Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Conradin was dreadfully afraid of the lithe, sharp-fanged beast, but it was his most treasured possession. Its very presence in the tool-shed was a secret and fearful joy, to be kept scrupulously from the knowledge of the Woman, as he privately dubbed his cousin. And one day, out of Heaven knows what material, he spun the beast a wonderful name, and from that moment it grew into a god and a religion….Every Thursday, in the dim and musty silence of the tool-shed, he worshipped with mystic and elaborate ceremonial before the wooden hutch where dwelt Sredni Vashtar, the great ferret. Red flowers in their season and scarlet berries in the winter-time were offered at his shrine, for he was a god who laid some special stress on the fierce impatient side of things, as opposed to the Woman’s religion, which, as far as Conradin could observe, went to great lengths in the contrary direction. And on great festivals powdered nutmeg was strewn in front of his hutch, an important feature of the offering being that the nutmeg had to be stolen. These festivals

were of irregular occurrence, and were chiefly appointed to celebrate some passing event. On one occasion, when Mrs. De Ropp suffered from acute toothache for three days, Conradin kept up the festival during the entire three days, and almost succeeded in persuading himself that Sredni Vashtar was personally responsible for the toothache. If the malady had lasted for another day the supply of nutmeg would have given out.

The Houdan hen was never drawn into the cult of Sredni Vashtar. Conradin had long ago settled that she was an Anabaptist. He did not pretend to have the remotest knowledge as to what an Anabaptist was, but he privately hoped that it was dashing and not very respectable.

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At the Moment …


READING an old paperback that once sold for fifty cents and is full of dark and witty short stories by the British writer, H. H. Munro (1870-1916), whose pen name was Saki. The name of the book is Incredible Tales and it has a couple wonderfully macabre stories that appeal to me right now, probably because I’m getting over a cold and my mood is less than sunny. I always feel slightly spiteful towards the Universe at large when I'm sick, and somehow reading satire seems to help (makes me feel like I’m getting revenge—against who or what I’m not really sure). My favorite story from the bunch is one in a which a boy who is under the care and guardianship of a dreadful cousin—one of those mean, spinsterly women one finds in childhood fairytales—begins worshipping a ferret that he is secretly keeping in an old shed in a forgotten area of the garden. (He is also secretly keeping an old hen in another area of the shed; a creature not worshipped like the ferret, but lavished with affection, since the boy’s affections have nowhere else to land). He names the ferret Sredni Vashtar and eventually his devotion to his idol pays off, as the great Sredni Vashtar makes quick and certain dispatch of the nosy old cousin. As you can tell, the stories in Incredible Tales are not new in their ideas, but the language is so perfect and smart in that uppercrust-British way that makes reading them feel like one is partaking of bon-bons:

And now that I'm able to smell again, here's my mini-review of Idole de Lubin eau de toilette:

Smoky, spicy, boozy, leathery—most of the time when I hear those words in regard to a perfume, I imagine fragrance molecules so dense that, if thrown against the wall like spaghetti, they’d more than stick: they’d peel the paint off when you went to retrieve them. But imagine these molecules getting the Olivia Giacobetti treatment—which is to say, imagine them in the hands of a perfumer who is skilled in the making of olfactory smoke rings and parachute cloth; in other words, skilled at transforming heavy notes in a way that allows them to breathe—and even float—while maintaining their recognizable personas. Idole stands out from a good number of other Giacobetti fragrances in that it is one of her bolder creations: it has impact, and on initial application smells like dried orange peels doused in rum and lit up by a flambé torch. But after its top notes relax, Idole becomes a spicy, woody leather scent that hovers somewhere in the airspace between Sultry and Ethereal. Inspired by the ancient maritime spice trade, it’s one of those rare perfumes in which I find myself nodding my head and saying, yes, here’s a concept that has been thought through and executed convincingly. Idole’s distinctive bottle, designed by Serge Mansau, takes its inspiration from the sail of a traditional wooden boat, and coupled to the fragrance, it’s easy to feel like you’re on a ship of old, riding waves and wind as you convey the spice of the Orient to its new destination. Idole is extravagantly spicy—the exact notes aren’t listed (see list, below), but cardamom and clove are prominent to my nose, and I think I detect nutmeg too—and as it dries down, Idole segues into a supple leather scent enhanced by wood. It smells of these things diaphanously, however; as if they arrive to the nose on an arid wind.


Or, as a blogging friend—the lovely Asali—recently put it: Idole lies over the skin “like a veil”—proving that extravagance need not equate with heaviness. In this regard, it reminds me of Frederic Malle Noir Epices, as both fragrances eschew the heavy amber-and-vanilla base of traditional spice perfumes. (There is some vanilla in Idole, but it is a svelte amount.) Not that they smell alike—Idole is a more rustic spice scent, with its smoky, boozy bent, while Noir Epices offers up a polished and urbane take on the theme—but both manage in their own ways to make spice soaring and weightless.

Idole de Lubin eau de toilette has notes of rum absolute, saffron, bitter orange peel, black cumin, Doum palm, smoked ebony, sugar cane, leather, and red sandalwood. It can be purchased at LuckyScent.com, where a 75-ml bottle is currently $120. A decant of this fragrance was gifted to me by perfume blogger Christos of Memory of Scent.


Incredible Tales, copyright © 1966 by Dell Publishing Company (Dell Publishing Company, Inc., New York, 1966, pp. 13-14)

Bottle image is from a perfume seller site from Poland, www.missala.pl; book photo is from paperbackswap.com.

At the Moment . . .

January 13, 2012: