The presents are wrapped and under the tree, except for what Santa will bring later tonight. I´ll be spending much of today at church putting the final touches on the decorations for Christmas Eve, then home to bake iced sugar cookies (Santa’s favorite). This is a funny, wistful time of year for so many people. I have no idea how many of you will even stop by the blog today, but I thought I´d post something a little sacred and a little profane, about my love for Guerlain Mitsouko.
In perfume circles, Mitsouko is one of those givens – like Mount Everest, or death. It exists in its timeless majesty, whether or not you appreciate it. It has an air of inevitability. I suppose my first tentative sniff of Mitsouko was like a budding oenophile´s first sip of wine that didn´t come in a gallon jug from the supermarket. Mitsouko was my gateway drug. It was my introduction to the kind of ecstasy a scent could provoke. I had no understanding of it; I had no concrete idea of what I was smelling. Mount Everest doesn´t care whether you understand it.
Mitsouko dates to 1919 and is classified as a fruity chypre; its list of notes (Osmoz lists bergamot, lemon, mandarin, neroli, peach, rose, clove, ylang-ylang, oakmoss, benzoin, vetiver, cinnamon) don´t really hint at the bizarre beauty of the scent. Its baroque Orientalism makes me think of kohl-eyed beauties in silk brocade harem pants; at the same time, it could appear in the bottle of a high-end niche perfumer today and we´d be raving about its edge (although I´m having trouble deciding which perfume house might be worthy of the release.) Unlike many current releases, Mitsouko is “fruity” only to the degree that its peach provides a modicum of relief from the sharp, astringent spice and citrus notes. If you have only smelled the EdT, I am sorry, but you have not smelled Mitsouko. The parfum is the smoothest, an elixir of smoke, fruit conserve and spices that wears like velvet, but I am also fond of the (admittedly harsher) EdP, the concentration I met and fell in love with first.
I wonder whether the best way to come to Mitsouko is cold, without any preconceptions. A close friend was visiting recently; we were both dressing for a formal party, the kickoff of our holiday season. She´s not really into fragrance. She poked through my collection, looking for something suitable, and her fingers touched my tiny, beautiful bottle of Mitsouko parfum. “You should wear that one,” I said, wondering what she´d think. She dabbed some on and then stood there, transfixed, for the better part of five minutes, nose to wrist, murmuring oh my god oh my god oh my god. She called me the next day to tell me the fragrance was still clinging to the sleeves of her coat, and where could she buy some?
Last week I discussed my semi-regular, wrongheaded attempts to layer Mitsouko with anything (Mitsouko will eat many fragrances without breaking a sweat). Anne suggested Fendi Theorema (Patty seconded the idea), which sounded so peculiarly perfect I got up bright and early the next day and tried it. Which brings us to the profane part of the post (for those of you who find Mitsouko sacred and not to be trifled with), because I´m here to report that the combination was not only tolerable but incredible. Layering Mitsouko with Theorema solves two common problems. If you like Theorema in theory, but all that candied orange goodness is too sweet for you, Mitsouko provides a dark, rich base. If you like Mitsouko in theory (or, what the heck, dislike it) and find wearing it the equivalent of scaling the aforementioned Everest, Theorema provides a sweet, warm spiced fruit note that calms down the sharper parts of Mitsouko but still leaves you with a fragrance of immense dignity. As I gazed at the article in the New York Times yesterday on the winter waltz season in Vienna, with the young women dressed in their ravishing white ballgowns spinning across the floor, I thought, there is an occasion worthy of Mitsouko. What a fragrant memory that would be.
For those of you interested in the details: I tried Mitsouko parfum dabbed with my small sample of Theorema extrait, which is almost impossible to find. Of course, it was magnificent. But really, if you like the idea, the EdPs of both sprayed on are a perfectly lovely alternative. You need a lot less of the Mitsouko; I think I decided one light spray of Mitsouko to three sprays of Theorema was about right. I ended up decorating one wrist with that and then dabbing onto the other (horrors! Crushing the notes!) because I thought applying the necessary sprays of that combo my neck and both wrists would create enough sillage to kill everyone around me.
To all of you, Mitsouko lovers or not, I wish you the best of whatever you hope for in the last days of this year, and good things in the next.
Image of Clara Bow: clarabow.proboards105.com
Image of Mitsouko: guerlain.co.jp
Image of Vienna Philharmonic ball: vienneseball.org