When the local Williams-Sonoma store has mulling spices, apple pie filling and chocolate turkeys on its most prominent displays I know we’re beyond the point of no return. Even the sweet saleslady pushing Gingerbread at CB I Hate Perfume Gallery in Williamsburg could give the witch from Hänsel und Gretel a run for her money. Well ... not that Vetivresse has anything against this veritable “spiceworld” mentality of late, but our idea of November Gemütlichkeit has more to do with darkness and warmth (of the refined sort) than grandma’s-house spiciness. Some key words: amber, ambre gris, incense, patchouli, Mysore sandalwood, Russian Caravan tea, cedarwood and musk. Some images: the Musée National Gustave-Moreau in Paris; the final color sequence in Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev; the temples of Luang Prabang in Laos; smoke rising from an auberge chimney outide Autun, Bourgogne; a wild boar kicking up underbrush in the woods near Bergamo, Italy; a Carthusian entering his cubiculum at the Grande Chartreuse in Grenoble; the Buddha under the Bo tree.
That said, there is almost something ritualistic in the dark richness of Profumum’s Santalum (2006), hands-down the highest-quality sandalwood fragrance I have ever smelled. With truly amazing liquor the color of samovar tea and gobs of essential oils, Santalum is an enchantment from within seconds of application. Its trinity of Mysore sandalwood, myrrh, and extra-subtle cinnamon in eau de parfum concentration is pure sang royal, a step or two closer to the root of a magnificent lineage which, albeit in eau de cologne concentration, includes Etro's inimitable Sandalo (1989). It is like hearing a performance of Vivaldi's Inverno movement while the sun sets behind the domes of Mysore Palace. Sandalwood is the basso continuo upon which the myrrh etches its crystal maze, the golden room shining out into winter’s gunflint gloom.
Longevity is extraordinary – after six hours on my skin, a sweetness, akin to that of Chergui sans that scent’s powder note, lingers on the skin. All I can think right now is: what a candle this would make! Next up, Profumum’s Fiori d’Ambra.