We have been visiting Charleston and the Isle of Palms recently, soaking up some sea and sunshine before the final stretch of the school year. Part of our mission was to share this beautiful part of the world with old friends of ours who have recently moved back to the United States after almost three decades of living in Paris. I have long regarded Charleston as the most beautiful, most European city in America, which, combined with its uniquely American history, makes it a favorite destination.
One aspect of introducing our friends to Charleston’s charms was taking them to visit Middleton Place, a former rice plantation on the banks of the Ashley River that dates back to the 17th century. Only one wing of the former mansion remains, but the outbuildings, gardens and rivermarsh views are still fascinating. We walked through hundreds of camellias in bloom, watched birds, admired centuries-old live oaks draped in Spanish moss. AND I found a locally made perfume in the gift shop whose proceeds support Middleton Place: Charleston Girl.
Charleston Girl was created in 2012 by a local entrepreneur, Kelly Gaskins. According to Fragrantica, it is a fruity white floral, with top notes of green apple, bartlett pear & casaba melon, then heart notes of orange blossom and jasmine, followed by base notes of amber and sandalwood. I like it quite a bit; it is light and sweet without being cloying. Unlike its promotional copy, which touts it as a “southern belle” perfume — an image I associate with cheesy costumes, faux femininity and silly girlishness — Charleston Girl is actually a delicate, ladylike fragrance that reminds me of the gardens that abound in Charleston. It is very pleasant, though not especially compelling. Its packaging is inoffensive and functional but not memorable.
The area around Charleston still includes many old plantations, some of which are accessible to the public as museums and gardens. There are several clustered near Middleton Place: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Drayton Hall and the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, formerly Snee Farm. Another one, on the other side of Charleston, is Boone Hall Plantation, which is still a working agricultural concern with acres of peach orchards, an organic farm, a roadside market and other ventures. Fruits like peaches, melons and apples grow in abundance in South Carolina, so the fruity notes of Charleston Girl are very appropriate. “Confederate jasmine” is grown in many gardens throughout the area, both in the tiny historic gardens of downtown Charleston and in the increasing suburbs around the city; and many of the older gardens contain citrus trees growing in large pots. Amber and sandalwood recall Charleston’s days as a major shipping port with extensive trade throughout the world.
Charleston Girl makes a lovely souvenir of this lovely, historic city.