I think part of what stymies me lately when it comes to writing about perfume is that in a lot of ways I don't always feel so wordy about fragrance. It's not something which prompts me to immediately start looking for a vocabulary in my head. I value that part of smell which falls beyond words and the intellect, and I like to spend some time gestating with the fragrance. More often than not, after this gestation period I'm further beyond words, and the scent has entered some psychic space of mood and memory. What leads me to blog is wanting to communicate about fragrance in general. I like talking about it. I like hearing what other people have to say. I like our giveaways because people come out of the woodwork and this can feel like something close to a conversation. But I don't often like narrowing any fragrance down. And the posts I do best are free-associational.
Along those lines, I considered discussing some of my favorite green scents. By green I mean the color of the juice, not the category. Some fragrances make perfect sense in green: like Yendi, which is a cut grass aldehyde. Others should be green and aren't, like Givenchy III or Jean-Louis Scherrer. Stick with me here. Others make sense in an unusual way. Think of Eau Noire by Dior, which isn't "green" in theory but feels so right, so apt, when you smell it and look at it simultaneously. The color registers emotionally. Are so many scents amber and clear because we expect them to be, and imagine something must have gone wrong if they aren't? I suspect green feels so right to me in the context of Eau Noire partly because a green fragrance is unusual to a point approaching decadent--and Eau Noire has some pretty decadent pleasures: rich, almost savory but sweet too, like sex on skin.
L'Animale has immortelle in it, as does Eau Noire. The color of the fragrance is greener still. It seems even weirder in the case of L'Animale because the Histoires perfumes, though there aren't a ton of them, are all pretty predictably hued. When my bottle of L'Animale arrived it was thrilling to see that shade of emerald, not brilliant but swampy green, through the bottle. It was almost like a warning. The most shocking thing was how little like tuberose the thing smells. Tuberose you say? Oh really? It totally caught me off guard, which is a fantastic way to experience a perfume.
Unlike Abigail (and a lot of other bloggers, judging by the sometime hostility toward the line), I've been very impressed and smitten with Histoires de Parfums overall. Some could have better longevity, but this is a constant issue for me. My favorites are Noir Patchouli (hold up, also green!) and 1740 de Sade. De Sade is a good comparison, one I made the moment I smelled L'Animale. In fact, L'Animale seems like a more androgynous version of 1740. Both focus on immortelle. 1740 is intense, the same way Angel Liqueur and Malle's Une Rose are, with the near-syrupy density of a tawny port someone's been storing in a dark cask for decades.
Denyse from Grainde Musc smells the tuberose eventually. I never do. I might not be looking too hard. I don't ever smell the tuberose in Vierges et Toreros by Etat Libre D'Orange, either. I smell wet dog and rubber (don't assume I don't love this smell). L'Animale feels like a sweaty scent. Something your body would make of a more delicate perfume after a night out dancing in a tropical climate. It seems old--not vintage necessarily, not the way people mean "vintage fragrance". More like something stored in a crypt, some special elixir with dangerous properties meant for the right hands.
Another thing I thought of when I saw and smelled L'Animale was a trip I took to Barcelona once. You couldn't get Absinthe anywhere else but, I think, I don't know, like, Prague or something? Someone will correct me if I'm wrong. You can get Absinthe all over now, but it doesn't have wormwood, which is what I was told made it outlawed. Only a few places in the maze of old town Barcelona served Absinthe at the time. We spent an entire evening looking for it, searching with the kind of manic zeal I usually reserve for the perfume counter. When we found it, and drank it, and were in some head space I hadn't entered before and haven't since, and couldn't really put into words (here we go again), I looked at the green residue in my glass and thought how perfect the color was for the sensation of the liquor. L'Animale has the same kind of vaguely clandestine mystery about it, and I can picture someone pouring it into the bottle over a cube of sugared immortelle laced with who knows what.