Inchworm, inchworm,At first, there was no question: of course I'd rate. Why the hell not? Pretty much everything in the world can be evaluated on a numeric scale, one almost universally being lowest. Whether your scale ends with three or five or ten as its highest score, or whether you admit intermediate shades of difference in the form of half-digits, all you really have to do is choose your baseline examples of "best" and "worst" and you're in business.
Measuring the marigolds,
You and your arithmetic,
You'll probably go far.
Measuring the marigolds,
Seems to me you'd stop and see
How beautiful they are...
The most useful type of baseline is one that is fixed-- something that never changes even if you do. There's no room for arbitrary values here; everything else can fluctuate between these poles, but they must remain immutable. Mine were L'Heure Bleue and Drakkar Noir. I feel the same way about them as I did when I first smelled them: transcendental bliss (L'Heure Bleue) and naked horror (Drakkar Noir). Every other encountered scent ranged somewhere inbetween. Few reached the height of one or the depth of the other, and this is as it should be. The great middle ground is where most of life happens, for better or worse.
Still, opinion is a personal thing. At some point, I had to explain what made ME feel as I did about certain qualities of perfume. I had my good and bad, but how did I define them? I came up with the following set of qualifiers:
A scent which:
- is astounding, profound, life-changing, thought-provoking, and flawless
- has been beautifully crafted from the highest-quality materials
- incorporates both classic and new perfumery materials in a novel or unexpected way
- perfectly expresses an original and interesting concept
- evokes strong subjective emotions, reactions, or memories
- offers an experience of "high art" in both the positive and provocative meanings of the phrase
A scent which:
- demonstrates undeniable quality in composition and materials
- succeeds in expressing the stated creative concept, or finds an novel way to restate or reframe a classic perfumery theme
- may be flawed, but in a way that still provokes interest and debate
- is simply beautiful -- regardless of whether it is "high art"
A scent which:
- is of average quality, conventional and respectable, with no surprises
- adequately expresses the stated creative concept, if any
- may demonstrate minor technical issues in persistance or sillage, but is otherwise solidly well-conceived and well-crafted
- simply smells GOOD
A scent which:
- is of mediocre or poor quality
- suffers from confused, uneven, or seriously flawed composition
- lacks persistance, sillage, or balance
- completely misses the concept or expresses no concept at all
- is largely devoid of uniqueness or character
- fails to deliver on its promise and disappoints the wearer
A COMPLETE DISASTER-- unlikeable, unwearable, unbearable.
And then I was off.
Over the course of four years, I learned that while some people liked my ratings system (or at least benevolently ignored it), others found it unscientific and overly subjective. They were right, though for the life of me, I couldn't understand why that should be cause for offense. I wasn't here to analyze cost, production, distribution, markup, length of persistence, range of sillage, or any other factors. All I meant to do was tell how each perfume made me feel, compare to either the best or worst perfume I knew, and proceed accordingly. I never apologized for using personal (rather than technical or commercial) values as the basis of my opinions. I thought it went without saying.
Even so, after over eight hundred blog posts, it became tiresome to keep attempting to fit things into slots. I began to see the whole ratings system as an obstacle to understanding perfume rather than as an aid. So I ditched it-- and I immediately felt better, freer, more able to express the specifics of my experience as a writer.
The following list of "five-star" fragrances is all I kept of my former system. Even from these, I omitted quite a few about which my momentary opinion did not stand the test of time. What you see here are those which did... and which probably always will, forever and ever.
04 Petrana (Odin New York)
1740 Marquis de Sade (Histoires de Parfums)
1828 Jules Verne (Histoires de Parfums)
1969 Revolte (Histoires de Parfums)
4711 Echt Kölnisch Wasser (Mäurer & Wirtz)
Absolue Pour le Soir (Maison Francis Kurkdjian)
Afternoon of a Faun (État Libre d'Orange)
A*Men (Thierry Mugler)
Amanda (Amanda Lepore)
Arabie (Serge Lutens)
Arpège Vintage Extrait (Lanvin)
Arsenic (Tokyo Milk)
Audace Vintage Eau de Parfum (Rochas) ALSO: here
Bal à Versailles (Jean Desprez)
Bellodgia Vintage Extrait (Caron)
Breath of God (LUSH) ALSO: here and here
Cabochard Vintage Eau de Parfum (Parfums Grès)
Calandre Vintage Pure Parfum (Paco Rabanne)
Ça Sent Beau (Kenzo)
Cordovan Rose Demi-Absolute (Soivohle)
Coromandel (Chanel) ALSO: here
Crêpe de Chine Vintage Parfum (Millot)
Daphne (Lord's Jester)
Encens Flamboyant (Annick Goutal)
Encre Noire (Lalique)
Essence of Vali (Essence of Vali) ALSO: here
Flora Bella de Lalique (Lalique) ALSO:here
Fougère Nakh (Soivohle)
Geisha Green (Aroma M)
Gilded Lily (Ineke)
Grey Flannel (Geoffrey Beene)
Incense Pure (Sonoma Scent Studios)
India Gulab (Attar Bazaar)
Jolie Madame (Balmain)
Joy (Jean Patou) ALSO: here
Jungle L'Éléphant (Kenzo)
Kouros Vintage Eau de Toilette (Yves Saint Laurent)
L'Air du Désert Marocain (Tauer Perfumes)
La Myrrhe (Serge Lutens)
La Nuit (Paco Rabanne)
La Rose Jacqueminot (Coty)
L'Heure Fougueuse (Cartier)
L'Heure Bleue (Guerlain)
L'Origan Vintage Extrait and Parfum de Toilette (Coty)
M (Puredistance) ALSO: here
Magie Noire Original (Lancôme)
Marine Sel (Tokyo Milk)
Mata Hari (Dawn Spencer Hurwitz)
Miel de Bois (Serge Lutens)
Missoni Original (Missoni)
Mitsouko (Guerlain) ALSO: here
Mon Parfum (Paloma Picasso)
My Sin Vintage Extrait (Lanvin)
Niki de Saint-Phalle Eau de Toilette (Niki de Saint-Phalle)
No. 5 Vintage Pure Parfum (Chanel)
Norell Vintage Pure Parfum (Revlon)
Nuits de Scherrer (Jean-Louis Scherrer)
Obsession (Calvin Klein)
Opium (Yves Saint Laurent / original)
Paris Vintage Parfum de Toilette (Coty)
Portrait of a Lady (Frédéric Malle)
Private Collection (Estee Lauder)
Puredistance I (Puredistance)
Riverwalk (Soivohle) ALSO: here
Sables (Annick Goutal)
Sacrebleu (Parfums de Nicolaï)
Safran Troublant (L'Artisan)
Shalimar Vintage Parfum (Guerlain)
Spicebomb (Viktor + Rolf)
Tabac Aurea (Sonoma Scent Studio)
Tabu Vintage Extrait (Dana)
The Smell of Weather Turning (LUSH)
Transcendental Musc (Soivohle)
Tunisian Frankincense (Attar Bazaar)
Via Lanvin (Lanvin) ALSO: here
White Linen Parfum (Esteé Lauder) ALSO: here
Youth Dew (Esteé Lauder)
Tracing the perfumed gene.
A while back, I had a lively conversation with my pal JC about the tricky task of recommending perfumes. Having played 'personal shopper' for a mutual friend of ours, I could affirm that the responsibility to get everything just right is more than a little intimidating. As knowledgeable as I try to be on the subject of fragrance, it seems to me that in order to tell another person what to wear next and why, I'd either have to be a genius... or a computer.
Being neither, I turn to various tools and tricks to supplement my empirical knowledge. Michael Edwards' Fragrance Directory and the Haarmann & Reimer Charts both categorize perfumes by genre, gender, and year; NowSmellThis (among many other fragrance forums) offers lists of perfumes by composer and brand. Commercial sites like The Perfumed Court up the ante by categorizing products by individual perfume notes-- a feature which certainly came in handy when choosing innovative tea and lemon fragrances for my 'client'. Now downloadable perfume apps such as Givaudan's iPerfumer utilize custom algorithms to help narrow down choices and predict ones that will work best for the consumer.
But does it really work? Depends on your expectations.
iPerfumer starts very simply by asking me to rate perfumes I've already worn. Based on my preferences, it suggests new fragrances I might like and indicates how others liked them on an average. For instance, if I award Viktor + Rolf Flowerbomb five stars, the app suggests half a dozen other feminine florals of similar prettiness and popularity. Genres and featured notes heavily influence the outcome (though I suspect that my declared gender and age may also play a part). But even iPerfumer's ingenuity has its limits. Hardly any niche or vintage fragrances appear in its admittedly incomplete database. The "recent launch" section is infrequently updated, and the app tends to recommend the same middling products over and over. Perhaps this is because iPerfumer is owned by Givaudan, which (understandably) may be slightly biased towards its own output.
But at least more than one brand gets some play on iPerfumer. Applied to a single perfume house, the algorithm method is even more restrictive. Pinrose Scent Finder, for instance, promises to match my personality to one of ten available fragrances via a strangely subjective point-and-click online questionnaire. Two photos appear on the screen; one depicts a sunny meadow, the other a shady forest. Where would you rather be right now? (What if I'd rather be in the city? There's no option for that, but I have to pick something in order to move on.) Before it's over, the quiz will require me to choose between color schemes, fashion adjectives, shapes that make me smile (?), and pieces of music suitable for bopping down the street. What does any of this have to do with my scent preferences?
Despite the illusion of so many options, strait is the gate and narrow the way to total Pinrose perfume bliss. For no matter how you answer -- believe me; I tried it ten times to make sure, changing and mixing my responses on each round! -- their Scent Finder will assign you three ideal fragrances, two of which will always be Merrymaker (nectarine, rose, plum) and Rooftop Socialite (bergamot, mandarin, lime). The third is invariably a toss-up between Campfire Rebel (oud, bourbon, vanilla) and Surf Siren (lavender, neroli, basil). So out of ten fragrances, only four ever make the algorithmic cut: one wood, one floral, one citrus, one marine. Do you really need anything else?
Yes. SO much more.
Let's return to my discussion with JC. We were bemoaning the fact that so few of these systems blaze a step-by-step trail through that aspect of perfumery that appeals most to geeks like us: the history. Even The Perfumed Court's "History of Perfume Sampler" only contains ten fragrances; for us, that's like taking a ten-minute guided museum tour when what we want is the total-immersion, costumed-reenactment version. Basically, when WE want to know "what to wear next", what we're asking is what actually CAME next. You follow?
Geneticists trace global populations by studying DNA markers. Genealogists trace family lineage by studying the connections between individual people. Musicologists trace sound by linking musicians who share style, influence, or practice space. So what about perfumery? We've got Michael Edwards covering the classification end of things and Roja Dove waxing fantastic about the myths and legends. But yesterday's post on Coty L'Origan reawakened my conviction that we need something more. We need a scholar who can chart it ALL -- traits and trends, creators and creations, mentors and protégés, pretenders and renegades, originals and homages, ripoffs and once-in-a-lifetime chimeras -- without emotion or PR obscuring the facts. And if that person has a friend who can write code, they ought to partner up and innovate an app that doesn't care about the user's age, gender, preferences, or budget. All it needs to do is connect a perfume to its ancestors and descendants, and let us draw the conclusions.
Some fragrance family trees are easy to trace. We know, for instance, which perfumes Coty Chypre inspired; like members of a tribe that cleaves true to type, their shared characteristics are immediately apparent to the nose. Less easy to pick out in a crowd are the later-generation mutations, which add or subtract substantially from the original form. Once upon a time, we'd never have believed a chypre without oakmoss could exist; now many do-- though whether they're still included in the will has yet to be seen.
But that's exactly what I want to know. I want someone to tell me which archaic scents begat, say, Tabac Blond-- and what perfumes Tabac Blond begat in turn, down to the umpteenth generation. I want to know who Tabu's grandchildren are-- both the legitimate ones and those born "under the table", so to speak. I want to know the exact fragrant chromosomes which caused Coco Mademoiselle to inherit her great-aunt Youth-Dew's piano legs. I want to know if L'Aimant and No. 5 really are cousins, identical cousins.
It's not much to ask, is it?
Here's a piece from 2010 that I dug out of the old card catalog.
To a library worker, nothing is more tranquil or reassuring than a well-ordered catalogue. The Dewey Decimal system is more than merely a way to keep books organized-- it is the ultimate expression of the systemizing mind confronted by a chaotic universe. Like the sky to a bird or water to a fish, taxonomy is the medium through which we move and by which we breathe, the magical tool with which we categorize the world.
And we DO take it home with us.
Chalk it up to my profession, but the idea of a scent library, fully classified and cross-referenced, intoxicates me. A dream of mine is to someday visit the Osmothèque at Versailles, the best exemplar of the library ideal. Until then, I'd love to endeavor to create my own... but I'd need a taxonomy to get me started.
Below, I've listed some of the major taxonomic systems of scent arranged by date of introduction (if known). Merely by looking at the staggering number of adjectives, from the poetic to the strictly utilitarian, one can appreciate the sheer size of the olfactory mountain we climb.
Carolus Linnaeus (1752): Fragrant, spicy, musky, garlicky, goaty, nauseating, repulsive
Traditional Perfume Categories (mid-19th century): Soliflore (single floral), bouquet or millefleur (multiple floral), cologne (citrus floral), Oriental (amber), wood, leather, chypre, fougère
Eugene Rimmel (1867): Almondy, amber, anisic, balsamic, camphoraceous, caryophyllaceous (clove-scented), citrine (citrus), fruity, jasmine, lavendar, musky, minty, orangeflower, rosaceous, sandalwood, spicy, tuberose, violet
Hendrik Zwaardemaker (late 19th century): Ethereal (airy), aromatic (spicy/herbal), fragrant (floral), ambrosial (amber, honey, or musk), alliaceous (garlic by any other name...), empyreumatic (roasted, burnt, or smoky), hircine (goaty or rancid), nauseating (fecal or sulphurous), foul (rotten, decomposing, or deathly)
Hans Henning (1916): Flowery, foul, fruity, spicy, burnt, resinous
E.C. Crocker and L.F. Henderson (1927): Fragrant, acid, burnt, caprylic (goaty)
Michael Edwards (1983): Floral, soft floral, floral oriental, soft oriental, oriental, woody oriental, woods, mossy woods, dry woods, citrus, fruity, green, water, aromatic fougère
Modern Perfume Categories (late 20th century): Bright floral, fruity-floral, powdery, sweet, oceanic, marine, ozonic, aldehydic, indolic, vanillic, gourmand, ambient, functional
Modern Scientific Odor Classifications (21st century): Ethereal, camphoraceous, musky, floral, minty, pungent, putrid*
Normally I use Michael Edwards' Fragrance Foundation Directory to find the accepted industry definition of an individual fragrance. But I follow up by assigning it one or more supplementary descriptors from my own personal list, built out of my own idiosyncratic scent associations and encompassing temperature, texture, flavor, and tone:
Meg's List: Warm, cool, herbal, woody, fruity, floral, rooty, creamy, milky, buttery, leathery, musky, indolic, sweet, bitter, dewy, dry, spicy, roasted, resinous, smoky, earthy, airy, aldehydic, ozonic, marine
For instance, Annick Goutal's Encens Flamboyant comes under Michael Edwards' "woods" category-- but for me, it is resinous, smoky, cool. Histoires de Parfum's 1740 Marquis de Sade is listed as a "dry woods" fragrance, but I classify it as fruity, leathery, creamy, warm. These categories seem always to be in flux, since I may experience the same perfume in another way at a different time.
Now my mind is abuzz with ideas about all the alternate ways fragrance can be classified and catalogued-- by gender, by season, by social event, even by color. With various friends, I've discussed the possibility of matching perfumes to literary characters, works of art and architecture, pieces of music, and random historical figures. And what about constellations, figures in mythology, elements on the periodic table? So many possibilities!
*The Science of Smell, a four-part document published by the University of Iowa can be found in PDF format here. Don't be put off by the "Manure Management" header-- this is a very clear and well-written scientific analysis, and highly recommended reading.)
The following tale and the object which is its subject are both true anomalies. The place where it occurred is one of the more utilitarian thrift shops of the many my spouse and I frequent; there, one almost never finds anything so interesting as what we found on the day in question. Read on to discover our discovery!
My husband and I thrift-shop like a pair of hungry velociraptors. The instant we clear the doorway, we split up, branch out, and begin to purposefully prowl the two halves of the store, front to back. We cross paths briefly, switch sides, then accomplish a second sweep, this time back to front. Eventually -- hampered either by lack of success or by the sheer weight of accumulated loot -- we meet somewhere in the middle and exhibit our finds.
At one such mid-store meeting my husband presented me with a nondescript (though fairly heavy) cardboard box upon which someone had grease-penciled the words "Wine Set $3".
"But we already have a decent corkscrew at home," I protested.
"Just open it," he said.
Inside the cardboard box I found a breathtakingly gorgeous rosewood box with brass fittings, and inside that -- nestled in black velvet -- I found the Collection d'Aromes, twelve fat glass vials containing wax samples of various aromas and esters that a budding œnophile might sniff to swot up on the intricacies of wine bouquet identification. The aromas included in the kit: rose, violet, ambergris, leather/tannin, pine, truffle, mushroom, apple, redcurrant, grapefruit, raspberry, and banana. An enclosed booklet helpfully explained the significance of each as well as the grapes and vintages which tend to produce it.
For ten whole minutes, I sat opening one vial after another, sniffing myself into a slack-jawed state of joy. According to the instructions, each open vial should be held "no closer than 6 to 8 inches" from one's face, but I opted for a much more direct experience. The aromas themselves proved delicate, subtle, and remarkably lifelike, fully recognizable as what they claimed to be and extremely pleasant besides. (I understand, however, that if this set had been the "deluxe" variety, it would have included essences of cork, mildew, sulphur, and skatole-- things no one in their right mind wants to smell in a wineglass or any place else.)
Of course I bought it. (I even got it for a discount, as that day the store happened to be marking down "anything you can't wear". Oh yeah? Watch me.) I could not help but marvel-- first, at the existence of such an ingenious educational tool; second, that it had been dropped off brand-spanking-new at a thrift store (a rejected housewarming gift, perhaps?); third, that all this diversion and fun could be mine... for two bucks.
A bit of research into Pulltex, the company which manufactures the Collection d'Aromes, reveals that mine truly is just the beginner's kit. In addition to the twelve basic essences and the four "warning" smells, the aforementioned deluxe coffret adds peach, lychee, quince, strawberry, fig, butter, hazelnut, caramel, liquorice, vanilla, pepper, "acid sweets", plum, apricot, lemon, cinnamon, honey, honeysuckle, hay, boxwood, chocolate, tea, tobacco, and green pepper.
Setting wine aside, doesn't that sound like a perfumer's organ?
For those with an interest, the retail price certainly doesn't sting-- $250 as opposed to the $520 Le Labo charges for its Olfactionary, which also numbers 40 essences. Granted, one's in wax and the other's in alcohol, the Collection d'Aromes lacks florals, and Le Labo is not saddling anyone with skatole. But I find it interesting that perfumery extends in this direction, resulting in a product that caters to the dual love of wine and fragrance.
Scenting the situation.
Last night I was paging through an old favorite-- my mother's battered 1966 copy of Glamour's Beauty Book. Amid such cultural oddities as the Seven-Day Milk Diet (shed five pounds quick on 900 calories a day!) and What Makes A Perfect Wife? (according to one male respondent, she's imported from Tahiti) I spy a familiar sight: a multiple-choice "perfume personality" quiz.
Now, without quizzes, how would la femme know herself? Pretty much anything can be determined from one's favorite drink, date, snack, color, dream job, vacation destination, time of day, genre of music or film, cuisine, current beauty trend, pet, hairstyle, fitness activity, or go-to garment. So long as the participant chooses the closest thing to the truth from a plethora of prefab answers, her algorithmic fate will quickly take shape... and it comes with a fragrance to match! (Plus ça change...)
Glamour's quiz questions are playful, but the results are serious business. "Unconventional" girls (those who light their own cigarettes!) should only choose mossy/woodsy blends. "Sophisticated" socialites are advised to wear "modern" fragrances to suit their urbane lifestyles. Extroverted misses benefit from the softening effect of spicy bouquets, while their introverted sisters belong in bold Orientals that do all the talking for them. Misty-eyed dreamers should choose simple, poetic soliflores, while symphonic bouquets complement "vivacious, active" types... once they've changed out of their tennis whites, of course.
Quiz-building, like crossword puzzle creation, always begins with the answers-- in this case, the "types" towards which every test-taker is carefully herded, there to be shoeboxed for eternity. Which of the Glamour "types" am I? Strangely, I'm the "poetic soliflore" type-- a verdict both I and my Scent Cabinet refute. (Even in 1766 I wouldn't have worn florals-- not with plenty of musk and civet to be had!)
It seems clear to me that I have more choices to consider than the Glamour audience of fifty years ago. Modern perfumistas don't let a magazine quiz tell us who we are, what to be, or what to spritz. We don't marry ourselves to only one fragrance (or fragrance family) for life. We wear "all of the above"-- whenever we choose. Often we key our 'fume of the day to the mood of the moment; scent, for us, is situational.
So what are my situations? Well, after writing about my use of Cabochard as a self-defense method, I can state that chypres, galbanums, vetivers, and incense blends awaken my Warrior. When the war is over, the Healer in me restores equilibrium with herbal tisanes, eaux de cologne, floral chypres, and lactonic green florals. When I'm glum and needful of comfort, my inner Homebody consoles me with creamy gourmands, warming woods, powdery balsams, and raspberry roses. Not one to be shy about stating her preferences, my Lover aspect exhibits a taste for spicy Orientals, feral animalics, and lots of labdanum. Rrrrr!
But wait! There's more. Every person has a dark side-- contrary, covert, and evasive. When I want you to think I'm someone I'm not, my Secret Agent opts for the most generic mumsy floral she can find, the equivalent of workwear bought off the rack at JCPennys. (Every spy needs a cover, right?) My Pushover pushes it one step further with ditzy, girly fruit-salad scents that make you think you can talk her into anything. (Has she got a Brooklyn Bridge to sell you!) At last, there's my Subversive-- a gender outlaw whose penchant for musk, leather, and lavender fougères confuses more conventional noses.
What would a quiz for all that look like? Let's see:
Which of the following classic chart-toppers is most likely to appear on your iPod playlist?
A) "Bad Reputation" (Joan Jett)
B) "In Your Eyes" (Peter Gabriel)
C) "Our House" (Crosby Stills Nash & Young)
D) "Need You Tonight" (INXS)
E) "Our Lips Are Sealed" (The Go-Go's)
F) "Heart of Glass" (Blondie)
G) "Walk on the Wild Side" (Lou Reed)
What's your drink of choice?
A) A pint of Guinness Extra Stout
B) Chamomile tea and honey
C) Hot chocolate made from scratch
D) Kahlua and cream
E) Diet Peach Snapple
F) Bubble Tea
G) Absinthe and laudanum
What's your idea of an ideal vacation?
A) An illegal tour of the Paris Catacombs
B) A spa on the sunny Mediterranean
C) Your own living room
D) A penthouse suite for two at the Burj Khalifa
E) On assignment
F) Rodeo Drive!
G) Berlin's KitKatClub
Are your pencils sharpened?... Go!
QUIZ RESULTS: Choose the perfume that corresponds with your most-circled letter. If no majority vote exists, just slap on something by Burberry. A--Vero Profumo Onda B--L'Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two C--Etat Libre d'Orange Like This D--By Kilian Back to Black E--Clinique Happy F--Taylor Swift Wonderstruck G--CB I Hate Perfume 2nd Cumming
Abstract, Acid, Airy, Aldehydic, Almondy, Ambery, Ambient, Ambrosial, Animalic, Anisic, Aromatic, Balsamic, Bitter, Black, Blue, Bright, Brown, Burnt, Buttery, Camphoraceous, Caryophyllaceous, Citrine, Complex, Cool, Creamy, Dark, Deathly, Dewy, Dry, Earthy, Empyreumatic, Ethereal, Fecal, Floral, Foul, Fragrant, Fruity, Garlicky, Goaty, Green, Heavy, Herbal, Honeyed, Hot, Humid, Indolic, Leathery, Linear, Marine, Musky, Milky, Minty, Moist, Nauseating, Oceanic, Opaque, Orange, Ozonic, Pink, Powdery, Pungent, Putrid, Rancid, Red, Repulsive, Resinous, Roasted, Rooty, Rosaceous, Smoky, Sparkling, Spicy, Springlike, Sulphurous, Sweet, Translucent, Transparent, Vanillic, Violet, Volatile, Warm, Wet, White, Woody, Yellow.
What colors or textures do I assign to scent? Oakmoss is definitely more brown than green, and tobacco more blonde than brown; both feel sticky as honey. Vetiver always seems grey and silvery to me, like polished chrome. Ambergris is the blue-pink of moonstone, and slippery. Labdanum is viscous, dark, like motor oil, while styrax is a hazy conch-shell pink. Basil is a hotter pink, more like azalea flowers. Cedarwood emits banked heat while geranium outright burns the skin. Immortelle is black and brittle, like obsidian; its edges are sharp enough to cut. Leather is never black, but olivine. And narcissus is a piece of tan chamois suede dusted with oily pollen.