Suzanne's Perfume Journal

January 15, 2008: 

If I Could Scent Them . . .

. . . Peter O’Toole would wear Serge Lutens Chêne.

(Bet you thought I’d pick Serge Lutens Arabie for the man who was Lawrence of Arabia. Sorry. I can’t picture Peter O’Toole wearing a scent that smells like mulled wine, much as I enjoy Arabie and mulled wine alike.)

Chêne, which is French for “oak,” smells somewhat like an expensive single-malt Scotch whiskey—or rather like the old oak cask in which the spirit was aged. Its notes include oak-bark tannin, cedar, birch, wood sap, immortelle, tonka bean, rum absolute, black thyme, and beeswax. The uncomplicated elegance of Chêne is a perfect match for O’Toole’s wit: the wry way he delivers a line or a look.

But all aspects of oak come to mind when I smell Chêne and think of O'Toole, particularly the living tree. Chêne is lean and linear, powerfully so, in a way that matches O'Toole's physique and his talent. Like an oak tree which grows more majestic with age, O’Toole is as riveting and splendid an actor now as ever. If you haven’t seen it, rent Venus, in which he plays the role of a once-famous actor—a character much like himself—who is nearing the end of his life when he becomes smitten with a surly, somewhat hardened young girl. Just as a soaring oak tree provides shade to earthly inhabitants, Peter O'Toole provides shade to his audience in the form of his mellifluous voice. “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?” he begins, quoting the famous poem to his young co-star in Venus. And in that moment, he becomes ageless and she, like all of us, finds in his voice (and in his being) a beautiful respite from the harsher elements of the world.

Photos of Johnny Depp and Peter O'Toole can be found at a zillion places on the Internet. I don't know where the photo of Depp originated from, so can't credit the photographer or publication. The film still of Peter O'Toole and Jodie Whittaker is from the Academy Award-nominated film Venus, directed by Roger Michell and written by Hanif Kureishi.

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. . . Johnny Depp would wear Or Black by Pascal Morabito.

This leather-chypre has a Gothic vibe that  matches his fashion sense and the offbeat, often quirky characters he plays—characters that usually have both a dark and a romantic side. Or Black is as multi-faceted as Depp: with its pepper, leather and sage notes, it’s dry and slightly herbal, but beneath the leather the warmth of amber, musk and oakmoss gathers to lend the scent depth and a masculine sweetness that is hard to describe. It’s the golden, dry sweetness of a Spanish brandy or Fino sherry.

If you can imagine Johnny Depp in motorcycle leather, on a tour of the Andalusian towns of the southwest corner of Spain, stopping off to drink Brandy de Jerez with the old men of the towns and rakishly smiling at the lovely senoritas who have gathered round, then you can imagine how this perfume smells. (No, this isn't a scene from one of his films, but simply what flashes through my mind when I wear Or Black. And yes, I do wear it. Though it's classified as a men's scent, and I bought a bottle for my husband, I can't resist it!)