Blog post by Gwen

Chembur – fresh and warm and light

I remember a friend telling me about the first time he went back to his childhood home after having lived overseas for a few years. Everything had changed – the décor, the kitchen appliances, the garden. He said it was as though he’d lost his childhood. I imagine most people experience a similar feeling at some time in their lives. I know it happened to Ben Gorham, founder of Swedish niche fragrance line Byredo.

Gorham was born in Stockholm, while his French-Canadian father was working on his doctorate there. His mother was born and raised in Chembur, India. Ben visited Chembur often as a child, but children grow up, go to university, move around, and when Ben returned to Chembur after a fifteen-year break, the place had changed. Once a picnic spot for Gorham and his mother, it had grown into a large, upscale suburb in eastern Mumbai. While so much of Chembur may have changed, one aspect of it was the same: the evocative aromas of spices and the lingering incense of the Hindu temples:

“The trip brought back all kinds of memory, largely through the smell,” he recalls. “That was the spark for me….”

Over the next few years, he founded Byredo, with a mind to create scents based on memory and emotion. Eventually, he worked with nose Jérôme Epinette to create a scent fragrance inspired by his childhood memories of Chembur. That fragrance is called Encens Chembur.

Encens Chembur, which was originally called Chembur, was one of the six initial fragrances launched by the brand in 2008. Though the name has changed, the formula has not, my bottle says Chembur, so I’ll stay with that.

It opens with a crisp note of bergamot followed by sour note of lemon. The citruses are bright and fresh and introduce a spicy and balsamy note of elemi. The spiciness is carried over into the heart by ginger and nutmeg. The ginger is juicy and succulent, and its citrus aspect and piney tone enhance and extend the opening. The nutmeg is earthy and potent, with a sweet-spicy facet that complements the freshness. And then the smoky, resinous smell of temple incense starts to drift through the scent, and I do mean drift. The incense here is light and translucent. At the base, labdanum adds a gentle animalic warmth supported by a veil of amber and musk.

Chembur dries down to a warm, elegant skin scent. This is not a powerhouse scent - there is no heaviness here, no darkness or gloom. I think that’s what I like most about it. The aromas of spices and incense of the Hindu temples aren’t what this fragrance is about. It’s about the scented air they leave on your skin, that scent you carry for days, that scent you remember on your clothes. The lightness gives Chembur an ease that makes it an incense-based scent that’s suited to warmer weather. In fact, it can be worn all year round.

Over time, people change, places change, memories fade and become distorted, but scent can bring them all back restored and how amazing is that?

Check out Chembur in our Shop.