A fellow lover of plants sent me angelica seeds a few years back. I put them in a corner of the patch that I was just starting to transform from a former playset pit into a garden. I knew their height and durability would be just the thing to help visually and philosophically anchor a corner that sat at a point into which decorative, cutting, crop, and wild areas all ran.
When I got the seeds, I was excited. But the only thing I knew of angelica was from my readings. And my readings focused on its herbal properties, its suitability for low maintenance gardening, and the quiet but powerful role it could play in visual design.
If anything discussed how good the flowers smell, I don't remember it.
I do like their odd sweet with herbal bitterness aroma. Which starts wafting a few inches away from the flower heads and invites you to stick nose down into the umbels, where you can inhale deeply.
People tend to inhale, draw back a bit sharply...then go back for more. The sweet wins...and because it's so high up, it's easy to revisit.
Angelique Sous la Pluie has long been one of my favorite in the Frederic Malle collection, and has been hovering at the "next full bottle purchase" list for a while now. (When I do get it, it will join En Passant and L'Eau d'Hiver, suggesting that I might have a preference for the understated...but I think of it as finding a beauty in these scents that is hard to find in most lines. I also adore Parfum de Therese, and there's no way that one is going to be interpreted as "quiet" or "understated.") When I went out to harvest some angelica the other day, I realized I needed to revisit Angelique Sous la Pluie, not only in tribute...but because I had reached a new level of appreciation for Jean-Claude Ellena's creation.
Standing there in the garden, inhaling the flowers, I was struck by how honest the perfume was in terms of the smell of the herby sweet flower. My memory even suggested that perhaps I needed to re-categorize Angelique... as a semi-soliflore. When I actually came back and spritzed the perfume, a little bit of trompe l'schnozz was unveiled. Yes, the idea of the actual flower was in there. But it was as if the flower had been given a bit of Diorella-ish bite, with an aldehyde-like lift. "Diorella-ISH"..."aldehyde-LIKE"...true flower IDEA...put together constructs which conjure, and the gestalt is what is Angelique Sous ls Pluie. It's as if you are looking at an attractive picture full of depth and with saturated colors in some areas but with light passing through in others...and then realize you are looking through a series of transparencies, but translating the assembly into a whole.
At this moment, blowing back and forth between hot, humid and cool, breezy weather, with a long holiday weekend in front of me and plenty of angelica still left standing in the distance, I conjure a drink that suits the plant and the perfume. At the moment, it's an elderflower liqueur that comes to mind to stand in for the angelica element, and a Plymouth gin to capture both the Diorella bite and the not-quite-aldehydic lift. Because ASlP not full out bubbly, I'm not bringing in a sparkling wine or seltzer. It needs shaking over ice, of course, to bring in the chill, and then being served martini style, to allow the sweet elements to hover at the surface of the liquid.
And as you lower your lips to the glass, it will be a little like putting your nose down to that angelica flower umbel...and the sip will be like the transparent layers of floral herby sharp refreshment that is the perfume.
P.S. There is a bubbly Elderflower pressé made by a British company, Belvoir, which would be a nearly suitable non-alcoholic beverage pairing for Angelique Sous la Pluie...you'd really need to mix in some tonic to cut the level of sweetness and make it be right.
And, if it were really hot, I'd turn the the alcoholic proposal into something stirred with tonic over ice. And a slice of bitter cucumber to garnish.
all images author's own