up in conversations with people from various countries who usually will start waxing poetic about endless spices and pastes, layering of flavors, 20-ingredient sauces, and elaborate cooking techniques handed down from generation to generation. I listen admiringly, smiling at the thought of ever tasting these dishes until inevitably everyone's gaze is at me, and the question comes, "how about the traditional meals of the Netherlands, Bella, what are they like?" I look at their eager faces and am laughing already on the inside when I tell them," Well, we boil potatoes and mash them, then we boil any vegetable and mash it in with the potatoes. Then we put a smoked sausage on top, and dinner's ready!" 

To be fair, we do have more traditional dishes than these simple "Stamppot" meals, some of them even with long lists of spices, and on top of that, our cuisine was also highly influenced by various cuisines from countries close by and far away, which is why pasta dishes and stir-fries, for example, are also a staple in many Dutch households. But when it comes to aromas and smells that would work well as a perfume note, I go to "coffee with a cookie!"

We love cookies in the Netherlands. They are called 'koekje' in Dutch, which is believed to be the basis for the English word 'cookie.' The cookie was invented in the days before thermostats, as a test to see if primitive ovens had reached the right temperature to bake cakes. Rather than ruin an entire cake, a "little cake," or cookie, was tested first. At the time, no one thought these test cakes would become the enormously popular treat they are today.

Cookies come with our cups of tea and coffee, and this is an almost unbreakable rule. To this day, when ordering a cup of coffee or tea in a restaurant or sitting on a terrace when the weather is nice, it usually is accompanied by a prepackaged cookie, and even though freshly baked cookies are of course ten times better, we still are a bit miffed when the restaurateur only offers a packet of sugar on the saucer.

Sprits koekjes

The aroma I cherish in this context is less to be found out and about; it's more what you encounter when coming over to someone's house for coffee. The minute you step inside and greet the host, the scent of freshly brewed coffee enters your nose. It's pure comfort for me, bringing me back to my childhood when we would visit the grandparents, and their house would welcome us in with this warm, caramelized, spicy-nutty scent that I love. Interestingly enough, I didn't like to drink coffee for many years, but the smell has always been enchanting to me.

The bitter side of coffee is so beautifully balanced when having it with a sweet, buttery, crumbly cookie! I know I'm not alone in experiencing and enjoying this typically Dutch scent because there's even a niche perfume based on it, and I was lucky enough to get to try it.

Fashion designer, perfumer, and perfume house owner Ricardo Ramos worked in the Netherlands for his internationally acclaimed 'Reconstructing Klederdracht' collection and felt so inspired by the hospitality and warmth in the homes of the people of Staphorst that he worked together with perfumer Jorge Lee to create the perfume Knus. 'Knus' means something like 'cozy' in Dutch, and the perfume, made with notes of Tulip, Ginger, Speculaas (Spicecookie), Spices, Moka (Strong coffee), Cedarwood, Patchouli, and Musk, brought me back home instantly. It even has that "old times" feel to it, supported by the fact that the perfume composition has a classical vibe. I absolutely love this fragrance.



A bit sweeter and more caramelic than Knus but in the same coffee and cookie vein is Black Phantom by Kilian, a unisex gourmand that is sweet, chocolatey, nutty, and a bit boozy. I probably don't have to explain that we also love to drink our coffee with a sweet liquor on the side, and that's what I found here. 

The last example I thoroughly enjoy wearing when in the mood for coffee and cookies is Café Cabanel by Teo Cabanel, a creation by Cecile Zarokian. This overtly gourmand fragrance may be slightly brighter than the first two I mentioned due to some citrus in the top and the Bulgarian rose bringing some luster, but it's still a sweet treat, especially in the base of the scent. Beautifully made and highly enjoyable!



Bella van der Weerd

Bella van der Weerd Editor, Writer & Translator

Bella van der Weerd studied Communications at the Univers...

Eddie Bulliqi

Eddie Bulliqi Columnist

Eddie Bulliqi is a writer and speaker who analyses what p...

Elena Prokofeva

Elena Prokofeva Writer

Elena was born in Moscow. She studied at the Gerasimov In...

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News Comments

Write your comment

myricle 07/04/21 20:28

I spent a good part of my adolescence about an hour's drive from KCMO (Kansas City, Missouri). Some of the best (IMHO) barbecue in that city is *spicy* (the meat and the sauce, both). Not vinegary/sour, like the barbecue you'll find where I live now (vaguely coastal Virginia), but really, really hot and spicy. (If you're in KC and hungry, Arthur Bryant's in the historic 18th and Vine neighborhood is my favorite for this style. [Mind you, it's not the usual smoky-sweet KC style -- if you're into that type, PM me for some totally different restaurant recs.] :P)

It would be seriously cool if a fragrance could replicate this specific sort of smoky-spicy (i.e., hot-peppery) flavor in a wearable scent. :D Maybe I'll try one light spritz of EL Cinnabar over Kerosene Broken Theories (my favorite smoky scent, and bonfire-intense). Heady stuff, for sure!

rickyrebarco 07/04/21 11:25

Great article! I've never been to Russia, but I love Enchanted Forest. It captures my idea of what Russia must smell like in the countryside. I adore Black Phantom and Cafe Cabanel. There is also a Belgian fragrance that smells like Belgian Chocolate. L'Antichambre Le Chocolate Ambre. Divine!!!
Joys of life

Joys of life 07/04/21 02:03

Great article I’m drooling now! I will humbly add onions to the Russian palate, perhaps in the form of asafetida? Fried onions are like candy to me 🤤

Papavero0 07/03/21 20:11

A perfume with cassis and blackcurrant fitting for the Russia-themed berries is Diptyque 34 Blvd St. Germain
I absolutely love the choice of theme between "national" food culture and scent. I mean, let's be honest: if you're interested in the world of scent chances are you will be equally interested in food :) Win win

GladToBeUnhappy4 07/03/21 14:57

Reading this as my husband is setting up his smoker for a couple of pork butts and my mouth is watering over the sides that will accompany. Especially during holidays and football season here in rural Northeast Ga, the whole town is fragrant with different smokey wood notes.
Chouli Galore
Le Baiser

Chouli Galore 07/03/21 12:28

Reminds me of the country song "Save a horse! Ride a cowboy." Giddyup.
drugstore classics

drugstore classics 07/03/21 06:41

Wonderful article concept! I particularly find myself drawn to the idea of cookies with my coffee, having for years to forgo this pleasure owing to the sugar and the gluten, haha. So wearing gourmands has more appeal to me than formerly, and I agree with Bella that it is absolutely a perfect balance. :D
L'Homme Sage

Descartes 07/03/21 01:36

Hoi Bella, and not to mention the great influence of the Jews in Holland society like the Challah bread, coffee cookies, Zeeuwse bolussen or cinnamon rolls ( a sweet pastry of Jewish origin from the Dutch province of Zeeland) as well as what the Dutch East Indian Colonies brought to the Netherlands like the Spekoek a type of Indonesian layer cake developed during colonial times, also the pepernoten, olieballen, the Dutch apple tart,spekulas, etc, etc.., pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg...heaven!
Coach Mac
Polo Red Remix

Coach Mac 07/02/21 21:29

Born and raised in "bar-b-que country," I am truly having a hard time wrapping my little brain around the statement of "smoked with oak or mesquite." Why on Earth would birch come to mind first for the smell of the varying nuances of bar-b-que smoke ??? (Maybe I take smoking/cooking pork, brisket, and turkey a little too serious.....but bar-b-que should be it's own food group !!!)
Irena Victoria
Mugler Cologne Fly Away

Irena Victoria 07/02/21 18:27

Aw! Fragrantica got me in my feelings! Now I'm craving babushka's mushroom delicacies. But I only have shrooms from my Venice Beach shaman... 😃 Happy 4th!
Fresh Morning

LSAUG 07/02/21 17:29

I sampled a couple of fragrances w/ birch and did not like them for that BBQ smell. Hiram Green's Hyde comes to mind, not for me. As for Black Currant my favorite fragrance w/ that note is Providence Perfume Company Rose 802. I remember long summer days picking berries when I was a kid and I still do it to this day. Getting back to nature is a good way to connect to what is real in life. I love tea and cookies but I'm not a fan of gourmand perfumes. The above picture features mushrooms and I have sampled 2 w/ mushrooms and the one I liked was Gather Perfumes Forest Flora, a pine, conifer, earthy fragrance, perfect for winter.

Aramis64 07/02/21 16:12

Hahahahahaha thanks Bella! That was so recognizable, you hit 'de spijker op z'n kop' the nail on the head! You forgot to mention that, when you visit friends or family in the Netherlands, any hour of the day is suited for a cup of coffee. Living in the south of Spain, our friends think we're weird 🤣😂🤣😂

foxy_minxy 07/02/21 15:25

Yay for Enchanted Forest! A very natural-feeling and evocatively mystical scent.
Cheeky Smile

LanaDP86 07/02/21 13:51

Born and raised in Texas, I can safely say that sauce is an integral part of the BBQ experience here as well.
Rose Alexandrie

jeca 07/02/21 13:37

Amazing! I am getting ready for my bbq on the 4th! I am impressed by the Texas-style, very serious bbq.
Shrek would approve of the traditional Russian cuisine. So true, and so funny, if you want to eat like Russian – go to the forest ;o)))) people often ask what the hell is buckwheat? It is one of the most popular grains in Russia – whenever ppl sense a hard (economical) time is coming, they rush to stores to buy this particular thing – buckwheat. Nobody particularly likes it, but everybody has it. As for black currant, it was (maybe still is) the preserve every Russian family used to have in time for winter. It was boring, I wished for something like apricot or at least raspberry jam when I came to visit someone, but every time I was offered regular black currant jam ;o))

Atomikbomb_ 07/02/21 12:56

My in-laws are Dutch, and windmill cookies along with Stroopwafels are favorites that I've now adopted for the holidays :)

Mushrooms in Washington USA are also plentiful, they all have different nuances too (chanterelles don't smell like matsutake for instance). I'd love to see more strange and wonderful notes in perfumery!

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