I like to think I’m pretty good at buying gifts. As a Strategist writer, shopping for friends and family is something of a busman’s holiday. But last Christmas, I bought something for my boyfriend that I liked so much, I ended up keeping it for myself. It was a scent tag from Earl of East. They’re a boutique home-fragrance brand you might have seen in Goodhood, Cult Beauty, and END.
In my defense, we’d agreed on a set amount to spend on each other, and I went slightly over budget, so it wasn’t an entirely selfish act. I’d seen these fragrance tags a few times before and thought the idea was quite charming — a thick sheet of porous card soaked in one of the brand’s scents, which are inspired by cities such as Lisbon or Marrakech. They come in scents familiar to anyone with more than a passing interest in status-y candles or incense — think notes of olive leaf, fig, peppermint — but are substantially cheaper than buying someone a Diptyque or Byredo.
Even better, these fragrance tags seem to be more risk averse. You’ll already know that friends have particular tastes when it comes to the candles they burn at home. But scent tags (which can be hung in your wardrobe, car, or gym bag) feel a little safer by comparison. One colleague told me she was considering gifting them as wedding favours.
I’d bought the smoke-and-musk tag, and when it arrived, I could detect the notes of log fire and pine sap even through the packaging. It was stronger than the Muji bonfire candle I am fond of, with an irresistibly sweet, herbaceous smell, too. I decided to hang it in my wardrobe, nestled between my cardigans and chore coats, planning on swapping the placement of the tag every few weeks, so that everything picked up the scent.
I had expected the smell to linger for a month at best. After all, what are scent tags if not room sprays generously spritzed onto a sheet of card? But a whole six months later, my clothes still have this pleasing scent practically woven into the fibres. Friends have asked what I’m wearing (one thought it was Frederic Malle’s Monsieur, a bottle of which will set you back £200), and on more than one occasion, I haven’t even bothered putting aftershave or cologne on when going out.
On a recent trip to Redchurch Street, I actually found myself in Earl of East’s new store, where I shamelessly left with one of its tomato-and-parsley-scented Greenhouse candles. There, a store assistant let me in on an insider’s secret — rather than replace the tags when they do run out of scent, he said the staff actually buy the brand’s room sprays and simply respray the tags. These cost £24, or about twice the price of a tag, but at 100ml I think they’d last you a year, especially given the longevity of the tags I bought.
Now that I’m sold on their invigorating appeal, I plan on trying a couple of different scents. Slipping one into my suitcase, I could arrive in Sicily and, after a quick change of clothes, smell less like I’d been on a plane and more like I was ready for a Campari soda on a scorched terrace somewhere. But before that, I really ought to replace the one I’d originally bought for my boyfriend. Sorry, Rob.
This is the spray I’m planning on buying when the scent finally wears off my tags.
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