In 2004, two Americans won the Nobel Prize for showing how scents directly signal cells in the body. Inspired by this research, Argentinian painter Julian Bedel pivoted to perfumery as a new artistic medium and founded luxury fragrance house Fueguia 1833 six years later. “When I was painting, I didn’t feel that I had the capability of delivering the impact I was hoping to get with my work,” Bedel recalls. “To put it simply, I wasn’t good enough.” By harnessing the olfactory power of plants instead, Bedel has been prolific—his line has over 100 scents—and finds himself reaching a global audience.
“As soon as we build our social background as kids, scents become key in our identity and culture,” Bedel says. Although scent is connected to individual memory and experience, sometimes you will find a familiar smell in a foreign place. The effect can be profoundly emotional and even disorienting. For example, araucariaceae trees in the Andes are similar to Northern California’s redwoods, but that doesn’t mean Patagonia smells like the Bay Area.
Citing the Patagonian mountains as his muse, Bedel initially hoped to bottle the scent of his homeland by capturing the smell of the pine trees and the absence of scent in the glaciers. He continues to lean heavily on wood and air (“ozonic” in scent speak) notes in his work. New perfumes continue to transport the nose by painting other exotic aromatic landscapes, such as Milonga Verde’s smoky dark wood of the countryside outside Buenos Aires.
“There isn’t a single person on the planet that doesn’t like a wood scent,” Bedel says. Humans regulate the perception of dangers—opportunities for reproduction or survival—through our noses, he adds. “Wood is stability, your house, your bed, things that help you live better.” Also popular are plant-derived ceremonial resins such as frankincense, myrrh, and breu—Amazonian almaciga tree resin revered in Central and South America for its calming and focusing aromatherapeutic properties and used heavily in Francisco Costa’s beauty line, Costa Brazil.
Thanks to that Nobel-winning research, science can now decipher the spiritual power of perfume. “The brain is very sensitive—the body starts to create changes before you’re even aware you’re smelling something,” says Bedel, explaining that scent can trigger hormonal shifts subconsciously. “Ambrette seed can increase estrogen production, while a type of valerian can slow down the perception of time passing by lowering blood pressure.” Different cultures use these biological effects to their advantage.
After a life-changing trip to the Amazon in his native Brazil, Costa, who is also women’s creative director of Calvin Klein Collection, returned home to New York City with breu. Through testing, Costa discovered that the resin is also antimicrobial and soothing when applied topically. It’s now the cornerstone of Kaya Anti-Aging Face Oil ($125), Body Cream ($54), and Bath Salts ($125), and the Costa Brazil Vela Jungle Candle ($165), imparting its rainforest fragrance and skin benefits.
While Costa Brazil’s signature scent has notes of ripe citrus and wet pine needles, Fueguia’s bestselling fragrance is akin to an anti-perfume. Bedel crafted Muskara Phero J (Muskara Phero J, $360) to transmit the wearer’s natural skin scent. “Everyone smells completely different when they spray it on, but they get a lot of compliments,” he says.
So if you’re still on the fence about resuming travel, this pheromone perfume allows your essence to explore, even when you can’t.