I forget how KV and I got onto the subject. We were both manning the reference desk, and the topic cropped up during a momentary break in the action. KV confessed she had a favorite, something a friend had blind-bought for her as a gift some years back. In a stroke of luck, she'd happened to adore it from the very first sniff... but its name remained maddeningly on the tip of her tongue.
"It's... hm. French. Something about the Nile," she said.
"OH!" I exclaimed-- much louder than I ought have, given my profession. (You'd think quiet would reign supreme at the library, but this is not so. I have to shush myself all the time.) In a lower tone, I continued, "Is it Hermès Un Jardin sur le Nil?"
"That's it! How did you know?"
"You won't believe this, but I just read an entire book about it!"
Well, half a book, anyway. Fifty percent of Chandler Burr's The Perfect Scent focuses on the development of Lovely, Sarah Jessica Parker's ode to eternal girlishness. But the portions chronicling the trials and tribulations of Jean-Claude Ellena over the composition of Un Jardin sur le Nil offer (in my opinion) a far more compelling read.
"So tell me about it," I encouraged KV. "What do you think of le Nil?"
"It's beautiful, so soothing, comforting-- I just love it! I've used up almost the entire bottle. I have no idea what I'll do when it's gone-- what a sad day that will be!"
But luck really seems to take KV's side where scent is concerned. Not long after this conversation, another library perfume pal flagged me down. "I have a bottle you might be interested in," BB said. "An Hermès-- I forget which one." She explained that the perfume, though lovely, just didn't quite fit in her scent wardrobe, which favors warm, ambery Orientals (Chanel Coco) and chic white florals (Elie Saab Le Parfum). She'd bought it, sprayed it once, and never touched it again. Would I be interested?
Imagine my delight when the bottle in question turned out to be Un Jardin sur le Nil! I turned right around and gifted it to KV, who allowed me to extract a decant first, then happily cuddled the remainder. That day, scent serendipity handed us both a treat!
When I wear Un Jardin sur le Nil, I see why KV loves it so. A cooler, smokier, more serene green scent I can't imagine (unless we're talking Bertrand Duchaufour's Timbuktu, which seems almost like the god to le Nil's goddess). I have never seen or smelled an unripe mango in person, but there is a hint of crisp, raw rind in here which I suppose is meant to represent that pleasure. Even more, there is the presence of river grass-- reminding me instantly of the salt marshes I lived near as a kid. There, bulrushes, cattails, horsetails, and spartina rustled and bowed in the salty breeze, their roots lapped by cool water, their aerials glistening in the sun. Occasionally, one might find the charred remnants of an illegal campfire on the nearby tidal strand-- a hint of smoke lingering like a telltale phantom over silvery piles of ash, blending with the sun-on-grass aroma in the most beguiling way.
I'm sure Jean-Claude Ellena would not have elected to come to New Jersey instead of Egypt to do his research.... but you never know. Like baby Moses, someday he might find himself drifting. He won't find any burning bushes here*... but he will find several very grateful fans.
*Unless you count the famous neon eagle sign on top of the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Newark-- a beloved landmark which serves as a beacon to travelers far and wide.
Scent Elements: Green mango, blue lotus, calamus, grapefruit, sycamore wood, frankincense