It has been a really long while since I posted. I had sort of promised myself that I wouldn’t post or comment about perfume until I finished a certain piece of work that needed to be finished more than a year ago. I’m still not close to being done with that, but I found this post of mine in the drafts. It was written a while ago (so it doesn’t count as breaking my promise, does it?). But first I was waiting on retesting the scents in question, and then I was waiting on completing the picture credits etc. But I think it is time I just let it go, credit-less and all.
Let’s do a small experiment, shall we?
Suppose that you were given two words : Kiki and Bouba, along with the above two images, and were asked : Which of the above shapes is a ‘Kiki’ and which is a ‘Bouba’?
What would your answer be?
Please answer, before reading further 😀
Did you think the left was ‘Kiki’ and the right was ‘Bouba’ ?
If you did, you joined around 95% of the people in an experiment who thought exactly that.
That sounds have shapes, and that this fact might in turn be the basis of how human language may have evolved, is something I find very intriguing. The way we associate certain sounds, with objects that look a certain way, could have actually contributed to how several languages may have evolved- how cool is that?!
I experience this cross-modal interaction of sensory objects with perfume as well. I am not a hard-wired synesthete but I often ‘see’ an image when I smell perfume. Most chypres, arrive to my nose with a signature : roughened or textured fabric. I pause here to laugh a little, because I just imagined several madame chypres with (textured) suitcases in hand, knocking at my nose, demanding to be let in. Anyway, watery jokes aside, I do associate chypres with a certain texture which ‘tells’ me almost immediately that I am sniffing a chypre. The texture of some rich, animalic chypres (the texture I ‘see’ that is) is not unlike that of a netted golden yellow shawl with a raised pattern. The kind that if you close your eyes and touch will feel a little rough yet not as prickly as a rug. An auditory equivalent to these kind of scents would be a low pitched buzz. Say buzz for 10 seconds continuously – that’s how some of these chypres smell to me (as opposed to the high pitched fizz of aldehydes).
Miss Dior (vintage EDT) smells rich, animalic and orange-golden with some fizz from aldehydes: this is a loosely netted shawl at its glorious textured best. Amouage Jubilation 25 would be less orange, more yellow, with the notes having a ‘closer knit’ so the netted surface is smoother.
Mitsouko (vintage PDT) smells to me a lot like the current extrait but less oily and thick. I distinctly smell clove, not the high pitched clove of Caron Poivre, but a lower hum of spicy clove-y oakmoss which gives it that slightly roughened texture. Not as warm as Miss Dior or Jubilation 25, Mitsouko is more aloof and angular, with a spine that demands one to sit up just a little straighter.
Tom Ford’s Moss Breches, which was my aha- chypre perfume, is an exception in that it doesn’t ‘look’ yellow to me, but green. I’m probably biased to ‘see’ green because of the moss in its name, but I think it is also because of its more aromatic nature, as opposed to the fruity or animalic nature of the perfumes described above. Clinique’s Aromatic Elixir is also a green netted shawl but slightly more prickly.
So tell me, how do you identify a perfume as a chypre? Do you clearly smell the oakmoss or is the ‘chypre-ness’ revealed to you more indirectly?