The return of Aqua Manda and an afternoon spent with the Rebel Cake and Perfume Club

voguw and aqua manda

Summer 1973 Beauty in Vogue mag, with the Aqua Manda ad on the back cover.

If you were called (ahem) Amanda and were a teenager in the 70s, there was a very high chance that you’d find a bottle of Aqua Manda bath oil or perfume in your Christmas stocking or birthday present pile. It was nowhere near as chic as Charlie (my best friend was actually called Charlie so that made it completely off limits) and less sugar-floral-hippy than Anais Anais (launched 1978), but its spicy orange fragrance, tinged with warmth rather than glamour, was my very first perfume love.

I wallowed in the bath oil, dusted the talc and did a teenage strop if anyone else in the family used it. The perfume came only rarely, so was used sparingly and is my link to many teen moments, many of which flashed by in a rush when I smelled it again at Odette Toilette’s excellent Rebel Cake and Perfume Club lecture on Nostalgia this weekend. it instantly pushed me back to flares, cheesecloth shirts and sitting at my dressing table, curling tongs hot and fragrant as I attempted flicked front hair.

She mentioned it because, joyously, it is being re released and Odette had a sample of the new mix for us to try -the only bottle of it in the country apparently, what a well connected girl. Equally joyously, it smells very like the old one -possibly better as memory is an unreliable thing when messed up with nostalgia. it’s launching in November and Christopher Collins, who originally owned Goya and the Aqua Manda brand, is involved. For more information the launch website is here.

The original packaging was spectacularly sophisticated for the times, there were orange and brown bottles with curls of flowers and fruit embossed rather beautifully in the plastic lids (below left). The boxes were a visual treat for any teenage dressing table desperate for a bit of non-starchy modern-ness. The new packaging and bottle (right below) is a close match to the old, but no sign of the lovely lids.

aqua manda 03

I wish the white bottle was an orange one and in the gorgeous shape of the the original, which you can just see in the top advert on the right, but apart from that, not a bad revival job.

aqua manda new

Odette and Leonie Sooke’s six part lecture involved a different perfume and delicious cake, cooked by Leonie, for each section-it’s the only lecture I’ve ever been to where I wanted to hear more- and was an informative and fascinating trip through the emotive link between food, fragrance and nostalgia.

it took us from the launch of Ionones -the synthetic for Parma Violets- in 1893, to US research from Dr Hirsch in 1994 claiming the way to better sex was the smell of pumpkin pie and lavender, with many interesting fragrances and cake in between.T

There were many insights, but one that resonated was from Odette, who wondered how the current perfume climate -with hundreds of new perfumes launched each year – would affect how we remember this period…or not. Will too much choice just confuse our memory? Perhaps the attachments wont be as strong as mine to Aqua Manda because we’re passing through fragrance so much more quickly today. Who knows.

What I do know is that i loved the Rebel Cake and Perfume Club, and if you are fond of either, or are keen on an adventure in fragrance, then seriously consider attending future events. More details here, the next one involves many types of chocolate….Leonie Sooke’s GossipBowl website is also worth a look.

odette toilette



  • That takes me right back, I can almost smell it.! Shame they haven’t gone for the floral lid. GG

  • Amanda says:

    I know, perhaps its a price of bottle thing, Odette mentioned something about how many bottles you need to buy being an issue. But at least it smells good. A

  • notsurebut says:

    I’d totally forgotten about this! Have to say the packaging isn’t very appealing. Now anyone for Avon Pretty Peach, Smitty or Babe?

  • Amanda says:

    SO many nostalgic scents out there from our past…A

  • Yes I belive the original packaging had become too prohibitive to recreate, but perhaps if they have enough demand they’ll be able to reproduce more closely. I had the talcum powder with me which I didn’t share on Saturday but that’s even more citrussy. Talc apparently still sells very well.

    Loving the mentions of old Avon Perfumes – they used to do those bizarre miniature bottles in funny shapes so I shall try to get hold of some scent in a flacon shaped like an estate car. Pretty Peach was one that I wanted for years and years. Don’t think I got it; had a Tinkerbell perfume instead.

  • Now that’s a blast from the past!

  • Amanda says:


  • Heather says:

    Very happy to learn that this is going to be available. I skimmed an article years ago which referred to similarity of a fragrance to Aqua Manda and despite much Googling could not locate anywhere to purchase. The memories of Christmas gifts of bright orange talc and gritty soap- or am I really getting mixed up here? All I need is a pair of flares and a Bay City Rollers poster.

  • Evie says:

    I too eagerly awaited the relaunch, but having now got hold of a sample am disappointed beyond belief. I am surprised to read here that the new edition ‘smells very like the old one’ as I did not recognise the fragrance at all. To me, this is a sickly sweet weak concoction with none of the spice or mandarin aroma of the original. It really isn’t something I would want to wear and I’m just glad I tried first. At the moment Aqua Manda is on sale at one branch of Debenhams or via the website. I would definitely recommend that anyone contemplating buying should obtain a sample prior to parting with their money for this product.

  • Amanda says:

    thanks for the tip Evie, A

  • Jane says:

    I still have a bottle of the original in my drawer, and it hasn’t gone off !! Love the smell and yes, it takes me back to loons and young love…..

  • Sheila Ricioppo says:

    I too was very disappointed with the smell. I was so excited when I learned that they were trying to reproduce it. Especially when they said they’d had advice from the original makers.
    I was gutted when I tried it. I can still bring back the original aroma in my mind, and desperately want to someone to successfully reproduce it.

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