One Thousand Scents

Friday, April 14, 2006

Into the Woods: Jacques Fath Pour L'Homme


A few years ago, someone with whom I was regularly swapping fragrances sent me a sample of Jacques Fath Pour L'Homme, which I'd never even heard of. I was immediately captivated by its dry warmth, and used the sample as sparingly as possible. So imagine my surprise when, one day while visiting Toronto, I spotted a bottle of it in one of those little perfume boutiques that seem to spring up and then vanish a year later. One quick haggle with the clerk later (I was hesitating over the price, she offered it to me tax-free, sold!) and I had a bottle of the precious stuff.

Another aficionado once described it to me as "Samsara without the jasmine", and that's a great description, at least of the middle and base notes. The top contains, I think, mint, lavender, and a few other leafy green notes, but even at the very beginning the enormous middle note is looming up: it's sandalwood, towering and resonant, dominating the scent almost until its very end. (It's not pure sandalwood: there are other woods in there, probably rosewood and cedar. But it's all about the sandalwood.) The base notes, which I can still smell traces of almost twenty-four hours and several hand-washings later, are the usual components of an oriental scent, ambergris and something vanillic, probably Peru or tolu balsam.

The bottle is a rather Victorian affair: a big, blocky glass monolith with faceted edges and a spare silvery cap. (Oddly, it's packaged in a silver-flecked grey box of flexible plastic with slots and tabs that let it unfold like a diagram.) The scent isn't Victorian in the least, though: it's dark and unflashy, but sensual for all that: it reaches out to people. Last night, a co-worker who hates most scents took an eyes-closed sniff and said, "It smells...flirty." Not necessarily the word I would have chosen ("seductive", maybe), but she gave it the thumbs-up, and so do I.

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