Goddess of the Underworld: Sali Oguri Unreleased Mix aka: Persephone
When I was a child I read the Greek myths and classic fairytales voraciously –I just could not get enough of all that drama. I was somewhat of a precocious reader, and so I read them in the “adult” versions at an early age instead of the cleaned-up stories produced for schoolchildren. The simple modern-day stories in our reading textbooks bored me – Dick and Jane and Spot were no match for dragons and chariots and Titans and magic.
One of my favorite stories was the tale of Persephone, Goddess of Spring and regeneration, daughter of Demeter, who had the misfortune of having Hades, King of the Underworld, abduct her while she was out picking flowers with some other nymphs and drag her down to his realm. Demeter, mad with grief, forsook her duties of protecting the Earth’s bounty to search for her daughter and the ground became cold and barren, and the people suffered and starved. Helios the Sun eventually took pity on her and told her what had occurred. Demeter begged and pleaded for Persephone’s return and Hades finally relented and freed her, on the condition that she had not eaten anything while in captivity, but not before tricking her into eating a pomegranate. She swallowed several seeds, and this doomed her to a fate of having return to Hades for a corresponding number of months each year to be his consort and Queen, and this is what caused winter to come into being. (The number of seeds in different versions varies from three to six – I guess it depends on how long winter is where you live.)
The story struck me as being unnecessarily tragic, for one thing; even as a child I had developed an outraged sense of justice. Why did she have to stay in the Underworld just for swallowing a few little seeds, for goodness’ sake? The other thing was; what the heck is a pomegranate and why is it so special that she gave up half her life for it? I didn’t even know how to pronounce it, and in snowy New England we never dreamed of such Mediterranean luxuries. Finally, as a young adult, I tried my first pomegranate and I knew why Persephone was tempted. Juicy, tart, bursting with fresh acidic character, they were addictive and delicious. The fact that they are so hard to eat just makes them more so, since every little jewel of a seed is an individual flavor-bomb. I enjoy the taste of pomegranate in juices, cocktails and desserts, but nothing compares with just popping those little ruby-colored bites into my mouth.
Several years ago I ran across my first pomegranate-based fragrance, an oil perfume called Persephone from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. One of the dozens, nay hundreds, of perfume oil blends they make named after deities, mythical creatures and other supernatural beings, I picked it out of the crowd due to the mention of pomegranate. I was hoping that it would be true to the simple description of pomegranate and rose. It was indeed, but it also had a somewhat chilly pallor to it, and the rose notes were just a bit harsh; I suspect that a synthetic rose or a “rose geranium” extract was used in this formula. Pomegranate is one of those astringent notes that can turn sour on the skin under the right circumstances, and this one walked the edge of that fine line. I enjoyed this fragrance but I did not repurchase it.
Recently I discovered another one that promised a satisfying pomegranate “fix” – Sali Oguri “Unreleased Mix” aka: Persephone, a Limited Edition scent by the New York City musician, producer, perfumer and entrepreneur whose first fragrance was the delightful Pink Manhattan Purrfume oil. Persephone is also an oil, so I was curious as to how it would compare with the Black Phoenix Persephone oil. The only listed ingredient in common was the iconic pomegranate.
The notes of this fragrance are listed as dark chocolate, blackberry, pomegranate, Mysore sandalwood, and “royal purple flowers.” When I first learned of the impending release of this perfume it sounded like something I could really go for, and I was correct. Upon first opening it, I was struck by a wave of very dark chocolate and tangy fruits. Please bear in mind that this is chocolate, NOT cocoa, and it bears no resemblance to the somewhat dusty cocoa notes in some other fragrances, or to the too-sweet inferior chocolate in some perfumes of lesser quality. Oh no, this is deep and rich and mellow, like the best Belgian Callebaut® semisweet chocolate that is prized by chefs and gourmets the world over. And the pomegranate and blackberry are perfectly paired with it, keeping their fresh qualities while having any astringency smoothed away by the chocolate, and in turn the fruits keep the chocolate from becoming too overwhelming or sweet. This is a marriage made in… Hades?
Since this is a perfume oil and free of alcohol, it does not change in character over time as dramatically as regular fragrances, but it does have definite development. As the chocolate note gradually slides underneath the fruits and the florals emerge, the pomegranate begins to dominate the blackberry and this persists through the drydown. (I detected a hyacinth note, and possibly some orchid, as it expanded and warmed on me.) The florals are somewhat abstracted in this fragrance, serving mainly to enhance the chocolate, fruit and wood notes. When the oil has been on the skin for an hour or more, the sandalwood assumes a costarring role. One of the reasons this perfume is made in such limited quantities is that the perfumer used the finest Mysore sandalwood available instead of a cheaper formulation. This is very apparent in the refined character of the final stage of development, which last for many hours. The description on the sample card says that it is a “forbidden skin scent, a sinful blend.” It is very sexy indeed, and just gets better the longer it is worn. I received a number of compliments on it, even from perfect strangers, and even after I had been wearing it all day and I was on my way home. I felt so very feminine and downright slinky in this fragrance, and it is perfect for winter weather, being sensual and comforting at the same time.
This may be named after the Queen of Hades, but there is nothing cold about it whatsoever. It is as enveloping as a purple velvet cloak over bare skin. While there are chocolate and berry notes in it, after the opening it is not really gourmand at all, but develops into a deeply rounded and luxurious feast for the senses. I don’t know how it would behave in hot weather; I suspect that one would have to be very careful in application in order not to overdo it. Regardless of the season, just a few drops are needed, as it is quite strong. For anyone who likes to wear an openly seductive fragrance, I can recommend Persephone very highly. If you are prim and proper and buttoned-down, better skip this one. You might find yourself doing things that are completely out of character – flirting with younger men, dancing in the moonlight, or otherwise causing a scandal. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
If you want some of this potent elixir, don’t wait too long, as it is a very limited edition and will not be around for too much longer. It can be purchased online only at wujproductions.com. (There is also a link on the site for PayPal users.) Samples are available.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I need to say that I acquired this fragrance as the result of a sample swap with Sali herself, but I was already half in love with it by just reading about it, and I was definitely not disappointed by the reality.)
Image credits: Persephone bottle display from salioguri.com/wujproductions.com. Painting of the goddess Persephone by Dante Gabriel Rossetti is from bigcitylit.com.