One Thousand Scents

Monday, June 30, 2008

30 Demeters in 30 Days: Day 30, Sandalwood

I think Demeter's Sandalwood might have taught me something about myself that I did not know.

Their version of sandalwood is undeniably beautiful. It has a rather splintery opening which soon gives way to a dark, burnished core. It's wood, through and through. It does not last remotely as long as it ought to--it leaves the room after a couple, maybe three, hours--but it's an attractive scent for that time. It is a very good, very convincing sandalwood.

And yet...I feel as if it's not polished enough, as if not enough has been done to it.

The point of perfumery, and maybe of any figurative art, is not necessarily to improve on nature, but to interpret it. Any company can just dilute sandalwood oil, or some reasonably accurate compound of natural and synthetic versions of sandalwood, and market it. That's not art, that's just vending. To turn it into art means to set it within a larger context, to give it meaning other than "distilled wood chips". Demeter Sandalwood doesn't have context: it's just wood. Beautiful wood, but wood nonetheless.

The thing I think I've discovered is that I don't have much interest in mere ingredients. I want them to be thought about and compounded in such a way that they're more than a mere plant laid bare. There will be exceptions: their Lavender, for instance, is gorgeous though it seems like a pure and unadorned lavender. Mostly, though, I love the contrivance and the work that go into a composed fragrance, all the things that elevate such a scent beyond anything that a mere essential oil (or a synthetic reproduction thereof) can be.

I know there will be people who just want the pure essence of something or other, and there are lots of scents available for them; Demeter seems to have a fair number, and any health-food shop has dozen upon dozens of essential oils for those that want to smell just like patchouli or lemongrass or whatnot. Me, I want my fragrance--like music and writing and any other art form--to show evidence of having been laboured over, to be the result of thought and imagination and intelligence.

Demeter Sandalwood will be very nice layered with some other things that could use a boost of dense, glowing wood; Fendi Life Essence, I think, will be bolstered by it, and so will a number of other citrusy colognes. I intend to start the experiments as soon as possible.



  • Congrats to you for YOUR labor of love - "30 Demeters in 30 Days".......I've enjoyed reading all of them individually and have found particular interest in the commentary as a whole.

    What stood out to me most was the slight (and sometimes obvious) subjectivity (and human-ness) within your writing. It added the right amount of warmth to what could have been a typical "cold, hard and prosaic" set of reviews.

    Good Job!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:34 AM  

  • I have loved reading your '30 Demeters' reviews. So much, in fact, that I beg you: keep going! I'd love your feedback on more of them. I live in a small town, and we have no access to any kind of perfume choices, so you're the person that I read for advice on this sort of thing (for mail ordering direct from their site).

    Whatever, you're still wonderful to read.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:57 AM  

  • I think that's a really nice analysis of the difference between "smells" and what we think of as perfume. Very nicely done. And I too have enjoyed reading about the Demeters. Perhaps you'll be inspired to do another set sometime. Cheers!

    By Blogger Existentialist, at 8:18 PM  

  • I'm glad you all enjoyed my experiment. I had a good time performing it.

    If you need more reviews, I can't think of a better place than Makeup Alley; you have to create a user ID before you can even look at anything on the site, and that's very annoying, but in this case well worth it, because there are reviews of hundreds upon hundreds of scents, including the great majority of the Demeters.

    As for keeping going, I only have another dozen or so Demeters in my collection, so it wouldn't even be two weeks' worth. (I don't think I'll be ordering any more any time soon, either. I have a lot of scents.) But I have another couple of experiments planned, one for September and one whenever I get enough data assembled. Until then, I'll be posting every Friday, as always, plus whenever else the mood strikes me.

    By Blogger pyramus, at 9:13 PM  

  • My computer has been in the shop for a week, so I'm just catching up on blog reading. I'd like to add my thanks for the 30 Demeters in 30 Days posts - fun, informative writing. I've enjoyed them all!

    By Blogger rosarita, at 4:41 PM  

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