I had a visit with a real estate agent friend of mine yesterday, and she was telling me how she was getting ready to go on her “March Break” (what spring break is referred to here in Canada) trip to California with her husband and 10 year-old son. They’re flying into San Francisco, driving down the coast to San Diego, and heading back from there. I would love to take that trip one day; the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most scenic – not to mention nerve wracking – roads I’ve ever driven; albeit only from SF to to the Monterrey peninsula. I especially love the town of Carmel, not because one of my all-time favourite movies takes place there (Play Misty for Me), but because it is so beautiful. I saw one of the most spectacular sunsets ever on the beach at Carmel, and I happen to think that region is one of the most beautiful in all of North America.
My friend’s upcoming trip got me thinking about the giant redwoods and sequoias, and also bougainvillea flowers. I love them, but they’re impossible to grow outside of a temperate climate. They’re all over California, like those massive trees. Don’t get me wrong; Canada has some fabulous landscapes, but there’s just something about California that you don’t find anywhere else. I’m talking nature – not the rest of it.
After a disappointing sniff around my trusty Shoppers Drug Mart: Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau So Fresh – nice, but eau so unnecessary, Vera Wang Preppy Princess – love the bottle but not the preponderance of patchouli, and Beyonce Heat Rush – a little lighter on the unwashed ladyparts, but still way too heavy on the fruit, I went looking within for inspiration.
Sequoia and Palisander are two scents from the Comme des Garçons Red Series. I’ve always loved CdG for their originality, especially their earlier “Series” scents; I wrote about the Incense Series a couple of weeks ago, and in my opinion, those are some of the best incense scents available. Even though these two are named after majestic trees, they are not single-note wood fragrances. They’re more complex than that, and as hauntingly beautiful as a Carmel sunset.
Sequoia is comprised of California redwood, red rum, oppoponax, kara-karounde, Chinese agarwood and mahogany. According to LuckyScent, kara-karounde is similar to jasmine. It does give the scent a bit of a floral edge, but not indolic in any way. It’s slightly powdery (the oppoponax, I’m guessing), but it’s woody and slightly boozy. There’s a faint vegetal quality to it that reminds me of the smell of my sleepaway camp cabin, but in a good way. If you’re into woody, slightly musty and evocative, this one is a keeper.
Palisander is the more exotic of the two, and more feminine in my opinion. Some reviews I read mentioned that Palisander is a tad too masculine, but for the life of me, I can’t smell that. The notes are Brazilian palisander wood, Virginian red cedar, Japanese red chili peppers, saffron and myrrh. On me, I get heavy saffron and myrrh, which is why I’m describing it as “feminine”, and lots of dry cedar in the background to balance out the sweetness of myrrh.
After considering these scents and comparing them to the new ones I smelled the other day, I got to thinking: when we wear scent, are we looking to conjure old memories, create new ones, or both? I’ve been thinking about summer camp, Carmel and the first time I ever tasted something made with saffron. Those are old memories conjured by things that you have to go looking pretty hard for. The things I smelled in Shoppers are all as common as it gets. Which is more pleasing: what’s in-your-face and familiar, or haunting and memorable? I’m going with haunting and memorable.
Your turn: Do you have any scents in your collection that remind you of trips, places, or regions you admire?
Disclosure: The scents I wrote about are part of my (diminished) collection.