Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Parfums de Nicolai Balkis

I've encountered few perfumes that make my mouth water. Granted, I don't wear many gourmand fragrances, which I suppose would be the most likely candidates for getting those salivary glands a-working. I could be wrong. And please note, I'm drawing a distinct line between perfumes that make your mouth water, and perfumes that make you drool. Plenty of perfumes make me drool with desire, but this thing with Balkis--it's completely involuntary. I get a whiff and my mouth draws into a pucker, and I cannot help myself.

The notes in Balkis are raspberry, Turkish rose, black pepper, coffee extract, iris, benzoin, and vanilla pods. One whiff of the raspberry here, and I'm transported back to childhood. I loved (still love) sour candy. In the opening notes, this scent has the same effect on me as a sour lollipop. I want to unwrap it and roll it around on my tongue for a while, and then I want to go outside and ride my bike or play in the dirt.

The raspberry in Balkis comes across to me as dried and a bit chewy, the tang softened by the rose and the coffee. The pepper is underneath, but the strangest thing of all to me is that Balkis smells not peppery but salty. Even with a rather gourmand list of notes, there's something very organic to me about this scent on the skin, and I think that's partially what makes me think about childhood. As adults, many of us sit in sterile offices all day, away from our physical selves. We're locked in with a computer and a phone rather than out among the elements. As children, we rode our bikes and made mud pies and planted imaginary gardens. We carried the scent of the world with us wherever we went; we had leaves in our hair and grass stains on our knees. I'm not sure if today's children get the pleasure of being dirty--randomly dirty, not dirty in an activity-oriented, sanctioned way.

As Americans, we tend toward the squeaky clean. Everything from perfume to household products is lauded for being fresh. What I like about Balkis is that, to me at least, it seems to be the opposite, without having to go the route of obvious skank or animalic properties. The iris, benzoin, and vanilla pods (ever smelled a vanilla pod? it isn't sweet like extract, but a spicy and dirty vanilla essence) especially give the base an earthiness that's incredibly appealing. And it's strange to admit, but the one thing that Balkis--this perfume that makes my mouth water--most reminds me of is sweat. (Have I never told you my sweat smells like raspberries and roses? Ha!) I'm not talking about Olivia Newton John "Let's Get Physical" sweat. I'm talking about the scent of your own bed, the warm and familiar smell of the person sleeping next to you, the mornings you wake up and stay in your pajamas and read a book and can smell the coffee, the raspberry jam on your toast, the remnants of last night's fire. It is the subtle yet sour, salty smell of familiarity, comfort, and desire. It makes me think of the French phrase bien dans sa peau, to feel comfortable in one's own skin. If you really think about it, all that obsessive scrubbing and ordering and anti-bacterializing does not exactly scream, "I am at home in the world!" But I'm not here to change anyone's habits. You can bathe once or twice a day and still wear Balkis, at least.

*image from Luckyscent.com