Ambre Noir (Sonoma Scent Studio)

I once knew a young man whose natural body scent was so divine it bordered on narcotic. Musky, sweet, distinctive, it acted as a pheromonal lure to people of all ages and genders, who died like moths in the flame of his beauty. He did not want their attention; in fact, it made him painfully self-conscious. In an effort to repel his followers, he would deliberately go for days without bathing, washing his hair, or changing his clothes. Alternately, he attempted to hide behind cheap aerosol drugstore scents, applying layer after layer of flimsy camouflage. It never worked. That extraordinary scent could not be vanquished-- and its mystifying effect on others continued to trouble him.

All this he confessed to me face to face, in the midst of a close embrace. We had been friends before we became lovers; the quirks and turnings of his soul were well-known to me long before I experienced the heaven of his body. I loved to follow the silken ribbon of his voice as he whispered his secrets to me. Our shared candor was a disarmament, a mutual letting-down of our guards. He could confess his perplexity at the power of this quality to which he himself was insensible... and I could confess to him without penalty that I was as besotted by it as anyone.

A photograph or recording can sometimes startle us into thinking "Is this how I really look? Do I sound like that?" But can we ever know our own smell as others know it? If my friend had come upon his own aroma by accident, would he recognize himself the way I still do?

Ambre Noir both raises and answers this question every time I apply it to my skin. The sweet intimacy of its notes summons up a pale hologram of my erstwhile lover, from whom I have been estranged for years. I loved him, and I loved his scent; I thought both were proof of a goodness to which no foul thing could lay claim. There was a time when I conflated his story with that of Laure Richis -- the beautiful victim of Patrick Süskind's Perfume, whose fragrance makes her the unwitting target of other people's illusive desires. But Ambre Noir has introduced the disturbing thought that perhaps his vulnerability had been the illusion all along-- a mirage to hide a monstrous darkness that I only glimpsed when it was much too late.

Scent Elements: Labdanum absolute, amber, rose, olibanum, myrrh, vetiver co-distilled with mitti (earth), oakmoss absolute, aged Indian patchouli, Texas cedarwood, sandalwood, clove, castoreum