One Thousand Scents

Monday, November 05, 2007

Sugar and Spice: Demeter Honey, Caramel, and Black Pepper

Demeter is proof that a good scent doesn't have to be complex or expensive: it just has to have a solid idea and masterful execution.

Not all the Demeters are good, of course: there are a couple hundred scents in the line, minimum, and they couldn't all be winners--it just isn't statistically possible (regression to the mean and all that). But there are some gems out there if you're willing to wade through the entire pool of them.

A few days after I tried, and immediately adored, Serge Lutens Miel de Bois, I tried Demeter Honey, having sampled it (briefly) a few of years before and dismissed it: it wasn't to my taste at the time, and it didn't smell like what I thought honey ought to smell like. But years go by, your nose changes, you've smelled more things, you become a little more knowledgeable and sophisticated, and suddenly things to which you wouldn't give the time of day smell very desirable. The Demeter scent is unexpectedly good, a sort of stripped-down version of the Lutens scent, because rather than smelling like a spoonful (or a plastic bearful) of honey, it smells like raw honey, with suggestions of honeycomb, pollen, and wood. It isn't as complex or as magical or as difficult (yes, that's a good thing) as Miel de Bols, but for that price (about $20 an ounce, versus $110 for 1.7 ounces of the Lutens), who cares? It's delicious.

Demeter Caramel isn't as good: it does smell of caramel, but not quite the fresh milky caramel I had been hoping for--there's a slight synthetic edge to it. It isn't as intense as I would want it to be, and it doesn't last as long, either, which is not a surprise in the generally evanescent Demeter line but still a disappointment.

Demeter Black Pepper is also not everything I could have hoped for: it isn't really biting enough. What I wanted was the exact smell of freshly ground black pepper, and it isn't that, because it doesn't smell ground--it's more like peppercorns themselves, without the intoxicating fierceness that's released when they're crushed.

But.

On an instinct, I thought, "You know, Caramel plus Black Pepper would probably be smashing", and even though I hardly ever combine commercial scents, I threw on a splash of each, and it's true: together, they're much more than the sum of their parts. They have a synergy: the pepper carves through the synthetic sweetness of the caramel, which bestows a richness on the pepper, and there's a strange and mesmerizing glimpse of pipe tobacco amidst it all. Where did that come from? I don't know, but I love it. I mixed the two half-and-half in an atomizer, and I wear it all the time, because it's cheerful and just a little strange.

There are three lessons here:

1) Cheap is not bad.
2) Sample everything repeatedly, just in case.
3) Mix and match, because you never know.

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2 Comments:

  • I've never thought cheap was bad.....(I've often used that phrase to descibe myself...jk) but as I embark on my 2nd year of "perfume maddness" I have to note that even in the short span of a year, my taste and affinity for better designed and more complex scents has increased tremendously. Although I still enjoy my discount-fragrance-drugstore-bargain-finds at TJ Max and Marshall's (which includes Demeter for $7.95), my longing for Serge Lutens and Montale seems to be winning the battle.

    As usual, great review.....I'll be looking for a Demeter Honey sometime this week (that is until I can get my hands on a bottle of the dreamy Miel de Bois)

    Mark

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:34 AM  

  • A lot of people, though, do think that cheap is bad; they turn up their noses at anything that just anybody can wear, and they won't even buy things they see deeply discounted, because if it's inexpensive/on sale/not exclusive, then it can't be any good.

    The converse is that expensive things aren't necessarily better. I have yet to find a Creed scent that I'd pay their prices for; I honestly don't get the house's entire output. Same mostly goes for Comme des Garçons (though I haven't tried the incense series yet--maybe I'd love that).

    There's nothing wrong, though, with becoming a connoisseur and finding that you have a preference for the rarer, costlier things. There's a part of me that thinks I should have fewer, better scents, but I can't help it: I'm a total whore. I just want it all, and if that means I have twenty inexpensive things and three costly ones, well, that seems to work for me just fine. This fall, when I'm not testing things to write about, I find I'm wearing almost nothing but Midnight Poison and Coup de Fouet, with the occasional shot of Ambre Precieux and Trouble to keep me from getting bored.

    By Blogger pyramus, at 12:54 PM  

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