The Smell of Adventure

Green has to do with zeitgeists, I’m convinced.  If the spirit of the Age is strictly stay-at-home then green, the entire spectrum of it, will not appeal.  Nevertheless, green is the smell that comes swirling in when you open the casements ( if you have casements) – wild, unpredictable, an invitation to the great unknown;  in short, an incitement to move the itchy feet all of us have.  Only some periods of time, and some people take to this anarchic note which tends to whirl about you and beckon you out the window, dispensing with the perfunctory formality of the front door.

Well, I did say it was anarchic.

Not all greens do this,  of course. Some have been domesticated.  They have learned to live static lives in the conservatory.  Their slow progressions of root and tendril are meant to be observed with magnifying glasses and recorded in exercise books for the benefit of botanists.  This is a different shade of green, moss really, and you sometimes do find references to it in the world of perfume.  Maison Margiela’s Untitled for instance, now there’s a green to be admired under glass.  It has a near companion in the brown chartreuse fuzziness of Parfums de Nicolai’s Vetyver, also a perfume that welcomes magnification; both of them grown carefully in the terrarium or Wardian Case.

Other greens, also tamed, though in this case by secateurs and shovels, inhabit the perennial borders.  They huddle together during the chilly rains of April, and expand in a panting, breeze seeking mass in July, but they are all denizens of the garden bed.  They are largely floral scents because if you inhabit a garden, flowers are generally your near  neighbors.  There is nothing wild about these smells, they are familiar from sunny mornings in the local park, or municipal garden, or backyard, and share an easy familiar charm.  Among their number are greens, celadon and apple really, that can be found in such scents as Guerlain’s Chamade or Jean Patou’s Vacances, or  Annick Goutal’s Eau de Camille.   This sort of green even inhabits the riverbank, with a complicated dankness running perpetually underneath its florals,  think of Jean Patou’s 1000, a roman fleuve of a perfume if ever there was one.

Then there’s the green I’m speaking of, the wild green that should never be let into any house.  It’s a restless current, liable to knock civilized things over on its pell mell progress back out the window.  That green is the one that I’m after.  There’s an aftertaste of electricity in this scent, like ozone left over after the thunder clap.  Perfumes like this, Balmain’s Vent Vert, Piguet’s Futur, and Guerlain’s Sous le Vent have a twisting agitation to them that is impatient of stillness.  They’re great runaways.  They’ll be back out in the wild by nightfall, something uncontainable, that’s the green I mean.

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5 thoughts on “The Smell of Adventure

  1. I agree with Olfacta! I like especially the cultivator’s viewpoint– because in terms of garden grades, from the most formal to the most “wild”, there is still a certain amount of control being wielded. As with gardeners and landscape designers, so with perfumers. That is, until you get to the wild greens… then all bets are off.

    • Well, if you’ve gardened forever and a day, then you tend to look at it from a planting point of view. Funnily enough though, in Europe green gardens are often the most manicured and tamed. Think of all those Le Notre gardens, whereas in flower gardens, the plants are allowed to run around barefoot (think of Giverny).

  2. well, I must say that its really informative post to read and thanks for sharing .I agree with meg that s with gardeners and landscape designers, so with perfumers. That is, until you get to the wild greens… then all bets are off.
    Keep sharing more .

    • All the greens are at least interesting, but the undomesticated ones are the really fascinating ones. Thanks for reading.

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