Saturday, April 2, 2011

Scented wanderings: perfumes of tomorrow?

One thing I find interesting about perfume people is that we actually take the time to smell our world, stop and think about it. Every spring since coming to our 'forever home', I've taken to documenting some of the natural scented phenomenons I encounter.

Last year I noted that despite what's so often said - i.e., that Cherry blossoms lack any real fragrance - the truth is that cherry blossoms have a very lovely scent.  I can see why people might make the assumption that cherries are scentless, though. Last year, their odor was so fleeting that you could really only detect it on the first day of the tree being in full bloom. The fragrance, although not the flowers, had faded away completely by the next day.

But this year things were different with our cherry tree. A series of late season cold rain storms hit our area and caught the poor little cherry right at the start of her bloom. The bees wouldn't set so much as an antenna out of their hives as we sat watching the cold drizzle. The first blush and then the full bloom went forth, ignored. But with probably only a third of the blossoms left in bud (the rest had already withered and wasted), the sun finally did come out. And our tree responded with one of the strongest, sweetest fragrances I've ever smelled, and to imagine it was coming off our cherry tree. It filled the entire yard with its papery honey sweet scent. Very pretty. But it served an important purpose as well; every bee in the county must have known the cherry was desperate for their services.

I don't know that I think often enough about how much local conditions and practices impact the quality of the essences used for perfumes, and how much luck plays into building some of those stunning fragrances- whether extracted directly from plants, or, as technology advances, from specific head-space samples. But as consumers begin to demand more of a 'unique' experience from their fragrance choices, these types of specific scent portraits will strongly impact future perfumes. We will find more and more perfumers and companies seeking to design scents that capture these highly personal, idiosyncratic moments.

A harbinger of the trend is seen in Kenzo's collection of travel scents, e.g., 7:15 in Bali; 5:40 pm in Madegascar; 10:10 am in Sisley... which may go on to become highly collectible fragrances in the future. The forerunner of the trend is found in nearly every vintage perfume you've ever owned that contains naturally harvested flower essences.  The fact is that many of the essences we find in vintage scents have since become extinct... and that's something I'll be pondering the next time I reach for something to spritz (or buy).

If you find this topic interesting, please see a related post by Octavian of 1000fragrances where he gives details of his future vision for where fragrance trends are heading...

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Kimika at Cherry blossom festival, from flickr
cherry blossoms from google image search
little geisha girls:


Suzanne said...

Greatly enjoyed reading this thoughtful post. Yes, cherry blossoms in Pennsylvania seem to have little to no fragrance, but I'm now beginning to wonder if it's either the time of day I try smelling them, or like you noted in this piece, subject to weather conditions. (Ours aren't in bloom yet, btw...won't be until May). Might be similar to honeysuckle: often during the daylight hours there's no detectable odor to them. Then I walk by them in the cool of evening, and they are positively wafting their pretty scent!

Amelia said...

I recall the honeysuckle of my childhood in Georgia being as you describe- impossibly fragrant in the cool evenings, right around 'firefly time'. The honeysuckle around here doesn't compare- but then, I don't have any in the yard, either. So maybe it is an exposure thing.

But what I wonder about is, if in the future, perfumaniacs such as ourselves won't be running around with their own little 'headspace' devices, capturing scented diary images and creating their own little indie, limited run, date/time specific perfumes i.e., your 'Pennsylvania Evening Honeysuckle' or my once-a-year 'Eau de Monsoon Cherry Blossom'-
Can you imagine?!