A Dream that Time Forgot

-a review of Olympic Orchid’s “Siam Proun”

There is something in the term “Oriental” that tickles the imagination, a sense of ancient history and timelessness. In perfume, an oriental denotes something spicy and opulent, a dream of far-away lands and old, sensuous secrets hiding within the depths of a perfume bottle, something ever-so-slightly decadent, even a touch forbidden, which only makes it that much more alluring.

My own relationship with the oriental category has not always been an easy one. With the exception of Lancôme’s “Magie Noire”, I’ve tended to avoid them. I just wasn’t sure I was that kind of woman, or else just woman enough to add that potent weapon to my arsenal. So over the course of my life I gravitated toward other categories, the greens and chypres and verdant florals I still love to this day.

Caught in the all-pervasive miasma of a dismal winter and the blahs that follow, I decided a few days ago to do something about it, and set about rearranging my bookcases. In the course of doing just that, I came across a dream journal I kept ten years ago.

In the dream, I stood at a gatehouse at Angkor Wat, that recapturing of creation laid out in Khmer stone, both ruin and reality. Until the next moment, it wasn’t, and it lay before me, still standing in that gatehouse, not as it is now, a tourist attraction and World Heritage site, but as it was during, say, the reign of Jayavarman VII, surrounded by priests and officials and courtiers, and the Mount Meru in stone I saw before me was opening up to me, some test I had passed, some deed I had done had gained me access to this place both sacred and profound. Needless to say, as I walked on flower-garlanded feet down that processional path lit by torches, I woke up…

But the dream remained and refused to budge, so I wrote it down and forgot about it, only to be reminded the instant I opened my tiny vial of Olympic Orchids’Siam Proun”…

Siam Proun is an Oriental in the true sense of the word – a mystery wrapped in the fragrant secrets of spice and incense. It’s at once both contemplative and evocative, serene and slightly disturbing. Just like the mood in my long-ago dream, it smells both sacred and profound, and just like my dream, it evokes a unique history in its notes – a time that lay waiting to be rediscovered. It is not sweet, but heady, spicy and floral, less a composition of parts than all of a piece and entire – one mood, one time, one place and one place in time. Is there patchouli and sandalwood in there, incense, Doc Elly’s signature spice, a touch of jungle flowers hiding in the green? Yes, and a time capsule too, of a dream of the East, an idea of the Orient, a frame-freeze of history and splendor I all but forgot until it wafted out of a vial on fragrant, flower-garland feet along the path to Mount Meru where the world began, a frieze of beautiful temple dancers, dancing for the glory of Vishnu just above the milky ocean.

On my everyday excursions to places like perfume stores and the stores that smell perfumes, I don’t often come across time travel in bottles, never mind the kind of time travel I might even be persuaded to wear.

But this little-genie in-a-bottle is precisely that, a long procession of dancers, weaving through time and place and history in their gleaming silks, on those flower-garland feet, and if that’s not a cure for the dismal winter blahs, then what is?

It wears unisex, although I’d hate to encounter any man who wore this. Resistance would be futile. In no time at all, I’d be dancing quite a few measures of my own!

I want a bottle. Yesterday. Just so I can be reminded of history and beauty and far-off, exotic places past, and faraway, exotic pleasures present – and future.

Image: Temple carving from Bayon, Cambodia, 13th century.