The Greatest Perfumes Never Made -1 Blixen’s Ehrengard

Writing about perfumes makes you particularly aware of any perfume references outside the actual fragrance platforms. Some authors have a knack not just for the occasional scent inspired description, or reference to a certain perfume, but for actually creating things of fragrant beauty in their own right. A description which reads like notes to an elusive perfume you instantly get a craving to smell.

The great story-teller Tania (Karen) Blixen, of ‘Out of Africa’- fame, wrote ‘Ehrengard’ late in her life, and it was only published posthumous in 1963. It is a typical case of Blixen’s box stories (think Russian Dolls), and we are about half way through the story before the title heroine makes her entrée.

Diana-Leaving-her-Bath Francois Boucher

Opposite the unaffected and virtuous Ehrengard is the self-satisfied artist and connoisseur of all things romantic Johann Wolfgang von Cazotte as the leading man. Blixen’s balance act of ridicule and love for her male protagonist makes this one of the definitely lighter and funnier of her stories. A highlight is where the painter Cazotte discovers Ehrengard bathing, and is in a reverie about this most magnificent composition that he is going to paint; ‘Diana leaving her bath’. Without revealing too much I can say that Diana being the Roman Goddess of hunt as well as the virgin goddess of childbirth and women, it all ties in perfectly with the Blixenesqe universe. The plot is magnificent in all its twists and turns, and the final point is nothing short of triumphant.


A scent worthy of the Amazonian Ehrengard would be a great thing in its own right, but Blixen does one better; she offers it to us, a magic elixir that I for one would dearly like to smell.

“The evening air was getting cooler, she rode through many spheres of fragrance; clover, flowering lime trees and drying strawberry fields, through them all the ammoniac smell from the lathering horse was the strongest. She drew in her breath deeply, and hastened on, with raised head and distended nostrils, a young female centaur playing along the grass fields.”

Would the notes read something like this?

top; green notes, neroli, clover, cassis

heartnotes; lime/linden, strawberry, hay, grass, rose

base; ammoniac, musk, leather, oakmoss (oak groves were sacred to the Goddess Diana), resin and labdanum.

ehrengard copyright me


What do you think, if we go lightly on the ammoniac, would you like to smell Blixen’s elixir? What notes would you have added?

10 thoughts on “The Greatest Perfumes Never Made -1 Blixen’s Ehrengard

  1. Asali, your post has me very much wanting to read this story, which I’ll definitely track down. I agree with you: that description is so evocative of a perfume, and I think you’ve got the perfect notes for it. But since you asked if we would want to add any notes, I’d say I’d like to add a touch of indolic jasmine, which rounds out the scent of lathered horse for me.

    Gorgeous collage, btw.

    • Dear Suzanne, I really think you’d like the story- she wrote in English, so it’s easily available, there’s especially another rather sexy one (forgot which, will find out, though), that I know you’d like and of course there’s Babettes’s feast, which is also absolutely amazing. You’re right it would have to have some jasmine. I have no idea about horses, so I take your word for it smelling like lathered horse 🙂
      And thank you <3

  2. Hi Asali,
    I remember reading ‘Ehrengard’ long long time ago. When I come across exceptionally beautiful compositions or artworks, I sometimes wonder about the smell… How they can be translated into scents…
    You’ve put ‘Ehrengard’ perfume together exquisitely, but as Suzzane suggested, some jasmine would be a nice touch. 🙂 I really love the idea of the greatest perfumes never made!

    • Hi magpie, I’m glad you like the idea, and yes, I think artworks can be scentspirationous too. Great that you like the notes and the addition of jasmine, now all we need is the perfumer 😉

  3. Oh, what a fun idea for a post – as you might imagine, you had me at the mention of Diana’s bath! And there are indeed the makings of a complete perfume right there, in the wild. I would definitely go easy on the ammoniac, and ramp up the linden at the expense of the hay and leather, though I fully appreciate she is on a horse. I would still prefer a more linden-forward scent reminscent of the meadows through which she is riding though, and fear those other two notes would dominate. I used to have that problem with leather in Ivoire de Balmain, though it is a long time since I tried it. Yes, as a neophyte sniffer, I once described Ivoire as ‘soapy yet urinous saddles’.

    • Haha, of course I did- perhaps the ‘Diana’ colour scheme would be an inspiration for you? 🙂 ‘Soapy yet urinous saddles’- A Vanessaesque gem! In terms of this Ehrengard perfume, I am of course thinking an extremely well blended composition, with all notes in harmony, not an attention-seeking novelty item, even if I like both hay and leather.

  4. This is such a great idea! Although the perfume sounds not ideal for me (wildly, insanely, horribly allergic to hay), if we could leave off the hay, I would definitely be interested. I like the pairing of dry and dusty/waxy notes with fruit notes. It reminds me a little bit of the way that I experience L’Ombre Dans L’Eau, which to my nose is a dry-ish summer field (not the way other people smell it).

    • Maybe we make three different kinds. Ehrengard 1,2 and 3. One without the hay which amplifies the fruit and dust, one which is more floral green( for Vanessa) and one more animalic and with the hay. I would say they could even layer, but layering kind of implies lightweight perfumes, and I wouldn’t want that. They all need oomph. And I didn’t try L’ombre dans l’eau knowingly. Must correct that soon 🙂

  5. I want to read this book too!

    I think with strawberries – to follow the description – you need to go either into dried strawberries smell or strawberry jam. And yes, we should go easy on ammoniac… unless we want to play “Serge Lutens” (camphor in Tubereuse Criminelle).

    • I hope you will enjoy it. I saw on Birgit’s favourite books page that we have quite a few in common, so there’s a good chance you will 🙂
      You’re right; I was definitely thinking dried strawberries, since jam normally implies immortelle, which I find problematic.
      Hehe, but you’re right about the SL-version, that would be fun, I hadn’t imagined it given the Serge Lutens treatment.

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