Suzanne's Perfume Journal

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a bottle of perfume from LuckyScent, and along with it came the complimentary samples they allow you to choose when you make an order—one of which was Aroma M Geisha Green. I can’t say I’m totally sold on Geisha Green, but it’s an unusual scent that my mind won’t let go of: I wore it for five days straight last week, wondering what I could possibly relate it to if I wrote about it, and just about the time I considered myself stumped, I took a trip to New York City where everything fell into place. Walking the streets of Manhattan, looking up at the buildings and catching sight of some beautiful rooftop gardens, I remembered a movie I once loved because its romance centered around two things that were irresistible: the oddly sexy appeal of French actor Gérard Depardieu (not today, but in this film made 23 years ago), and an enchanting New York city apartment with both a rooftop garden and a conservatory.

“The story of two people who got married, met and then fell in love” is the tagline for Green Card, the 1990 romantic-comedy in which Andie MacDowell plays the role of the beautiful woman, uptight and self-absorbed, who falls for the oafish yet passionate Frenchman played by Depardieu … but only after entering into a fake marriage to get what she initially wants: the aforementioned apartment! To be fair, she’s not the only one who wants something; the film’s premise rests on the acute, individual desires of both parties—MacDowell’s character, Brontë, and Depardieu’s character, Georges—to acquire residency of a sort. Georges, an illegal alien, needs a marriage certificate in order to obtain “the green card” that grants him permanent-resident status in the US, whereas Brontë, a horticulturist, requires it to land her dream apartment (because the members of the co-op board aren’t about to lease it to an irresponsible singleton).  As such, this marriage is an arrangement on paper between two people who have never met (unless you count the five minutes they spent in a coffee shop with the mutual friend who brokered their deal) and who plan on never seeing one another again.

Of course, anything recorded on paper, even the flimsiest of marriages, has weight, and some weeks later, officials from the US Immigration and Naturalization Service place a call to Brontë, requesting an interview with the couple to determine whether the marriage is legit. After Brontë tracks down Georges, who is still in New York making ends meet by waiting tables, the movie takes off in a direction that is familiar and would be forgettable if the setting wasn’t so enchanting, the acting so charming. At their interview at her apartment, Brontë and Georges present a convincing image of marriage until Georges is asked to show one of the agents to the bathroom and, in his failure to find it, directs the gentleman to a closet instead. His slip-up arouses suspicions and another interview is scheduled, this one to be conducted like a test, with the couple grilled in separate rooms at the INS office. Failure to pass it will result in criminal charges against Brontë and deportation for Georges, so the two of them get serious about getting to know one another—with Georges moving into Brontë’s place for the few days leading up to the second interview.

I always wonder whether in real life opposites truly do attract, but in the movies and in perfume, the axiom holds up well. The appeal of watching Brontë and Georges together is in seeing how their contrasting personalities have the effect on one another of a foil: a foil that, true to the origin of the word, makes them shine more brightly as a unit than they do on their own. Brontë accuses Georges of being a fat slob; he accuses her of being a snob and as prickly as a cactus; and both of them are right. But Bronte never looks more feminine and appealing than when she’s standing next to Georges’ husky and smiling self, rather than next to her boyfriend (a guy I haven’t alluded to but who is Brontë’s complement in terms of his prim good looks, pinched expressions and arrogant assumptions). And more important than the accentuation of opposites is the meeting point where opposites touch and bleed into one another. Georges’ passionate and unpretentious approach to life lends Brontë’s cultivated existence a sense of true vivacity. There is a point in the story where he is showing her the small homemade tattoos he acquired in his youth, while living in the streets, and Brontë softens and has a response that is fuller—more inquisitive and tender—than she originally seems capable of.

I could go on with a similar string of examples for her effect on him, but as my analogy has now been established, I might better get on with a description of the perfume that prompted it. Aroma M Geisha Green is a perfume oil that pivots on the smell of absinthe--the infamous French spirit derived from wormwood, anise and other botanicals—and it opens with a bracing aroma that smells like an odd mixture of every intensely green thing you can imagine: mint, anise, grass, limes and a medicinal herb that reminds me of clary sage. (These are not the actual perfume notes but what comes across to my nose.) I also get a heavy hit of what smells like men’s shaving cream: a barbershop scent that makes me think there might be some geranium in the composition, and which makes me view Geisha Green as quite masculine-leaning. Even so, for as pungently green and masculine-leaning as it smells, there is a quietness about Geisha Green, largely due to the fact that it’s a perfume oil that hovers close to the skin. Taken altogether—its jarring cacophony of green odors, its masculine bent, and its air of quietude—this fragrance threw me in terms of trying to pin an image to it. And then in New York, I saw the roof gardens and Georges Fauré came to mind. Geisha Green, for me, is the olfactory representation of Georges: the scent of a man—a somewhat jarring and disheveled man who, when asked to play a piano, fakes it by making discordant tones function as the accompaniment to a poem, and in doing so, reveals that he is also quietly intelligent. Yes, Geisha Green is the scent of such a man sitting in a green environment.


Because this is the persona it assumes for such a long stretch of time, one might mistake it for a linear fragrance. A couple hours later, though, it begins to transition into, of all things, an amber scent! One that smells undeniably good, but is so different from what came before, it catches one off guard. Geisha Green’s absinthe accord now floats on a refined aroma that smells powdery, sweet, and creamy in a dulce-de-leche way. In stark contrast to the deep green, masculine accord that preceded it, this phase of the fragrance is all the more delightful and nose-catching—and here is where it’s evident that the pairing of contrasting elements—in art, and perhaps in real life—is what accounts for true beauty and interest. They aren’t easy things to marry and they don’t always work out, but when they do come together, they overstep their separate boundaries in a way that is often memorable.

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July 2, 2013:

Aroma M Geisha Green perfume oil is the creation of perfumer Maria McElroy and has notes of absinthe, black currant, mandarin, violet, amber and tonka bean. It can be purchased from the Aroma M website, as well as from LuckyScent.com, where an 8-ml roll-on bottle is currently priced at $55. My review is based on a complimentary sample I received when purchasing another perfume at Luckyscent.

Image of actors Bebe Neuwirth, Gerard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell from the 1990 film Green Card can be found at a number of sites on the Internet. (As well as the photo of Depardieu and MacDowell in their kissing scene from the film.)

Bottle image of Geisha Green perfume oil is from Luckyscent.com.

Perfume and a Movie: Aroma M Geisha Green and Green Card