Apuldre (Molton Brown)

The Lady Edith Crawley of Downton Abbey, middle daughter of the Earl of Grantham, is the most mechanical-minded of maidens. One sees her cheerfully pedaling her bike over the country roads to her Land Army work at a nearby farm, where she drives a tractor with more visible contentment than dancing, dining, or dress fittings have ever given her. An afternoon's honest labor, a sandwich and a bottle of stout, a kiss (oh, just one!) from the farmer... and wheels.

That's all Lady Edith really needs to be happy.

She may not possess her elder sister's imperious beauty, nor her younger sister's fiery certitude about Life And How to Live It. Hers is the tentative approach of a square peg looking for a permanent fit. She will try her quiet best at almost any pursuit, particularly if it proves to be of benefit to others. Where Mary demands all due respect and Sybil agitates for global change, Edith just wants to know what she can do for you today.

And if you answer, "Change this blasted spark plug!" she'll be forever your girl.

Along with a stout pair of boots and a lifetime supply of Lava pumice soap, I'd prescribe Molton Brown Apuldre for the Earl's gearhead daughter. Gentler and more floral than Bulgari Black, bolder and less retiring than Bottega Veneta, Apuldre is a simply lovely country leather with a side of woodland violets... and a set of black rubber tires.

Imagine a dusk-lit drive through an early-spring landscape whose coverlet of snow has melted back, revealing new grass and last autumn's fallen leaves in a tapestry of brown and green. Lady Edith is teased along the winding road by the promise of shadowy beauty hidden around every bend. The wind, fresh and cold against her face, smells of the awakening earth: violets, woodsmoke, black loam, hay.

Today she has Father's Renault. He almost made her take Branson as well, but who needs a chauffeur when one is perfectly capable of driving oneself? The Renault is top-of-the-line, though she'd prefer a more utilitarian model for work: a Daimler CB-type 40-horsepower lorry equipped with a nice flatbed for hauling hay-- or bicycles. Father won't allow Edith to put hers in the Renault's backseat, even with a rug spread out to protect the leather. She wonders if Sir Anthony Strallan would value a motorcar's upholstery above a lady's happiness. She also wonders if he would let her change her own tires.

Branson has seen her do it. She even lent him her watch to mark the time.

A quick pit stop at the village pub, whose windows shine invitingly golden. The atmosphere within is rich with scents of leather, whiskey, kindling, and the oil soap used to rag-polish the ancient wooden bar to a vitreous gleam. The village men no longer puzzle at the sight of a noble daughter of Downton drinking her whiskey standing. Something about Edith's dirt-stained land-army garb and forthright manner convinces them she has earned her place among men. You'd never see Lady Mary accept an invitation to throw darts-- and you'd never try it on with Lady Edith after you've seen her aim.

What time is it? Half past-- nearly time to dress. From the heady independence of her workday, Edith must soon plunge into the stultifying atmosphere of dinner at Downton: Mary's petulance, Mother's blank stares, Grandmother's barbed asides...

The blazing hearth, festooned with boughs of juniper, attracts her eye one last time. She reaches out and surreptitiously pinches one of the tiny blue-black berries to release its sharp green essence-- a tonic to her soul, lending courage which no one realizes she needs.

Between here and home, there's the road and the Renault, a brand new pair of leather driving gloves and a posy of fresh violets on the seat.

She's ready to go.

This post was inspired by the magnificent Montmorency. Back when I was recuperating from AppendixFest, this incomparable perfumista penpal (who for several years now has gifted me with a glorious ongoing conversation volleying back and forth across the Atlantic ) emailed to ask me if I'd tried Apuldre. She described it as a "spicy leathery apple-y" scent with an Anglo-Saxon name honoring the village of Appledore, Kent. "Anything named for a Domesday entry should be worth it," promised Montmorency (who indeed found it full-bottle-worthy). She offered me a sample in exchange for some of my Imprevu-- and I'm so glad the swap came together, because this stuff IS the stuff. Merci, Montmorency!

Scent Elements: Juniper berry, violet leaf, artemsia, cedar, leather, styrax