Sometimes a favorite note goes off your wrist until another season. This happens to me every fall after Hallowe’en. My favorite green perfumes get banished until March, and it seems like a long time to me. Let’s face it, I’m a lover of green perfumes no matter what the weather conditions, and could be shoveling snow and still want to fill my lungs with something that smells like leaves.
So I cheat. I look for perfumes that may not be exactly light, but which still contain an element of sap to them somewhere. Heck, I don’t care where it comes from, I just need something on my wrist in December that tells me definitively that May will return.
One remedy of mine is the old perfume Alpona. It’s a Caron (you saw that coming if you read this blog) and is a strangely transparent deep green perfume. Wearing Alpona is like having a large uncut emerald as a wading pool, the same depth, the same clarity and the same blue tint at the heart of it. Alpona is half way between a citrus perfume and a green one, but the grapefruit notes always lead into the deeper green ones, and Alpona does indeed remind you of that day when you visited Switzerland, even if you didn’t stay and were just passing through. Alpona is, unusually for a French perfume of the thirties or forties, limpid.
However, it is also out of production these days until further notice, so I am stuck or was, until Dawn Spencer Hurwitz sent me a sample of one of her perfumes composed in conjunction with the Denver Art Museum. The idea was to resurrect ancient perfumes and she did that with several recipes a few thousand years old, but the greenest one was Antiu. She calls it an eclectic green gourmand meets conifer.
It smells like fir trees. At least it does to begin with, and then the honeyed woody notes of its very old recipe overtake it. Antiu is a strange perfume. In a sense the scent is a gourmand in the way that a fine old wine is, and yet the smell is much more salubrious and more appealing than anything you ever ran into a wine glass. This is a smell of ancient times and the palette of scent is very different from what you or I might immediately choose as a perfume.
But never mind that. This is a fragrance that could have been wafting on the breeze when Pericles went to visit the great hetaira Aspasia. There is something like honey in the formula and something like oud (though it might simply be cypress wood), but the result is a smell that I haven’t come across since my family spent a summer in Greece in the seventies. This is a smell you have to go to the back country of Athens to smell. Hymettos perhaps? The famous mountain where the bees produce the best honey in Greece?
Possibly that is the closest comparative. Antiu smells to me like Hymettos, and that was a wonderful smell, woods, flowers, honey and sunlight all mixed together with the smell of ever greens running through it. That’s what this is. Luckily, it lends itself to late fall afternoons and times when other green smells are simply travesties dreamed up by the candle makers. Right now it may be November in Jersey, but I can still day dream of Greece.