Drugs and Nazis. That’s what comes to mind each and every time I wear Misia, the newest addition to Chanel’s higher-end, quasi-niche collection, Les Exclusifs. It may be an unfair conclusion, but it’s an inevitable one for me, thanks in large part to the history of the women behind the name “Misia.” The fact that Chanel itself has presented the scent as one that should be seen through the filter of those women doesn’t help. Frankly, I’m astounded that the company would choose an inspiration and story for its latest release that would risk unearthing the unpalatable background of Coco Chanel, a history that it hopes assiduously stays hidden. But it takes little effort to discover the unappealing side to the “special friendship” that is explicitly stated as the cornerstone for Misia’s creation, especially if one is to asked to interpret Misia through the lens of Coco herself. The connections are too negative for me and, ultimately, serve to ruin a decent fragrance.
Hello everyone, I hope you’re all having a good weekend. It’s time for this month’s Grab Bag, with a look at random things from news articles on popular fragrance genres, top Arabian perfume brands, synaesthesia, and the science of smell, to the more personal things occupying my attention this month.
Scientific Articles on Smell & Scent:
- The Guardian had something really interesting to me: “Smell, evolution and the sex brain: why we’re monogamous and use perfume.” The piece argues that “Today we have a global fragrance market equal to the GDP of a medium-sized country, because of a gene mutation that made smells less sexy to us.” Basically, we used to have a gene — nicknamed “Adam” by its discoverers — that transmitted sexual scent messages (largely about ovulation) to our brains, but we lost it about 16m years ago because of evolutionary pressure to maintain monogamy and the family bond. However, the neural pathways that responded to such messages will still respond to “sensual perfumes made from – among other things – the sexual signals of musk deer, beavers and civets.”
- From Science News: “Sense of smell is strictly personal, study suggests.” The article’s focuses primarily on genetics, neuroscience, and how we have “olfactory fingerprints,” thanks to a “new test [that] can distinguish individuals based upon their perception of odors, possibly reflecting a person’s genetic makeup[.]” However, there are obviously indirect implications that support what most perfume bloggers always say, that smell is subjective and subject to wholly personal variables.
- From Aeon Magazine, a really fascinating piece asks “Are we all born with Synaesthesia?” It covers synaesthesia in literature (Nabokov’s Lolita, Mary Shelley, and the Enlightenment philosopher, Rousseau) before looking at the neuroscience, child psychology studies, and different forms of synaesthesia (musical notes, numbers, letters, or one poor woman who reacted viscerally to mere fabric textures). It’s a really interesting, in-depth piece that covers some unexpected issues.
Close your eyes, and imagine a morning walk through the country on a summer’s day. You start in a small forest glade where moss creeps up ancient trees and their gnarled roots. Leaves lie damp under your footsteps, crushed into earth that is dark, loamy, and a little sweet. Tender green shoots and fresh herbs climb out of the ground, peeking their heads around the moss, joining the forest’s morning song. The sun glints through the trees, seemingly half awake and still a little pale, but it quickly shakes itself to shine brighter and warmer, moving rapidly over the turquoise sky.
Your walk quickly takes you to a meadow on the other side where clover and soft grasses form a soft, downy blanket covering the lands. You find yourself a tree at the edges, near an adjoining field of hay and a farmer’s small herb patch filled with sage and thyme. You place a blanket and pillow on its mossy roots, lie back, and let the country’s summer pageant engulf you. The sun has woken fully now, shining warm and bright, enveloping you in its soft embrace. It’s a reverie of greenness that feels infinitely warm and happy without ever losing its innate, ineffable sense of elegance.
Each of the fragrances of Rania J. Parfumeur showcases a different raw material, and it is the turn of tobacco in T. Habanero. It seeks to give the dark, black note the spicy fire of hot Cuban nights and the aroma of Havana’s famous cigars, but it is more complicated than that for me. Honeyed sweetness, black frankincense, Middle Eastern oud, synthetic sandalwood, and leather all play a part in T. Habanero’s dance, resulting in scent which took me to some surprising places. There is a stage where T. Habanero is a drier, deeper Killianesque Back to Black tobacco that is more suited to an aristocratic, private club in London frequented by Prince Charles and captains of industry than to a wild tango in Cuba. At other times, the scent is like Cuban cigars by way of bedouins in the Sahara, thanks to the barnyard funk of authentic, Middle Eastern oud. And, in the very end, it is a simple trip to overly smoky, arid, blackened woods. It is the last stage which is my problem.