Wednesday, November 7, 2012

still-sound 122. Smoke

I wonder what evolutionary course of events led to the instinctual enjoyment of the smell of burning wood.  I think most people like the smell of campfires and smoke escaping chimneys on cold nights.  In fact I know they do.  My work has me chatting with people every day about smells.  Campfires, coffee, the ocean and babies seem to be the most popular scents mentioned.

Obviously our brains are hard-wired to like the smell of babies.  So that we keep them around despite the crying and spitting up.  We are most likely repulsed by rotting food to keep from eating it.  You would think that the warmth generated by a fire and the prospect of cooking food would be reason enough to love burning wood - but the smell is equally pleasing.  So is the noise of the crackle and pops.

Perhaps there is something inherently sacred about burning wood.  Incense is most likely a result of this.  A purification by fire.

There are so few commercial perfumes with a smoky note that I like.  I may be seduced by the first whiff but on the dry-down I smell like a hot dog.  Hinoki by Comme des Garçons x Monocle is one of the few exceptions.  The wood and smoke notes stay balanced and true the entire duration of the fragrance cycle.

We started selling a new perfume at the shop where I work called Bois d'Ascèse.  It's one of two fragrances developed by an Australian milliner based in Paris named Naomi Goodsir.   I can't remember the last time I was so impressed by a new scent and have been spraying it on myself regularly.  A young perfumer named Julien Rasquinet designed it.  He trained under legendary perfumer Pierre Bourdon.  I particularly like a fragrance Rasquinet created for an Icelandic artist named Andrea Maack.  I discovered it last spring and it's called Silk. It smells like a dew-covered violet leaf.

Bois d'Ascèse begins smoky, resembling burning piñon wood. The fragrance settles into a pared-down, transparent scent resembling old wooden church pews infused with incense.

The name is funny.  It must refer to a monastic lifestyle which involves church and incense because a true ascetic experience would probably not include indulgent, expensive perfume.  But then again, those monks are responsible for some of the finest liquors in existence.  They must harbor sybaritic tendencies.  Or at least the French ones do.

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