The late Mrs. Webber was a lucky woman, at least by the standards of the people who’ll read these lines. Her husband was a perfumer/chemist for the Stepan Company, apparently a leader in the American aromatic chemicals industry, and though his main claim to fame was to have composed the fragrance in Pinesol, well, hell, more people in the US have smelled that than will ever get a whiff of N°5. Having a husband who composed perfumes meant Mrs Webber had access to quite a number of them, many unreleased, hence the sizeable collection she left when she passed on. And that’s where she got lucky again, since that collection, rather than ending up dumped wherever it is unsold estate sale items go, was nabbed by a self-confessed fragrance fanatic, Carol Sasich, author of the blog WaftbyCarol. Carol initiated this joint-blogging operation around a scent that Mr. Webber clearly worked on: there were 22 unlabelled bottles of it in the Webber collection, six of which she forwarded to fellow bloggers for reviewing.
The scent she named Mystery 6T is quite likely from the mid-to-late Seventies or perhaps the Eighties, since it seems to have damascones in it (they were first used in 1979 in Nahema). It is not un-reminiscent of Guerlain Parure: a rose with strawberry and raspberry facets as well as a touch of peach, and that sprinkling of cinnamon many roses give off, made airier by hedione on a chypre-type base. It is a lovely composition, very competently put-together and a little unexciting, with none of that Empire-State-scale grandeur you find in the best American perfumery of the time (which basically means Estée Lauder). It may have been meant for some mass-market company like Avon or Max Factor, at a time where mass-market still offered well-made, if often derivative, fragrances to their customers.
Or is the lack of excitement due to the fact that Mystery 6T will forever remain bereft of what draws us to a fragrance, apart from its actual smell? A name. A flacon. A story. All that lifts scent out of a bottle and into our minds. After all, if wine experts rate a Grand Cru Classé lower when it's presented as a table wine, why shouldn't perfumistas be more powerfully moved by a juice with a legendary name than by a humble nameless scent?
Mystery 6T has no story, apart from that of its finding and last journey across the globe. It was never loved enough to make it to the shelves. Possibly, Mrs. Webber didn’t love it that much either since those 22 cut-glass vials remained untouched. She may have kept them in honor of her husband’s memory, or simply never bothered to dispose of them. And there they sat, melancholy reminders of long years of well-travelled married life, until Carol saved them from oblivion.
In fact, studying the list of the bottles Carol bought, I wonder what the late Mrs. Webber loved about perfume, what her tastes were: the collection doesn’t reveal that, really. There are several classics: N°5 and Calèche (neither of which Carol got: they were the only two that appealed to less knowledgeable buyers). Jicky and Shalimar. Joy and L’Air du Temps. Équipage, Ô de Lancôme and Opium. All best-sellers and wildly varied in style: the type of thing a husband gives his wife on her birthday or brings back from a business trip. The rest is mainstream American: Avon, Tuvache and Max Factor; Coty, Houbigant and Dana at a time when they were already sold in drugstores. Plus a couple of things that were clearly picked up on holidays. And, of course, what her husband brought home from work, most of which never seems to have been touched.
Did the late Mrs. Webber even like perfume? Was she, like many women of her generation, inclined to dab on a touch only on special occasions? Practically all of the bottles Carol lists are full, save one intriguingly called Diotima, which seems to have gotten a lot of love. Was she sick of testing Mr. Webber's various formulas? I'd kind of like to imagine Mr. et Mrs. Webber engaged in an unrelenting, domestic war of the roses. Perhaps she didn’t care at all for fragrance – maybe Pine-Sol is what she got off on. she obstinately refused to wear it. He no less obstinately kept on bringing back bottles, while his own clothes reeked of the aroma-chemicals he played around with in the lab…
We’ll never know. But there is something touching about a perfume lover getting access to all those little time capsules, and reviving the memories within, even though they are not hers, and may not have even been their owner’s…
The ultimately happy fate of the Webber collection does make me wonder at what will happen to mine. If I never bought another drop – a most unlikely event – I’d probably still have enough left over to be embalmed in even if I lived to the age most women in my family reach. I’ve never given much thought to the fate of those bottles.
Post a comment on any of the participating blogs as to why you should have a bottle of this rare, unreleased parfum and we will choose the most creative reply as the winner of a 15 ml, full bottle of Mr Webber's parfum 6T, one of the 22 bottles in existence !