L’Occitane’s New Terre de Lumière Perfume Smells Like a Sunset

“The golden hour”—just after sunrise and just before sunset—is a poetic and fleeting time of day. Van Gogh prized its soft light, shadows and tones, as do photographers and filmmakers like Terrence Malick, who shoots almost exclusively during this time.

In the French region where L’Occitane was founded, the golden hour is also a unique time aromatically. “It’s when the scents of Provence—and we have confirmation from perfumers—are at their best because they’ve been drinking in this beautiful light,” says Alessandra Elia, global head of fragrance development for L’Occitane.

Terre de Lumière ($98, ca.loccitane.com) seeks to capture this experience in a bottle. For inspiration, perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu recalls a memory she has of visiting the village of Gordes and discovering lavender honey.

“It’s unique because it’s not very liquid; it’s very creamy, so you scrape it instead of pour it,” she says. “It’s very Provençal. So I built an accord around that idea.”

Maisondieu also wanted to convey the mix of coolness and warmth that occurs when a slice of sunlight is either sinking down or rising up. Working with two other perfumers, Nadège Le Garlantezec and Calice Becker, she created two opposing accords: a fresh, aromatic essence and a gourmand one. “So you can imagine the sun going down, the smell of the herbs coming out,” she says, which contrasts with the “delicious, warm” part of the fragrance.

Creating a perfume that aims to replicate a specific time and place speaks to how much fragrance is, at its heart, shaped by human experience. For one, perfumers create scents based on their own influences and experiences. “We always go back to a certain memory and build on it,” says Maisondieu. But for anyone either wearing a fragrance or simply inhaling it, it’s just a matter of time before the scent is assigned an association. Either way, this connection can’t be imprinted through a screen and Maisondieu is against the idea of trying. “Fragrances are part of memories, and it’s something very emotional,” she says. “I can’t see it in bits and bytes. It’s like making fragrance into zeros and ones. It’s too complex for that.”