Devil Sans Disguise

VI The Lovers - The Bohemian Gothic Tarot

-  a review of Histoires de Parfums’ ‘1740 – Marquis de Sade’ 

Since that November night two years ago, when I first conjured up my idiosyncratic Devil and my own Faustian tale, I’ve been haunted by…that scent he emanates. Why I wrote it into the story, I can’t tell you. It just arrived out of the ether unbidden in the very first draft…arrived, and then refused to leave.

Meanwhile, I’ve sniffed many things to see if I could find some close approximation. I’ve read a lot of reviews. I do mean…a lot…of reviews. Along the way, and with certain goosebumps of …intuition?, I came across one in particular that for no reason I could define (other than those goosebumps), made me think that heretical thought:

“What if…this were the one?”

It wasn’t the wildly differing reviews I read, not the obvious associations, not even the list of the notes themselves, nothing except that cold chill of intuitive anticipation…something, something there, something about that genie in that bottle, that idea, that concept…

Along the way from there to here, I huffed and I puffed like a latter-day perfumoholic Goldilocks, always on the hunt for the one that was…just right… 

Some were too elegant, some not quite refined enough. One came very close, but that was a scent for one very particular occasion in my story…my protagonist’s first fatal forty hours with the Devil at the Chelsea Hotel, but what happened later?

What would the Devil wear when he appears in a Copenhagen café on a sunny spring afternoon, what has that whiff of damn-the-consequences, that erotic taint of danger and taste of subversion that makes my protagonist think:

“I don’t care. I don’t care. Now. Yes. Please.

These not a few scents later, the writer who cooked that hare-brained idea up knows, knows it in her bones, and it is – much like her Devil – not at all what she expected.

Understand, this perfume is a leitmotif throughout the storyline, and I had not planned for it. In that way only a perfume can be, it was something sinful, something sexy, something dangerous, something skewed masculine, something with a tinge of leather and a twinge of rock’n’roll and the fevered heat of 4/4 and an underlying howl of testosterone. Sacred and profane, sin and damnation, want and need, scorching heat and blinding light.

That was my idea of the Devil’s scent, and all this time, it was hiding in plain sight. Yet, I knew it was out there, knew it would find me…and one day, it did.

Meanwhile, a friend and fellow blogger of mine is jumping up and down with ill-concealed glee, a friend who knows the entire tale of my protagonist and her Devil, she knew even before the author, she knew…

It is, ladies and gentlemen, Histoires de Parfums ‘1740 – Marquis de Sade’.

Yes, Dee, you can laugh in 3…2…1…

I sometimes refer to fragrant epiphanies as ‘having a cow’. Sometimes, I’ve had an entire herd of mild-mannered bovines.

‘1740’ is not a herd of bovines. This is an entire cattle ranch of stampeding Hereford across the Argentine pampas, hell…it’s all of Argentina and every cow in Australia, too!

M. Ghislain, you have some explaining to do. How did you know? 

Readers, just indulge me for a moment and pack away any associations with that notorious Marquis. I’ll be getting back to him. Forget whatever you might have heard about ‘1740’, forget it all.

Come with me to a Copenhagen café on a bright spring afternoon. Cue that sunshine burst of bergamot…oh, hello! How nice to see you here…whereupon the poor woman is hit with that note that always unglues her whenever she encounters it. It’s given as ‘davana sensualis’, which is a fancy way of saying ‘artemisia pallens’, the sacred herb of Shiva.

Surprise! So the hapless Shakti in my story is swiped sideways in all ways… and next she knows, she is swept off her feet by a hint of black, leathery patchouli, cardamom and coriander, faintly repulsive, animus and animal, yet so fascinating, so swoonable and almost overpowering, she is helpless to resist.

Surely, you expected no less of the Devil’s scent?

My Devil is no ordinary Devil, is not, in fact, particularly evil. Evil, as he says in the prologue, is a construct humans have invented to justify their actions. But he is a bit dark gray in places, places the protagonist wants to know, and darker still in other places where his temper lurks to startle her – that breathless lash of birch and leather, that shock of labdanum and in some secret place only he and she will know, that sweet and haunting, elemi trace of vanilla and immortelle, where he breathes into her ear one midnight hour when they are all the world they need to know…

No one knows but you.

‘1740’ is that tale in a bottle, that love letter in the story, that mutual heat and divine madness.

And all this time – two years by now as I wrestle with revisions – I thought it was a perfume or a soul only my imagination could be twisted enough to conjure.

I have one fervent prayer. Bastet, Goddess of perfume, please ensure that I never, ever encounter this on my Devil’s chosen disguise, or else I shall redefine the ‘perdu’ in ‘pain perdu’. I can’t be held accountable for the consequences if I do.

Maybe you might have an idea that ‘1740’ is simply a very unusual masculine, named for one notorious 18th-century iconoclast and byword for Dearly Dedicated Pervert. It is – a very unusual perfume, and I dare say, if as a woman you have the attitude for Piguet’s ‘Bandit’, you can certainly get away with this.

I prefer not to ponder too long on whatever perfumes the Marquis might have worn. However, in common with my creation, my Devil, they both share a common thread. No matter what you might associate with the Marquis or his writings, if they have one common theme, it would be a declared war on hypocrisy and dogma, a right to assert one’s philosophy and all consequences be damned.

As he writes himself in “Philosophy in the Bedroom”:

It is only by sacrificing everything to the senses’ pleasure that this individual, who never asked to be cast into this Universe of woe, who goes under the name of man, may be able to sow a smattering of roses atop the thorny path of life.

My Devil would agree. And then, he would disappear, off for his next assignation with that poor, doomed protagonist, whose nose could never resist such temptation..or such a Devil as her own… and mine.

And Dee, devious minx that you are, you have some explaining to do…As does M. Ghislain…;-)

I truly love my fragrant friend and facilitator, Lucy, who made this possible. I am more grateful than she knows…

Notes for ‘1740 – Marquis de Sade’:

Top: Bergamot, Davana Sensualis

Heart: Patchouli, Coriander, Cardamom

Base: Cedar, Birch, Labdanum, Leather, Vanilla, Elemi, Immortelle

The entire ‘Histoires de Parfums line is available in many locations, including The Perfume Shoppe and First in Fragrance, as well as directly from the Histoires de Parfums website.

For other reviews of ‘1740’, may I recommend Suzanne’s, Lucy’s, Dee’s, and Olfactoria’s.

Image: “VI The Lovers” from The Bohemian Gothic Tarot

One Smooth Devil

-  a review of Damien Bàsh ‘Lucifer no. 3’

Once upon a time, I was too poor to buy perfume. I knew nothing of samples, decants or Fabulous Fragrant Facilitators, and although I did know a bit about perfume, I didn’t know enough not to commit one Cardinal Sin – otherwise known as The Ultimate Exercise in Perfumista Masochism.

To my everlasting damnation, what I did own was a catalog from the renowned Manhattan niche perfume boutique called Aedes de Venustas. This particular fragrant-by-proxy perfume porn fuelled my fantasy life for years. I dreamed of those opulent images, imagined in my head as grandiosely as any Jean Baptiste Grenouille the fleeting treasures in those beautifully photographed bottles with their purple-prose descriptions.

If temptation lurked anywhere, it would have been within the pages of that catalog. Somehow, it seemed to fit that I encountered the name of a line of perfumes that stopped me cold in my superheated fragrant phantasmagorias…

Damien Bàsh Lucifer, numbers 1 to 4.

Not even my polymorphously perverse imagination could have cooked that one up! This Hammer fan girl was floored…floored that these things happen only in real life and floored such evocatively named perfumes existed.

Damien Bàsh is a photographer and artist so hyper-refrigerated cool, I had never heard of him. But just as with the other contents of that catalog, all I could do was dream of the day I’d waft something diabolically fahbulous, dahling, and when asked, I could look up my short and snooty nose and say in my best Dietrich alto voice… “Lucifer…number three.”

There is an abiding admonition in metaphysics.

“Be careful what you wish for. You will get it!

These not so many years later, and my, have I evolved! Thanks to my perilous prose, I now have acute indecision every morning over What To Wear Today. I can even say with utter conviction and a bad Dietrich imitation, that I am wearing…Lucifer no. 3.

A name like that carries certain associations. Since those days of the dog-eared Aedes catalog, I even managed to cook up my own version of that fabled and much-maligned creature…

The Devil. Lucifer, the Bringer of Light, the Adversary, the Questioner…although I doubt he would be someone John Milton would recognize. My hapless protagonist of my 21st-century Faustian tale, Quantum Demonology, is undone by not a few things that fateful night she makes her deal with the Devil, but more than anything else, it is his scent that unglues her.

I can close my eyes right now and evoke that perfume, almost breathe it in as I type…and it is not, I’m happy to say, Damien Bàsh’s ‘Lucifer no 3’, since if it were, I could never wear it. For one, it would be hard to think one coherent thought, never mind write them it down.

What ‘Lucifer no. 3’ does have in common with that fictional ideal is incense. And is there any better time of year for one of my all-time favorite perfume notes than November, that month of deepening dark and the cold stone and steel breath of winter down my spine?

It kicks off green and bright, bergamot and orange and that pine-lemon kick of elemi bouncing in on a moonbeam, but right behind it are intimations of darker, deeper things, shadowy whispers woven into that bright green opening light that breathe a calming, centering puff of myrrh and frankincense, sandalwood and labdanum, with fir resin accentuating and continuing the woody-lemon green elemi. As it evolves throughout its lifespan of about five fleeting hours, it becomes a seamless, smoldering mélange of myrrh, sandalwood and glorious frankincense, but not, I think, just any frankincense.

The scent of frankincense can vary wildly according to variety and location. The same species of Boswellia in separate locales can produce completely different facets of frankincense. Somali frankincense smells nothing at all like the (justly!) famous Hojari frankincense of Oman, and again, nowhere similar to Indian frankincense, which is earthier and spicier.

I can’t say for certain what variety was used for Lucifer no. 3, but take it from me…it’s very, very good. It shares certain characteristics with the three samples of Omani frankincense I have in my Devilscent kit and with the drop dead devastating incense used by Amouage, so I’m going to guess it’s Omani.

This Devil is a very smooth, suave, classy Devil. He doesn’t shout his presence, doesn’t bother with any obvious associations of evil or even gender. This wears equally well on both men and women, and equally appealing. The sandalwood is silky smooth, the labdanum with its goatish touch is just that – a touch. And meanwhile, the myrrh and frankincense dance such a beguiling, subtle dance on my skin, and perhaps that’s the biggest surprise of all – this is an understated perfume, which does not make it forgettable.

It shares something of the same elegance as another favorite incense of mine, Andy Tauer’s ‘Incense Extrème’, but isn’t quite so austere or bitter.

This is a Devil I love to wear. I came to find out that it hasn’t received much love in the blogosphere or even many reviews, possibly for being guilty by association – c’mon…Lucifer! – and then not delivering that hoped for Ultimate Bottled Malevolence. (I think Etat Libre bashed him to it!)

But the Devil has been infinitely maligned as the perpetual human scapegoat, the Fall Guy for all our human failings, and if ‘Lucifer no 3’ is an olfactory interpretation of that archetype, then maybe there’s much more to the Devil than most of us think – if we think of him at all!

My own conjuration stalks my dreams and my notebooks and even several hundred pages of my prose. I can imagine he would have good things to say about ‘Lucifer no. 3’, but only if I wore it. It is, after all, one helluva perfume!

As for what he wears…you’ll just have to guess a little longer!

Notes for Damien Bàsh ‘Lucifer no. 3’: Orange, bergamot, elemi, frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, labdanum, fir resin.

According to Damien Bàsh’s own notes from his website, ‘Lucifer no. 3’ is an all-natural perfume. It is becoming increasingly hard to find, but Sündhaft in Munich carries the entire line.

For a review of ‘Lucifer no. 3’ you can’t afford to miss, I refer you to the glorious Vanessa of Bonkers About Perfume, who was also diabolical enough to send some perfumed perdition to me…

Image: The Devil, by Niki de Saint Phalle, from the Tarot Garden in Garavicchio, Italy.

Devilscent – Part Four


– An update from the Producer and his apprentice…

No kidding, there I was, looking like death warmed up and microwaved four times too many, in my writing uniform of hair up in a plastic clip, bare scrubbed face, black yoga pants and a now-vintage black t-shirt that proclaimed on the back in orange letters: “Only the dead know Brooklyn.” Everything went so well with the Rouge Noir on my toes. The house was quiet, Spider-Man Jr. asleep and even the cats were crashed on the window sill, no doubt gathering strength for their usual 3 AM marital spat.

My desk was an absolute mess of stenographer’s pad, tea cup (it being Tuesday and all), and my iPod playing something that was, in fact, from Brooklyn. (See the t-shirt.)I also had an incredible collection of tiny extrait strength vials of the most amazing essences on Planet Earth. Doc Elly had indeed sent me a new package, and did she ever go to town with this one! Patchouli, cinnamon leaf, benzoin, opoponax, vetiver from Haiti and Sri Lanka, black and white vanilla and, and, and…something so utterly unearthly and vegetal at the same time, not even Ms. Verbosity 2011 could find the words to describe it. My New Oxford Thesaurus couldn’t find the words. When Oxford gives up, it’s …unearthly. Otherworldly.

I was…happy. This was like playing with sixty-four Crayola crayons, but for a ‘fumehead. Oh, the possibilities! Only this time, I was doing the responsible thing. I wrote down every addition onto my watercolor paper in order and approximate proportion and marveled yet again how Doc Elly did it. (Artist grade watercolor paper holds scent incredibly well. I recommend Arches and Fabriano)

This time, he really freaked me out. No warning, and that was his usual style, but this time, he tickled the back of my neck and made my hackles rise. Next thing I knew, he was on his usual chair up against the wall, one eyebrow cocked mockingly. Looking not like I usually saw him, which was that secret face no one knew, but like his current favorite disguise sans aviator shades.

“Having fun yet, baby?”

I plotzed all over my keyboard. My earbuds dropped out on their own volition. “Oh, hell! Couldn’t you at least send me a text message first?” I was frantically smoothing strands of hair out of my face, checking my phone for the date. May 24th. The Devil. Had to be.

I hated when he did that.

“No. Where’s the fun of that? I like catching you by surprise.” He cackled.

“Never.” If the Devil’s sausage casing came from a state that liked to think it invented sarcasm as an art form, then I could be sarcastic, too.

“What have you got on that blotter?” he pointed to the paper square on my desk.

“Round four, I think. Twelve different things including that surprise.” I waved it under his nose.

His nostrils flared. “Smells like…hmmm…the world’s cleanest orgy? The Ringling Bros’ Bacchanal? No elephants allowed today, and we charge extra for admitting tigers on Tuesdays.”

I laughed. “Not quite the effect I was looking for.”

“Nope.” He reached out and began opening vials at incredible speed. In no time at all, six different things were dripped onto blotter number two. He reached for the first box, stuffed with labdanum, frankincense and other divinities. Another sniff. A drop of choya loban, which is essence of burnt Boswellia. He reached for that unearthly thing again. “This…” he waved the tiny vial in his fingers, “blows my mind, if not my nose.”

I sipped my tea, lukewarm by now. “Mine, too. I like the name, and I like the idea of using it. I’ve never seen that anywhere.”

“Nope. Here…” he passed it beneath my nose. “What do you think?”

I sniffed. It was very different from the first blotter and a long way away from the bass line of our last round. It was very heady, very dark, and somehow both otherworldly and earthy at the same time. The frankincense came through loud and clear, and the labdanum had been tamed. It was that…thing, that amazing, incredible thing. Green and bitter, smoky and earthy, and yet like nothing else I had ever encountered.

When I closed my eyes and sniffed, I could almost hear a faraway voice singing down a long, echoing corridor, a story about a woman who never sold her soul to the Devil, but he took it all the same…

“Needs more sex.” The Devil reached for another vial. Before I could regret it, I blurted “Don’t we all?”

“Hush. Has anyone told you you’re crazy?” He shook his head and narrowed his eyes at the jumble of vials. He found what he was looking for and added some. Total concentration.

“Only my Rice Krispies this morning. And the voices in my head,” I sassed back.

He dropped the vial with a clatter onto my desk, tipped his chair back against the wall and laughed. “It’s called writer’s disease, baby. Or congenital insanity, I’m not sure which!”

“Try it now.” He waved blotter number two under my nose. “Close your eyes, listen with your nose. Can you hear it? That slow, bass drum 4/4, and here comes the bass just above it, just a tritone…and now, a slow guitar, three chords, just slightly ominous…still the bass, still the drums…and an echo of a broken heart and a dream come true but all dreams have a price tag, don’t they…breathe it in, baby…”

I breathed it in. If I concentrated, I could still hear that faraway voice, the Devil took her soul all the same…

He broke the spell when he landed his chair back on all four legs. Blotter number one was sweeter, if no less gorgeous, but blotter number two was dangerous, unearthly, bitter, and very, very dark.

“We’ll try again in a day or so. Gotta go.” He stood up, smoothed back a few errant strands of hair that escaped my clip. “Write about it.” He whispered in my ear. “You know how. Find an editor for your book. You need one badly. Oh, and one more thing.”

I tore my proboscis away from the blotter and looked up. Damn it, it was so distracting when he looked like that. On a day I looked like microwaved death. It just wasn’t fair.

“Yes, Master?” I answered in my best Lurch impression.

He whispered again. “Cinderella is going to the ball. Check your email.” He turned around with that classic five-year-old grin. “I’ll send a pumpkin to collect you!”

With a laugh that hung in the air above my desk like the scents we had just made, he disappeared.

All that was left to do for the day was to write about it. So I did.

Image: *grim-inc at DeviantArt

Devilscent – Part Three


– Meanwhile, from the producer and his accomplice…

I never know when I’ll look up from my notebook or my laptop and there he’ll be on one of my kitchen chairs, tipped back against the wall, giving me his best dirty-boy look. He’s usually looking at the increasing pile of samples in boxes piled up on my printer. To be fair, I haven’t seen him in a while. Sometimes, he looks like himself, sometimes like one of his many disguises. Last night, he looked like himself, or at least that self I’ve come to know.

“You’ve got a surprise coming in the mail, baby.”

I looked up from the blog I was reading, and considering the bombshell I was trying to imagine from the words on that blog, that says a lot.

“I do?” This had been known to happen. Surprises usually came in windowed envelopes and were also known as ‘bills’. On rare occasions, they came in bubblepack envelopes from remote locations and had been known to cause spontaneous whoops of joy and a flurry of air guitar. “Oh, hell. It’s you again.”

“Yeah. Miss me?” The grin on his face was nowhere near five years old, but more like fifteen. It would be better described as a leer.

I’m not stupid. This was an entity – or a muse – that could cause writer’s block, imagination overload, impulse CD and DVD buys and the creation of a certain type of literature I could only publish under a pseudonym. “Always.”

“Cool! As I said, Doc Elly’s been busy. She’s found a few things to…throw in the mix. The ball is rolling, baby. This will be good.”

“Really? Like what?”

The chair landed with a thud on its legs and he leaned closer. His voice dropped lower. “Stuff no one else has ever used. And stuff that’s rarely used. Special stuff.”

“Oh! Did she say anything else?”

“Well, not exactly. She posted a cute picture of a satyr playing the pipes for a swooning mortal.”

“I saw that. I don’t know that you make me swoon.” I closed my laptop with a click. “Maybe you should.”

“Maybe…” The Devil helped himself to my lone glass of Friday night prosecco. “And maybe you should watch a little less TV and write a little more, read a few less blogs.”

“Oh, c’mon. It was one documentary. It was Sir Richard Burton, the explorer. I had to see that.”

He laughed. “Here’s what I know. I’ve been asleep on the job. There’s a perfume to make. We’ve got…something going on in that little black box.”

“The bass line. Wasn’t that what you called it?” It was more like a hard rocking lineup to die for, but I didn’t say that. He was the Devil. No reason to point out the obvious.

“A little drum, a lot of bass…we need more…percussion. Some rhythm, the beginnings of a riff, a melody line. A perfume that’ll make the whole world swoon.”

“I thought that was your job.” I reached out for my glass of prosecco, but he refused to hand it over.

“It is.” He drained the glass and placed it back on my desk. “Here’s your job.” He opened up my laptop, typed the password I didn’t need to tell him, and I found myself looking at an empty Word page.

“Write about it, baby.” He stood up, walked over and whispered in my ear. “You know you want to.”

When I looked up again, he was gone. I knew he would be back. He wanted to smell what happened next with that little black box.

Image: Hezico’s Tarot

Devilscent – Part Two: The Samples


- a conversation with the Devil

Dev was waiting for me when I came home this afternoon feeling rather frazzled. Cool as anything, he pulled up a chair next to my desk and nodded toward a small black box.

“You know we have some work to do here, right?” He tipped back his chair against the wall.

“Dude, I’m wiped. Toast. I’ve had a monthful of days. I need a vacation.”

“I know. You need better excuses. Later, baby.”

“You would say that.”

“I’m a fictional character, I can say whatever I please. And I say we have some samples to look at.”

“So you’re saying that Doc Elly took the bait?”

“Sink, line, bait and hook. This will be a hit. She can smell it, too. Open up the box.”

“Yes, Master.” Inside nestled neatly labeled small test vials of six different frankincense extracts, steam-distilled and CO2, four kinds of labdanum, and four other essences best described as “Hazardous To Your Fevered Imagination”.

I dug out my sample blotters. “Where do you want to start?”

“Hmm.” First, he stuck his entire nose in the box and breathed it in. “Holy…no, I can’t say that on a perfume blog. And you can’t write that, either. This is potent stuff.” He reached out for a vial labeled ‘labdanum absolute’. “Sexy! You were looking for a whiff of goat, right?”

“That’s the idea. Well, you know…it’s the animal thing. You’ve got to have a little…animal in there. You are.” I cast my beady, bleary eyes at those frankincense vials.

“Not nearly so much as you.”

“Shut up. I know I’m a 130 lb chimp with a bad attitude, OK? Dude, we’ve got a perfume to make.”

“So we do.” He tipped a drop or two of Boswellia sacra and serrata onto the blotting paper and waved it under his nose. “Ummm…it needs something.” Labdanum, a touch of CO2, and a mystery labeled with a name followed by ‘Givaudan’. “I hate having to watch my language, but…oh, yeah. This is great. This is sinful.” He dug into the box. “Here’s another Ingredient X. I was excited about this one, but it’s not what I expected.” He added a drop of it and jiggled it under my nose. “So whaddaya think?”

“I think I need coffee, is what.” That frankincense was so…relaxing. I’d curl up under that desert tree any day.

“Get a grip. We have work to do.” The most incredible aroma was wafting around the room. He added a little oud. “Needs more goat.” He pulled out a vial. “Not enough. There’s labdanum and frankincense in a catfight on that blotter, and I can’t tell which one is winning.”

“My money is on the labdanum.”

“It would be. You can’t get enough of that stuff.”

“Hush. You like it, too.” I added Boswellia neglecta. “Oh, baby. I just hit the oh-zone layer. So that’s why it’s thinning.”

“And fully dressed, too!” he laughed. “So…we’re getting something like a base going here. Neglecta…is lemony. Not what I expected.” He sniffed again. “We need more sin.” Another drop of Givaudan sin.

“Any more sin, and I’ll be burned as a heretic,” I heard myself say. Already, my senses were reeling. “How Doc Elly does this, I don’t know.”

“I do.” Green labdanum absolute dripped down. That blotter should be banned, I caught myself thinking as I sniffed. It was heady. It was dangerous. It was glorious. It was very nearly the drop-dead sexiest thing I had stuck my nose in since Boxeuses. I hoped he wouldn’t wear it. I didn’t have anything left to sell.

“OK. We’ve got the rhythm now. We’ve got the bass line.” The Devil waved the blotter under my nose, and I breathed it all the way in. Danger. Dark. Devil. Oh, yes.

“Now,” he said after a while, “all we’re missing is a melody line and a lead guitar…”

to be continued…

The Devil’s Brief


I received an email from Doc Elly early this morning about something she found in her inbox, and I rather suspect you might be interested, so without further ado, head over to her blog, Perfume Project NW, for further details!

And big thanks to Bloody Frida, who gave me the perfect word for my own reaction:

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Yes, I’m excited. So I’ll slink away into the shadows again and get back to that Other Thing I Had To Do…

;)

Tarot Card: Guiseppe Lama, Voodoo Chilli

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