Futur (Robert Piguet)

Of my favorite Talking Heads songs, a sweet little ditty named "(Nothing But) Flowers" reliably tops the list. Instead of scarifying us with threats of a Cormac McCarthyan post-apocalyptic wasteland, David Byrne tells us that the future is certain-- there just won't be any drive-thru lanes.
Once there were parking lots
Now it's a peaceful oasis
(You've got it, you've got it)
This was a Pizza Hut
Now it's all covered with daisies
(You've got it, you've got it)
The narrator -- our Adam for this re-Creation story -- lists all the modern conveniences that Mother Nature has casually swallowed up, then begs of his Eve:
Don't leave me stranded here
I can't get used to this lifestyle!
Futur by Robert Piguet makes me chuckle for the same reasons. Originally a contemporary of Paco Rabanne's Calandre, its vision of the future could not be more radically different from that other fragrance's chrome-plated, mechanized Space Age aesthetic.

The original Futur is said to have been centered on a profoundly verdant galbanum note, presaging the "green" trend of the next several years. Rejuvenated in 2009 by Givaudan's Aurélien Guichard, the Futur redux is still green, but closer to the new millenium definition of the word: gentle, eco-friendly, naturalistic. Soft and sheer, it wears like a favorite cotton pareo, a comfortable second skin perfect for traversing your favorite meadow in the morning dew. Unlike many of the late-sixties greens, it does not push its way under your nose and demand that you reckon with it. It flits, it floats, it... okay, it freely flees and flies, too. Longevity is not its talent. But loveliness is.

From its first fanfare of wet greens to its later fresh-wind-through-the reeds drydown, Futur is a tale of nature-- maybe not scribbled by Thoreau in lead pencil on handmade paper, but at least in biodegradable inks on 100% recycled laser-ready stock.

And if the future is nothing but flowers, count me in.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, neroli, violet, jasmine, ylang-ylang, vetiver, cedar, patchouli

Giulietta (Tocca)

New York-based fashion line Tocca draws inspiration from all things Italian, from Roman high life to Mediterranean seaside spas. In 2009 came Giuletta, a fragrance "inspired by the love story of Italian director Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina... (and) their holidays spent on the island of Corsica."

If you've never heard of Masina, or Fellini for that matter, you're a tabula rasa: lucky you. You're free-- first, to allow the above breezy ad copy to stir up visions of shallow Euro-celebs enjoying palazzo luxury; next, to enjoy the fragrance of their lazy excess yourself. It smells like an appletini-- you love appletinis! (Do shallow Euro-celebs drink appletinis? Why, they must!) Liberated from the shackles of previous associations, you can simply like Tocca's Giulietta without having to analyze why.

But if you've ever seen the real Giulietta -- Fellini's Giulietta -- you may find yourself hitting a wall.

True, five decades of creative (and romantic) partnership between two complex artists cannot be conveyed in a single paragraph printed in six-point typeface. As for the perfume attached to the text, what does it tell us about the true identity of the muse which inspired it? "Half the story" seems the best it can manage. It's hard to be Masina's fan unless you've got a taste for jolie laide-- that awkward, charming, irresistible homeliness that appeals to us in spite of how we define beauty. Tocca Giulietta has got Masina's light-heartedness down to a T. But it does not capture her -- forgive me -- irregularity, her quirk, which is what I love more.

So long as I divorce every thought of La Strada's tragicomic Gelsomina from my mind, it's easy to embrace this sweet-tart cutie that projects all the sophistication of a lollipop and sparkles like a bottle of newly-opened seltzer. Notes of sour green apple dance amid a predictable corps de ballet of flowers, occasionally lifted high with big smiles on their faces, only to drop once more back into the glittering fray. What Giulietta lacks in depth and melancholy and pathos, it makes up for in ta-ra-ra-boom-di-ay, so I've ended up liking it in spite of myself. On the other hand, I've also had to take extra headache medication each time I've worn it, so I suspect I can only pursue its hidden truths so far.

Can a person's soul ever adequately translate to another medium? I believe it can, with the help of the right facilitator. With her husband's aid, Giulietta Masina committed her one-of-a-kind anima to celluloid in film after film. Nights of Cabiria, La Strada, Juliet of the Spirits -- all bore the mark of her deep, playful, turbulent and nonpareil self. Can that self be summed up in a perfume? Sure. I just never expected it would be a pedestrian fruity floral.

Taken on its own, Tocca's Giulietta is, as they say, "a bit of all right". But Fellini's Giulietta might have striven for something better.

Scent Elements: Ylang-ylang, green apple, pink tulip, rose, heliotrope, lily-of-the-valley, iris, vanilla orchid, lilac, cedar, musk, sandalwood, amber

Patchouli 24 (Le Labo)

Composed by Annick Ménardo of Bulgari Black fame, Patchouli 24 is an infernal little haiku on the subject of brimstone and treacle. To begin with, its star ingredient (a rich ganache variety of the usual hippie pong) has been joined to a huge, sooty mesquite note alchemically forged between birch and cade tars. It's not often that patchouli gets married to leather or smoke-- let alone both at the same time. Makes you wonder if the ceremony took place at a lonesome crossroads at the stroke of midnight.

According to Julia Lawless' Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, cade (Juniperus oxycedrus) is a European variant of the worldwide juniper family whose tar is rich in both guaiacol and cresol. Once rectified, it produces a smoky 'leather' scent comparable to that of Russian birch tar, with which it is paired here. The phenolic duet these two play is saved from harshness by a nice, deep vanilla accord buried in Patchouli 24's base, which sends up riffs of tamarind candy and sweet liqueur whenever things start charring black around the edges.

The light amber color of the sample I'm wearing (provided to me by the wonderful Suzanne) indicates that it is a recent vintage. Earlier incarnations of Patchouli 24 contained crude cade oil, which lent the perfume a deep amber tone. In its disclaimer, Le Labo maintains that it would have preferred to stick with the crude cade for both its scent and its hue and declares the change heartbreaking but necessary. (In their words, "we have no choice".) However, they also assure us that the switch to a fully rectified cade oil guarantees a bump in overall purity and very little change in scent, and -- one imagines -- enough of a health safeguard to satisfy those who see the ghosts of toxicity hiding behind every curtain.

The upshot? Patchouli 24 is at once sweet, sour, spicy, warm, bizarrely medicinal, and singularly sensual. It wears like an aromatic ointment of ancient make, unearthed and found to be as fresh as the day it was bottled a millenium ago. Everything rests on what you divine its purpose to have been-- on one day, it seems it could have been made solely to comfort; on another day, to arouse and inflame.

With characteristic concision -- sancta simplicitas! -- Ménardo has liberated patchouli from the usual morass of clichés and released it into a diabolical new realm of associations.

Scent Elements: Patchouli, cade, birch tar, styrax, vanilla

Diorissimo Vintage Eau de Toilette (Dior) and Ubar Eau de Parfum (Amouage)

Muguet is one of those flowers I love steadfastly in art but seldom in perfume. Visually it charms me; I love the cool fluidity of its foliage (so popular with Karl Fabergé that his workshop produced numerous facsimiles carven of pure nephrite). The way each snowy bell-shaped blossom dangles adorably from its stem like a little girl's Sunday purse melts my heart. But in keeping with its cuteness, the scent of muguet is resolutely treble in pitch. Because no natural extract exists, perfumers compensate by mixing up a cocktail of synthetics whose cumulative squeal could shatter plate glass.

Also, there's the whole innocence thing. As much as I want to like muguet, some perverse corner of my subconscious (very likely the one that listens to Rasputina and wants to fill the living room with paintings by Mark Ryden) greatly desires to see it deviate from the path of pretty bridal fragrances and assume a more sinister role. Oh, sure, it can keep its innocent trappings-- but what if each wee, fleshy white flower opened its throat in a bloodthirsty yawn to reveal the tiniest of teeth?

Recently, two pals sent me examples of the very muguet I crave. These fragrances -- vintage Diorissimo Eau de Toilette from JoanElaine and contemporary Amouage Ubar from Suzanne> -- originate from two points of history and sit at different points of the floral vérité spectrum. Yet they both intrigue, unsettle, and ensnare me-- proof that the littlest lily has got spells to cast after all.

About Diorissimo, there are no tales I can tell that haven't already been told. Nor can I make any novel observations about its composition: fresh muguet, woody backdrop. Thanks to Edmond Roudnitska's diligent study of this flower, Diorissimo's muguet accord is as close to having a live bouquet on hand as one can get. What makes it so isn't as much the central floral note (which is impeccable), but the little details tucked around it, which bring it into sharper focus and rescue it from shrillness. These include succulent greens, loamy sandalwood, nectared jasmine. Yet alongside these, one finds a disturbing whiff of leather and a certain smoky note (ylang-ylang?) that catches in the back of the throat, hinting at less-than-perfect innocence.

Diorissimo may be a blonde, but her eyes are stormy and kohl-rimmed à la Margot Tenenbaum, with whom she appears to share not only a finishing school address, but a clandestine smoking habit.  If ever she spoke in a high-pitched ditzy squeak, that was before the regular elocution lessons and her discovery of Daddy's eighty-year-old Scotch. In the full light of the public sun, she still projects the pure and aloof character of a debutante-- but like the lily-of-the-valley, she is made for the shade.

Have you ever seen a regular-sized snapshot enlarged to the size of a skyscraper? The blow-up process -- known as rasterization -- ironically involves first breaking the image down into small, individual units which are then numbered, enlarged to equal proportions, and reassembled in sequence. If you took Diorissimo and rasterized it, you'd have Ubar by Amouage-- and you would need the entire north wall of the Burj Khalifa to fit the whole picture.

Ubar is to lily-of-the-valley what Amarige or Poison are to tuberose: its Godzilla, three hundred feet tall and on the loose. At the sight of his "lucky flower" furiously battling high-tension wires and Air Force fighter jets, Christian Dior would either quail in horror or (like Sam O'Neill in Jurassic Park) he would fall to his knees in worshipful wonder. What a monster! What a marvel! (Note to Edmond Roudnitska: we're going to need a bigger chromatograph.)

If you, like me, are an imbecile and spray Ubar with abandon as if it were AquaNet, you may find your enjoyment diminished by terrified realization of the magnitude of this thing. For Ubar is VAST -- a perfume built on Ozymandian scale -- and to apply it with too free a hand is to open a can of olfactory whup-ass the likes of which you will never, ever forget. Such will be your panic, you won't even be able to discern which of Ubar's notes is hurting you the most. And if you or anyone else expected to eat food anytime soon, or ever again, you will find your appetite crushed as if by a ninety-thousand pound payload dropped from the ass end of a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.

If, however, you approach Ubar knowing that it's the boss, you can adjust your dosage accordingly-- at which point you will discover a fragrance that is breathtaking in all respects, pervaded with poetry, shot through with pure gold, almost Guerlain-like in its subtle transformations of mood from moment to moment... in a word, swoon-worthy.

The flower may be small... but the feat is not.

Scent Elements: Lily-of-the-valley, bergamot, greens, amaryllis, jasmine, ylang ylang, rosewood, boronia, sandalwood, civet (Diorissimo); Lily-of-the-valley, bergamot, lemon, Damascene rose, jasmine, civet, vanilla (Ubar)

Nuit Noire (Mona di Orio)

While watching a popular music video the other day, my husband and I noted that the band appeared to be rawking to a degree completely out of proportion to the song being performed. They fake-strummed every tepid chord with a passion bordering on violence while the lead singer clutched the microphone like a bona fide drowning man. From all the sturm und drang, you'd think they were playing Norwegian death metal. Yet this was just a pop song, catchy and agony-free; if one used Nigel Tufnel's famous "eleven" as a default high-volume setting, it rated a five at most. Wherefore all the fuss and white knuckles?

How (perversely, mind you) I miss the minimalist Eighties, when the exact opposite conditions reigned. An impeccably-coiffed musician would stand alone in stark downlighting and depress a single synthesizer key to produce a devastating onslaught of electronic noise, all the while looking perfectly nonchalant. Kraftwerk made an art form of it, as did (among others) Ultravox, the Cars, and New Order. Minimum drama, maximum impact-- that's the way to do it.

It's something for Mona di Orio to consider.

I would have passed her up entirely if all I had to go on was her overwrought website, which far outstrips mine in terms of purple prose. It would have been even worse had I believed only Luca Turin, whose contempt for Mona di Orio can actually be seen from space. But Suzanne sent me a sample of Nuit Noire, of which she spoke highly-- and when she speaks, I listen. I know Suzanne loves a quality tuberose fragrance. And she knows what I love, sometimes even better than I know it myself. So I trusted. And I sprayed. And oh.

Mona di Orio describes Nuit Noire as the scent of "the souks, gardens and hams (?) of old Tunis... all the olfactory heritage of the gorgeous East". This all sounds very lush and Lutensian (by her own telling, Uncle Serge is a hero of hers). But when Nuit Noire hits my skin, I get a marvelous blast of pure urbia: a deluxe "new car" aroma mingled with city soot, exciting whiffs of smoke and pavement, classic floral intensity blended with creosote and tar, all of this set against the backdrop of a thousand towers of steel and stone. The souk belongs to Serge Lutens-- let him have it. Mona di Orio has just annexed the metropolis.

Wearing Nuit Noire, I envision the halogen lights of the Holland Tunnel whipping past tinted limo windows, coolly assessed from within by a pair of dispassionate eyes. Their owner is angular like architecture, cold like circuitry, elegantly androgynous. She (or he; Nuit Noire could just as happily be worn by a man) is en route to a sumptuous rooftop garden from which to survey the city and plan its inexorable takeover. No histrionics, please: this task is not for the easily rattled. Over the limo speakers, Bowie's "Man Who Sold the World" gently fades away to be replaced by the staccato opening salvo of Gary Numan's "Cars":
Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It's the only way to live
In cars
Lest you assume from my vision that Nuit Noire is all dystopian sterility and darkness, you'd be as wrong as I was when I deduced from di Orio's wording that this fragrance was one hundred percent Morocco. There's so much more happening here (the depths of which I've yet to fully plumb) that I'm not certain any visual scenario quite does it justice-- hers, mine, anyone's. (Particularly not Luca Turin's, when he likens it to a "loud civet fart". Jeez, man!) Strange dark fruity-grape accords, plasticky-sweet bits, industrial rumblings, seriously sexy purring... this thing has me almost as flummoxed as Breath of God, and you know how that ended. (Scratch that-- it's still ongoing!)

But who cares what I think? When all the rhetoric and hyperbole has died down, when all the power chords and rock-star posturing is stripped away, something very simple remains to be faced and comprehended. Is it good? Is it bad?

Forget the video. Ignore the critics. Get the album. Put the needle in the groove. Listen to the song. Find out for yourself.

Scent Elements: Orangeflower, cardamom, ginger, orange guinée (Guinea pepper; "grains of paradise"), olibanum, cinnamon, tuberose, sandalwood, clove, cedarwood, amber, leather, musk, tonka

Seplasia (Bruno Acampora)

The Seplasia was ancient Capua's Fifth Avenue-- a glittering thoroughfare housing all the perfumers, beauticians, and luxury-goods purveyors who catered to the Roman elite. To illustrate its influence, the great Roman statesman Cicero (106 BCE-43 CE) took a moment during his Orations to chide a politician lacking in savoir faire: "Seplasia, in truth... the moment that it beheld you, refused to acknowledge you as the consul of Campania." In other words, if the Seplasia sniffed at you, baby, your Senate career was over.

The Seplasia's reputation still held strong in 1898 when Oxford University's John Frances mused in his Notes and Queries: "Seplasiarius--the equivalent, perhaps, of a Bond Street man." Proof positive that whether your toga is hand-draped or tailor-made, it's the name on the tag that counts.

Owing to its roots in perfumery row, Seplasia is undoubtedly a well-chosen moniker for any fragrance. How do you apply it? You can go big: top of the line ingredients, fancy merchandising, intimidating price tag. Or you can radiate humility and release a simple fragrance with refreshingly few pretensions. Or you can do both-- package a humble (yet fearsomely dear) perfume oil in quiet (yet expensive) trappings and charge a whopping $175 for ten measly milliliters on LuckyScent.

Bruno Acampora chooses door number three. What does the consumer get out of this devil's bargain?

Beauty. Natural, uncomplicated, beauty.

I admit I was skeptical-- and who was I to be skeptical, right? I didn't fork over any of my hard-earned simoleons to Mr. Acampora. Nan and I got our sample gratis from Carol, who included it in the Bag of Wonderful after calling Seplasia "love at first sniff... (the) Holy Grail". Has she ever steered us wrong? No. So where did I get off decrying the price tag as 'beastly' (which I did, choking with indignation). Is it really fair that we must be made of money to deserve so simple a pleasure? I cried. Maybe I was possessed by some ancient Roman senator with an axe to grind and a taste for filibustering.

Then I opened the sample vial and fell off my soapbox.

Seplasia is the sort of gentle, lovingly-crafted fragrance that says to the average person, "Step right up; don't be afraid. I might be high-end, but I'm not going to bite." There's not an ounce of snobbery in this scent. It's undoubtedly a thing of quality, but it's nothing so lofty or exclusive that Caesar would arrogate it for his own particular use. Wearing it, I envision an citrus grove within a pebble's throw of the ocean-- penetrating fruity sweetness interlaced with ozonic salt air and the scent of geraniums on a sunny stone plaza. At its tail end (which is hours away from initial application), Seplasia becomes more and more lemony and herbal. I feel as though I've enjoyed a weekend in a luxury spa, all thanks to two tiny drops of this elixir. Literally two drops. (At that rate, what's eight dollars per 0.2 milliliters?)

Friends, fumeheads, lend me your ears: if there ever was a perfume made for saving your pennies to buy, it's this one.

Scent Elements: Neroli, lemon, bergamot, geranium, rose, violet, tuberose, jasmine, patchouli, coriander, vetiver, rosewood, ylang-ylang, musk

Oscar Eau de Toilette (Oscar de la Renta)

You don't have to say it; I already know. Wrong designer. Wrong era. Wrong model, even. In a 1972 Gian Paolo Barbieri photo shoot for Vogue Italia, Anjelica Huston wears Halston, Bill Blass, Valentino-- everyone but Oscar de la Renta. But even though this image has nothing whatsoever to do with de la Renta, I can't help leading off this post with a mention of it. The woman depicted so beautifully encapsulates the exultant spirit of this perfume that I'm willing to quietly take whatever demerits come my way.

Look at her. Isn't she creamy? In that dress of fluttering chiffon, its saturated hues bold against her ivory skin and black hair, she looks like an Andalusian bailaora rising from a straight-backed chair at the first soft palmas (handclaps) of the flamenco singer marking the rhythm of the coming cante. Look at her expression-- so haughty and refined, yet obdurate, like a child of the city street. Her mouth stands out like a petulant red rosebud, sensuality in the midst of severity. The flower theme is echoed everywhere-- in the lush, tropical print of her gown, in the white silk gardenia pinned up high on her shoulder strap where it can kiss her milk-pale cheek.


"When I was really small I had this idea that if I could get up early enough, I could bottle the dewdrops on all the flowers and create a perfume,” the Dominican-born de la Renta is quoted as saying. His debut fragrance, composed by Jean-Louis Sieuzac in 1977, handily evokes dawn in the tropics even for those who have never been. This is one symphonic floral, incorporating raftloads of moist, freshly-plucked blossoms, all of them working together to crank out kilos of honey-sweet indoles. Not for nothing did designer Serge Mansau park a gigantic white flower on top of the bottle-- so large and expressive it almost dwarfs the perfume beneath.

Almost. But not quite. For Sieuzac knew his clientele: the woman of the day. Freethinking urban sophisticate, consumer (and creator) of her own culture, she might find the proposed "tropical flower garden" idea charming-- but really, can a girl get an ashtray, a whiskey neat, and a copy of the Times around here? The addition of triple-sec aldehydes and dry-woody chypre elements gives this femme the proper wry, distancing smile and adds a touch of irony to the music of her speech-- wise, for she is clearly no ingénue... no matter what pretty flowers she wears.

Scent Elements: Neroli, peach, jasmine, gardenia, tuberose, ylang-ylang, rose, lily-of-the-valley, lavender, carnation, cyclamen, orchid, rosemary, basil, coriander, galbanum, oakmoss, patchouli, sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver, amber, opoponax, honey, aldehydes, musk, ambergris

Libertine (Vivienne Westwood)

Libertine begins on a note of desperation. At first you don't recognize it as such, because it's so bright and sugary and eager: Hello! Hello! It wants to be your friend so badly! It will do anything! ANYTHING!

When it suddenly starts screaming at you, or collapses in a chaos of hot weeping, you're completely stumped-- even more so when it just as abruptly clams up and pulls away, eyes cold and lips pressed tight. Ever patient, you wait for Libertine to recover its dignity. It manages, though just barely. For the rest of your time together, its affect seems catatonic by contrast, exhausted by its own outpouring of ill-managed energy.

You run into Libertine several times afterward, but it's never the same. You sense that it prefers to maintain a slightly arch and flippant front with you, especially when others are there to serve as witnesses. This sort of distance you can accept; at least it's better than a messy scene. But you'll never forget or recreate that single instant of naked, passionate revelation you once shared. No matter how manic it seemed at the time, in retrospect all that furor seems so much more honest than this brittle facade you encounter now.

You keep waiting for Libertine to say one true thing, but the lovely painted face is mute.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, pineapple, grapefruit, passionfruit, lily-of-the-valley, honeysuckle, rose, oakmoss, patchouli, musk, amber

Noir Épices (Frédéric Malle)

My siblings and I grew up in the magic garden of public television. Believing it to be a source of safe, wholesome, and educational diversion, my parents entrusted us to its care without an iota of suspicion. We then spent unlimited hours feasting from a cornucopia of the visually subversive and surreal. We watched Fellini, Truffaut, Svankmajer, Kurosawa, Pilobolus, Monty Python, La Planète Sauvage, and gems like the fruit-bowl orange that inexplicably busts out singing Carmen's "Habanera".

Citrus claymation! Spicy stop-motion! Plastic fantastic! No sooner did I spray Michel Roudnitska's playful Noir Épices on my wrists than it all came back to me-- as cheerful, colorful, and wildly improbable as I remembered from childhood.

Noir Épices hits you up front with the most fabulously synthetic orange outside of a Japanese fake-foods display. Given extra boing! by a dose of aldehydes, this waxy slug of sunshine paves the way for a peppery-dry spice-cabinet accord that teases forth memories of winter afternoons devoted to making gingerbread, molasses drops, and other holiday treats. Though such a fragrance may seem incompatible with summer heat, again we find a friend in Noir Épices' sheer aldehydic layer, which filters all this richness to a point where it can be tolerated even in the oven of summer.

Above all, Noir Épices contains whimsy-- and how I welcome it! From first spray to last breath of drydown, it whirs, ticks, and hums sweetly along like a wind-up toy of the most cunning miniature design. I'm inclined to believe that the mind of its creator must house a world of delights comparable to those I used to find long ago, when I turned the TV dial to that certain, singular channel.

Tune in tomorrow? You bet.

Scent Elements: Nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, orange, aldehydes, geranium, sandalwood, patchouli

Art Collection #02 (Jacomo)

Nichts Schlimmeres könnte einem passieren, als vollkommen verstanden zu werden. 
-- Carl Gustavus Jung (1875-1961)
Summer is the season for the silk tree. I have already written about these alien pink flowers with their tasseled petals as fine as optical fiber and their equally delicate foliage, which shrinks from the lightest touch. This response (known as seismonasty) is a rejection of contact, powerful for its being so visibly demonstrated. On certain days, and in my own way, I resemble the silk tree more than it is possible for me to describe. I cannot bear direct gazes or rough handling; I pull away and turn inward in avoidance of the aggressive, the presumptuous, the over-familiar.

Art Collection #02 mirrors well the blurred edges of such moods, the retreat behind boundaries they prompt. Pale and soft, seemingly devoid of definition or strength, this ghostly accord nevertheless floats within the wearer's consciousness for a long time, occasionally brushing the senses with a touch so feathery -- so like a silk tree's petals -- that one is gripped with involuntary shivers.

Upon further inquiry, I find it interesting that the reticence I instinctively divine in #02 is quite by design. Jacomo originally proposed the Art Collection as an "anti-consensual" set of fragrances, and #02 in particular as "regressive" -- un peu enfantin (a bit childish), as stubbornness tends to be. And though other artist's media (such as pastels or clay) may crop up in conversation about this perfume, it continues to remind me most of the tiny almond-cherry-vanilla scented Japanese erasers we used to buy from mall shops like Pandemonium or Sanrio, sweet inconsequential mementos of a childhood fast slipping through our fingers.

But in truth, I confess to having a deeper motive for liking the eraser parallel best. Art Collection #02 gives me what I want most today: a scent that rubs every trace of me from your notice, that enables me to vanish from under your very nose.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, lily, tonka, vanilla, suede, amber, patchouli

Elixir de Patchouli (Reminiscence)

Today we're rained in but good. It's been pouring like Niagara Falls since dawn, and all plans to pursue errands like laundry or groceries have been gladly scotched. My pajama-clad spouse sits watching a DVD documentary about independent horror films, and I've got a lovely array of samples from JoanElaine spread out before me on the desk.

Now here's an interesting non-meteorological anomaly:  minutes after applying some Reminiscence Elixir de Patchouli, I found myself scrambling through the kitchen pantry in search of a box of Baker's unsweetened chocolate I'd squirreled away over the winter.  Butter, eggs, flour, sugar, walnuts... this weather's good for something after all! Within the hour, a vast pan of brownies will be entering a hot oven-- entirely thanks to perfume.

Patchouli fragrances are well known for producing chocolate holograms, most often of the dry, powdered-cacao variety. Elixir de Patchouli instead goes for moist 'n' gooey, summoning up visions of concentrated dark-chocolate goodness studded with all sorts of additions-- chocolate chunks, chopped nuts, and (who knows?) maybe a smidge of heavenly hash.  Mine will stop short of mind-altering... unless theobromide is your drug of choice, in which case we're all about to break bad.

While I wait for the oven timer to summon me back to the kitchen, I'll learn that Elixir de Patchouli is the "intense version" of a classic hippie fragrance released almost forty years ago by Parisian designers Zoé Coste and Nino Amaddeo. Its label declares it to be "Inoubliable!" (unforgettable), but just in case, there are four Reminiscence Patchoulis in all-- original, masculine, light, and this one.  I can't speak for the others, but Elixir de Patchouli is pretty mouth-watering-- dense, dark, smooth, sweet. I imagine its sister scents are worth discovering as well... on another day, maybe.

For now, I'll sit and smell the fragrance issuing forth from my oven, content in the knowledge that more than one sense will be gratified when the buzzer goes off.

Scent Elements: Patchouli, cedar, vetiver, sandalwood, tonka bean, balsam Tolu, Madagascar vanilla, musk

Green Water Vintage Eau de Cologne (Jacques Fath)

As quoted by Luca Turin, Guy Robert's statement "Un parfum doit avant tout sentir bon" translates as "A perfume must above all smell good". Both Yahoo BabelFish and Google Translate tweak the results to read, "A perfume must above all feel good". The verity of both statements is proven in the thrift trenches, where one might pluck an unlabeled fragrance sample out of a mixed assortment and sigh with joy the moment the stopper comes out. Lack of knowledge about its provenance or pedigree does little to mar one's enjoyment of its beauty; a single inhale provides irrefutable truth.

Exhibit A: an unassuming little green glass bottle, barely two inches high, discovered on an antique store counter top. Nothing but a weathered black-and-gold label reading Eau de Cologne 80° hinted at its contents. One twist of the white plastic cap, however, made up my mind. Did I really need to know who produced this delicious stuff? (Of course I did-- but my curiosity was easily satisfied by turning the bottle upside down -- replacing the cap first, thanks! -- where tiny raised letters declared "J. Fath, France".)

Designed in 1947 by Vincent Roubert, the original Green Water is a wonderfully refrigerated aromatic fougère with pronounced mint, basil, and sage notes against a fresh citrus backdrop. It goes on like strongly-brewed (and ice-cold) Moroccan mint tea-- and as it dries down, it follows the tea-drinker's adage:
Le premier verre est aussi amer que la vie,
le deuxième est aussi fort que l'amour,
le troisième est aussi doux que la mort.

(The first glass is as bitter as life,
The second glass is as strong as love,
The third glass is as soft as death.)
That is to say, Green Water's first act is sharp and bracing with a keen icy edge of mint; its second act increases in warmth and vivacity as tones of basil and sage assert themselves, and its drydown is a mere whisper of lavender and musk, quiet and elegaic.

Men are lucky. Their fragrances are made -- and priced -- to be splashed on sans inhibition, while we ladies are constrained to careful sprays and strategic dabs. Green Water is undoubtedly meant to fill the hollow of the palm and be lavished on in large measures. But my bottle is small, and my habits are ingrained. I am enjoying it one minty-cool touch at a time... and dreaming of a much larger green glass bottle hidden somewhere in the depths of the antique store.

Next time, next time.

NOTE: Green Water was completely reformulated and relaunched in 1993. I haven't tried it yet, but according to this review of both fragrances on Now Smell This, the new version appears to be a completely different beast. I'm looking forward to tracking it down to see how it measures up to my little bottle, which (from its condition and details) appears to date from the late '60's.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, petitgrain, lemon, orange, peppermint, rose, lavender, basil, clary sage, tonka bean, musk

De Bachmakov Le Parfum (The Different Company)

Dear Celine Ellena,

I promise I'm not angry. Fun is fun, and I like a practical joke as well as anyone, but it's time to stop the silly business, okay?

Give me back my diary.

I don't begrudge whatever laughs it afforded you. Among other choice tidbits hidden within its pages, you obviously gleaned the fact that in my last life, I was an elderly Jewish man with a yen for drinking hot tea at the height of summer, accompanied by slices of rye bread fresh from the corner deli.

What else but the transmigration of souls could explain this ridiculous desire?  And what else but the theft of my
personal, private diary could explain this perfume?

Anyway, nice cover story about the Année France-Russie, but I'm onto your game. Stealing my super-secret culinary fetish for a fragrance was highly audacious of you, but hardly an efficient form of blackmail. You think I'm alone in this? The Berkshires, Catskills, Lakewood, Lower East Side, and most Woody Allen movies are
full of people like me, in whom Old World hungers still percolate behind 21st century exteriors. You are definitely outnumbered, sister. Give it up.

(Unless, of course, you too are a misplaced soul from another age and nation-- in which case,
zay moykhl, maydele.)

So far as the details go, you've certainly done your homework. The tea must be in a glass (ceramic cups are strictly for coffee) and it must be absolutely scalding, otherwise it won't produce the
shvitz-like sweat that is the only motive for imbibing it in August. Earl Grey's fine, though a little fancy. (Well, la-di-da!) The bread must be squat in shape, kosher by persuasion, and heavily laden with caraway seeds. If it can't be Grossinger's, Levy's is okay; Zabar's or Zingerman's even better; Pechter's only in a pinch. (Pepperidge Farms?! Don't make me throw this tea at you!) If the bread's good enough, schmaltz is optional, though a chilled bottle of Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray cannot go amiss.

The bergamot steam rising from the glass, the delicious, yeasty-sour aroma of the rye, and the piquancy of the caraway seeds-- what better health tonic exists? Beats me! All you need extra is a checkers table in the shade and the promise of a nice brisket for dinner...

But I digress.

Send the diary back,
bubele. Preferably accompanied by a gallon of De Bachmakov. If I ever find myself in some benighted territory where delicatessens do not exist, I want to be forearmed.

Zay gezunt,

Scent Elements: Bergamot, shiso leaves, coriander leaves, freesia, jasmine, nutmeg, cedar, craie douce ("soft chalk") accord

Parfums Intimes Collection (Victoria's Secret)

"Luxurious fabrics for lingerie. Exquisite inspiration for fragrance." And only one dollar for the whole collection at a recent town-wide yard sale! Lucky me!

Normally, Victoria's Secret couldn't tempt me if they paid ME the dollar, but this unused set of 1.5 ml. sprays came snuggled in its own naughty black-stretch-lace carry bag-- a detail adorable enough to make me lower my guard. To my surprise, I did not end up with a hot-pink migraine. True, this quartet is 100% conventional and not especially original, but they do seem better-constructed (and more refined) than the rest of VS's shock-and-awe catalog. If, as I did, you happen to stumble across them at a yard sale, think twice before you pass them by.

Silk: Mandarin Santal
Back in adolescence, it was a terrible disappointment for a girl to be considered "handsome" rather than "pretty". Not so in adulthood, and not so in perfume. The combination of sweet mandarin peel and robust, buttery sandalwood startled me with its innate logic (of course these two make the perfect couple!) but 'pretty' it's not-- and it's all the better for it. Of all the four Parfums Intimes, this is the one I feel compelled to spray the most; I love its juicy citrus opening and its long-lasting smoulder thereafter. After one smells it, 'pretty' seems so half-baked a notion.

Scent Elements: Mandarin, mimosa, sandalwood, whitewood, "honeyed musk"

Cashmere: Vanilla Jasmine
I won't lie: this smells perilously close to Febreze's Lavender Vanilla & Comfort™ line. Yet who could call wearing a room spray a new idea? You hear about it all the time, mostly on the high end of the price spectrum, where the sheer cost of the thing seems to justify a slight aberration from "use as directed". But cheap products can smell as good as costly, and Vanilla Jasmine fits the bill, so stop worrying that people will think you're cutting corners in the home goods aisle and just spray it on. Lasts long, stays sweet, makes you and others happy.

Scent Elements: Jasmine absolute, "Mediterranean purple orchid", heliotrope, cedarwood

Lace: Orange Flower
This neroli-osmanthus blend is every bit as bridal as the lace deputized to act as its mascot... but no one said the bride had to be married in white. Wearing Orange Flower, I envision the lady in question draped in hues of blushing apricot or lusty vermilion, smiling a secret smile and thinking ahead to the bridal bed.

Scent Elements: Orangeflower absolute, osmanthus, pink grapefruit, "watery dewdrops"

Satin: Rose de Mai
My least favorite of the set, Rose de Mai gets off about ten seconds of true and thrilling rose-on-the-bush bouquet before collapsing into the usual mealy supermarket-tomato-out-of-season scent, helped along by an acidic pink grapefruit note. Still, it could be worse: you could pay hundreds of dollars for it, in which case it would be called Nahéma.

Scent Elements: Rose de mai, honeysuckle, pink grapefruit, mandarin flower

Parfum Sacré (Caron)

Sunset: it's blistering outside. The sycamore tree outside the window appears defeated, its leaves prematurely brittle, its prickly seed globes hanging heavy on stems too limp from heat exhaustion to properly bear their weight. Dusk, which ought to usher in shadowy relief, only brings claustrophobia; we open the windows to catch a breeze and find pitch-black airless night pressing like an interloper against the screens. Come the dawn -- always red and full of false promises of rain -- we trade guarded glances, whispered speculations: Will it break tonight? Tomorrow? Ever?

It's been this way for days and days. If we have any fight left in us at all, it's the ornery, chip-on-the-shoulder type that begs for someone, anyone, to just start something, please!

Because heat has a way of addling the mind and leading it toward rash decisions, this morning I sprayed myself lavishly with Parfum Sacré before heading out into the inferno. I acknowledge that my motives may have been somewhat murky, and I am willing to plead insanity-- for clearly no one in full control of their wits would wear a perfume this opulent or spicy during August. Honestly, spring or autumn or the cozy depths of December-- just not now.

But the atomizer finger, having sprayed, moves on... and after choosing in haste, I shall repent in pleasure.

Parfum Sacré is a scarlet she-devil who could lead me into any perversity, so long as her cool spice note waited somewhere in the ensuing mayhem. She is L'Heure Bleue minus the tears and regrets, Sacrebleu wearing a rose in her lapel instead of violettes des sorciers and tossing pinches of black pepper around to exorcise my demons. (I won't need them anymore-- she'll be my only one.) Clouds of her incense smoke will sanctify my every wrong move, and I will stay wrapped in her blanket of flowers and flame until the sidewalks melt into rivers of lava... or, you know, until the weather breaks, which it can do any old time.

Heat wave? I got your heat wave right here.

Scent Elements: Orange blossom, lemon, rose otto, jasmine, cedarwood, rosewood, cardamom, cinnamon, mace, pepper, myrrh, musk, civet, vanilla, incense

Lily (Lili Bermuda)

In 1923, Bermuda's Easter lily fields lay nearly decimated. After seventy years, the island's cherished signature crop of Lilium longiflorum -- so prized by exporters they were known as "White Gold" -- had been laid to waste by a mysterious disease. Few dared to hope that the lily trade would ever recover. But as a 25-year-old Scotsman stepped off the boat to begin his tenure as the island's newly-appointed "plant doctor", a new fate had already begun to be written for Bermuda's lilies.

Five years later, you'd never know there had been an eco-crisis. The Easter lily crop was stronger than ever-- increased sevenfold, thanks to Lawrence Ogilvie. Through painstaking research, the young botanical pathologist had determined that a virus -- and not aphids, as had been believed -- was to blame for the systemic lily crop failure. By establishing a rigorous system of quarantines, packing standards, and field testing, he succeeded in launching a renaissance age for the Bermudan Easter lily.

As if to celebrate the island's great good fortune, William Blackburn Smith and his daughter Madeline Scott founded the Bermuda Perfumery in 1928-- and their first perfume was jubilantly centered on the island's precious lily.  Madeline's husband Herbert Scott, a career chemist, had determined to capture the scent of the full-blown flowers routinely discarded in favor of the more valuable bulbs. Via enfleurage, he succeeded in producing a lily absolute which he then entrusted to a team of experienced French perfumers. The resulting fragrance, Easter Lily Perfume, came bottled in flacons with a distinct pointed-petal motif.

As its star ascended, the Perfumery continued to produce Easter lilies on its self-owned acreage in Bailey's Bay. Traditions grew along with the blossoms: an annual floral tribute was sent overseas to the Queen Mother, and Perfumery lilies adorned the Holy Trinity Anglican Church every year on Good Friday. Throughout the Depression and war years, new perfumes made their debut, usually designed around soliflore themes... but always with those glorious lilies nodding assent in the background.

In 2004, the Brackstone family acquired the Perfumery. Their first perfume (released in 2006) was a tribute to the original Easter Lily Perfume, newly trimmed and tailored for modern sensibilities.  Bermuda's lily had come full circle.

Lilies provide a most unusual model for both visual artists and perfumers. For a flower of such weighted religious symbolism, lilies possess a decidedly carnivorous appearance, the bizarre architecture of their petals broadcasting sex and savagery in equal amounts. And the fragrance wafting from within their depths can be positively unsettling. Luca Turin has likened their scent to meat -- "fleshy, salty, hammy" -- and he's right. Even at their sweetest, lilies produce an aroma as perversely appetizing as the contents of a salumeria. (This made Sunday Mass a torment in my youth, since the church invariably overflowed with lilies -- Madonna, tiger, stargazer, calla -- and we were forbidden to eat before receiving communion. But subliminally lilies did the trick, for breakfast afterwards always included mad amounts of bacon, consumed with unChristian avarice.)

How do you tame this beast? Wisely, perfumer Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone didn't even try-- recognizing, no doubt, that the weird-and-wild lily accord has its own fan club in perfumedom.  Instead, she chose to soothe its savagery with a little bit of sleight-of-hand, merely by using the "other" Easter lily-- AKA the calla lily, a member of the arum family.  Callas have a lighter fragrance than that of a true lily (which many find overwhelming) but still possess that smoky-salty touch indispensable to the genre.  Lily's callas have been placed in the center of a silvery, sugar-tinged accord built of guava, pear, and muguet notes.  On its own, this fruity floral might be perceived as commonplace, even a mite thin-- but with the saline, meaty magic of lily in its midst, it is transformed into something with real body and presence.

On a fearsomely hot day, I found myself cheered, cooled, and fortified by Lily-- and swayed once more by Lili Bermuda from my usual prejudice against fruity florals.  A girl could develop a taste for this!

Looking back over the last week, I'm extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to discover two sweet worlds-- Bermuda and its historic Perfumery. I would like once again to thank Carole Sasich for first making me aware of Lili Bermuda, Jennifer Cathers for carrying the Lili mythos home to these shores from her vacation trip, and especially Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone for her incredible generosity and warm heart in sending me these samples free of obligation. It makes me happy to think that less than a thousand miles of ocean away, this talented perfumer is hard at work authoring so fine a fragrance line-- what a lucky hemisphere we are! If only Sniffapalooza could be moved to a different island than Manhattan!

Scent Elements: Tamarind, clementine, guava, cactus, hibiscus, calla lily, wild muguet, purple orchid, pear flower, nectarine, blonde woods, white musk 

Somers (Lili Bermuda)

Somers is a masculine fragrance named for Sir George Somers-- British naval titan, Bermuda's founding father, and the Chuck Norris of the Discovery Age. Forget Fabio squaring off against Old Spice Guy, or the Most Interesting Man In The World nattering on about manscaping. Sir George Somers would make all three of them cry like kindergarteners.

Caught in a hurricane during a transatlantic run in 1609, Somers ran his sinking ship aground in a valiant bid to save its passengers. He succeeded down to the last man-- heck, he even saved the ship's dog. In ten months' time, he and his fellow survivors founded a colony on the "Isle of Devils", built not one but two ships from the wreckage of the old, loaded them with wild hogs and other local victuals (including potatoes, figs, onions, and olives-- Mario Batali, eat your heart out!), and sailed to Virginia to liberate Jamestown from looming starvation.

How's that for heroism? More, you say? Only months after landing in Jamestown, Somers sailed back to Bermuda for more groceries. Falling gravely ill there, he directed his crew to remove his heart from his body and bury it on the island before shipping the rest back to England for a formal interment.

Tell me you're not a little bit in love with the man.

But after all this, who would expect a fragrance dedicated to his memory to be pretty? Not me; no, sir. Uncorking this vial, I honestly expected to be on the receiving end of a full-force haymaker to the jaw. Instead, I find myself perplexed -- charmed, but perplexed -- by a misty melange of woods and spices as delicate as an arabesque carven screen.

I'm not disparaging it, of course. Somers is a lovely thing shot through with the diffuse benevolence that guaiacwood brings to many a modern composition. It incorporates cedar and olive, two woods important to the Bermudan ecosystem as well as to Sir George Somers' personal mythos. Via notes of tea, exotic spices, a gorgeously sweet licorice-root accord and a full-on cigar-box cedar note, it even manages to weave the theme of global trade into the story. In summation, it has all the appropriate characters, scenery, and drama to make an epic of sweeping scope. Yet prepared as I am for hardtack, scurvy, and rope burns, I can't deny that I find Somers' softness curiously jarring-- like the ethereally lovely Orlando Bloom trying to come off as a salty dog in innumerable Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Ah, but so what? Sometimes you reach for a gritty adventure and grab a bodice-busting romance novel instead. All it takes is a slight shift in expectations, and in no time, you're in love.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, Bermuda cedar, cardamom, licorice, black tea, nutmeg, coriander, geranium, sage, guaiac wood, olivewood bark, incense, blonde suede notes, amber

Fresh Water and South Water (Lili Bermuda)

If summer is a season best devoted to putting the lime in the coconut, these two fragrances are stepping-stones to time well spent.

Fresh Water
Sweet hesperides! There is so much citrus in here it literally stings the skin-- and yet, Fresh Water smells most like the two fruits conspicuously missing from its notes list: lemon and lime. In particular, it smells like lime sugar-- the result of blending freshly grated lime zest with loose sugar in a sealed jar for a month until every grain is imbued with the peel's scent and flavor. But like most fragrances built of volatile citrus accords, Fresh Water dissipates far too quickly-- a shame, as the pleasure it gives is inversely proportionate to its lifespan. Reapplication is a must, so stock up.

Scent Elements: Bigarade, bergamot, mandarin, grapefruit, neroli, petitgrain

South Water
Let's let Nan tell you about it: "Yesterday was a fragile day and I felt like I needed a sure thing so I reached for South Water and I dabbed it on. Oh it might have been a rainy day in New Jersey but I spent the day walking down a street in the Caribbean. It wasn't a sand-in-your-toes beachy smell. Instead it gave me a spent-the-day-at-the-beach-and-am-now-walking-along-a-street-passing-a-cafe-where-people-are-drinking-pina-coladas feeling. It felt like Caribbean twilight. Very heavy coconut scent. But it wasn't sweet. No. Not too sweet. It was as crisp and fresh as white sea island cotton. Last night, at about 2 am I couldn't sleep. I thought of the South Water. I wished that it was still on my wrist..."  Try it just once, and so will you.

Scent Elements: Tangerine, ozone, coconut milk, guava, gardenia, cactus sap, sea salt, white musk

Pink and Coral (Lili Bermuda)

Few countries have a claim on an entire color the way Bermuda does on pink. Ireland's got green in the bag, of course, and Greece has the patent on blue and white. But for the rosy hues found on the inner whorls of a queen conch shell or the deep cerise of a tropical sunset, only Bermuda will do.

Famous, too, is that undulating skirt-hem of pink sand beach that the island of Bermuda dips daily into the Atlantic surf. Composed of pulverized pink coral blended with the usual white calcium seashell and quartz fragments, Bermuda's pink sand offers a startling color contrast to the turquoise ocean and deep azure sky. In fact, a tiny glass charm necklace filled with pale pink sand is de rigueur for visitors returning to the mainland-- but if you prefer a more ambient souvenir, here are two olfactory reminders of the rosy wonderland just over the horizon.

While exploring different scents in the Bag of Wonderful, Nan frequently found that the presence of a grapefruit note was the quickest way to her heart. Having never been comfortable with this particular perfume note, I may be a more difficult customer than Nan. But Pink passes the test with a grapefruit note whose subtlety liberates me to like it more. Rather than assume a central role, it's been applied as an ornament to a light, filmy bouquet of peony and silk flower sweetened with the clementine that is perfumer Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone's signature. Pink makes a perfect daily fragrance, serene and unobtrusive, as handy (and healing) a talisman as that polished rose quartz everyone in your office thinks is a mere paperweight.

Scent Elements: Bermuda mimosa (silk flower), clementine, white and pink peonies, pink grapefruit, waterflower, magnolia, pink pepper, laurel leaf, bois des iles

I never saw a woman fall in love so fast as when Nan sniffed Coral for the very first time. Witnessing waves of delight ripple over her face, I nearly blushed myself. Since that fateful day, I can positively state that no other fragrance in the Bag of Wonderful has traveled as far by her side, a constant companion riding safe and secure in her pocketbook like a lucky token. I must confess to a touch of envy, for Coral is a smoky, salty, flowery wonder. This classic interweave of freesia and orange blossom speaks the universal language of femininity: a woman could wear this all her life and always remain appropriate and elegant. Yet Coral proffers small details that elevate it above the usual girlish stereotypes-- a touch of melon here, a hint of rain and ozone there, an elusive wisp of smoke that never develops into something definite but won't permit you to ignore it. Like all fascinating females, Coral keeps you guessing.

Scent Elements: Clementine, ginger, freesia, tuberose, rose, orange blossom, hydrangea, woods, black pepper, musk

32°N and 64°W (Lili Bermuda)

Thus far, you may be under the impression that Lili Bermuda is strictly a port o' call for the ladies. But rest assured, he-men suffer no neglect in these waters... and with scent offerings like these, you lasses may find yourselves angling to "borrow" a spritz from your chosen buccaneer.

32°N is very competent marine citrus accord differentiated from others of its genre by a refreshing sourness that reminds me why my favorite part of the lemon is the rind.  I would like very much to chill this fragrance in the freezer like a worthy limoncello and serve it up to my pulse points ice cold, just to see what would happen.  Also, I would swear there's calone in here, but I'm so used to it being improperly utilized (i.e. dumped in by the barrelful) that to encounter just a touch of it seems novel to the point of being avant-garde.  Nicely done.

A quick sniff from the lip of the sample vial made me think that 64°W might simply be 32°N at a slightly stronger concentration-- citrus and sea air, amplified. But on skin, it's obvious that there is much more going on here than a mere boost of volume. At once sweeter and smokier than its partner, 64°W harbors real heat between its cool hesperidic notes, including a cedar-sandalwood accord so beautifully ruddy I want to hold my palms out to it as if to a crackling campfire. Everywhere I turn, there's a new dimension unfolding-- hale woods, handsome spices, dry herbs, purifying balsams. Best of all, 64°W lasts long enough for the wearer to discover every one of its facets. A fragrance that underpromises and overdelivers? Yes, please.

Now, I'm not usually one for layering fragrances one atop the other, unless the perfumer expressly wishes it so. But the christening of these two fragrances after the latitude and longitude of Bermuda practically begs for them to be combined in some way. So I applied both -- one north to south, the other east to west, naturally -- to see what brave new world might emerge at the juncture of these coordinates of scent.

My friend JC refers to Andy Tauer's Incense Extrême simply as "Montauk"-- as in "I'm wearing Montauk today." To her mind, it contains absolutely every sensation, emotion, memory, and reflection of beauty that she has ever associated with that fabled peninsula, and every time she wears it provides an opportunity to renew her connection to the ideal. Because I have never been to Bermuda (a fact I shall have to remedy one of these days), I have decided in similar fashion to rename this combination "Makena Bay"-- a blissful place where nothing came between me, the sky, and my tribe except an invisible layer of Pacific Ocean salt and a curl of smoke from our communal bonfire.

Enough said.

Scent Elements: Italian bergamot, lemon, mandarin, mint, woods, musk, amber (32°N); clementine leaves, grapefruit, patchouli, Bermuda cedar, pink and black peppercorns, coriander, wild sage, ginger, vetiver, red sandalwood, white musk, amber (64°W)

Petals (Lili Bermuda)

And meanwhile the beautiful golden days were dropping gently from the second week one by one, equal in beauty with those of the first, and the scent of the beanfields in flower on the hillside behind the village came across to San Salvatore whenever the air moved. In the garden that second week the poet's eyed narcissus disappeared out the long grass at the edge of the zigzag path, and wild gladiolus, slender and rose-coloured, came in their stead, wild pinks bloomed in the borders, filling the whole place with their smoky-sweet smell, and a bush nobody had noticed burst into glory and fragrance, and it was a purple lilac bush. Such a jumble of spring and summer was not to be believed in, except by those who dwelt in the gardens.

--THE ENCHANTED APRIL, Elizabeth Von Arnim, 1922
The 'petals' referenced in this perfume's name are those of the syringa, AKA lilac-- rain-dappled, ranging in hue from pale greenish-white to deep purple, and thoroughly drenched with scent. Though Petals contains other flowers -- my god, does it ever! -- the intensity of its dedication to lilac pushes it right to the border of soliflore status. For lilac lovers, this could be paradise-- if heaven can be measured by the square yard. For Petals is very concentrated-- God's acre of scent distilled into an inchspace.

For me, wearing Petals is like sitting within a dense bower of sun-saturated lilac shrubs growing just higher than I can see over, even on tiptoe. The experience is unquestionably lovely, if a little claustrophobic. Beyond that wall of glistening foliage, the rest of the world disappears; reality shrinks to a very small space filled to the very last atom with the sweet, lascivious aroma of summer. This mighty floral mass calls for a certain measure of submission; I felt compelled to sit very, very still in its center, fearful lest one wrong move unleash torrents of lilac on unsuspecting neighbors. Yet when I nervously asked my deskmate if my perfume was overly strong or disturbing, she said, "What perfume?"

Incredible strength... but no sillage? A curious combination of extravagance and restraint, this-- and obviously designed for up-close-and-personal encounters.

The idea of sharing Petals with a lover changes the game. There are certain people with whom it would be a pleasure to be walled up alive in lilac. Frankly, under those circumstances, who cares if the world outside disappears?   My conclusion: Petals is best worn in small-scale places and close-quarter situations where scenes of high romance may be staged. This lilac bower makes a perfect Eden for two people with one thing on their minds.

Scent Elements: Orange blossom, night-blooming honeysuckle, syringa, jasmine sambac, clementine, white musk

Alegria (Lili Bermuda)

Milky flowers luminous in the shade...
Dew pooling in waxy white petals....
Sunlight reflecting off of a thousand glossy leaves...
Rushing rhythms of wind and tide and breath...
A peaceful siesta in the midday heat, limbs heavy with lassitude as the sun wheels overhead...

In Spanish and Portuguese, the word alegría denotes an unquenchable zeal for living. A person who possesses alegría is merry, spirited, and fearless-- what Americans might call "game for anything". Alegría's musical equivalent, allegro, signals a brisk tempo, cheerful and bright. Imagine the music which fits that description -- all pattering rhythms and pizzicato strings. Busy, busy, busy; happy, happy, happy.

You're smiling, aren't you? Me, too.

Now imagine the moment just preceding the launch of all this frenetic activity-- or better, the moment just after, when it has ceased. Aaahhhhhhhh-- satisfaction. Like a good, full-body stretch, it leaves one feeling lazy, relaxed, fulfilled. In that instant -- so peaceful you can hear your own heartbeat (or that of the one closest to you) -- you realize that what you're feeling is joy.

It truly is the pause that refreshes.

That moment of stillness is captured in Lili Bermuda's new fragrance, the quietly blissful (or is that blissfully quiet?) Alegria. Demonstrating that there's no need to shout to prove that you're happy, Alegria balances each exuberantly zesty note with a gentler counterpart and gets them all waltzing with grace, ease, and precision.

Alegria announces itself with a tangy citrus flourish before settling down to the serious business of seduction. Its melange of heady white flowers-- tuberose, clementine, magnolia, plumeria and orange -- sings a self-assured harmony at a reasonable decibel level. But make no mistake, these are some heavy hitters. Without firm direction, any one of them -- or heaven forfend, all of them at once -- could hijack the whole concert with an overwrought solo increasing in pitch, volume, and hysteria until all enjoyment is lost.

Here's where osmanthus -- mellow and milky -- proves itself the unsung hero of this ensemble piece. By the strength of its even temper, it harnesses these powerful flowers and unifies their voices into an integrated chorus. Whenever I imagined myself about to be overcome by their collective hallelujah, mild osmanthus dimmed the house lights ever so slightly, permitting me a moment to breathe and catch up. Later -- just when I needed it to -- a handsome, blushing thread of cedar led me away to a vanilla-amber drydown as blessedly smooth as well-worn cotton against the skin.

Wearing Alegria put me favorably in mind of certain bygone fragrances such as Estée Lauder Pleasures-- but being modeled after well-established prior examples does not hurt it in the slightest. Though you've encountered this combination of notes elsewhere, so deftly-woven are they here that they resist coming off as formulaic-- and while butter, eggs, flour, and sugar can produce anything from flapjacks to Sachertorte, the citrus, floral, balsamic and woody notes which fail to excite in one assemblage can prove highly pleasing in another. In Alegria, they make the best sort of magic-- the kind that looks and feels effortless.

Easy does it.

Read an article about Alegria in the Bermuda Royal Gazette.

Scent Elements: Clementine flower, coriander, osmanthus, frangipani, magnolia, orange blossom, Bermuda cedar, tuberose, incense, patchouli, labdanum