scent (3)

From "The Non-Blonde": one of the finest fragonerd blogs around (click image for link)

[Updated slightly, later this morning…]

Further to an earlier post and another from a while further back: still liking the following, as my regulars:

  • Pacifica Mediterranean Fig
  • Illuminated Perfume (Roxana Villa) Aumbre
  • — Green Witch
  • — Hedera Helix

All in solid form (can’t use alcohol-based scents). I’ve also been poking around at other solids for a while now; there’s a list of them towards the end of that aforementioned older post. To which I should add: Diptyque.

Liking them for several reasons. To whit:

  • more or less unisex scents
  • small range of “personal” scents (i.e. for individual human persons), plus a larger one of scents for rooms, whole environment… in which latter category, a number of very novel ones
  • of the small range (four) of scents for people, all are available in solid form as well as eau de t and the other usual suspects, with matching products for scent-layering
  • and of the four, one is a fig! Philosykos: to which Pacific Mediterranean Fig has been compared. Some folks are sniffy, some dismissive, and quite a few prefer the woody whole-tree-ness of the Diptyque fig, others the creaminess of the Pacifica version

  • beautiful packaging, satisfies my minimalist allergies and my love of gorgeous fonts and thoughtful talented composition
  • price for the solid: not out of budget, being a similar range to Illuminated Perfumes. If a scent’s right, it’s right. Withing reason of course: but I’ve yet to see a crazily-priced solid, on the regular market. Made to measure tailored individual ones are a different story, and auctions for antique / vintage perfumes are a whole other ball-game. Nice to see there’s a good practical common-sense reason for using solids, though, besides the unfortunate allergic one.

To see what I mean, and much more, a trip to the Diptyque site is thoroughly recommended; even just to see what proper aesthetes do with mise en page and giving viewers fun stuff to play with and explore, starting with the language of flowers on the home page, “expolore 34 boulevard saint-germain,” and “our story.”

On a side-note, it’s always marvellous to see how advertising and marketing use the terms and ideas of “story” and “story-telling,” their inter-relationship with identity (and individuality, character, marking your stamp, USP, brand-identity), and their fluid interchangeability with “history.” Interesting on a historical note. Histoire in French is still used for both the concepts of “story” and of “history.”

What’s usually, in the modern era, been two distinct separate things—opposites even: fact vs. fiction—were more conceptually united (in French and in some other European languages and cultures) until relatively recently. Closely allied for instance in the high Middle Ages for propaganda and polemical purposes. Looks like another expression of post-modernity is a cultural shift to (or back to?) greater fludity in “story” and “story-telling.” The obvious way that happens, well-recorded by plenty of people from the ’50s onwards (Barthes, Eco, etc.), is in cultural translation, relativism, semiotics and their practical application. Using “cultural” here in the broadest way: in the senses, usage, and implications for language, individual and group identities, social interactions, political organization and power-structures, and the practice of everyday life (with nods to Michel Certeau, yes indeedy). In the construction of what characterises and identifies an entity: in this case, the era or epoch that is current times.

The fig: unlike artificial, man-made constructs (however quintessentially human they might be, and however essential to civilization) like "story," the fig has remained pretty much the same over millenia, and just as delicious and duly appreciated by humans (and other animals, and possibly divine beings too).

The worrisome aspect: relativism. Attacks on absolutes: truth and facts. Rejection of truths scientific and by experimentation and observation; and on truths by deduction, proof, argument, and reasoning. The repudiation of ethical and political rights and wrongs…

The benefit: art becomes life and part of life. Imagination. Existence becomes more poetic. Fiction to the fore…

So… pomo shenanigans aside… how does this figgy delight smell, and how does it compare to Pacifica’s cheaper offering?

Comparisons between Diptyque Philosykos and Pacifica Mediterranean Fig? Full answer coming up in a next post, to be continued…

Quick answer: delicious. Greener, compared to Pacifica Mediterranean Fig. More of that raw green of leaves, a grassy note. Plus an earthiness, like bark and roots. You get a definite sense of the full tree. What gets labelled as the “milky sap note” I’d interpret as somewhere between honey in warm milk–a very warm-clean-human sort of smell–and the even warmer and friendlier human scent of muskiness-with-intent. Which might also be bringing in the scent of the fuzzy dusty bloom on the outside of a fig.

Lascivious indeed. Biblical, in the “knowing in the Biblical sense” way: recalling that the fig is one contender for the true identity of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Not that I’ve constantly got either Holy Writ or sex on the mind at all times, or thinking about either or both every 7 or 30 seconds or whatever the going alleged rate is … oh hang on, that’s a guy thing isn’t it? Casts this whole “unisex perfume” business in a new light. It can’t be turning me into a man, can it? Catch-22: use a unisex scent and I turn into a man, and a right-wing American at that; use a gender-appropriate scent and I conform to right-wing American male stereotypes of what women ought to do/be. Rats.

It’s OK: there’s still that lovely fresh green, and the soft comfortable clean-ness. Balances things out, keeps you on an even keel. This might be the unisex side: there’s a harmony of masculine and feminine stereotypes (gah, gag) but there’s also that very human (and gender-transcending) centre to the scent. Discourages extremism, encourages relaxation and reasonableness. Mind you: does that make this a unisex human scent? Or one that brings out the best feminine side, or best aspects of the feminine, in everyone? Maybe even feminises men… is that a bad thing, if all that means is “takes out the lousy stinky grot” and “brings out the best in you”?

This may all be waxing a bit too poetic and political, but you know how it is with scents: highly associative, in very personal subjective ways. I’d like to think that pleasant smells could be part of making the world a better place, more fragrant in its fuller sense. Scent being tied to food, I’d also been keen–and I’m far from being alone or original in the thought–on food and sharing and exchanging it being a great thing to bring people together. Peace processes built around shared and related dishes, from houmous to colcannon to BBQ sauce. Yes, there might be arguments and fights, but better over food than larger things with greater devastatory impact. And, especially across the most enormous cultural divides, it’s always wonderful and joyous to find unexpected common secret ingredients or tips, handed down by word of mouth…

In the meantime, while we wait for world peace c/o scent and taste to happen, and to keep your senses stimulated whilst awaiting the next figgy post: here’s another lovely piece of figginess. Inspired by a fresh fig tart with orange-flower custard from Fine Cooking (August 1998), here’s the Gastronomer’s Guide version (September 2009, click image for link to recipe):

Fresh fig tart with honey-orange custard: something lovely to look forward to, in summer to autumn.

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