Perfume and a Movie:
April Aromatics Nectar of Love and Shall We Dance?

April Aromatics Nectar of Love eau de parfum has notes of bergamot, neroli, rose otto, jasmine sambac, tuberose, ylang-ylang, Indian sandalwood and bourbon vanilla. It can be purchased from the April Aromatics website, where a 30-ml bottle is 189 euros, or in the U.S. from LuckyScent.com, $225 for 30-ml.

Photo of actors Kōji Yakusho & Tamiyo Kusakari in the 1996 film Shall We Dance? is from www.cinema,de; photo of Nectar of Love bottle is from the April Aromatics website (see link, above).


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Suzanne's Perfume Journal

December 4, 2012:

When faced with a sampler set of perfumes, nine of them beautifully lined up in a row, how does one choose which one to partake of first? Especially when more than a few of them have intriguing names: Calling All Angels, Liquid Dreams, Unter den Linden ("Under the Lindens"), Rosenlust, and Jasmina. I could go on—there are nine perfumes in all—but there was one name that was simply irresistible. Nectar of Love. As soon as I read it, I knew I'd be starting there, and I was not disappointed. Nectar of Love is the kind of perfume that is worthy of thoughtful consideration, not only because it's as sensual as its name, but because it's so unusual. You can look at its list of notes and think you know what to expect, but as is often the case with perfume, they form a whole that is unexpected and difficult to describe. Still, it's worth the attempt, and I'm going to make the attempt a little more entertaining by pairing this perfume with a movie—the marvelous Japanese film, Shall We Dance?

Directed by Masayuki Suo and released in 1996, Shall We Dance? presents an unconventional love story rather than the kind of romantic fluff its Rodgers-and-Hammerstein-inspired title might suggest. Shohei Sugiyama is an accountant in a Tokyo firm, a man who is dutiful and successful and, accordingly, works the Japanese businessman's long hours. He rises early and eats his breakfast alone; at night he returns on the late train to his home in the suburbs and, consequently, spends little time with his wife and teenage daughter. His time apart from them is accepted and understood; his wife is proud of him and appreciative of the sacrifices he makes on their behalf. Lately, though, she is concerned that his life has become too serious. She doesn't air this concern to her husband but confides in her daughter, saying she wishes he would get out and enjoy himself more. It is a wish that takes root: One night while returning home, Sugiyama looks out the train window and sees a beautiful young woman standing in the open window of a building, her expression a mirror of the way he is feeling inside, melancholy and aloof. Outside her window is an advertisement for a dance studio, and the next time his train passes by, he glances up and sees her giving ballroom dancing lessons to a gentleman. When he goes to the studio to have a better look, he ends up enrolling in a class which, to his disappointment, is being taught by a short and cheerful, middle-aged woman rather than the willowy beauty whose face lured him there.

At first, Sugiyama’s only interest in dancing is the opportunity it affords him to gaze at this exquisite creature, Mai, who runs the studio and gives private lessons to those who can fork over a princely sum. In time, the enthusiasm of his teacher and classmates win him over, and after putting true effort into learning the footwork, he grows to love dancing. However, due to the extreme modesty of the society he lives in (the film's opening titles explain that ballroom dancing is viewed "with great suspicion" in Japan, much the way public displays of affection are frowned upon), and perhaps because he has emotionally distanced himself from his family, Sugiyama keeps his lessons a secret. When his wife notices a change in his demeanor—sees him coming to life again while spending even more hours away from home—she begins to suffer the pains of being truly left behind. Fortunately, this film doesn't leave her there. What I love about Shall We Dance? is that it has an ending in which one can glimpse a new beginning.

Sugiyama eventually gets a sip of the nectar of love he went in search of; not the full fix he craves. In his case—as is often the case—that’s a good thing. The nectar of love (and by that I mean the early, infatuated state of love that is as powerful as any drug) isn't life sustaining over the long haul, but its addictive siren-song isn't necessarily a bad thing either. While it stirs us to reach for things we can't have and causes us to suffer a bit, the act of reaching often opens our eyes and brings other (perhaps more precious) things into our grasp. True, it doesn't always work out that way, but I would like to think that the craving for love is different from other cravings.

That predilection explains why I'm drawn to perfumes with names like Nectar of Love. If you're going to be a cheerleader for love, you need to surround yourself with the things that remind you of it, and this perfume truly does. Nectar of Love is an organic, botanical fragrance from Berlin-based perfumer Tanja Bochnig, whose perfume house is called April Aromatics. Ms. Bochnig describes it as "an exotic tapestry of fruit nectars and extracts of white Tuberose flowers, night-blooming Jasmine, Bulgarian Rose, Neroli from Tunisia, and many others, woven on a bed of sandalwood."

Nectar of Love opens in a way that many natural perfumes do: a bit spiky and medicinal when it first hits the skin. I know that bergamot figures among its top notes, but I get a hit of what smells like Clary Sage oil, too. This medicinal start to the fragrance calms within the space of five minutes, so should not give a perfume lover pause. Wearing it, and thinking about the movie, I get a picture of the beautiful and rather haughty Mai, and am reminded that the objects of our affections are seldom easy creatures. We hold them aloft by placing them on a pedestal or they hold us at bay for reasons of their own. Love is a thing to be won: when we get it too easily, we don't trust it. In the same regard, I like that Nectar of Love opens with a cool aloofness.

Naturally, though, a perfume so-named has to seduce. It has to bloom into something beautiful that titillates the senses, and Nectar of Love does—just not in the way I expected. I can’t pick out the tuberose in Nectar of Love, and the rose, while more identifiable, is not a forward rose note either. One of the first smells that develops after the top notes fade is a whiff of chocolate—and while I can’t say whether it’s a note of my imagination or whether there’s some patchouli (which can have a cocoa-like facet) in the composition, it is definitely there for me and it sticks around, marrying itself to the florals that warm their way into the mix next. Admittedly, I can’t pick apart these florals (except for a dirty bit of jasmine) and why would I want to? For much of its long wear, Nectar of Love smells like a warm liqueur made of dark chocolate and flowers and a trace of rum-like vanilla that grows more detectable as the scent dries down. It’s not a sweet perfume, despite the gourmand terms I describe it in, and neither is it creamy, but the word “edible” is the first thing that springs to mind when I think about it. Or maybe I should say “drinkable” since that is more in keeping with both the name and the deep, dark, liqueur-like smell of it.

Most of all, though, Nectar of Love smells exotic, in the true, dictionary-sense of the word: “foreign; not native; introduced from abroad....” It’s a fragrance I can’t put my finger on, can’t really figure out, and yet it's alluring as all get-out. There is enough of the familiar about it to draw one in and make you think you understand it, and enough of the mysterious about it to make you doubt yourself. And the combination of the two is intoxicating and exciting, like love that is new; like love that makes you see yourself in a new light and has you shining your shoes, learning some new steps, and getting up on your toes to try and claim it.