Monday, 9 May 2011

Strange Invisible Perfume


By August we were sleeping with all the windows thrown open. That was why, when I became aware of the scent, I assumed it had come from outside.
   It was a voluptuous scent: vanilla with rose and the heart of ripe melons, held up by something sterner, a leather maybe, with a hint of wood smoke. The first time it stole into my consciousness I was half-wakeful in the early hours, in the act of coming around from one dream before settling into another.
  Gradually it faded, and I must have gone back to sleep. In the morning I examined every possible source but nothing came close to replicating that fragrance.
    I decided it must all have been a highly charged dream. (…)
   After an absence of about a week it returned, and continued to do so, though with no discernable pattern to its reappearance, and with slight variations on the ingredients of the scent. At times it carried essence of vanilla, sometimes a robust note of chocolate and cherries. It might linger only for a few minutes, but strongly, or less distinctly for up to an hour. Some nights it was carried off by a whisper of wind in the courtyard trees, an ethereal smoky lavender.

                                                                        From The Lantern


As a perfume lover, I had a lot of fun writing fragrance into this novel. A scent is at the heart of the story in The Lantern, with its roots in the herbs and flowers that grow wild on the hillside, and the lavender fields beyond. Aroma releases memories and opens a powerful sensory path between the past and the present.

The perfume in my book is a mysterious concoction that comes and goes with no obvious source. So I was more than intrigued, earlier this year, when I discovered Strange Invisible Perfumes, thanks to a post on the lovely A Rose Beyond the Thames blog here.

Using a strictly botanical library of scents, perfumer Alexandra Balahoutis creates enchanting fragrances with no synthetic approximations of essences that cannot be extracted, like gardenia and violet. She runs an authentic botanical perfumery based in California, using only organic, wild-crafted, biodynamic, and hydro-distilled essences, and states: 



"The art of perfumery begins with the art of distilling essences.
   The perfumer then arranges these distillates into gorgeous, olfactory narratives. Making perfume without real essences is like writing a book without real words.”


Looking closer into her library of perfumes, I found two that are very much in the spirit of the imaginary one that I mixed, using only words on the page, for my novel. There’s Essence of Ix – a “brambly, stirring, floral” with white sage, roses, blackcurrant, Californian lavender, wild honey, and French oak. It’s a limited edition pure perfume, very expensive, and sounds most alluring.

Then there’s Moon Garden – a dream of tuberose, jasmine, resins, and night-blooming flowers that release pulses of exquisite scent in warm summer darkness.

I love the way their creator speaks of the art of perfumery as a narrative. But a good perfume does develop and unfold on the skin, allowing each ingredient of the blend its time to warm and blossom before fading to give another precedence. It’s a story, but not in words.

For more details, and many more evocative combinations, click here to visit the Strange Invisible Perfumes website.

19 comments:

Pétales de fées said...

Very beautiful lines to evoke multiple emotions provoked by fragrances.
I am also very sensitive and I can not imagine a life without fragrance. Those of nature are for me the most beautiful. As this sweet, gentle fragrance of honeysuckle in the evening of May when the day was hot. You speak beautifully fleeting sensations and olfactory memory.
Parfumeur is a wonderful job!
Good night and sweet Deborah!

Richard said...

Que serait la vie sans odeur, et la Provence sans sa variété de senteurs? Je me ressource, chaque fois que je vais dans le Lubéron et que je marche dans la garrigue. Naturellement, mes pieds foulent des touffes d'herbes qui s'appellent, en réalité, thym, serpolet, lavandin... Quel plaisir de respirer toutes ces effluves!

Danièle said...

Super site de parfum, merci de la référenced :-) C'est vrai que les parfums naturels semblent davantage liés à l'été qu'à l'hiver, enfin pour moi en tout cas.

Cornflower said...

Perfume is a fascinating subject (if you haven't already seen it, do look out for the book Perfumes: The A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez).

Julia Munroe Martin said...

Oh my goodness, your book sounds absolutely fascinating! I've always been so interested in how scents are created as well as how they affect our senses. Can't wait!

MuMuGB said...

You fell for the smell of Provence...I love London's smell, especially when it starts to drizzle...

Elizabeth Young said...

Lovely Deborah, I don't know too many women who don't love a lovely perfume. I find it sad that there are so many places one cannot wear perfume anymore because of those with allergies, but understand of course. I adore all the fragrances you describe and do make my own potpourri with different things I gather in the Summer and dry. Enjoy your lovely piece of Earth, Elizabeth.

Janel said...

I love the perfumer's descriptions. Such beautiful words to match the beautiful scents.

brenda said...

You had me here "develop and unfold on the skin, allowing each ingredient of the blend its time to warm and blossom before fading to give another precedence" lush and rich. I've not written about perfume before, and fear I'd need to practice at it. This is truly lovely. I agree, I think most women love a good scent. I know I do, but it was something I came into. I had to find my scents, what I like, dislike, love, etc. What work on one body, doesn't on another. It is a story, indeed.

wosushi said...

I've thought a great deal about how scents work into a story, so I loved this post.

My father always loves when the ligustrum (sp?) bloom here. He stops in his tracks and just breathes the air, insisting that you stop and do the same. I know that it is more than the sweet jasmine-like scent that makes him stop in his tracks. It's the memory it evokes. A time when his kids were little, playing in the yard, swimming in the pool, surrounded by ligustrum.

Moments like that make me stop and think what other stories can be told through the simple act of breathing in the world around you.

(And I HAVE to check out that perfumer! Sounds amazing)

bookspersonally said...

Essence of Ix sounds absolutely enchanting!

Kenya D. Williamson said...

Beautiful description, Deborah. One day when I'm craving a little luxury, I'll have to stop by that shop. I've driven past it on more than one occasion without realizing it was there. :)

Leovi said...

The description of odors and perfumes is essential in a novel, as well explained by the sensory memory. We can spend years without going to a house or place we know well or have had great experiences and if they brought us with his eyes closed, the smell could tell where we are, besides those immediately evokes a past life experiences. One of my favorite books is The perfume, the first novel by German writer Patrick Suskind.

✿ ♥ France ✿ ✿ said...

des cerises que oui j'en veux
bisou de cerises

Mari Carmen said...

I love your writings, Deborah. As I have said you in my blog, I print every post you leave, and then, when I leave my work, I read it in my way home. Thank you very much for these beautiful minutes I have with you :)

Hugs and kisses

Sarah (Snippets of Thyme) said...

What an intriguing story! I love the intertwining of scent. It's a perfect pairing for this part of the country. I'll be back to read more!

versus said...

Votre blog sent le vert verveine, et le tilleul embaume jusqu' ici...on a même envie d' y planter de la ciboulette. Avec un peu de terre le tour est joué !
Très bonne soirée !

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

Gorgeously written.

Cathy K said...

Your writing, as always, is so very evocative, nay, so very sublime. A couple of years ago we too had an unusual summer smell permeating our room at night, though not quite so refined. The smell was that nose-wrinkling combination of days old urine and dead fish. Night after night we suffered it, day after day I scoured the house for its source and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned, thinking it a small piece of fish that had perhaps been trapped along one of the ridges beneath the drain tray in the kitchen (it's happened before), or more unlikely, something the dog left in the corner, or more unlikely yet, a backed-up septic tank. We considered calling the septic company, scoured the foreshore for dead fish (we live on edge of a mountain lake) and cleaned the house within an inch of its life. And then we found it, a small, slender, unassuming tree (can't remember which kind because it's since been cut down) which was, at that very moment in its short life, blossoming in all its wondrous glory...

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