L’ Air de Rien: Image Fantôme


Untitled
from MemoryOf Scent on Vimeo.

Ghost Image – Pavane for a deceased child 

Your photo on the bookshelves

falls by itself

there is no wind, no draft

it’s a hand without a palm, without a body that throws it towards me

without disturbing anything else,

only to make me hear the noise.

It’s the hand of oblivion.

Your photo is so present, for so long

that I always forget you stayed there.

A ghost image flies, always so strangely

to caress my feet or comb my hair._

 

Miller Harris is an interesting house. It has several nice perfumes. And the word “nice” is deliberate in its use. This is how they feel. They smell good but I feel I wouldn’t rush to the shops for buying one. They are not heavy, they are nicely blended, If I was given a bottle I wouldn’t put it up on e-bay. Fleur de Sel is one of their best because it manages to smell salty, something not very easy to achieve. Then I noticed this release with the surrealistic name: The Air of Nothing. By itself this name is intriguing but given the conventional persuasion of the house does not promise to be memorable. However it was created for Jane Birkin, “it girl” of the sixties, one of the most beautiful women to walk on the face of the earth. She has the impeccable style of all British women who have been adopted by the french culture, like Christine Scott Thomas. They can walk in the street wearing an apron and they would still look stylish. So I had to try it.

Nothing anyone can write can describe this perfume. If Dorian Grey had to sell his soul to the devil to stay young, L’ Air de Rien smells like a perfume created under a similar pact. Official notes listed are oak moss, neroli, amber and vanilla and if you believe a word of this you ‘re in for a big surprise. It is a sweet scent so I can buy vanilla. But where does the rest of this come from? What does it smell like? Have you read the book Perfume by Patrick Süskind where the perfumer extracted the smell of women he killed to make the ultimate love potion? This is what it smells like to me. Many reviewers report this as being skanky, animalic. What I find disturbing with this one is that it smells human. It is the closest you will ever find to the smell of a baby’s head. Devastatingly human, excruciatingly innocent and yet managing to impart the guilty wish “don’t you just want to bite this?” that is so often heard in the presence of a cute baby. Regardless of what the components might be not a single note coming from a plant can be pinned down. The end result is so overwhelmingly human that even the reported neroli must have come from a flesh eating bitter orange tree. The oak moss must have been growing on a troll’s body. The amber must have been washed with tears of despair. And vanilla has travelled from Madagascar in slave boats. I don’t mean to say that this is a dark scent. It is just that the uniqueness of its blend makes it stand above and beyond any categorization. It is sold as a feminine but is as sexless as a baby.

Years after I was caught under the spell of L’Air de Rien I heard this song of Jane Birkin. Composed by Maurice Ravel and with lyrics by Hervé Guibert, it sounded like a synaesthetic version of what this perfume is.

Note: I was inspired to talk about this perfume by a post by The Candy Perfume Boy and Poppy.

Read another to the point interpretation of this scent here.

Official notes: oak moss, neroli, amber and vanilla

sugar, vanilla, baby head, kitten fur

Notes from my nose: sugar, vanilla, baby head, kitty fur 

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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.

13 comments

  1. Your description is beautiful and fascinating. I was not drawn to this perfume before, but now I am…

  2. It is an odd one. I find it feminine, women have smelled it on me and thought it is butch… It’s anybody’s take… I think it is a very personal fragrance that brings forth a lot of subconscious stuff so each person’s take is completely different.

  3. REALLY???? REALLY???? OMG
    I THINK THE NAME SUITS IT PERFECTLY – SOMEONE THAT DID ALMOST NOTHING WITH A FRAGRANCE THAT IS SIMPLY WHAT IT IS NOTHING, RIEN.

    JANE BIRKIN? REALLY????

    I AGREE TO MILLER HARRIS COMMENTS, I AGREE TO FLEURS DE SEL…

    BUT THIS ONE WAS A SURPRISE TO ME…

    BUT IT IS BRILLIANTLY WRITEN, PROBABLY MUCH BETTER THAN MY REVIEW OF IT…
    XX

    • As I replied to Birgit comment, I truly believe that this is a fragrance that strikes the subconscious. If you ask 100 people you will get 101 opinions. It is absolutely weird and has nothing to do with the rest of the line. As for Jane Birkin, I believe her greatest achievements were her looks (she did nothing for this and time took it all back) and putting up with Serge. Have seen the clip from a national french TV show where a totally drunk Serge Gainsbourg tells Whitney Houston that he wants to f*** her? A gem!

      Her latest albums are really beautiful though. The moaning song was Serge, not her. She has a great album of duets, a beautiful, sarcastic song with Brian Molko of Placebo, and a very nice album where she sings accompanied by a traditional arabic string quartet. And of course she has the Birkin bag!!!

  4. How did I miss this?! How very sweet of you to mention Poppy! :D

    I think you’ve summed L’Air de Rien up perfectly, especially when you describe it as ‘devastatingly human’.

  5. Pingback: Muscs Koublai Khan: don’t fear the reaper « Memory of Scent

  6. I tried this perfume yesterday and was quite confused by it. I believe that I perceived an assemblage of notes closer to yours than to the house’s official list.

    Thank you for such an eloquent and thought-provoking reflection!

  7. I think it is a unique composition, confusing, disturbing, difficult to wear but this is exactly what makes it a great perfume.

    Thanks for dropping by!

  8. sherapop1st

    I ended up acquiring a bottle of this one! (-;

  9. Smelling it just now, off my wrist…there are only a few ml left in my bottle. Since I’ve been chasing for new scents I forgot about the air of nothing, your words made me refresh want to my memory! I’m trying to describe it in my mind it’s difficult though but one thing it’s clear, not skanky at all just a sweet blend I to my skin maybe a bit animalic. Interesting interpretation Christos!

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