One Thousand Scents

Thursday, June 26, 2008

30 Demeters in 30 Days: Day 26, Sambucca

Yesterday I mentioned a co-worker's first reaction to a Demeter scent. Her second reaction, about fifteen minutes later, was "It's gone. I can't smell it any more at all!"

I could have warned her. The Demeter that lasts more than an hour is a rare beast.

Usually in perfumery, a short lifespan is a liability and a cause for complaint. I choose to think that in Demeters, it's a feature, not a bug (as the computer types say). Yes, they're short-lived, but they're cheap and cheerful, and when one wears off, you can slap another one on and enjoy that for a little while. Proper perfumery is like putting on an outfit and wearing it all day; Demeter is like going into the changing room and trying on a bunch of things.

Demeter's Sambucca is typical of the phenomenon.

Before I go any further, I have to say that I think the spelling "sambucca" is wrong. I'd never seen it before the Demeter label, and while it's not unheard of on the Internet, where nothing is unheard of, the spelling is a distant second to the correct one, "sambuca", which gets over two million hits to the 115 thousand of "sambucca" (lots of which seem to be the names of things such as bloggers or restaurants). And it's not as if Demeter hasn't made mistakes on their labels before: they rendered "dulce de leche" incorrectly as "dulche de leche". (It's been fixed now, sort of; the new bottle has the correct spelling, but my bottle has the error, and so does the title on Demeter's web page.)

Well, that's out of the way. Sambuca is a licorice-flavoured alcoholic drink similar to ouzo or anisette. I've had plenty of the latter in my time and I can tell you that Demeter's Sambucca smells exactly like the real thing; It doesn't smell like licorice (or like Demeter Licorice), it smells like a sugared alcoholic extraction of licorice root.

And it does so for about fifteen seconds. When the alcohol has completely evaporated from the scent, it changes character to become a rooty, very simple licorice-tinged floral scent with a baby-powder undertone. (The website says sambuca is an infusion of licorice and elder flower, which may explain the floral note. I don't know what explains the talc.) This powdery floral then proceeds to vanish over the course of the next half hour or so.

Still, not bad.

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