Otis & Me by Jazmin Saraï — This scent, for me, is both wakeful and soothing. Bold black pepper, gritty dry coffee grounds, curling wisps of incense smoke. Simultaneously “clean” and “dirty,” sharp but somehow it also has an undercurrent of softness.
Our Wedding Day
Last February, I got married.
On our wedding day, I wore Blondine by Frassaï, and my husband wore Bois d’Ascèse by Naomi Goodsir.
At our reception, we sent our guests home with perfume sample packs accompanied by a little zine of scent descriptions. The four perfumes were our wedding day scents, along with two of our other favorites:
A’s wedding day perfume. Seemingly effortless, yet reveals itself to be deceptively complex. To describe it in three words: buttery lily musk. Abstracted gourmand notes of caramel and cocoa envelope a white floral heart. Castoreum, traditionally from beavers, suffuses the blend with an enigmatic, animal edge.
Bois d’Ascèse, Naomi Goodsir
K’s wedding day perfume. A meditative swirl of smoke among autumn trees, moss encroaching upon crumbled stone. With cade wood and tobacco, the smokiness of this scent brings to mind both incense and Islay Scotch whiskey.
Remember Me, Jovoy
A favorite of A’s. Cool and soft, a chai cloud of cardamom and ginger form a delicate pillow for frangipani flowers. Milky vanilla lends a subdued sweetness, while lemon and bergamot add lift.
The Duke of Burgundy, Folie À Plusieurs (possibly reformulated but available at Fumerie)
A favorite of K’s. Smooth osmanthus, peach, freesia, heliotrope, and artemisia create a texture like soft skin. This delicate facet meets an unusual pairing of leather shoes polish, creating an intriguing effect, at once clean and a little bit unctuous.
Find more wedding pictures at aubreyandkyrill.com. Photography by Kristen Marie Parker. Floral by Leah Erickson. More of our incredible wedding vendors are listed here.
Perfume Note: Ginger
The smell of ginger is bold and complex. It has a bright, lemony facet; a warm, zesty spice facet; and a deep woody/earthy facet.
Filigree and Shadow Incurable is a superlative ginger perfume, warm, zesty, deep yet powdery, accented with saffron, coriander, clove, green pepper, earthy patchouli, and a woody, oakmossy base.
Perris Monte Carlo Cedro di Diamante is a bright, lemon-lime ginger scent.
Monsillage Pays Dogon is fresh-cut flower stems, fruity-tart hibiscus, with ginger and pepper for spice and a light, vetiver and guaiacwood base.
Etat Libre d’Orange Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes is green shiso leaf and citrusy ginger, with a soft sweetness that emerges with its rice-and-coconut-milk dry down.
Pierre Guillaume Intrigant Patchouli is a honeyed patchouli with sweet ginger and smooth sandalwood.
Stora Skuggan Silphium is black pepper-forward, with dry ginger and clove, smoky incense, geranium, leather, and wood.
Masque Milano Hemingway sets ginger and rhubarb atop a leathery vetiver.
And of course, ginger lends itself beautifully to warm, spicy gourmands. L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two is candied ginger and cinnamon-sweet honey. Serge Lutens Five O’Clock Au Gingembre is soft and warm, ginger-spiced tea with honey and a hint of pepper. Serge Lutens Baptême du Feu is sharp and powdered, gingerbread and tanned leather, a dense fruitcake carved out of wood. Etat Libre d’Orange Noel au Balcon smells like gingerbread at a holiday party with your closest friends.
Olfactive Studio Woody Mood is a delicious ginger and cocoa wood, with saffron, patchouli, and sage. On my skin, a sweet campfire smoke note emerges and crackles underneath the ginger.
Empty: Lavande 44
My first empty perfume bottle: Rania J Lavande 44.
I’ve been reaching for this scent almost exclusively for the past few months, and each time I think about the different reasons I put on a perfume—some make me feel cozy, or confident, or beautiful, or powerful, or any number of things. Sometimes, wearing perfume is less about making me feel a certain way and more about creating an environment or a space to inhabit that day, or experiencing a narrative unfold around me.
Lavande 44 has become so familiar to me, in some ways it does all of these things: it soothes and fortifies me, makes the world around me feel more structured while simultaneously softening the hard edges. Strong and soft together.
The Smell of Slavery
The Smell of Slavery: Olfactory Racism and the Atlantic World. This academic book by Andrew Kettler contributes to a sensory history of Atlantic slavery. It traces the way olfactory sensibilities were shaped and wielded by white culture to subjugate African people and justify slavery, the way smell was used to dehumanize Black and African people, and the ways enslaved and formerly enslaved people used scent in acts of resistance.
“He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men.”
“Scent was a brother of breath. Together with breath it entered human beings, who could not defend themselves against it, not if they wanted to live. And scent entered their very core, went directly to their hearts, and decided for good and all between affection and contempt, disgust and lust, love and hate. He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men.”
—Patrick Süskind, Perfume
Perfume Material: Benzoin
Benzoin is the resin from the styrax tonkinesis tree. Benzoin can be translucent or darker in color, but this one is opaque and looks like dried caramel—and it kind of smells like it, too. Benzoin absolute always reminds me of Coca Cola with its vanilla sweetness, a bit syrupy, but with a fizzy quality that gives the scent some lift and keeps it from being overly heavy. Its scent can be described as “balsamic”—not as in balsamic vinegar, but as in balsams; tree resins. Benzoin absolute smells warm, rich, resinous, with hints of cinnamon and wood. It’s a core component of classic “amber” accords, along with vanilla and labdanum.
The Smell of Risk
“Olfaction necessarily puts the smeller’s body at risk: to smell something is to become vulnerable to it.”
Hsuan L. Hsu’s The Smell of Risk: Environmental Disparities and Olfactory Aesthetics is an examination of the many ways that smell is bound up into structural inequality—how “our differentiated atmospheres unevenly distribute environmental risk.” In the book, Hsu explores the olfactory inequalities present in art museums, naturalist writings, detective fiction, and settler colonial and Orientalist values and practices. Ultimately, Hsu explores what it could mean to decolonize smell. This book doesn’t shy away from complexities, and I highly recommend it to anyone curious about the role smell plays in environmental justice and decolonization.
A Wedding Perfume for M & J
In early 2020, I had the joyful assignment of selecting some curated perfume sample options for a couple who was engaged to get married in the desert near Santa Fe. They wanted to both wear the same perfume on their wedding day, which I love. Like many couples, the pandemic changed their plans, and although they didn’t get married in the desert as planned, the perfume they selected brought the feeling of their Southwest vision back into their wedding day in Portland, Oregon. Profumum Roma Arso, which they were able to pick up at their local perfume shop Fumerie, is dry woodsmoke and incense, comforting cedar and pine.
Congratulations to the wonderful couple M & J, and I hope this striking scent will bring back wedding memories for years to come!
Book: Olfaction: A Journey
I enjoyed IFRA’s Olfaction: A Journey, a catalog of ideas, projects, and possibilities collected over 10 years of their Fragrance Forum talks. The book reads like a well-curated collection of summaries—about a page dedicated to each talk, giving the reader enough to feel inspired and to follow up with their own research into the speakers’ work. Topics range from the science of olfaction to business insights, perfumery to typography, questions of health to questions of art & culture.