A Dance with A Danger

THE DEVILSCENT PROJECT I

–       a review of Neil Morris’ first module for the Devilscent Project

Sometimes, I wish my readers could be present when I sniff a perfume for the first time, just so they could get a sense of what manner of gut reaction I have, what epithets I exclaim, what numinous emotions I’ll then have to translate into words and phrases.

I have never wished it more in my entire lifespan as a perfume writer as I did this past week, when a dream that originated in my own twisted mind for reasons I’ll never know became a concrete reality in the shape of the first edition of the Devil’s scent as it’s described in my novel, Quantum Demonology.

Understand, I hadn’t planned for that telling little detail, a leitmotif that trails through the story as both admonition and metaphor, that last, tiny push the protagonist with her own esoteric tastes in perfume is helpless to resist, the one that burns away her last hesitations and overrules her fears, that haunted and haunting one-way ticket into a world she only thought she knew, but of course, she couldn’t know what manner of perfume and perdition, Heaven and Hell awaited that fated Friday night…

The Devil’s scent stayed through eight revisions of its first appearance and stuck in my mind as an image I could invoke as clearly as I could invoke that Devil I created: heady, dark, otherworldly, emphatically male in a way that sings its devious purposes in a manner the protagonist can’t refuse.

So imagine what it will do to an excitable writer’s mind when that idea is given concrete form and interpretation, when she sees the logo she created for the project emblazoned on the bottle, the effect of what her words have caused and inspired.

It blew my mind. I had to sit down for a moment and center my hara, had to try not to repeat that mantra in my story, another red thread that weaves throughout the words and the world I had created, a metaphysical truth as old as time itself:

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

I did what I often do to gain a first impression – I sprayed a little out into the room to let it disperse.

That first reaction does not translate well. Just imagine something along the lines of …Oh! Wow! Wow!

Not very Baudelaire-ian, I know. This is not what made my suspect reputation in the perfumed blogosphere.

I rushed around getting ready to leave again and came back into the room five minutes later. Only this time, the ambience of my living room had changed. I heard the definite rhythm of cloven feet tap-dancing on my wood floor, echoes of a laugh I knew a little too well for comfort, a chill tickle at the back of my neck before rushing out the door and on through the remains of my day.

The rest of this past week, when not buried in webinars and headaches and marketing hyperbole, I would sniff at the contents of that heavy, glass bottle and wonder if I could ever find the words to do them the justice they deserved. Even now, even after giving up and slinking off to bed, even in the gray, damp twilight of an early morning, I’m not entirely sure I’ve found them.

Then, this happened.

“You’re going about it the wrong way.” said a voice in my otherwise empty room. “You’re fighting the Fail Demon, the one that says you can’t, but you’re wrong.” He pointed to that elegant matt black, embossed box on my desk. “You can.” He gave me a soon-to-be-famous five-year-old grin.

Dev, kicking back in my son’s chair by my desk, and I had not seen him for a very, very long time. He hadn’t changed a bit, but this morning he wasn’t wearing his trademark aviator shades.

“Well, what do you know,” I quipped. “A visitation from Cousin Id.”

“I’m not your cousin, baby. And I still say you’re not doing this right.” He reached out for that matt black box and took out the bottle. “Nice logo. You made that, right?”

“With a little help from Harry Clarke, but yes. I did.”

“So tell me…” he grabbed the card and read the note on the back. “Why are you making it so hard for yourself? Think about it. I may have started as a crazy idea in your head one boring Friday night, but think about how far you’ve come since then. More people have read your book than ever did while you wrote it as a serial. You’ve became a perfume blogger, and I gotta say it…no one else does it quite like you do. You even met the inspiration for me last summer and made a definite impression.” He gave me a grin I hadn’t seen since a Wednesday night on a tour bus and shook his head.

Off came the cap, and he sniffed. His eyebrows shot toward his hairline.  “Now, you’ve got the Devilscent Project with some iconic cult-name perfumers interpreting your words into perfumes, you have a contact with an agent, you have all these bloggers participating – and let me tell you, they’re at least as excited as you are – and here’s a painful truth for you: if you made all that happen from nothing, which you did with a little help from your friends – you can manifest anything you like. You just need to slay that Fail Demon, and you’ll be fine.”

“Easy for you to say. I’m the one who doesn’t want to fall flat on my face.”

“Then I’ll say it another way. I. Dare. You.” He sprayed his wrist. What followed was one four-letter word that begins with F.

“That’s not fair. I can’t resist a dare.”

“Should I go get a brownie from the fridge, just so you can be done over in four irresistible ways?” he laughed. “A testosterone bomb issuing a challenge while holding a chocolate brownie?” He laughed longer.

“No.” I was curious to see his reaction to that other intangible Devil in the room.

“Back to your nose, baby. We have a review to write, and a lot of people are dying to find out what you think. Hmm. Neil Morris. He’s one of those inside, cult secrets far more people need to know about. You certainly need to sniff way more of his stuff if this is any indication. Geez. The guy totally gets it, no contest. The dark, the danger, the erotic edge, the overpowering part, those Gothic undertones, oh, yes…This version will be banned in several red states. Especially on Sundays. And come with a health label.

“Keep away from pets, children and suggestible, celibate women.”

“Don’t remind me,” I groaned. “That’s the rest of my unnatural lifespan.”

He held out his wrist. “Don’t be such an optimist, baby. I rather doubt that. Sniff and tell me what you think.”

I sniffed. Labdanum, glorious, thick, heady and animal, dark as a starless midnight, bitter and leathery and rock’n’roll and pernicious, it was a carnal universe in a single note as deep and as clear as a vibrating bass string. One of my all-time favorite notes, and it was everywhere in the room with us, giving me all sorts of ideas I don’t usually think on a solo Saturday morning.

“It’s…” I had to think for a moment. “Filthy, dirty, skanky, stinky…yet in a very elegant way. I could get a bit more specific, but this is a perfume blog.”

“Keep going. We’re not there yet.” A huge ganache-covered brownie materialized out of nowhere and he bit into it with relish.

“I don’t have a list of notes. I thought it would be better that way.”

“You don’t need to read notes to appreciate music, either.”, he mumbled around a mouthful of brownie. “C’mon.

As he spoke and I wrote, that dark-blue demon perched like a pigeon at the top of my laptop screen grew smaller and more transparent. Its tail twitched, slapping out a muted tattoo in 4/4 time to another sort of Devil singing on my iPig.

As this Devilscent no. 1 evolved, it became sweeter and even more sensuous, if such a thing were possible. Now, it was entirely different, a floral promise of dreams come true and that sensual anticipation you can feel as a tingle on your skin when you just know it will be better than good, it will be epic, it will change your life forever, so long as this otherworldly flower sings its siren song of surrender on your skin.

Meanwhile, several shades of baccanalian intimations were taking place on Dev’s skin. That floral promise of before bloomed and deepened, and now, my nose could detect the bitterness from the beginning come to the fore again, labdanum again, only this time, it seemed combined with frankincense and was that a hint of myrrh in the background, both of them at a whisper below that leathery labdanum pulse and weaving in, out and around in its unique way, that alternate universe floral aria of perdition in its alto key…So beautiful, so fated, it seemed to say, but …

Beware, beware what happens when you dance with your danger…

“I don’t want your soul, baby. According to Saint Augustine, you don’t have one.”

In a small puff of black smoke, the demon flashed and vanished.

Dev licked ganache off his fingers. “See? You slayed the Fail Demon. And you wrote your review.” A few gooey brownie crumbs remained at the corner of his mouth and whether it was the thrill of his presence or that perfume, I couldn’t resist an urge to brush them away with my finger. In a flash, he held my hand by the wrist and gave me a certain look I also knew rather too well for comfort.

“Well…” I shrugged. “I had a little help. The question is, what do you think about it?”

He took the bottle out of the box and stared for a moment at the logo, admiring the dark amber glow of the perfume. He took another sniff at his wrist. “I think Neil Morris is a genius,” he said after a long pause. “But I also think it needs a little more black, a slightly larger ghost…a touch more peril, a smidgen of abyss. More labdanum, definitely. Not that this is bad in the slightest. It’s freaking beautiful. It’s not like anything else I’ve encountered, that’s for sure. But…I…don’t know. I don’t think we’re quite there yet. If this is any indication, though…I think we will be. Just wait and see.”

He turned over my left hand and kissed my palm. Now, he stood up, his lips right by my ear. “Just don’t forget, baby…be careful what you wish for.”

In the blink of an eye, he disappeared. Yet I already knew what to write next.

You will get it.

As Baudelaire wrote…

Rich, complex, triumphant, other [perfumes] roll with the limitless range of all non-finite things…each sings the ecstasy of the senses and the soul.

With my most profound thanks to Chaya Ruchama and Neil Morris, and to Lucy of Indieperfumes, who introduced us.

Chaya Ruchama has written her own inimitable take on Neil Morris’ Devilscent here:

An introduction to the Devilscent Project with links is available at The Perfume Pharmer, who will also participate in the Devilscent Project. As will perfumers Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids, Kedra Hart of Opus Oils, Alexis Karl and Maria McElroy of Cherry Bomb Killer Perfumes and Aroma M.

Neil Morris Fragrances are priceless olfactory gems that beg discovery. Find them here.

Original Illustration: *Opposites Attract’ by Pelmo at Zazzle.

The Devilscent logo and Quantum Demonology, ©Sheila Eggenberger

Translation of Charles Baudelaire’s poem “Correspondances” from Les Fleurs du Mal, my own.

A whiff of perdition…

The Devilscent Project

A year ago, I had a little project-for-fun on my old blog, Scent Less Sensibilities, in collaboration with Doc Elly of Olympic Orchids. We called it Devilscent. The idea was to create a scent for the Devil as he is portrayed in my rock’n’roll Faustian novel, Quantum Demonology.

What do you know, dear readers, it is now a year later and things have…changed! 

I want to get Quantum Demonology out there, out to where it becomes a viral phenomenon, out where someone wants to get it in print, get it in Kindles, on iPads, and who knows where it could go from there? And what better way to do it in a way no one has ever quite done before – through the medium of…perfume?

A year later, Doc Elly is still very much a part of it. But so are several other very distinguished niche perfumers and some of the best perfume writers and bloggers in the blogosphere.

A year later, we’re going to take it to the next level. Through Facebook, through Twitter, through social media and PR and through the words of our bloggers and the perfumes our perfumers will create for the Devil – not your usual brand of Evil Incarnate – and for his much malcontented wife, Lilith, Queen of the Succubi.

Because in this version, the Devil stalks our hapless Faust, haunts her many dreams and lures her to perdition through…a perfume.

But what would such perfumes be – and what havoc could they wreak?

Read all about it in the weeks to come!

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

Flying onward


– Change is in the air…

Picture this: Today is possibly one of the nicest days in over three months of a summer that never really happened. The sun is beaming from a flawless blue sky, it’s a balmy 73°F/24°C outside on the first of October, no less, and outside my open windows, I can hear the sound of children playing soccer in the sun. Janice, the calico, is out on an old changing table/cushioned cat perch on my balcony, baking her belly fur, whereas Hairy Krishna, who normally never veers far from my side, is crashed on my bed deep in the duvet feathers.

While Wolverine and his father do boy things at Daddy’s house until late tomorrow afternoon, I sit in splendid solitude and questionable attire, hair up in a clip, and write. My little black iPig is blaring out a metal-minded medley version of the Beatles’ ‘Day Tripper’, and it’s just what I want to hear.

These weekends are cherished, precisely because it’s the most time I’m able to devote to writing between the day job, the laundry, the kid and the incipient chaos of everyday life. This is when I plan out future blogs, catch up on sleep, go for walks at 7 AM when the sun rises, cultivate my solipcism/tend my imagination/relocate my sanity….and write.

Something I’ve been doing a lot of in the past two years, more than at any other time in my life, and something I like to believe I do better than almost anything else. That being the case, I believe it’s the perfect time to share a little something with my readers now, because you’re going to hear about it one way or another very soon.

I’ve decided in the very near future to move SLS from Blogger to WordPress. Not a few of you are already there, and I’ll be in excellent company, this I know! Candyperfumeboy says you have cupcakes, and that helps, too! I’m currently in the process of setting it up and getting it to what I want it to be.

What I’ll also do is move QD elsewhere. Henceforward, only the first twelve chapters of Quantum Demonology in their second-draft form will be available in the public domain of the blogosphere.

Another book will also be launched on WordPress in chapter installments, but this one contains not a trace of devilry. Instead, it’s a historical novel set in Roman Britain and Ireland in the third century AD, about a young man in some serious trouble…

Last but not least, I’ll launch a space for short stories and other things I’ve written which fall outside my usual category of writing. Some of them are erotica, some of them are ghost stories, some of them contain elements that later made their way into …perfume blogs and another novel I’m wrestling with at the moment, a rewriting of Euripides’ ‘Medea’.

All of this is another way of saying that if I define myself as a writer, then I had better get myself out there as best I can and show the world this pony has far more than one trick up its tail…;-)

Meanwhile, here are a few things you can expect to see in the meantime…

Tomorrow, I’ll sink my teeth and my questionable skills in word-smithing into one of the most spectacular perfumes created in the past twenty years. I’ve been wearing this with a fury lately, and the fury shows no signs of abating. It’s not that good. It’s better!

Next week, SLS will focus its minuscule Klieg light on Amanda Feeley of Esscentual Alchemy, a highly prolific and talented perfumer, a recent participant in Perfume Pharmer’s ‘Summer of Patchouli Love’, and someone with whom I’ve connected in a big way. For one thing, she ate QD in a record four days. And still wanted to talk to me afterwards! Her perfumes are as unique as her own self, and I can’t wait to write about them.

If this past summer and fall have had a theme, it would be…connecting. Remember when I said that joining Twitter was the best thing I’ve done to promote my writing? I did it in part as an experiment in social media marketing, and I suspect the fun is only beginning. I’ve connected with so many people I’d barely dare say hello to in my pre-Twitter life, but things have changed and I’ve changed with them, and now, who knows what will happen?

One thing that did happen was another opportunity to let out my inner rock chick. This is…serendipity in action, all true. A certain drummer is very dear to my heart – not the way you think, but he did and in fact still does play in one of my two all-time favorite bands. He’s a seriously rad drummer and a seriously nice guy. So I found out about another new band he’s a member of, got excited, tracked them down, bought the CD, promoted them on Twitter. A few direct messages flew back and forth. They’re coming to Copenhagen in January. No excuses. I. Have. To. Go. I called the venue – the real-life Alcatraz, the metal club in QD (and how cool is THAT?) – to ask about tickets. “Wait a second,” said their booker… “are you…” “Yes.” “Because I just received an email from their manager saying your name should be put on the list…” Yours truly is going to the show…this time, at the frontman’s request. Which isn’t just cool, but positively chill!

Even on this warm Indian summer day, I look forward to autumn. Maples leaves burning my retinas against an impossible blue sky, that glorious scent of moldering leaves and bonfires, hunting for porcini in the beechwoods where they grow the size of US dinner plates, flying Wolverine’s kite again down our favorite local hill, baking an apple pie on a rainy day…and wearing some of my richest, most opulent, drop-dead perfumes.

So what are you looking forward to about the fall? What gets your dreams flying, what makes you happy, where do you like to go?

I’d love to hear about it!

Image: wilted-autumn-leaves.blogspot.com

Eau de Perdition

– a review of Opus Oils’ ‘Dirty Sexy Wilde’

Ever since a boring, windy November night almost two years ago, my dreams have been haunted by a phantom….perfume. A perfume I have never encountered in real life, never even thought about before that night I was visited by a relation to Edgar Allen Poe’s Imp of the Perverse and fell down a rabbit hole of my making.

See me as I was that Friday night…thoroughly, emphatically bored. Some idea bubbled away at the back of my mind, something nailed my posterior to my Balinese cane chair and sent me looking for an image I came across a few days before, something made me drum my desk as I looked and thought that heretical thought…

“What if…”

“What if” is how stories are born, books are written, things…happen.

I plugged into my iPod, unplugged my inner censor, and wrote a story about a woman much like myself with nothing to lose, a woman with a dream of doing and becoming – and the Devil in disguise in a midnight café who makes her an offer not even she can refuse. Woven into the storyline in a way I wasn’t even aware of doing was…that phantom perfume, the Devil’s scent, dark, erotic and dangerously alluring. It weaved and bobbed throughout the storyline that followed, as warning and premonition and button pusher, and the Devil that I conjured knew everything about pushing my protagonist’s buttons – good and bad.

Since then, I’ve often asked myself when I sniffed something new…would this be it? I have a current project – in dire need of resurrection at present, I freely admit – called the Devil’s Scent with Doc Elly of Olympic Orchids, I’ve met a few candidates…but none of them came so close to that olfactory image in my mind as Kedra Hart of Opus Oils did with ‘Dirty Sexy Wilde.’

It’s all Carrie Meredith’s fault. Without her reviews of Opus Oils and my own relentless curiosity, I would never have known. ‘When you get your samples, girl, I want you to pour half that vial of ‘Dirty Sexy Wilde’ all over yourself and let me know what happens’, she wrote me in an email.

So when they arrived after over a week of anticipation that nearly killed me, that’s exactly what I did. I’m so glad I was alone that Saturday, or my sanity would have been in question. The only word that bears repeating (this is a perfume blog, after all) is…OMG!

‘Dirty Sexy Wilde’ is Kedra Hart’s ode to Oscar Wilde and Dorian Gray, both of whom are very, very dear to my writer’s heart, so with a name like that, there’s something to live up to – an aura of Oscar’s rapier, elegant wit and verve and that underlying hint of horror that lurks between the lines of ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’.

There’s nothing in the slightest horrific about DSW, but by golly, this is one of the most erotic things I’ve ever had the pleasure to inhale. It starts off green and slightly soapy in an elegant scented lace-edged Victorian handkerchief way, but it takes no time at all for it to begin asserting itself in all the best and most anticipatory ways. This is where it’s closest to the elegant Oscar, the aesthete Dorian.

Before long, that fatal combination of tobacco, oakmoss, coumarin, musk, civet and ambergris – a blend that surely equals ‘sexy beast’ if anything does – makes itself known in no uncertain terms, and it moves far past anticipation and well into bedhead territory. Dirty. Sexy. A night to remember.

As my nameless protagonist says in QD of the aftermath:

My brain wasn’t located until Friday morning. I felt like a major railroad disaster.

‘Dirty Sexy Wilde’ is a major railroad disaster perfume, in the sense that it practically evaporates inhibitions and distills desire with a capital D to a sharp and shining point. It isn’t obvious, yet it’s not understated and it’s perfectly balanced and flawlessly composed for what it is. I call it Eau de Perdition.

Your idea of the Devil’s perfume might be different, more understated, a touch less, well… animal. Since I wrote QD, I know my Devil well, and I tell you from the bottom of my black and highly depraved rock’n’roll heart…

My Devil would wear this for his first encounter with my protagonist at the Chelsea Hotel, he would wear it to burn away every last shred of doubt or inhibition she might have, every objection she could hold, and every onion layer self she would want to peel away forever. And he would wear it again much later, when he says:

Until there is nothing more to say, not vertical, not in words, not in anything other than the language she and I had spoken from that very first moment in a café at midnight. This one. This skin, this touch, this scent, this mind, this woman, this dissolution, this mouth, this conversation. Oh, yes.

Eau de perdition.

As for this lowly perfume blogger, desperately trying to write a semi-coherent review, I can only be grateful I have yet to encounter it on either my Devil or his lookalike.

If I ever did, I’d eat all three of his femurs alive and entire, more than once, and by Golly, he’d walk differently the next morning!

As it is, I’m so very, very grateful to Kedra Hart for putting my Devil into Dirty Sexy Wilde. For which I can only thank her from the bottom of my black and depraved rock’n’roll heart!

Notes: Galbanum, red mandarin, violet, rose, jasmine, blond tobacco, oakmoss, coumarin, musk, civet, ambergris.

‘Dirty Sexy Wilde’ is available in many permutations from perfume to bath salts from Opus Oils.

Image of Tiger Powers as ‘Oscar Wilde/Dorian Gray’ used by permission of Opus Oils. There was a picture of Oscar that I found, but Tiger’s was so much better!

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

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