Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Accordions: Andy Warhol Silver Factory and Fumerie Turque

The traditional fragrance pyramid contains one flaw: unyielding linearity. To say that, on application, a scent is concentrated at a single point from which it then expands in three distinct stages, is too simplistic. Certainly, if pressed, we can all produce the names of fragrances that roughly adhere to this model, but more often these days the fragrances that really provide an odyssey for the nose and the mind are either fairly straightforward or deliciously unstable. It is this latter group that primarily interests me today. It is a known fact among perfumers that a really sterling note is given depth and complexity through the “backup” performance of an often unlikely accord. Many times, such backups are the special signature of a particular house or nose. In perfume-speak, these are the “middle” notes.

In the case of Bond No.9 New York’s Andy Warhol Silver Factory (due out next week) and Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque (2003), the backup accords sequester themselves in a middleground which, in a most nonlinear fashion, exposes itself numerously in the lifespan of the scent (on the skin). And what’s more, these accords seemingly conflict intellectually with the primary idea of the fragrance. In the case of both Silver Factory and Fumerie Turque, the notes which take primary billing are resinous, self-assured, sensual and big. (Did I say “big”?) The backup accords, however, are delicately floral. They are squeezed accordion-like in between the larger notes, amplifying or muting them as the pleats of the bellows expand and contract. Silver Factory has violet, jasmine and iris, while Fumerie Turque has Rose Otto and Egyptian jasmine. Left to their own devices, the tobacco and incense which we associate with these scents would be one-dimensional and literal: we’d either be contemplating a temple brazier or navigating a room of puffing narguiles. Instead, the hidden floral accords deepen and transform these fragrances, sweetening the bitterness of one while sensualizing the social rituals of the other. And instead of inhabiting backlots, simulacrae of the real, both fragrances allow us transport to a shimmering historical moment and to the deepest parts of collective memory.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would seem, from this unfolding of the accords, that these elements are all present at once; but isn't it so that the various notes emerge over time, with the most volatile arising first, and the less volatile, the resins and the musks coming later?

Another query, O Veti: what are we to make of the assertion of Judith Marx in "Gifts for Him" in the November 26 NYer, "Men still wear cologne, but I wish they wouldn't. No matter what you may believe, all men's fragrances smell like the air freshener in a taxi. It is, therefore, not a suitable gift for anyone, except possibly a cabbie."


November 29, 2007 at 5:33 PM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Thanks for this excellent observation. Yes, of course you are right to point out the volatility issue. Hesperidic notes are especially volatile; case in point, Ellena's Bigarade scents for Frederic Malle. But in the case of AWSF, the bergamot seems like an afterthought and my nose just doesn't register it. Rather, it seems to go straight to this wonderful oscillating incense/violet/jasmine with velvety amber underneath. So, yes, chemically speaking, you are spot on but experientially I think I have a case here. And this "experience" is shaped by the work of the perfumer.

November 30, 2007 at 6:59 AM  
Blogger Perfumeshrine said...

Welcome back! You;re in excellent shape I see. Nothing to add further to what you said. Love both those scents :-)

November 30, 2007 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Many classic leather or aromatic chypres have that sneaky floral middle phase -- both the Misses Dior and Balmain, Diorling, the more recent Derby with its sneaky tuberose-jasmine undies stuck under the carnation-clove frills. And Bandit, of course: floral accord seeping through the quinoline tsunami.
As for non-linear perfumes, I find that this is often the case for Lyn Harris's compositions, who seem to seesaw without settling into the normal pyramid sequence.
I second Helg in congratulating you for your return in great shape!

November 30, 2007 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Nice to hear from you, D. Yes, Istanbul allowed me lots of time for meditating on our marvelous sense of smell, which is the subject of an upcoming post. I'm very happy you reference Lynn Harris, as I have had a very similar experience, esp. with Feuilles de Tabac and Fleurs de Sel. But, with Harris (and perhaps you can help me here) there is an underlying note in nearly every one of her scents that I just can't put my finger on.

November 30, 2007 at 1:31 PM  

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