Suzanne's Perfume Journal

I got a chuckle when a certain perfume blogger who shall not be named sent me a sample of Cannabis by the Italian company Il Profumo (not to be confused with La Via del Profumo, which also has a fragrance called Cannabis). I was tempted to drop her a line and ask if some of the crazy-ass stuff I write here made her think I might be the type who inhales. But instead of tapping out an email that might embarrass her (she’s lovely; I would never do that), I tapped the top off the sample vial and imbibed. And I’ll confess, I was hoping to catch a whiff of something that smelled like marijuana drifting over a crowd of people on a hot summer lawn at an outdoor concert—or snaking its ways through the keyhole of a closed door just begging to be opened. However, a dab or two later I realized that whatever Il Profumo’s Cannabis was about, it wasn’t about the acrid and herbal, burning-leaves smell of pot. Instead I’d wound up with Grandpa’s cherry pipe tobacco, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (hello, sexy Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque!), except that Cannabis is not only flagging in the cannabis department, it’s rather weak in the tobacco area too. A heavy dose of heliotrope with its cherry-almond smell renders Cannabis ineffective at smelling like anything you’d actually put in a pipe and smoke. It reminds me of pipe tobacco bought at Wal-Mart and intended to be consumed there (in that section where the old folks gossip and have coffee). Sweet, cherry’d and decidedly unlit—like something Grandpa is expected to pacify himself with (sure, he can tamp it around in the bowl of his pipe and pretend) but not really use.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad perfume—not at all. Its name is just misleading. I’m reminded of the lyrics to a Beatles’ song: “She’s a big teaser, she took me half the way there.”

I can’t find a list of fragrance notes for Cannabis, but to my nose it’s a gourmand comfort scent that smells of heliotrope, tobacco, patchouli, rose, ylang-ylang or jasmine, and vetiver. In the top notes stage, there’s something a little lemony, which might sound like a poor match for the other notes I mentioned, but it’s actually quite nice. If I were to compare Cannabis to another fragrance, I’d reference a rahat loukoum scent like Montale Sweet Oriental Dream, except that Cannabis is less sweet (a plus in my book). There’s nothing remotely smoky or sinful about this scent, and I’m going to venture so far as to say that, had it been named Turkish Delight or even Candy Cigarette, there wouldn’t be such a disconnect upon smelling it—and the fragrance, working in concert with such a name, would likely trigger a lot of delicious memories for people. In fact, I am already remembering the deliciousness of an occasion in my childhood when somebody gave me a pack of candy cigarettes, one of the novelty candies my mother refused to buy because she said it sent a message to kids that smoking was cool. She herself was a smoker at the time but defended her no-buy stance by pointing out that she was a nurse: to her mind, the equivalent of being an ambassador for children’s health, I guess.

Well, you know, we are, all of us, sending out contradictory messages all the time. Can I really blame the proprietress of Il Profumo for saddling this ambery little confection of a fragrance with such a freighted name? After all, I call this page my Perfume Journal, and while I do try and make a solid effort at understanding the perfumes I talk about, much of the time the perfumes are a jumping-off point for thinking and talking about something else. Much of it me-myself-and-I related stuff, in which I'm always hoping you’ll see yourself reflected in my eyes and want to come along for the ride.

So probably I should thank Silvana Casoli, the creator of Il Profumo, because if she hadn’t named this fragrance Cannabis, I might not have had the occasion to think about my favorite pot-related movie and recommend it to you. (’Cause you’re aching to know, right?) The Tim Blake Nelson-directed film Leaves of Grass. Wacky and darkly comic, but also thought-provoking and tender. Edward Norton in a dual role, playing twin brothers—one a rising academic, the other a hick. Gorgeous Keri Russell gutting fish and spouting poetry. Richard Dreyfuss as a Jewish drug lord in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

And I wouldn’t have had the chance to think about candy cigarettes and mixed messages and what I think my mother was really against. Gimmicks; novelty. Not that she hated novelty, but she favored the kind of solid and lasting things you can sink your teeth into, and I think I’m that way too.And I certainly wouldn’t have taken the time to wear the hell out of this fragrance and realize on day two of trying to write about it that I love it. All of it. The incongruous name, the innocent childish sweetness of it, the teasing whiff of tobacco that plays at being grown-up, the almond nuttiness. The reminder that on a day when things are working for me, I can enjoy a gimmick or two, look for what’s real, get lost in the hunt, take a deep drag, and say with a certain level of conviction, It’s all good.

Il Profumo Cannabis parfum can be purchased from the company’s web boutique (prices are in Euros): 50-ml bottle for € 89 or a 100-ml bottle for € 111.

Credits: film still (top of page) is from the 2009 film Leaves of Grass and features actor Edward Norton playing the role of twin brothers; bottle image for Cannabis is from Amazon.com.

November 29, 2011:

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Cannabis by Il Profumo: Day Tripper