Friday, May 15, 2009

Green Notes

If there's a plant whose leaves capture dewdrops more beautifully than Lady's Mantle (alchemilla mollis), I'd like to know what it is.
And isn't it the most beautifully blue shade of green?
And speaking of green (very clumsy segue, forgive me), one of the department secretaries and I were speaking of the green top notes of a perfume sample I'd passed along to her -- a sample of Hermès Kelly Calèche. Ros loves trying out new perfumes and I'd got some extras thrown in with a bottle of KC I bought a few months ago. She handed it back to me a few days later. The verdict: not for her. While she liked it after a few hours, she really didn't like the way it began, and I had to agree with her. I find the initial fifteen-thirty minutes, at least, to be too green, peppery almost, a scent I associate with Raid or Off (perhaps a reader who knows more about perfume can help me out here by identifying what I'm responding to).

But I told Ros about this passage I'd read in Chandler Burr's A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York. I've already quoted this passage when writing about Burr's book over here, but I had to look it up again the other day after mine and Ros's conversation. It helps explain why this perfume mesmerizes me:

In 2007 [Jean-Claude Ellena] created a perfume of a singular importance to Hermès. It was called Kelly Calèche. Hermè launched it in September. Though it used the Calèche name, it was not olfactorily a flanker; Ellena had created an entirely new perfume. The genius of Kelly Calèche is that it opens on the skin as a transparent modern, built on a sunlit green that approaches but, with a delicate exactitude, does not actually touch floral. The fragrance is structured by a glass angularity whose beauty is as much in the precision of its calibration as in its scent, a highly architectural piece. But it is only after a certain time that one realizes where it is going. The perfume becomes that rarest of things, a completely wearable contemporary leather.
I love this kind of writing -- the way it bridges the gap between the abstract and the concrete -- and for me, at least, it captures the process of the perfume in time. I have other perfumes I like better overall, and I'm not sure I'll buy another bottle of KC when this one's finished. But I'm fascinated by the subtle, slow process by which it changes and I love, love, love the last stage which yields the scent of a gently violet-scented lawn handkerchief that's been in a good leather purse for some time. Enjoy your weekend!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. What a beautiful plant!

    I'm going to have to break down and buy that book. I've been meaning to read it for some time now, but the passage you've posted has hooked me.

    It's funny, the topnotes are what I love most about both Kelly Calèche and Jardin Sur Nil. I think they're both very modern fragrances each in their own way. I'd put aside both for the cooler months, but now I want to wear the KC today.

  3. I cannot say I remember what this perfume smelt like, I do remember a luscious perfume they made called Amazon which seemed to disappear then reappear in a different guise.
    I tend to curdle most fragrances, they always end up smelling very sweet and cloying. I currently LOVE Rose by Paul Smith. But I currently wear Chanel Allure Sport, which is not the first time I have preferred a man scent to women's.

  4. I've had that book on my list for some time, perhaps it is time to read it. I may also have to get a whiff of that fragrance, it sounds intriguing.

    And I love the alchemilla mollis; it is one of my favorite plants and you have captured it beautifully.

  5. Pseu: I should clarify. When I say I had to agree with Ros, I should say instead that I know what she means. The top notes have a quality that does remind me of bug spray, something there I don't quite "like" -- but they also hook me in. I don't know Jardin du Nil but I'll have to try it and compare.
    I'm sure you'll find the book worth reading.
    Alison: I wonder if you'd like Terre d'Herm`s then -- it's another favourite of mine, even though it's actually a man's scent. Gorgeously cedar-y!
    Mardel: Part of what I love about alchemilla is that it's such a great little workhorse in the garden. It's easy to take it for granted, but it deserves a fresh eye from time to time, I think.

  6. That is a gorgeous passage--I see what you mean about the balance between the concrete and the abstract. I'm going to have to make a note of the title.

    It's so nice to be back in this world and to be witness to the sensitive details at work in yours. There is always something lovely here....

  7. "I love, love, love the last stage which yields the scent of a gently violet-scented lawn handkerchief that's been in a good leather purse for some time."
    that is a beautiful way to describe anything!
    i think they should bottle whatever smell they are filling their store with (leather, i guess) because it is intoxicating.

  8. P'meister: Isn't it great writing! I see you commented on my friend K's comment over at my other blog -- I think she really nailed it on the value of this kind of writing as well as writing about food, music, etc., that testing of language, so exciting.
    Up/Down: I'm so partial to the smell of leather, (providing it's been tanned/dyed appropriately) and yes, the innards of a Hermès store would make a great perfume!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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