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« Have You Had Yours? | Main | The Long Goodbye or A Fly In The Ointment? »

June 03, 2008


The Hermès page for Un Jardin Après La Mousson describes the perfume thus:

"Though Kerala is a region renowned for its spices, Ellena eschewed hot spicy notes in favor of cooler vegetable notes such as cardamom, coriander, pepper, ginger and ginger flower. He also included a vetiver accord of his own creation."

I found that a bit intriguing. Cool or not, aren't cardamom, coriander, pepper and ginger all spices rather than veggies? I myself prefer cool fragrances with a touch of spice and wood (sandalwood, cedar, sage, bergamot, rosemary, cucumber, basil etc.) over heady flowery or sweet fruity perfumes. I wish Ellena would have devoted his skills to capture the "real" monsoon scent - the fresh clay smell of wet earth which lasts only for a short time immediately after the first showers. That is a beguiling aroma that I have never encountered anywhere in the world except in India.

As for malodorous Asian throngs needing deodorants, I am afraid Unilever is not exactly wrong. (Have you ever ridden in a crowded bus or train on a hot Indian day?) But the phenomenon has more to do with poverty than personal hygiene. The affluent, with easy access to soap and water are already perfuming themselves. The poor, who can't afford a proper shower on most days, are hardly likely to spend their hard earned and limited resources to spray themselves with parfum.

That was another of the bloopers from no less than the Hermes PR department. Cardamom, coriander, pepper and ginger would inject 'hot spicy notes', not 'cool vegetable notes'. The monsoon scent is quite unique, and some day an actual scientist may even be able to identify the precise composition of the fragrance- surely something to do with the composition of the earth and rain water falling on the overheated soil. Ellena can merely sniff it and be inspired by it, but not recreate it in toto. Reality is not his intent, as he mentions in the article.
I also followed this link to an interesting review of the scent in question.The reviewer states:

"The Ellena phenomenon is thus also that, perhaps more so than with any other living perfumers, his scents do not come innocently presented to you in bottles but are usually encapsulated in paragraphs, maxims about perfumery creation, sources of inspiration, and are thus made more narrative in their forms thanks to these appended details."

So the description is supposed to enhance the experience of the perfume by telling you what to imagine as you inhale the scent. Kind of like the reams of paper used to expound on some, especially abstract art- you cannot be sure what the artist means unless accompanied by a 2 page description of the source of inspiration.

Malodorous throngs on buses and trains? Now that you mention it, I remember the buses with fishwives and their baskets overflowing with fresh fish- noticeable, but not unpleasant; the smell of coconut oil on wet hair, but not usually mixed with sweat until the end of the day. But then I had the advantage of living in a place where water and baths were aplenty. It might have been different in a drier dustier locale.
Actually, to my nose, human smells are not a problem after the first whiff. Perfume sprays, or even heavy floral garlands(rajnigandha,for instance) on the other hand, are powerful migraine triggers for me. That's not to say that I dislike sandalwood, incense, attar and other such fragrances, just that for me the plain actual odors are more evocative and less annoying than the synthesized perfumes.

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