There is something about the phrase “white flowers” which sounds so pure and innocent to the uninitiated. I certainly didn’t know what these sweet white flowers were really about until I began to explore perfumery, but now I do: they’re a drug.
If you were to visualize yourself in a white-walled room with big vases full of jasmine, and orange blossom and tuberose and oh, gardenia, stretched out on a comfortable bed dressed in white cotton, more white drapery at the window, a slow-turning ceiling fan, a gentle breeze and the kind of light that only reflects off water, where would you be?
Physically, maybe in a beach house somewhere. Psychologically, you might be in as ordinary a place as I am now: sitting in an armchair in my living room, in my bathrobe, drinking coffee, lifting my hand to my nose every now and then for another white-flower hit.
Some scents have this power to transport. The more challenging ones, the concepts, the oudhs, the reflections on dirt, roots, sweat or wet concrete excite the intellect, the power of analysis, push the boundaries of the word “perfume.” Not these. They are nature’s. Their targets, of course, are not us; they’re insects, without whose endless poking and flitting these flowers, and the bushes, trees or vines on which they grow, could not exist.
These are the perfumes I smell and wear when I want to be transported, lifted, to some other place. To my own white room.
I chose three scents: Serge Lutens’ “A la Nuit” for jasmine, Estee Lauder Private Collection “Tuberose Gardenia” for, well, tuberose and gardenia, and Bourbon French’s “Orange Blossom” perfume.
What I would do, if I had unlimited amounts of these three, is to spray them all on my white sheets, put on a white cotton floor-length nightgown, spritz that with them and into my hair. I’d then lie down for a midday nap, or an afternoon siesta, both big no-no’s in the modern culture of busyness. What a delightful sin that would be: silence, indolence, nobody around. No cellphone, no iPhone, no computer beeping in the next room, no demands, just solitude. The initials form an acronym: silence, indolence, nobody: SIN. Which, incidentally, in Spanish means “without.”
When I think about the real reasons we wear perfumes at a time in which we don’t need them to mask odors, I keep returning to a phrase from some forgotten poem: “she walks in beauty…” The advertising, the marketing for modern fragrances have got it so wrong. Kate Moss writhing around in the back seat of a limo, holding a bottle of...what was it? I’ve already forgotten.
We live in a crass time. Wearing perfume is about walking in beauty. And, if you are, the rest of it is easier to take.
So I’m glad that these white flowers cast a spell. They bewitch in ways that the “c’mere you’!” musks and cumin-y skanksters can’t. In an orange grove in the spring, you can see bumblebees, their bodies heavy with pollen, drunkenly somersaulting from flower to flower in utter euphoria. I think that we can do that, too.
I think that’s another reason why the white flower scents exist.
White Room Photo © Olfacta, all rights reserved.
The perfumes I used for this post are “a la Nuit,” by by Serge Lutens Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido, a jasmine floral with jasmines from Egypt, India, and Morocco, and white honey, benzoin and musk. The perfumer was Christopher Sheldrake. There is talk of IFRA-compliant reformulation of this scent. I believe that the decant I have, a gift, was from an older bottle.
Estee Lauder Private Collection “Tuberose Gardenia” is part of their niche-like higher end line. The notes include neroli, lilac, rosewood, tuberose, gardenia, orange flower, jasmine, white lily, carnation and vanilla bourbon. The perfumer was Harry Fremont. My decant was purchased from The Perfumed Court.
Bourbon French “Orange Blossom” is from the venerated perfumery, founded in 1748, in New Orleans. All of their perfumes are compounded in-house. This one is perfume strength, and while there is no official list of “notes” that I could find, I smell honey and a bit of spice in the darkish drydown. I purchased this very grown-up orange blossom scent from Bourbon French.
For further explorations of Orange Blossom scents, go here.
For another look at New Orleans, go to this post.