Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ancient Mystery: La Myrrhe

Before such storied scents as Muscs Kublai Khan and Cuir Mauresque, Christopher Sheldrake fashioned an “oriental” that clearly was an impostor in the seraglio. La Myrrhe, released in the mid-90’s, has all the markings of a foreign-born harem girl who won’t give in easily to eastern customs. She’s the opulent amber-eyed one who prefers French poésie over dates and pomegranate juice. The other girls think she’s too sophisticated for her age and development, not realizing her deep education abroad ... before her abduction.

Fast-forward to the present. I’m having a quick morning café latte at the local espresso bar. An auburn-haired student, a Penguin classic tumbling from her hand, orders a latte e miele. She leans toward me for the sugar and, in that moment, it hits me. This thing of beauty she is emanating. I lean close and point at the air; she smiles. Myrrh, she purrs, the oil.

Contrary to popular belief, myrrh is not always nose-singeingly dry and bitter. It certainly can be, but more often it exudes sweetness with a hint of the medicinal, reminiscent of pine overlaid with ripe, pulpy fruit. It is this aspect of myrrh that Sheldrake sets, dark and jewel-like, at the center of his creation. As a kid, I sometimes fantasized about putting gemstones in my mouth to see how they’d taste. This is how I’d imagine a ruby to taste. The aldehydes and bitter almond, which mark La Myrrhe’s Western provenance, form an ornate setting, ensuring that this rock indeed is one for the ages.

The girl is reading Rimbaud.


Blogger indieperfumes said...

I love Myrrh as a stand alone. I have some. Of course she was reading Rimbaud.
Stands to reason.

I have tagged you, so that means you're it! Hope you don't mind...
please see my post today, it happened to me so suddenly too, from Olfactarama, by way of Helg at Perfume Shrine. That one!

October 17, 2008 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger Divina said...

Dear Chris, you described myrrh so very well. I was very misguided as a child as to what myrrh would smell like - you see, I was born in Greece where orthodoxy is embedded in the culture and it is a very normal belief amongst people that the bodies and bones of saints smell of myrrh (in fact it is one of the 'indication' that a monk or priest that has passed away is indeed a saint). I always imagined myrrh to smell magical, sweet and otherwordly. Imagine my surprise when as an adult interested in perfumery I started acquiring myrrh essential oils from different sources to see what it really smelled like! Not what I expected at all, then :P Aside from the very salient medicinal quality you already mentioned, I find good myrrh also has a certain 'leathery' aspect to it.

October 18, 2008 at 4:09 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Divina, Thanks for the anecdotal info. Wow. Just leading a virtuous life is difficult enough, let alone making sure your bones, post-exit, smell of myrrh. LOL. I must get myself to Enfleurage on Bleecker St for a sampling of some good myrrh oils.

October 18, 2008 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Aimée L'Ondée said...

Hm, you're tempting me to explore myrrh some more. I do indeed like opoponax, which is also called sweet myrrh, apparently, and have some essential oil. I'd like to try some myrrhs as well, and of course I need to try La Myrrhe as well!

October 18, 2008 at 9:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It may be that I've been reading too much fantasy lately, but my "La Myrrhe", "la" notwithstanding, is a gentleman. Not young, good-looking in an austere way, perhaps with shoulder-length, silver hair. An aging chevalier, soft-spoken, educated, polite, with something about him hinting at interesting layers of knowledge, personality and mysterious adventures to be explored and discovered, should he choose to converse with us.
And he reads Verlaine. Or Catullus. In Latin, of course.

October 20, 2008 at 5:34 AM  
Blogger carmencanada /Grain de Musc said...

La Myrrhe is a masterpiece: to me, a perfectly, oddly skewed East-meet-West, N°5 by way of the Three Wise Men sort of scent. Myrrh does have orange-y facets, doesn't it? I've been wanting to get the resin to burn it in my house, and never quite find the time to dig around for it in Paris...
What a lovely encounter with the Rimbaud reader (it *does* figure).

October 20, 2008 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Aimée, Dinazad and D.,
Myrrh is handled so well here - not the usual invocation of the name and then attendant passing-off of the erstwhile exotic. Yes, Catullus most certainly comes to mind; the naughty and urbane blending into always almost (too) perfect recitative. As for the orange-y elements, yes, there's a fruit there with the slanting-light of orange blossom. The mahogany of the juice is masterful in and of itself.

October 24, 2008 at 11:57 AM  

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