Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wandering Roots: Annick Goutal Musc Nomade and Hermes Eau de Gentiane Blanche

Today I'm reviewing two refreshing, non-floral, non-citrus summer fragrances that I have been enjoying lately. They both use unusual root materials to impart a dry, vegetal quality that is quite a tonic in the humidity and heat of a record-breaking Texas summer. I haven't had much energy to blog, or do much of anything, really, so forgive the long pauses between posts, by the way.

I think what entrances me about Musc Nomade is the Bombay wood, which various bloggers have identified as cypriol, a woody, grassy root that is a relative of papyrus. It provides a papery, barely-green, celery-ish tone that balances out the musk. This tone could also be due to the the particular vegetal musk used, which is produced from angelica root, according to Octavian of 1000fragrances. In either case, although the musk glows and almost coats the skin like sunlight and saltwater at the beach, the cypriol is a translucent counterpoint. It makes me think of watery, morning light glowing through a piece of papyrus. As MN dries down I do smell a teensy touch of almondy-ambery-rosey warmth, but there is not much sweetness and I don't detect any laundry musk. This is all about rooty cypriol balancing out the salty musk.

Hermes Eau de Gentiane Blanche uses the gentian root, a note unusual to perfumery but common in Old World digestifs and aperitifs. Arnaud, Bonal, Campari--gentian root is a ingredient in all these beverages, as it is thought to improve digestion. Another common ingredient in the old digestifis is quinine, so it makes sense that EdGB reminds me of a gin and tonic, with real quinine tonic water. So Monsieur Ellena, the perfumer, has nabbed this uncommon material to create EdGB --as beautifully dry and unsweet as any good tonic should be. It also has a crisp, minerally quality, a bit like a Portuguese vinho verde. That's about it--it doesn't go anywhere, except to gradually free a tinge of iris and musk to moderate the bitterness. I don't know why this association keeps coming to mind, because I haven't seen the movie in ages, but this is the Mary Poppins of colognes. Pert, no-nonsense, unique, and supremely capable of convincing anyone to think what's good for them can be fun. Then she disappears on the breeze. Practically perfect in every way.