Today being Valentine's Day, I'm busy pondering the Boy With the Bow and Arrow. How is it that one civilization after another has ascribed something so earth-shattering as love to the marksmanship of a chubby toddler? The Greeks had Eros, the Romans had Cupid, the Hindus had Kāmadeva... obviously, the idea of entrusting both romance and weapons to a mischief-making kid with poor impulse control is one that transcends all cultural barriers.
But Cupid isn't all cuteness and candy hearts. The Norse god Váli (Old Norse: "wailer"; note its similarity to "Valentine") was an adorable infant hit man brought to life by Óðinn solely to exact revenge on his enemies. According to myth, Váli carried out his first 'job' within 24 hours of being born. (That's one motivated baby!) Clearly, Váli is not Eros, Cupid, or Kāmadeva; he doesn't exist to spread joy or romance. The Boy With the Bow and Arrow has a dark side.
In first encountering Essence of Vali, I knew that "Vali" referred not to some junior Norse badass, but to Valerie Bennis, the founder of this Manhattan-based aromatherapy firm. On her website, she describes EOV Eau de Parfum as her "masterpiece blend", one that compels total strangers to demand, "What are you wearing?" One sniff tells why. This is an arresting scent, complex and clearly designed to override all one's defenses. Like its mythical namesake, it aims, shoots-- and pierces the heart clean through.
The first notes that rise to greet the senses are sharp, bright, and hot-- pelargonium and palmarosa laced with the lemony bite of tropical verbena (Litsea cubeba). Neon pink and scarlet blossoms swim before the mind's eye, their intense hue provoking something halfway between rapture and pain. But they're a mirage, as becomes clear when clove and rosewood take over. All that is light gives way to darkness; flowers make way for spice; fiery pepper and citrus notes cede to a deeper heat. Think of it as an evening that begins with a bright bouquet and ends with passion in a room lit red by the glow from a banked fire. Is this hell? Or are there more forms of heaven than are dreamt of in your philosophy?
Bennis characterizes her proprietary blend of eight essential oils as one intended to "give the wearer the pleasure of a beautiful fragrance and the benefit of aromatherapy". But what makes Essence of Vali astonishing is its slightly cruel, merciless edge. Love isn't always kind, and romance is what happens before lovers' eyes are fully opened. Sensual and sadistic, EOV captures the moment when things get real.
Scent Elements: Lavender, cedarwood, rosewood, patchouli, palmarosa, geranium, litsea cubeba, clove