For my birthday yesterday I received a surprise present from my father; a bottle of one of those scents from my childhood that gets the wheels of my bittersweet memory turning. I don’t know what made my father decide to part with this bottle; it was a gift of a vintage bottle of Geo F. Trumper’s Wild Fern from one of the greatest bon vivants in my family of bon vivants, who sadly died of pancreatic cancer some years ago. I loved him, and miss him often, so anything that reminds me of him makes me somewhat sad—I feel like we lost him too soon. That said, I am very happy to have this bottle in my collection. It is precious to me.
I remember the smell of this bottle, the gorgeousness of the green marbled tin, my surreptitious sniffs at the lid—this is probably the very bottle that made me fall in love with Fougeres—and perhaps with fragrance in general!
It has a bitter citrus opening, deep anisic note, a definite greenness and a note of what might be bitter almond which quickly turns into a dusty scent—ever so slightly soapy. It is so, so green, but somehow I also get a cigarry leather note, but that is probably the magic of association working on my nose—my late uncle was a smoker of expensive cigars—he had a wood-paneled, leather-upholstered study in which to indulge this habit, and I am sure my memories of him have insinuated themselves into my perception of this juice—and that makes it even more special.
I am now thinking that my attraction to old-fashioned colognes, difficult tobacco scents, and odd, bitter masculine numbers stems from the fact that in my family, women avoided perfume in general, while the men embraced it –tastefully—always selecting very classic scents that smelled like money, art, tobacco, and taste. This is typical in general on my paternal side. The women, while as artistically and aesthetically-motivated as the men, tend to avoid all outward displays of luxury, while the men wallow in it.
While my uncle Dusty was a devotee of the cigar, my father smokes a pipe, and somehow, this fragrance—only worn on very special occasions--always seemed to mix with his intense personal chemistry in very interesting ways, somehow bringing out the slightly bitter scent of his skin and downplaying the sweetness of his Borkum Riff pipe smoke. It was also confusing—it reminded me of my uncle Dusty, and when I smelled it on my father, it was like—visceral association overload!!! While I am sad that my father chose to give up what I see as one of his signature scents, I am also a little smug to now own part of my family’s patriarchal legacy.
I am planning a special feature interview of my father concerning his relatively recent adoration of dry-aged patchouli. Stay tuned for that--I am sure it will yield very interesting results.