La Fumée Alexandrie

Victoria Gaiger - Editor and Creative Director - rakesprogress

What is fragrance if it isn’t déjà vu? More evocative than any photograph, our sense of smell is a portal into our past. For me the smell of warm, wet earth takes me straight back to my childhood growing up in Uganda in East Africa. A catalyst to moments I thought I had forgotten, a fragrance so distinctive and evocative that in an instant I am once again standing in my parents’ garden soaked to the bone, splashing in puddles, happy to be wet.

Later we moved to Khartoum in North Africa where the daily bombardment of intense smells I enjoyed brought with it a kaleidoscope of colour. Even now I just need to catch a waft from the kitchen spice rack and once again I’m running through souks on hazy dusty days, wandering through bustling fruit markets littered with a trail of musky and warm fragrances, hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. Dry soil mixed with deep notes that were both sharp and sweet - oleanders, mimosa, tangerine, lemon, jasmine. These scents are, for me, the most poignant, smells as powerful as the loud calls to prayer and the intense African sun.

Recently I have caught myself seeking out fragrances that contain some of these scents of my childhood, perhaps a nostalgic desire to return to those places and times, to be a girl again, and reconnect with a world that was, through rose-tinted glasses, the dreamy anti-thesis to this Western world of computers and commuting.

Which explains why I’m a sucker for any new fragrance that can work its magic, weaving a blend of long-forgotten smells with cherished memories. And so much the better if someone has bottled it already (no one has yet bottled the smell of warm soil after rain).

So when I opened Miller Harris'  La Fumée Alexandrie, I was once again back in the garden in Uganda, the smell of roses mixed with tangerine zest, gorgeous notes of geranium and sandalwood mixed with the irresistible headiness of incense, and the slightly animalistic, earthy and almost smoky smell of Oud. Add notes of cinnamon and cumin and suddenly my memories drift north to the spice markets of Sudan. It’s a powerful, personal, botanical cocktail of memories and emotion.  A heady mix but one that works for me. Open the bottle and I am in Africa again.

La Fumée Alexandrie Fragrance Notes:

Top: Mandarin Italy, Cumin essential oil Egypt

Heart: Rose Damascene absolute Turkey, Incense absolute, Geranium essential oil Egypt

Base: Sandalwood, Amber, Birch Tar essential oil Russia

Victoria Gaiger is one of the founding editors and creative director of rakesprogress. She set up the ground breaking quarterly magazine with her journalist husband Tom. Launched in June 2016, the magazine takes a fresh look at the world of gardens, plants and flowers, as seen through the eyes of artists, designers, documentary and fashion photographers. Volume 5 is on sale now for more information go to