Of contrast and continuity

When I was a child, scented greeting cards were not hard to find where I lived—looking back, they were a true multisensory experience: beautiful textured paper, gilded text, music when fully opened, and fragrance! (Nothing intended to taste, although these tended to be Lunar New Year cards, so they would showcase pictures of food with prosperous symbolism—oranges, for example, which termed in Mandarin Chinese are a homonym for good luck [jí].)

I miss those. I also had a scented pen that I guarded jealously (once a teacher asked to borrow it for marking homework, and I was very reluctant to agree.) I can remember those scents but I can’t describe them now. It’s strange.

Ever since I really got into fragrance, I wanted to scent my cards to give them a touch of something special, but on the infrequent occasion that I wrote one, I would forget. This year, for holiday cards, I remembered. The perfume I chose wasn’t one that represented “me,” however, or anything I might associate with the recipient. It was Chanel Cuir de Russie EdP, providing a hint of nondescript elegance, to which a generation with more lived experience than me might relate.

Given the possibility of delays in the post, I finished all of my holiday card writing last week. I thought of each person as I wrote them and tried to write something not too generic. I have noticed that my peer group tends to send cards only if they have the kind with a collection of printed photos representing the best of what they had done that year, usually featuring children and/or pets, which obviates the need for any kind of personalized greeting. That’s pretty stiff competition for old-fashioned cards with space to write, so I make an effort!

It’s almost as though I’ve developed a muscle memory for writing cards over the years—for some friends, I remember almost exactly what distinctive thing I wrote a year ago. Sadly, not everyone I’ve gotten used to writing to is still with us this year.

Besides greetings, the other thing that took up much of my time over the last couple of weeks was interviewing various candidates (not as the hiring manager, but as part of a panel) and providing feedback on coworkers as well as completing my self-evaluation for the performance review process at work. These things always take much longer than I intend and the more I write, the more aspirational I start to feel; I hope it ends up somewhat useful. As for interview debriefs, my opinion tended to be mostly aligned with those of others, but not always. I wonder whether it’s not that I see what others don’t, but rather, that I miss what others see. In these cases, what others see is more important as they are the ones hiring!

I’ve been working through the Expériences Olfactives discovery set by Maison Crivelli that I had purchased. Per the brand:

Sensorial explorations, unexpected adventures.
Unplanned movements, contrasting encounters. […]

I’ll give them that, especially the last part. Contrast. Each fragrance in the set embodies this very well, and to me many of them are familiar yet strange. They seem to make skillful use of a salty note, which is intriguing because salt itself does not have a smell. It’s not marine or sweaty, but mineralic.

Many of them remind me of other perfumes. The black tea note in Bois Datch reminds me of the one in Le Labo Thé Noir 29. Papyrus Moléculaire smells much like Le Labo Santal 33 but drier. Iris Malikhân is meant to be a “powdery gourmand leather” perfume, which isn’t my impression. It opens with the most beautiful woody iris note, and if it stopped there I would probably consider buying a full bottle, but it evolves into what I perceive as a strong and persistent pineapple note, similar to that in Paco Rabanne Phantom. It’s a note that I’ve learned to translate as lavender (also in Frédéric Malle Music for a While), but lavender is not listed here. However, as perfumer Sarah McCartney of 4160Tuesdays reminds us in one of her recent videos, you can create a scent that smells like another scent without using the same ingredients. Notes are in the nose of the beholder!

You could be my unintended […]

—Muse, “Unintended”

Of the perfumes from Maison Crivelli, I think Lys Sølaberg surprised me the most. A dry-spicy lily fragrance, I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first. Suddenly, a few hours after putting it on, I caught a whiff of… Ormonde Jayne Montabaco! An carbon copy of the scent memory. The only listed notes in common between these two are tobacco and moss, but I’m sure it’s a coincidence of different parts amounting to the same sum.

In perfumery, as in life…!

2 thoughts on “Of contrast and continuity

  1. I’ve never seen (smelled?) such cards, but as a child I would have loved them! We’ll, I would have loved the music ones too (we also didn’t have those). Our cards were much simpler and always with the space to write: I remember how surprised I was to see cards already filled with greetings when we first moved to the US.
    Every year I plan to start sending real cards to my perfume friends (a couple of relatives I still have would be baffled if I did that: we’ve never exchanged real cards before).

    I’m not familiar with the brand you’re testing. Perfume names sound strange and not-English-speaker- or search-friendly. But it must be working for the brand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to love the witty text on cards in the US especially, but it shouldn’t be an excuse not to write anything in addition. 😉
      I’m sure the Maison Crivelli search works without the special characters in the names – I just wanted to keep them for the aesthetics.

      Liked by 1 person

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