Have you ever wanted to bottle a vacation, or an experience, and take it home with you? Unscrew its top, inhale gently and savor the memories that come flooding back?
That’s what the four men who launched Aqua d’Keys exactly one year ago have done with their line of unisex fragrances — eau de parfum, lotions, body wash, bath salts, and candles and diffusers — that are inspired by Florida Keys and embody the fresh, sunny, adventurous and romantic lifestyle of our island chain.
“We really wanted to elevate the typical ‘souvenir,’ by creating a fragrance that reflects this place that people love,” said co-founder Maurizio Nardi, a native of Italy who spent much of his professional life as a dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Co. “The sense of smell is the one that lasts the longest as we age. Our eyesight and hearing decline, but our olfactory memories remain strong throughout our lives.”
The practice of carrying memories through scent dates back centuries, Nardi said, adding that Cleopatra used to perfume the air in front of her with her signature scented oils to let people know she was arriving — or that she had been there.
The foursome initially intended to develop a single scent called “Zero” in honor of Mile Marker 0 “and to symbolize the start of our own journey here in the Keys.”
But that idea evolved into six signature scents, named for various regions of the Keys — West, Marquesas, Islamorada, Tortugas, Summerland and Largo.
And before you start thinking that they all smell like some coconut-infused suntan oil, think again.
“We use a lot of citrus-based scents and ingredients, along with florals, including jasmine, lemon verbena, lilies and other botanicals,” Nardi said. “We collaborated with a perfume maker that customized and created the scents specifically for us. So these aren’t existing fragrances that we just slapped our label on. These are scents that allow people to take a piece of their Florida Keys experience with them when they leave.”
The eau de parfums are available in 3.4-ounce and 1.7-ounce bottles, although one of Aqua d’Keys’ bestsellers is the sample pack of all six scents in small, purse-size spray bottles.
“This way you don’t have to select a single fragrance for someone else, as that’s a very personal choice,” Nardi said, adding that the company’s three-wicked candles, wax melts and home scents are intentionally milder “so as not to drench a room in perfume, but rather elevate it with light, crisp scents.”
Nardi and his husband, Todd Bankhead, live on the water on Sugarloaf Key while their business partners, Dominik Zimmerli and Ron Hebert, live on Cudjoe Key.
“Even though our two shops are on Duval Street and inside The Shops at Mallory Square, we’re absolutely a local business with local owners who are a part of this community that we love,” Nardi said on a recent Monday morning inside the crisp and sparkling shop at 1075 Duval St. “We live here in the Keys. We love going out on the boat or kayak. Spending a day at the pool or beach. Having drinks on a porch overlooking the water. Going out to a gorgeous waterfront dinner. And walking through Old Town at night, and catching a hint of night-blooming jasmine wafting from someone’s yard. We wanted to recreate those experiences in the form of memories in a bottle that will always remind people of the Florida Keys. Each scent is designed to recall that special feeling, that calming sublime vibe, of memories made.”
And the shop itself is a memorable experience.
Drenched in a rich aqua color that’s more green that Tiffany & Co. blue, the colors of the shop — and everything in it — mirror the magic of our blue-green intersection of water that surrounds the Keys.
“Everything in here is meant to reflect the way we want to live in the Keys,” Nardi said.
And to help shoppers partake in the actual Keys experiences they’ll want to remember, Aqua d’Keys also offers deliciously thick beach towels, lightweight scarves, sarongs, hats and fishing shirts as well as canvas beach bags and carry-on duffel bags.
Custom gift boxes can be assembled to include one or more scents, along with the eau de parfum, candles, body washes and other items. Visit aquadkeys.com for more information and online shopping. And stop by the shop at 1075 Duval St. on Sunday, July 2 for a champagne toast and 25% off to celebrate the company’s one-year anniversary.