Tuesday, September 04, 2007

L'Artisan Passage d'Enfer

Something about a perfume called "The Gates of Hell" seizes--as in stops, rather than possesses--the heart of this former Catholic school girl. Wearing it makes me feel a little bit guilty, like maybe I should spin around three times and spit over my left shoulder after every time I apply it. I wouldn't feel guilty if I didn't find it so unbelievably appealing. It's as though this little perfume vial on my dresser is holding out Milton's big juicy apple, waving it around in front of my face until I'm tempted to take a bite.

The notes in Passage d'Enfer seem innocuous enough: white lily, frankincense, aloe, and white musk. All that white! Doesn't white mean purity? Or does it symbolize an unbearable heat, a white flame turning everything in its path to ash? This is a soft fragrance, close to the skin, but dark with incense. White lily adds a bit of sweetness to the top, but the frankincense and musk dominate here, with the aloe serving to cool.

Passage d'Enfer makes me think of a place I visited once, a small town in the desert of Northern Arizona, called Jerome. When I was there it was early March, close to the end of winter, but still the air was quite cold, and waves of high clouds moved across the sky. The town is built into a steep hill, and I remember reaching the top and looking out across the desert, the high sun an icy disk, its weak light whitewashing the landscape. The desert in the Western United States is mystical to me; I know some who find it a forsaken place--dry, hot, and ugly, hardly worth a bother. While I'm not one for ghost stories or too much hocus pocus nonsense, to me the desert is teeming with spirits. When I smell Passage d'Enfer, it takes me back to the top of that hill. The incense of this scent speaks to me of life that has gone before. It's a close scent, one to be worn more for oneself than for others. I practically poured about half the vial on myself and my husband insisted he could smell nothing unless I stood right up against him--and then he found it as intriguing as I do.

I certainly don't mean to say that I found Jerome, Arizona to be the gates of hell, just in case anyone from there should happen to visit. It's quite a nice little town, actually, full of art galleries and little shops and truly breathtaking scenery. Go there at the edge of winter. Wear Passage d'Enfer. Then tell me what you think.

*photos from Luckyscentand AZJerome.com