"The romantic genie and his bottle" By Luca Turin
Some forms of beauty are forever destined to remain minority interests: for example, stand among the crowd in front of Michelangelo’s David and marvel at the veins on his large, idle white hands. Then turn 90 degrees right and look at Cellini’s Perseus, ignored, remote, aloof from the messy job just done (taking out Medusa). Now ask yourself: If, as is likely, David wears Eau Sauvage, what rare, somber fluid sits on Perseus’ bathroom shelf ?
Every child is at some point a small Perseus, and this infatuation with the dark and the lonely is for most people an acute condition, best caught early in life like mumps, and which seldom recurs. For some, however, it lasts long enough to require a matching fragrance. Those who read the Count of Monte Cristo through tears at age 50 want something to sprinkle on their stubble before setting out into a dark and stormy night. But what ?
Let me be blunt: the list is not long. We can rule out the merely melancholy: sadness has its uses, but tends towards inaction. A properly romantic perfume should incite to adventure. Wait for autumn to come, remember Radiguet’s "Le Diable au Corps" and pay a visit to Serge Lutens’ enchanted shop in the Jardins du Palais Royal. Once there, boldly demand Bois de Violette. This miraculous fragrance, a love story in a bottle, is a variation on Shiseido’s Féminité Du Bois and restores the synthetic violet of methyl ionone to its rightful place as the most poetic molecule ever made.
More virile ? Walk up among the fallen leaves to 34 Avenue Montaigne, enter the glittering Caron shop and ask for Tabac Blond, the archetypal leather fragrance. Leathers are romantic in every respect, far too much so for the average fragrance firm, every one of them a heroic commercial failure. Find Tabac Blond too sweet ? Go to the phone booth outside the Petit Palais and phone Knize & Co in Vienna at +43 1 51 22 11 90. They sell gentlemen’s apparel (Arnold Schoenberg used to dress there, conservatively one assumes) and since 1934 have been steadily making Knize Ten, as fine clean, joyful a leather as it is possible to make. More luxurious ? Double back towards Chanel in Rue Cambon and buy the greatest leather of them all, Cuir de Russie. Spray it inside your sleeves, step into the Isotta Fraschini (or maybe just a Peugeot taxi) and speed towards the expectant future.