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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dark Tuberoses: Heroine, Narcotic and Trapeze by Strange Invisible Perfumes

Last night
in the fields
I lay down in the darkness
to think about death,
but instead I fell asleep,
as if in a vast and sloping room
filled with those white flowers
that open all summer,
sticky and untidy,
in the warm fields.
When I woke
the morning light was just slipping
in front of the stars,
and I was covered
with blossoms.
I don’t know
how it happened—
I don’t know
if my body went diving down
under the sugary vines
in some sleep-sharpened affinity
with the depths, or whether
that green energy
rose like a wave
and curled over me, claiming me
in its husky arms.
I pushed them away, but I didn’t rise.
Never in my life had I felt so plush,
or so slippery,
or so resplendently empty.
Never in my life
had I felt myself so near
that porous line
where my own body was done with
and the roots and the stems and the flowers
begin. White Flowers, Mary Oliver

I reached the stage in my relationship with perfumes which Angela of NowSmellThis once called that of a connoisseur and which I rather less positively call jaded. My nose believes that it has smelled it all and my brain is in the state of ennui. For a perfume to register on my radar, it has to be Great. To excite my jaded senses it has to be Exceptional. The words of the Red Queen come to mind, "If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" In regards to perfume, "twice as fast" means either being absolutely sublime in its "realism" (Malle Une Rose) or absolutely unlike anything else I have ever encountered (Aftelier Tango). There are some sublimely "realistic" tuberoses... I am using quotation marks, because there is always a necessary degree of stylization in perfume, a degree of creative interpretation of the material, which is what makes it a perfume and not an aromatherapy oil... Malle Carnal Flower and Caron's and L'Artisan's Tubereuses are among them. Lutens' Tubereuse Criminelle inhabits the twilight zone between the territory of "realism" and that of boldly taken poetic license. I will talk about the sublimely "real" at some later point. Today I am focusing on the strange.

Strange Invisible Perfumes' take on tuberose, to be precise. And a word to other jaded, if you somehow until now overlooked this brand (I know, unlikely!), do try their creations. They do imaginative things that step close to but never overstep the mark of unwearable. Their descriptions, in which vetivers sleepwalk through bright and textured corridors of lemon verbena, do overstep the mark of ridiculous, but I digress. Three of the perfumes in their collection put emphasis on tuberose. Heroine blends the note with sweetly balsamic opoponax and slightly charred cedarwood. The creaminess of tuberose is enhanced by the presence of frangipane, and you would think that two such heady flowers would dominate the composition, but they let the resinous accord to be always in the forefront. That accord makes tuberose smell smoky and husky and, to me, just irresistible. I find the base, which smells of frying shelled sunflower seeds, strangely comforting.

Narcotic uses orange blossom instead of frangipane to enhance tuberose and adds freshness to the blend by making vetiver sleepwalk through the aforementioned corridor of lemon verbena. In other words, the blend starts fresh and a little earthy, the citrusy accord finds its logical continuation in orange blossom, which in turn draws in sweeter and heavier tuberose enriched in the base by vanilla and sandalwood. Simple, right? Not really. You'd think that breezy citruses would turn the usually not at all innocent tuberose into a blushing bride, but here orange blossom has such a pronounced indolic undertone that it makes tuberose smell frankly indecent. Add to that the earthiness of vetiver and the booziness of vanilla, and you have got yourself a perfume that is X Rated.

In Trapeze, the killer queen tuberose walks a tight rope flung between the red spiciness of carnation and the icy freshness of spearmint, and the rope is weaved out of vetiver roots...And no more reading of the SIP website for me, as their style is apparently infectious. Anyhow, whereas I have smelled tuberose paired with a mentholated accord before, the addition of carnation is fairly unexpected. I love the piquancy and the slight powderiness that the note brings to the mix and even a certain retro quality. It would be a huge stretch to say that Trapeze smells classic...but not as long of a stretch as from here to the galaxy far, far away, in which dwell other SIP creations. The galaxy to which the jaded should take regular tours just to be reminded that there are scents out that can still surprise and excite us.

Narcotic and Trapeze are available at (which has been made a little more use-friendly since the last time I attempted to look), $185.00 for 1/4oz. I was unable to find Heroine, perhaps it was discontinued.

Many thanks to Alyssa for the poem and for also seeing the darkness of white flowers. The image is by Ellen Von Unwerth.

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Blogger elle said...

Am a long time SIP fan and I love the scents precisely because they never bore me or make me think of straight aromatherapy oils (fine things, in an of themselves, but not what I'm looking for). Heroine was one of my top three faves of the line and it is...gulp, sob!...d/ced. WHY?! I don't own Trapeze, but it really is fascinating and eventually I probably will get it. As a side note, I am not wild about the edp versions of their scents. Some of the depth and complexity seems to be lost in them. I'm not sure why, but Narcotic is one of the few that never has worked on my skin. Actually, haven't resampled it for about a year. Need to go recheck and see if anything's changed in how I react to it.
*Love* that poem!

9:35 PM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Beautiful review--and it makes me REALLY want to try Trapeze. Narcotic didn't work on me either (sob!)

7:40 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course the one that sounds interesting to me is the discontinued one ..............

8:15 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Must. stay. away. from. that. website.

8:28 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I have to thank for introducing me to SIP. I don't think I tired any of their EDPs yet.

8:49 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I can see you in any of them. I started by not liking the Narcotic, but now it works like a charm

8:49 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I liked all of them, but deep deep down, I think Heroine was my most favorite :-(

8:50 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

You know you want to go and look :-D

8:50 AM EDT  
Blogger Billy D said...

I've been trying, thanks to Chaya, Prada's Fleur d'Oranger scent and I realized yesterday, "Wow, this has a great tuberose note in it." The orange blossom/tuberose combo is so soft and yet fresh, and yes, I'm finding it quite masculine with the addition of some patchouli. Narcotic has me interested...

10:03 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally! (the poem) I was just thinking about using it myself the other day :-) since I have finally, finally, begun to fall down the long rabbit hole into white flowerland myself. I never thought it would happen, but I have been all about the A La Nuit and the Carnal Flower and have been on the look out for more, deeper, darker, stranger...

11:26 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I have a sample of that, I should find it and re-try.

1:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Ha! A road to flower-mania starts with one small sniff :-)

1:01 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Oooohhh, LOOOVE the poem! And the descriptions are so enticing - naturally Narcotic is the one I am drawn to, is it anything at all like Nasomatto's Narcotic Venus? I adore that one - I think I will need to have them both so I can compare. ;-)

3:52 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I vaguely remember Nasomatto's, but I believe it is different.

4:02 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Basically I don't like talking about narcotics,but you have written an interesting article about them.

2:37 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved your review Marina. I find Tuberose takes courage, as it is SO very distinctive. I have not sniffed any of these, but I have found L'Artisan Tubereuse to be wonderfully balanced between creamy and rubbery...Also like Miller Harris's Noix Tubereuse a lot. Of course, nothing will ever 'paradigm shift' like Fracas!

7:22 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

thank you for your comment

9:25 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Fracas still rules :-)

9:29 AM EDT  

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