The Perfumed Dandy is delighted to welcome a very special new guest critic.
The Collector is one of the very most refined of all the many connoisseurs of the art of perfumery that The Dandy has ever met, the scope of his knowledge and the precision of his analysis are only surpassed by his wisdom.
It is therefore my very great pleasure to introduce the first of what I hope will be many reviews by The Collector…
I have worn this scent every day for nearly a fortnight.
I have broken my own rule regarding avoiding other reviews while attempting to pen my own.
I have been certain of how to translate this sensory experience into words, then lost, certain again, and lost once more.
Myth is an invitation into the labyrinth.
The explorer considers and contemplates, discovers meaning in the myth only to find, with introspection, that they have discovered something about themselves, not a quality inherent in the object of their study.
The temptation analyzing any myth is to provide a discourse as endless as the memories and thoughts to which it gives fleeting life.
The meaning of a single passage of myth in the Aeneid, as detected by James Frazier, drove a twelve volume magnum opus.
Thierry Wasser evokes in this fragrance all the power and complexity of myth, not with scholastic detail and complexity, but poetic force and simplicity.
The poetry of this fragrance lies in the seeming simplicity of its exposition.
There are only three notes of significance, rose, ambergris and the titular Encens- Olibanum, or Louban in proper Arabic.
All other notes are present solely to emphasize and complete the presence of these three.
Just as the true poetry, per Robert Graves, is the retelling of myth: organically remembered ancient religious rites and practices, so Encens Mythique D’Orient is a true perfume, smelling of the rose before all other roses, the most rare expression of the sea, and the first of the precious resins.
The rose note is soft and contains great breadth, it is not the scent of any particular rose but of being intimately in the presence of real roses.
Not just the smell of the flowers, but the cut green stems and the sharp, citric taste of the petals, which are provided by a dose of aldehydes and orange blossom.
The ambergris is unctuous, quietly vibrant with the potential for salty animalic expression.
It is a clean skin that can sweat, exude oils, project fear or passion. A drop of moss adds an earthy bitterness that rounds this element and further emphasizes its human quality.
The Encens is the most clear and remarkable note.
This is not the smell of burning incense, but of the purest resin from the Boswellia Sacra.
I have had the pleasure to visit some of the high wadis of Dhofar in Oman where the most precious variety of Olibanum, Hojari, is harvested and to pluck a few pure white tears of the resin from the trees. The note contained within this perfume recalls the scent perfectly.
It is sweet yet dusty, with a sharp element that is often compared to pine but is more green, fresh and without any turpenic aspect; there are also hints of lemon and honey and light dry woods.
The elements of this perfume are clear, but the development, and the perception of the elements has only one consistency, proof of the brilliance of the composition.
With every wearing a clear narrative emerges.
At first I was prepared to write of how this was an elegy to ambergris with rose emphasizing through harmony the sweet and sour aspects of the smell while the olibanum did the same for the salty and sharp elements.
But when I wore it again, to refine and detail this conclusion, it was the the scent of olibanum that dominated, with its dusty, lemony sweet aspects supported and enriched by the distant sweetness, green and tang of rose and its woody resinous quality enhanced by the unctuous and bestial quality of the ambergris.
These were not different takes upon the same scent, but entirely different experiences.
Perhaps a mild allergy or sniffle had altered my perceptions?
So the effort continued, another day confirming one or the other until it manifested itself as a rose perfume, again structured as before, but this time with the olibanum and ambergris in support of a central rose theme.
As I became aware of each of these iterations, they became apparent constantly, sometimes each manifestation would appear as a skin scent when I put my nose to my arm, sometimes a different variation would reach my nose as a waft of air drifted up. It would open as rose and dry down to ambergris, or open as olibanum and dry down to rose.
Frustrated, and thinking it would not be possible to write a coherent review of Encens Mythique, I looked at some other reviews to try to get some idea of the correct interpretation of these notes and their proper structure.
Instead I found, among the first three well respected reviewers I consulted, one paean each to a brilliant rose perfume, a work of genius with ambergris, and the perfumer’s most noble expression of olibanum.
And then it was clear, this perfume is Mythique.
Not in that it contains a precious resin, but in its very quality.
It does not have the quasi-literary narrative structure of an opening, middle notes and a dry down.
It is myth, it is poetry, it grasps at the unconscious and manifests itself in the manner that any given time commands, time that can be an entire day or a single sniff.
It is three simple notes, each formed so that it can be equally facile in a leading role or as part of a supporting tandem.
It is three notes that with each wearing, each perception of change in their respective roles, become more captivating to the nose and the mind.
They dance around each other, not in a circle, but in a triple helix, always rising but never converging.
Is this a scent that you would enjoy?
Setting aside the descriptive flourishes, a minimalist rose perfume with a structure very much in keeping with two other recent successes in this genre: Cartier’s Declaration d’un Soir and the Different Company’s Rose Poivree. If you enjoy either of these simple but well structured rose scents that lack any particularly overbearing aspect, you will very likely enjoy Encens Mythique.
Finally, out of courtesy to my host, I must answer The Question: is it a scent for a man or a woman?
The triune nature of this perfume utterly rejects the question.
Quite exquisite, both perfume and prose.
All that is left is for The Dandy to express his enormous gratitude to The Collector for the wonderful review and extend an open invitation to him to return at a time of his wishing.
9 responses to “Pure poetry… L’Encens Mythique D’Orient by Guerlain A Special Guest Review by The Collector”
What a stunning and beautiful review from The Collector. I am so very pleased to read about this perfume of mythic nature and intent. Having smelled it only once but a few weeks ago I must say that I was captivated by its allure and had to be lashed to the mast to to sail on past to my intended rendezvous with the purchase I had in mind that day. But I can still, thanks to the Collector hear the sirens singing, calling me back to the island of Guerlain.
What an interesting review! Thank you! I hope to be able to try this sometime.
Dear Perfumed Dandy,
First and foremost I wish to thank you for introducing The Collector to your loyal followers and most certainly hope to have the luxury to enjoy future reviews from this mythical Collector so rich in knowledge of fragrances of the past and present. I also wish to extend my gratitude to this mythical scholar for writing this review so vividly that I could almost smell and feel this fragrance as getting the fragrance itself would be a challenge for me due to its unavailability in Hong Kong.
I recalled once a gentleman suggested that I should try L’Encens Mythique D’Orient to broaden and strengthen my love and understanding of the scent of roses and since then I had this fragrance in the very back of my mind for future procurement. After reading this review, I can only admit that true scholars do think alike or they are but one and take the advice from this wise man from the Orient to seriously seek this mythical fragrance.
Now Mr Chau
Are you after unveiling the identity of The Collector?
This is not an Agatha Christie murder mystery.
Though The Dandy chuckles at your remembrance of things and gentlemen past.
The Perfumed Dandy
Dear Perfumed Dandy,
By no mean am I trying to take away the excitement from anyone reading the present, and hopefully future, reviews of The Collector, but humbly attempt to show my respect and acknowledgement to his most sincere and educated advice. For true fragrance connoisseurs who can conjure such captivating reviews that I can think of are but three and two are already known; hence, how could I not imagine who The Collector shall be?
My Dearest Mr Chau
How right you are, it would be impossible would it not to speculate on the identity of such a learned gent.
Your musings amuse me no end!!
The Perfumed Dandy
Haven’t tried any from Les Desert Oriens fragrances. They’re not available in Poland as Guerlain has no boutiques in my country.
That is sad news as Guerlain do seem to be keeping more and more of the very best stuff to their boutiques and very select counters.
I hope the situation changes soon.
The Perfumed Dandy
Interesting and inspiring review. Perfume, like all the arts, can restore the psyche. I always feel its closest relation is music in the way it can cut through ‘reality’ to alter our perceptions and moods through imagination and memory. As Jung said – ‘Man has always lived in myth’ but we seem to expend vast amounts of energy in denying this! It’s uplifting to read these imaginative perfume reviews from T.P.D. and his guest today