People remember the late Edmond Roudnitska for different reasons. Myself I remember his book about perfume, the first serious one I ever read on the subject. In it he made a plea for perfume to be considered an art form, maybe not a major art, but an art all the same. I’m not sure what I made of that at the time I read the book in the nineties, but I am sure that a number of Roudnitska compositions struck me as being quite artful.
There was Diorissimo, the most perfect lily of the valley then and now as well, there was the lemony and slightly indolic Diorella; which half of Italy seemed to have worn back in the late seventies. Diorella complimented their summertime lunches of white wine and prosciutto con melone, and there was Eau Sauvage, the fragrance that was nearly as omnipresent then as Coco Mademoiselle is now, a glass fluted bottle slotted into practically every other gentleman’s bathroom cabinet.
I never actually wore any of the Roudnitska perfumes. The closest I ever came was a mini of Femme de Rochas (the old un- bowderlerized version which speaks very frankly of sex in olfactory terms). The scent was too overt for me, I can’t wear my private life on my wrist so to speak. But I read Roudnitska’s account of his creation of this scent with its new prune note, and its adoption by Rochas somewhat against the odds. And make no mistake about this, old Femme is odd by contemporary standards. No one would release something so obvious and so overt now. Not even Tom Ford, Professor Emeritus of Sex that he claims to be.
All of this leads up to today when I stopped in at Aedes de Venustas and walked out wearing Dries van Noten and Le Parfum de Therese, and dear reader, they were both about as peculiar as any fragrances in that vast collection. My daughter was absorbed by the owner’s two Shih Tzus, an affable but slightly jaded pair who knew they were cute as muppets, but she agreed about the perfumes and their singularity.
This is the third time I’ve worn Le Parfum de Therese and it’s always been just as peculiar as any scent could be, but this time in a humid and warm New York, worn for eight hours straight the perfume revealed itself as a truly idiosyncratic mélange of melons, salt, wood and lazy sexuality. I can’t say I’m surprised that Roudnitska composed this for his wife. This was a truly married couple and M. Roudnitska evidently loved his wife.
But I don’t think I can wear this. I feel as if I were intruding on some very private territory indeed. I wouldn’t read private love letters, and for the same reasons I can’t wear Le Parfum de Therese. M. Roudnitska wrote a love letter to his wife on the air, but it’s still private- still their own romance- still too much of a singular perfume for a plurality of wearers.