This Monday, on the very same day, I had two special people enter my home. One is an Iranian santur-maker, who also will install new carpets in my place after many years of begging my landlords to do something about it. I was so pleasantly surprised by his interest in the various random musical instruments scattered around the house, and his noble manners (unlike any other handyman that ever crossed my path) that I'm almost convinced that I should begin learning to play this elusive instrument. If only because they are handmade by him and can be carried around rather than be wheeled out by two bodybuilders whenever you need to move (or get your carpets changed).
The other was Dana El Masri, who you might have heard first about through her blog The Scentinel, through which she shared her adventures studying at GIP (Grasse Institute of Perfumery) and have just a little over a year ago launched her own indie brand, Jazmin Saraï, which is based out of Montreal.
What do perfumers do when they get together? Mostly smell each other's creations and more often than never also share the woes of the industry (packaging agonies, ingredients restrictions and prohibitive costs is what we tend to whine about). It was refreshing to have a lot less of the latter, and a lot more of smelling and marvelling at what came out of each of our ateliers. The whining was more about how people can NEVER pronounce our name properly (FYI: Dana's name is simply pronounced Da-na, now "Dayna" or any other Englishized distortion of these two straightforward syllables, just as we would call her in Israel). It was a fun sniffathon and I finally got to experience not only all four of Dana's creations, but also the fifth one that she's working on. They were all gorgeous, well-composed and original and I must admit that even though when I looked at the website a year ago I was a bit skeptic of the music and perfume connection, once I smelled the perfumes all my doubts have disappeared.
Otis & Me:
Smoky yet light and green. The most subtle, and the most natural-smelling of the bunch (by the way, all of Jazmin Saraï perfumes have a high proportion of naturals, which is very apparent). Unfortunately it did not fare well on my skin and with all the strong personalities next to it I was barely able to experience its evolution on the skin. This one deserves a proper sampling. But suffice is to say that it is based on coffee - a note that I feel is underappreciated in the perfume world. It is actually a lot more diverse and capable than just making appearances in gourmands.
Fruity yet green, floral and with an underlining musk (FYI: Dana only uses macrocyclic musks, and these are the ones that not only smell better but are also the kind that is naturally occurring in various plants and are more friendly to the environment). It smells cool and a bit metallic, but also very vibrant and colourful. It reminded me of a scentsthat I admire but can't get near anymore, unfortunately (due to negative conditioning) - l'Ombre Dans l'Eau. It also smelled like a more fleshed-out rendition of what I would have imagined Jardin Sur Le Nil should be like before actually smelling it. It has the mango - not quite ripe and overly sweet mango, but still little green, and there is a lot more body and an interesting evolution to it the Sur Le Nil (which I experience to be only an empty aura - sillage with no personality).
How You Love:
Begins very sweet with a well-rounded sweet honey note. Nothing funky there (which is always a challenge with honey). It envelopes you like a hug. It's how I would imagine the honey perfume that Alyssa Harad talks about in her book Coming To My Senses (I know she reveals eventually what it is - but I never smelled it, so I can keep imagining it as something else all I want). There is a nutty element that reveals itself as some point, a little like hazelnut, and the dry down, while still maligning a lot of the honey, also has a warm, slightly dirty musk beneath it all. Dana has graciously left a sample of this behind, so I will wear this again and write a proper "review" of this soon.
Olfactory portrayals of Rock n' Roll often involve patchouli. So this "translation" is not what makes Led IV original. What does is how the patchouli is played: the fermented, wine-like quality of this controversial note are amped up by boozy davana. An herb from the Artemisia family that walks a fine line between smelling like strawberry jam, to someone who puked their strawberry daiquiri... It might sound gross, but it's what makes this note both challenging and satisfying to work with. The more I let Led IV sit on the skin, the more it grew on me: the warm, spicy muskiness of patchouli mingled with this oddball of an accessory note, complementing it but also making it very clear that it's not a patchouli like all the other niche patchoulies that have saturated the market as of late.
No. 5 was the lovelies of them all. It does not have name yet, but it's based in castoereum, and both the leathery and amber qualities really stand out right from the start. These are beautifully complemented by the leathery floral notes of osmanthus absolute. It's dripping honeyed labdanum. It has a luscious, incense with smokey-honey character underlined with a subtle, slightly nutty musk. The drydown reminds me of Laurie Erickson's beautiful Incense Pure. I am pre-ordering a full bottle of this. I have forgotten to ask her what song was the inspiration for this scent. So we will all have wait patiently until its name is revealed...
While the connection between the Santur-making careptman and a synesthetic Egyptian princess may seem only apparent to me - the connection between music and perfume is more than random. Emotions, frequencies and the same area of the brain processing both is what make these two mediums so profoundly deep and ineffable. We remember our loved ones not only by their scent, but also the sound of their voice and the music we listen to while with them. That's why we'll often find ourselves hugging an unwashed sweater while listening to old records when our baby is gone for a little trip (and of course both will trigger the waterworks if we end up breaking up).