March came in like a lamb. Warm and sunny, then a day of intense rain, pushed out by a front. I was expecting a cold front, but it was lovely, warm and sunny again. I walked the dog, smiled at the snowdrops blooming, the daffodils, the crocuses Hecate loves to pick and bring to me from other people’s yards; so ephemeral. How can I scold her?
So tonight I sat on the porch, supremely happy, watching the sunset paint itself across the sky in red, orange, indigo. And I thought: what is beauty? This sunset is beautiful. But if I were blind, I could still tell you about the sounds. The birdsong, the cardinal looking for a mate, the geese returning, my own children laughing in the street as they race up and down on their scooters. And if I were blind and deaf, I could still savor the loamy smell of the warming earth, harbinger of spring.
Three senses – sight, sound, touch – seem most important (at least in the first world) for survival. Those senses will keep you from being mowed down by a Metrobus or an ambulance, will keep you from being scalded by your bath water. But I cannot imagine a world without smell.
Some of my memories, my strongest memories, from childhood revolve around smell — hot asphalt melting in the summer, nail polish, rain on red dirt, Nehi grape soda, chlorine pools, fireworks, Georgia peaches ripening in the musty cool of our next-door-neighbor’s garage. Mothballs in the cedar closet. The motes of dust in the air. My mother (Lipton tea, Carltons), damp silk from the sofa. Leaf-piles, pine boughs, the blue-wet smell of snow and the candle-wax we used for the runners on our Flexible-Flyer sleds. Rubbery wet galoshes, radiator heat. The smell-not-smell of the apple tree I climbed each spring in the cemetery next to our house, hiding myself in the petticoat-pink-confetti blooms. Life begins again, and I am reborn.
Every now and again I run across a weird-science article about some poor soul with a disorder that renders all smells into rotting meat, or no smell at all. I have my own experiences with allergy-related anosmia. No sense of smell? I can’t imagine how I would live.
* * *
I am behind on my perfumage, to put it mildly. Over the past several months I’ve been steering my ship through perilous waters and mighty rough seas, and for awhile there I did wonder whether we’d capsize. To all of you who held me in your hearts — you sent perfumes and chocolates and mash notes, you made funny comments, maybe you just waited patiently for me to chart a new course — I thank you all.
But what to review? I now have dozens and dozens of unsniffed samples staring me in the face, although maybe they’re just waiting patiently, too. Where to start? It seemed so overwhelming. I decided to sniff the first thing I ran across on my desk, which brings us to Tommi Sooni.
I loved Tarantella – a smooth, elegant chypre — when it came out a few years ago, also from this Australian perfumer, and apparently I was still on his mailing list. There’s another unsniffed sample in there – Jinx – but I have had enough jinxes, thanks very much, so I went with Eau de Tommi Sooni I and II, which are also (along with Tarantella and Jinx) available at LuckyScent.
Here are the notes for both, cribbed from Fragrantica:
TS I – lime, lemon leaves, bergamot, bay laurel, jonquil, metallic rose, Cuban cigar accord, pine, sandalwood, benzoin, oakmoss. “A rich, deep Oriental enhanced with oakmoss for an urbane, warm, sensual presence. Created by Tommi Sooni perfumer Brett Schlitter.”
Man, I couldn’t have picked a better place to dive back in. TS I is an unapologetic, big-boned, old-school affair lost somewhere in time between Katherine Hepburn and Paloma Picasso. It’s got a head of that bitter/powder accord that makes me think of the long-lost Parfums of Paris mini-bottle collection from my childhood, mysterious elixirs of adult womanhood I doubted I’d ever achieve. Like Tarantella, TS I doesn’t give the impression of chasing after the current trends. The bay, jonquil and woods give it a sharp greenness, the benzoin gives it warmth, and I don’t know how he did it, but it’s mossy as hell. Two thumbs up.
TS II — Rhubarb, bergamot, lemon, daphne, jasmine, ylang ylang, honey, vanilla, amber, sandalwood. “Gently drift along the fragrant canals of South East Asia. Close your eyes and fall under the spell of the lilting boat, its scented oars of sacred sandalwood. Receive the offerings of sweet spices mixed with honey.”
Look at that list of notes. That thing is made for me, right? Right? And for about fifteen minutes it is perfect. It’s a heavy, spicy, gourmand oriental that reminds me quite a bit of the raspy-oud/spices of one of those killer Laura Mercier LEs (Minuit Enchantee?) It’s powerful stuff, more suited for cold weather, heavy on the jasmine and vanilla. Unfortunately on my skin all the interesting bits blow off in fairly short order, leaving me with an ambernilla that is a hair too sweet for my tastes. But I keep putting it back on, enjoying the opening.
The best part of these? As I was tucking my sleepy boy into bed, having just reapplied them, he mumbled with faint surprise in his voice, mom, you smell like … you. By which he means, like one or several perfumes he’s never smelled before in his life. I hope he’ll always remember me that way.
image: witch-hazel. I love that smell, there’s a tree hidden somewhere near my new office. It’s an ethereal combination of honeysuckle and sweaty feet.