Perfumery, I’m realizing early on, is as much about confronting one’s biases as it is about the forward-looking desire to create.
I knew I wanted something a bit darker and smokier this time, counterbalanced by the delicacy of florals, but not too floral.
So I brought out the big Sharpie markers of my scent repertoire—cade and vetiver—and drew lace doilies around them with the fine-tip pens of rose damask and tuberose. And trying to “bridge” them dubiously with other ingredients. Needless to say, it was a disaster.
The next day, I tried again, reining in my fears about loud florals and dialing the smoke and leather way back. At one point during mixing, a little voice in my head suggested I should leave out the cade altogether. However, stubbornness prevailed, and I allowed a drop. The only mildly obnoxious result:
- Top note: Barely-there bergamot
- Middle notes: Rose damask, tuberose, lavender
- Base notes: Neroli, vetiver, blond tobacco, cade
- + a hint of ambroxide à la “Not a Perfume” by Juliette Has a Gun, to hold it all together in a fine mesh
It actually reads better than it smells, because the scents seem to have intertwined only to separate again into new but distinct entities—lesser than the sum of their parts and all ceding monarchy to cade. Propitiously, cade in small enough quantity is not a tyrant, and the scentscape becomes a dichotomy of fading smoke and beleaguered flowers. A duality of energies that pull away from each other, yet are inseparable.
This perplexing creation has earned its name: Shadow Play. Cade and vetiver form the basis of the shadow—visually, a dark, two-dimensional shape that has no choice but to conform to any surface upon which it falls (or is raised). The flowers and faint citrus carry on like a waif with resolve; they determine the subtle shape-shifting of the crude umbra whom they have no choice but to allow to follow them around everywhere.
Somehow it seems to work. Perhaps not for the unadventurous or faint of heart. Or, perhaps, it is only my bias that convinces me so.