Witches’ Berries, Fairies, and a Pot of Jam

Baba_YagaCassis is a note that French perfumers are very partial to.  The smell of the little black berries puzzles me a bit, though, since cassis is rare in US markets.  We just don’t use it, and the reason is that various species of currants are “alternate hosts to the white pine blister rust disease” and as a result, there are restrictions on growing them laid down by Federal Quarantine Acts.  This no doubt explains why it is that currants aren’t seen frequently at American farmer’s markets.  These days you can grow currants in some Eastern states – New York is an example – if you plant rust resistant cultivars.  The end result is, we don’t get many currants.

This is why cassis dominant perfumes seem odd at first to my American nose.  I think I’m smelling blackberry with some sort of twist to it.  Actually, I’m smelling cassis.  In liquor it’s comprehensible, especially if you are in the habit of drinking a Kir in summer, which is generally a glass of white Bordeaux with a teaspoon or two of Crème de Cassis in it.  The whole concoction turns a pretty shade of lavender and is very refreshing.  Continue reading