Alice Normal visited Tanunda a few years back and searching for a suitable gift I explored a local second-hand store which was packed with unusual bits and pieces.
Since Ms Normal is an extreme op shopper with a proven talent for unearthing gold amongst the rubbish of a run-down, small town, community store I was under pressure to deliver. And there it was for $3.00, a vintage bottle of the perfume Hypnotique in its original packaging.
A quick search revealed I had hit gold: "Hypnotique was first introduced in the 1950's by Max Factor 'for the woman born to enchant men'." The description on the Timeless Perfume site continued; "Hypnotique was one of the most popular perfumes in the USA during the fifties. Heavily advertised as having hypnotic power over men to make them 'concentrate, concentrate, concentrate on you alone'."
Hypnotique found in a local second-hand store for $3.00
We know that the sense of smell is very important in enjoying wine, indeed the smell and the taste we are told are locked together and there may not be a lot to the taste if you cannot smell. Hence critics and judges pay a lot of attention to the aroma of a wine in forming an opinion about the quality.
For consumers the aromas of wine are so appealing that over the last two decades an industry has developed around supplying specially designed glasses which enhance the aroma.
Thus when 'Perfumes the Guide' was released it created interest with wine critics and is reviewed here because it is a great and useful book with an obvious connection to wine.
The authors Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez
This guide dates the start of the modern fragrance industry to the 1870s with the production of the first synthetic chemicals and specifically the use of coumarin, which was manufactured in 1868. In 1882, "Paul Parquet used this in Houbigants Fougere Royale which marks the true beginning of modern perfumery".
An immense flowering followed with the creation of numerous new synthetic scents adding to the range of natural ingredients. This accompanied the rise of the famous fragrance houses whose names are synonymous with this art.
Indeed most of the book is a review of what is available in the market and these are graded with one to five stars.
I needed to purchase a back-up to Hypnotique so I searched the five star reviews of which there were 23.
Thinking of the personality of Ms Normal I settled for Mitsouke (Guerlain) but also thought the following would be suitable reserves:
Apres L'Ondee (Guerlain),
Osmanthe Yunnan (Hermes),
Vol de Nuit (Guerlain),
Eau Sauvage (Dior),
and Jicky (Guerlain).
A trip to David Jones (Adelaide) to buy one of these five star perfumes produced incredulous expressions of; 'where have you been the last 20 years' and all-round mirth at my expense while I was sprayed with fragrances bearing the name of one celebrity or another in metallic embossing.
Fortunately I had 'Perfumes the Guide' for backup and to one excited well dressed women bearing gifts saying, 'she will love this' I turned to page 25 and read aloud the authors thoughts about this type of fragrance;
"..the fragrance for men and women who do not like fragrance and suspect that none of their friends do either. The result has been a slew of apologetic, bloodless, gray, whippet-like, shivering little things that are probably impossible, and certainly pointless, to tell apart. .....This is the stuff for the generic guy wishing to meet a generic girl to have generic offspring."
I did learn I had dated as perfumes and fragrances are part of a fast moving culture where what is new is what sells while classics of another time do not make the registers ring.
Next I went to the Guerlain counter where I was told that the styles of years ago can be ordered but would take three months or so to arrive though they were for sale in the shop on the Champs Elysees. They also found a bottle of Mitsouke.
Selecting a perfume means matching it with the personality. Alice Normal loves Mitsouke.
Here are some examples to show the flavour of this remarkable work:
"As with the tawdriest pop melody, there is a base pleasure in perfume, in just about any perfume, even the cheapest and the most starved of ideas, that is better than no perfume at all".
The second mistake women make when choosing a fragrance, "... is to assume that the reason to wear perfume is to impersonate a flower bed. This is a fine strategy if your aim is to attract bees."
"What has changed, and not for the better, is the shift from symphony to jingle. If to pursue a musical analogy, the smell of your fabric softener is a door chime and the first Diorama a full orchestra, fine fragrance is getting dangerously close to a ringtone...."
And this reminder of sauvignon blanc. "Linalool (lavender), geraniol (rose), citral (lemon) are the staples of â€˜freshâ€™ perfumery, the sort that are accompanied in ads by the noise of rushing water. They sell great, feel good and have no pretensions."
And several quotes from the 315 pages of reviews:
Amouage Gold (Amouage)
"...a hundred flying carpets of scent overlapping each other".
"...most classic feminine's undergo breast reduction at each reformulation, and partly due to the outrageous, borderline-slutty girliness of many modern feminines, which makes the ladylike masterpieces of an earlier age seem positively virile."
Beyond Paradise (Estee Lauder)
"But realistic florals, though they may be achievements, should really be judged by a panel of bees rather than humans. Women have no business smelling like flowers".
Note this perfume, a symphonic floral, is given a five star rating and the comment is directed at other fragrances.
I found many other interesting ideas in the introductory section such as 'top notes' or sets of chemicals that shout louder than others and I have a feeling the enhancement of some wine varieties will head in this direction perhaps created from yeast cultures or genetic modification.
The development of new varieties by breeding is the long road these days and with faster methods who knows how grapes can be altered which made the knowledge that fragrances are 90% by weight synthetic and more by price being perhaps an indicator of the new world of wine. In case you have wondered naturals are very expensive, perhaps 10 times the price of synthetics.
Knowing that, "Many musks, ambers, several lemons, and at least two crucial lily-of-the-valley components are not found in nature", makes the mind spin with possibilities. Though it was pleasing to know that, "Naturals are more interesting as they are not pure - and may have hundreds of molecules".
There have been many recent advances in understanding how we smell and as you might expect the genetics common to us all mean your top note may well be someone else's sour note. Though these intriguing and difficult scientific concepts are rightly I think not covered by this book.
What Perfumes is, is an indispensable buying guide which will save you from making serious errors. If selecting wine seems all too confusing please take a deep breath before you venture into the land of perfumes and take the hint by arming yourself with this wonderful book.