“One of the things I love most about the Perfume Community is the People”.
Yah. Everybody hears that all the time and I’m sure there are more than a few who go ‘yah, suuurrre’ – you’re in it for the PERFUME’ – but let’s face it, after awhile perfume, in and of itself, gets boring. It’s either gorgeous, or average or downright dogawful…but it’s still just perfume. What makes it come to life, in my Musettish opinion, is when you get to yark about it with other people. I remember bugging the toenails off a friend to send me a couple of baggies, each with a drop of her Mitsouko vintages on a cotton (and I would send her mine) so we could compare – it was the experience that heightened the pleasure of the perfume itself.
And I’ve been fortunate to have so many of those experiences, as I’ve gone through my perfume experiences.
But every now and then, there’s a story that starts out, Scheherazade-like, and weaves its tendrils around you, til you’re gasping to hear the tale. And sometimes…well, sometimes it can be something quite bizarre!
Posse, I give you a phrase: “Embalming Spices Accord”
Well, alrighty then. This is what happened. I got a message from a young perfumer, Amanda Feeley of Esscentual Alchemy, wanting to know if I would like to sample her new scent Hokkabaz. For those of you in the not-know, Amanda has been handcrafting natural perfumes since 2010 (you can read all about it here) – along the way she decided to do a homage, a ‘cover’,if you will, of Guerlain’s fabled Djedi. Since I’ve spent the better part of 5 years sampling every iteration of Djedi I can find I was eager to try her rendition. And I’m glad I did. It is lovely – very dry, hauntingly resinous..and smelling faintly of plum..like dessicated plum blossoms found in the back of a mummy’s tomb.
She gave me her evocative editorial brief on the perfume, “Hokkabaz is a natural perfume of the desert. It means “conjurer,” one who creates something out of nothing. It is dry, dusty, bitter, and eerie. Not for the faint of heart. Will you open up the long resting path? Will you go down into the dark and see what lays undisturbed for so many years? There you will find attempts at creating Permanence out of Impermanence. Embalmed, locked frozen in time with herbs. A wedge in the time stream – a break in the chaos of the Universe…A lasting mark, when all else has fallen away, crumbled into dust. “ …and that’s cool and all but I wanted the notes – so we’re yarking back and forth and she gives me the notes and they are thus:
rose, vetiver, oakmoss, leather accord, civet, patchouli, antique mysore sandalwood, clove, vanilla, orris, calamus, embalming spices accord
and I’m all “cool, that ‘plum’ I’m smelling is the rose and clove… thanks…hey!!… uh..wait!…whuh….huh??? Wait. wth? Embalming Spices Accord? What the hell is THAT? So I stop with the email and pick up the phone. And it’s off to the races! Because I’m from a family of Funeral Directors and I’m thinking ‘oh, HELL no! She did NOT put Formalin in this perfume?’ – because it’s 2013, I am a Moron of the Modern World and where I come from, you embalm folks with Formalin. Hey, nobody said I was connected the Djedi Dots yet, did they! No. So don’t be judgin’ a Musette here. It’s post-holiday, the Service was bugging me (still) and I was a tad distracted. Hey – I did mention I am a moron, right?
Once we started talking she sorted me out, winding me back in time to Jacques Guerlain’s era when the world was desperate to recover from the shock of WWI….yet within that recovery lay a thin, niggling, dreadful thought that it might’ve been the harbinger of our future. With the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922, Egyptology became all the rage – and it seemed to fit into that global zeitgeist of destruction and death and a quest to cheat the impermanence of life with the permanence of the afterlife, corpus intacto. And anybody who’s stumbled upon something dessicated in the desert knows there is nothing more ‘preserving’ than drying. In her research for this perfume, Amanda created 3 different accords based on the spices used in Egyptian mummification rituals. I love email but this is where actual conversation is soooo much better – we chatted about cinnamon, myrrh and the question of cedar: did they mean cedarwood or juniper? and the notion of dry, bitter, dusty green.. until my senses were reeling.
Amanda, captivated by the notion of a perfume that glorifies the notion of Life After Death, has created an homage to one of the most elusive perfumes in Guerlain’s pantheon. Does it smell like Djedi? No. Djedi is very much a creature of its time. Like all Guerlains it smells like ‘perfume’ and, dry and animalic and mineral-like as it may be – it’s also one of the least ‘natural’ perfumes I’ve ever smelled. But I don’t think Amanda was trying to copy Djedi, exactly. I think she wanted to create a perfume that embodied the idea of the idea behind the original Djedi. That’s my take on it, anyway. And it’s a gorgeous idea – a modern, natural perfume for our own shocking, unnatural times that are, nonetheless, intertwined with breathtaking joy and beauty. Amanda said “there’s a lot of sorrow in this perfume’ and it’s obvious. But there’s also a lovely thread of hope. I like to think it’s hope that we will transcend our own sorrowful era, both on this plane..and the next. And I think Jacques Guerlain would approve.
This is a beauty and I encourage you to sample – you can do so at Esscentual Alchemy’s website.
You can sample Djedi through Surrender to Chance. It’s pricey – but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that’s worth every penny!