Patty graciously invited me to be a guest blogger on her site. It´s a nice arrangement — it keeps me off the streets, fulfills my parole requirements, and provides an excuse for an interest that, in terms of consumption of both money and small glass vials, is starting to look like a crack habit.
I´d like to tell you a little bit about how I “met” Patty, and how we felt a deep bond of connection right from the beginning, and how she talked me into driving to C-Mart north of Baltimore to feed her Armani Prive addiction, even though we´ve never met. But that would be boring, and who cares? So I´ll start somewhere else.
In May of 1989 I took a trip to Santa Fe. The Big Cheese and I had been looking for somewhere new and different to live, somewhere that involved mountains and sun and four seasons and no immediate family. We flew into Albuquerque, rented a car, and took the scenic route north to Santa Fe on the recommendation of the rental folks, who even drew us a map. By the time we made it to Madrid on Highway 14, I knew two things: 1) it´s the high desert, but it´s still the desert, so get out that liter bottle of agua and start drinking; and 2) I wanted to move to Santa Fe.
I was drinking the bottled water, musing on the quality of light, wondering why the hell they pronounce it “MAD-rid,” and… hey …waitaminnit … hey, HEY, what was that smell? What was that unbelievable, gorgeous smell? Where was that perfume coming from?
And so I proceeded to sniff around along the dusty road – looking high, looking low. I finally asked someone, is there something blooming? Something right around here that smells good? And it took a couple of tries and some baffled looks, but someone finally pointed out the Russian Olive.
Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) is a crap tree, it´s a pest, a transplant from Europe that, like tamarisk, is hogging more than its share of the Desert Southwest´s precious natural resources (i.e., water). It has thorns that´ll take your eye out. But right around Memorial Day, for a couple of weeks, it has something else: blooms that perfume the surrounding acreage with a sweet, heavenly, jasmine-y smell that is, of course, not exactly like anything else I´ve ever smelled.
Now, it took me awhile to figure out that Osmanthus (Osmanthus fragrans) is also called Sweet Olive. Osmanthus turns up pretty regularly on the perfume blogs, so I got busy on Google, hoping to discover that Sweet Olive and Russian Olive were one and the same. No such luck – although I guess they´re kissing cousins, and are both olfactorily compared to the green lusciousness of jasmine. Someone with a better understanding of plant genera than I have can sort it out.
Anyway, I stumbled across some great information on the Shiseido website about Saso (aka Russian Olive). Cribbing from the Shiseido site:
“Saso is a deciduous shrub of the Oleaster family. It has leaves similar to that of the olive tree, and has tiny bell-shaped, yellow flowers… Aromatic compounds of Saso include such ester compounds as ethyl cinnamate, ethyl phenylacetate, and ethyl benzoate…These compounds provide a fruity aroma similar to that of the fragrant olive (Osmanthus fragans). Its high ester content produces a strong and sweet, fruity aroma. It also contains an animal-like scent similar to castoreum, taken from the perineal glands of the beaver. The mixture of these two provides a heavy, lasting fragrance. “
Now, that´s something to think about, isn´t it, next time you´re spritzing?
If you´re bored with the whole Olive thing, no hard feelings. Just click over to Cait´s blog and read about pudeur.
But if you´re still tuned into my pursuit of the Olive, you have to follow the link here for the really entertaining stuff – about the great Chinese beauty Xiang Fei, and her bodily Saso aroma, and how Chinese parents fed their girls special perfumed herbal tinctures in hopes they would grow up to smell beautiful. And, best of all, it links to a perfume — Shiseido Saso — which I should try but haven´t.
Yep. This is ultimately a review of a perfume I haven´t smelled.
Why not? As delicious as the notes sound (top: Aldehyde, Bergamot oil, Fruit Notes, Green Note, Hyacinth, Lemon; Middle: Jasmin, Lily of the Valley, Orris, Rose, Violet, Ylang-Ylang; Bottom: Amber, Benzoin, Civet, Musk, Sandal, Tonka, Vanilla, Vetiver; courtesy of scentdirect.com), it´s supposed to smell like an olfactory representation of Xiang Fei in all her corporeal lusciousness. It doesn´t sound like it´s going to smell like a Russian Olive. Not one blooming in late May, that is, while I sit on my stone patio in the shade (as I did for 10 years), drinking iced tea, taking in that smell, looking up at the red foothills Georgia O´Keeffe painted, and feeling lucky to live in one of the most beautiful small towns in America.
One of these days, I´ll get online and buy Shiseido Saso.