October 4, 2009
Stimulating Impossible Desires - Yosh Kizmet & L'Artisan Cote d'Amour
Perfume makers are in the business of (even though they may not consciously mean to be) stimulating impossible desires. Impossible desires such as to materially revisit the long lost places of memories and history, to experience the fantasy travel and wide ranging possibilities of a beautiful world, to have everything at once, both opposite and compatible at the same time.
Perfume can temporarily satisfy cravings for reconciliation of the many layered inner workings of the soul with the outer body's sensations of concrete things, with both natural and creative experiences.
I am thinking of how it is when you find two stylistically disparate perfumes that have some strongly characteristic elements in common. They can express those similar elements in very different ways, each one resolving into its own distinctive personality.
Both Yosh Kizmet and L'Artisan Cote d'Amour are in the family of primarily botanical fragrances. Some say that botanical elements in perfume are like food and when applied to the skin are absorbed by the body and will act internally to affect the body's own odor. I am not absolutely sure this is true, though I permit myself to believe it. (If anyone knows more, please share). I have read that certain essential oils such as lavender enter the skin in a hot bath and are eventually expressed back through the skin, with a very subtle effect. I do know for a fact because I have experienced it that a person's diet of Indian spices eventually causes the breath and sweat to take on the tone of turmeric and cardamon. It is said that though botanical fragrances are very much more ephemeral than those that use fixatives or man made molecules, they are after all, to be reapplied frequently since like food the beneficial effects of the components will blend in with your own body chemistry and distinctive odor.
Yosh as a perfumer has always had a strong predilection to the use of botanical ingredients as the primary components of her designs, and L'Artisan initiated a green line of fragrances that are ecologically correct. I see the thoughtful use of ecologically sound botanicals, as much in demand, are reaching further and wider into the perfume establishment.
Yosh's Kizmet is a perfume oil, very densely floral with an immediate, strong impact of narcissus, playing a high keyed note that morphs into a blend including the notes of hay, turmeric, chamomile, boronia, osmanthus, ylang ylang and dill. I notice this trend of combining strongly aromatic herbs into florals or woody incense notes creates a push pull that brightens and modernizes heavy classical floral and oriental notes. This is a very rich and dense perfume that lingers even after washing, though it does not throw its scent so far as to annoy other people who may or may not be in the mood for it. After about ten minutes the top note of narcissus steps back to a more polite distance and bows into the rest creating a high keyed musky herbaceous tone. The impression for me is of a single narcissus in a wood paneled room with the windows open pulling in the scent of dried grasses. This is a scent that will be picked up by clothes, especially wools and cashmere but that is not a problem for me. I find it layers well with the other scents of everyday city life, like coffee or autumn leaf dust or even road and animal smells. I think it benefits from being spread over a longer length of arm, so that personal skin tone becomes an element that comes through. It has at the same time a forthright and unavoidable manner, and it makes sense to me that Yosh's inspiration was the concept of kismet. This is an old Middle Eastern idea of fate and fortune, that what is meant to be will be. The steady and even strength of the composition relates to an acceptance of the flow in the voyage of experience, while you carry a flower to sweeten the passage.
It was unexpectedly delightful to find that the opposite end of the perfume spectrum of style, L'Artisan's Cote D'Amour had an aspect that related to the liliaceous, herbal Kizmet. It is something like two different writers telling the same story in a Roshamon-like anthology describing a romance with the same person, but at different points in her life, in different locations. There is that commonality of a strong floral beginning crossing into an herbaceous composition. This one's style is transparent and subtle, with the ozonic saltiness of spacious air allowing the dimension of the ingredients enough room to retain every sharp angle and corner. The focus moves back and forth from sweetness and light to tiny reminders of the depth of the sea and the height of the sky. This is an olfactory experience of French nostalgia, for the perfect off-season vacation on the northern French coast's rocky seashore. Open skies with sprays of ocean water reaching into the fresh air that is backed into by stony earthiness, supporting herbal grasses and wild roses that throw their fragrance into the ocean air. In the U.S. I think we have something like this in the coasts of New England, like the rocky beaches of Maine and Newport. For me the salty ozone notes combining with the rose pulls up a soft gardenia-hyacinth-narcissus-like quality from the floral. Notes are rosemary, imortelle, gorse, rose, broom, heather, cypress, green tangerine and pink grapefruit.
The floral aspects of both, in Kizmet very thick and rich and in Cote d'Amour, full and spacious, both combined with herbal/mineral airs, seem dreamy wafting up from the sleeve of a jacket on a warm autumn day, or worn around the house before bedtime.
Both perfumes are available in sample form from Lucky Scent, and if you are in the neighborhood Yosh is at Barney's and L'Artisan at Bendel's and at L'Artisan stores.
Maybe it's just me. These perfumes represent very particular brands of impossible desires, all the more seductive for being so detailed. They pull me into memories I don't personally have, of a luxurious length of time spent on beautiful coast without a care, and/or the peaceful and calm acceptance of a graceful voyage through a fully beautiful life. It's an expansion of my experience, where at the moment the extent of my contact with Nature is personified by this morning's loudly excited starling vigorously plucking at the dried grass heads in my window box. Yes, I know I'm lucky I found these two perfumes at this particular time when they both speak to me fluently in their different languages, about similar wonderful things...
Above, Coast of Brittany by Maurice Prendergast, 1910.