Without Lenin, there would be no Chanel N°5.
The absurd thought occurred to me as I was reading China Miéville’s meticulously researched and brilliantly written October: The Story of the Russian Revolution. Conflating the Ten Days that Shook the World[i] with Ernest Beaux’s fifth proposal to Gabrielle Chanel may seem like a bit of a jump. But Beaux wouldn’t have immigrated to France if it hadn’t been for the Bolsheviks. And his contribution to perfumery was, if not an actual revolution, a definite game-changer (unlike the house’s latest offering). Playing with blotters and vials might seem like strumming the balalaika while the world burns, drowns and quakes (has anybody else who grew up during the Cold War been having atomic mushroom nightmares again?). For what it’s worth, this fall I’ll salute the 100th anniversary of Red October with the ten scents that are shaking my world these days.
Nuit de Bakélite
by Isabelle Doyen for Naomi Goodsir
For all the delicate, poetic fragrances she composed for Annick Goutal, it’s easy to forget that Isabelle Doyen can also be a badass avant-gardist (as she demonstrates in her nearly impossible to find Les Nez creations). In Nuit de Bakélite, she turns the tuberose -- or rather, the “peduncle that connects the stem to the flower” -- into a mutant plant exuding radioactive sap; a scent-track for Day of the Triffids. Milky-thick at the heart, day-glo green at the edges with an opalescent splash of iris, this non-linear composition has one of the most distinctive signatures I’ve smelled of late.