The past three weeks or so were difficult. In all sorts of ways. They have been the last weeks at work before summer holidays, loaded with things to do before August break. I love summer holidays but I hate summer. I hate having to go to work at near 40 degree C temperatures and we have been getting these for the past three weeks non stop in Athens. The political and financial situation do not make things easier for anyone. On top of this I have had to deal with a father who tries to attract attention using the adolescent technique of provocation. And as if all this was not enough I experienced the death of my next door neighbour, a lonely death to end a lonely, uneventful life depraved of friends, relationships and feelings. It probably happened while I was next doors leading a full life, full of relationships, some easy ones, some difficult ones. I realized that complaining about things is better than having nothing to complain about in life. Of course this doesn’t make coping with reality any easier but it somehow serves as a reality check.
All this time I really didn’t feel like wearing perfume. Not even reading about perfume. It couldn’t have been a coincidence. As I felt the pressure building up around me I felt the need to seclude myself in an odourless bubble. Now that I am readjusting myself to reality and starting to sniff around again I cannot help but wonder: has the pressure of reality taken my attention off the perfume world as I needed more energy to cope with it? Or has the fact that I momentarily lost interest in beautiful scents made me cope with reality less efficiently? Is perfume an interest or a distraction? Passion or obsession? I can’t answer the question and I probably won’t. It just feels good to be back.
As I felt the need to wear perfume again I was curious to see what I was going to pick first and I knew I would have to write about it. With the heat wave hanging over my head I expected I would reach for one of my hot weather staples: Mugler Cologne, Infusion d’Homme or Comme des Garcons No3. I let myself free and to my surprise I picked up the bottle of Van Gils. A good old cheapo that smells like the 80’s. I could not find what year it was released in, I suspect in the early 90’s, but it certainly smells like a powerhouse. It opens with bergamot and a floral-fecal note that grabs you by the nose and holds you captive. Nothing in the official note listings justifies the fecal aspect in this but I assure you it is there. I swear I can smell traces of Kouros in this but what is impressing is how early on the development they become apparent. I really cannot say whether civet makes a cameo appearance or what I pick up is a play between patchouli, vetiver and amber. I also get this ghost of white flowers in there that is also not listed officially but gives this perfume a distinct nocturnal aura. After the opening the composition is bitter, mate and earthy. A combination of herbal elements, earthy patchouli and animalic fervour. In the deep drydown a lavender-like note, probably thyme, appears and gives this a more masculine impact. As much as this fits into the powerhouse genre I cannot help but think that it has elements of feminine scents of a previous era. Smells mystical, floral and decadently sensual. I find it slightly ironic that the name implies a very masculine fragrance and it is if examined in the current context. But I am sure that women who enjoy big, ballsy fragrances would find this very wearable.
What I have learned from my withdrawal and resurgence experience, among other things, is that fresh fragrances are not as comfortable to wear at extreme heat conditions as I would have thought. I find it a lot more distracting to wear something big and bold in hot weather. Van Gils was just what I needed to feel immersed into a night garden full of decaying flowers, cold shadows and the sound of steps on hidden pathways. It felt more right than the “just out of shower”scents that I would have chosen had I used my mind instead of my hand to pick up a bottle.
How do you feel about wearing strong scents in hot weather? And ladies, have you found a masculine powerhouse you enjoy wearing?
Notes from Fragrantica: lemon, bergamot and lemon verbena, thyme, cardamom and coriander, cedar, amber, orange, vetiver and patchouli.
Notes from my nose: bergamot, white flowers, civet, patchouli, vetiver, lavender