The launch today of Jergens Cherry Almond perfume is timely, in terms of what’s popular in the current fragrance market. “The trend for cherry and almond notes is going strong and shows no signs of stopping,” says Elena Vosnaki, author and senior editor at Fragrantica.com and the founder of Perfumeshrine.com. Tom Ford Beauty (well-known for its Lost Cherry fragrance, a Best of Beauty winner) just launched two new scents — Cherry Smoke and Electric Cherry — with the juicy fruit front and center. And newer brands like Snif have found sweetness in the note with Tart Deco (a mix of cherry, vanilla, and rose) as one of its bestsellers.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have memories of Jergens moisturizer in their bathroom. Some, like me, regularly used it in their youth. It was one of my first-ever beauty products, next to Oil of Olay and my Dr Pepper Lip Smacker. Vosnaki, who grew up in Greece, says she came to know Jergens through a relative who was a flight attendant. “She brought us back so many local goodies from her travels and among them was Jergens lotion and chapsticks with Coca-Cola flavor.”
For others, it reminds them of an older relative. “It’s so generationally passed down that it reminds people of someone so special,” says Kimutis. Getting a whiff of a familiar scent has the power to spur instant nostalgia, transporting us back years, sometimes decades. When you smell something as familiar as Jergens Cherry Almond, your brain can make a connection to unlock the past. “Memories associated with smells are often episodic or associated with a specific event,” says Theresa L. White, PhD, professor and chair in the department of psychology at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. “The evocative nature of odor memory is tied to the brain’s neuroarchitecture and associated with both the ability to perceive smells and the intensity of emotional memories.” Dr. White says that the limbic system (the part of the brain associated with emotion), includes the olfactory bulbs,which is where smells are first processed, as well as other regions important to memory (such as the hippocampus).
When I asked why this phenomenon, also described as the Proustian Memory Effect, happens with certain scents and not with others, Dr. White explained that the memories evoked by smells are typically emotional. They’re also typically older or less thought about. “The odors may elicit memories that might have otherwise been forgotten, by acting as a hook to retrieve the memory,” she explains, “making those long-ago thoughts come to life.” In a way, it’s fragrance as time travel — a comforting scent of the past to savor in the present, to connect us to ourselves. And for legions of cherry almond devotees, that’s no joke.