Gentle reader, this is it: my very first trip to the West Coast. Three days in L.A. for work, then three days in Portland to visit a friend, and a couple of nights in a historic Hollywood hotel before flying back to Paris.
Of course I’ve been obsessing over my suitcase ever since I’ve known I was going. And of course my entire collection of swimsuits was reviewed, found lacking a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, and promptly replaced by an all-new line-up. Those swimsuits are going to be immersed in a pool painted by David Hockney! And those are the only items I’m sure about, less than a week before flying off, especially I’ve decided to live dangerously and travel 10 days out of a carry-on.
And I haven’t even begun to think about what to decant. Scents can veer into radically different directions when worn in a new setting. I’m still obsessed with À ce soir by Pont des Arts and L’Âme perdue by Le Galion, so those might make the cut. Otherwise, here are my possibilities, with no particular theme in mind. They’re pretty much all over the map. Please do weigh in!
Like L.A.’s new NoMad hotel, set in a Neo-classical bank building from the 1920s, Nomade evokes the ghosts of bygone glamor. Quentin Bisch composed it as an airy fruity chypre, stripped-down and built for speed. The fruit is mirabelle, a tiny, particularly fragrant golden plum. The mossy base is evernyl, which gives Nomade a very contemporary, salty-mineral edge.
Un air d’apogée, Violet
I utterly adore this new house, revived by three students of the École Supérieure du Parfum in Paris – they founded it in place of scouting around for internships, and convinced Firmenich to back them. Nathalie Lorson has done wonderful work reinventing the three first scents, but I’ve got a special tenderness for the pollen-dusted suede, the tannic tang of maté, mimosa and fresh tobacco leaf of Un air d’apogée. When I go, I want to be drowned in a vat of Cashmeran, is what I’m saying.
Chinotto di Liguria, Acqua di Parma
So Santa Monica isn’t the Ligurian Riviera, and I doubt California grows the myrtle-leaved orange tree that gives chinotto, a bitter citrus fruit used as an aroma in Campari. But Chinotto di Liguria, a Roudnitskaesque variation on Eau Sauvage and Eau d’Hermès by François Demachy, is as delightful and refreshing as quaffing a Spritz, which I hope I shall be doing shortly by the pool.
Grand amour, Goutal
I’ve recently rediscovered Isabelle Doyen’s tribute to Chamade, and I’ve been getting off on the huge blast of galbanum that slaps me when I spritz. The contrast between that raspy green hyacinth and the nectar-slick creaminess of the lily-honeysuckle heart makes Grand amour a very distant forerunner of Doyen’s award-winning Nuit de Bakélite for Naomi Goodsir.
L’innommable, Serge Lutens
I somehow doubt I’d be allowed into the country with Serge’s latest, his first for the Gratte-ciel (“skyscraper”) line that will henceforth house Tubéreuse criminelle, Muscs Koublaï Khan, Bornéo 1834, Cuir mauresque, and 5 more signature scents… In French, innommable means “unspeakable”. And L’innommable cuts loose on the skank, peppering powdery benzoin with a kegful of cumin. The sandalwood base only seems to get stronger as the scent dries down. What can I say? The Dude abides.
Superstitious, Frédéric Malle
Not sure Golden Era scents can express themselves properly in today’s L.A., so for that Polo Lounge vibe, I suppose I could do worse than slink around in Dominique Ropion’s stripped-down homage to the glamour of yore, the aldehydes-meet-indole Superstitious.
Eau de soleil blanc, Tom Ford
Orange, coconut, pistachio, vanilla… The notes reads like a raid on the ice-cream menu in a Howard Johnson. The result, in Tom Ford’s more-is-more olfactory aesthetic, makes me want to channel my inner Don Draper, going AWOL in California with a louche Eurotrash tribe.
Eau de narcisse bleu, Hermès
After the spiky-woods fest that is Eau de Citron Noir – which I innocently sprayed on my skin thinking Hermès could do no wrong, and made me consider flaying my own arm --, I reached for my personal favorite Ellena. A sea-blue bottle, a salubrious whiff of horsiness, and, again, that tannic bitter rasp I find so interesting (and underexploited) in perfumery… Now channeling Nina van Pallandt on the beach in Altman’s 1973 Long Goodbye.
Eau de Ki, Sankodo
This isn’t technically a fragrance, but a Japanese moisturizing lotion – but because of its alcohol content, more of a cleanser-toner. No idea whether it’ll fulfill its rejuvenating promises (anti-aging skincare is a bit like psychoanalysis: you don’t know if it does anything, but you don’t know what condition you’d be in without it). Anyhoo, with rose, linden blossom, rosemary and birch among its ingredients, Eau de Ki smells of a fabulous rose chypre – think Knowing. I’d bathe in it if I could.
Bio Beauté Baume haute nutrition, Nuxe
Another entry in the please-don’t-eat-the-skincare column. A tiny pot of this cold-cream landed in my bag as a sample. The rosewater, sweet almond oil, coconut oil and bee wax smells utterly delicious. I may turn up my nose at gourmands, but after I’ve slathered my legs with this it’s all I can do not to twist like a pretzel to lick my shins. Failing that, I’m pretty sure it’ll be a skin-saver after too many dips in that Hockney pool…