Serge Lutens – Gris Clair

Serge Lutens – Gris Clair


I will start out this post with two admissions. First: I do not tend to view fragrances as “masculine” or “feminine”, rather as well-composed and beautiful, or not. There are several fragrances which I appreciate from both categories, one of my favorites being Chanel’s Egoiste. That being said, Gris Clair is definitely suited to being worn by a man. Second: I have a degree of synesthesia, which means that I perceive abstract things as having color. For example, the number One is white. The letter E is green. While I do not experience this to a degree that is disruptive (unless you consider not being able to wear certain fragrances while dressed in a certain color disruptive), it does sometimes create confusion when my perceived impression is challenged. Case in point, the fact that Thierry Mugler’s Angel was blue-colored was shocking to me, because it was so obviously in my mind the smell of all things deep, delicious and brown. Why I raise this will become clear.

The first time I set out to conquer the masterful body of work that is the Serge Lutens line, I started small. Not in volume, just in size. I obtained a number of sample vials based largely on description and personal inclination. As part of this bounty, I requested a vial of Gris Clair. When the samples arrived, I immediately smothered myself in Tubereuse Criminelle and Ambre Sultan and was out of commission for the rest of the evening. The next morning, I opened the Gris Clair vial and was immediately surprised by the novel treatment of lavender. I liked it well enough, but then I put it away to further explore the more immediately and blatantly intoxicating fragrances.

Then a funny thing happened. Days went by, and I could not stop thinking about Gris Clair. Was that a hint of smoke I detected? How did the interplay between lavender and a certain ashy sensation play out? Like a handsome stranger one sees fleetingly before the train doors shut, I could not stop thinking about this mysterious beauty. I had to seek it out and investigate further.

While I generally associate lavender with warm sunshine, sweeping fields and the fresh-scrubbed innocence of childhood, Gris Clair’s lavender did not fit into any of these categories. This is an adult, refined lavender with a shadowy, ghostly aspect. Gris Clair has a certain chill to it, not unlike the smell of dry burning wood on a cold winter night. While tonka and amber round out the smokiness and give a spark of life and depth to the fire, the predominant impression is that of alternating wisps of lavender and incense smoke. Neither impression dominates, the two just alternate and envelop each other throughout the day in a magical smoky dance.

While the sillage is more serene than some of Christopher Sheldrake’s creations for the Lutens line, the tenacity is no less impressive. It stays with me through the day without my needing to hunt for it. While I would be loath to attempt to pit one Serge Lutens fragrance against another in comparison, this is quite different than many of his creations. Circling back to the synesthesia discussion, I see the entire Serge Lutens line as a color wheel, where certain shades congregate at one part of the circle versus another, grouped by commonalities in composition.  Blues and purples here, yellows and greens there and round again for red and orange. Exchange certain elements of the composition and you no longer have blue, you have orange.


I sometimes have the sense that the house views the fragrances this way as well, given the deep and provocative hues they select for the fragrances. Gris Clair is in fact, light grey and falls to the end of a certain spectrum in the line, closer to a Five O’Clock at Gingembre and a tiny glimmer of Ambre Sultan. If you prefer the other end of the color wheel inhabited by A La Nuit, this will probably not be for you, unless like me, you have room enough in your heart to love them all. Gris Clair… definitely inhabits the other-worldly domain of grey where the sharp lines between black and white fade to abstraction: it is neither lavender nor ash. It is both and yet neither, warm and cold, calm and yet arresting. If I had to select one word to complete the space after the ellipses in the name, the suggestion that there is more to this fragrance than initially perceived, it is this… haunting.


Notes: iris, incense, tonka bean, amber, lavender and wood notes.



Chanel – Coco Noir

Coco Noir – The Unloved Chanel


I must start this post with a disclaimer: I adore all things Chanel to a fault. In fact, my friends joke that I must be Gabrielle Bonheur reincarnate, so great is my passion for Chanel products, history, and tidbits. With perhaps the exception of a couple of male fragrance flankers, the truth remains that Chanel reigns supreme.

That being said, I was surprised to find so many bloggers disappointed (almost to the point of distress), with Chanel’s latest release, Coco Noir. While I understand some of their frustrations given the pre-release marketing descriptions of this product as the ultimate in Byzantine black magic, my interpretation of this fragrance was radically different.

Finding that it is always best to start at the beginning, let’s get one thing straight. Coco Noir is not, and shall never be, Coco. Coco was born in 1984 and as such, embodied all of the characteristics of that era. Noted for its sillage which often entered a room before its wearer did, Coco reflected the larger than life ideals of the 1980s. While most categorize this era as one of opulence, I would argue that another defining factor of this era was a certain innocence and hopefulness. The 1980s saw sweeping social and economic changes as a result of newly industrializing economies, creating a prevailing sense of unstoppable wealth and prosperity. Similar to other fragrances born after times of strife, the focus was on celebration and expression. This was a time when we were just being introduced to life-changing inventions such as the cell phone and Walkman, and we were exhilarated. Little did we know how these devices, then in their infancy stages, would propel us into a super-fast moving and “connected” society which would ironically erode all the time they attempted to save. The 1980s was a time characterized by luxurious enjoyment and contemplation, as opposed to the more immediate gratification desires of our current era. Perfume could take its time unfolding and wafting its charms as opposed to today’s mandate: “Need. Scent. Now”.

The majority of the reviews I read bemoaned the fact that Coco Noir was not Coco, instead of celebrating the fact that it was not Coco Mademoiselle. While Coco Noir does nod in the direction of its candy-coated sister born in 2001, I saw Coco Noir as Chanel’s attempt to claw back the territory away from the sugary lollipop flower fruit-choulis that have come to dominate the landscape, and drag the consumer back to a place of complexity, even if by baby steps only.

While Coco Noir’s top notes of grapefruit and bergamot sparkle in typical Chanel fashion, the reference is more to the newer Chanel creations under the direction of Jacques Polge than either of his predecessors. This is no magical aldehydic veil a la Chanel 22. Contained within the Chanel heart of rose and jasmine are narcissus and rose geranium leaf, which lend the fragrance a subtle spicy quality, though far different from the warm clove heart of the original Coco. The effect of warmth is enhanced once the base notes of musk, tonka bean, sandalwood, and vanilla take over.1936-Chanel-in-Venice

Present throughout is the patchouli. While I understand that it is challenging to disassociate this scent from its current popular and often warped interpretations, patchouli was historically regarded as an exotic fragrance, frequently utilized in opulent incenses. Here then is the reference to the original Coco, and to Chanel’s “Coromandel culture” as referenced by Mr. Polge. The reference to Coco is not literal, only figurative. One must read between the lines. While the longevity is superior to some of Chanel’s more recent releases, it does not possess the tenacity of Coco. It does stay with me through a workday, though by the afternoon I can be caught pressing my nose to my sleeve.

While Coco conveys the organic warmth and fluidity of caramel brown, Coco Noir embodies the spirit of black: defined, contained and discrete. Where Coco is a warm cashmere wrap over a sumptuous silk blouse pulled together with a thick gold necklace, Coco Noir is a well-tailored black velvet jacket. Coco Noir hovers close to the skin unlike its sisters, creating a very personal and intimate experience of warmth, precisely what I need on days when all of my “modern” inventions are driving me to distraction.


Notes: grapefruit, bergamot, rose, jasmine, narcissus, rose geranium leaf, musk, tonka bean, sandalwood, and vanilla.

Coty – La Rose Jacqueminot

Coty – La Rose Jacqueminot

For today’s post, I thought I would focus on a vintage Coty fragrance based on the flower which perhaps more than others has come to symbolize Valentine’s Day: the rose. The Général Jacqueminot rose is an early hybrid believed to have originated in Roussel, France 1853. The Jacqueminot is known for its deep red petals and intoxicating fragrance. It is this rose which was the inspiration behind Francois Coty’s creation La Rose Jacqueminot. While there is some dispute regarding the date of the fragrance’s creation (some sources indicate 1903 while others have stated a later date of 1906) what remains uncontrovertible is this: the success of Coty’s vision of the beauty and depth of this flower.


In what has become a notoriously brilliant marketing move, legend has it that Francois Coty, unable to find a store willing to carry his newly-developed La Rose Jacqueminot “accidentally” let a bottle of it drop and smash on the floor of one of Paris’s most exclusive department stores, sending the ground-breaking scent wafting through the store. Women soon crowded around, clamoring to purchase the fragrance, but whether these were innocent bystanders or “shoppers” planted by Coty, we will never know. While this may be the stuff of legend, Coty was an astute businessman who went on to become wildly successful.

The fragrance starts out with a bright mix of spicy greens and soft honey, creating the impression of a rosebud preparing to unfurl and reveal its bright petals. While some sources list La Rose Jacqueminot as a rose soliflore, I find this to be far from true. As the fragrance progresses, the honey impression is punctuated by warm Autumn spices of cardamom and clove which make for a dark and complex rose.  As the fragrance warms on the skin, the spices settle and the rose becomes more subdued. Thereafter, as the more animalic basenotes of musk and amber emerge, the effect is more of a chypre tinged with rose than a true rose scent, as though the rose is simply there to temper the complexity of the chypre accords. The fragrance in the Eau de Parfum concentration is fairly long lasting, yet wears close, with a subtle silage. The vintage sample I tested is identical to the bottle displayed below.

laroseFor the wearer accustomed to a more opulent, fruitier rose such as Nahema or YSL’s Paris, or a powdery rose like Ombre Rose, this will be a distinct departure as Jaqueminot appears drier, with more emphasis on the spice and green, plant-like aspects of the flower, than on the lush petals.


Notes: Rose, honey, cardamom, clove, musk , and amber.


Lucien Lelong – Balalaika

Lucien Lelong – Balalaika

Lucien Lelong

One of the advantages of having friends who share an interest in perfumery, is the exponentially increased access to various fragrances, especially vintage or niche items. A friend of mine recently acquired a bottle of Balalaika by Lucien Lelong and was kind enough to allow me to sample for review purposes. Named for a three-stringed, triangular, Russian folk instrument, the name alone held the promise of the exotic.

Lucien Lelong was a French coutourier who gained considerable popularity between the 1920s and 1940s. He favored a fluid, draping style for women, one that would move with its wearer. As a result, many of his creations appear distinctly modern today. Lelong did not create his own designs, rather, he oversaw and directed a team of designers which included Christian Dior at one point. He is credited with rescuing the Parisian fashion scene from forced migration to Berlin during the Nazi occupation, arguing that talent of this quality and calibre had taken generations to develop, and could not simply be reproduced or taught overnight. The Lelong house began producing fine fragrances in 1924 and is still in existence today.

While Balalaika did not smell too promising to me upon first application, my patience was rewarded. While I do not have another sample for comparison purposes, my impression was that the Mandarin top note may have deteriorated slightly, as it came across a bit brash and pungent.  This impression was brief however as the fragrance soon took on a lovely warm character. At the heart of Balalaika is an earthy, woodsy quality made lush by a combination of rosewood, gardenia and violet, just as the name might indicate. The wood and musk basenotes appeared fairly early on, giving the fragrance a distinct earthy odor, reminiscent of ancient tomes in a vast library. Despite the strong opening, the fragrance is fairly mild-mannered and light, however, I only tested the Cologne concentration. While the fragrance lasted through the day, it wore close to the skin, with minimal sillage. I have no doubt that Balalaika’s unique combination of woods and flowers would be exquisite in a parfum concentration, but for now, I will have to content myself with my imagination.

Natalie Paley, wife and muse of Lucien Lelong

Natalie Paley, wife and muse of Lucien Lelong

While many vintage perfumes are still widely discussed, I have seen little mention of Balalaika. It may be that the musty, earthy quality renders it too “dated” for some but it nevertheless is an artful creation and one which I consider myself supremely fortunate to have experienced.


Notes: Gardenia, Woods, Mandarin, Musk, Rosewood, Vanilla, Violet

Knize Ten

Knize Ten


I have found that some of my most passionate and enduring olfactory affairs have started out on an intense note along the lines of “what IS that?” While I am by no means drawn to flash, there are those fragrances whose openings are so unique as to create an indelible imprint, one that I often crave to smell again and again once the initial blast has subsided and the more delicate drydown commences. Like the sultry stranger who catches your eyes across the room with a smoldering glance, only later to become your devoted and domesticated bedfellow, so it is with Knize Ten.

Knize Ten is one of several fragrances introduced by the Knize fashion design house out of Austria. The fragrance made its debut in 1925 and is still in circulation. The current version is by most accounts fairly true to the original vintage version, making it a gem among fragrances. Indeed, even the clean and simple design of the bottle and crisp black and white packaging are both timeless and supremely modern. While Knize Ten (roughly pronounced kuh-knee-shuh) features the byline of “The Gentleman’s Toilet Water”, it is largely a misnomer, since it is not particularly “gentlemanly”, nor does it suffer from poor staying power. In fact, the opening notes of this reference leather fragrance are slightly reminiscent of a leather bomber jacket strutting around a gas station. Small wonder then that this was rumored to be the signature fragrance of none-other-than James Dean.


Knize Ten starts out with a slightly bitter citrus note of bergamot and petitgrain (derived from the leaves of the bitter orange tree), which to my nose has a greener smell further enhanced by a savory note of rosemary.  The opening is potent and somewhat suggestive of gasoline. While this may sound off-putting, it is this very unique introduction to what ultimately becomes a warm and somewhat powdery vanillic leather, that I find most appealing. While the dry heart note is largely woody, for me the most prominent notes are a sharp patchouli and green jasmine which reinforce the rich leather aspect. While the Knize Ten “gentleman” may come on rather strong initially, he quickly shows his soft side. The sharpness of the leather is smoothed out by orris and deepened by ambergris and castor which lend it a slightly animalic, body smell. While François Coty and Vincent Roubert designed this as a men’s fragrance to accompany the elegant and slightly off-beat bespoke designs of Knize, this can easily be worn by a woman in the style of a Tabac Blond. The bracing opening and softening drydown feel like a lingering embrace from a not-so-gentlemanly gentleman.

James Dean

Ultimate Leather

Notes: Lemon, bergamot, orange, petitgrain, rosemary, geranium, rose, cedar, orris, carnation, cinnamon, orange blossom, sandalwood, leather, musk, moss, patchouli, ambergris, castoreum and vanilla.

Guerlain – Chamade

Guerlain – Chamade



A good friend of mine is from Iceland, which like any country, features an unique culinary tradition. Given the island’s reliance on the fishing industry, much of their cuisine revolves around fish, although their excellent dairy places a close second. Since we first met each other toward the end of the year, the subject of holiday meals came up. Always eager to learn about a new culture, I asked my friend if there were any special dishes that were eaten on the holidays, conjuring visions of holiday recipe-swapping. The response was not quite what I was expecting: fermented stingray. After clarifying that this was not a joke, my friend went on to explain that stingray was traditionally prepared by Iceland’s Viking ancestors by burying a dead stingray and letting it “ferment” (her word, mine “rot”). While I will spare you the minute details, the ammonia contained within the stingray’s body essentially “cooks” the fish, not unlike a ceviche. Needless to say, I would not be preparing this in my kitchen anytime soon.

When I asked my friend if she liked it, she said “Not the first time. The first time it smelled so awful, I thought I might get sick”. The use of the term “first time” implied that there was a second or even numerous times. She explained that while it was an acquired taste, after the initial opening stench of ammonia, the stingray was delicious. I was baffled! How did she get past that offensive opening and come to love this strange creation? It made no sense to me. And then I realized it did: Chamade.

While I am a lover of bright, intense openings and even more so a lover of Guerlain, in all honesty I must admit that the first time I smelled Chamade I thought that someone, somewhere had made a mistake and filled this beautiful, inverted heart bottle with nail polish remover. While I adore several fragrances which feature prominent hyacinth notes (Chanel’s Cristalle and No 19, Balmain’s Vent Vert) they are tempered by the introduction of other elements. Not so with Chamade. The combination of hyacinth with galbanum and blackcurrent created an opening that cut through the air like a sharp green saber which showed no signs of relenting. I put the bottle back, far into the darkest reaches of my perfume cabinet, untested.


But something didn’t feel right about walking away from this fragrance, named after the distinctive pitter-pat of a heart in love, a nod at the Françoise Sagan novel and French film by the same name starring none-other-than Catherine Deneuve. So many had waxed poetic about its charms, and the skill of the then-young Jean-Paul Guerlain, I felt I must be missing something. I had read the fragrance notes, and I knew there was a Guerlain accord hiding in there somewhere, if I could just steel my reserve and do the unthinkable: test it on skin.

Needless to say, I was rewarded. Chamade perfectly captures the cool detachment of attraction and the growing warmth of love, but its beauty is only revealed to the patient suitor. The intense opening was merely the awkward, butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling that proceeds the sweetest and most passionate of kisses. Chamade slowly unfolds into a soft floral base of rose, ylang ylang, jasmine, lilac, and lily of the valley: for every great romance must have its tenderness. As the fragrance settles further, drawing heat from the skin, the magic of Guerlain is revealed in a soft, velvety base of vanilla, amber, iris and woods: for every great love must have its warmth. And as we overlook the idiosyncrasies of our most beloved, I am finally able to embrace the sharp opening, knowing that a warm embrace awaits me.

Floral oriental

Notes of Turkish rose, ylang ylang, jasmine, lilac, blackcurrant, lily of the valley, hyacinth, cassis, galbanum, sandalwood, vetiver, vanilla, musk, amber, iris and tonka bean.


Chanel – 1932

Chanel 1932 – Les Exclusifs

Last year, this enticing photograph appeared on the internet of a young woman holding a large size bottle of a previously unseen Chanel Les Exclusifs fragrance named 1932. Chanel Les Exclusifs 1932 perfume new bottleAfter much speculation on the blogosphere regarding the authenticity of the item, including a report by Perfume Shrine on the subject, I began pestering (stalking) my friend at Chanel regarding the item.

She was initially as baffled as the rest of us, as Chanel had released no information on the subject. After a few months of calls back and forth, she reported that the fragrance did indeed exist, however, it had been issued as a very exclusive limited release to  handful of clients attending the Chanel 1932 jewellery show. To make matters worse, Chanel appeared to have no plans to issue the item for wider distribution.

While I applauded the brilliant psychology employed by Chanel to make the item immediately irresistible (similar to the way Coco Chanel first distributed Chanel No 5 as a “gift” to her most valuable clients), I was nonetheless frustrated. Obviously, Chanel’s psychology had reached its mark and I wanted the fragrance.

Happily, Basenotes and Fragantica now report that the item will be available for distribution in early 2013, though I have yet to see it on Chanel’s online boutique. The fragrance is reported to be characterized by jasmine, vetiver, iris and musk and will be available in the standard 75 ml and 200 ml Eau de Toilette sizes. Time to start calling (stalking) my friend at Chanel!





Smell Theory

Smell Theory

While our ability to perceive scents is based on genetics and physical factors, our interpretation of those scents is largely shaped by our personal experiences, culture and even heritage. The human experience is fraught with scents and these are often imbedded in our memory, parallel to the event or situation they accompanied. These associations can be so strong and emotionally charged, that we can often recall and recreate in our minds a favorite smell from childhood, or the scent of a loved one who has long passed on.


These recollections can occur voluntarily and deliberately, or involuntarily when some scent serves as a trigger or cue for the brain to recall certain events and associations, as explored extensively in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu or Remembrance of Things Past.

We inhabit a world that has become both more and less fragrant. Indeed, fragrance has been introduced into more and more products, with the dual effect of masking the true scent of the human experience, as well as creating a form of sensorial overload in many cases, so that it becomes impossible to distinguish between those scents that we truly are drawn to, as opposed to those which are imposed upon us.

While there are numerous excellent resources dedicated to fragrance and product reviews, my intent is to analyze these creations through the historical and/or social context that they were developed in. As is the case with any experience, it is difficult to remove oneself from the equation when describing one’s perceptions, so a portion of the “history” of these fragrances will understandably be my own.

Ultimately, the success of any product is dependent upon its ability to imbed itself into our imagination and create a psychological imprint. We select fragrances for so many reasons and occasions. Whether one has developed a signature scent or amassed a treasure trove of quintessence, there is certainly a fragrance to suit each mood and situation. I greatly look forward to exploring them with you!


Branche de pivoines blanches et secateur (1864)
Edouard Manet


Agustin Reyes – Royal Violets

Agustin Reyes – Royal Violets

For this first review, I thought the best place to start was with my first fragrance. While I would graduate on to more sophisticated fragrances, by cultural and maternal imperative, my introduction to scent was with “Royal Violets”, or, as commonly referred to in Spanish, “Agua de Violetas”. It is common practice for children of Latin descent (i.e. Spanish, French, etc.) to wear fragrance from infancy. This practice applies to girls and boys alike, and while the composition may differ from florals to citrus-based fragrance, most products contain a mixture of both. The fragrance is often applied to the hair, a practice which many women continue into adulthood, in a manner similar to the way one would use a dry shampoo.


Agustin Reyes

“Royal Violets” was developed by Agustín Reyes, who began his career as a pharmacist’s apprentice in Havana, Cuba. He created the formula for Royal Violets in 1927, where it was originally marketed as “Violetas Rusas” or “Russian Violets”. The original name and packaging reflect the world’s, and especially Paris’s fascination with all things Russian as evidenced by the popularity of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and the works of Igor Stravinsky. Cuba was often described as the “Paris of the Caribbean” and its citizens took great interest in the styles, architecture, and fashion of Paris. Indeed, much of the formerly elegant city of Havana was built in the baroque and neoclassic styles, similar to much of Europe.


Original Packaging for Violetas Rusas

This Paris-mania extended into the ultra-luxurious realm of perfume. The perfume industry was producing radically new fragrances at this time, in part due to advances in perfume science, but also thanks to the jubilant zeitgeist that followed WWI. Styles were changing, social mores were changing, all of which was reflected in the new perfume creations of the time including Quelques Fleurs, Chanel No 5, Shalimar and Nuit de Noel.

While far removed geographically, many Cubans traced their ancestry back to Europe and maintained strong interest in what happened overseas. This extended into the world of fashion and perfumery, and indeed the famous houses of Guerlain and Caron were well-known on the island. It is in this spirit that Royal Violets was created, a factor which is apparent in its smell and composition.


Bottle inspired by Guerlain

The scent was very well-received in Cuba, as were Reyes’s other creations including: Axil, Agua de Portugal, and Nuit de Samedi. The firm also produced their own sandalwood and lavender soaps. The original glass bottles made in Cuba were often modeled after the bottles of the great perfume houses including Guerlain. With the rise of communism in the 1950s, the recipe for Violetas Rusas was smuggled out by the Reyes family into the United States. The formula also underwent a name change to Royal Violets to avoid the painful political associations of exile that the Reyes family and numerous Cubans faced.

Given that I could not recall a time when I did not wear Royal Violets, I never considered its composition. It was simply what one wore. However, as I grew older and began exploring fragrances, I was often drawn back to this first fragrance. Indeed, my love of certain fragrances like Coco Chanel, was surely influenced by this earliest fragrance, which made me think that it was perhaps necessary to take a closer look.

While several of the more popular violet fragrances attempt to capture more of a violet soliflore, Royal Violets is closer to the experience of the entire plant. The top notes of violet are strongly punctuated by a middle accord of bergamot, giving the impression of crushed bright green leaves to the powdery violet. The violet sensation is rounded out by lily of the valley and a touch of rose, giving one the impression of a bouquet of wild flowers. Most surprising however are the bottom notes, which are both warm and spicy thanks to the introduction of vetiver, sandalwood, and orris. This spicy, almost cinnamon-like sensation is softened with a hint of vanilla, and yet remains remarkably sharp, especially when considering that this is a fragrance applied to infants. Despite being extremely affordable, indeed this item can be purchased in many drugstores, it is evident that much consideration was given to the composition. The fragrance has good sillage and a rather potent longevity.

Royal Violets still features a place in the fragrance collection of many Cuban women. Perhaps it is the need to revisit simpler times with a formula that remains largely unchanged, especially in an era when so many beloved fragrances have been altered beyond recognition. One note: please don’t be put off by the low price tag or poor website of this fragrance. We all need some affordable alternatives in our perfume wardrobe and Royal Violets is a marvelous time capsule for less than ten dollars.

Royal Violets can be purchased online at several discount retailers. Please note that this review is for the amber colored Royal Violets in the glass bottle. The company also makes a purple colored version which smells completely different, slightly reminiscent of an inexpensive Kenzo Flower.

Floral oriental

Notes: violet, bergamot, lily of the valley, rose, vetiver, sandalwood, orris and vanilla.


One of my more special childhood memories involves a strange gift given to me by a family friend. It consisted of a wooden block about a foot long (though in those days, it seemed much larger in relation to my childish body). The block had been worn smooth from years of handling and had a comforting cedar smell to it.

Inset into the wooden block were glass vials, secured firmly into the wood so as not to be removed. The vials were approximately two inches long and closed off by a sturdy black plastic screw-top. Each vial held a thick, richly-colored liquid in every jewel tone imaginable. Purples, blues, corals, yellows and greens so intense, that they seemed other-worldly. The vials bore names which my 8-year old self had never heard of: jasmine, patchouli, ylang-ylang…



I held the block and looked at the bestower of this gift with a questioning glance, having no idea what to do with such an odd and yet exotic item. The response was simple: “Take it home and smell them”.

Upon returning home, I eagerly ran up to my bedroom and carefully unscrewed the first top with much eagerness and a little trepidation. What could be inside? Imbedded into each of the caps was what appeared to be a crystal wand.  With an almost religious sense of ceremony, I dipped this first wand into a magical nectar of scent, and was forever transported.

I understand today that the gift I received was essentially a mini scent organ filled with a variety of essential oils; however, to my eight-year old mind, I had just been given a portal into another world.