M (Puredistance)

Two years ago, the gracious folks at Puredistance wrote me to inquire if they might include two essays I'd written in an anthology devoted to their beautiful perfumes. I assented most readily, as I felt very fortunate to have experienced the collection firsthand. I offered my words with joy and no notion of any reward (really, hadn't I already enjoyed the prize?) Imagine my surprise, then, when Puredistance recontacted me to propose not one but two holiday gifts: a miniature trilogy of samples, plus the 17.5ml perfume spray of my choice housed in a beautiful brushed-metal flacon.

There is a saying in the ancient Hávamál: Gjalda gjöf við gjöf ("gift is fee for gift", or put more delicately, "give in return for getting"). Just as my original Puredistance samples had come to me serendipitously from the lovely Suzanne (to whom I reciprocated with decants of my best vintage marvels), I could now arrange a similar tribute for others whom I held dear. The sample trio, therefore, went to JoanElaine-- and I requested a 17.5ml sprayer full of M as a Yuletide gift for my husband.

Created by fragrance aficionado Roja Dove, M claims as its point of reference "the stylish comforts of the interior of a grey Aston Martin". This, of course, is immediately recognizable as James Bond's vehicle of choice. Yet the personage riding cool in the back seat of this baby isn't 007. Whether you wish to envision Bernard Lee, Robert Brown, Dame Judi Dench, or the newly deputized Ralph Fiennes in the role, M -- Bond's superior, high sacerdote of MI6 -- is the ideal recipient for Puredistance's first departure from florals. (As for me, I love to imagine that M is actually Mission: Impossible's sublime arms dealer Max during her off hours. "I don't have to tell you what a comfort anonymity can be in my profession," she purrs. "It's like a warm blanket.")

A top-shelf chypre tempered with animalic leather and plenty of spice, M does not include pipe tobacco among its scent notes, yet everything about it suggests a life in which the name of Alfred Dunhill is intoned with reverence. The suits in the closet? Dunhill as well, and naturally bespoke-- yet what's this? They hang elbow to elbow beside Eddie Bauer cotton twill shirts worn frowsy at their collars. The single-malt whisky on the sideboard is Macallan 55-Year, but not enclosed in Lalique crystal-- too showy, too silly. It has been transferred instead into a vintage glass decanter of plainest make and profile, obtained without fuss for a pound on Portobello Road. This strange blend of exceptional quality and low-key comfort is M's primary jist. It costs an arm and a leg, but wears like second skin. It speaks of luxury, but sotto voce.

Now, my husband drives a mail truck, not an Aston Martin; his tastes run to the simple and satisfying (and rarely sport big price tags). During the hot-and-humid summer season, he generally reaches for Grey Flannel, whose cool violet-and-cedar notes provide a sense of shady relief. But for the crisper months of autumn and winter, when our mammal natures crave warmth and closeness, he wears M. On a day like today -- our 15th wedding anniversary -- he knows all too well what an irresistible draw I find him, but an extra touch of M makes sure of it.

Bond's boss may possess veins that run with super-distilled icewater... but not my best-beloved, and certainly not me.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, lemon, rose, jasmine, cinnamon, patchouli, mosses, cistus labdanum, vetiver, patchouli, vanilla, leather, musk