Thursday, July 19, 2007

Powder Keg


The "New York Summer" should have a dictionary entry all its own. Oozing humidity (yes, oozing) such as this provides the substratum for some of the greatest olfactory crimes ever committed against humanity, not the least of which is the Parisian affectation lately acquired by a small faction of Williamsburg hipsters: the canine shit-and-run. Nevertheless (you know who you are) we get on. By the time one reaches the steamy cellar of the New York City subway system, one wishes that the better half of his commuter confrères (and con-soeurs) had given at least a millisecond of thought to personal hygiene. Sadly, the better half has opted for that canned commodity known as deodorant. Now, this is a smell that conjures memories. Lactone-laden products immediately will bring a boy back to the barbershop and the upswept glories of the horsehair brush brandished by the proud Italian arm and sprinkled (quite liberally, at last recollection) with baby powder. Lactones, according to Luca Turin, are "the pastels [of the perfumer's art] and "the cuddliest smells ... almost every one is soft and powdery, sometimes to a fault." They are derived chemically from things which first were isolated in lactic acid, i.e., souring milk. No surprise there. Powder and milk. What could be more like mother? The lactone coumarin, a chemical compound which naturally occurs in tonka beans, sweet clover, hay, lavender and tobacco, plays a major role in adding that powdery, comforting quality to a slew of fragrances including, most famously, Parquet's Fougère Royale (1882) for Houbigant and Jacques Guerlain's Mitsouko (1921), and everything from Kiehl's Since 1851 Original Musk Blend No. 1 (1963) to Santa Maria Novella's Melograno (1965). Whether they are superclean, British and polite, as in Penhaligon's classic English Fern (1911), or seethingly Oedipal, as in Coty's L'Aimant (1927), powder notes don't let us forget what perfumes and eaux de cologne were originally created for: the semblance, if not the stamp, of hygiene.

1 Comments:

Blogger Lucy said...

So true, a powder note is perfect for this hot and humid weather...
love the writing!

July 20, 2007 at 1:29 AM  

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