Reviews by Merely

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    Blenheim Bouquet by Penhaligon's

    I recently noticed that one of my fellow commuters was a satyr. Presumably he still is one. His severe dress and stony countenance suggested that he was a barrister, judge, or civil servant; but who would employ a goat-legged monster from ancient Greece? Musing on stories of satyrs' wild debauches, I anticipated that he would smell of civet or musk. Instead, he diffused the pine-scented disinfectant used to obscure the smell of urine in public lavatories. Thus I was reminded of rankly animalic odours by smelling the familiar resins of their arrest. Later, however, he smelled of a forest undisturbed by winds, and that saw little light. A place of sylvan melancholy that was simultaneously so worldly, and so hostile to reverie, that it could make a satyr seem prosaic as he waited on the platform of a country railway station. An almost incense-like pepper underlay the low throb of cedar and pine, and I think he must have risen that morning from a bed of lavender. This floral part of his bouquet was subdued, and resembled the French flower more than the British one. I guessed that his pillow had been stuffed with the dried peels of lemons and limes. I was musing on these things when the train to the capital appeared. As it ground to a halt, I said to the satyr: "May I wonder, sir, from which bleak grove or gloomy copse you have stepped? I know the forests around here fairly well, and cannot imagine you in any one of them. Perhaps they have a side I had not discerned. Would you please tell me the name of your ancestral wood?" "Blen'm," he bleated, then boarded the train with a stiff little leap. I have not seen him since.

    20th September, 2012 (Last Edited: 21st September, 2012)

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    En Avion by Caron

    When I first wore En Avion, I was overwhelmed by the sort of tactile transport that I have come to associate with Caron extraits. Dense and heady, indeed. I think of the thick cloud within which Venus hides Aeneas when she wishes to render him invisible; or of the concluding lines of the Ode on Melancholy: "His soul shall taste the sadness of her might, / And be among her cloudy trophies hung."

    There is a sense that the top notes of En Avion do not float around one, but rather that one floats within them. They press against one from all directions in a combination of cool magnetism and grasping cloud. A great Saturn of neroli is uppermost. Not dustily gaseous, as the real Saturn is, but wet because of menthol and/or anise - it is hard to say which, but the Sage of Caron (my respected friend Larimar) tells me that a fleeting mentholated note is often encountered in perfumes from this era. These top notes are huge, and have a reflective quality reminiscent of a globule of quicksilver. One could dive into this opening, despite its resemblance to a massive sphere.

    The next 12 hours are dominated by an intriguing set of accords in which a 'green' note recalling L'Heure Bleue is principal. Anisic flowers. Is anise really there, or is it geranium? Or do the dry rose and sharp carnation side with something else? Who knows? I am mystified by this green note in the heart and base of En Avion, and from which so much of its personality derives. For me, it is a perfect 'black box': aloof, strangerly and disinclined to soften on my skin.

    Some people report a mirage of suede in En Avion's heart notes. I fail to register it. Working with leather may have made me less sensitive, rather than more, to its inexact recapitulations.

    En Avion is unmistakably a feminine scent. It has been called a 'full-blooded woman'. Personally, I perceive an implacable quality in En Avion, so rarefied that she herself (if one may offer this perfume its plausible gender) is almost abstracted. She does not subscribe to the typical catalogue of human relations. They could not be further from her thoughts. Love? Friendship? The mores and courtesies that are the weft of life? Irrelevant. She is bent on an ambition, mentation, or aspiration; a saint rapt in a private vision, a mathematician absorbed in a lofty reverie. Focused on her object, she will not even look at me. Her ambition is higher, perhaps nobler, perhaps military, perhaps alien. I admire her. She makes me think of Alexander in his Romance, drawn towards the highest boundary of the sky by griffins. But without his longing. She looks at the heavens not with wistfulness, but with resolve.

    Cool fervour, harsh serenity, lovely relentlessness - these paradoxical clauses sound more like a description of love, I know. And I could love the woman conjured for me by En Avion - but I would not disturb her. She is unapproachable, not because forbidding, but because her nature is solitary ascent. It is the gravest and least deliberate coquetry imaginable, attracting my interest precisely because of the unbridgeable distance it suggests. I wear En Avion often, wanting to keep that distance close to me.

    The drydown is shimmering and faintly sweet - Larimar's description of "soft and sweet skin out at the fresh air and sun" seems perfect. It relaxes slightly, and shows the perfume at its least implacable. 'Bosomy'? I suppose so; but I sense the hard green note until the very end. En Avion, that grave pilotess, does manage a faint, disinterested smile. And then she passes from my ken altogether.

    Need I add that En Avion is one of my very favourite perfumes? Its longevity is superb; it is dense, but its coolness makes it wearable in every weather. It rewards attentive study of the difficult (sometimes painful) emotions and stark images it evokes.

    04th January, 2012

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