Two-Faced T


– On the strange things skin can do to perfume…

Yesterday, on the night of a full Cancer Moon, something exceedingly strange happened, something possibly explained by Moon Magic, but I’m not too sure because this sort of thing has happened before.

I’ve been suffering from a slight case of writer’s block, not anything debilitating, but enough to stare into space and the wall behind my laptop thinking…I should do…something.

So in a fit of pique, I reached for the large Southwestern gourd, carved, stained and embellished by a member of the Zuni pueblo tribe of New Mexico, that contains a selection of my samples and decants. This has been known to do wonders for my writing, and at other times the precise opposite. I never know, but on a night like yesterday, I’d take my chances.

Since yesterday was a fairly light day, perfume-wise, I thought I’d see what I’d spontaneously reach for to try again.

Into my hot little hands fell…Mandarine Mandarin and Bois de Violette by Serge Lutens.

It’s no secret I sold a fair chunk of my olfactory soul to Uncle Serge. It’s likewise not a secret that sometimes Lutens perfumes can be shape-shifting creatures that take you on journeys you never expected, to places you never knew or even wanted to know. Rather like a lot of the music I love.

Ambre Sultan is the perfect example of that, but there’s a topic for another blog post.

I’ve tried both of them before, and sat firmly on the fence of ‘maybe/maybe not.’ The last time I tried Mandarine Mandarin, the celery seed note bloomed to such an extent, it drowned out all the other notes and threatened to eat me alive, unless I gnawed off my arm first. This was supposedly an Oriental, a luscious, complex mandarin/candied orange/Lapsang Souchong/amber blend that on paper at least sounded like something I should love to death, but that day, the celery seed was out to eat me, and that did not make me happy.

Which, after all, is partly the reason I wear perfume to begin with.

Alors, then – no. Never. Not even in my nightmares, and trust me, with the book I’m writing, they’re plenty bad enough.

On to Bois de Violette. Now, I do like violets, and I love violet candies and candied violets, but the bottled variety, not so much. From reviews and raves, I gathered this was a different, not-that-kind of violet, so I was looking forward to it. Violet paired with Atlas cedar, it couldn’t be too bad. So I thought before applying.

It promptly dropped me into a gargantuan pencil box of very expensive art pencils – and stayed there. Violet???? What violet? This should have been titled Bois de Viol, because it was…rape by pencil shavings, enough to fuel the Ècole des Beaux Arts and several sketch artists for at least ten years. Yikes! I used kitty litter that smelled better than this! I’ve used cedar shavings on my rose geranium that smelled exactly the same.

Something was very wrong with these pictures. These were not the mind-blowers I had come to expect. I put them away in their Pueblo gourd and forgot about them.

Until a full moon night, a night I couldn’t write, and they flew into my hand as if propelled unseen by Uncle Serge, whispering in the ether…

“Really. You should try them. You’ll see.”

Two perfumes. Two wrists. On the left, Mandarine Mandarin, Bois de Violette on the right.

I waited the prerequisite five minutes, staring into my wall, wondering if I’d want to shoot myself.

Well, I do. For other reasons than I expected.

Mandarine Mandarin, that celery-seed arm-eating gargoyle, was on her best behavior last night. Holy Orange Blossom, this was glorious stuff. Mandarin zest and candied mandarin, orange blossom and black tea and… hello, lover, where have you been? Can I marry you, or should I just settle for embalming when I leave Planet Earth?

Opulent and rich and heady, my favorite kind of smoky citrus scent, the kind that slays the unsuspecting. Yes, I need that at my age. Whatever it takes. Take me. Please. Not like its sibling, Fleurs d’Oranger, which to my untrained nose is bottled sunshine-y days, this is an evening perfume that sends out certain messages of expensive dinners at Lapérouse in Paris, in one of the cabinets particuliers, champagne included and fireworks likewise.

I really need to get a life. Or else a less dangerous imagination.

On to Bois de Violette. Last night, there was no pencil box in sight, only the pensive, slightly melancholy yet flirtatious air of wood violets talking, not whispering, from a cedar-forest floor. I caught myself thinking this would be perfect for a Pisces kind of girl, someone sweet and cuddly and but with hidden depths you could never guess. BdV would be perfect for those days you should be concentrating on Serious Things, like splitting atoms or infinitives, just not so serious you want the world to forget you’re a girl after all, or forget yourself in all that serious cedar. Make no mistake, this is very woody in the best way, yet the violet sweetens it just enough to push it over the frilly edge of feminine, at least on my skin.

I had a bad case of perfume schizophrenia on my arms last night. Just call me Two-Faced T. Whether it was hormones, mood or the phase of the Moon, I didn’t know what to expect except the unexpected.

Be careful what you wish for. You will get it! Such as – a cure for writer’s block!

Have you had any surprises on your skin? Perfumes that turned traitor, right when you thought it was love eternal and everlasting, or else Demons of the Dark that hid their angelic side underneath, only to spring it upon you unaware?

Mandarine Mandarin and Bois de Violette are in the Salon-exclusive line of Salons Shiseido at Palais Royale, although Bois de Violette is also in the export line available at Luckyscent, Aedes and Barneys NY, Samples and decants can be bought from The Perfumed Court.

Image: Yours truly, seriously mangled.