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Thread: lighght

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    Default lighght



    (How I came to understand Jean-Claude Elléna)

    Last year, we moved from a loft in Brooklyn back to Manhattan's West Side. We lost a lot of space (about 700sf) but made it up for it with a ton of light and some sweet outdoor space. We also had one of those items that was just difficult to move--it didn't fit in a box, it had no obvious role in our new home, and kind of seemed a relic of years that were behind us anyway: a disco ball. But when you're directing movers to stack boxes in the right places, you have to make snap decisions. Without even thinking, I set the disco ball down in a windowed corner where I could deal with it another day.

    As it turns out, the disco ball's placement was fortuitous. I awoke the next morning around 7am to find that the morning light streaming from the East hit the disco ball in precisely the right way to dapple the walls like Studio 54. It only lasted about half an hour, but every morning throughout Summer and early Fall, there was a spectacular party of light in our living room. And each morning, as the angle of the sun dropped with the season, the duration of the party narrowed to the point that, by Winter, it was gone.


    Last night, I could not sleep. I was a little congested--perhaps from Spring allergies or maybe just a developing cold. In frustration, I got out of bed at 4:40am to shower and dress for work. When the moment came to select a scent, I was not really in the mood. I knew my senses were heightened from lack of sleep and being slightly under the weather. I wanted something transparent and nuanced. I reached for Osmanthe Yunnan.

    I will admit to buying Osmanthe Yunnan without fully understanding it. Tania Sanchez had described it as Jean-Claude Ellena's five star masterpiece. When I tried it in the store, however--in the cloud of Bel Ami and Equipage and everything else the SA thought I should be smelling instead--I just thought it smelled like peaches. I got it anyway as part of a four-scent travel set and subsequently neglected it for the other three whose charms were a bit more obvious. But that moment this morning, in the dark and hypersensitive to smell, I thought: now is the time, or never.

    Two sprays on the neck, one on the arm, then I passed out exhausted on the living room sofa.




    When I opened my eyes two hours later, the following sequence of sensory events occurred: 1) the morning sunlight, for the first time in months, was bouncing laser-like off the surface of the disco ball and all over the room, 2) Osmanthe Yunnan, emanating from my arm in front of my head, simply exploded with olfactory pleasure: apricot skin, orange pulp, fruit pit, black tea, salt, windy florals, a sharp civety herb, and a soft nuttiness of leather, 3) our caramel-colored cat, with his peach-plush coat, purring on a chaise, and 4) as I stood up and turned, I was confronted with the Adam Saroyan print we have in our living room, dappled with disco spots, proclaiming the perfect summary to the whole experience: lighght.



    I learned a lot about Jean-Claude Ellena this morning. Foremost, this whole experience came about with a very modest application (three sprays). I think this is key. The second thing is, the genius of Osmanthe Yunnan lies not just in its own beauty but in the way it bleeds seamlessly not just into my own skin (I still don't know whether the nutty/leather note and the salt was the scent or myself) but the whole experience of light and sound that surrounds it. My eyes have been opened to the way this man designs a scent. In retrospect, I think the terms transparent and minimal are really a disservice. What he's doing is rather seamless and integrated. In a world where some of us are dousing ourselves in fragrance and want things to be strong and long-lasting, I think we are sometimes overlooking athe more subtle pleasure of a scent that actually lives in the world.

    Sometimes, less is truly more. I won't have to be sick again to appreciate it.



    (More on lighght here.)
    Last edited by Beranium Chotato; 17th April 2012 at 09:06 PM.

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    Dependent Akahina's Avatar
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    Default Re: lighght

    Amazing and wonderful story. Makes me want to sample Osmanthe Yunnan!
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    Default Re: lighght

    Lovely story, and a great way to view (smell?) Osmanthe Yunnan! Makes me want to go buy myself a bottle of it to wear too!

  4. #4

    Default Re: lighght

    Great anecdote and wonderful scent to highlight it.

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    Default Re: lighght

    I think I am now having a massive Spring affair with the entire Hermèssences line.

  6. #6

    Default Re: lighght

    This is exactly the thing I love about them. I'm currently digging my Santal Massoia sample for this exact reason - no hugh hit of anything, just seamless blending and playful transitions that somehow end up smelling of....well something pleasant and interesting

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    Default Re: lighght

    Nighghce! I think your description is going to help me "get" this scent, which has eluded me until now!!!

    I agree - I think you really have something there. Ellena's genius in finding a playground where he did, is somewhat analogous to Feynman's idea that "there's plenty of room at the bottom". In Ellena's case, I really think that he is able to explore the dynamics of just a few things, at intensities where interesting things unfold more gently and marvelously, like an interesting reflection, rather than going for the more kaleidoscopic fragrances that others tend to make. JCE's stuff is very "zen", and I love it!

    I'll give this one a special wearing soon. Thanks for this.
    * * * *

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    Default Re: lighght

    Coincidentally, I was watching a video another BNer sent me of Chandler Burr's TED talk. He goes through a brief history of fragrance and perfumers, ending with Jean-Claude Elléna. One of the ways he describes Elléna's contribution to perfumery: with previous scents, a passerby would tell you that your perfume smells great; with Elléna's scents, a passerby will tell you that you smell great. That's pretty much what I was trying to say using 1/100th of the words

  9. #9

    Default Re: lighght

    Glad you kept the disco ball. A friend of mine has a few of varying sizes lying around his apartment. He calls it "magic hour" when the sun hits the balls and sprinkles reflective light around.

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    Default Re: lighght

    Bravo, great story

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    Default Re: lighght

    *BASENOTES SPLITS*
    Tom Ford Oud Fleur, AVENTUS
    http://www.basenotes.net/threads/289345-

    *CRYSTAL FLACON SPLITS*
    Tom Ford Plum Japonais, Oud Fleur, AVENTUS
    http://flacon.ambaric.net/viewtopic.php?p=927#927

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    Default Re: lighght

    Absolutely wonderful account ,great pictures and lighght - very very interesting. Thanks. JCE is not my fave perfumer but I think I may just try out Osmanthe Yunnan .
    http://www.basenotes.net/threads/370...o-Profumo-Onda
    For sale. Carnal Flower and Vero Profumo Onda.

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    Default Re: lighght

    Voyage is the one that i could link it to Osmanthe Yunnan.
    Get the same flowie bubbly lightness from Voyage d'air max or perhaps the overall impression is even lighter than Osmanthe.

  14. #14

    Default Re: lighght

    I simply do not understand the appeal of "transparent" frags, despite trying several of them. Those with a lot of Iso I Super are particularly unpleasant to me. But more than a few people must like them, because they keep getting cranked out. LOL.

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    Default Re: lighght

    I am totally guilty of being one of those people who likes them. I am depleting a bottle of L'Eau d'Hiver as if it were a cocktail. But I can also completely understand why some people would be annoyed with them.

    There are days when I just don't want to smell like a fragrance as much as I want to smell like myself only better. Those are the days I reach for the JCE frags.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigsly View Post
    I simply do not understand the appeal of "transparent" frags, despite trying several of them. Those with a lot of Iso I Super are particularly unpleasant to me. But more than a few people must like them, because they keep getting cranked out. LOL.

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    Default Re: lighght

    Love this post . . . the photos are excellent and really made the story come alive. Thanks Brian.

    Also, I accept your kind invitation to DJ your rager on July Fourth.

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    Default Re: lighght

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigsly View Post
    I simply do not understand the appeal of "transparent" frags, despite trying several of them. Those with a lot of Iso I Super are particularly unpleasant to me. But more than a few people must like them, because they keep getting cranked out. LOL.
    I like a lot of JCE's frags, I think many are masterpieces, but OTOH the minimalism make me tire of the frag after a while. The complexity that keeps me interested is lacking, especially in the basenotes. Terre d'Hermes is a perfect example, it is unique, very well done, but the base is almost entirely iso-e super. It is the second frag I ever bought and I was in love with it, but less than a year later I am tired of it. The frags than tend to keep my interest usually have a more complex base and use at least some natural ingredients to add complexity. So by some criteria Tdh is a masterpiece, but by others it could be seen as extremely poor.

  18. #18

    Default Re: lighght

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Chambers View Post
    Coincidentally, I was watching a video another BNer sent me of Chandler Burr's TED talk. He goes through a brief history of fragrance and perfumers, ending with Jean-Claude Elléna. One of the ways he describes Elléna's contribution to perfumery: with previous scents, a passerby would tell you that your perfume smells great; with Elléna's scents, a passerby will tell you that you smell great. That's pretty much what I was trying to say using 1/100th of the words
    This is exactly what I was going to tell you to watch. It explains it perfectly, and I happen to agree. The smell of yourself, slightly perfumed, is not something to overlook. Many perfumes can wear us, but how do we really want to smell?

  19. #19

    Default Re: lighght

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Chambers View Post
    ...There are days when I just don't want to smell like a fragrance as much as I want to smell like myself only better. Those are the days I reach for the JCE frags.
    I don't care much about what I smell like to others, besides not spraying too much, and instead I'm looking to smell a particular combination of notes. Iso E Super isn't any particular kind of wood to me, nor anything else really, other than perhaps a distraction and irritant (assuming it's used in more than small amounts, of course), for example. A frag has to have some combination of notes that fill a void in my rotation, and I have to be able to detect them, and they have to smell "natural" to me. Transparent frags don't seem to get that job done, though for those who are seeking something else, these frags might work very well.

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    Default Re: lighght

    Great thread Brian.

    The Hermessences and I go way back, they were the first luxury scents I went out of my way to smell, before I even knew Basenotes existed. Blame Chandler Burr and his article in the New Yorker I read (the March 15th issue, in 2005) that got me so excited to smell Un Jardin Sur le Nil and then when I stumbled into that Hermes boutique and saw the Hermessences there (this was before they even did travel bottles, it was just the full bottles with or without the Hermes leather casings and it was just the first 4 (VT, AN, RI and PS), Osmanthe Yunnan hadn't even been released yet. I loved all of them and the SA was very generous and gave me and Ray handfuls of samples to take home. I loved ALL of them.

    A year later I went in and smelled Osmanthe Yunnan, just like Brian, I was a bit underwhelmed. I remember the first time I smelled it, I didn't actually smell anything at all. Nothing. I have smelled a real osmanthus tree, a huge one in a botanical garden in the South, and I will never forget that smell - like sunripened apricots and earth and yet it has a creamy, lightweight smell to it. But its a sweet smell and it radiates from the blossoms. Talk about sillage. The Hermessence - it just didn't smell like that.

    Then I kept hearing people talk about it, every time I mentioned a tea scent - I honestly missed the tea note in OY when I smelled it but I trusted other noses on BN who swore they smelled it. I went thru a 'tea phase' where I really, really loved Tommy Girl and Tea for Two and drank lots of tea.

    And then I remember reading that when Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez got married, she wore OY. And I thought - REALLY!? Of all of the scents she could have chosen, she chose that one? I was baffled. So, I opened my mind to trying it again.

    Subsequently a few things happened: I started to become more and more enamored of minimal, sheer, light scents. It wasn't a purposeful direction I was taking, it just seemed that more than enough I was finding a lot of satisfaction from the subtle scents that created a light, veiled, bubble-of-scent around me. I know that many of you observed this 'mood' as I went a bit bananas over scents like Mouchoir de Monsieur and Apres l'Ondee by Guerlain; the IUNX avant-garde colognes that Olivia Giacobetti did; and of course other pre-Hermes Jean Claude Ellena scents that really spoke to me like L'Eau d'Hiver and Concentree Bigarade by Frederic Malle, La Haie Fleurie du Hameau by L'Artisan...I'm sure I'm forgetting others...

    Then, a kind Basenoter sent me a huge bunch of Hermes samples - he hated them. In the pack was a bunch of vials of Osmanthe Yunnan. Oh goodie - a chance to revisit the scent, some 6 years later, in a whole new perspective. And I have to say I agree wholeheartedly with you Brian - the key with this one is to spray as LITTLE AS POSSIBLE, away from your nose, and let this stuff work it's magic. I am not sure what scientific reason is behind this (does an overapplication oversaturate my nose?) but I have applied the same rule to applying most of the other JCE / Hermes scents this way (well, except for some of his newer stuff which IMO sort of sucks) and I find that a light hand leaves a wonderful, dazzling scent that I can really enjoy in tiny, transparent, modern, crisp whiffs.

    lighght indeed.
    "One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple"

    -- Jack Kerouac

  21. #21

    Default Re: lighght

    When I think of transparent frags I think of that story (was it in "The Perfect Scent?") in which the executives of a perfume company are sampling a frag and they all love it, until they realize the bottle had been filled with water ! LOL.

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    Default Re: lighght

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigsly View Post
    When I think of transparent frags I think of that story (was it in "The Perfect Scent?") in which the executives of a perfume company are sampling a frag and they all love it, until they realize the bottle had been filled with water ! LOL.
    Meaning what exactly? People who like Jean-Claude Ellena's fragrances are just gullible?

    For reasons that are a bit mysterious to me, minimalism has a history of making people who don't care for it irrational and angry.

    From Wikipedia:

    Last edited by Beranium Chotato; 1st April 2012 at 01:20 AM.

  23. #23

    Default Re: lighght

    Meaning that I can't seem to smell much of them, that's all. To me, vintage Red for Men by GBH is as "transparent" as I want to get! LOL.

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    Default Re: lighght

    Thanks for the nice bit of writing.

    I love Osmanthe Yunnan. I think Ellena's Osmanthus for The Different Company is great and grabbed the Hermessence when it hit - dropping into that milky tea note after the bright eyed osmanthus opening is pure genius IMO, totally unexpected, almost subversive. Conceptually I think what Ellena is doing for the brand, and by extension one would have to surmise 'the Hermes customer' given that they are only for sale in the stores, is absolutely perfect. I get the feeling that the primary intent of this series is really to offer the person wearing it quite a personal experience, more of a protective cocoon type of arrangement, like the silk scarves and cashmere travel blankets they make - nomad chic to keep the world at arms length. I don't think anyone could accuse Hermes of doing 'come hither' with anything in their line? I usually travel with the small Osmanthus Yunnan and also Vetiver Tonka, which is also a great long-haul flight companion.

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    Default Re: lighght

    Wonderful story!

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    Default Re: lighght

    Quote Originally Posted by mr. reasonable View Post
    I get the feeling that the primary intent of this series is really to offer the person wearing it quite a personal experience, more of a protective cocoon type of arrangement, like the silk scarves and cashmere travel blankets they make - nomad chic to keep the world at arms length. I don't think anyone could accuse Hermes of doing 'come hither' with anything in their line?
    You are very right about that.

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    Default Re: lighght

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Chambers View Post
    ...For reasons that are a bit mysterious to me, minimalism has a history of making people who don't care for it irrational and angry...
    I blame the aldehydes
    "One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple"

    -- Jack Kerouac

  28. #28

    Default Re: lighght

    I'm trying to appreciate as many different kinds of frags as possible. Lately, I've been able to appreciate that common wood type frag that I generally hate (and I won't wear any others of that type), in the from of Equus by Lalique. I keep trying, but if I haven't found one after giving several a chance, the endeavor gets put on the back burner, and then if I happen to come across one that I like I'm very pleased, certainly not angry! LOL.

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    Default Re: lighght

    Wearing Osmanthe Yunnan this afternoon, I put some on after my mid-afternoon workout. Wow, this stuff smells fantastic today. I only sprayed about 2 sprays and I can clearly smell it now hours later. Milky, apricoty tea phantom-ness.
    "One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple"

    -- Jack Kerouac

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    Default Re: lighght

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeperez23 View Post
    Wearing Osmanthe Yunnan this afternoon, I put some on after my mid-afternoon workout. Wow, this stuff smells fantastic today. I only sprayed about 2 sprays and I can clearly smell it now hours later. Milky, apricoty tea phantom-ness.
    Yes, I think warmth--from weather or exercise--really powers the stuff. I'm going to wear some now

    Shameless cat photo:

    Last edited by Beranium Chotato; 17th April 2012 at 09:14 PM.

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    Default Re: lighght

    Brian's wonderful words and wonderful cat , I had to bump this thread.
    http://www.basenotes.net/threads/370...o-Profumo-Onda
    For sale. Carnal Flower and Vero Profumo Onda.

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    andylama's Avatar
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    Default Re: lighght

    Lovely essay and photos!

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    Default Re: lighght

    Does anyone else get a minty effect from Osmanthe Yunnan? I'm wearing it this afternoon and I swear wherever I applied it (chest/arms) they're tingling a bit and I don't remember that from before. I mean it doesn't necessarily smell minty, it feels minty on my skin...sort of how camphor or eucalyptus feel on skin.
    "One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple"

    -- Jack Kerouac

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