There is a certain snobbery around the language of perfume that rarely fails to amuse me. My somewhat simplistic approach is consumer based. Will you like it? Why will you like it? How much will it set you back and what is in it? Most beauty press releases can help with this basic information, but the perfume release? Those are constructed in a whole other language – something akin to Klingon or Sanskrit.
Yesterday I received an email letting me know that there was a very special bottle of perfume on its way to the cupboard, I MUST keep an eye out for it because it costs…wait for it… £480. £480! This stuff had better have ingredients suspended in unicorn tears and handpicked by Kate Middleton.
This particular perfumer is something of a maverick, a definite artist with a rich history of producing the most exquisitely interesting fragrances that are quite divisive in the perfume world, and the ELLE office. I tend to adore them, so I’m excited to smell this new offering.
It has a small crowd of fragrance fans clamoring around my desk for the first spray. (Form a queue people; these spritzes are worth about £3.50 each).
The anticipation is palpable; what will it smell like? Something classic and reassuring that reminds people of a certain other classic iconic scent? Something oud-y to appeal to the average Harrods customer who would spend £480 on 50mls?
The verdicts vary. I say talcum powder when I lift the lid (Art Director Miette says ‘baby bums’ unprompted, so we must be onto something), but upon spraying it, the scent is surprising – no oud or talcum powder in sight. Or sniff, sorry.
Editor Lorraine likes it, although concedes it is a little rich.
Me: “It costs £480, Lorraine.”
LC: “Do you know what? It makes me want it more because it means very few other people will have it and I’d rather not smell like everyone else.”
Fair point LC.
My friend Sunil has the most accurate untrained nose I’ve ever come across. He says it's a bit like clotted cream ice-cream with something cardamom and clove-y. He thinks it’s standoffish, but in a good way.
My next-desk neighbor thinks its powdery with something weird, is it lavender?
Good question Natalie, let me just check the press release here… Lavender, lavender... does it have lavender, let me see now, I’m scanning, skim-reading the release, still reading…
Nope, I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is that this perfumer has a very poetic turn of phrase. I am learning everything and nothing all at once. Lavender, hmm not sure. But this: maybe this will help?
“My jubilant female demons shatter, their suicide on the tip of my tongue…. Without a raising agent, bread does not rise, and in return the baker receives a slap on his tense cheek, unexpected but not entirely unwanted. In short, to a grimacing Life, Death’s mirror returns a smile.”
Um, I'm still not quite sure. A quick turn of the page, and I find it! Mention of an ingredient! The beautiful contents of my own wedding bouquet no less, ‘baby’s breath’ – or Gypsohila to the professional florist. Here is the scent description:
“The volume gypsophila creates is the volume I had in mind, a misty breath of my goals, but in actual fact, I am God, the Devil and a woman!”
Oh. So not lavender then, no?