I´m supposed to be reviewing Elternhaus´ Moslbuddjewthing today, the scent which according to their website is “directed against limited partisan political and religious thinking, which always produces violence. For this reason, the Elternhaus perfume object may be understood politically, but if it had to be categorized, it would be, at the most, cosmopolitan.” You can achieve all that at $300 for a 50ml bottle (from Luckyscent.) Knock yourself out. If you haven´t had your daily fill of fatuous, high-art bloviation after reading that excerpt, here´s the link.

Marc Buxton created it. I mean, I guess he did. His name´s on the website, anyway, but who can tell? Maybe “Marc Buxton” is the name of their dog, along with that dog named Jesus they talk about. All I know is, I’m not going back in there without my waders on.

Sure, it´s a fine fragrance. I mean, look at the notes (cassis, basilic, marioana base, mate, immortelle, labdanum, olibanum, rose, gaiac, black pepper, vetiver, sandalwood, cedar wood, patchouli, musk, amber.) Unless you upped the rose or the cedar to some sort of thermonuclear proportions, you´d have trouble producing something I hate. I don´t get any cassis in the opening and for the first three minutes it´s rich and woody and I found myself thinking, Christ – what if I fall in love with this? But then Christ answered my prayers and trotted in a somewhat bitter, herbaceous smell (is marioana like marijuana?) which wasn´t terrible, but unless you love the smell of dope it wasn´t fabulous either. I can´t really detect the immortelle, which makes me sad but would make some of you happy. The sandalwood and vetiver kick in, the dope note fades after half an hour or so, and the drydown is one of those powerful, seamless, creamy wood fragrances where no notes stick out particularly. It´s like a giant, smoothly sanded wooden ball. Did I love it so much that I´m going to buy a bottle? No. But I´m not going to judge you if you buy it.

What´s an incense that achieves world peace for me? Well … that´s a pretty high bar, frankly. I went up and stared at my collection for awhile, trying to figure out where I wanted to go with this review, and here´s the rough segue:

Point A: I have a lot of incense and woods fragrances, because those notes are arguably my favorite in perfumery.

Point B: (follow along here, this gets twisty, do you need to go get another cup of coffee first?) I can conjure up pretty effortlessly in my mind the smell of many of my greatest perfume rides – from Mitsouko through En Passant and Carnal Flower and right on out to the weird wings (Jicky parfum. Bal. Le Labo Vetiver.) If I think of them, I can smell them in my mind.

Point C: I´ve been in a period of fascination with fragrances with low sillage/high longevity – the sort of stuff that vibrates in the background for a long, long time.

If I do a diagram of those mental tangents as applied to me personally – and why not, it can´t be any stupider than the diagram on the Elternhaus site – I come up with a sample of one – L´Artisan´s Passage d´Enfer.

I have always been amused that a fragrance name that allegedly translates to “the gates of Hell” can provide me with such happiness. There´s no brimstone there. It´s the all-purpose fragrance improver. I have sprayed Passage on top of more insipid florals and dull musks than I care to remember. Olivia Giacobetti did it, and it´s genius – fragrance as a personal transporter. This is not church or cathedral. There´s a delicate floralcy (Luckyscent says lily) that emerges slowly from the frankincense, a luminous glow, an other-ness that gives me the same kind of thrill I get from meandering alone at dusk down an interesting rain-damp street in some city I love.

The thing that really blows me away about Passage, having given it a whole day of attention recently, is I never remember what it smells like. I remember maybe 75% of the scent – the silhouette of the fragrance – but my mind fails to capture the rest of it – the part that rises like smoke and hugs me like mist, all at the same time. Melancholy and joy. No matter how many times I wear it, I never quite remember just how beautiful it is until I put it on.

So, here´s my earnest, multi-faith prayer for you – if you´ve got some long-neglected fragrance sitting up there on your shelf, because you´re always catting around with the new samples on the block, go put some on right now – or tonight or tomorrow – and give that scent the love it deserves.

Photo: Campanile di San Marco, Venice: Jim Richardson, If you didn’t really look at the photo, you might want to scroll back up there, it’s striking.

  • violetnoir says:

    Um, it’s really hard to follow a post like Ina’s (feces…ewwwww!!!!), but I would love to see an interview with her talking about being a real perfumista. I would love to read her insights about working in “the industry.” 😉

    Anyway, you hit it right on the head today, March! PdE is perfection, and I really do need to dig it out from my cabinet and give it the love it deserves. I mean, it is an amazing scent! Why have I not been wearing it recently? Actually, it’s been more than recently. I don’t think I’ve worn it in well over a year.



    • March says:

      This is what I’m talking about. You out there, toying with your big white flowers, showing the love to your powdery scent samples, etc.;) While poor old PdE sits there and gets dusty.

      I have another couple of things like that on my shelf. Shhhhh.

  • Ina says:

    March, I can’t even tell you how many chances have been give to Passage d’Enfer on my skin, and every time it’s the same result: feces galore (pardon my language). I so wish it was incense! Sigh.

    • March says:

      Oh, that’s awful! I keep wanting to talk to you about the store. I wish you’d do a post on it … like, did any of your favorites change? What’s popular and what’s not? What’s it like selling perfume? Is there anything about the work that surprised you?

      • Ina says:

        March, maybe I’ll get my mojo back and do a post like that. I’ve almost completely lost my interest in perfume. It scares me! Hoping it comes back soon. The biggest challenge working in a perfume shop is coming home and not wanting to smell any more perfume. Makes it a bit problematic to keep a blog. :((

        • March says:

          I did sort of wonder how you felt about it. I used to think working in a chocolate or ice cream shop would be great, but it wouldn’t. I think I’d be disgusted after awhile, and that’s sad.

          I hope you get your mojo back too! I’d still love to read about what it’s like.

  • Teri says:

    I’m almost embarrased to report this, but confession IS good for the soul and I’m sure I’ve already convinced most of you that I’m a little left of center…8-}

    I have a lovely older ‘real wood’ desk (NOT a pressed woods chips abomination) at my office. I keep a fragrance sample vial in the top drawer, occasionally sprinkling a drop or two so that my desk smells lovely when I open a drawer.

    The sample that I keep in my desk is PdE. It seems absolutely compatible with a work desk There IS a significant note of pencil shavings to it in my perception. But the pencil had been dipped in incense before it was sharpened, which smooths away the sharpness of the pencil scent. And besides, I’ve always liked the smell of pencil shavings.

    I’m not convinced that ‘desk fragrances’ will ever catch on as a marketing concept. But if they do, I’d highly recommend PdE as a choice in the category.

    But when it comes down to a fragrance to put on my body, I think Tea for Two is my fav L’Artisan for cool weather.

    • Twibbet says:

      I LOVE the idea of a desk fragrance. You could do a different scent for each drawer…I would think anything with a cedary base would be great, since it would pick up the natural scent of the wood. Alas, my work desk is all formica or some such cheap stuff.

      • Teri says:

        I know plastics and synthetic materials have revolutionized our world in many beneficial ways, but it’s cryin’ shame they haven’t figured out how to give plastics a ‘memory’ like a wood piece has. You need some ‘desk drawer’ scent for your formica. :d

        • March says:

          Maybe one of the weirdos from the CdG Synthetic series? Or … which one smells like ink? 2? White? That would work. 😉

    • March says:

      Teri … that was beautiful. Thank you. Now I am determined to put on some PdE and look for the pencil shavings. Even if I don’t find them, I can see how perfectly it would go with the desk smell.

      My father’s desk in his study has that smell. It’s one of my favorite smells in the house. I wonder why Christopher Brosius hasn’t done a “desk drawer” scent? Think how interesting it could be. He could use your desk as a scent model.@};-

      Tea for Two is one of my favorites as well, but I have to be more cautious in application or I find that it’s wearing me rather than the reverse.:p

      • Teri says:

        You really got me thinking about the way good wood furniture will pick up the scents of its former contents and the various cleaning/polishing products that were used on them. For instance, I have a small wooden cabinet I purchased at an estate sale. I can tell that at one time it served as a repository for pipe tobacco. Cherry pipe tobacco, to be exact. And it was definitely polished with lemon oil, because when the sun rests on it and warms the wood, there is a definite light lemon scent which arises from it.

        I enthusiastically agree that CB should have a desk drawer scent — maybe even a suite of 2 or 3 of them. I know I’d be buying some. 🙂

  • Robin says:

    Mr. Buxton also did many of the really good Comme des Garcons scents. Not to defend the Elternhaus stuff, which I haven’t smelled, although a “giant, smoothly sanded wooden ball” sounds better than their own description.

    • March says:

      I need to go check the list. I love a lot of the CdGs, and even some of the ones I don’t love I admire.

      Between the start and the finish of typing the above sentence I forgot the question I had for you.:-w If I remember I will email you.

  • 2scents says:

    PdE was my first niche full-bottle purchase, from the L’Artisan store in Soho while visiting friends in NYC. I love it; I also think that it is a bit of a sleeper. I never crave it or think of it much when we’re apart, but when I do wear it (as I’m now inspired to do today) I marvel at the journey. I’m a sucker for incense, and I think PdE is unique among the ones I’ve sampled in the way it balances flowers and smoke.

    • March says:

      “I never crave it or think of it much when we’re apart” Exactly! I just forget about it. And then I put it on and think, what took me so long? I also agree with your assessment about its uniqueness. There is no other scent I’d compare it to.

  • Patty says:

    Okay, I did overlook the twaddle from Elternhaus, and I really do like this perfume, I just close my eyes and sniff instead. And it’s Mark Buxton! Sheesh, March. 🙂 I wasn’t that familiar with him before, I ran across him in the Biehl things that I got, and Elle told me he did the Elternhaus thing, I believe, which is why I ignored all the other crap associated with it and just concentrated in Mr. Buxton, who does some great incense stuff. The biehls are more accessible price-wise, though, and there’s a lot less marketing cream fluff associated with it, too. More along the lines of FM.

    • March says:

      Well, P, okay. You’re right. But I’ve staked out the idiot territory on this blog, and I’m holding onto it. Besides, I haven’t smelled the Biehl things, and so if I’m going to rag him I have to do it now, right? If you and Elle liked them, I’m sure to. Plus, think how much fun it’ll be to watch me come back on here and eat some crow. I’m sorry. I went to that website and I was all PMSing and … it’s like they’re mad-dogging me with that stuff, hon. I can’t step away, it’s like a big button they’re pushing me, it’s THEIR FAULT.[-( Off to eat chocolate and sniff your amazing pkg., I can smell it before I open it!

  • tmp00 says:

    I don’t think I’ve tired PdeE and I think I have to.

    I have tried pretentiousmarketingtwaddle, luckily before hearing anything about them so I was going only on the juice. Pleasant juice it was, but I felt like I was being asked to pay $300 for the packaging. I’d pay, say $75 for the bottle and stop by the hardware store for some quick-set if I felt the need for the surrounding brick.

    Then I read the website. The palm itched. :-w

    • March says:

      I browsed the site a little bit, but then I kept making that choking-on-a-hairball noise that bothers everyone, so I stopped.

      Love the brick comment! I’d forgotten.

      Please smell PdE. Although I wonder if it’s too fleeting for you. Not too sweet, I don’t believe.

  • Louise says:

    I’ll have to compare…but perhaps your perception of cedar stink has diminished?

  • MarkDavid says:

    I love PdE too and my God you’re absolutely right – just when you think its light and sheer, 6 hours after you’ve put it on, it comes back to kick you in the ass and say “Excuse me, I haven’t LEFT yet. This passage isn’t over yet, get back on the camel.”

    Well, unfortunately I’m not near my collection at the moment – you could say I’m operating out of a remote location. But as soon as I get back, I think Messe de Minuit is calling my name, Im sure it feels neglect and is right now, full of contempt for me.

    As far as the MoslBudduRepublicoNonsense – Im just going to cross it off the to-try list. I have a whole list of stuff I’d rather drop 300 on at the moment.


    • March says:

      You’ve inspired me! Some day I’m gonna do a nutty post and invite everyone to list the fragrances that they think smell really different on different people. MdM is a great example. You could get: mildew; incense; roses; some combo of the above; etc. On me it smells sort of spicy and Christmas-y. On a close friend it smells like a gentle rose scent.

      PdE goes on and on and on. But never seems to annoy me. Love that thing.

  • Gail S says:

    I’m not mentally energetic enough this morning to follow your process of arriving at the perfect scent, so I settled for digging out my sample of yours 🙂 Which, by the way, was in the very first compartment of my organizer that I looked in! Whoohoo, new system is working well! Hmmm…thankfully doesn’t smell like liver :-&, but it does smell like pencil shavings. Okay, I’ll just settle on my current favorite L’Artisan, Bois Farine.

    • March says:

      Dang! Pencil shavings, eh? I think that’s one of the more common comparisons; so happy I don’t read it like that. An excellent argument against buying unsniffed (although, maybe the smell of pencil shavings drives you wild? Probably not…)

      Bois Farine I think I will be spending some time studying this fall. I have a feeling it’s the sort of comfort-thing I am ready for.

  • Divalano says:

    Gee, really hate that I can’t edit posts here, lol

    … putting down supercaffienated AM brew & stepping off soap box …

    really, I don’t feel quite that passionately about Eltern-etc 😉

    • March says:

      Pshaw. Your rant ain’t nothin’ compared to Scentzilla’s new screed on Tom Ford. Feel free to check it out, I believe she’s just caution, contains dirty words and naughty links.<):)

      • Divalano says:

        Wow. She’s an provocative, opinionated, snarky & smart AND writes about perfume. Well done … on my way to read more. I assume she must hold some opinions I don’t but so far I see some interesting common ground. Thanks 🙂

        • March says:

          You’re welcome! She’s got a regular blog hooked up to scentzilla, too. She was a regular perfume poster for awhile, she’s been having a dry spell. She’s great, very bright, interesting perspectives.

  • Divalano says:

    Oh, I wish that Pd’E did that for me, I really wanted to love it. All it does to me is make me wrinkle my nose. But … you have reminded me to remember Dzing! It was my first real love & really, should not be ignored. Just today walking to work, sniffing today’s experiment (Jardin Keryl) I had a fleeting mental whiff of Dzing! Perhaps tomorrow, yes?

    And, oh puhleeze & etc re Elternwhoosie. Let’s not even start on what kind of pretentious sanctimonious silliness it is to posture about peaceloveculturalharmony with a product that’s so pricey that most of us can’t afford to participate in wearing it, & never mind that it’s a universe away from affordability or relevance to the people out there yammering partisan religious violence in streets & deserts. 8-|

    • March says:

      But does it smell like liver? Pencil shavings? Both? (that’s what some other commenters get). I feel your pain. I’d wanted Dzing! to be my gateway L’Artisan, but Dzing! hates me. So we’re even.

      It’s okay. Be cross, I don’t mind. I think it’s an interesting discussion. Perfumes/houses that are marketed in a way that could be perceived as deliberately provocative can’t be surprised if some people are provoked. The Etat line makes me feel that way. I’m not a big enough person, you know? I’d rather drink a bottle of Pink Sugar than tell anyone I was wearing a fragrance called Don’t Get Me Wrong, Baby, I Don’t Swallow. WTH?!?

      For whatever reason, Rich Hippie annoys me even more than Elternhaus. That’s my problem, I suppose…

      • Divalano says:

        No liver or pencils, I scrubbed it off too fast, perhaps 😉

        I’m with you on Rich Hippy, it does rub my fur mostly the wrong way. And I agree about those names. For me it’s the tacky quotient. I’d rather clean the cat box than say “I’m wearing ‘crasslynamedsensationalistdreck'”. Or be caught at the nail salon reading People (I wouldn’t. Ever. Really) or listening to the Pussycat Dolls (I saw them live but ONLY because they opened for Christina Aguilara) for that matter.

  • Sariah says:

    Hi – I thought you made up a new word – bloviation – had to look that one up in the dictionary: To speak or write at length in a pompous or boastful manner. I get it – a blowhard! Good word.

    not gonna say anything about PdE.

    • March says:

      Bloviate is a word I see in print, but I never hear anyone using it. I think it’s funny because it sounds vaguely obscene.:-” Maybe that’s why it’s under-utilized.

      Fine, I’ll say it for you — on SOME PEOPLE, PdE smells just like LIVER!!!!:o Agh, that was terrible.

  • Lee says:

    I’ve been neglecting Tea for Two – it’s sulking. But I’ll also sniff my sample of Passage d’Enfer, just to remind myself of its shapechanging beauty.

    • March says:

      Hey, that reminds me!! I need to get some more Tea for Two. I kept buying decants, thinking, I never wear this enough to buy it. But I think if I’ve managed to work through two decants it’s time for a bottle… great, great scent, another favorite from the line.

  • donanicola says:

    Well OK I didn’t bother with the ETHaus site (Thanks March, I I felt I didn’t need to!) but I did feel there wasn’t alot of humour and warmth there and quite frankly that will do an awful lot more for peace in our time than a load of sanctimonious waffle. (the perfume doesn’t sound bad though). Now, PdE. I was in L’AP yesterday with a friend and I felt love for my favourites there including PdE. How can something so sheer have such presence? The photo of St Mark’s Sq does sum it up well. I had a disastrous date weekend a few years ago in Venice but I didn’t care because I got to fall in love with Venice. And you know I have rather neglected Mitsouko recently though in my defence I see her as an autumn and winter love. Bank holiday monday for me! I’m off to buy Gap’s biker boots for a touch of rough chic (or so I imagine)

    • March says:

      Hey, yeah, who cares about the man, you were in VENICE!?! I pretty much got seduced by the whole of Italy. Would go back in a heartbeat.

      And, exactly. How DOES something sheer have such presence? Amazing scent.

      It’s okay, Mitsouko doesn’t exactly get endless love around here in the summer either. But her time is coming right up!

  • juliaforsberg says:

    Describing Passage d’Enfer as Melancholy and Joy is just genious! Thats exactly how I feel about this wonderful fragrance. On me it’ a tad soapy on initial application but tranforms into something that’s both etheral and earthy at the same time. The only parfume with notes of lily that I can wear. This will be my SOTD:)

    • March says:

      I’m not a big lily fan, either. It overwhelms me. When I read it was lily, at first I thought, nah — but I believe it is, in just the right ramped-down dose for me. It was my first L’Artisan and holds a special place in my heart. Glad it’s your SOTD. (also glad I don’t get soapy!);)

  • Marina says:

    Oh, don’t start me on this one! I would love to specify where they can stick their perfume object, but it would be awfully limited and partisan of me. :-l

    • March says:

      M — I tried hard to pick a different quote, since you chose the same one! but it’s such low-hanging fruit, and I couldn’t bear to dig deeper into the site.