Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Perfume Notes: The Admixture of Study and Memory

Castoreum absolute, castoreum resinoid, galbanum oil, galbanum CO2, Muscenone®, Exaltolide®, Velvione®, ambrette CO2, ambrette essential oil, and ambergris mother tincture. Pieces of olfactory poetry I've been smelling all evening.

Thinking about a formula for musk, ambergris and benzoin that goes back to the days of the Silk Road. Wishing that musk deer weren't hunted to near extinction and wondering if I could replicate that ancient formula with other things. I am time traveling as I smell the raw materials that arrived by post today. A journey colored by sensory impressions makes the "wish" perfume everything.

I need that imaginary Victorian house with a study and a lab to manifest. In the meantime neighbors across the way watch me through their windows with puzzled looks (even the perpetual gamers who sit transfixed on their living room floor with their corneas burning as they work their Xbox to death).

Droppers go into amber bottles, things get mixed, I smell long strips of paper that have been dipped in odorants and take copious notes in an oversized black laboratory notebook. If I had a black cat the scenario would be complete; the neighbors would think I was a witch.

Fresh from today's experiment rack; a large piece of fresh Copal tinctured and shaken. In 30 days it will be fully macerated for perfumery work. A friend brought the Copal back from Mexico (an acquaintance whose anthropologist husband delivered aromatic mysteries* from eastern Paraguay a few days earlier and asked me to burn them and share my olfactory impressions). The fresh Copal resembles the smell of the cleanest Frankincense I know; fresh Luban from Oman.

As soon as I remember this I am no longer at my desk. I am at Enfleurage and Trygve Harris is holding a large bowl of fresh Luban under my nose and encouraging me to take a deep breath. I snap out of the reverie and feel homesick for New York.

A knapsack sits by my desk and smells like the Copal which was wrapped in wax paper and placed inside for safekeeping during the day. Whenever I get a whiff of it I hear the sound of crushed pine needles under my feet and smell the sun. Then I remember a line from a Chanel ad in the 80's and become this; I am made of blue sky and golden light, and I will feel this way forever."

It is no longer night...

The items given to me by the anthropologist are used by the Aché tribe of eastern Paraguay. They include: a vulture feather, a mixture of ash and beeswax called Gachĩ, and bark of the Myrocarpus frondosus tree (also known as Cabreuva in perfumery). The vulture feather is for healing venomous snakebites and is used with Gachĩ to promote healing. Gachĩ forces the spirits of the dead to leave humans (they are believed to cause fevers) and also weakens thunder. Each of these ingredients are used in "smoke" rituals by the Aché.