When summer’s over you begin to search through your piles of samples for something challenging to wear but something that is also seasonal. To me, autumn is the time of year when the fruit crop comes in. It isn’t, please note, the season of the fruity floral because those generally are too light. You need something that goes potentially with orange and gold and firelight and the taste of pumpkins in the US or persimmons in Europe.
This year the choice for me is the old Jean Patou Que Sais Je? I have worn it since the nineties off and on, and before we go on, it’s discontinued but can be found in small bottles on Ebay or occasionally online. It makes very good company for my other great favorite at this time of year, Caron’s Farnesiana in extract. Que Sais Je is fruity to start with, it has a strong peach note courtesy of some aldehyde no doubt, but the peculiar feature of this perfume is how it takes that note and dries it.
The smell reminds me faintly of the old fashioned peach leather you can buy in Charleston, South Carolina. They’ve been making that candy for ages, and basically it’s pulped peaches left to dehydrate and concentrate in flavor. The end result is kind of like the fruit pastes they make in Spain but thinner and daintier.
That’s the top note of Que Sais-Je but then the perfume gets drier yet in a gourmand way, it turns into the torrone you can buy in Siena the sort that is full of almonds and hazel nuts. The scent is nostalgic for me because it recalls all the pasticcerias in Italy and all those marzipan creations they used to make. In a moment I’m going to see the fogs of Northern Italy and some tasteless individual resident in my brain will cue the Vivaldi (my brain probably, as it is the only tasteless individual to have a fixed address in my head.)
This whole olfactory piece of architecture is built on a foundation of oakmoss and patchouli, but it doesn’t smell like it is. The perfume is still more gourmand than it is strictly speaking chypre. You get the impression that the underpinnings of this structure are made out of nut brittle and the whole affair is really a gigantic nut cake with apricot glaze on top, and yet none of it is sticky smelling or cloying. It manages to be a gourmand chypre and elegant at the same time, but admittedly it often makes me hungry.