Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Adieu, Mysore mon amour

Sometimes an obvious truth, one that has been discussed and acknowledged time and again, often enough to have simply become cognitive inventory, sometimes such a truth, which has become commonplace as a purely intellectual concept,  grabs you out of nowhere and acquires a new terrible weight when it's connected to a sensory impulse, something palpable that incurs an emotional response, a jolt, which then again sets in motion a reflexive process about reality, change, loss.

We've all read and written about the demise of Mysore sandalwood, its effects on the perfume industry, the inadequacy of synthetic substitutes, the growth of a new sandalwood industry in New Caledonia, Australia etc. But this morning I sprayed on some vintage Floris Sandalwood, of which about 2ml remain in my posession from an ancient decant swap with a long gone basenoter. And it just hit me with such force that this part of perfume culture, but for the last traces, which may linger on here and there below the radar, is basically over, gone, fini, terminado, aus und vorbei.

The almost unadorned beauty of this simple sandalwood scent from a once proud perfume house has long since been replaced by a shadowy surrogate, wholly inadequate Ersatz, and will never shine again. That is hard to accept in the face of such perfection once achieved. So you chase the end of the rainbow, that vintage bottle of Floris, or Crabtree & Evelyn, or something else that's been rumoured to be the real thing. You keep running west to keep the sun from setting for good, but it gets harder and harder. In the end, you cannot stop time, and where better to learn that lesson than through perfumery, the most ephemeral of all arts and crafts.

So what to do? Build a shrine to memory, like the untouched room of a lost loved one, a Platonic essence of scent that will never turn rancid (or will it, by its very sterility)? Let go and accept, embrace the new reality of what the market can deliver? Dusty brocade or new day rising? 

2 comments:

Geraldine Stuckey said...

I agree. Classical perfumery is dead and with it one of its great mainstays--Mysore sandalwood. I doubt commercial perfume companies (unless consumer tastes change dramatically) will never again touch the stuff. Our one hope is small natural perfumers who are using natural Mysore oil from newly matured crops in India. I have a small sample and it is beautiful--buttery, rich, sweet but not too sweet, and haunting. Three Crowns Sandalwood is the cheapest fragrance I know using natural Mysore, but it is befuddled by synthetic musks to hide the fact that there is only a drop in it.

dukeofpallmall said...

I agree entirely