vendredi 20 janvier 2017

My Top 10 for the Winter of 2017: Scents of comfort and fortitude

Perfume feels like a very frivolous topic to address on this particular day, given the obscenity of what is unfolding in Washington as this post goes up.

Yet… Our focus on scent is less trivial than it seems. Smell is a sense that people mostly use to detect and reject -- food that’s gone bad, but also the cooking of others, the smells of others. As perfume lovers, we’re able to go beyond that gut-level, “this isn’t me/us” rejection. Not just because of our fabled fascination for skank, but because we’ve learned to embrace notes we didn’t care about initially. We’re willing to approach them, spend time with them, “see” them differently. Go past our prejudices. Find out more.

This openness, this willingness to engage with otherness through the most intimate of our senses (along with taste) could stand as a metaphor for the open-mindedness we need to counter the rancid stench of toxic masculinity that is creeping over our poor planet. We also need the curiosity and love of knowledge that yielded the teeming culture we’ve created around perfume. Disregard for facts starts with the B.S. we get fed to make us buy stuff. It ends in post-truth.

In the short, cold days of winter, we crave warmth, comfort and light. Today more than ever. So here’s a mix of the new and old, to fight the cold and help us stand up. Scents of comfort and fortitude. As our dear departed Leonard Cohen sang in Anthem: “There’s a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.”

Monday January 23rd
Just adding this whiff of the Women's March, from a piece by Laurie Penny:

"Inauguration Day stank of limp rage and lukewarm hotdogs, lost-looking people shivering in American flags, the crowd too thin to keep each other warm. The Women’s March smelled of paint and glue and, not unpleasantly, of lots of nice ladies sweating lightly under sensible knitwear, realizing that they have more power in numbers than they ever guessed."  

Little Bianca (Mizensir)
Smells don’t cheat, little Bianca. They speak to the heart, in a language that always tells the truth”, writes Alberto Morillas in the press release for Little Bianca, the rose cologne he composed for his granddaughter. A simple, luminous scent that brings together “everything I love, simple, beautiful scents so you’ll recognize what is true and essential”. This includes Paradisone, a gorgeous upgrade of hedione, which smells like the souls of all the white flowers that died for us and went to heaven. But the main ingredient is love.

Cologne pour le Soir (Maison Francis Kurkdjian)
Often neglected in favor of its more outrageous variation Absolue pour le soir, this powdery, honeyed, incense-infused scent is as softly comforting as its inspiration, the benzoin-based Papier d’Arménie.

Ambre Éternel (Guerlain)
Despite its name, this isn’t the creamy vanilla and cistus blend called “amber” in perfumery, but a gauzy aura of frosty, carroty iris layered over incense-infused orange blossom. A touch of sweet smokiness lingers like the faint memory of a log fire on a woolen scarf.

Close Up (Olfactive Studio)
Perfumery’s Riot Grrrl Annick Menardo finds the sweet spot connecting amber, cherry and tobacco on the toffee-to-coffee continuum. Anise and green coffee provide the link with the licorice-y tonka. Caramel-smooth, toasty, incredibly long-lasting and unexpectedly tough.

Oeillet Bengale (Aedes de Venustas)
The pepper-sparked, incense-fuelled carnation explosion set off by Rodrigo Flores Roux has been a winter mainstay of mine since it came out. I’d warm myself up with the Mexican firebrand at the Women’s March if I were in Washington tomorrow…

Blackpepper (Comme des Garçons)
As a (symbolic) antidote to pepper spray: after the initial blast of the titular ingredient, Antoine Maisondieu’s dark blend unfolds into a marquetry of faux noirs ranging from the dark-chocolate smoothness of tonka to the matte amber of clary sage, by way of flint, dust, leather and tar. 

Encre Noire (Lalique)
Vetiver is the most vertical ingredient I know: the very definition of an olfactory backbone. Deftly faceted by Nathalie Lorson, Encre Noire brings out glints of flint and bitter chocolate. 

Cuir de Russie (Chanel)
Remember that scene at the end of Casablanca? Captain Renault (Claude Rains) bins a bottle of Vichy water, ditching the collaborationist French government (then based in the spa town of Vichy) to go over to the Resistance with Rick. Given the current circumstances, the scene popped into my mind as I reached for Chanel’s classic… But I’m hanging on to the EDT version I bought days after Obama was first elected. The new EDP version, while lovely, tones down the cool sheen of aldehydes and that slight stable-y funk, while amping up the musks. In either version, this olfactory emblem of women’s emancipation in the 20s is still pretty badass.

 N°19 (Chanel)
To remember that spring does come back, eventually. Because I need a scent with a backbone. A scent that is irrefutable. I’ve got a couple of vintage bottles in the fridge, along with a recent-ish extrait that’s still glorious.

Aromatics Elixir (Clinique)
I recently caught a patchouli-laden whiff of this in an office and thought: this classic American fragrance is unimpeachable

For more seasonal round-ups, see the usual suspects:

The picture above was taken by me in Montreal.

18 commentaires:

  1. Tee hee - Elixir unimpeachable! Unlike a certain other ..... Thanks for making me smile on this dark day.

  2. What can I say? I'm not big on escapism -- people had a whale of a time in the cabarets of the Weimar Republic in Germany in the 30s, and look where that got them. But we need to turn to things that are beautiful and true (and humor) to make it through.

  3. Thank you for writing this. As democracy in my country (Brazil) is falling apart in the hands of white rich men as well, I've had the same thoughts: first that perfume might be too frivolous a subject for now, and then that perfumistas constitute an international community that fosters peace and cosmopolitism, something not to be under estimated in these dark times. So I' wearing Nez à Nez Marron Chic to get this spine straight and reading Angela Davis as I sip some truly strong coffee. Winter is coming, but love and humanist values will prevail. (Btw, have you read Chantal Jaquet's Philosophie de l'odeur? It's outstanding.) Xoxo

    1. I'm glad this finds an echo with you. I've only been once to Brazil (to interview eco-warrior artist and anti-Nazi fighter Franz Kracjberg), but I've been following the events there in dismay. And, yes, I have read Jaquet. Slowly but surely, my shelf of academic studies on perfume is building up!

  4. Amazing list!
    Thanks for riding this, its like you took the words right out of my mouth when it comes to the state of the world today. Have a fragrant day ahead!

  5. Here in the States on inauguration day I'm wearing Back to Black and am dressing accordingly. If I had any La Fin du Monde I'd be tempted to wear that. However, tomorrow I will be wearing Luctor et Emergo, wearing my pink pussycat and demonstrating for truth and justice with my family, friends and hundreds of thousands of others. I suspect that I will be making a lot of use of your excellent list in the coming months, as well as some Jasmin et Cigarette which for me is greatly reminiscent of what I smelled at demonstrations back in the 1960's and 1970's. Who would think after all these years and so much progress that we would have to be marching again? Your message and your photo are spot on.

    1. Kathryn, in my heart I'll be marching with you... Over the past few years, I've been getting angrier over that wave of petty rancid rancor that's been pushing back tolerance and sanity. I suspect here in France we'll be out marching too -- hopefully before the worst happens.

  6. Great post for this winter of our discontent... hoping France fares better in her elections than the US did. I am really looking forward to sniffing Close Up. Cologne pour le Soir is a favourite of mine too.

    1. I hope so too. And, yes, I do think you might like Close Up -- it's quite a sillage monster too, and with the half-life of plutonium, but very deftly done.

  7. Denyse, thank you for your wit and your list. I needed it tremendously today, and maybe the next four years. I had to get out my black cylinder of 70's First.

    1. Alanna, my 70s First is long gone -- along, it seems, with all the promises that decade made. I'm happy this post helped a little. We're going to need a lot of comfort and fortitude in the years to come, if we're going to resist and push back!

  8. I like several of these and need to try the others on your list. In general, I've been wearing Jacomo Parfum Rare Coeur de Parfum often this winter.

    I wore L'AP Fleur d'Oranger 2007 to the Women's March yesterday. I'm not sure what was more heartening: seeing the endless river of people pouring into the Mall in DC to stand up for human rights, or learning about the sister marches all over the world. You're so right about the conjunction between openness, curiosity, truth, beauty, and, I think, justice. nozknoz

    1. Nozknoz, you're right about justice... You know, I was just thinking about all these Hollywood movies where the hero is a loner fighting against the establishment trying to stifle the truth (or in cahoots with the bad guys). The poor deluded f***wits embracing "alternate truths" are just following that narrative...
      I too followed the demonstrations worldwide, and was heartened to see that *ocean* of shocking pink pussyhats. There needs to be a follow-up, and it needs to be worldwide. But just going out there and being together has made is feel stronger.

  9. I enjoyed your winter top 10, and I'm reminded that Cologne pour le Soir is on my list of scents I must try someday. And thank you for th elink to Laurie Penny's article. I needed to read those words right now.

    1. Tiffanie, I'm glad you enjoyed it. We need every bit of comfort and beauty to give us strength to #resist.

  10. There are some stinks to which one shall never get used.