One Thousand Scents

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Bitter With The Sweet: Mirra & Mirra


If you want to hear a stirring version of the Christmas carol "We Three Kings", you ought to head over to the iTunes Music Store and check out The Blenders' version. It's a cappella (with the addition of a drum), and it's really something--totally worth your ninety-nine cents.

One verse that they don't get around to singing, and which doesn't seem to be sung much at all any more (but was when I was a kid) because it's just too depressing, is this one:

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in a stone-cold tomb.


Anyone smelling I Coloniali's Mirra & Mirra would be excused for saying, "Bitter perfume? What?" There's bitterness to be had, eventually, but it's wrapped in such a dense cocoon of cozy warmth that it's hard to find at first.

Mirra & Mirra (which means "myrrh and myrrh") is based on myrrh, logically enough, but to make it wearable, it's disguised with a formidable quantity of sugared benzoin. The scent is uncomplicated and linear: what you get at the start is just about all you get--unsmoky incense in a sweet vanillic cloud.

There are moments during the scent's life, though, that the pungent, earthy notes of myrrh rise unadorned to the surface before descending again. Sometimes, too, you'll catch a mere whiff of dark, resinous pine tar, just enough to jolt you out of the fragrance's hazy reverie. When I first got this scent, I thought it was too sweet and too simple, but I hadn't spent enough time with it: there are sharp and disturbing undercurrents that keep it from being cloying and oversweetened. It's beautiful, but not prettified: if you're in a dark Christmas mood, Mirra & Mirra is just the sort of thing you want to be wearing.

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