I hoped that after a while everybody gets used to seeing posts written by my guest-cum-co-bloggers Narth and Portia, but a couple of times recently when Narths posts were mistaken for mine, I decided for a while to add her name to the titles (and Portia is doing something along the line already) – at least until everyone learns to check the By line (Undina).
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I’ve always been someone who likes strong flavours. If a flavour must be delicate, it should be a work of art to make up for its delicacy. I was raised on robustness; mega garlic and onions, chillies, the darkest of pumpernickels. Food was praised in my childhood for how much of a flavour bomb it was. I didn’t eat sliced white bread until I was at least 15 as this was regarded as poison by one parent and pointless by the other. Why would you eat this when you could eat rye with caraway? Don’t people realize white flour is stripped of all its nutrients?
The last time I was travelling, I had a revelation as I sat in the hostel kitchen and ate my free breakfast. A slice of white toast, spread with margarine (an abomination) and some thin, sugary strawberry jam. At home I would have used butter, and my jam would have been either an expensive brand or, more likely, made by myself and intensely flavourful. Here, drinking some over stewed black coffee and munching away at this testament to blandness, I shocked myself by appreciating the very blandness itself. It wasn’t about beautiful simplicity in food, it was a sudden shift in my thinking from an almost religious belief that all food had to be purposefully wonderful. Now you could say this enjoyment of blandness was a byproduct of travelling, we all know that the McDonald’s breakfast you have at 5am in the airport is the best McDonald’s breakfast you’ll ever have. But it was more than that, and since returning home I’ve found myself enjoying food in a different way. Perhaps, the last snobbery of my upbringing has finally dropped off, or maybe I’m just a lame-o hipster. And of course, I’m still overthinking everything, but that’s what perfume people do. So, has this played out in perfume for me? Not as readily as with food, but there have been a few times my hostel breakfast has come to mind as I enjoy a scent.
Penhaligon’s Belgravia Chypre, a limited edition now making rounds of the discounters, has at its very heart a strange staleness. It’s pretty, clean and patchouli minty. A thin rose, it smells like old musk sticks left in the bottom of a paper bag. Musk sticks for the non-Antipodeans are pink, musk flavoured sweets that people are either delighted by or grimace at the sight of. Found in the corner shops for a few cents each, many an Australian childhood included buying this cheap candy and eating it out of little paper bags. Musk is a strange thing to use as a flavour if you haven’t grown up with it. In my perfume swapping days, I would often include some Musk flavoured Lifesavers as the “extras” in an overseas swap because it is such a surprising thing to try if you’ve never had it before. Belgravia Chypre dries down to a stale paper bag infused with the flattest of musks, and I absolutely love it. It’s become my favourite evening simple scent, when I want to wind down. It often makes me laugh because of that not very good musk note, and I would not wish it any other way. I think they were going for a sheer musk, but if they had achieved that, it would have lost all its personality for me and been just another musky rose.
Do you have any scents you appreciate for their failure to be exceptional?
Penhalgion’s Belgravia Chypre (Fabrice Pellegrin, 2018)
Top Notes: Raspberry, Pink Pepper
Middle Notes: May Rose, Mate
Base Notes: Patchouli, Cistus labdanum
Image: my own