Arabie (Serge Lutens)

In her 2007 memoir, The Scent Trail, journalist Celia Lyttelton describes her global quest to visit the homeplace of every ingredient in "Reminiscent", the signature fragrance created for her by bespoke perfumer Anastasia Brozler. Her odyssey includes stops in the Near East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Mediterranean... yet when she returns to sample the finished fragrance, Lyttelton discovers that its heart rests in a scent from her own childhood. This scent is what transforms her bespoke perfume from a mere collection of exotic ingredients into a deeply emotional and personal experience. "Reminiscent" becomes a mirror to her soul, reflecting the deepest associations of her being.

Arabie, for me, is one such phenomenon. More than a perfume, it is a vicarious journey of the heart, each scent element another page of personal travelogue. I almost feel as though Christopher Sheldrake has taken a peek in my diary; this could be my own bespoke scent.

Arabie's first notes of orange peel, caraway, cumin, and anise evoke the aromatic and colorful mixture of roasted seeds, spices, and rock sugar served as a palate cleanser after a satisfying Indian feast. Brief notes of nigella (black caraway) and honey usher in a tranquil, long-lived sandalwood chord that is strongly reminiscent of those slightly cluttered metaphysical shops where boxes of incense are stored on top of silk scarves from Bhutan. Eventually this settles into a drydown of the softest patchouli imaginable, mingled with a powdery vanillic accord which recalls handmade paper so old it crumbles to dust in your hand.

It is said that the mind is a mansion in which every memory occupies its own room. Often, we happen upon a door whose lock has rusted shut; in such cases, a stray sensation -- a particular slant of light, the touch of a certain fabric, or a perfume -- can act as a skeleton key, freeing what is imprisoned within and facilitating a rush of reconnection.

Arabie reunites me with memories of adventures I've had that have been lost in my subconscious for years. It reaches in, sets them free, and places them side by side for me to see in a new light. Where I was, who I was with, and how I felt in that moment-- all fresh, and right at my fingertips. I feel a sense of deep joy and tranquility, and I realize that it takes a rare perfume that can unlock these kind of reactions.

Arabie is that perfume... and time and again, I am grateful for its magic.

Scent Elements: Cedar, sandalwood, fig, date, mandarin, nutmeg, cumin, clove, bayleaf, tonka bean, benzoin, myrrh, labdanum