The Vanilla Monologues
For some reason, I have a renewed interest in perfumes. I bought a bottle of Coco the other day — my first perfume purchase in many years. I love it so much that I have been putting it on before bed just so I can fall asleep smelling it, and here at work I have been sniffing my wrists all day, delighted by how the fragrance inheres in the leather wristband of my watch. Then a student came in yesterday wearing a delightful fragrance I learned was Armani Code for women — lovely and beguiling!
My meandering curiosity led me to this blog: http://nowsmellthis.blogharbor.com/ where I learned of a few enticing-sounding perfumes. Fragrance writing is highly poetic by necessity — by definition it enacts a kind of negative capability. Fragrances can be described by analogy, but it is almost impossible to describe the gestalt — the alchemy — of a fragrance just by listing its ingredients. The list of ingredients creates a different kind of alchemy — a poetic one — generated by the extraordinarily beautiful lexicon of perfumes. Merely hearing words like vetiver, musk, violet leaf, and Lebanese cedar can be transportative.
This fragrance description, for example, is, to me, incredibly seductive:
Zenzero – (Oriental/Spice) Vanilla orchid perfume is warmed up with white ginger to create a seductively addictive fragrance that is as elegant as it is earthy. Zenzero translates to ginger in Italian and was a favorite spice ingredient of the Medici family for their 16th century perfume recipes. Delectably rich and deep, Zenzero is as luxurious as the finest cashmere wrap and captures the sensual glamour of a beautiful fall evening.
So this got me thinking — how is vanilla orchid different from — pardon the witticism — plain vanilla? Wikipedia informs me:
Vanilla is a genus of about 110 species in the orchid family (Orchidaceae), including the species Vanilla planifolia from which commercial vanilla flavoring is derived. The name came from the Spanish word “vainilla”, diminutive form of “vaina” (meaning “sheath”), which is in turn derived from Latin “vagina”.
OK,I guess a lot of people knew. I probably had heard that once upon a time. But I hadn’t really thought about it.
May your lives be filled with fragrance…