Calorification or…All buttered up and no pain to go!


- a review of Serge Lutens’ Jeux de Peau

In an ideal world, there would be no such emotion as…guilt. And no such thing as calories, either. Just run with that thought for a moment…Fancy all the chocolate you could possibly eat, and you would never see it on your thighs. Fancy every sinful thing to stuff in your mouth…every dessert, every bit of patisserie item, every napoleon, every Sacher torte and cheesecake and whipped-cream indulgence you can find room for – and it would never, ever show! No frantic calculations on the treadmill, no panting, gasping, red-faced run up That Hill And That Vertical Stairway– the one that nearly kills you, it’s so steep – as you pay your penance for indulging all your lowest sugar-laden cravings the day before.

What a concept! What a world! As we all know and only too well, that’s just not how it happens, alas.

Or is it? Because now the Great Punster himself, Serge Lutens, has unleashed ‘Jeux de Peau” upon a suspicious-minded perfumed planet, and because I strongly suspect an imp hiding in that elegant French gentleman, I rather suspect the joke is on…us!

We Who Would Dare To Indulge…If Only.

‘Jeux de Peau’ is itself a pun…a ‘play on skin’ that is a play on the French expression ‘jeux de mots’ – a play on words. In other words…a pun. When my sample arrived, it also arrived with an elegant beige and black card, and the enigmatic quote:

“A first response to solitude: hot bread.”

I’ve done my penitence in a bakery – literally – and during one of the hottest summers on record, so I know a thing or two about “hot bread”. I know about things like the acrid scent of fresh-milled flour and the smell of sugar burned borderline black, and pastries pulled out of ovens not two minutes before, oozing their buttery, flaky secrets, singing in their cinnamon-perfumed soprano voices:

“Eat us. You know you want to!”

So…is this pastry in a bottle? All the indulgence and none of the calories, less of the guilt? Toast or pain perdu on a solitary bed on a Sunday morning when you finally kicked him out and you’re left alone in splendid bliss to crunch toast all over the bed as you read the Sunday papers and drip jam and butter on the duvet?

No.

Remember, Monsieur Lutens loves his puns. This was very much not what I expected, but quite a bit more.

Right out of the bottle, that burnt note leaps forward, the genie in the bottle, and it is dark and it is gorgeous and when was the last time I ate toast, even? Burnt, buttery…and smoky sandalwood, and I can’t believe it, but is that coffee?
Yes. With loads of sugar, or is that caramel? It is! Burnt, sandalwood, caramel, coffee and I’m thinking this is a very sexy breakfast (he wasn’t kicked out!), and then comes the moment I have to laugh. Laugh at my overheated imagination, and laugh at this perfume, and that doesn’t happen often!

On stealthy feet, a luscious, sweet, cinnamon-tinged osmanthus exudes its honeyed apricot and begins to bloom. It grows lusher and sweeter, the epitome of Apricot, before it cedes center stage after a long while to the sandalwood – hello, lover, where have you been? – and cinnamon drydown, a touch of musk and maybe myrrh that lasts and lasts. And lasts. This is a Lutens, after all.

Whee! What a rush! And that’s just breakfast, baby!

Not very overpowering or even particularly sweet, ‘Jeux de Peau’ has dessert in its soul, but not in its heart. It’s the whole breakfast tray and that devastating sandalwood too, and therein lies yet another pun on the name itself. ‘A Play On Skin’.

It will take days to wipe this lascivious grin off my face. Days, I tell you!

This is a gourmand, an Oriental gourmand, but it is not your usual gourmand. It is unexpected, unisex, elegant, and like so many Serge Lutens creations, a journey, a story, a vignette or tableau in a bottle.

I was expecting the boulangerie. Instead, I got the morning after. With a laughing osmanthus thrown in.

Uncle Serge did not let me down. And although I know the joke is all on me (and the duvet, and the breakfast tray, and…), I forgive him everything!

Think about it – how many puns have you met contained in bottles? ;)

Serendipity


On the many strange occurrences that can happen in one day – or a few more than one!

I have learned over the course of a few years and more experience than I even want to remember not to expect too much from Mondays. Mondays are supposedly the days for New Beginnings, fresh starts, new opportunities to create, to do, to go.

I’ve learned better. Mondays, so my reasoning goes, are the days where I can look at a long and endless desert of days before that TGIF moment early Friday morning – that no matter what transpires today, it’s Friday, so how bad can it be?

Today was, all things being equal, not that kind of Monday. Today was a Monday – a humdrum, gray, overcast day, the last in the month of February, that completely blew me away.

Today, I sat down with a professional in my field for a discussion on What To Do With Tarleisio. We went through my online portfolio, discussed a few changes to implement here and there, and she critiqued a few items – good, bad, and spectacular.

The good news is – it’s fabulously not bad! The bad news is…I should be doing something else entirely. And she had some most excellent ideas about that, too. Starting with…

My passion for perfume, my passion for writing, and my passion for this blog.

It just so happens I’m a born communicator. I was fired up today, fired up about possibilities and things that could happen, feeling that breathless kind of ease that comes with being with someone who knows what you’re talking about. I think it helped too I was wearing a heady cloud of Incense Extrème, just in case I needed my stainless steel armor, and that she liked it very much indeed.

We spent quite a bit of time discussing this blog, discussing how it has evolved from my little tongue-in-cheek joke to something that amazes me every single day. I now have nineteen followers. Nineteen is not a huge number, but consider this…a recent study showed over one billion blogs in existence. The vast majority of those die an unnoted death after a while when those bloggers give up the ghost and the thrill of…writing for an audience of one. Of those left – about 1.5 million are updated more than once a month. This includes yours truly. Which means, put another way, that roughly one out of a thousand – give or take my craptacular math – blogs make it through their “audience of one” phase and on to gain a regular readership. Not a few of those are commercially marketed, with clickable ads and so on.

Not this one. I had not one reader when I started. A very loyal, steadfast friend became my first. I commented on other blogs, kept posting as often as I could, kept commenting. I promoted it on Facebook. I began a correspondence with several regulars and have made a point of replying to every comment I get. I gained more followers. And so it went…Along the way, I suspect I turned not a few of you on to Doc Elly, an independent perfumer so far under the radar – and far lower than she certainly deserves with that kind of talent – almost no one had heard of her. I think a few have by now, and I just know even more will!

If something’s good, if something catches my fancy and fires my imagination, if you give me an eighth of an inch, I will happily run with it and shout it from the virtual rooftops of my own imagination:

“Listen up, people! This is great! This is amazing!”

In whatever way I can.

As Ines of All I Am A Redhead reminded me on her own blog today, and Suzanne of Suzanne’s Perfume Journal did even more, quite possibly the best thing to happen was the faith I’ve had restored in…humanity in general. Perfumistas, perfumoholics, whatever you choose to call us – are some of the greatest people on Planet Earth. We anticipate the arrival of the mailman much more than we ever did before the Perfume Bug bit us where it hurt. We are introduced to worlds, horizons, places and experiences we would never know if not for perfume. We can rant, rave and commiserate over the state of the perfumosphere and the pretentions of marketing. And above all else, we can share our common passion with a vengeance – and connect with those out there, just like us.

For making that possible, for restoring my own faith in humanity, for reading and commenting and commenting back on my own sometimes inane comments, for accepting me as one of your own and asking about me when I was hit by the flu recently – I can thank you the only way I know. Through this blog, that tried to communicate the principle of “share the love”

Because we do, because we love what we do, because we breathe and sniff and exude and share, magic happens. Opportunities arise, the kind of opportunities some among us – that would be me – could never have begun to imagine on a July night during an attack of the “wtf…I’ll create a perfume blog!”

The kind of opportunity that can strike, at any time, at any place, and even on a Monday. Watch this space! I’ll keep you posted!

Image: “Serendipity” by Josephine Wall, 2007.

Devilscent – the Tauer edition


a review of Andy Tauer’s “Incense Extrème”

Imagine – a film noir Friday night in November, with rain-slick streets full of people out for a good time, the kind of Friday night you just know something will happen. You can taste the possibilities in the air.

Imagine a woman – not old, not young, disillusioned with her life and all the hopes she has been forced to leave behind her, sitting in a near-deserted blues café in Copenhagen over a glass of mulled wine near midnight, thinking about the one-knight stand she just left. She’s also thinking about the one thing that gives her any hope for a future of her choosing, thinking about making that hope a reality. But if she knows anything, she knows the deck is stacked against her. She’s too old, too jaded, too guarded against the vicissitudes of life to really, truly believe in that one, last hope.

Which is when the Devil arrives to make a deal, to make her dream come true. He doesn’t show up with horns and hooves in a cloud of sulphur and brimstone, he doesn’t look anything like those stereotypical monster images of ‘The Devil’. Instead, he’s dangerous bait – a dead ringer for one of her own favorite erotic fantasies, and even so, she knows…he’s the Devil. How does she know?

She can smell it.

The Devil, you see, emanates a scent. And the woman in that Copenhagen café is a diehard perfumoholic, so she knows to take that scent apart. There’s frankincense in it and labdanum, something dark and bitter, something highly erotic and very, very dangerous.

The perfect recipe for trouble!

When I wrote a nothing little short story called “Midnight at the Crossroads Café” some time ago, it happened by ghostly dictation. I sat down in front of my laptop with an itch to write, inspired by a picture that really got my motor running – and wrote. I didn’t think, didn’t analyze, didn’t weigh my words at all. Somewhere along the line in the two hours it took to write it, the Devil’s scent arrived and never left, weaving the seductive trail of its character in and out of the storyline that followed just as other perfumes did, because that’s the kind of woman the protagonist is and that’s the kind of woman I am, too.

I’ve been hunting for that scent ever since. In that quest, I came across Andy Tauer’s “Incense Extrème”. One of the ultimate incense scents along with the Comme des Garçons line, so the story went, and it went on the shortlist of Things To Try.

On a trip to Copenhagen, I drove my sister nuts by hauling her to a shop and proceeding to try out the Comme des Garçons incenses – Avignon, Zagorsk and Kyoto. I liked all of them, but they were too…orthodox in their approach, too literal in their interpretation. They are all exceptional incenses in each their own ways, but no Devil resides in those bottles, no intimations of taboo drip from those liturgical nozzles of sanctity.

Incense Extrème shares the same evocative sense of sacred space with its three cousins, but I’m delighted to say there’s nothing in the slightest liturgical about it.

In this cynical age, we’re all too likely to forget that for our ancestors, incense was what divinity…smelled like.

With that first, potent spray, Incense Extrème takes you…there. Not beneath the soaring Gothic arches of some venerable cathedral, but there, far out in the desert beneath the light of a million stars, the sands whispering their nocturnal secrets as an old, spiky Boswellia bleeds its fragrant tears.

This is no shy, retiring incense that flirts and hints before it retreats, yet neither does it bludgeon you with dogma as the CdG’s are apt to do.

Like the tree that is its focus, Incense Extrème is timeless. The cedar and juniper, the coriander and a suggestion of petitgrain leap out of the bottle shocking you awake and aware. Orris is listed as one of the notes, but if that’s true, this is no relation to any other orris I’ve been privileged to meet. No carroty, buttery iris, no suggestion of anything the slightest bit floral. Instead, that radioactive cedar/juniper blend evolves from an aria at the beginning to a low, vibrant thrum, underpinned by a bitter, smoky labdanum and ambergris that keeps the incense floating and weaving throughout the top notes all the way to the far drydown that doesn’t arrive until a good six to eight hours later.

It is linear but not boring, dry as a desert wind, and thanks to that cedar and juniper, the brittle green-brown of desert sage. Very contemplative and serene, in fact I’ll go so far as to say this is my kind of chill pill. Wearing Incense Extréme, I can handle nearly anything life might throw my way.

Yet it is not the Devil’s scent. It’s very clean, very refined, very…civilized. With a touch of animal, slightly less cedar and more labdanum, a faint but distinct whiff of, well, goat, it could have been.

I don’t care. For the days when I need stainless steel armor for protection, for an evening I need serenity, for the nights I need to focus, I need Incense Extrème.

Yesterday, if I can get it!

Notes according to Basenotes:
Orris, cedar, Indian frankincense, ambergris, myrrh, labdanum, coriander, cumin, lavender

Don’t Panic!


Ladies, Gents, Earthlings and Entities –
I’ve had a…HELLISH week. That’ll teach me to review Robert Piguet’s “Bandit” on a Monday. ;-)

When I haven’t been pounding the pavement this week in search of a better – and better-paid – job in this recession to finance my expensive (perfume) habits, another monumental headache in the shape of Quantum Demonology has been giving me the world’s worst case of writer’s block at a crucial expository point in my story, right when I just know I can wrestle it into a shape suitable for submission.

Thanks to Karen Blixen’s ‘Seven Gothic Tales‘, I think I’ve cracked the block, and I’ve cracked a few sidewalks, too. A two-letter media phenomenon will be talking to yours truly next week. As they say, it’s a start…

Meanwhile, here are a few coming attractions:

Serge Lutens’ Jeux de Peau arrived today, and I can’t wait to review it! This should be a goodie…hot bread? Really? Or is Uncle Serge buttering us up?

A candidate arrived in my eternal quest for The Devil’s scent…and it’s no El Presidente, but is it a cigar?

There are tigers, and there are Tiggers. I found a Tigger in bottled form. Does it bounce? You think?

Ladies who lunch wear ladylike perfumes. This one is positively refined and suitable for dinner, too. And dinners for two.

It was the kind of story that launched a legend and a thousand ships. Will it float my boat, too?

He was a poet with a passion – and with a passion for perfume. The kind that could be bottled, maybe?

Scents of place or a sense of place? The fun isn’t over with Doc Elly and Olympic Orchids, and where there are fumes, there are words – and worse – to describe them!

In the meantime, the ghost of the Baroness came to call, and you don’t mess with the ghost of the Baroness…so that’s what I have to get out of the way..first!

I shall miss you while I’m gone. And if you can’t be good, be careful! ;-)

Image: www.organic-ally.co.uk

Wicked Pussycat


Once upon a time, I was the sort of woman who had…adventures, shall we say. They did not involve anything so daring as climbing Mount Everest, white-water rafting in Brazil or rappelling off sheer cliff faces straight into the Atlantic, but they were sometimes very nearly as dangerous! There are many ways to have adventures, as I’m sure you know! Since I had a background in the netherworld, it would follow that my adventures were of a more cerebral and, well…netherwordly kind.

In the course of those adventures, a friend gifted me with a bottle of perfume suitable for that kind of adventure. It was nothing available in Copenhagen, nothing I had come across before, and it was – perfect. Perfect for the headspace that came with it, perfect for the part I had to dress for this kind of adventure, cerebral, complex, complicated – just plain…perfect.

That was Robert Piguet’s “Bandit”, and there was, in those heady, single days of living dangerously in the early Nineties, no perfume more perfect for dotting the is and crossing the ts of donning the whole domme mindset, the final accessory to the leather, the six-inch spikes and fishnets, the occasional latex outfit that involved things like extra help and a serious dose of unscented baby powder. It was leathery but not entirely, it was ashy yet not completely, it was strange and rubbery and compelling in a way not many perfumes had the ovaries to be in those days, and not many women had the ovaries to wear it.

Wearing “Bandit”, I became a completely different woman. Not my Pollyanna usual self, not my other absent-minded self, but this other…woman, who liked the dark and the darkly erotic, who liked to push buttons, take control and walk on the wild side and see where it would take her – often into territory a good deal more dangerous and thrilling than any sheer cliff face by the Atlantic.

Oh, yes.

Somewhere along the line, I gave “Bandit” away to a girlfriend who would appreciate its take-no-prisoners qualities, who could carry it off with aplomb and èlan, and life got in the way, as it sometimes does.

Lo and behold, these many years later, “Bandit” arrived in a sample set from First in Fragrance, and lo and behold, it is not ruined by reformulation.

There is something about certain green, galbanum-laden chypres that appeal in a good many ways to my inner fearless female – the one who never takes no for an answer, the one who is in perfect control of every situation, the one who always knows what to say, what to wear, and what to do once the door closes and there’s no turning back, he’s toast and he knows it and he wouldn’t want it any other way. Tomorrow, he’ll be breakfast, and he knows that, too!

My inner bitch, my inner domme, l-o-v-e-s chypres. Dee of Beauty on the Outside talks about another chypre that brings out her inner Maleficent, and I’m sure it’s glorious on her. Me – I’ll happily take Bandit. For the memories, for the sheer, compelling, complex strangeness of it, and for being created by Germaine Cellier – who surely put the B in Butch, Bitch and Bandit and not by accident.

Right out of the bottle, it has that smoky, dirty-ashtray vibe that should be utterly repellant, and yet is not. Bandit is not just smokin’, she smokes, too. So? You have a problem with that? Then you might have a problem with the rubbery, green facets of Bandit as well, and with the leather, because of course, Bandit is into leather…big time. Not exactly an overdose so much as just enough to unhinge you and unnerve you, the violet notes just soft enough to whisper in that low, sexy smoker’s voice. Bandit never raises her voice. She doesn’t have to. She walks into the room and you will automatically sit up straighter, pay very close attention and only just refrain from mentally pulling up your socks. Shut up. Did she give you permission to have an opinion, too?

I get the floral aspects, but Bandit is so dry teetering on bitter that it’s hard to tease out the flowers from the floorshow. They soften the leathery, ashy edges all the way through the drydown, still all about glove-soft black leather, warm above some very dangerous curves suggested by a touch of vetiver, myrrh and what smells like oakmoss. Can it be? Oakmoss? In this day and age? I don’t know how it can possibly be much else.

The reformulated eau de parfum, which is what I tested, is softer and not quite so butch as the original I remember. I seem to recall something nearly feral, but since my memories of Bandit are tied up, literally, with other memories, I could be wrong!

What I do know is this – holy (dead) COW, this is sexy. It plays in a slightly lower key than it used to, and that’s not a bad thing. I wore this to the office today (OMG, yes I did!), just to gauge the reactions I got, and Bandit is my new favorite chypre. The response was very gratifying. Those poor guys will have their heads spinning the rest of this week! It’s not quite so obvious as it used to be, and I don’t mind. I’m at the age where I don’t like to give too much away at the outset…;) First you have to lure them in…

So, as Bandit ‘walks her catgirls on leashes in leather’, to paraphrase one slightly cheesy video that captures its vibe perfectly, I do hereby solemnly declare…Bandit will very likely be one of my next two full-bottle purchases. It’s that good!

Because sometimes, I want to be that kind of woman, just for the thrill. Because I like those boots. And because…a little danger never hurt…too much! ;-)

Robert Piguet “Bandit” is available at many online retailers and sometimes at perfume discounters, too.

The Courtesan, the Conjuror and the Cynic


– a review (and a tale) of Amouage “Ubar”

She would always come to his shop on the perfumer’s row in the late afternoon, when the worst heat of the day had dissipated to a shimmering golden haze above the streets and the ships in the harbor, when every sensation, every sound and every scent seemed to linger just a little longer than usual, when fine black lines delineated the shapes around the tools of his trade – the mortars, the oils and flasks and jars, the smaller boxes that held his secret treasures; resins and woods, precious myrrh and the white-gold tears of frankincense he hoarded and kept only for those trusted customers who paid promptly and in cash.

Like most everyone here in Alexandria, she obviously came from somewhere else. Her name he never learned, although he knew enough to see her for what she was, with her expensive shawls, the gleaming silks and linens dyed deep and vibrant colors, all the better to set off her remarkable amber-gold hair and that pale, milky skin that told tales of another, colder climate on the far northern edge of the sunlit world he knew.

She came accompanied only by a girl, so like her she could only be her daughter, and in all the many months he spent with her, the daughter would simply sit with a bit of embroidery in her lap listening, or else observing every item close by, the tiny cauldrons bubbling over the fire, his chopping boards and knives, the flower essences and bunches of herbs hanging in profusion on the walls, so heady in the summer heat customers had been known to grow dizzy and faint.

“I have an assignment for you,” the woman said that first afternoon. “I want you to make me a perfume. I will pay you well.” A fat and heavy purse of coins clanked on his counter top. “Consider this an advance.” She stood back and assessed him, as if to judge whether this were a task he were worthy of.

“Lady, I have many perfumes in my shop…the Susinon of one thousand lilies that Cleopatra herself perfumed her sails with these two hundred years ago, the Megaleion, I have the finest items from Callimarchos’ shop in Athens, I have Panathenaean, I have Royal Parthian perfumes, even, straight from the courts of the Parthian king…”

She did not let him finish. “No.” Such finality, such determination in that small and simple word. “I said,” she lifted an elegant hand and the gold of her bangles gleamed and flashed in an errant sunbeam from the door. “I want you to make me a perfume. For me. Not to sell to your customers or to smell on the whores in the harbor brothels…” her nose wrinkled in fastidious distaste. “A perfume just for me.”

“Then, dear lady, I shall need to know something of you first. What scents you like and dislike, where you might be challenged,, and what…”

Again, she did not let him finish. “I will come to your shop in the afternoons and tell you…stories. And when I am done, you will make a perfume just for me.” She inclined her head, and the pale and silent girl preceded her out into the street, already bustling after the afternoon’s siesta.
For years after, he would remember how he had stood that moment, transfixed in the sunbeams off the floor, wondering where to start. A perfume, just for her.

True to her word, she would come in the afternoons and tell of her adventures, of dancing for the Emperor at his palace in Rome so far away, of sunlit mornings on a rose-covered terrace in Rhodes, of the dust and heat of a faraway fabled city that grew rich off the trade in frankincense and the long and perilous journey she had undertaken once to India with a merchant who could not bear to be without her company. She told of the unexpected pleasure of finding patches of those tiny, bell-shaped flowers that she loved on cool, misty mornings in a shady forest. She told him of heartbreak and unexpected joy, tragedy and laughter, all the pains and pleasures of a life lived to the fullest extent of all her many passions.

For almost a year he toiled with her perfume, conjuring the memory of her life in his essences and oils, the animal hints of sensuality, the flowers and the fruity bite of the lemons that grew in his secret garden in the Delta. He chopped and brewed, he macerated and stored and applied every trick of this ancient land that he knew. He tried to capture the jeweled gleam of her hair, a double-spiraled errant curl at the base of her neck, the glint of a rosy ruby in a comb, the flash of wit he saw in her eyes. No question but she knew to enchant, and as she enthralled him with her stories, he enchanted the brew in his cauldron, committing the formula to memory and a secret, buried scroll.

Until the day came when he was done, and could do no more. He dreaded her visit, knowing he would now never see her again, or her silent, smiling daughter. He had been paid handsomely for his toil, and yet no payment was enough for the simple song of her voice, a silver tinkle of laughter as she remembered a detail, a place or a caress. This creation was his masterpiece. There was nothing throughout the Empire or far beyond even remotely like it.

“It is finished,” he forced himself to say when she came that afternoon. “There is nothing more I can do, nothing more I can add.”

She pulled at the stopper and inhaled deeply. Her eyes closed and for an instant, she seemed to swoon on her feet. Then, in a sudden shocking movement, she unfastened a brooch on her shoulder and pricked a fingertip. Two crimson drops, a dark, rosy red against the pallor of her skin, glistened in a sunbeam before they vanished into the vial.

“Now,” she said with that same stubborn finality he had heard that first afternoon, “now it is finished.” As she said the words, she fell to the floor as if she had fainted, and her daughter grabbed her and held her. She was dead.

He was speechless. “One thing only she left me,” her daughter said after a while. She took the golden vial from her mother and lifted it up. “She left me this.”

It was his masterpiece, his perfume, the memory of this storyteller in a bottle.

Down through the centuries swirled the memory of that woman and that perfume, through her daughter and her many descendants after her, until a damp and foggy day in a town on the edge of the old world found it again, the world the perfumer had known so many centuries ago.

This long-descended daughter was also a storyteller. In the warp and weft of her tales, she twisted yarns and fables, passions and music, and sometimes her memories of scents and sensations. She was convinced she had heard it all and tried it all, she had broken hearts on two continents and many countries, and there was little left to surprise her, not much to take her breath, her speech or even her words away.

Until a tiny bottle was opened, a tiny spray applied to her skin, and a ruby drop of blood-red rose, of a lemon grove in the Delta and a bouquet of lily-of-the-valley, of a memory of a woman and a life well-lived and well loved, a woman like herself, wrenched at her heart and made her cry that such a surfeit of beauty could exist and such powerful emotions could be felt.

Even by the cynic she thought she was.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Notes: Bergamot, lemon, lily-of-the-valley, rose Damascena, jasmine, civet, vanilla.

Amouage Ubar can be bought in many locations, including Luckyscent and First In Fragrance and Alla Violetta Boutique, although you might be required to take out a second mortgage on your house, take a second job or pawn your children if all else fails. Trust me, I’m thinking about it.

Image: Sir Frederik Leighton, Solitude (1901)

A Dream that Time Forgot


-a review of Olympic Orchid’s “Siam Proun”

There is something in the term “Oriental” that tickles the imagination, a sense of ancient history and timelessness. In perfume, an oriental denotes something spicy and opulent, a dream of far-away lands and old, sensuous secrets hiding within the depths of a perfume bottle, something ever-so-slightly decadent, even a touch forbidden, which only makes it that much more alluring.

My own relationship with the oriental category has not always been an easy one. With the exception of Lancôme’s “Magie Noire”, I’ve tended to avoid them. I just wasn’t sure I was that kind of woman, or else just woman enough to add that potent weapon to my arsenal. So over the course of my life I gravitated toward other categories, the greens and chypres and verdant florals I still love to this day.

Caught in the all-pervasive miasma of a dismal winter and the blahs that follow, I decided a few days ago to do something about it, and set about rearranging my bookcases. In the course of doing just that, I came across a dream journal I kept ten years ago.

In the dream, I stood at a gatehouse at Angkor Wat, that recapturing of creation laid out in Khmer stone, both ruin and reality. Until the next moment, it wasn’t, and it lay before me, still standing in that gatehouse, not as it is now, a tourist attraction and World Heritage site, but as it was during, say, the reign of Jayavarman VII, surrounded by priests and officials and courtiers, and the Mount Meru in stone I saw before me was opening up to me, some test I had passed, some deed I had done had gained me access to this place both sacred and profound. Needless to say, as I walked on flower-garlanded feet down that processional path lit by torches, I woke up…

But the dream remained and refused to budge, so I wrote it down and forgot about it, only to be reminded the instant I opened my tiny vial of Olympic Orchids’Siam Proun”…

Siam Proun is an Oriental in the true sense of the word – a mystery wrapped in the fragrant secrets of spice and incense. It’s at once both contemplative and evocative, serene and slightly disturbing. Just like the mood in my long-ago dream, it smells both sacred and profound, and just like my dream, it evokes a unique history in its notes – a time that lay waiting to be rediscovered. It is not sweet, but heady, spicy and floral, less a composition of parts than all of a piece and entire – one mood, one time, one place and one place in time. Is there patchouli and sandalwood in there, incense, Doc Elly’s signature spice, a touch of jungle flowers hiding in the green? Yes, and a time capsule too, of a dream of the East, an idea of the Orient, a frame-freeze of history and splendor I all but forgot until it wafted out of a vial on fragrant, flower-garland feet along the path to Mount Meru where the world began, a frieze of beautiful temple dancers, dancing for the glory of Vishnu just above the milky ocean.

On my everyday excursions to places like perfume stores and the stores that smell perfumes, I don’t often come across time travel in bottles, never mind the kind of time travel I might even be persuaded to wear.

But this little-genie in-a-bottle is precisely that, a long procession of dancers, weaving through time and place and history in their gleaming silks, on those flower-garland feet, and if that’s not a cure for the dismal winter blahs, then what is?

It wears unisex, although I’d hate to encounter any man who wore this. Resistance would be futile. In no time at all, I’d be dancing quite a few measures of my own!

I want a bottle. Yesterday. Just so I can be reminded of history and beauty and far-off, exotic places past, and faraway, exotic pleasures present – and future.

Image: Temple carving from Bayon, Cambodia, 13th century.