One Thousand Scents

Monday, July 17, 2006

Summer Cold: L'Eau D'Issey Pour Homme


Fresh, wet scents don't usually work for me, but when I first smelled L'Eau D'Issey on a trip to Toronto in 1992, I was so amazed by it that I just bought it. It was almost purely floral, containing lotus, freesia, cyclamen, carnation, peony, and lily of the valley, but I couldn't resist its remarkable transparency and otherworldliness, and its startlingly minimal bottle, like the Platonic ideal of a lighthouse. Exactly the same thing happened a couple of years later; on first smelling L'Eau D'Issey Pour Homme, entranced by the scent and the bottle, a wedge-shaped monolith of frosted glass and brushed metal, I just bought the stuff.

Miyake is said to hate fragrance and to have asked the perfumers in both cases to make him something that smelled like water. Obviously, neither scent does; but they both achieve a fresh, watery effect without resorting to the ozonic fresh note that was already becoming overplayed in the 1990s and is now ubiquitous and worn out.

L'Eau D'Issey Pour Homme gets its freshness from, at first, a barrage of citrus notes (bergamot, tangerine, and lemon, plus the Japanese fruit called yuzu) and very lightly played herbal notes such as lemon verbena, tarragon, and coriander. It's an explosively fresh smell; it sparkles, like summer sunlight on water. The coolness gradually warms up as it's supplanted by spice notes--nutmeg and cinnamon, mostly--plus the floral notes of geranium and water lily, but the sharp edge remains from the top; it never really becomes a warm scent. Even the base, a soft, clingy haze of woods and ambergris, manages to retain a hint of sharpness from vetivert. It's not at all what I normally wear, but it's so intoxicating and so perfectly conceived that it wins me over every time. It's just like the first time I smelled it; I don't stand a chance.

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