Monday, October 26, 2009

Love Speaks Primeval. True. Drat.

“Primeval.”  Doesn’t just mean a period of history.  It means based on raw instinct, “raw and elementary.”  The label on this little vial says Love Speaks Primeval.  Hmmm.

I received a Liz Zorn order the other day.  Lovely skin.  (More on “skin” soon.)  Included was a sample of Love Speaks Primeval.  I was excited...and a little scared.  You see, when Liz Zorn graciously brought herself along with a generous selection of samples to Chicago for a gathering of perfume enthusiasts a couple of falls ago, she brought along a little something extra.  A small sample of a perfume she had created using...civet.

Oh, I’ll gird myself up and give this a whiff.  It’ll be good for me...educational.  There’s plenty of food back out there, or seltzer, if I start to get queasy.  If I can handle eating meat, I can handle this.

The first hit is something wrong, something that you think you might recoil from, but you find your nose sinking in deeper.  It develops into something smooth, rich, almost a gourmand dessert.  A gourmand dessert along with a tender delicious cut of meat.  And it occurs to you that this new stage, this delicious something, maybe hasn’t changed entirely.  It is still permeated by the first primeval something, woven throughout, now part of the bigger picture.

I am not going to go into the controversy over civet here.  Suffice to say, I have in general avoided it, and been grateful that in general I have not been attracted to perfumes that lean on the civet.  

What I will get into is a confession:  A number of years ago, a friend recited her delicious sounding menu for Thanksgiving.  Then she paused, and said they would be starting it all with champagne and foie gras.  I must have recoiled over the phone.  I covered, but we gently yanked each other’s chains--she, suggesting that maybe it was time to sophisticate my palate; I, saying perhaps it was time to stop justifying oneself under cover of sophistication. She asked if I had ever actually tried it.  My answer was no.  And has remained so.

Until last summer.  I approached gingerly, semi-wantonly.  I was just going to have a smidge, so that I could say I knew what it tasted like.  It was time for me to face it down.  I would survive.  And I would never come back.

So, while I was, well, fearful as the bit of morsel approached my mouth, I took comfort in knowing that it would soon be over.

What I had not thought of was that rainy day in a sideroom in Chicago, when I applied Liz’ civet concoction to my wrist.  And nearly melted.


In the case of the foie gras, my companion was my spouse.  Our eyes met across the table.  If one can recognize one’s own opinion expressed in someone else’s face, it is with a spouse with whom you have noted many anniversaries.  And in his face, I saw my thoughts:  “Ahhhhhyes.  Oh, crap.  Oh, this is good.  Oh, I’m in trouble.”

Across the table at the perfume gathering, my eyes met with another perfumista.  In retrospect, our expressions were probably much the same as mine & my spouse’s at that anniversary dinner last summer.

Spouse and I finished the foie gras.  Perfume friend and I threw caution to the wind and gave up the rest of our skin sampling space to the incredible scent in the bottle.  I did not think I’d have an opportunity for either again.

LSP is rich, like an Amouage.  I love the follow through this kind of experience offers, whether taste or olfactory; there is a period of discovery before you get to the incredible moment, and it does not let you down for as long as it is with you.  Transcendent delicious is the kind of yummy that demands your attention, settles you into a fabulous flavor, and then echoes with happiness.

I am not proud of the eating of the foie gras.  And now I have to confess...I had it again.  One more time.  To see if that first time was a fluke.  It was not.  I like it.  I am going to have to make a decision to not.  Yes, to not.  I love it.  But I can't have it in my life.  It doesn't even make sense that I like it, dang it!  I hate liver.  Seriously.  As a kid, I had permission to leave the house on the rare occasion my mother cooked it, because the mere smell of it made me nauseous.  I am an animal rights person.  I like to get gifts from Heifer, International.  I am an occasional meat eater who consciously searches for responsibly raised meat.  My son is a vegetarian.  My pets are shelter rescues.  Some of my best friends are animals!!!

>Sigh.<  I hate cognitive dissonance.

Liz Zorn’s blog, October 13, 2009:  I also (this morning) made up a few samples of the new natural chypre parfum: Love Speaks Primeval. I have a little on the back of my hand and can’t help notice how much the apple note has come to the front in the mid-heart. Maybe it is a hormone thing with me, but I do not remember it being so dominant in my earlier trials, and I tested it a lot. Curious to see how it works for others. I will write more about it later. It is coming out in November and will wrap up the new Soivohle’ releases until next spring.

Love Speaks Primeval speaks to me just like those unnamed "historicals" Liz conjured.  I'm hoping that the vocabulary, the ingredients, uses something different than civet.  But you'll notice I haven't asked.  Yet.  I'm hoping I just got scared by the word "primeval."  *

I’ll tell you how I feel about LSP.  It’s decadent.  It inspires sustained extended snorfles.  I think I might get some to wear instead of eating foie gras.  

*update:  please take a moment to look through the comments...Liz Zorn stopped by and talks about what goes into LSP and her own thoughts on "primeval."

The magic ingredient in Love Speaks Primeval, the animalic element I was responding to, is called Africa Stone, which is a euphemism for hyrax droppings.  Fossilized hyrax droppings.  See the africa stone entry at Enfleurage, or natural perfumer and teacher Ayala Moriel's description here.  Now, if only my own dog's soakings and droppings in the backyard were so useful...


Mals86 said...

S, a lovely post! I was particularly taken by your comparison of an "I'll never like that" luxury food item with the dreaded-in-modern-times civet scent. It made me think of something a character in a Scott Turow novel says: "There is usually something to other people's pleasures."

Neither foie gras nor caviar has come my way, but if either one does, I won't hesitate in saying yes.

Patou Joy, despite some heavy sampling of various concentrations, is an utter disaster for me - and I'm still not sure whether it's the jasmine or the civet or the combo. I have only sampled a few Soivohle' scents, and thought they were well done, but loved none of them. Maybe I'm just trying the wrong ones.

Mals86 said...

Forgot to say that I found the name "Love Speaks Primeval" really profound. Yes, it does. It sends a shock of pleasure right down the backbone. And if it asks for everything to be cleaned up and prettified, if it doesn't fondle the animal nature - well, it ain't Love.

Nathan Branch said...

S -- laughed all the way through your post. Especially the "Oh, I am in trouble!" thought that hits once you discover you really like something you never thought you could.

And I love that you're willing to try new things and new experiences. Too many people close themselves off to the unusual or the different without ever having given it a try.

Looking forward to the release of Love Speaks Primeval. It sounds worthy of getting to know.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

oh dear.... I feel your pain re: fois gras! I love it and wish that I didn't! It's kind of like wearing fur... I refuse to wear fur (and won't wear it) but I think it looks so glamorous and luxe. I just watched the Jean Paul Gaultier fashion show today... lots of fur everywhere! And I thought to myself... well maybe? No. Luckily fur and fois gras are not that affordable...

ScentScelf said...

Mals, thanks. :)

Heh, I can see why the Turow quote comes up...I may need to put a lid on exposing peccadillos or pleasures for a little while. As for the fragrance does have a certain something to it, no?

ScentScelf said...


Always happy to provide laughter to someone's day! Even if I must expose my...what was it I said, Mals?...pleasure peccadillos. A little.

This whole perfume thing is one big "who knew?" Once upon a time I was a migraineur with potent memories of my Nana's cloud of Avon something or other sending my head into a cloud of pain thicker than her sillage. Not to mention liver. And other dangerous smells.

Now, I keep on putting my nose in pots where it knows it might not want to be put.

Will be most curious to hear what you think of LSP.

ScentScelf said...


I almost wish I could trade my (sshhh, nearly unspoken) love of foie gras for one of fur. I *could,* after all, buy a used fur, and be part of the whole recycle movement. Ideally, a used fur that had been taken from an animal who led a full and happy life that came to a natural close.

Of course, some temptation may take me down the fur path...there are all those vintage scents that were supposed to be "fur scents"...Oh, that would just about be the height, right? Out of reach for oh so many reasons.

Which, of course, are all the more reasons to embrace something like Zorn's is current and available, as opposed to stratospherically priced at auction and full of ingredients whose harvesting causes trouble to animals or the eco-system.

BTW, you should check out the Perfume Posse blog; past couple of days have been about finding one's own style in fashion and perfume. Made me think of you.

Congratulations again on completing the second draft of your novel!

Anonymous said...

After receiving your email I wasn't sure where you were going with this. but: duck liver - civet I see the connection. Forbidden fruit.
Natural civet is one of those things that it is impossible to know if it is harvested from the wild, or from caged animals. And in todays climate it is also hard to know if it is even the real thing.
Most perfumes are made using synthetic civet accords. I use a synthetic civet accord in most of our Moderne Collection florals.
We use no real civet in any of our Soivohle' perfumes.
The Love Speaks Primeval does contain Rock Hyrax (africa stone) tincture. Which is a cruelty free animal product.
The intention was to create a natural version of a retro style chypre. The name (to me) depicts a kind of longing for something that speaks to our deepest emotion. These kinds of perfumes speak to me in that way. There is something "raw and elemental" about that. Do we throw caution to the wind and allow ourselves to go there or do we play it safe and skate along the surface.
Liz Zorn

ScentScelf said...


Yes, that's it. The forbidden fruit. And, all the more powerful that it feels like animal fruit.

Thank you for elucidating about your materials. I have found your methodology to be most interesting--thoughtful, creative AND versed in materials--since first hearing you speak in Chicago that night.

You have done interesting things with modern versions of retro styles. "Green Oakmoss" is another in this category I admire. The "Love Speaks Primeval" however, my thalamus. In a way those potions you presented that night did. It is indeed a heady decision to face; throw caution to the wind? or play it safe?

I enjoy that your creation allows me to feel like I am doing the former, while making sure it is the latter for any creatures implicated in its creation.

All of which is a lot of syllables to say "yum."

Rose said...

what a great post. Civet on it's own= awful but like you I have been seduced by a mere hint of it.

I tried fois grois without realising at a street market in Paris (doesn't that sound like I have a cool life- it was a one off honest!). The trader just thrust it into my hand. I thought it was pate. It tastes incredible- it's wrong and bad and all those things and I haven't had any since but I can still remember the taste now.

ScentScelf said...


Ha! I shall now forever think of you as the hidden cool life chick. No, don't protest...the veil is lifted. ;)

And that's just it...carrying such and impact that you can conjure the experience well after the fact. Potent, potent, potent. I am grateful for the Hyrax and it's droppings, aka "Africa Stone." Animalic...but not cruel. This is something I'll feel okay coming back to.

ScentScelf said...

Ooops; that's "carrying such AN impact..."

Liisa Wennervirta said...

I think the only fragrance I own that features civet is Fougere Royale, but that's an old one. I'm a bad Buddhist, you know, but if I stopped eating meat, then I wouldn't be left with much because I have some issue with complex carbs (read: starches. Bread, rice, pasta, you name it). And.... well, one would have to build a hermitage and wear birch bark clothes or something to be totally sure that no animal was harmed in the process of the making. Call it alibism, if you wish.
So, I take what life offers. Sometimes it's caviar (to paraphrase Granny Ogg: "This blackberry jam has gone bad, it smells of fish."), sometimes it's leftovers from the bottom of the fridge.
And... there's civetone, a synthetic one. I would love to get a vial to try, since I feel sorry for the little buggers who'd certainly rather keep their anal glands to themselves.

ScentScelf said...


That's one point for Granny Ogg! Love it. And yes, alibism would work as a label.

As for the synthetic would be interesting to have a straight up huff. There are a fair handful of stories circulating the intertubes where perfume tour groups were handed straight up civet to smell, but none about the new synthetics. Liz says up there she constructs from a synthetic accord; that would be a fine place to start. :) I have seen sites that sell a synthetic civet; maybe some of us should buy a small vial and pass it around...

Thanks for stopping by, and for taking the time to comment. :)