Among the Roots

Siberians in the garden at Bowdoin

Siberians in the garden at Bowdoin

Suddenly it’s gotten hot in Connecticut.  This sounds like an oxymoron I know.  However it can get hot in New England and usually does when you really could do without the humidity and the soaring temperatures, as in for instance when you’ve just moved north and thought it would be cooler.

Every year when the Great Heat Wave happens I’ve turned to different remedies and oddly this year my invisible cold pack is full of  iris and patchouli. I’m not sure why I decided that iris was a good remedy for heat, unless the sight of a lone Japanese iris in bloom set me off the other day.

The flower looked so cool and unruffled by the heat, versus self, who of course has frizzled hair and a permanent  sheen of perspiration on her skin, and is constantly peeling herself off the study sofa. Patchouli by contrast is an old remedy for the summertime blues.  You get right down to the soil level with patch, and that’s where I spend half my time now, weeding and cutting into the leggy undergarments of rhododendrons. That is no place for dainty perfumes and obvious florals attract bees, so temporarily I’m off of roses and white florals.

Zum's Goat Milk Soap in Patchouli

Zum’s Goat Milk Soap in Patchouli

Instead I’ve worn Zum’s  Goat Milk Soap in Patchouli.  OK , definitely not a Guerlain!  But for the price, which is 5.85, you get a nice patchouli zap  that lasts a good half hour.  Sometimes I just use it as hand soap and sometimes I slather in the shower, but after a hot day in the undergrowth,you could do a great deal worse. Besides, the Hub raises no  objections to patchouli for himself either, so the  Zum is a winner, and I generally buy mine at Whole Foods.

My other patchouli fix this summer came from a sample I was sent by Anya of Anya’s Garden, a natural perfumer who has been producing scents for several years, and is one of the earliest natural perfumers in the States.  I didn’t know her work until this point, but she included a sample of Enticing in her package, which is a patchouli perfume with musk and butter ( I would never have guessed the butter) a mushroom note, also clary sage and tuberose.  Because of the natural musk there is a distinctly animalic character to Enticing that is appealing at the hypothalamus level, and which soaks into hot skin in a very convincing way.  You know, one of those perfumes that makes you smell as if your sweat were a great deal sexier than it actually is? There is something very carnal but casual in this perfume, and I find that Enticing is one of those uncommon fragrances that go just about everywhere with you.

Beginning Enticingon an herbal note, progressing through the patchouli, and ending in a sweeter, lighter mode with tuberose and musk,  Enticing is quiet but rounded, and would be an excellent companion for men as well as women.  I really liked this patchouli a lot, and if I have a beef here at all it’s that I wished this attractive scent would last longer on me.

Then I had the problem of what to wear that was bearable in the humid evenings, and very often went the iris route.  My choice usually was Penhaligon’s  Iris Prima.  This is a perfume that also smells like the trail is musk, in fact it is  listed as a floral woody musk, but the notes which include an inevitable pink peppercorn and bergamot  intro, subsequently blossom into jasmine and iris. I find the heart of the Penhaligon extremely pretty.  This is, by the way, the second time I have fallen for a Penhaligon, the first  having been Lily and Spice, which was one of those rare lilies I could wear without feeling like a walking vase.  Similarly, Iris Prima  features a heavy  oriental base with vanilla, sandalwood, and musk, which means you can wear this perfume rather than feeling the formula wearing you, a risk with florals.

iris PrimaI also returned to Papillon Artisan Perfumes’ Angelique, but was disappointed for the second time.  The perfume always begins so promisingly on me with a pretty airy iris note, but the prettiness devolves into such bitterness on my skin that I can seldom live with Angelique for more than half an hour.

This received good reviews from other bloggers, but whether it’s my skin,or the maceration, or something in the formula, the iris smelled like aspirin on me.  Oh well.  There’s always Iris Prima instead…

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8 thoughts on “Among the Roots

  1. There are certainly worse things to smell like! I’m thinking that if I can get those dratted rhododendrons trimmed, then next week I can smell like roses again. :-)

  2. Thanks for the great recommendations! I love using floral and fresh, earthy scents in the summer. I’d prefer jasmine and vanilla fragrances, but iris is not a bad choice at all. And maybe I’ll try the Goat Milk Soap of Zum, cause your writing ‘entices’ me.

  3. Glad the soap sounded good. I always think we need a few more affordable choices in the mix.
    As for vanilla fragrances love them too, but in summer I still haven’t come across one that is perfect. Am considering La Couvent des Minimes Eau des Missions which at 38.00 is supposed to be a ringer for Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille, but if you like jasmine and vanilla then you should try Fleur des Comores a Maitre Parfumier et Gantier scent from the 90′s. Great stuff, very summery kind of blingy bottle as you can see:

  4. I can imagine why patchouli would be great in hot summers; it’s very dry cool and earthy, counteracting the essence of humidity or overwhelming lushness. I feel like Iris Prima is actually quite a heated smell; to me it smells very warm and incense-y, like a sacred ritual in India.

  5. Hi,
    Sorry to be late on this reply. Patchouli smells like burrowing to me, which is why it ‘s so good in heat, I guess.

    As to why iris should strike me as cool…I have no idea. This must just be idiosyncrasy on my part. I’ve always smelled things like Hiris and Chanel No 19 as almost frigid, but there must be warm irises out there, Iris Taizo did seem warm to me actually, and now I’ll go back and see if I smell a warm incense in Iris Prima.

  6. Haha I know what you mean about the patchouli. I wouldn’t disagree with you on the iris; since there are literally over a hundred varieties of iris flowers, I guess while some have the fresher, powdery scent that most of us are used to, there are other varieties with a more warm, sensual, oriental quality. So it’s not surprising that different fragrance-makers might have very different versions of iris scents, but personally I feel that Iris Prima definitely falls into the latter category.
    Have you tried Prada’s Infusion d’Iris? It’s fresher than Penhaligon’s, but also has a lovely pepperiness to it. Like Penhaligon’s Iris it is very classic, but more herby than incense-y.

  7. I have tried the Infusion d’Iris and find it very clean and pretty to wear. I’d agree with you that it is more herbal than the Prima. Just about all the Pradas are good, I like the men’s Infusion d’Homme as well.

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