One Thousand Scents

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Birthday Cat

Note: author did not actually look like this on his birthday.

Saturday was my birthday, so I decided to treat myself to a few things. (We don't usually exchange Christmas and birthday presents in my household; instead, we give one another license to go a little nuts. I know other people who do the same.) As I mentioned before, the local drug emporium has begun to stock Comptoir Sud Pacifique, and there were a couple of those I very much wanted, as well as another scent I'll get to in a minute. I calculated that if I bought any two, I could use the store's bonus-points card to get a third one for free--my birthday gift!

I got to the store and started browsing the CSP display just as two young women were completing a transaction (boring old makeup, as it turned out). They hadn't noticed the display before, and as I sprayed some blotters to make sure I was buying the ones I wanted, they took interest; they'd never smelled anything quite like CSP before. We started talking, and, as has happened before, they began to wonder if I didn't work for the company. I assured them I was just a big fan, and they tried nearly all the scents on their arms before eventually one of them bought the irresistible Amour de Cacao. I picked up my choices--Vanille Pineapple and Aqua Motu--and headed to the counter.

I said to the saleswoman, "I am going to be needing a whole lot of samples, too." She started pawing through the cabinet and pulling out this and that, and of course the two young women wanted some, too; who doesn't like free things? They asked if there were any other CSP samples: the saleswoman headed out back to the storeroom to check, and came back with a big handful plus two little fuchsia purses stuffed with miniatures: "Lancome freebies," she explained to the young women. Then she said to me, "Now I have to find something for you," and began rooting around in the cabinet once again. Eventually she held up a silvery Givenchy cocktail shaker, of all things. Would I like it? Would I! It's free, isn't it? I've never made a martini in my life, but now I suppose I'll have to start.

So: upon buying the CSP scents I wanted, I got a dozen or so samples, a cocktail shaker, and a bottle of L'Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme--a pretty good birthday present, I think.


The opening of L'Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme is thrilling: I don't know of another word for it. It's cold, a shiver of citrus and star anise (also called badian), and it's so startlingly fresh that it puts many would-be fresh scents in the shade. But L'Instant is above all an oriental scent, and as the scent heats up on your skin, the warmth begins to emerge: a suggestion of floralcy, a sweet persistent caramel-like note, and a soft cloud of patchouli. The sweetness, mostly from ambrette, persists to the end of the scent, accompanied by dark rosewood notes accented with cocoa and vanilla.

I am, of course, a big fan of terrific packaging, and the L'Instant bottle is wonderful, a study in contradictions like the scent itself. (The photograph doesn't do it justice; you need to hold it in your hand.) The box is dark brown, hinting at the scent inside, but the front and back are subtly pinstriped. These stripes are echoed on the bottom third of the bottle--but they're not on the front, only on the back, leaving a smooth expanse of glass for the front. From the front, the bottle looks like a solid block, with a little curvature at the top and a matching one at the bottom of the cap, but again, looks are deceiving: the side view reveals that the the bottle bellies outwards and upwards, with the inner cavity tapering almost to a point at the bottom. It's so elegant, so perfectly thought out, that it's practically a work of art, just like the scent inside.

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