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.
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.
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?