Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The wintery texture of Heure Exquise

It is winter.

This may or may not be clear to you, or even true for you.  But here, where I sit, the temperature on the other side of the window is below freezing, a blanket of snow covers the ground, it in turn covered by a crust of partially thawed then certainly refrozen ice.  There is still enough of the powder to make it pretty, but the ratio of ice makes it the kind of environment you step into gingerly, testing the traction, making sure you can get your footage.

As it turns out, there was just enough thaw yesterday to soften it up, so that the sheen is indeed slippery, but has some give.  You still need to be alert, but you can relax a bit.  Enjoy the walk.  See the landscape as beautiful, because there's a little bit of cush under that crust.

This is the texture of Heure Exquise.

Drop the temperature a few degrees, and there's no hint of plush.  That is the texture of Iris Bleu Gris.

Have you ever had a perfectly made shortbread, where the crumble was right even as it veered dangerously close to too dry?  Where the amount of butter used was enough to let those fatty molecules hover around your tongue without obscuring all other flavors, letting the slightest hints of sugar caramelized by the heat of the oven come through?

Have you ever heard of a flavoring called Fiori di Sicilia?  An extract you can use in baking, a la vanilla or orange, which some call a citrus vanilla but which really rings of a field of flowers?  Try to conjure it even if you haven't; if you have smelled it, remember it.  Got it?  Now, a hint of that in the shortbread.

And shoot the whole thing through with orris root.  Or maybe wash the shortbread down with orris tea, should such a thing exist.

This is a dream shortbread, and is the flavor of Heure Exquise.

I love wearing perfumes in winter.  I love listening to them in the same way you hear sounds across a snowy landscape: overall input is attenuated, but specific qualities or registers carry further than ever.  There is both a hush, and an amplification; if nature were an auditorium, the outdoors in winter is full of both sound absorbing baffles and chutes that channel input straight to your ears.

A light wind through a few tenacious leaves on an otherwise bare tree across the way.  Laughter on the other side of the park.  A train in the distance.  You can hear it all, and still feel ensconced in a cocoon that makes you feel like you just might be all, entirely, wholly alone.

Perfect for listening to your feet in the snow and gauging the temperature based on amount and quality of crunch and smoosh.

Also wonderful for listening to the smell of things.  Even inside, the quality of smell "acoustics" is different in winter.

While I now know I am going to love Heure Exquise any time of year, and that I am NOT going to become impatient and assume it is on its dying away drydown two hours in, because four hours in a surprise powdery beauty will emerge...while I now know that in the middle I will be rewarded with a green smooth floral something that will feel lovely in the heat...while I now know I will find this beauty any time of year, I may not have fallen in love unless I played with it in winter.  When it sounded different, and I could pay attention differently.


photo by Matheson Beaumont, available for purchase here
I have gotten Fiori di Sicilia from King Arthur Flour


Marina said...

So beautifully written! Makes me want to run find my sample. And I so agree with perfumes smelling special somehow in winter.

Anonymous said...

"A hush, and an amplification." Yes.

Happy sigh. (However, NOT running off to find my little bit o' HE, because I am wearing carnations today. Another happy sigh.)

ScentScelf said...

Marina, it's nice to know someone else finds a certain "winter" quality to smelling in winter. :)

ScentScelf said...

Muse--you like carnations, eh? I did not think I did...and of all things, Bellodgia perfume snuck up on me in the drydown one day. I now see how they can be pretty...even...beautiful.

I should try it now, eh? In this depth of winter. Hmm.

Musette said...

I think you know how I feel about perfume in winter - and I first fell in love with Exquise in late autumn - your beautiful post has spurred me to hunt it up and try it again - it's only going to get colder, after all! :-)

thanks for an absolutely wonderful post!


Anonymous said...

I do love carnations... but NOT Bellodgia. At least, not the samples I tried (vintage parfum that might be off, modern edt).

The CdG is pretty good, but DSH Oeillets Rouges trumps it, IMO. I also love PdN Vanille Tonka (carnations in composition) and I liked Fragonard's Billet Doux very much, too.

Aimée L'Ondée said...

So perfect! So perfect to describe the the acoustics of smell being different in the winter. And I adore Heure Exquise, too. It makes a great going-to-bed-at-eight-o'clock-to-read-and-nod-off-on-a-cold-evening perfume. Lovely post,ScentScelf.

Vanessa said...

'Even inside, the quality of smell "acoustics" is different in winter.'

An insightful and lyrically evocative post, and yes, come to think of it, it was in winter that I learnt to care for Heure Exquise.

Also love your slush/cush/crust analogies with Iris Bleu Gris and HE!

ScentScelf said...

Musette, you're welcome, of course. Glad you enjoyed.

ScentScelf said...

Muse, I've clearly done wrong by steering clear of carnations. I've noted your list, and mayhaps shall visit at least a couple in 2011.

ScentScelf said...

Aimee, what a nice way to identify a perfume. I am a fan and practitioner of the retire-early-with-a-book-on-a-cold-night thing; though, truth be told, it is sometimes me nodding off with a book and a blanket on the couch by the fire. ;)

Thanks for the kind words.

ScentScelf said...

Vanessa, you found your way to Heure Exquise in the winter, also? Interesting. It's funny; I may enjoy it best in warmer weather in the future...but I wouldn't presume to predict.

Life with snow. All the types...that's something true winter kids get trained on from an early age, starting with learning how to answer the question "Is it good packing?" and continuing through and beyond the concern about good but icy packing, which makes a mean snowball for fortress fights.

Suzanne said...

Shelley, such a beautiful post! I share many of your same thoughts about winter (though come mid-February I will need to be reminded of this, and by March, which is still largely a wintry month in Pennsylvania, I will be hurling insults at winter).

I wanted to tell you, in regard to our earlier email, that I use Internet Explorer as my web browser, which maybe why your Twitter box blocks some of the text. In fact, just this very minute I pulled up Mozilla Firefox for my browser, and then no problem at all! So now I know...in the future I will visit your site using Mozilla Firefox. Problem sol-ved, as Sherlock Holmes might say!

ScentScelf said...

Suzanne, thank you! Yes, I am sure insults, epithets, and incoherent blatherings will be coming out my mouth around late February/March, as well. It can get long. But I do try to enjoy while spirits and endurance allow. (See "Forcing Bulbs," above.)

Ah, good detective work on the browser/Twitter widget situation. Thank you for letting me know. (I'm sure that is Microsoft playing with me; I think that they and Google hear my mockery. In fact, I know Google does...they've been sending pop up ads for the AARP and retirement communities. Very funny.)