Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Don't Stand So Close to Me

Well, thanks to the fabulous Leopoldo, I have finally been able to sample Serge Lutens La Myrrhe. It arrives last week and seems great in the vial, so I spray it on, hold my forearm to my nose and - ack! After an initial pleasant blast of mandarin, it smells on me like the men's bathroom: cold white tile, hand soap, urinal cakes, "floral" ammoniac disinfectant, and, well... licorice all-sorts and candied nuts (okay, so those don't really fit). The sweet but sharply acidic citrus of the top notes battles against the soapy, waxy basic quality of the aldehydes, and in the heart, the myrrh's airy licorice facets collide with the inedible desiccated resinous side. Underneath is a musky honey base that smells at close range like stale pee in a subway tunnel. I had heard La Myrrhe described as "boring" or a knock-off of Chanel No. 5. All I can say is: not on me.

Luckily, I resisted the urge to scrub. Half an hour after application, I found myself walking around in a very nice little cloud. Something smelled refreshing yet sweet, both well-scrubbed and appetizing. I sniffed my wrist suspiciously. Urinal cakes. I sniffed the cloud. Milked-bathed virgin drinking a pastis and soda. Wrist: urinal cakes. Hmm, I could have sworn the cloud was emanating from me. Was it an olfactory hallucination? (I have auditory hallucinations in the shower all the time. I leap out dripping, absolutely certain I heard the baby crying, the phone ringing, my husband whistling or the Good Humor ice cream truck. The day will soon come when I hear voices in there whispering that I must eliminate my eBay rival for vintage minis.) Searching for the cloud, I extended my arm. From about two feet, my wrist smelled very nice. La Myrrhe has lovely sillage - it's just the close-up ain't pretty.

For the average person, it is just dandy to attract others with a wonderful wake of scent. A perfume fanatic, however, is not the average person; like all obsessions, a preoccupation with perfume is self-centered. The scent is for me - nobody else could possibly care so much.

Now then, there's also Caron. A while ago, I purchased a bottle of Parfum Sacre EdP, online and unsniffed (gasp!). I had nursed a number of Caron extrait samples to completion with tiny sparing little dabs and thoroughly enjoyed a number of them, smelling no sign of the dreaded, dated, moldy Caron base some people mention. I excitedly opened my Parfum Sacre, sprayed with abandon, and smelled... well, mildew. Not mildew exactly, but spores - that strange combination of black pepper and burnt dust that accompanies damp rot. The perfume was marvelous otherwise, but the note was there, lurking in the middle stages. Then I got Bellodgia EdP in a swap and it was fabulous, no fungi at all, a powdery and yet rich, almost boozy scent which beautifully evokes the bright beauty of the old world (Bellagio). I had heard it had been reformulated, but there was certainly still a vintage quality to it - just no fustiness.

The luminosity of Bellodgia got me thinking longingly about my extrait samples, so I purchased a Farnesiana bottle split from Patty at Perfume Posse. It arrived and... spores! In the miniscule amounts I had applied to myself previously they were undetectable, but now they were clearly there. I went to bed to cry myself to sleep and suddenly got a little waft of a pure golden light. When I was little, my mother often made a fine trifle out of rich homemade custard, toasted almonds and cherries . This trifle was to the little waft of Farnesiana as that dessert made of canned mandarin oranges and shredded coconut is to the mythical ambrosia (sorry Mom!) - an earthly imitation. The projected scent was just heartbreaking, so heartbreaking I quickly got over my addiction to sniffing my wrist and just bathed in the golden air of my sillage.


At 2:57 p.m., Anonymous Kathy said...

I've had somewhat the same experience with La Myrrhe, so I think that my tiny sample vial will be enough. Sometimes it smells wonderful, but the times that it smells bad ruin the good times. I agree with you that I wear fragrance for myself, and I rarely wonder if other people can smell it. I'm actually embarrassed if people comment on it!

As for Caron, I think that the dread Caron base is difficult. I have no trouble with Farnesiana or Parfum Sacre, but I cannot wear Nuit de Noel, and I have tried it in EDT and pure parfum. Headache in a bottle, and it smells like some kind of bad disinfectant to me. I keep hitting myself over the head with it because I feel like I SHOULD like it.

Amber is tricky for me because it can make my teeth hurt - I don't know why. It reminds me of the little black combs that they used to give us to fix our hair for school pictures because they used to make my teeth ache in the same way. POTL and Anne Pliska are torture for me. Weird.

Actually I don't get many comments about my fragrance. My husband told me on our first date that he didn't like my perfume (Calyx) which I found embarrassing and refreshingly honest at the same time.

Sorry this comment is so long!

At 3:58 p.m., Blogger Dusan said...

Ouch! I actually *love* La Myrrhe hides for cover, but I understand why it doesn't appeal to you. It's strange, though, to hear it compared to urin(als). Soap yes, aldehyde overkill yes, but urin??? Oh well, more for me then:)
OMG, I also have auditory hallucinations in the shower *and* while brushing my teeth (I'm one of those people who leave the water running while doing it). Thank god I don't have a child, I'm a bundle of nerve as it is.

At 6:48 p.m., Blogger chaya ruchama said...

It can be frustrating to have to wait so long for a fragrance to reveal its beauty, and Carons are infamous, as are some SL's !

A more simplistic way of sampling some of La Myrrhe's charms [?], can be found in KM's Myrrhe et Merveilles- very pretty, wearable.

[I find that many of KM scents harbor similarities to SL, but not all]

How is littlest one ?
Love to you and yours-

At 6:57 p.m., Blogger marchlion said...

Neener neener neener! Spores!!! Caron spores! Now even your sweetest, gentlest fragrances will be contaminated.

That Myrrhe is brutal. Victoria F has an intoxicating review. I think urinal cakes is a pretty close approximation, although I got more Bactine. I will, however, agree that there are a number of things I like in the air around me and can't bear sniffing on my skin.

At 7:09 p.m., Blogger Dusan said...

Hey, you! Yes, you upstairs, March! FYI Dusan Z. has also got an intoxicating review of La Myrrhe over at The Scented Salamander :-)

At 9:50 p.m., Blogger Erin said...

Kathy: Nuit de Noel does not give me headaches, but it does smell kind of odd. Warm, and sometimes interesting, but odd, and not in a way that often calls to me. Like you, though, I keep trying with it. POTL doesn't float my boat - it doesn't seem quite as weird or different to me as everyone is always saying it is. I have to admit that the Anne Pliska sounds intriguing to me, as the notes just sound yummy.

Your husband sounds like mine. Some people find my DH refreshingly honest, some just find him blunt and tactless. I just think that like scotch and oysters and all the best things in life, he's an acquired taste. :>

At 9:55 p.m., Blogger Erin said...

Dusan: Well, actually I don't really dislike La Myrrhe, so you don't need to run for cover or hog all of it! It's just that because I only really enjoy the sillage I can't help but think it doesn't suit my needs as a scent geek. And I swear to God that there are little people in our pipes murmuring on their cell phones. (Why can't people on the bus talk that quietly?)

At 10:05 p.m., Blogger Erin said...

chaya: I've heard very mixed review on KM's Myrrhe et Merveilles, but after your recommendation, I will certainly have to check it out, thank you! I have noticed a *lot* of similarities between SL and the KM scents, but I quite like Gourmandises, as I mentioned in the comments yesterday - done by Yann Vasnier and I can't think of a similar SL scent. The little one is fine, very close to walking and frequently telling me off in her own little language.

At 10:14 p.m., Blogger Erin said...

March: Ack - the spores spread?! I feel your pain as I, too, was drawn in by that lovely review of Vic's. Oooo, and Evan's comment below her review also. I probably got overly excited and set myself up for disappointment. I used Bactine once for a sunburn but I generally tan and so it was long time ago and I don't remember what the spray smelled like. I do remember it stung like the dickens.

At 10:27 p.m., Blogger Erin said...

Dusan: Read your review: coolio! Queneau is one of the few theory-obsessed Frenchmen I like to read. I notice on Wikipedia that he did a translation of Tutuola's "The Palm-wine Drinkard": an interesting, essential and unreadable book, very similar to the longer and equally impossible "The Famished Road" (Ben Okri). Those wacky Nigerians.

At 9:11 a.m., Anonymous Leopoldo said...

I loved the Palm Wine Drunkard.

I'm with you on La Myrrhe - it's truly shivery shuddery close up - then again, a number of scents are (Sege, honey, I AM looking atcha!).

When are you off on your trip? Have a grand time!

I need some Caron spores this way...

At 10:40 a.m., Blogger Erin said...

See, I'm never sure whether it's spelled "drinkard" or "drunkard" because I've seen translations with both. I'm off February 20th -9 days, yay! What Carons have you tried? If I have some of the ones you haven't tried, I'll send you some samples.

At 10:08 a.m., Anonymous AngelaS said...

Spores! Oh man, that's too bad. When I first tried the old Carons maybe six or seven years ago, they turned into mushy, moldy cardboard on my skin. Something changed in the meantime, and now the base smells great--a warm, interesting extension of my skin. Go figure. Now, thanks to you, I'm off to put on some Farnesiana to seek the golden light.

At 12:26 a.m., Blogger Erin said...

Well, spores doesn't sound that much worse than muchy, moldy cardboard to me, so I'm holding out hope that one day, all will be well. In any case, I've gotten over the close-up: it's worth it for the sillage!


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