This whole not-being-able-to-smell thing is rather distressing, like the world has lost a dimension. But I’m getting better enough to be bored and fidgety, and I haven’t lost my hearing, so–
Here’s a playlist of songs, from my ramblings on scents that are all tagged as having smoky notes. Many get their smoke from incense, some from black tea; labdanum–rock rose–can have a marvelous creosote layer, and gunpowder gives edgy darkness.
Some of the songs are harsh, some soft, but they all have an intimate bluesy smoke vibe. Enjoy! (And get vaxxed, and take your vitamin D.)
Love Tuberose is a huge ice cream cake cuddle of a scent, and became my favorite comfort fragrance at first sniff.
Starts with a bouquet of white flowers sculpted from sugar paste, with milky sweet notes that slide tropical and faintly fruity–I get a breath of apricot that is most likely me imagining things–so pretty and feminine and uplifting. A half hour later the fun happens. Puffs of whipped vanilla rise from the tuberose, with the creamy lightness you’d expect from jasmine, but they’re pure bubblegum, flirty sass with a hint of powder–if a scent could sound like laughter, this one does. The sandalwood on the bottom keeps it from being too young and giggly. The wood notes are a support for the flowers, giving them strength without taking over, and are more apparent on cotton than silk.
Lasts a good three hours in personal space, then sleeps on the skin with a smile.
All Amouage perfumes are expensive–high end top-shelf bottles with quality ingredients and master blending–but for me, this one is a self-care mood-lifting therapy session with each spray, and worth the cost of a big bottle.
Starts with a cuppa ginger tea, a bit of citrus and powdered sugar stirred in, then gets fizzy and trippy.
Tuberoses bloom, bubbly and brash, arguing with the jasmine–who manage to pepper some sharp retorts–in an absurd and delightful Monty Python routine, complete with Silly Walks in vanilla lingerie. There’s a fun colorful vibe, too, in a cartoons-for-adults way, as if the scent cloud is infused with silk scarf hues.
And it lasts for hours, slowly settling close to the body with an occasional carbonated giggling hiccup of ginger ale and woody spice. In the morning it’s still there, a smudge of watercolor sigils on the skin.
Lord of Misrule is what to wear to wild Bacchanalia parties where you sign a waiver to not hold the host responsible for any bruises, scratches or accidental pregnancies.
A pinch of lemon zest, then a bite of fresh ground black pepper–with sharp teeth, enough to make one wake up and pay attention–and woody patchouli that’s been sweetened with a hit of licorice powder. The base is everlasting vanilla kisses, dark and dirty and rough in the best way, that linger on clothes and sheets for several nights afterward.
On the right guy, this would give soft demi-satyr vibes. On the right woman, this would be dangerous.
I have mixed feelings about the Hunger Games series, but the movie soundtracks were amazing.
Opens with Ruby Red pink grapefruit juice cocktail spiked with raspberry Chambord, and as it warms, the roses bloom sweet with vanilla, and stay there for days. Weeks, even.
The rose masks the violets, I only smell them in my hair (which is Covid-19 long right now) and on my shirt cuffs when I’m not wearing it. If I pin my hair close to my head the roses open again, same if I re-wear the jacket. In a hot bath the roses get thorny, woods with a bitter bite of the grapefruit again, gorgeous, yet also a bit masculine.
There are sexier fruity roses out there—(come to me, baby) Angel Nova and (sigh) Sådanne—but none as delightfully mercurial or long lasting.
Just discovered Esperanza Spalding, a cool jazz artist with a lot of Joni Mitchell energy–
This one is gorgeous: beeswax comb filled with vanilla and flower nectar and a bit of tonka that manages to come across as animalic, and so incredibly sweet you expect it to be sticky on the skin. The heliotrope–which I’ve not been a fan of lately–gives nice structure to the benzoin, and a lovely powder dryness to the honey-syrup.
There’s a brilliant smudge of labdanum on the bottom, a perfect hint of beekeeper’s smoke. Fills the room like a summer swarm and lasts forever.
I loved it passionately until the guy said it reminds him of that scented toilet paper from the ’70’s and now that’s all I smell and I’m so sad about it.
Tank Battle’s older sibling who drinks too much and swears a lot, and I’m obsessed.
A shot of benzoin bourbon out of the bottle and a heavy draw of labdanum smoke, and then slides easy into creamy tuberose. Sweet and lazy, it lingers close for the evening, a faint breath of patchouli keeping it just a little dirty.
Sexy as hell.
The opening of this is fun–I love when musicians tune onstage.
I was sixteen when I saw the Stravinsky Fountain in Paris, and fell in love with Niki de Saint Phalle’s wonderful sculptures.
She released her perfume in 1982–as a way to fund her life-long Tarot Garden sculpture project–with a variety of illustrated bottles, including a zodiac series called Eau Defendue.
The eau de toilette opens with peaches and wormwood, and mint–that has just enough of a toothpaste-and-orange-juice dissonance to make one wake up and pay attention, not unlike the vibrant color-blocking of her sculptures–weird and bright, yet pretty.
Carnation and patchouli and some green-dyed-leather twists it around for several hours, and woodsy moss covers the skin for the rest of the day.
Jean Tanguely, Niki’s partner, insisted that moss be allowed to grow on the Centre Pompidou sculptures, as Nature’s contribution to the art–so it can’t be a coincidence that the perfume carries the same green notes.
Igor Stravinsky (watch a video of him conducting here) was a huge influence on John Williams, as well as The Beastie Boys, who sampled The Firebird Suite in two of their songs from Hello Nasty.
I like to think Niki de Saint Phalle, whose artistic style included found materials and juxtaposed media in her feminist compositions, might have approved of this cover by Robyn Adele Anderson. (And the guy on the Theremin is awesome!)