POWER OF PERFUME

excerpt from NECTARSONGS – Secret Language of  Garden Planet. TR ©2017

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I once closely followed a man around Singapore airport because he was wearing Yves Saint Laurent’s Kouros, which was the signature fragrance of my ex-boyfriend back in the hedonistic eighties. We’d only recently separated, I was 23 years old, en route to London and browsing the duty free hall with a few hours to kill when my inner huntress suddenly awoke. I couldn’t decide whether to tackle the dude or just burst into tears… I’m fairly sure I was smokin’ hot back then, and he was an ordinary-looking, pudgy, middle-aged, bald guy in a crumpled grey suit and I went stalking after him for his scent trail.
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Nowadays I’m middle-aged, pudgy and very ordinary-looking, (although I do still have hair), and I spend most of my time composing cool chypres and warm oriental amber perfumes. These are my two favourite genres in the infinitely vast world of fragrance classifications, and they are what I’m most interested in striving to perfect from a restricted palette of natural ingredients. I’m mostly inspired by perfume classics from the 50’s era of red-carpet glamour and houses such as Dior, Chanel, Guerlain, Patou, Givenchy et al. Much of the luxury fragrance aesthetic of these perfume powerhouses has changed greatly, but back in the seventies and eighties, they were the kings and queens of some seriously marvellous juice.
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I spent a long time stalking, studying and buying commercial perfume – and becoming more and more alarmingly OCD about it all, (opening my perfume cabinet frequently to check that all the unopened boxes were still there, lined up in their genres and classifications and house categories etc), but now I’m cured. I don’t twitch (so much) if the packaging on any of my vintage Hermes is scuffed or the Guerlain flacons aren’t polished and filled up to the same level as each other.
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These days I’m very interested in improving my blending skills, and learning how to decipher really complex natural components in order to recognise subtle distinctions in numerous varieties of botany etc. How does one detect the difference between medium quality oud and priceless kyara? How do Grandiflorum harvests differ across continents?
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As I’m an aromatherapist, I only use essential oils, absolutes, resins, tictures and balsams, so my fragrance ingredients are identified as being derived from the leaf, stem, flower, fruit, seeds, root, bark or secretions of real plants. The simple fact that my perfume ingredients are derived from living plants is what fascinates me, so many complex variables:- variety, climate, season, harvest, distillation, freshness and integrity.
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I know a lot of natural perfume should really be more accurately described as pleasing blends of aromatherapy packaged in amber glass spray bottles. It’s all a personal choice, but for me, if it’s called perfume, it better be perfume, and not something really safe to spritz on when you’re pregnant or especially designed to erase a headache. Perfume should turn heads, invite joy and just make you so glad that you’re alive and sexy as hell… that’s perfume. Aromatherapy is how you want the Swedish sauna to smell.
Some synthetic perfumers look down their noses at natural perfume, and several have asked me ‘don’t you realise that natural Rose and Jasmine oils cause allergies?’ My response is ‘Did anyone ever die from wearing natural perfume? No… Are peanuts banned? No.’. I’m sure there are many corrupt components in the way that some naturals are grown, harvested, distilled, distributed and/or sold. There are numerous multi-level marketing companies selling essential oils who boldly demonstrate what a crooked world we really do live in, in terms of the enormous amount of mark-up they charge on fairly inexpensive products, but the point is – for me, it’s about having freedom of choice to make what I love to wear, and the pioneer’s spirit of DIY that drives my fragrant art. I just need my fragrances to speak the truth about nature. I won’t be told by anyone that roses and jasmine are wrong or dangerous. I just want to furnish some beautiful human beings with stunning works of nature’s own fragrant art.
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I’m not motivated (nor controlled) by any insatiable desire for money. Making natural perfume for me, is something far more cosmic and inexplicable. Some people just immediately recognise the poetic language encoded in my perfume and it’s those highly sensitive and heart-driven people that I want to speak to through my art. Every nose writes their own poetry in perfume, it’s a wonderful vocabulary that speaks powerfully to the abstract realm of selfhood; bound with imagination, memory, desire and mystery.
As an entrepreneur, I don’t want to expand my business to the degree that making natural perfume becomes total drudgery and just rapacious of the precious natural ingredients.
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There is already an enormous number of people purveying perfume in the world; mainstream commercial fragrances, niche and indie fragrances, the natural and the downright nasty. I’m gradually building a lovely circle of artisanal perfume patrons across the globe who really accord with my work. This is personally very meaningful and creatively satisfying. I love to spoil them with free samples and gifts, and it’s a terrific exchange, because I trust their opinions implicitly and send them new things to test for me, and their opinions really help me in finding out when to stop tweaking and launch. I think the secret to life is knowing when to stop.
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©Teone Reinthal 2017