We have a long history with perfumer Nathalie Benareau. She made three of our first six scents, and has now made two of the three scents we’ve introduced since launch. In addition, she translated three of those scents into candles, and four of those scents (and counting!) into body care products. We love her, she loves us, it’s a wonderful partnership.

And yet, our newest scent might be the best fit yet. It’s S.C. 59, a scent inspired by the bold and daring surf clubs of the 1950s, who took a rough-and-tumble approach to riding the waves at a time before surfing went commercial. (Think Dick Dale’s careening guitar work instead of the Beach Boys’ soothing harmonies.) It turns out, Nathalie surfs—or used to, anyway, in her early 20s.

So how did the former surfer make the ultimate surf scent? We asked her—and so much more—below.

Let’s start with the inspiration: “A conscious spirit of youth, vitality and the mystical chase for the perfect wave.” How did you translate that into scent?

For me, there are notes that can connote this—citrus and things that are very fresh. Like in aromatherapy—you smell lemon, you feel happy. Lavender makes you relaxed. Citrus can make you feel energy and feel young.

What about the colors? In the brief, we mention lemon yellow and turquoise.

The colors are all very mood-related for me. And because I have experienced surfing, it really took me back, and there’s nothing better than scent to take you back to a special moment in time. Citrus definitely connotes that time. Bright, sunny, floral notes also do. This scent is not so floral, but… it’s happy, youthful, optimistic. These types of things.

How long did it take? How many mods did you make?

Ooh, la la [laughs]. It must’ve been a few months from when we got the brief to when we met [to try the mods]. The way I approached it was to do a little bit every day. But because I really loved the project, and the pictures were really inspiring, this was like my little holiday. I would have it on the side, work on some things—it was like my playground in a way.

Was there an aha moment while you were working on it?

That was when I put the amber in it. So from something that was quite fresh and optimistic, salty-watery… something was missing obviously. It was nice and I liked it, but it was missing that specialness. So when I was looking again at the pictures, [I thought], “Oh, shit! What is it? The color of the skin!” It was like, “Boom! Amber.” It just fits for that scent. I had created an amber accord awhile back, and it just fit so well. And it just made the whole scent. It’s very solar. Mineral-solar.

Any challenges turning this into body wash and lotion? This is a first for us—launching all three categories at the same time.

It’s the type of scent where you said, “That would be a perfect shower gel.” Those crisp, super-fresh notes, and the effect that it has on you. The happiness that it brings. Technically, shower gels are difficult to do because you need the fragrance to bloom, and some bases are hard to cover because they have a detergent smell, but the notes in S.C. 59 just worked perfectly. We did it very fast.

Huh..

It was almost made for it.

Totally. What about the lotion?

The lotion was a bit more complex—we wanted to keep that fresh/ crisp feeling, but also have the amber effect come through a bit more. Not so bright, but more warmth—the warmth of the sun on your skin, the golden color. That was a bit more tricky because there’s a contrast between the warmth and the freshness with this fragrance. It took us a bit more time, and I think the citrus lingers nicely on the skin. But you can still smell the amber.

So you surf. Or used to. How did that start? Do you still get out and do it?

No, I haven’t done it in so long. That was 20 years ago. I was in my 20s. [Laughs]. I must have been, from 19 to 21 or 22. My family’s from Spain, and my aunt lives in the north of Spain, in the Basque country, which is very well known for surfing. I had a cousin who grew up surfing.

Cool.

I had a boyfriend, I fell in love. He was a big big surfer, so I would spend the summers there, following him through the coast and learning, surfing. It was mostly watching him surfing. [Laughs.]

But you got in the water, too.

I learned to surf, but it wasn’t my passion so much, other than being in that whole environment with all the surfers. The competitions.  Camping on the beach. It was great, amazing, a great part of my life.

Sounds like it.

I met Kelly Slater, briefly. He’s amazing. He’s so short! It was a revelation, he was beautiful to watch.

I bet.

All the big surfers, I would see them at the festivals. Being a 20-year-old, no worries in the world, just living at the beach, watching surfers and trying to surf yourself. I had an accident, I fell on my board and I have a big big scar on my leg. I look at that and it will take me back also. I haven’t surfing since then.

At all?

I surfed once last year in Costa Rica—it was great but my gosh, 20 years. [Laughs.] I love it. I love the whole surfing culture. It’s like this tribe, you feel part of this special group of people.

Nathalie Benareau between waves
Nathalie on the beach.

Did that make this one extra-personal? Did it make it harder or easier to make?

No, for me, this one was easier. I had a clearer image of what I wanted. It takes me back to such a happy place, so I was happy to go and work on it. And I really like the result. The PHLUR fragrances, the results with all of them, I really love them. The whole marketing, the pictures and everything, they really talk to me. I’m always amazed at what we can get from it. If I hadn’t seen that brief, I don’t know if I would have created something that I like so much!

This isn’t the first beach-y, surf-y scent in the world. How did you make this one stand out?

A lot of them  have this orange flower, sunscreen, Coppertone effect—it’s a bit cliche. I love it, but it’s what you would expect. Saltiness is very modern, it’s a modern twist on solar fragrances, so I specifically did not want to go that route. It was just too easy. I wanted to find something that was more complex and emotional in a way. I tried to tap into my own experience, and do things that I felt hadn’t been done before. And not go the obvious route.

Well, I think you succeeded. Any special ingredients, like the rose in Améline?

We have a ginger from Madagascar in there, and Madagascar is actually a big surfing spot. It connects to that ginger note, Symrise makes it, and it’s a super-fresh ginger. Ginger can be soapy, but the one we have is super clean and fresh.

That’s perfect.

When I went to Madagascar a few years ago, I discovered the ginger. All the plants are very special there, so the essential oil that we get out of it was very special, and very unique, from the gingers that are in the market right now.

Any other challenges, creative or otherwise, in creating S.C. 59?

Not really! [Laughs.] It was just fun. And for this specific project, I had a bunch of different ideas, and this one was the one that really stood out. Sometimes things just run very smoothly and easily, and you get something great out of it. Like surfing you know?

Anything else we should know?

I forgot to mention the idea of energy coming from the sport itself. Surfing is a very physical sport that requires strength and vigor, and lots of energy. I love that contrast between the surfer in the water who is very focused on his own experience and the tribe outside the water, the ‘pura vida,’ ‘laisser vivre,’ camaraderie, smooth life. You can see that type of contrast in the fragrances, energetic but smooth at the same time.

That’s perfect. Thank you again for your time. I look forward to the next one!

Me, too!