Purveyor. Not of goods, but of good ideas

Friday, February 03, 2006

My Best Smeller List

I was walking down Madison Avenue years ago and passed a stranger, a woman. I caught a whiff of her perfume. The scent, apparently, was the same worn by my old high school girlfriend. It was she who popped instantly to mind. I really hadn't thought of her in a long time, but with this olfactory trigger... BAM! I was catapulted back to feelings I hadn't had since I was a teenager. Like temporary insanity, but it was wonderful, a real rush. Scent as drug. It didn't last long and if memory serves me, there was some kind of immediate, semi-muscular counter-trigger that kicked in as if to protect me: "No, no!" it said, "you don't want to go back there!" And in a moment, the transporting emotion evaporated. It never happened again, I never did find out what that perfume was, and I don't know that if I did, it would still have the same affect on me. I may just be too scared to seek it out.

All this is leading me to consider what smells good. Not in a "that's nice" kind of way, but something more powerful, like the taste of a great wine (like Shirvington Cabernet 2001 from McLaren Vale, South Australia—not the best, but certainly the most complex I've ever tasted) or the emotion evoked by a piece of music (Somei Satoh's "Toward the Night," New Albion Records NA056CD) that just puts everything else, just for a moment, in a lesser, simply ordinary category.

Here are some of the best-smelling things I know:

L'Occitane's CADE products
Why does this smell so real and everything else so chemical, hyped, or artificial by comparison? Along with the Molton Brown Black Pepper stuff, below, these are the best masculine scents I know. Curiously, CADE is not offered in any form that's meant to stay or linger, making it wonderful...but elusive.

Molton Brown's Re-charge Black Pepper body wash. Not to be missed.

LUSH's Soaps:
-Honey, I Washed the Kids. Believe me, you wouldn't mind having your mouth washed out with this one
-Sea Vegetable Soap. "Intellectually superior to all other soaps."

Gasoline. C'mon admit it: it's one of your favorite secret smells.

Zirh's CLEAN facial wash

A smell I'd describe as Fruit Loops for Grownups. Completely clear with a syrupy consistency that when you put on your face feels like you're doing something you normally shouldn't. You'd just as likely stick your foot in pudding. This is a good thing.

Disney's invisible ink

Want to know the smell of paradise when you're eight? At the end of a glorious day in The Magic Kingdom, you once had the option of getting your hand stamped with invisible ink, readable only under ultraviolet light, that would permit you to re-enter the park on the same day. Even when there was no chance the rest of your exhausted family would ever agree to returning, you couldn't resist keeping your options open, just in case. The slightly chemical scent of that ink, which aimed at something vaguely lemony-lime, was IT! Perhaps predictably, Disney no longer uses this method for re-entry. But even a few years ago, when they did, the scent had been excised. A victim, no doubt, of potential litigation by some super-sensitive urchin with an overprotective mother. Ruined for us all. If anyone out there knows this scent and where I can smell it again, I'll pay you like you're my dealer.

That's my list...for now. Make up your own, and tell me.


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