The sense of smell is something primal and atavistic – we react to it on a visceral level whether we are conscious of it or not. When I began to realize how sensitive my nose was, at a very young age, I learned to “tune in” to this in self-defense once I figured out I could use it to my advantage. For example, I can say without exaggeration that I can smell danger – if I am in the garden section of a store and I smell even a faint odor of pesticides, I can avoid that section entirely, as I can detect it from afar. My body knows instinctively that these are deadly substances to be avoided and it triggers my “fight or flight” reaction. In the same way, I realized at some point that I can sense menace and threat in a human being by the way they smell. There are other cues that people (especially women) can pick up on for that of course, but I can detect a harsh, somewhat metallic odor that tells me to stay away. Sometimes it is such a strong sensation that I can barely resist the urge to bolt. The worst thing is when an odor is both very bad and cannot be identified – then the alarm bells really go off, since there is no clear idea of where the miasma of danger might be coming from. We all have this ability, underdeveloped though it may be – it can keep us from being poisoned by eating bad food or drinking fouled water, from being attacked by a large predator, or from being harmed by approaching the wrong stranger. I wonder if what we sometimes call the “sixth sense” of perception is really a part of the sense of smell, operating at a nearly subliminal level, only we are unaware of its power.
So what is the opposite of this ability to survive by sensing olfactory danger? It is smelling familiar or pleasant things and feeling safe and happy. For our ancestors it may have meant recognizing the smell of fresh water on the breeze after a long trek over a dry desert. For us today it can be the simple comfort of coming home to your own house at night and knowing everything is as it should be before you even turn on the lights. It can be smelling your significant other’s favorite sweater when they are away from home to make you feel closer to your loved one. Or it can be the sweet pleasure of plunging your nose into a bouquet of dewy roses, or closing your eyes to better appreciate the aroma of baking bread wafting through the air. And of course, it can be removing the stopper from your favorite bottle of perfume and savoring the moment before you apply it to your skin, knowing it will make you feel beautiful or sexy or powerful or clean or whatever it is you want that fragrance to do for you. We are so very fortunate in our modern world that we can choose the mood we wish to project to the world simply by selecting a liquid in a pretty container that tells everyone we meet how we feel about ourselves.
But what about those times when life becomes too much to handle and we want to retreat into our dens, “go to ground” like a fox or badger, and wrap ourselves in the surroundings of home, never venturing out in the big, bad scary place that is the world at large? Everyone seems to have a “comfort scent” that makes them feel most at home in their own skin, a go-to fragrance that always works. It is different for everyone, and one person’s comfort scent might be someone else’s paint-the-town-red perfume. However, there is such a thing as a fragrance created explicitly for the purpose of making the wearer feel comfortable, relaxed and stress-free. Welcome to the cozy world of Yves Rocher Néonatura “Cocoon” Perfume. (This is one of the Néonatura series of “concept” fragrances inspired by Nature from Yves Rocher; the others are the fresh, green Elevate and the flowery, bright Soufflé.)
I approached this one with caution at first, as it had the potential to be something I could not even wear at all by the description on the box – a blend consisting mostly of patchouli, cocoa and vanilla. Now that may sound very odd, but it somehow all works together. I was a bit leery of the idea of cocoa, since I had recently discovered two fragrances featuring a cocoa note that really set my teeth on edge – Montale Chocolate Greedy and Jo Malone Blue Agave and Cacao. They were both so strange and the cocoa so much in conflict with the other notes to my nose that I found them unwearable, and in the case of the Montale it actually made me feel a little sick and claustrophobic. (Had I actually applied it to my skin I would have had to scrub with Lava® soap!) No such problem with Cocoon; there is plenty of vanilla to make the cocoa seem more like what we think chocolate should be – after all, vanilla is a good part of what makes chocolate taste good to us, since unsweetened chocolate with no vanilla added is harsh and bitter. Vanilla turns it round, smooth and luscious to our taste buds. This is a superior use of a chocolate note in perfume, and quite surprising in such an affordable line. Too bad Montale could not come up with something more palatable at their prices.
Furthermore, the hefty amount of patchouli keeps the other notes from being too sweet and provides a calming woody depth. I am old enough to remember being surrounded by people who wore nothing but straight patchouli oil, if they wore any fragrance at all, or even bathed, and in some cases it was in combination with the vile odor of marijuana smoke, the smell of which is the reason I never did more than try the stuff. (No degree of altered consciousness is worth putting up with such a hideous smell.) This was enough to turn me off patchouli for a very long time, but after I began to discover the wide world of fine perfumery I realized that it had its own merits and that I should not judge it by the bad memories of the cheap and strong head-shop stuff of old. I can now appreciate its deep woody greenness and the sensual shading it adds to a perfume composition. What it does to this scent is make it dry and radiant instead of sticky and cloying as might be expected of such gourmand notes. I applied a very tiny amount at first, afraid that it would be too overwhelming, but it melded with my skin nicely and kept up a steadfast presence throughout the day. There is little development in this simple scent, but it is very effective. It is perfect for winter, since it has a somewhat gourmand aspect and there is a bit of a holiday feel to it due to the profound woodiness of its Oriental character. Sillage is considerable and the lasting power is impressive, so do use discretion when applying. However, if you want to stay home and fee like “cocooning”, just go ahead and spray with abandon, as it is, after all meant to surround the wearer with a sense of peace and comfort. It does just that-in fact I almost get sleepy when I wear it. We don’t get snow very often where I live now, but if we do get a big storm this winter I intend to make myself a big mug of cocoa, put on a generous application of Cocoon and curl up under a blanket on the couch while I watch the flakes drift down.
The really great thing about this 2005 release (and many Yves Rocher fragrances) is how many ways there are to have it. Eau de Parfum, perfumed body lotion, cream perfume, perfumed shower gel, even incense and tea lights. Everything you need to surround yourself with serenity. Now that I have run across this one I feel like I need to try more of the line. It is only available by mail order as far as I can tell, but the prices are generally low and the quality is very good. I did buy some products from them many years ago, and I did not realize until quite recently that they were still around and had grown to offer a bewildering array of products, all based on natural botanical ingredients. They have fragrances in a “Try Me” size, which is a nice touch for a company that does not have stores where customers can try the products off the shelf. I may just have to explore the world of Yves Rocher a little more.
Image credits: Cocoon bottle from yvesrocherusa.com
Extremely relaxed LOLcat from icanhascheezburger.com