Encens et Lavande (Serge Lutens)

The herb lavender is the original untouchable. It projects such an aura of holistic cleanliness and vigor that it can be paired with the raunchiest animalics and still emerge uncorrupted. Like Sugar, the virginal whore of The Crimson Petal and The White, lavender "can surrender to a deluge of ordure and rise up... her smile white as absolution."

This hasn't stopped a century's worth of perfumers from trying to drag lavender down into the gutter.  Kilos of civet, castoreum, and musk have been dedicated to the campaign, the result being a string of masterpieces (Jicky, Mouchoir de Monsieur, et. al.) in which lavender remains cheerfully unsubdued by the burlesque costumes it's been conscripted to wear. The crucial difference is found in the top button that lavender keeps buttoned, the sensible, opaque stockings that stay on even when all else has been stripped away.  As any ecdysiast worth her salt knows, sometimes it's not what you take off, but the little you leave on that pushes desire to dangerous levels.

Encens et Lavande is lavender's day off from the dance hall.  Alone in her sparsely-furnished room, free from the trappings of the hedonistic life, she can finally relax and be herself.  Frankincense and sage may seem like an austere alternative to all the spangles and sequins, but it's just as she wishes.  She reminds me of the geisha who told National Geographic photographer Jodi Cobb that her secret dream was to become a Buddhist nun.  Both professions, she pointed out, required discipline and the subsumption of the ego-- but as a nun, at least, she'd no longer have to tolerate people staring at her.
 
Scent Elements: Lavender, incense, amber, clary sage