Outside Lili Bermuda, in St. George's Bermuda. “I’m amazed to be the only perfumer on the island, Plants in the gardens surrounding Lili Bermuda. Inside Lili Bermuda's historic shop. Scents for the taking at Lili Bermuda. Inside Lili Bermuda, which crafts small-batch perfumes. Scents in the making at Lili Bermuda. Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone samples scents outside her shop.

A Scent of Bermuda

Peter Schlesinger • Photos by Daniela Spector • Illustrations by Jade Melissa • October 26, 2017

A Scent of Bermuda

Peter Schlesinger • Photos by Daniela Spector • Illustrations by Jade Melissa • October 26, 2017

From her home in Bermuda’s Hungry Bay, across from the Bermuda Botanical Gardens, Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone can smell the salty air blending with the nearby greenery. “I’m a morning person, and I love when nature awakens and really uplifts the scents.” As the perfumer for Lili Bermuda, the island’s only parfumerie, established in 1928, her job is to take those scents of the island and bottle them. “Bermuda is my muse.”

Since taking the helm in 2004, she’s produced several new fragrances—and one very old one. The boutique sold a limited edition perfume reproduced from bottles found on the wreck of Mary Celestia, a ship that sank off Bermuda in 1864 enroute to war-torn America. “I’m amazed to be the only perfumer on the island. It’s an unbelievable hub for sensorial experiences in every way, but in olfactory ways, especially, it blows your mind”

Here, she shares her favorite island scents that define Bermuda.

Bermuda Freesia

“When I acquired the parfumerie in 2004, I moved it to a historic home in St. Georges. That was in February; by early March, wild Bermuda freesia covered my next-door neighbor’s house. To me freesia smells like a soft and dewy white rose, with hints of green leaves and of soapy, fruity undertones. It smells like spring. I fell in love with it and incorporated the flower into my first perfume.”


Roadside hedges become “big puffs of oleander” in the spring. “This baby powder and white chocolatey smell follows you everywhere.”


When summer starts, jasmine frangipani and honeysuckle “take over the island,” with their sweet scents “screaming out loud,” she says. “ I love driving with the windows open in the early morning smelling the white flowers.”



“Mangroves have spectacular smells because there’s a lot of life,” says Ramsay-Brackstone, who visits the brackish, tree-covered marshes regularly with her kids. “The soil is mushroomy, and feels almost like quicksand. It’s green and decomposing but it’s so nice! When mama needs a spa treatment, we’ll paddle there and cover ourselves in mud. It’s totally rejuvenating.”


Come winter, yellow Bermuda loquats, a cross between an orange and a plum, appear all over the island. “They’re a bit tartsy, and smell like an orange, pear and peach. It’s absolutely lovely.”



Along the Railway Trail, jungles of Bermuda cedar, allspice trees and fennel plants—which “add a bit of sweetness”—give the woods a” warm, spicy smell,” says Ramsay-Brackstone. But she’s particularly keen on the surinam cherry trees found by the trail. “You can actually eat the cherries,” says Ramsay-Brackstone, “and the leaves have a woody, clove-like smell that’s very fresh when you crush them in your hand.”

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