Mother of All Dilemmas

– Or…Too Much To Wear!

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…life was so much easier. These were the days of landline phone calls and conversations that ran something like this:

“Hey, dumbass! Get out your glad rags and put on your party face, because (X, Y, or Z and Not-To-Be-Missed Really Obscure Band About To Be HUGE) is in town tomorrow! Barbue. We’re on the list. 8 PM. Be there!”

End of conversation. The list – these were the days before laminates – being that all-important super-duper envy-making freebie VIP list.

So assuming I did indeed remember (which usually happened), it would be about 6:30 PM before I recalled the ‘glad rags’ and ‘party face’ bits, and instantly hit manic panic mode. After thirty minutes of highly profane language yelled above a very loud stereo, I would pull whatever I found out of my wardrobe, curse myself for not having the time to iron it, and slap something remotely resembling makeup on my face and….go. Thankfully, after the third or fourth shot of tequila, selective amnesia would set in and I no longer cared what I looked like.

Or…as Dianne Brill once famously said, there was the How To Leave The House In Six Hours Or Less version. These were my favorites. One long, luxurious afternoon to contemplate the Unbearable Rightness of Black, a glass of wine, the very loud stereo, the scenario of my Flawless, Unforgettable Entrance running through my mind as I applied my party face with perfect equinamity.

Come that Unforgettable Entrance, with yours truly for once feeling as fabulous as I surely looked, there was usually a cable lying right across the entrance to the green room door that I would somehow miss in my excitement and my four-inch heels, whereupon I would promptly fall flat on my flawless face.

Well, it was one way to get noticed. A few years later, at another backstage event, I was greeted by a very New York sounding “Yo! It’s Nosebleed!” It was the icon who cured it for me. Ladies and gents, Rob Zombie.

Good times, people, good times!

Of course, this was many years before I became a perfume blogger. Back then, it was whichever of my seven or eight bottles caught my attention at the time. Spray after bath and again before leaving. Cabochard always, always worked.

Now, I don’t have too many wardrobe dilemmas for the simple reason that a) I know what looks good, b) Wearing something red will always be lucky, and c) I don’t have much of a wardrobe to wear.

These days, the above scenario runs like this:

Research discloses that if I’m not at a certain location on a certain date for a certain show, I will regret it to the end of my days. If I don’t go, I’ll regret it when I’m ninety, it’s so bad.

Furthermore, since the music venue business in DK is a small world, the head of booking at the venue is one (quite fondly remembered) former boss. I know the guy. Really, I’m not bragging. After some days of agonizing, I write a supremely arrogant email and send it off on the assumption that of course I’ll get a freebie!

Lo and behold…I do. ‘Can’t wait to see YOU again,’ says the reply email.

(Insert epithet of choice here)!!!

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

Once my heart stops racing, on to …snap decision. Wardrobe. Got it. All of it, and I don’t have to iron a thing! Next headache.

Oh, no! What perfume do I wear???

I want to…make indelible impressions, I want to be unforgettable, I’ll do whatever it takes…

And meanwhile, at least eighty different samples, decants and bottles are having hysterics in my perfume cabinet.

Weather plays a part here. It could be hot, it could be chilly, and trust me, you don’t want to wear Spiritueuse Double Vanille on a ninety degree day. Or Iris Ganache, gorgeous though it is.

Fracas? Are you kidding? That’s laying it on a little…thick. Ubar? Only if it’s cool enough. Epic? No. Not that kind of night. Gold Woman? Not that kind of night, either.

Tabac Blond? Sex appeal in a bottle! There’s a thought. Ambre Sultan would make the list, except I wore it in a fit of pique the other day and have nothing left.

Orange Star went supernova…and is gone. Damn it.

Odin NY 04-Petrana then. It’s unusual, dark and yet sheer. Maybe.

Or Orris Noir? Or should that be Tolu?

Boxeuses has a certain rock’n’roll vibe – all that leather – but I’m not sure. Bandit? Don’t have enough. Argh!

Fleurs d’Oranger is a no-brainer. It could well be I should just go with this perpetual standby, but that would be…safe. This Night To Remember, I want a little edge.

I’d soak my clothes in a vat of Cepes & Tuberose, but I don’t have enough. (Insert epithet of choice!)

I knew I should have forked out for the Knize Ten when I could. Damn it.

So there it stands, ladies and gents. One upcoming Night To Remember, and I’ll even be sober this time. It’s the start of this leg of the tour, which usually means a good mood all around, it’s a Wednesday in July, I have the day off and even the day after. I have my co-conspirator, the real-life ‘Diarmait’, who landed a photo pass for his brand-new state of the art Nikon. I even have the clothes. Meeting my former boss after all these years fazes me not at all.

I have the laminate. I don’t have wrinkle filler, a steam iron for my face or spackle, but neither does my reason for being there to begin with, and he’s eight years older. I’ll just have to do. Nervous? No. Well, yes. Nothing I can’t handle.

But what, oh what perfume should I wear?

Life was once so easy. Before I became a perfume blogger.



Image: Vintage Ad, PZR Services

The Best of All Possible Worlds

– a review of Aftelier Perfumes ‘Candide’

We humans have an unsettling propensity to never quite…be here now. Here in this moment in time, in this company, in this place. We always seem to have one foot, one half or one important part of our minds in either the past or the future, preoccupied with what we have done, should have done, should be doing, would be doing if only, if not…Or else we fret about a future that has yet to arrive – a deadline, a project, an event to come that may or may not turn out to be what we expect, a meeting with someone who may surprise us.

Because we do, we also tend to grow ever more disillusioned and stressed out, and as that happens, pessimism, that dreaded slayer of hopes and possibilities, kicks in and takes over, and so life becomes an ever-perpetuating cycle of doom, gloom and a whole lot of headache full of more stress, more down, more… regret. Before we know it, the corners of our mouths descend all the way to our shoulders, and our shoulders and our very attitudes droop too.

OK. Stop right there. Sit down. Here, take the most comfortable chair in the house. Put your feet up. Now, close your eyes. I have the anodyne for those blahs, I have the cure for those indigo blues and I tell you from the bottom of my inky, witchy heart that this will work, this will change you, this will shift your perspective, your outlook, and your entire life around if you let it. Are you up for that?

Good. First, you have to…breathe as deep as you can. All the way through to your fingertips, all the way down to your toes. Keep your eyes closed. No cheating!

Let me just unscrew this little vial for you and dab a little on your skin. Breathe this in. All the way to your toes! Uh, uh…don’t open your eyes just yet! There’s no rush, nowhere you have to be except n-o-w.

Heavenly, isn’t it? That bright burst of sunshine citrus, that little kick of pepper that wakes you up, that furry raspberry current dancing underneath it.

I knew it! You’re smiling already! See? We’re getting somewhere. We’re not there just yet. You’ve been through a lot lately, and there’s still a way to go.

I can tell, you can already sense the cushions at your back, the throw over the armrest, the lingering traces of the cinnamon incense I burned last night. Give it a few minutes, and even Hairy Krishna will be curious enough to jump up and settle on your lap. Be warned. He has a very loud purr.

What’s this? You’re breathing easier, you say? The stresses of your life aren’t quite so acute? It’s that astounding jasmine, puncturing all your lead balloons. Work got you down? Bang! What work? Work was so four hours ago. It will return tomorrow, and Scarlett O’ Hara said it all – tomorrow is another day. Is life too short for bossy little boys? Poof! He’s asleep, lulled into dreamland with Looli the Tiger and a whisper of rose saying…sleep, little one.

Strange, isn’t it? You don’t feel sleepy in the slightest. Open your eyes.

You feel awake, aware, watching the candle move in the breeze from the open window.

Happiness is a blooming jasmine, ethereal in the moonlight. But before you float on those gossamer jasmine wings right out the window, frankincense makes its entrance – yes, I know it’s one of your favorite notes, and so do oppoponax and myrrh, soft and sweet and haunting as the moon outside, two days from the full.

You can feel the chair beneath you, feel the memory of that happy citrus-pepper kick to your senses, feel the lift of all your cares and worries, feel the atavistic, primal surge of a summer night on your skin, in your bones, in that indigo fog in your mind that has strangely vanished without a trace, leaving only moonbeams behind.

Where did all the worries go? Who knows? Who cares? That was then. This is you and this is now, a blissful moment of solitude and quiet on a moonlit night in June when all possibilities can happen, where dreams can come true, where you can do anything, achieve anything you desire.

Go ahead. Ask for what you need. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Surely it won’t! Assume they will say yes. And if they don’t, there’s always a Plan B that also assumes only good things and good times.

Did you know that optimists live longer? Did you know that if you do radiate positive vibes that is precisely what you will attract? You might as well, you know. Lead balloons are so overrated.

Live a little. Love a lot, and laugh no less! Dare to be a little silly, dare to have a lot of fun. What have you got to lose? This moment won’t return, so you might as well.

As you stand in that moonbeam, with a smile on your face and a hope in your mind that jasmine brought to bloom, you are all of a piece, you are completely at peace, and you can entirely believe, from your bone marrow all the way to the attitude you project…

This is the best of all possible worlds, and you are the best of all possible yous.

Don’t thank me. Thank the alchemist and quantum mage who is Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes. She created this perfume, named for Voltaire’s famous novel, as an ode to eternal optimism and an aria to hope, and even you will confess you were not what you were two hours before. You will not be that shade of blue again, and all you have to do is breathe all of it in, the sunshine citrus, that luscious berry tone, that whisper of rose , the glorious, gleaming jasmine and the frankincense that lifts those lead balloons and says…

You are the best of all your possible selves in the best of all possible worlds, and everything you dare to dream can happen, so long as you can hope!

Notes according to the Aftelier website: Pink grapefruit, blood orange, black pepper, jasmine grandiflorum, Moroccan rose absolute, frankincense, oppoponax absolute, myrrh.

Disclosure: Sample provided for review by Mandy Aftel. I am a changed woman now…;)

Aftelier Perfumes ‘Candide’, ‘Lumiere’ and ‘Honey Blossom’ were all nominated for the 2011 Fifi Awards in the category ‘Best Indie Brand’.

Aftelier ‘Candide’ is available through the Aftelier website, at Scents & Sensibility (for UK customers only), and at Sündhaft, who will ship to anywhere in Europe.

For that Perfectly Pretty Day

– a review of Illuminum ‘White Gardenia Petals’

A little girl plans it in her head for years and years. That perfect, perfect day where she gets to star in her own movie of being the eternally adored center of attention, surrounded by her fawning family and friends, lavished with presents chosen from a carefully compiled list and registered at all the right stores, wearing her ultimate whipped-cream-and-meringue fantasy of silk and lace.

Her wedding day. Somewhere is a groom of course, like all Prince Charming fantasies, but he’s nearly incidental. After all, on this perfect day, this perfect fantasy is all about her!

Somewhere and somehow, that little girl grows up, outgrows her Barbies and mostly her Disneyfied fantasies about that perfect, perfect day. Prince Charming may evolve into Charming Only After That Third Bottle of Champagne, or devolve not just into a frog, but an entirely new sub-species of amphibian loudmouth.

Unless she never does outgrow the Disney brain damage, in which case, she may well turn into Bridezilla.

Not all that long ago, Catherine Middleton slayed cake-eating viewers and hopeless romantics all over the planet on that perfect day she became the Duchess of Cambridge, perfectly composed, perfectly attired in a stunning Sarah Barton wedding dress for Alexander McQueen. I didn’t watch the wedding itself (mea culpa!) since I had a deadline and other preoccupations. I saw pictures and sent the radiant bride and bashful groom only my very best well wishes.

This being the perfumosphere, of course, it was a matter of minutes before every perfume blogger on Planet Earth was asking…

“What perfume did she wear?”

The dress was British, so we all mentioned our favorite British perfume houses and suitable-for-wedding perfumes…Ormonde Jayne, Penhaligon’s, the newly resurrected Grossmith, who went one step further and re-orchestrated ‘Betrothal’.

She wore ‘Illuminum White Gardenia Petals’, by perfumer Michael Boadi of Boadicea the Victorious fame, we learned, and soon, we were all scrambling for a sample.

Here it is on my desk as I type, and I can tell you this… it is indeed perfectly…well, the word ‘bridal’ does come to my cynical mind. It is soft, sweet, and very, very white. I do not, at any stage in its development, smell anything like gardenia.

Instead, what I sense is…something I might call first plastic doll, then ‘tropical accord’ that quickly fades away and cedes center stage to lily of the valley and jasmine without so much as a whisper of indole.

This is where my inner cynic shows her true colors. No gardenia, with that undertone of skank and Roquefort, and a jasmine that has been sent packing to reform school to learn proper, ladylike behavior, to sit up straight, mind her p’s and q’s, speak only in well-rounded vowels and never, ever, ever make a public scandal.

It’s perfectly demure, perfectly appropriate and I must say it, pretty in white. I could see why this would be a good choice on a day when over one billion people on Earth are parked in front of TVs with champagne and cake and all-out British mayhem to stare at you and take apart every element of your wedding. It’s not the kind of perfume to call attention to itself, it’s not old-fashioned but rather very modern in a clean, white manner, and somewhere well before that pianissimo, indistinct amber wood drydown, I’m well and thoroughly…bored.

I wouldn’t mind this on someone as elegant as the Duchess, in fact, I wouldn’t mind it at all on anyone else but me. There is not one jarring note, nothing except a smooth, white, floral seamless blend that reminds me of nothing so much as scented feminine hygiene products.

That alone should make it huge in Japan.

Meanwhile, I sit here and contemplate…weddings. I wore vintage Magie Noir to my own almost eleven years ago, a hastily arranged affair orchestrated by the mother-in-law-Zilla in her living room, where the bride wore a black suit and sandals one size too big with five-inch heels, so I wouldn’t look too embarrassing beside the 6’ 6” groom.

Now, that part of my own life is over, and in the highly unlikely event I ever say ‘I do’ again, I wouldn’t wear Magie Noir, and I could never wear white. I would want something rich and complex and even indolic. Say, Serge Lutens’ ‘Fleurs d’Oranger’ for instance, which does have wedding associations but is not demure in the slightest. Amouage ‘Ubar’ is another complicated joyride I might consider, or Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Frangipani’, perfect for a barefoot ceremony on a Hawaiian beach with your feet in the surf.

But in my own perfect world, saying ‘I do!’ to someone as idiosyncratic, complex and iconoclastic as myself, I’d choose something else. I’d want something to reflect the complicated woman I am now and the challenges we would meet. I would honor, cherish, respect and love – if never obey! – and I would wear Aftelier’s ‘Cepes and Tuberose’. It suits my sensibilities in a way White Gardenia Petals doesn’t. I’m not tall enough, thin enough, young enough, idealistic enough or nearly pretty enough to wear it, but I’ll bet plenty of women will.

Illuminum White Gardenia Petals should be a smash success. And huge in Japan!

A big fragrant hug to Thomas, who made it possible!

Notes according to Luckyscent: Lily, white gardenia, muguet, jasmine, amber wood.

Illuminum White Gardenia Petals is available in the US at Luckyscent, and at Roullier White in Europe.

The Union of Heaven and Earth

– a review of Aftelier Perfumes ‘Cepes and Tuberose’

Serendipity and miracles have been known to happen. When I say that this blog was one such serendipitous idea that occurred one late, late night during my summer vacation last year after the third glass of wine and staring off into space, I had no idea what wonders would happen, what connections I could make, or what sensual journey I would embark upon, but I can tell you this – I am no longer that woman who had that seemingly hare-brained idea, no longer that writer who had found her voice and wanted to sing it all out as loudly as she could.

The writer has grown stronger, the woman has grown bolder, walks taller, talks back – all thanks to perfume. So many wonders have I met upon my long, winding road, so many marvels have I seen, and as my universe expanded and my tastes grew broader, I reached out and found readers, found those scented miracles, and somehow, some way, through some alchemical process I didn’t even fully understand, found the words to convey what those scents made me feel.

Because that’s what perfume boils down to for me…a bottled mood or emotion, a liquid glimpse of joy, caught as it flies in one fleeting, breathless instant, and one very mortal woman is no longer what she was the moment before but something…other, something different and richer and better.

Even with all of this, I wasn’t quite prepared for yet more serendipity. To she who gives much shall be given, say the Vanatru, and so there was. Marvels I wouldn’t be able to try otherwise were sent to me, connections were made that did so very much to restore my faith in friendships with common passions, and all along came the words, trying to grasp at the ephemeral and visceral art of…perfume.

Being a child of the Sixties and Seventies, natural perfumery to my mind brought up associations of cheap patchouli and badly made essential oil blends that never did impress me much.

Yet once upon a time not even that long ago, all perfumes were natural. Someone, somewhere, had picked those flowers, let them breathe their last sighs in tallow or oil, distilled their essences in alembics to drops of divinity a man or a woman could wear. Louis XIV’s glittering, decadent court was known as The (naturally) Perfumed Court, and courtiers swooned on hot summer days when the tuberose hedges bloomed at the Grand Trianon so extravagantly, even Madame de Montespan complained.

So you can imagine my excitement when one of my Great Facilitators, Lucy of Indieperfumes, with no doubt a few devious ideas of her own, introduced one of the very best natural perfumers on Planet Earth to my humble, subterranean blog, and one bleary-eyed morning, I woke up to an email from Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes, asking if I would like to try some of her creations?

I promptly plotzed (sometimes, only Yiddish will do!) all over my keyboard. Oh, would I…

I had read of her collaboration with Andy Tauer (in my personal Pantheon of Greats) on linden blossom, I knew she was rightly nominated for FiFi Awards on both sides of the Atlantic, I had heard…things about this perfumer extraordinaire, and I couldn’t wait.

Now, I sit with my tea, my iPod, a few Q-tips for application and my little bottle of Cepes and Tuberose, and I’m…speechless. Speechless with admiration, astonished and with the kind of cold, numinous chill up my nose and down my spine I don’t often experience in everyday life.

Cepes and Tuberose reminds me of what I’m likely to forget – that in natural perfumes, you are dealing with…soul. The kind of soul never found in any clinical lab of formulae notebooks and abstract concoctions of abstruse concepts. Someone, somewhere, tended these flowers, herbs and woods, someone harvested them when the time was precisely right, someone cared enough to encapsulate the soul of these plants, the sunlight off the leaves, the scent of a rain shower, that marriage of sunlight and sustenance, moonbeam and mineral, heaven and earth.

I can honestly say I have never known anything like it.

Porcini, with their meaty texture and earthy, multilayered aroma can seem like a strange ingredient in a perfume, never mind allied with that diva of all flowers – the heady, sensuous tuberose, once deemed so dangerous by prim Victorian ladies, they actually forbade their daughters to smell it, lest they get… ‘ideas.’ The kind of ideas where the glories of the great British Empire was the very last thing on your mind – or your mother!

Take my word for it, Cepes and Tuberose is indeed very full of precisely those ideas that made those mothers nervous for their daughters. I read of leather and old books, I’ve read all sorts of contradictory opinions, but I get something else entirely…I get myrrh and autumn and spice, I sense cinnamon and pepper and cardamom and mushroom. It is sweet but not gourmand in the slightest, it is breathtaking, and then the diva tuberose makes her entrance, but this is no flowered sledgehammer, this tuberose plays just nice enough with everything else, not dominating but dancing in tandem with yet more wonders…a suggestion of incense and labdanum, a dream of patchouli unlike any other patchouli I’ve met. It’s so seamless, it’s hard to pick apart and dissect. So strange, it shouldn’t work and yet it does, so primal, only one association comes to mind – one very important in my world.

Once, says the Voluspa, there was a great war between Vanaheim, home to the gods of earth and sea and magic, and Asgard, home to the gods of air. A truce was called, the war ceased, and the Vanir took their place of honor among the Aesir. So it came to be that one goddess won the right to claim first pick of the fallen warriors of the battlefield, and that was Freya, embodiment of all desire and sensual pleasures and also – equally important – of magic so potent and arcane, only Odin of all the Aesir had the courage to learn it.

I can well imagine that when Freya dons her falcon cloak and ventures out into Midgard, she would surely wear Cepes and Tuberose. Primal and earthy, animal yet divine, and always with that fateful magic to her hand, the secrets of seidr and all of heaven and earth itself wrapped in the scented air just above the feathers in her cloak.

It is not for the faint of heart, not for the timid or unassuming. There is a mighty soul in that little bottle, a soul unlike any other, with a magic…like no other. It fades away slowly to a whisper, fades back to that earthy, carnal porcini, before it’s gone.

Desire and magic, secrets and all sensual pleasures, the power of the earth aligned with the might of the sky, all of it contained in one tiny bottle sparkling gold in the light on my desk, gold as the amber you can sometimes still find on the beaches here. It’s magic and mojo, sacred and earthy, and one of the most unapologetic, sensual perfumes I’ve had the privilege to smell.

What is magic but another tool to my hand? What is this perfume but a magic that I can wear?

What happened when Heaven joined with Earth? This perfume, and this magic.

Cepes and Tuberose is available from the Aftelier website.

Disclosure: My sample of Cepes and Tuberose was provided for review by Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes. For which I can’t thank her enough, but I tried.

Invisible Armor

– a review of Serge Lutens’ ‘Chêne’

The problem with being a certified perfumoholic is how it can spill over in unexpected ways into other aspects of life and associations that don’t have too much to do with perfume and more to do with what that particular scent and mood represents.

Once upon a time not too long ago, I wrote a nothing little short story that grew legs in no time and kept on walking, before it hopped, skipped, ran and evolved into a full-blown novel that wasn’t at all what even I expected. These were before the days of perfume blogging, before the days of friends on several sides of three oceans and help for desperate situations. These were the days when I debated with myself for weeks before I finally gathered up the courage to send an email to a perfume house so impossibly refined and indubitably sophisticated, I agonized over a French dictionary and my own oxidized French for three whole nights before I just gave up the ghost and wrote them in English.

Time to email Parfums Serge Lutens and request the famous Petit Livre des Parfums. I was some sort of grownup now, and I was getting awfully peeved at reading so many purple-prosed reviews of Lutens perfumes on perfume blogs and not having a clue. Nothing could be that good. I was too old to be that intimidated.

In no time, I received a nice, fat, fragrant envelope and a nicely signed card that I still own today, and braced myself for this Brave New World ahead. I knew that this was…a moment from which I could never turn back, and my olfactory universe would never be quite the same again.

One in particular caught my attention out of the many that I felt I must some day own, or else die with a severe sense of deprivation. As a perfume, it checked all the right boxes. Green, smoky, both ephemeral and earthy, it was like nothing else I had ever smelled, and evoked an emotion I had never felt before. It made me feel stronger, walk taller, it made me feel…invincible.

Chêne. A liquid ode to the mighty oak tree in all its aspects – the green of the leaves, the smell of sap, the sweet, vanilla-tinged fragrance of its wood. It was…love at first sniff.

It wasn’t long before a large decant found its way into my greedy little hands and Chêne found its way onto my green-craving skin. I never suspected I would enjoy feeling quite so much like Joan of Arc at the moment she walks into the French camp and demands a horse and an audience with the French king. Suddenly, I was Boudicca and Hippolyta and the living embodiment of every female warrior who ever breathed, and there would be no tragic ending here, no chink in this armor. I would never be punished for my transgression in thinking I was equal to anything or anyone, and I would not be intimidated…ever again.

Back to those ever-colder, ever-darker November nights not so long ago, wrestling with the Devil and a few demons of my own making, trawling the murky depths of my subconscious for a story I didn’t even know I needed to tell. Over the next few months, perfume too began weaving its seductive trail through the storyline…as the description of a mood or invocation of an atmosphere, as a bribe, or as a foreshadowing of events to come.

Above them all stood Chêne, my protagonist’s favorite. At her first meeting with a prestigious New York literary agent, she reflects…

I wiped my sweaty palms on my skirt, pulled at my suede boots and tried to forget a bra strap was slowly but surely sliding down my left shoulder. I should have worn something else besides Chêne, something safe and innocuous and familiar, but Chêne was my invisible armor.

And at a much later point in the story, after triumph and tragedy, the Devil, no longer what even he once was, decides to pay a visit and remembers:

Skin like silk, a perfumed promise of deliverance, that low, feline growl at the back of her throat, that green and sappy, sweet and smoky trail of Chêne at the back of her neck that drove me mad.

It’s no coincidence at all that the three perfumes my protagonist specifically describes as wearing at different times in the story are all Lutens/Sheldrake creations, nor that when the Devil takes a four-year vacation, he leaves with a bell jar of Chêne, one reminder of that latter-day Joan of Arc who stole the heart he didn’t think he had.

Herbal and green, Chêne starts as a surprise and ends as an aria to all the glories of the wood it celebrates. Cedar and thyme and a deliciously boozy rum dance out into the air off my skin. Instead of slouching, I stand up straighter. When first the birch and next what must be immortelle arrive, I’m talking back, I feel safe and protected and somehow invincible. Life can throw me whatever surprises it likes. Nothing will occur that I can’t handle. My invisible armor sparkles in the sunlight that bounces off the leaves.

Many hours later, the rum, birch, immortelle and sap give way to a furry tonka bean and smoky, burning wood, the scent of a bonfire flaming on a Midsummer’s Eve beneath the boughs, but this is no heretic burning at any stake for her hubris at challenging the status quo, this is a celebration of life and every living creature that breathes and loves. The eerie, earthy, aroma of sap and all that grows, the scent of the oak itself, sacred to Jupiter, and an intimation to be aware that not all that rustles in the undergrowth may be benign. Some creatures may bite, some may sting and all of them are hungry for that taste of green, effervescent life.

If ever a perfume smells…atavistic, this would be it. Proud and pagan, unapologetic and primeval, this is the quintessence of Wood, quintessence of Oak, a sophisticated ode to all that grows just below our ability to articulate it.

Nevertheless, we can grasp it, we can understand it, we can look up in awe at that majestic, sacred tree …and feel its essence in our bones and in that ancient part of our memories that hides just beyond our words.

Wearing Chêne, I can go out into the world and meet…literary agents, editors, Very Important People of any stripe, and present them with the Ten Most Important Reasons I Should Be Heard, and more to the point – knowing that I will be. I’m a latter-day Joan of Arc, although I won’t burn at any stake for my hubris and my own choice of divinity might be unorthodox. Yet I can accomplish whatever I choose with whomever I meet.

Now, Your Majesty, I shall need a horse and a sword. Where did you say those cowardly, lily-livered Anglais were hiding?

Notes according to Basenotes:
Sap, cedar crystals, black thyme, silver birch, rum, beeswax, oak, undergrowth note, tonka.

Chêne is available in the export line of Serge Lutens perfumes, available at Luckyscent, Aedes, and at Barneys NY. It is also available from the Serge Lutens website.

Image of Joan of Arc from Wikimedia Commons