Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ephemera: Here, then gone

My skin eats perfume. Voracious as a tiger, it gobbles it right up.

I don’t even order 1 ml samples; that’s not enough for even one day on me. No, it has to be spray, at least EDP strength, at least a mill and a half, and I change out my vials like some women change purses. Because nothing, not even extrait, ever lasts a whole day.

I decided to try three fragrances, which don’t last long on me, to see how they would do on paper. Paper is how perfumes are sold now. Back in the day, we tried them on skin; now it’s blotter paper with the store’s name conveniently printed on it. And of course, the mass-market manufacturers are reported to be emphasizing their “all at once” scents, designed to leap out and grab the tester by the throat, right there in the store. After all, that all-important Decision to Purchase is made in the first five seconds, and it is based on that little strip of paper.

That’s a shame. Because there’s something to be said for seeing what develops. For individuality. For waiting before you dive on in.

Apres l’Ondee by Guerlain This is the classic scent of waiting, the one that’s supposed to make you yearn, and it does make me yearn, but I don’t know what for. If there is a forest that smells like this after it rains, that forest must be in heaven. Heliotrope and violets and something that reminds me a little of licorice. But not sweet, none of that candy sweetness that so often comes with violets. And the deepest note, and this is the mystery, is of something very much like Play-Doh. That’s somewhere I’ll never be able to go again.

If nostalgia had a scent, this would be it.

If Apres l’Ondee had a color, it would be a grayed lavendaer, like the sky after rain; a cool tone, as cool as this fragrance feels.

Notes include bergamot, neroli, aniseed, hawthorn, violet, heliotrope and musk.

Osmanthe Yunnan by Hermessance

So gorgeous. So perfect. So over. It lasts ten minutes on my skin.

The perfumer, Jean-Claude Ellena, is known for his minimalism, for the elegant, spare compositions he creates, and often for the transitory qualities of his creations. Osmanthus is not a fruit or flower, but a flowering shrub. Here in the South, we call it a Tea Olive. I’ve never tasted honey made from Osmanthus blossoms, but I wish I could. Just imagine Osmanthus-scented honey, how subtle it would be.

As subtle as this fragrance.

I bought a cake of Osmanthus soap, and the fragrance is just as fleeting. But while it’s there…

If I bought a bottle of this, I’d have to carry it around with me. I’d have to spray myself with it more or less constantly. I may just do that. (See the earlier entry titled “Have I Lost It?”) If this scent has a color, it would be a pale peach.

Some things just weren’t made to last.

Notes: Yunnan tea, freesia, apricot, osmanthus, leather, musk.

Fleur d’Iris by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier

First there is a celery-like note, and then violets. Then a whiff of iris, like an introduction. I smell no dirty root, only the flower, cool and violet. On the paper, some mixed florals begin to come up about two minutes in: I thought I smelled gardenia or heliotrope, but the notes I found say only rose, and leafy greens; on my skin, it’s much sweeter, and the powderey iris predominates from the first seconds. The color would be violet light, transparent, nearing ultraviolet. It reminds me of spring, or of a cool pale blonde, like Eva-Marie Saint in “On the Waterfront.”

An interesting coda, too, at least on my skin: It dries down fast to a sweet and amberey wood. On paper, though, I smell just a hint of sandalwood.

Notes: Iris flower, orris root, violet, rose (which I don’t smell at all) leafy greens, sandalwood.

With all three of these perfumes, we’re talking about minutes, not hours. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. What does it mean (besides that I’m expensive?)

That I’m, well, a little different. Could be I run a little hot. Could be that every fragrance I wear is unique to my chemistry. And it very well could be that I’ll always have to carry lots of little bottles and vials around with me.

That's fine with me.


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