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Extra resources for A Little Book of Perfumes: The 100 Greatest Scents
LT Cool Water (Davidoff) aromatic fougère $ This beautiful 1988 composition made Pierre Bourdon famous and was imitated more times, I’ll wager, than any other fragrance in history save Chypre. The problem with successful masculines is that you associate them with the legion of aspirational klutzes who wore them for good luck. Trying to assess CW without conjuring up the image of some open-shirted prat with hair gel is a bit like the Russian cure for hiccups: run around the house three times without thinking of the word wolf.
Some, like Ambre 83, Persicol, and Animalis, are so rich and so good that you wonder why nobody just bottled them and sold them. The problem with Cellier’s use of bases is that half of them have disappeared, so that even if the whole formula were to fall into your hands and you trekked to the address of the maker of Dianthiline 12 in Grasse, you’d likely find a time-share development instead of a little fragrance factory. Modern reconstructions of Cellier’s perfumes are above all a work of translation of the original formula into things you can actually identify and buy today.
Their minds (and mine, once) tend to go blank when presented with an attractive abstract floral meant to appeal to the hoi polloi. Instead, what the collector of arcana tends to like in florals are legibility, meaning smells you could name from the garden, and imbalance, meaning smells that draw attention to themselves for being outsized or wrong, like avantgarde clothes with unlikely diagonal zippers or puffy volumes where you wouldn’t expect. Yet, as I got used to sampling the more recherché florals, a couple of facts eventually emerged from the mass of data: first, as LT points out, balanced abstraction, not representation, is the greater and more difficult art in florals, and second, most florals maintain their illusion only for a brief time, and thin out rapidly or fall apart into constituents, like those sculpture installations of seemingly unrelated objects that from a certain angle spell a word or draw a picture.