Thanks to Charabanc, “new car” may not be the most desirable motoring smell…

In his definitive book ‘Nose Dive (A field guide to the world’s smells)’ the author Harold McGee analyses different categories of fragrance: animals, land plants, the land itself, water life, along with cooked and fermented foods. He stops off along the way to talk about the human smells: excrement, varieties of urine smells (fishy? That’ll be the trimethylamine), the breath, the mouth, feet and the armpits (am I getting a little cumin, here?).

Yep,  most olfactory evidence of humans is considered unpleasant. 

There’s one human sub-category of smells he doesn’t mention though: cars.

New car smell has always had a mythical quality. It smells, well, ‘new’. The fact that it’s  a result of inhaling the highly volatile emanations of the plastics and adhesives used in the interior doesn’t matter. It’s what our brains associate with the smell that matters.

Then, there are the other car smells. 

That peculiar air when you’ve given in and let someone eat in the car – a week ago. That’s the smell of weakness and regret. And opening the windows doesn’t seem to change it. Or bringing home a child at the end of term: generally sweat, but also mud and mould (winter) or more sweat and linseed (summer). That’s the sweet smell of private school fees.

Now, as a Lusso reader you’re never going to try and overcome those odours with a swinging Pine Tree odour. But is there a more upmarket fragrance you might pick?

After all, if we use Verden candles to curate the fragrances in our homes (D’Orangerie for the kitchen, Arborist for the study; I’d say) and Portobello Oud Scented Leaves for our wardrobes, shouldn’t we have something for the car?

Welcome, then, the new range of fragrances, designed specifically for cars from Charabanc. Charabanc  fragrances are inspired by some of the world’s greatest drives and some of its most familiar. That’s not the school run down the A34.

Instead it’s a fast and fresh and leafy jaunt in seventh gear across the Pennines. Or a slow meander in fifth through the wildflower meadows of Umbria. Or perhaps you want to be taken back to mooching along with the windows down as you cross the smoky roads of Samarqand. 

My personal favourite of all of Charabanc’s car fragrances was the Monument Valley Drive. Thick with thyme, cypress, jasmine, black leather and raspberries – I suppose someone bought the raspberries at the Whole Foods before we started out.

More stylish than the old string and cardboard days of the swinging pine tree, Carabanc’s fragrances are impregnated into ceramic pastilles, each one hand-crafted using a wet press in Valencia. You then slot the pastilles into a finely-worked metal diffuser, capped with a hand-tooled leather cover and hung from a leather lanyard. (When you do that, you’ll be in the company of this year’s Oscar winners, as Charabanc was included in their awards bags.)

And now, new from Charabanc, is their stainless steel Superleggera diffuser for the summer months when you might want to keep things a little lighter. The Superleggera is hung over the A.C. (air con, I mean, not the Cobra – there’s nothing that’s going to interrupt the smell of the outside world rushing up your nose at 100mph in the Cobra).

Like all fragrances, your ideal personal fragrance will be all in the mind. But if the choice is between smelling someone else’s human volatile molecules or a straight nose jab of lavender and sage from the plains of Castellucio, it’s an easy decision. 

Charabanc’s Superleggera is available exclusively from