Twelve Smells of Christmas – Day Four: Virtual Gingerbread and Brooklyn Zen

My first attempt (age 13) at a gingerbread house construction was a failure because I could not decide which of the walls of my gingerbread house were load bearing, with the result that the whole construction site met with a collapse shortly before Christmas Eve, and, if memory serves, was demo-ed by my older brother.  Oh well, structural engineering was not my expertise.

But gingerbread is one of the best smells of Christmas time, if you happen to be lucky enough to live in the house of a gifted ginger bread baker.  I’m not, but have learned, along the way, at least one good cake recipe with fresh ginger that smells pretty wonderful, and had not gotten round to baking it yet this year, when I went out to Brooklyn to visit the studio of CBI HATE PERFUME, and ran into it again, quite by chance, in their Christmas Limited Edition 603.  (Limited, as in, only in December.)

To begin with, CB studio is not like any other perfume store I’ve ever been in.  There is no sense of gender there.  It’s not pretty, and it’s not frivolous, it is in fact almost severe, but the scents on the shelves in the studio are as playful as the black and white background is not.

You get scents like Invisible Monster, which smells like a lemony orchid, vetiver, cedarwood, sumac and islands in the Susquehanna River.  And you get fragrances like In the Library, a papery, vanilla scent which prompted the only purchase I have seen my husband make of a perfume (just to smell as he says) in my life.  CB’s studio is sort of a museum of experiences morphed into scents, which is what all perfume stores are anyway, but here the foo-foo has been stripped away, so that each story is poured into plain glass and capped off with a black screw top.

Gingerbread is a case in point.  The notes on this fragrance make it sound like gingerbread deconstructed, but when you smell Gingerbread you don’t get this impression at all. It smells like my ginger cake straight out of the oven.  There is cinnamon and nutmeg and a warm note that recalls butter, all over a real Tahitian vanilla base.  What makes this perfume special though, is the fact that it is circular on my skin, it begins with vanilla, butter, and cinnamon, then segues into a long duet of nutmeg and ginger, with the ginger predominating, and finally, just when I had thought it was gone about four hours later, back come the butter, the vanilla and the cinnamon for an encore. What it reminded me of was Arquiste’s Anima Dulcis, not because it smells similar- it doesn’t- but because it is what you might call an atmospheric gourmand, that is, a hymn to something very sensual in a very ethereal form.

Not being a chemist any more than I am a structural engineer, I can’t explain why it is that certain perfumes of Chris Brosius’ have a new tone to them these days, but I know that I smell it.  He seems to have come up with things that have a trick of appearing three dimensional in a completely insubstantial way. It’s a trick that you associate with the work of say, Jean Claude Ellena: the cake that isn’t there, and then is, in all its separate ingredients, and then in its totality once again. Hey Presto! A rabbit! Or gingerbread in this case, pulled out of a bottle!  Brosius’ Gingerbread, no matter how aerial, stands up and remains in the memory, where my real one collapsed in a welter of crumbs-really, it hardly seems fair.

But then, seeming, as Christopher Brosius knows, is believing.

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6 thoughts on “Twelve Smells of Christmas – Day Four: Virtual Gingerbread and Brooklyn Zen

  1. Ah, gingerbread! I never make gingerbread cookies – the shaped cookies my kids like are made from their Nana’s sugar cookie recipe – but I adore a good molasses-y gingerbread CAKE, especially with lemon sauce. That’s a frequent winter dessert for us, and one that smells like home to me.

    I have a feeling that exploring CBIHPs in the store is completely unlike picking which ones you want to order by note, which is what I’ve done with them so far.

    Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille is pretty gingerbready, but a little bit linear. Ehhh. If I’m craving gingerbread that much, I’d rather make sixteen pans of gingerbread cake than shell out for a bottle of TFTV…

    • Yeah I’m with you on the gingerbread versus cake question. I make fresh ginger cake most winters, delish!
      As to the CHIHP studio, there were so many fascinating little accords that they’re not going to keep on sale that I went into a smell frenzy. Sticky Toffee Pudding? No? Bazooka Bubble Gum ’74? Orchid? Which species of orchid? Lemon Pie? Whiskey? And on and on. Mind boggling, I tells you. So in the end we bought In the Library and Gathering Apples.

  2. I so want to go to Brosius’s store someday. I have a small haul of samples, but lately when I go to look at the website the choices are so overwhelming that I don’t know what to do. But I must buy Burning Leaves; it’s high on my list of Scents That I’d Be Furious Not To Own If I Found That They Were Discontinued. Very high. So high that I don’t know why I haven’t bought it yet.

    My favorite ginger fragrance is Bois 1920 Sushi Imperiale. My favorite gingerbreadish fragrance is Parfumerie Generale Un Crime Exotique – it smells exactly, _exactly_ like pfefferneusse cookies to me.

    • I never understand why Un Crime Exotique has got such a portentous name and smells like cookies. In fact what is up with Pierre Guillaume in general? They’re interesting perfumes, but misleading, because underneath the chic names you get: les biscuits. For instance, L’Oiseau de Nuit, supposed to be leather. Nope. Graham crackers. No lie. I like the oiseau, but do I want to smell like Honey Maid?

      On the other hand with Brosius, if it’s Honey Maid, he says so right up front. So intriguing, I want to smell like Fallen Snow, and Orange Sherbet, and Bazooka 74, or at any rate, in combination I do. Loved his new version of Cumming as well, just a leetle more sophisticated than the first go round. Great store.

  3. I fell in love with the the scents created by this person, after my father picked, “I Am Dandelion”, from a birthday gift wish list of CB’s perfumes I’d sent him a couple of years ago. It is, in all reality, the feelings I got, or the place the scents took me, that I fell in love with. These are not mere perfumes. They are adventures, or memories, or feelings, in a bottle!
    So today my Christmas wish list will include “Cradle of Light”, “November”, and “Wiinter 1972″

    • A lot of his perfumes are masterpieces really. I totally agree with wanting Cradle of Light, and the Gingerbread is another one that I would not mind owning at all.

      Altogether, Brosius is the kind of perfumer who makes you impatient to smell what he will come up with next!

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