Personal Geography


–  a review of Body Made Luminous by Scent By Alexis

If my evolution as a perfume writer these past three and a half years has taught me anything at all, it is to fervently believe in the Jungian concept of synchronicity, in other words, that everything that transpired since that slightly tipsy August night in 2010 has happened for a reason and with the precise epiphanies and people I needed. Or as a 19th-century lawyer once said in another context:

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences.

One of those consequences of my perfume writing was being invited to participate in Lucy Raubertas’ Clarimonde Project, a perfume project of perfumers and bloggers created to celebrate and elaborate upon Thèophile Gautier’s haunting 1837 short story La Morte Amoureuse. The perfumes created for the Clarimonde Project were all so incredibly evocative I can honestly say that from that October onward, my life and my perspectives really did change in ways it took me a very long time to appreciate.

The Clarimonde Project was also my first ‘proper’ introduction to perfumer Alexis Karl of Scent By Alexis and co-founder with Maria McElroy (of aroma M) of the House of Cherry Bomb, who contributed with their perfume Immortal Mine.

Immortal Mine changed everything for me, brought me into the story and elaborated upon it in ways no other medium could, and literally blew my mind. I have never before and rarely since (with the exception of the scents created for my own Devilscent project) sniffed anything so dangerous in my life. Even today, even after over four hundred reviews, I still consider my story/review of Immortal Mine (a fictional continuation of Gautier’s story) among my finest and proudest moments in writing, and that stoppered vial of amber perfume oil with its red lacquer seal stands among my most cherished possessions.

Except the fun didn’t end there, for along the way and ever since, Alexis has become one of my dearest friends and closest inspirations, for we have countless preoccupations and interests in common. Like Alexis, I, too, had a cemetery for a playground as a young child. (True story!) And we both have the Gothic aesthetic – in the widest, most encompassing sense of the word – built into our very DNA.

Only one word can truly describe something of Alexis Karl  – musician, singer extraordinaire, art instructor, teacher, painter, sculptor and perfumer – and that is polyhistor.

When she chose to resurrect her perfume line, she was inspired by Michel Foucault’s essay Utopia of the Body, in which Foucault ponders how our physical bodies define and explicate us, and yet, there is that inevitable dichotomy of body and soul. But is it really a dichotomy? Or could it be, as Foucault himself says in the essay:

It will last a long time, my soul, more than “a long time”, when my body comes to rot. It is my body made luminous, purified, virtuous, agile, mobile, warm, fresh.

Body Made Luminous is a perfume made for that moment when body and soul come seamlessly together as an indivisible entity, when we are so infinitely more than our physical skin, the moment we are clarified and elucidated by a loved one’s gaze or touch and body and soul are knit together whole and entire from all our disparate, fragmented selves.

Having been lucky enough to have tried her collaborations with Maria McElroy, I’m thrilled to say that Alexis’ voluptuous aesthetic is everywhere in evidence right from the first spray. There’s a lot of base (and lots of bass) in her perfumes, so much so it feels pointless to discuss anything so banal as top-heart-base architecture, because this perfume – as indeed did Immortal Mine – operates on an entirely different scale.

This is very, very heady stuff.

Imagine… chocolate. Some artisanal, arcane and very hard to obtain single estate Criollo where the cocoa beans are cosseted and coaxed into their most kaleidoscopic expressions to end their glory days as the ultimate manifestation of some Celestial Law of Chocolate.

Any fellow chocolate lover will understand what I mean. This is the scent of that 80% chocolate lovingly tempered over the embers of fossilized Moroccan amber, before it is transformed by skill and dedication into some other occult revelation hidden in the Nahuatl word ‘xocolatl’.

Amber may be petrified tree resin, yet there is nothing in the slightest vegetal about this amber. This amber is the animal within, the animal all of us take such pains to conceal, the animal that perhaps more than any other defines and delineates Michel Foucault’s ‘utopia of the body’, the utopia within us that is nowhere because it is everywhere inside us, waiting for its moment to emerge and growl its reasons upon our skin or in the air between us and someone we love.

But that low, animal purr is tempered somewhat by a floral caress of … rose? Tuberose? A smidge of jasmine and orange blossom? I don’t know for certain – I don’t have the notes – and by this time in its evolution, neither do I care.

Body Made Luminous is a total seduction of all the senses, a gourmand for gluttons and voluptuaries, libertines, decadents and sworn sybarites, a symphony in chocolate and a lesson in mapping out our selves, our spaces and the uniquely personal geography that defines us all.

Body Made Luminous is available as an eau de parfum (with 14+ hour longevity on me!) from Indie Scents and from the aroma M/House of Cherry Bomb studio in Dumbo, NY, which is open between 1 & 6 PM on Mondays and Fridays at 68, Jay Street, Dumbo, # 1007.

Notes (via Indie Scents): Moroccan fossilized amber, chocolate and flowers.

Disclosure: A sample of Body Made Luminous was made available by Alexis Karl, for which I thank her from the bottom of my ink-black, Gothic, gluttonous heart.

For much more on Alexis Karl, I highly recommend Lucy’s portrait at Indieperfumes.

Find Scent By Alexis here.

4 thoughts on “Personal Geography

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s