To wear a scent is to take a syringe, suck a liquid neural impression from a bottle up into the cylinder, insert the needle into a vein and— stand back—jam down the plunger. Intravenous drug effects are almost instant and systemic—the entire body reacts with the drug at full power. Scents are the same, just without the needles, but you don’t need needles; works of olfactory art are shot via the air via the sense of smell directly into the most primitive parts of our brains. If the work of art is great—John Tavener's "Funeral Canticle," poured into the sense of hearing, for instance—you are transfigured.
What a work of scent art can do, and what S01E03 does, that a drug cannot it to transfer its effects to those around you. It’s as if you could shoot up and share the high.
This is, of course, the more or less unspoken premise of 90% of the commercial scents out there. Like recreational drugs, the premise is pleasure, all of this conveyed visually. Christy Turlington is in the perfume’s ad as a promise that she (you, in advertising’s ubiquitous Freudian transference) will be penetrated by the person with whom she shares it.
Like all great works of olfactory art, S01E03, which is not a commercial scent, confirms scent’s power when shared. It confirms it several ways.
E03 demonstrates, for example, that what can roughly be termed volume is a hugely important design piece to all olfactory works. I don’t mean volume merely in the crude, obvious sense of turning the dial up to 10, or using blinding neon acrylics, or packing a scent with a molecule called Karenal, whose decibel level can make your metaphorical ears bleed. Volume is also tonality and texture—smooth vs. rough, clear vs. opaque, an upper (to return to the drug metaphor) vs. an anxiolytic. E03 is pure tone, like a steel tuning fork held up in the air humming a perfect A to the cochlea. Smooth. Clear. But the odd, beautiful thing is that E03 is simultaneously an upper— it makes you alert like a clarion call — and an anxiolytic— calming, tranquilizing, two virtually weightless fingertips brushing your temples.
Think about the deep womb-like enveloping warmth of Opium at high volume (volume in this case meaning simply amount). E03’s aesthetic is the direct opposite. This scent’s surface has the odd minimalist plush of very shallow satin and the unforgiving touch of glass— a combination of soft and, not *hard, exactly, more crisp. E03’s artists— they are two— are among the most talented and least timid I know. Their patron awarded them this commission, and with it they’ve created a scent that transfigures like Tavener’s canticle: limpid, subtle beauty, a still, small voice, a work that is not to be shared in order to arouse or impress but rather to align, to bring you and the person you share it with into a single shared vibration, like the mesmerizing pure tone of a steel tuning fork.