Life sometimes is surprising. Just when you think that you have a fragrance figured out something happens and you see it from a different perspective. This happened to me yesterday. The scent in question was Cuir Ottoman (Parfum d’ Empire). The contributing notes according to the perfumer are: leather, iris, jasmine, cistus, burned styrax, tolu balm, benzoin, vanilla, tonka incense. According to my classification system it smells like an old black leather bag that a lady used in the 30’s to carry her cosmetics and perfumes when she was going off to trips in spas, but is now used by a car mechanic to carry his tools. Instantly I get the leather. It is a thick, strong leather but it doesn’t have much in common with leathers like Cuir Mauresque or Knize Ten. Cuir Ottoman (CO) makes those seem floral and feminine. The leather in CO has a distinct note of petrol. The emphasis is on the tanning process rather than the animalic qualities. But at the same time and with equal strength a soft iris contradicts the butchness of this leather with its powdery qualities. I have always filed this fragrance under: warm, cozy, but not quite… There was something that was still hidden in this fragrance, not completely mapped out.
Yesterday I had a fight with my significant other. Big one. Over the phone. I felt angry and hurt and I decided to go out for drinks as I couldn’t stand still. It was a fresh summer night so I decided to wear Fougère Bengale (Parfum d’ Empire) but I was obviously too angry to concentrate so I grabbed the wrong bottle. Before I knew it I was wearing a generous spritz of CO! And then I got even angrier. For me ending up wearing a fragrance by mistake is the equivalent of dressing up to go out and spilling your Bloody Mary on the first bar you go to. But it was already too late so I played along… three more sprays.
Then it hit me. The darkness of the leather in this scent with the contradicting softness of the iris run side by side for the entire wearing. I felt like two opposite forces pulling me to different directions. Artificial, used, old leather made me want to kick and scream and ethereal, sweet, innocent iris made me want to kneel and cry. My feelings that have been running inside me entangled in a knot slowly softened and stood opposite each other, ready to be dealt with. The mystery of the fragrance was solved. Beauty through contradiction. The web of my feelings was not constrictive any more. Two clear options. An easy decision.
Now I am calm and secure. Everything smooth and warm. And the night out was a complete success: we partied till six in the morning.