Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Game of Synaesthesia

With Marian Bendeth, a conjurer of fragrances, who with sleight of hand and knowledgable intelligence guides us through the opaque landscapes of perfumery into the light of a moment of Eureka.
She reveals her associations with different fragrances for Perfume Shrine, like a puzzle of synaesthetic pieces which fall perfectly into place.

"For me, each and every scent that my nose encounters may be envisioned either as a piece of art, music, gemstone, style of dance, graphic, setting, country, fabric, shape, colour, person, character or environment. It is not easy to put in words, because it is instinctive to me but I will try to give a few examples: (I may not wear some of these particular scents but this is where they take me…)

Climat by Lancome is a Matisse water colour of a sedate Wedgewood-blue sea and sky.

Lonestar Memories by Andy Tauer is a Sioux Tribe camped out at the foot of the Grand Canyon, using hickory smoke to BBQ that day’s hunt.

Rossy de Palma by Etat Libre d’Orange is a Diva’s darkened dressing room filled to the brim with hundreds of long-stemmed red roses and amber candles to light and lift the aroma, like a garland into the air.

Sycomore by Chanel is a perforated flat wooden cedar block with holes where Walnuts and long grasses protrude through. Growing on the base of the block are warm mosses and wet earth.

Chloe is a round yellow powder puff with feathers.

Un Jardin apres la Mousson by Hermes, is an Indian immigrant fondly remembering their home by a silty brown river on a hot day, now living in a cold climate.

Lime Basil and Mandarin is a stick that splinters at the top.

First by Van Cleef and Arpels - a Mozart symphony performed in St. Petersberg.

Bois de Paradis, Del Rae is Gauguin in Tahiti at dusk.

Ralph Rocks is 60’s tangerine, red and purple psychedelic drugs.

24 Faubourg, Hermes is Beige kid leather gloves with a small brass belt clasp.

Vent Vert, Balmain is a Willow tree built on top of wet reeds. Lemons are scattered about. A rose garden is in bloom beyond as a hot wind blows through.

Mark Birley is brown, stony and equine, circa 1910.

Cruel Intentions, By Kilian are the black shadows in a Romanian forest.

Flowerbomb, Victor and Rolf is Mexican Fiestaware.

Eternity for Her is an aluminium monolith.

Chanel No. 22 is Swan Lake.

Femme by Rochas is a fur stole.

Chrome is the boardwalk in Almalfi against the Meditteranean.

Le Baiser du Dragon is an ancient Persian red and black carpet with black laquer accents".

Marian Bendeth
Global Fragrance Expert
Sixth Scents

And you, what are your associations with your own memorable fragrances?

Artwork by Henri Matisse Polynesia,The Sea (1946) Gouache on paper cut-out, courtesy of abcgallery.
Pic of Grand Canyon courtesy of nps.gov
Pucci square scarf courtesy of style.com

Clip of Pas d'action between Odette & Siegfried from Swan Lake -my most favourite part in the ballet- played by Gillian Murphy & Angel Corella with the American Ballet Theatre, originally uploaded by MyDiorella on Youtube.


  1. The MUSE has surely bitten you, my friend.

    How excellent !

    Gaucho : summer sun scorching dry and still-green grasses and herbs, sleeping in a Monet-esque haystack.
    With a cowboy, please.
    A REAL one.

    Venus Sands: Zelda Fitzgerald, frolicking in the salt water off of Tahiti- with her long string of pearls hanging down her back...

    Oiro : shafts of brilliant light, filtering through a stained glass window, slowly revealing the depths of the crypt below...

    Joy de Patou: Happiest white blooms revealing the dark, animalic underbelly that delights/ revolts-
    Take your pick.

    Probably more to come-
    But let's let others share, too...
    MWAH !

  2. Anonymous12:59

    Miller Harris' Coeur d´Été: the smell of a cat's fur after being outside a summer night (but the furs of my two cats smell even more deliciously! :)
    Since you mentioned Mugler, wearing Alien is like diving in a wet suit in the Atlantic, exploring the life world under water

  3. Bal a Versailles: wild cat sleeping by a fire, the tips of the fur glowing from the firelight.
    Osmanthus Interdite: perfect cream colored rough silk dress with suade belt.
    Femme: ditto, I have always thought of a fur stole too.
    Sicily: The hot sultry evening when not even a breeze is blowing.

  4. Mwah back to you dear I!
    I am now hopelessly intrigued by Venus Sands...see what you have done?!

  5. I love your image of Coeur d'ete, dear S! And LOL at Alen, sounds positively a marvel that way ;-)

  6. Dear J,

    how perfect! Those are spot-on!

  7. Anonymous17:24

    I love this! I love abstracting one sensation into another (scent into picture, sound into texture, touch into color)

    Loukhoum, KM- those thick, pastel clouds from the caterpillars hookah in Alice in Wonderland

    Bois de Copaiba, PG- the discovery of an old, ornate wood and gilded box filled with silk scarves of red, gold, orange, brown.

    Bandit, grass stains on black leather gloves

    Black Tourmaline, OD- a rich, fat sausage dropped into the fire it was roasting over, covered in embers, ash, and starting to smoke.

  8. I couldn't agree more on the Bandit! (only I had thought of a grass-smeared jacket myself instead of gloves)
    The description of Loukhoum and Bois de Copaiba are smashing!

  9. I featured Bandit in an (unpublished) 50ies romance novel where the heroine thinks it smells like the biker hero's leather jacket in a Swedish summer meadow by the road. So, yes, black leather and grass. But I actually think Bandit smells a little bit like a barn full of warm animal bodies and fresh hay too... It's not true synaesthesia though, for me, it's just "smells like". Sometimes scents have colours for me but it's pretty much the obvious ones (green scents are green, orientals are yellow/red/brown etc) Sometimes they take me somewhere, a mood rather than a clear picture, even though I can elaborate it into one.

  10. I would love to read the romance novel then, dear T! Thanks for your comment :-)
    Like your description and the heroine must have a discerning nose.
    I agree that to me as well it's not true synaesthesia, but wild imaginings and associations. Fun though!!

  11. A discerning nose - but not very discerning eyes, terribly nearsighted, I'm afraid... Turns out the hero is a butch... They still live happily ever after, of course! But the ending is not so happy for the author, the Swedish market for queer romance novels is, shall we say, small.
    I enjoy your blog, even thought I don't comment a lot, I like your cultural and historical take on perfume!

  12. Anonymous03:33

    Wow, Swan Lake! Makes me want to dig out my sample of Chanel No. 22 and try it. I was lucky enough to see Nureyev dance Swan Lake when the Paris Opera Ballet came to the Kennedy Center.

    Great associations!

  13. Anonymous06:19

    femme is the south of france in autumn.

    farouche is a small town outside of toulouse and innocent summertimes in florida.

    madame rochas is stained glass in brilliant reds and greens.

    une fleur de cassie is silk flower (what we call mimosa over here but not true mimosa) blossoms growing out of my skin.

    ma liberte is heaps of brown spices - all powdered.

    habit rouge is the sun-warmed red leather seats of a vintage italian roadster sitting on top of a hill in tuscany.

    chanel cuir de russie is my mother's mother.

    fun interview and fun game!

    - minette

  14. It sounds like it might find its audience nonetheless, T!

    Thank you for your compliments on the blog, I appreciate it a lot: you make my day :-)

  15. Rappleya, you're luckier than I am in that regard, then.
    Rudolph by all accounts was much better in live performances than on tape: he had magnetism.

    Chanel No.22 is certainly a gem!

  16. Thank you dear M!

    I love all your descriptions and especially Fleur de Cassie and Ma Liberte!
    (and your maternal grandmother must have been very stylish!)

  17. Anonymous18:15

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