One Thousand Scents

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bizarre Bazaar: Florascent Tishka


Any regular reader will know that I don't have much patience with the notion of women's and men's scents. In an ideal world, there would just be scents, and we'd wear what made us happy. But culturally there is a (somewhat permeable but occasionally strictly observed) divide between scents which are considered appropriate for the sexes, and I'm not immune to the potency of those strictures. I think I ignore them more than most men do, but I find I can't entirely disregard them, alas, however hard I try.

I was once told by a man that MPG's Ambre Precieux must be a woman's scent, couldn't be a man's, because it was mostly ambergris and men can't wear ambergris--despite the fact that MPG's women's scents are packaged in clear glass bottles while men's are in red glass, and AP is in red glass, QED. One of the signal qualities of most oriental scent-notes is that they're inherently sexless: warmth smells good on anyone. AP ought to have been marketed not as a men's scent, but as an anybody scent.

I've long been hunting for a really beautiful rose scent that I felt I could wear with impunity. In Western culture, a strongly rosy scent is considered a floral for women, but in other cultures it's a masculine scent, so obviously there isn't some inherent quality to the rose that makes it womanly. And there are flowers that are considered masculine--lavender makes an appearance in many men's fragrances, and geranium and violet show up more than you might expect.

The ne plus ultra of rose scents, Patou's Joy, is amazingly beautiful, almost entirely roses and jasmine and of the highest quality, and I've worn it in private, but the fact is that unadorned floral scents are considered to be the province of women, and if I wanted to wear Joy in public, I'd be looked at as if I were wearing a sequined evening gown. So Joy's out of the question. So are YSL's Paris and Lauder's White Linen, both based on the rose, both gorgeous, both not for me. (I can imagine a man wearing White Linen, actually, just not this one.)

There are rose scents for men, usually made dark and earthy to take the curse off. L'Artisan Parfumeur's Voleur de Roses achieves this earthiness with quite a lot of patchouli; unfortunately, it smells disgusting on me. Despite the name, the scent is much more about patchouli than about roses, and I don't like L'Artisan's version of patchouli--their Patchouli Patch is equally horrible to my nose.

I was looking forward to trying Tishka by Florascent: it's a unisex rose scent meant to evoke a Moroccan bazaar, and the spices (listed as pimento, clove, and ginger) and the base notes (benzoin, opoponax, and orris) made it sound luscious. I should have known.

The top note is a clatter of dry spices and, immediately, the rose note. The spices soon resolve themselves into what is without a doubt curry powder (it calls to mind Joseph Abboud's only men's scent, which also had a curry note, though much subtler than this), and for a solid hour, what you smell on your skin is curried rose petals and nothing more. I don't doubt that there's a market for curried roses, and surely some people like it, but the result, to my nose, is not altogether pleasant. It's faintly horrible, in fact. I kept catching whiffs of it and recoiling a little. Recoiling from myself! That's not what a fragrance is supposed to make you want to do.

As the curry scent eventually, at long last, begins to burn away, those warm base notes finally show up. A trace of the dry spices remain and a little of the rose note, but mostly you have a lovely oriental base of warm, sweet benzoin and opoponax. It's very attractive, but I can't see that it's worth waiting through that stewpot to get to.

Tishka is not a bad scent; it's not cheaply or hurriedly made. Obviously a great deal of care went into its composition: the perfumer had a vision of what the scent was to be, and I'd have to say that she or he succeeded. I just don't care for the result, that's all. If the curry had been toned down drastically so that the rose had a chance to shine, if the scent had been more like the drydown except with a heightened rose note, then I have a feeling I'd have fallen in love with this.

My search continues.

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