Under the Boardwalk – Review: Heeley Sel Marin

By Tara

Sel Marin is probably the fragrance that Heeley are best known for. An upscale oceanic scent that contains notes of lemon, bergamot, beech leaf, sea salt, algae, moss, seaweed, vetiver, musk, leather and cedarwood.

It starts off with zesty lemon peel and sea salt, as bright as sunlight and as enlivening as a coastal breeze. For the first hour or so it is a revitalising swim in a secluded rocky bay with not a SPF’ed tourist in sight. It feels like seawater lapping around my sunlit skin.

After about an hour, a clean vetiver drifts in and the mood shifts. We move into the shade under the boardwalk. Algae cling to the huge timber pillars which are repeatedly soaked in saltwater. Green and musty seaweed is strewn across the beach which is scattered with moss covered pebbles. Everything is encrusted with sea salt.

Oftentimes salt notes put my teeth on edge but that doesn’t happen while wearing Sel Marin.

There’s a touch of something which could be the unsettling ozone twang of iodine. That not always pleasant back-note of sea life left behind by the tide. It just adds to the realism and isn’t strong on my skin.

Sel Marin is bone-dry with no sign whatsoever of coconut infused sun lotion. It isn’t the scent of a tropical resort or even a desert island like Heeley’s Coccobello. It’s a rugged seashore in temperate climes, with skies which regularly cloud over and seawater which is murky and briny, not turquoise and crystal clear.


A salty, woody vetiver is not my style, but I admire the way Sel Marin recreates such a vivid scene. I might not always wish to wear fragrances like this, but I admire the way they seek to capture a sense of place with lots of atmosphere. They’re like one of the magical bottles in a tent at The Night Circus:

“He picks up a frosted-glass mason jar and unscrews the silver metal lid. This jar is not empty but contains a small amount of white sand which shifts on the bottom. The scent that wafts from it is the unmistakable smell of the ocean, a bright summer day at the seashore.

He can hear the sound of waves crashing against the sand, the cry of a seagull. There is something mysterious as well, something fantastical. The flag of a pirate ship on the far horizon, a mermaid’s tail flipping out of sight behind a wave. The scent and the feeling are adventurous and exhilarating, with a salty tinge of a sea breeze.

Bailey closes the jar and the scent and the feeling fades, trapped back inside the glass with the handful of sand.”

Extract from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


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27 Responses to Under the Boardwalk – Review: Heeley Sel Marin

  1. Michael says:

    Tara, you make Sel Marin sound amazing. I’ll have to dig out my sample and try it again. From memory I didn’t entirely enjoy the acquatic notes.

    • Tara says:

      From what I’ve read that aspect seems to show up to a different degree on different people, so you may be one of the unlucky ones whose skin amplifies that facet. It was very low-key on me thankfully. Might be worth re-visiting though, just in case. I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

  2. cookie queen says:

    Oh wow. This sounds really interesting, I will be in Vienna tomorrow and will grab myself a spritz or two. I love the extract from the Night Circus. xxx

    • Tara says:

      Whether you like it or not, it is interesting. It makes a change from the usual coconut/tropical beach perfumes.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the extract!

  3. Asali says:

    Even if not your style, you did as always a wonderful job describing the fragrance. it possibly isn’t my thing either, but the mention of the salty mineral feel makes me think I should visit it again. I love the quote, and never heard of the book. Perhaps I should get it?

    • Tara says:

      Thanks, Asali. I think even if you don’t check out the perfume you should definitely check out the book. I love novels with a magical theme anyway but it’s so beautifully written I found it a joy to read.

  4. Vanessa says:

    *Loved* every one of your seaside images! I really want to revisit this scent, as I have been hankering after MH Fleurs de Sel lately, and the new JM Wood Sage & Sea Salt, while pleasant, really wasn’t maritime enough for my taste. And this may turn out to be too much the other way, I sense, but I am still dead curious… I also enjoyed the extract from The Night Circus, which I hadn’t come across before.

    Also…’Oftentimes’? Have you nipped across the pond while my back was turned? 😉

  5. Sandra says:

    Tara you are enticing me too much. I will give it a sniff hopefully tomorrow. Thank you for the lovely review.

  6. poodle says:

    I was testing this one the other night again and you nailed it. It’s definitely not a tropical ocean. It’s more like the beaches I’m used to. I like this perfume but I’m also not sure I want to smell like it.

    • Tara says:

      Thanks, Poodle. That’s nice to hear.

      I agree that it’s well done but not something I’d want to smell of. It’s probably a great reminder if you no longer live near the shore and miss it.

      • Tavogels says:

        I have a bottle of Sel Marin and bought it precisely because I grew up near the water (Long Island, NY) and it vividly reminds me of home (I live in the Midwest now). I normally do not enjoy aquatic scents, but this one doesn’t go over the top for me and the seaweed note (or is it the iodine?) is just so evocative of evenings at the docks and at the low tide shoreline. The low tide reference probably sounds scary to some, but it’s home to me. It’s present, but not in a full on, 95 degree-summer-low-tide kind of way. I’d like to try Profumum Aqua di Sale one day to compare. Thanks for a lovely review!

        • Tara says:

          Thanks so much for your comment Tavolgels.

          I thought that might be the case so it’s lovely to hear Sel Marin does work for you in that way. It’s wonderful and kind of magical when a perfume can vividly conjure up a memorable place for you.

  7. Undina says:

    I remember seeing the bottle at Barneys. But that’s it. Heeley with their 100 ml bottles is one of those uninviting brands for me: there are too many perfumes in the line so I don’t know where to start. But the next time I see it (which might be not too soon – I don’t get to Barneys too often) I’ll give it a try. Not because I need that type of scent but because I like the way you described it.

    • Tara says:

      Thanks, Undina. That’s a really nice compliment considering you’re not interested in the brand or this type of perfume.

      100ml bottles and an overwhelming range are a pain.

  8. Hey there Tara,
    I like salt in my frags especially when there is some sweet/fruit note, it’s like eating melon and prosciutto. Does this compare to Sel de Vetiver by The Different Company?
    Portia x

    • Tara says:

      Hey Portia, good of you to check in during your birthday celebrations!

      I tend to avoid any fragrance with vetiver in the title so sadly I can’t help you with a comparison to Sel de Vetiver. I didn’t think I liked salt notes but it depends on the composition. I particuarly like them in ambers, I’ve found out recently.

      Your salt and sweet/fruity combination sounds good too.

  9. Cybele says:

    Great review! I used to wear this for a while, it is nice, but it didn’t grab me. At the same time I had a sample of L’Eau Neuve by Lubin, which filled a similar gap somehow but I enjoyed it far more than the Heeley.

  10. Lady Jane Grey says:

    I’m happy you’re reviewing another scent by Heeley, Tara – I really like this line, where non of the scents is spectacular, but almost all of them are done excellently and they wear easy and pleasant. In fact I hope you will do more of them (Iris & co. 🙂 ).
    I’m at Kittery, ME right now – it’s like being in a cloud of Sel Marine. I like it here, I like Sel Marine.

    • Tara says:

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the two Heeley reviews, LJG. I think your assessment is spot-on. Nothing earth-shattering but very well done and easy to wear.

      Hope you’re having a lovely time in Kittery (I’m pretty sure this trip is a holiday, right?).

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