this thing's incredible

The Perfect Summer Perfume Is a Spanish Baby Cologne

Photo-Illustration: retailer

Wedged between the U.K.’s first and second lockdown, last year in August, I seized the chance to visit my mum in the tiny town of Javea in Spain. With six months totally devoid of air travel, I had forgotten how to fly ― queuing in the wrong place twice, mistaking a carpark for a terminal, and crucially, forgetting the annoying 100ml liquid-only travel luggage rule. As my bag loudly beeped and was briskly shuttled into the you packed terribly lane, with one swift swoop, my little bottle of Chanel Mademoiselle was confiscated and thrown into the bin. Mourning the loss on the plane I resolved to correct my lapse of judgement with a treat when I landed. As soon as I met my mum at arrivals, I added a pharmacy stop to our itinerary on the two-hour drive home through the Valencian mountains.

Freezing under the ice cold air conditioning, I was on the lookout for something that would mirror what I usually took on holiday like Ortigia’s Fico D’India or L’erbolario’s Legni Fruttati, something light, maybe floral? Then I saw the plastic bottle, creamy green lid and gleefully laughing frog that could only be Nenuco, a Spanish brand that I had pretty much forgotten about till then.

Basically, Nenuco is a baby cologne. Described on the bottle as a “splash for babies” (my translation), most Spaniards will have a bottle at home for kids, yes, but also to use on themselves or even repel mosquitos. Nenuco also means a lot more to me. My mum’s side of the family are from Madrid. My grandfather fled as a refugee from Spain during the civil war. Because of this history, the Spanish side of our family is tight, clinging to things we love from Spain, while living in London. Nenuco, which combines a traditional Spanish cologne-like quality (consider the the stringent lemon Agua de Colonia and the muggy smelling Varon Dandy) with a lemony laundry smell, is one of them.

I know that’s a lot of emotional baggage to put on a baby cologne, but as I took in Nenunco’s smell of Spanish oranges, lemons and blossom as an adult, I realised it was the summer perfume I’d always wanted. It’s light, fresh-smelling, doesn’t wear off and combined with a hint of nostalgia of summers past, it couldn’t have been more on the money. Quickly, I forgot about my long-lost Coco Mademoiselle and carried Nenuco in my bag with me for the whole two weeks I was in Spain. When I got home to London, I kept returning to Nenuco over my other scents. Instead of paling into insignificance alongside my other perfumes, it’s become a favourite I wear at least once a week. The zingy smell is perfect for spring and early summer, but it’s also a cosy reminder of how seriously the Spanish take grooming – even for babies.

My mum, who has kept Nenuco in her bathroom cabinets for years, has recently fully embraced Nenuco’s pivot to fabric conditioner, calling it “the smell of our childhood; what every child in Spain was slathered in”. Since my original bottle ran out, I’ve taken to ordering multiple bottles from Lemon Fresh, the ‘luxury Spanish products’ website at £8 only. And recently, Nenuco have brought out a mini-travel-size style, meaning I can take it with me in hand luggage, stress free this time, and never have a perfume chucked in the bin again.

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The Perfect Summer Perfume Is a Spanish Baby Cologne