Shut up, Gertrude!

– Or…not all roses are created equal!

Among my collection of books and cookbooks is a book, ostensibly a cookbook but actually very much more. It contains not only a plethora of outrageous recipes that would have health fanatics screaming for their heart fibrillators, but also anecdotes from two extraordinary lives in extraordinary times, two lives that openly dared to fly in the face of convention – and sometimes propriety – and as such became inspirations for me as well.

The book is ‘The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook’, part cookbook of questionable virtues, part extraordinary testimony to the lives and times of two fabled iconoclasts of the early 20th century – Alice B. Toklas, partner, helpmeet, and frontline editor, and Gertrude Stein, art collector, literary salon hostess and resident genius.

Like all relationships viewed with the rose-tinted glasses of reminiscence and in hindsight, the reality of Alice and Gertrude was much more complex and far more extraordinary than the book would suggest – they were both raised at the tail end of the Victorian age, after all – but what’s really telling in our own iconoclastic age is that today, we remember Gertrude for two things, one of which I don’t consider relevant at all and the other for a simple throwaway poem that came to define her in popular culture. Gertrude Stein was considered a literary superstar in her day, but now, say the name (if it registers at all!) Gertrude Stein, and unless you’re well-versed in art history, famous American ex-patriots or impenetrable poetry, this is what you’ll think:

 ‘A rose … is a rose…is a rose’.

An entire lifetime of literary output, and you’re remembered for five words. As they say…

You don’t get to choose what you’re famous for.

This is when I say…shut up, Gertrude! As dedicated gardeners, flower lovers, perfumers and perfumoholics are very well aware, entire olfactory universes lie waiting for discovery within those velvety petals, and with the exception of those scentless blooms sold at florists these days, there’s no such thing as just…a rose.

Roses occur in nature in every hue except blue, green and black, and depending on the variety, exude a unique, multifaceted perfume that can be…lemony, tea-like, musky, greenly fresh, narcotic, spicy and fiery, earthy and warm – and these are just the living flowers, mind, well before they’re turned into concrete and absolute and essential oil in their infinite varieties, all of which will reflect the qualities of the roses themselves. Rose is also attributed to the goddess Aphrodite – no accident, since the scent of roses can be very erotic, quelle surprise!

I’ve been thinking about roses and wearing rose-centered perfumes a lot lately. Rose has a stimulating, uplifting effect on my overall mood, and during a very frantic March, I needed all the help I could get…

Gertrude may have considered rose as just another ‘flower’, for which I’ll forgive her since she was an Aquarius, yet I have other plans for your delectation…here are my personal favorite perfumed Odes to the Rose in no particular order of preference, which each prove that even Shakespeare got it wrong on roses. By any other name they might well smell as sweet, but they would not be those multiverses of perfume and poetry contained within the velvet folds and musical tones…of rose.

The Maharani of RoseNeela Vermeire Créations Mohur

We perfume bloggers live for those moments of olfactory epiphany when suddenly, a seismic shift occurs in our amygdalas and our noses blow our minds. This happened to me when I was given the opportunity to discover a brand-new line that is currently taking the perfume world by storm – Neela Vermeire Crèations. I knew Neela had collaborated for over a year with Bertrand Duchaufour, I had read the reviews. I thought I knew from roses. I was delighted to be proved so very, very wrong. For Mohur, Neela’s tribute to both the glorious Mogul empire and the British Raj, is nothing less than a Maharani – a Great Queen – of roses. Spicy and fiery, earthy and decadent, with more rosy-floral facets than any diamond can boast, it’s an outrageously spectacular rose perfume, opulent yet also as ethereal as a fervent wish on a full moon. It’s one of the most magnificent roses I’ve ever had the pleasure to sniff and to wear. As I have and I do and I indeed will for as long as I can ever love a rose…

The Wildest HeartLiz Zorn’s Sinti

Liz Zorn, indie perfumer extraordinaire, was unknown to me when I received a decant of her heart-stopping tribute to rose centifolia, Sinti. Sinti is not your usual rose perfume cliché, there’s nothing in the slightest that will remind you of rose soap or Eau de Granny. For one thing, this rose is wild at heart, wild and untamed and blooming unseen in a secret Saharan desert oasis, as green as nature itself and as surprising as a sudden beam of sunlight on that instant shock of …rose. It is bitter and a bit thorny, with its herbal bite of sage and galbanum that blooms into a fevered dream of one feral flower, easily unisex, easily worn, and all too easy to love, even though it never can be tamed.

A Rosy Dance on Moss Olympic Orchids’ Ballets Rouges

Olympic Orchids’ Ballets Rouges took no time at all to pirouette its way into my rosy heart – it was love at first sniff! Ballets Rouges is by bounds and leaps a green, silky opening that segues into a pas-de-ballet of roses so real, I’ve had people turn to look for the bouquet when I’ve worn this. Yet rose is not the whole story in this perfume, for down below beats a heart of green and a pulse of chypre with a ribbon of oakmoss so dark and luscious, this diehard chypre fan is reduced to molten jelly in gratitude that there are still perfumers who love oakmoss and roses as we do. Put the two together in this peerless pas-de-deux as Ellen Covey did, and even I can dance en point forever more those perfect, mossy, rosy steps.

Iconoclast RoseEtat Libre d’Orange’s Rossy di Palma L’Eau de Protection

If anyone knows how to do celebuscents (that hated category) flawlessly, it would be Etat Libre d’Orange. Their tribute to Rossy di Palma, the feisty, fiery actress Pedro Almodovar so adores, is a thorny, spiky, emerald-green and crimson red tattoo rose that obeys no laws but its own, which is every reason to adore it just as much as Rossy herself. From that bright, green opening bite to the dark patchouli pulse below, Rossy the rose perfume is the quintessential Rossy…unusual, unsettling and beautiful in its defiance of all those tired, trite rose tropes. This is a rose that shows its thorns plain as day and glows its crimson-lipped beauty as soon as you come closer. If you dare.

The Mozart of RoseEnvoyage Perfumes L’Emblem Rouge

When perfumer Shelley Waddington of Envoyage Perfumes worked with master distiller Dabney Rose, they danced a tandem that made precisely the rose perfume no one else would dare – the very essence of a classical rose perfume wrapped in a burgundy promise of perfection. L’Emblem Rouge is a thick, lavish, Oriental rose, spicy, green, and darkly romantic. It dances its own Mozart minuet on your skin with its burst of orange and spice, violet and orris, and all its pleasures proves as you muse that Mozart may be music, and rose may be a flower, but that doesn’t make L’Emblem Rouge any less a marvel – or Mozart any less a genius!

The Rosy RevolutionsTauer PerfumesUne Rose Chyprée & Incense Rosé

I’ve said it before in several locations and I’ll happily say it again – I personally consider Andy Tauer a perfumer of such stellar magnitude, I think he should be paraded down Fifth Avenue and carpet-bombed with rose petals by an adoring crowd, except I suspect he’ll have turned them into Un Rose Vermeillé (which I have yet to try) or something else equally spectacular before the parade reaches East 81st Street. The man knows his roses, knows them as only a truly dedicated rose lover can, and has done audacious things to roses that only prove how little Gertrude – or Shakespeare – knew of roses. When I recently was given a chance to name a bunch of samples to try, these two jumped off my keyboard and into the email before I could even blink. Certain things – and certain perfumes – you just…have this hunch about, although in this case, it was more of a neon blinking billboard. Une Rose Chyprée is a rose of reinventions and revolution, dark and light, depth and sweetness, no one element taking a backseat to the other. It’s Rose, Oh, Yes! But Wait! There’s So Much More! A breath of oakmoss, a kiss of vanilla, a whole library of everything rose and fire and all its splendors, too! Incense Rosé is yet another sleight-of-hand rabbit from Andy’s hat – again, not a rose, and not an incense and not like anything else your imagination could dream but something otherwise and elsewhere…from the blinding sunshine brought of its orange/citrus open to the smoky-tinged labdanum and frankincense drydown, if you’re curious what else can possibly be said about roses…look no further. I can guarantee you one thing only – you will be surprised! And roses will forevermore never be the same…

So Gertrude…hush. Yes, I know you’re dead, but I can still feel your crotchety ghost breathing down my back as I type, said with a sneer and a hint of that grande dame you also were:

“Well, obviously, I had other, more important things to contemplate than roses!”

But stop a moment and think…about a rose, and know that by any other name, it’s very much more than sweet…

Original image of Gertrude Stein, Alvin Langdon Coburn, 1913, from indicommons.org. ‘Gertrude en rose’ version – me.

With big thank you hugs to the Great Facilitators: Shelley Waddington, Ellen Covey, Anthony of NKDMan, Nick of Les Senteurs and the incredible Neela Vermeire.

Phantoms in the Fumosphere

–  This could happen to you, too!

Do you like to read perfume blogs? Do you appreciate the different perspectives on this or that verbal expression of olfactory art and expertise, do you love to see where the blogger’s words might take you, or what lemmings the writer will wake? And if you are a reader, do you ever wonder at the life of a perfume blogger? What goes on behind the scenes, what do all those bloggers do when they’re not posting?

The vast majority of us are working our day jobs – most of which are not connected in the slightest with the perfume industry, taking care of our quotidian lives, and to a greater or lesser degree as our life permits planning the next post. Maybe we’ve received samples of something we’d like to review and maybe we’re wearing them, and maybe in those idle moments on a freeway or a subway or city bus, in a supermarket queue, over a stove, we’re thinking about what to write about them, wondering about what places they have taken us, what wonders we have felt and seen and surreptitiously sniffed when we thought no one was looking, writing already in our minds.

You see, that’s what we do – write about perfume. We provide original content for your delectation and delight – and above all else for our own. We have a passion that perhaps is considered a bit suspect if not obsessive by our surroundings, and so…we blog and we write about that passion out of love, on our own time, and for very little or no renumeration at all. In the perfume communities of the Internet, we comment on each other’s blogs, we share discoveries, exchange information, network, and trade samples.

We do all of this for one reason.

We simply l-o-v-e perfume. We see it as the Invisible Art, we consider it a privilege to enjoy, we think it a joy to communicate that love to others who love it as we do.

Now…imagine a very different scenario. Imagine – there are no perfume blogs. At all. Imagine a world where the world of niche and independent perfume has only websites and advertising to notify the general public, and imagine therefore – that there are…no independent perfumers. Advertising is expensive. You as a consumer are stuck with the specters of corporate conglomerates who are thinking entirely different things about sensory transport – their bottom line, not your out-of-body olfactory experiences.

Hold that thought.

Now, imagine that you are what the social media marketing world calls the 1%. In Internet social interaction, it is a general rule of thumb that 90% of any given group in any given setting will enjoy the online content they have access to. They will enjoy it, they may even share it with each other. That’s all they do. Nine percent more will comment and interact with…the one percent who actually provide that content – write the blogs, post the links and share them, tweet them etc.

Every single perfume blog you read is part of that one percent. Each providing original, often beautifully written, thought-provoking, never-before-read words so that you may enjoy them.

Only that’s no longer true, I’m sad to say.

The fact is, every minute of every day, nameless, faceless phantoms stalk the blogosphere on the hunt for content to steal. Even in the friendly, rarified section of it I personally call…the fumosphere. There is an entire underground industry in Asia who trawl great blogs for their content so they can proceed to post them as new material. I’m not knowledgable enough or close enough to worry too much about them.

I worry about those other phantoms…the ones who are the stuff of haunting nightmares, the phantasms who in so many insidious ways can make me reconsider why I shouldn’t just …give up the ghost altogether.

These are the content thieves, the domain stealers, those innumerable unseen poachers who lurk in the dark and not so dark recesses of the blogosphere and on every blogging platform we use…to steal our words and even our carefully selected images and pass them off for their own.

They aren’t out to poach from the big blogs, the household names, since they are very well aware that if they did, the large audience those blogs have would expose them in a heartbeat.

Much better, so they think in their larcenous minds, to take from the smaller blogs, the cognoscenti blogs, the blogs that are just far enough under the radar of the fumosphere not to be entirely well-known. Who would notice, after all, if a domain registered since 2006 is used for a subterranean blog, who would care that blog posts are purloined wholesale and set up on another blog much further down the food chain in those overlooked shadowy corners, who cares if these thieves bask in the reflected glory of the words they loved enough to steal and try to pass for their own?

The one percent who conjure that content from thin air, sparse spare time and sleight-of-word care more about this issue than you could possibly begin to imagine. You see, this is our creativity, these are OUR words, this is what we love to do more than nearly anything else on Earth, which is exactly why we do it to begin with – for love. Those words, that content contains the DNA of our hearts and souls, the very essence of ourselves and our raison d’être. Our words, our blogs and our creativity has established a network, a reputation, and a credibility in a community that means everything to us – and to steal it amounts to something akin to violation of our souls.

Surely, I must be exaggerating? It can’t be that bad!

It is.

Last week, my friend and fellow perfume writer Lucy of Indieperfumes discovered to her horror that someone had hijacked her domain, a domain she has owned since 2006. This was a very suspect blog to begin with – there was no contact information and no links whatsoever, not even submerged in the HTML header code. In not much time and with a little help from perfumer and blogger Absinthe Dragon, we took it to the social platforms of Facebook and Twitter, shared our links, spread the word. Many of our friends in the perfume community reported the offender to the host. Less than 48 hours later, the blog name had changed. The case would have rested there – lessons learned, reports filed, copyright offices and ditto lawyers notified at exorbitant cost – except that wasn’t all that happened.

This morning, I woke up to another horror story. Lucy was notified that someone had stolen many of her own favorite posts – images and all – and passed them off as original material. Within minutes, I was informed on Facebook by Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass that another very highly regarded blogger, Krista of Scent of the Day, had also had content stolen – lock, stock and barrel.

Once again, this was a highly suspect blog, once again, there was no contact information, no About page, no attribution, no backlinks or even so much as an email requesting permission. Once again, we reported the offender to Google. And last but never least, we’re confronted with that Big Polka-dotted Elephant in the blogosphere…or anywhere original creative content is created, since this issue is nothing new – why bother to create any kind of content and share it, if it’s going to be stolen?

Music is downloaded illegally every day, as are films. Images can be copied and saved with a right-click or a drag. Even perfumes are not immune to plagiarism – formulae are analyzed, copied, watered down and released as ‘new’ and ‘original’ all the time.

I prefer to buy my music and films to support my musicians and directors, not out of any sense of charity, but because these works of art in any medium were created to be enjoyed by people who felt they had something to say and I very much like how they say it and want them to keep saying it, so I can continue to enjoy it.

Why should I care? It didn’t happen to me. It happened to two friends and fellow bloggers who have supplied original content for my delectation for a very long time but whom I would never even conceive of stealing from or even quoting without permission because I’m a firm believer in the laws of karma. Yet it could happen to me, to you, to anyone who creates at any moment of any day – perpetrated by anyone who loved it so much even imitation was too much to ask and only copy-paste content poaching was enough, all to bask in that reflected glory and clandestine thrill only theft can provide.

We content creators and providers, we artists and we dreamers share our passions and our creations in the hopes that you may enjoy them, think about them, talk about them, discuss them with your friends. We arouse your curiosity about a world that may be infinitely larger and richer than you already know, we entertain you, we engage you so that you too can pay that passion forward to those you care about. And we do all of this, every minute of every day in every context and on many platforms – for love.

Du ut des. Latin for the number one rule of social interaction on the Internet:

I’ll give so you can give.

Here’s what I give: my words, since they’re the only thing I really have TO give, to share and to care with. Here’s where I care – to raise awareness of polka-dotted elephants in the blogosphere most of us would rather prefer to ignore if we could. Here’s where I share: the knowledge I have, the connections I’ve made, the precious and priceless friendships I’ve created with the magic my own words have conjured.

Here’s where I laugh: In the world of social media, there really is such a thing as …instant karma.

Here’s what I share: what I know.

Here’s what I know: Stolen love – or stolen words – is no love and no truth! – at all. But should you forget – let me tell you a few things… about instant social media karma…

With profound thanks to Undina, who alerted me to Krista’s stolen posts, too. And to the international perfume community, who knows stealing is so deathly uncool! And the very worst karma!

Image: RelyOnHorror

Heartsongs for a Heritage

  – a review of Neela Vermeire Créations

Far away from where I type these words lies a land that has fired and inspired Western minds for over two thousand years. A land so vast, so diverse, so rich, so teeming with life and history it seems to exist somewhere in the Occidental mind between legend and reality, in time and yet somehow above it, only fitting after all for a culture that also gave the world the concept of ‘the eternal now’. Conquering armies have marched across its plains and deserts, through its jungles and mountains in search of its riches and spices, writers and adventurers took its ideas and concepts back to an incredulous Europe, who thought they surely exaggerated, only those Europeans who did come found the stories they were told, the books they had read were far too simple to even begin to describe the world-within-this-world that was, that is and that always has been…

India.

For all I know myself about ancient history and even India’s history, for all my future plans to visit Kerala and Tamil Nadu just to start, for all my favorite Indian-born writers, I’m yet another gobsmacked European trying to wrap my mind around all it was and even is today. When I first began sketching out ideas for my review, I did a brainstorming association exercise first, writing down every adjective or noun that came to mind with the one noun that was India. I counted fifty-five before I had to actually think about the next one, such is the scale of its scope on my imagination.

When the perfumosphere first began to exude rumors of the new niche brand Neela Vermeire Creations shortly before Elements NY, which is where I first read of them on The CandyPerfumeBoy, those first intimations of intrigue and wafts of (imagined) wonders pricked at my relentless curiosity and my nose began to dream in an instant of all this trio of perfumes could evoke and all they might contain.

When Indian-born Neela Vermeire, who is trained in social sciences and has worked as a lawyer, decided to create her own tributes to her Indian childhood, she worked for over a year with Bertrand Duchaufour to pay homage to three aspects of India – the ancient past of the Vedic era of legend, lore and faith with Trayee – the glorious era of the Moghal Empire and the British Raj with Mohur – and the modern, exuberant India of today with Bombay Bling.

Just as friends who traveled to India have said time after time … ‘It was nothing like I thought it would be’, they turned out to be nothing like anything my paltry imagination could conjure.

Trayee is a tribute to the Vedic era, that time of legend contained in the Vedas, in the many stories of the Mahabharata and the tales of that far distant beginning when the world began, the sacred texts of the Vedas with their hymns, their prayers and their songs. Trayee is the perfume of spirit and devotion, the scent of Indian temples with their spices and their prayers ascending to the Gods in a cloud of color and all the holy fragrances of faith. It starts with a bright, uplifting opening of ginger and cinnamon, with an underlying pine-lemon slightly animalic undertone I suspect is the blackcurrant, but as it evolves a wisp of sacred incense, cardamom and jasmine sambac (one of my most favorite notes) peek out and dance their own devotion on my skin and I become my own cliché – transported elsewhere and otherwise to where that seamless blend of spice and wood, oudh and oakmoss somehow manage to weave my many fragmented selves into a prayer all my own. Like not a few Duchaufour creations I’ve tried, the list of notes – complex as they are – read several shades of ‘how-is-this-possible?’, but the evolution is flawless – from that first heady rush of spice all the way through to the rich, earthy, woody drydown breathing its many shades of ‘divine’. I would characterize Trayee as a uniquely transcendental perfume, transporting me to where ritual may be complicated yet true faith is very simple, and for truly evoking that sense of sanctity and history, a perfumed prayer all its own, and those are as rare as unicorns and as precious as any Indian rubies!

Notes for Trayee: Top: Blue ginger from Madagascar, elemi oil, cinnamon bark, ganja effects, blackcurrant absolute, basil Heart: Jasmine sambac absolute, Egyptian jasmine absolute, cardamom absolute, clove, saffron, sandalwood Base: Javanese vetiver, Haitian vetiver, incense, Mysore sandalwood oil, patchouli, myrrh, vanilla, cedar, amber notes, oudh palao from Laos, oakmoss 

Mohur – named for the most valuable gold coin India made until 1918 –  is another facet to the many-hued jewel that is India, a tribute to the glorious, opulent era of the Moghul Empire and the British Raj and to one woman in particular who shaped the Moghul era like perhaps no woman before or since. Her name became Nur Jahan, meaning ‘The Light of the World’, and when she arrived at the court of the Emperor Shah Jahangar in 1607 as a widow, it took no time at all for him to decide that she should become his wife number twenty, and still less when – so their many love stories go – he never touched wives 1 through 19 ever again. Noor Jahan ruled as the unquestioned power behind the throne for over twenty years before a palace revolt exiled her. She devoted the remainder of her days to the art of perfume making.

I can well imagine, if Mohur is anything to go by, that it could have been one of the very perfumes Nur Jahan could have made for herself, or – as I think the intention was here – to create the quintessence of …rose, but not just any rose. Just as Trayee, it begins with a spicy, fiery kick, this time of cardamom and coriander, intimations of musky ambrette and carrot and that incandescent black pepper and before you know it, that fatal, flawless beauty, a veritable Maharani of rose unfurls in slow-motion beneath your nose, defying every rosy perfume cliché you think you know to define something larger than life yet as intricate as any inlaid jewels on a marble Moghul-era façade, with a suggestion of richly tooled leather and a gossamer-fine embroidered veil of violet and orris. A veil that slowly slips to the floor to reveal all this rose’s darkest secrets of wood and oud in sparkling shades of light and dark, patchouli and amber, before it vanishes in a rosy dream with a last sweet sigh of goodbye and vanilla, benzoin and tonka bean. I grasp at the words here, desperately thumbing through thesaurus and dictionary trying to find some description that does it justice, before I realize I’ve written it already.

A Maharani…of rose.

Notes for Mohur: Top: Cardamom absolute, coriander seed oil, ambrette seed, carrot, black pepper, elemi oil Heart: Turkish rose oil, Moroccan rose absolute, 11% rose accords, jasmine accord, orris, aubepin flower, almond milk notes, violet flower and orris, leather vitessence Base: Sandalwood, amber, white woods, patchouli, oudh palao from Laos, Siam benzoin, vanilla, tonka bean

It’s all too easy to overlook the modern India when you’re sideswiped by 5000+ years of history and heritage. Yet modern India doesn’t live in the past or for the future but in the ever-evolving ‘now’ with all the endless exuberance and energy a young population can bring. This is Neela’s wink to the India of today, with the over-the-top glamour of Bollywood dream factories to the streets of south Mumbai and the hectic, glitzy nightclubs where beautiful Bollywood film stars dance the night away with instant stock market millionaires. I came to discover during my research, for instance, that there is a very ritzy nightclub in Mumbai called…Bling!

If you read the notes and reach for the smelling salts or your running shoes to run a mile the other way, dear reader, let me say this is not your deathly ubiquitous fruity-floral generic joke, this is instead a bubbly, happy, day-glo colored perfumed dream that zaps you awake in all the best, most joyous ways, so effervescent, you won’t dare a peep of protest but simply surrender, just as I did, to that intriguing tropical blend of green mango and lychee, with the blackcurrant, cardamom, cistus and cumin adding their own sultry midnight heat. As it develops, the florals – a heady, glorious mix of floral notes that include jasmine sambac, ylang ylang, tuberose, frangipani and gardenia – bloom and sing and dance, and it’s all you can do not to dance a little Busby Berkeley/Bollywood number of your own. Just…roll with it, feel as young and as carefree as you dare, dance the night away and watch the sun rise along with your hopes and your optimism, sense all the colors of life on your skin bloom. A plush drydown of patchouli and tobacco and sandalwood will set you gently down again and make you think in possibilities you thought were too old and jaded to envision – but you weren’t! Life is the eternal ‘now’. Live it!

Notes for Bombay Bling: Top: Mango, lychee, blackcurrant, cardamom, cumin, cistus, rose accord, Turkish rose Heart:  jasmine sambac absolute, Madagascar ylang ylang, white floral accord of tuberose, frangipani, gardenia Base: Patchouli, tobacco, white woods, sandalwood, cedar, vanilla

As a perfume writer, I’m no stranger to the hyperbole of press releases and sometimes hysterically overwrought copy not even I could cook up. I tear my hair out every time I try to express the intangible and describe the perfumes I have the supreme luck to experience. Many have been marvels. Some have made their own way into my perfume cabinet and into my heartstrings and because I’m a hapless if hopeful romantic – in spite of all my life has taught me – there they remain, arguing amongst themselves like the harem of any Moghul emperor… ‘which one will her Majesty pick today?’ ‘Me!’ ‘Me!’ ‘Me!’

This can make anyone a little – or more than a little… jaded. With thousands of new releases a year, with the constant clamor of ‘New!’ ‘Astounding!’ and hyper-luxurious price tags, there’s no lack of wafting wolves out to eat my money or feed my fragrant addictions.

Yet the kind of fragrant transport, the storied genies, the ghosts of a distant past and all the dimensions of teeming, swirling, dancing multitudes of color and life and spice contained in just three sample vials from a brand new line have utterly, completely taken my breath and certainly my words away. I could have said – as my friend Olfactoria once famously did: ‘Great juice! Go buy it!’

Instead, I will say that  each of these extraordinary jeweled juices that travel through time and place have a heartbeat of heritage and an exuberant future ahead.

Life is the eternal ‘now’. Live it!

Neela Vermeire Creations is available at Luckyscent, Jovoy Paris, Parfümerie Osswald in Zürich, Sündhaft München, and directly from Neela Vermeire’s website, where sample sets are also sold.

Images: Vedic artwork of the Shiva in his aspect as Dakshinamurthy, guru and teacher of all knowledge & the Next and Last Incarnation of Lord Vishnu from vedic-art.weebly.com

Image of Nur Jahan: exoticindia.fr

The garden of Diwan-i-Am, Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh from gordonbrentingram.ca

Indian Bride, worldstylo.blogspot.com

Photo of the Mumbai skyline known as ‘The Queen’s Necklace’, classygal.wordpress.com

Disclosure: Samples were sent to me for review by Neela Vermeire

Happy New Year!

The happiest of New Years to all my TAG readers – may your 2012 be filled with opportunities, happiness and joy! Thank you from the bottom of my very full heart for following me – in whatever way you do – and  for all your support and comments, too! Here’s to all the discoveries we will share in the year ahead!

I have only two New Year’s resolutions this year.

1) To get myself to New York in the late summer/early fall. I still don’t know precisely how, but I do know it will happen. I have things to do and friends to adore and who knows? Oportunities to explore? Possibilities that happen?

2) To make 2012 the year I – to quote a Major Inspiration – kick MAJOR ass…and make the maximum impact! In whatever ways I do…

And as always there will be…many adventures ahead!

Much love and more happiness for everything you’ve brought me. Paybacks will be hell…;-)

XOXOXO

Tarleisio

Image: The Human Flower Project

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.