Louise and I went sniffing at Nancy’s (and thanks again, Nancy!). It turns out she lives really close to me. Sniffing around a great collection with a couple of perfume pals is pretty much my idea of a perfect afternoon. Actually, having a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and a migraine-inducing chocolate torte on hand might have been even more perfect, but I´d have paid the price later. As it was I had to wind the windows down in my car to overcome the perfume miasma when the three of us went out for a post-sniff coffee. By the way, anyone who has ever doubted the concept of skin chemistry needs to go sniffing with a friend or two.
Louise is more flexible than I am, so she was using her legs. Her ankle smelled great – some new leather thing Nancy´s discovered. I had a trail of heaven up and down my arms – from the delicious woods of Annayake Undo (pour homme) through Serge Lutens´ Chene (and am I insane or does the very late drydown smell a lot like Malle´s Noir Epices?), on up my arm past the French patchouli one (what was it called?), Lutens´ Bois Orientale, French Lover, Andree Putman´s Preparation Parfumee (which, okay, all too quickly goes from the watery lily coriander driftwood to a fresh scent, but what a nice one), and some other things I applied and, well, forgot.
So, here´s my story, and everyone this has happened to before – raise your hand!! Because at home throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening, I kept getting a whiff of something wonderful – creamy, warm, comforting, elegant. I kept trying to decide if it was two scents combining in my nose or layered on my skin (the new, coffee-musky Belle en Rykiel smells great layered with patchouli). Was it the Annayake? Something else?
Eventually I sorted out what the tantalizing scent was, gliding along in the background – the discontinued Barbara Bui Le Parfum (notes of spices, incense, jasmine, white musk, sandalwood, heliotrope, cedar and amber). The scent was only in production for a couple of years, d/c´d before I ever got around to it. If Nancy didn´t have an unfamiliar-looking, attractive square bottle sitting on her shelf I might never have tried it.
And what a shame that would be. Barbara Bui is one of those ideal, vaguely gourmand-but-not-foody comfort scents. There´s nothing austere or big-niche statement about it. It is a scent that is both comfortable and elegant – a mélange of creamy woods, soft, meditative incense, a hint of florals, sheer musk and a dusting of the sort of spices (cinnamon, cardamom and clove, maybe?) you´d find in some tasty dessert pudding. There is a clear, resinous amber note throughout, but you’re not being beaten over the head with it, as I feel about some ambers.
Part of my delay in figuring out which fragrance I´d fallen for is that the opening of Barbara Bui is its weakest moment: mostly amber and heliotrope, with a specter of Play-Doh lurking in the background, and while it´s not terrible I remember taking that first sniff, thinking meh — next, please, and promptly forgetting about it. It wasn´t until I tried it again that I remembered that opening fizzle, and all I can say is that if you´ll wait 20 minutes or so, the next several hours are well worth it. There´s some sort of perfect balance in those notes that creates a whole which is more appealing than its parts. There are bits that remind me of some other scents (Clinique Simply and Jil Sander´s Sensations spring to mind), but Barbara Bui is on a much higher plane of achievement.
It´s still available regularly on eBay, but given the short production span I wouldn´t bet the farm the supply will go on forever. Another example of a fragrance that deserved a much longer life – maybe that opening did it in, since so many consumers make their decision about a fragrance on those top notes. I decided I wanted to hoard some, because I´m pretty darn sure I´ll be working through Nancy´s generous gift of a partial bottle (thanks, Nancy!), so I bought a bottle on eBay. And … it´s been awhile since I´ve had a giveaway, hasn´t it? If you´d like to try some of this, say so in the comments below. If my bottle shows up I´ll send some out to the world.
amber image: cybermoonemporium.com