Perfume


The beginning of Spring has seen our garden leap spectacularly into bloom this year, probably a consequence of all the rain we’ve been having. VT and I have a mostly native Australian garden with the occasional European intruder (either remnant plants from the garden that was here before, or things we’ve planted for some nostalgic reason).

The little flower you see here is a native plant called boronia. This one is a cultivar of the common or ‘brown’ boronia which looks similar but is more brown (duh) with a yellow inner petal, giving it the appearance of having been painted on the inside.

It’s an unprepossessing little plant in visual terms – its charm is mostly in its scent. The perfume is a little tricky to describe for you because it doesn’t really smell like anything else. It’s a delightful, sweet, almost sugary floral scent, very pretty, but delicate and not at all sickly. It is also quite ephemeral – you get little wafts of it on the breeze, or in the evening, but it’s very subtle if you smell it directly.

One of the very interesting things about the scent of the boronia is that some people can’t smell it at all. It’s estimated that between 12% and 20% of people have ‘boronia anosmia’. No-one really knows why, and I have been unable to uncover any research into it.







Hmmm. Smells mostly like bullshit to me…

Actually, only one of those three mentioned things has any smell at all and I don’t think I’m alone in not having the faintest inkling of what a palm tree smells like.1

  1. It can’t smell like coconut, otherwise they’d have said ‘smells like coconut’. Surely. []

spockpoot

Loyal acowlyte JR brings to my attention the slightly scary news that Genki Wear (apparently known for its replicas of science fiction & fantasy jewellery) is releasing this Spring a new set of fragrances: Genki Wear Star Trek Perfume – A Trio of Scents from the Final Frontier.

Although this is spruiked widely on various intertube outlets, there’s no actual news at Genki Wear itself, and since their website doesn’t appear to be selling anything except one solitary Buffy pendant, it’s a bit difficult to tell if this announcement is the real deal or just some clever Borg assimilation plot a trés amusing internet prank.

According to trekmovie.com, Genki’s three fragrances will be called Tiberius, Red Shirt and Pon Farr, names I’m sure will have relevance to all Star Trek fans but seem oddly flat to me (aside from the curious and slightly comical sounding Pon Farr, which is, evidently, named after the Vulcan Mating Ritual*).

As you know, I am wont to muse on things perfumical here on The Cow, so I bring you this news by way of an interest-piquing tidbit, a public service announcement and a health warning.

I also invite you to ponder other film or television landmarks that might be rich for plundering for perfume spinoffs. The Addams Family springs immediately to my mind with Swamp, Cordite and Grandmama being possible candidates for fragrances, and Green Acres would similarly suggest Hayseed Martini, Pitchfork and Arnold Ziffle.

We could be onto a veritable Texas Tea gusher here folks.

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*Which also sounds curious and slightly comical. So I guess there’s some method in the madness.

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Sheesh. The Catholic Church only ever really had one original idea and even that wasn’t terribly popular. Now they (or someone using their credentials anyway*) has gone into competition with Tetherd Cow Ahead and is treading on our turf…

The Pope's Cologne

PZ Myers over at Pharyngula brings to our attention a recent product to hit the Perfume Department shelves: The Pope’s Cologne. Long time readers of The Cow will know that this is well-worn territory in these parts, after our introduction in May 2006 of Lamb of God and prior to that (because we are not at all partisan here in The Cow Perfume Laboratories) of Satan’s preferred cologne Brimstone.

The Pope’s Cologne website claims to have in their possession the ‘private formula of Pope Pius IX’ and spruiks it as an “aristocratic, Old World cologne with suprising freshness…”. I hope their perfume chemistry is better than their spelling, but somehow I doubt it.

And we must wonder at the ‘suprising’ freshness. Why surprising (presuming that’s what they were trying to spell)? Is it because Pius IX is renowned as a smelly old bugger? Or did they whip it up out any old stuff they had lying around and then excitedly proclaim “Hey! Who’da thought turps and orange peel with a dash of kerosene would smell, like, fresh?”

The San Francisco Chronicle tells the story of the perfume’s rediscovery by Dr. Fred Hass, a general practitioner from California:

Hass found the purported recipe about seven years ago in a limited-edition 1963 cookbook published in the United States. The cookbook says the recipe is believed to have been passed down by the family of a French general who was in Pius’ papal guard.

One night, after a few glasses of wine with friends, he decided to make the concoction in his kitchen.

After a few glasses of wine with friends…’ Uh-huh. Lot’s of ‘great’ things happen like that.

“It was very pleasant,” said Hass’ cohort, Hank Sandbach of Sonoma, a retired vice president of Nabisco. “To think, if you close your eyes you’re in the presence of the pope. And if you splash a little on you get something even headier.”

Whoa there Hank! What exactly are you suggesting by that? Are you thinking, perhaps, that you chaps might have undersold yourselves there, now that the SF Chronicle has interviewed you, and that you should have tried, maybe, for God’s Perfume?

Here’s what Hass, undoubtedly aided by Hank’s expertise at the helm of Nabisco, came up with for the catchline for his scent:

The Pope’s Cologne ….a fresh new fragrance from the past.

Fresh. New. Two words not usually associated with the past. Usually things from the past are Old and Dusty. But hey.

Thing is, seeing as Pius IX was the Pope who declared Papal Infallibility as official Catholic Dogma I’m just suprised they missed the obvious marketing line:

The Pope’s Cologne. You simply CAN’T fail to impress.

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*Despite the use of one of their figureheads, the Catholic Church doesn’t appear to have anything to do with this venture.

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The Write Aroma Pen

Boy some people can come up with daft ideas.

Violet Towne has just started back at work for the year and in her work-supplied stationery package she found the above-pictured ‘Write Aroma’ pen*. Of course she thoughtfully passed it on to me (because she knew how much I’d love it), and I in turn pass it on to you (because I know how much you’ll love it too). In case it’s not immediately obvious from the packaging, it’s a car air-freshener that comes breathtakingly bundled with a pen. Or, conversely, a pen that comes bundled with a car air-freshener. Brilliant!

Because you know how often you’ve been in a car and simultaneously wished:

A: That it smelled artificially of apples

and

B: That you had a pen to write a sonnet.

I can’t begin to enumerate the times that’s happened to me. Now, thanks to Pentel, should I be in such a situation ever again, I am completely prepared. Truly a Wonder of the Modern Age. I’m so glad that natural resources are being squandered for the manufacture of this this must-have item. This is how Pentel pitches it on their website:

The convenient Write Aroma Car Kit features the new Pentel Energel dulex retractable rollerball pen. The pen (RRP $3.95) conveniently clip onto the airfreshener(RRP $6.00) so you will not loose $5.00 & never be lost for a pen in the car again.

Crikey. For people who make their business out of selling writing implements you’d think that Pentel might take some trouble to get some actual writers† to work on their advertising. I’m not at all sure why the Write Aroma is ‘convenient’ (it seems to me that for something to be convenient, it has to have some kind of actual utility to begin with – a gewgaw that does nothing useful in the first place can hardly aspire to make a grab for the added status of ‘convenience’…), and I’m completely baffled as to how it stops me loosing $5.00. Or losing it either.

You may be forgiven for making the mistake of thinking, as I did at first, that the pen writes with a perfumed ink as well. Now that would be a truly stupid idea.

So stupid in fact that there are abundant puveyors of such items. At Aroma Writes, for instance, you can buy pens that scribble in little trails of lavender, patchouli, rosemary, Pina Colada and cappuccino.

Why is this desirable, I hear you ask? Obvious: you choose a scent for the type of letter you’re writing! Let me elaborate:

Lavender: Dear Mum & Dad, I’ve been wanting to tell you for a long time why I am so fond of musical theatre…

Patchouli: …and then we found these awesome mushrooms and spent the whole evening talking to the pixies…

Rosemary: Of course, for Sunday dinner I cooked up a roast leg of lamb which the whole family enjoyed…

Pina Colada: I also just love getting caught in the rain, the feel of the ocean and the taste of champagne…

Cappuccino: Holy the mysterious rivers of tears under the streets! Holy the lone juggernaut! Holy the vast lamb of the middle class!

…and so forth.

But here at Tetherd Cow Ahead, we feel that a real sense of vision from these perfumed pen peddlers is tragically absent. To this end, the clever boffins at TCA Enterprises™ are hard at work improving on the Scented Pen concept in an effort to bring you a whole new world of olfactory calligraphic delights. So far we have perfected pens that will scent your correspondence with: bacon; ozone; asparagus-tinctured urine‡; mildew; Roquefort; whiskey; anchovies; pond water, formaldehyde and bratwurst. And we make a car kit too! Just think of the possibilities! Now, when you run into someone’s Merc in the parking lot you can leave them a bacon-scented apology note! Who could fail to be mollified by that?

And that’s not all! TCA Labs have even discovered a way to bring this concept into the digital age! Yes, that’s right, using the very same technology behind the TCA Virtual Glass of Water (VGW)™, TCA Enterprises™ in association with Hello From Hell Inc. brings you iSmell™. With iSmell™ you can now send aromatized** emails to your friends and families! I bet you didn’t see that coming Steve Jobs!

And should you think that concept has a fishy bouquet about it, just remember the folks at Pentel who managed to convince someone that bundling a pen with a car air-freshener was an idea worth bank-rolling.

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*You have to consider the concept that these useless tchotchkes are so unappealing and worthless that the only way that Pentel can get rid of them is to throw them in with other actually-useful stuff.

†Instead of out-of-work spammers.

‡Note: this scent undetectable by around 40% of people.

**It’s a real word. Ugly, I know, but somehow… apt.

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Imagine my glee when, during my Christmas expeditions to the Two Dollar Shop (as mentioned previously), I stumbled upon an eau de parfum! In a Two Dollar Shop! Smack me with a sockfull of wet lavender pulp! It wasn’t actually two dollars, coming in at a whopping five bucks, but, dear Acowlytes, this, by Two Dollar Shop standards, is a Luxury Item!

And, in true Two Dollar Shop fashion, this bottle of perfume is just like something in the real world only cheaper, crappier and made from toxic chemicals left over from industrial manufacturing processes.

Cowmrades! I present for your delectation: Bane eau de parfum.

A Bottle o' Bane

This is the Dictionary.com definition of ‘bane’:

    bane [beyn]
    –noun
    1. a person or thing that ruins or spoils

One imagines that this sense of the word is not what the creators of Bane have intended and they are in fact hoping to evoke a secondary meaning somewhat akin to spell or poison. Thus is the peril of attempting to be poetic in a language that is not the one with which you are familiar.

Of course, who am I to say? Going by the smell of the stuff, maybe the first definition is really what they had in mind. But more of that in due course.

A Box o' Bane

The Bane packaging is a triumph of product-design tragedy. The designer could only be said to have been successful if the brief went something like this:

Hey Adelheld!* What we’re going for with this is some kind of a half-woman/half-cobra embedded in a rock and obscured by a curtain. It should be really difficult to make out exactly what it is. Oh, and if you can save us some money by, say, using up some old tubes of paint you’ve got lying around – you know, those murky bilious greens that you’ve had sitting in a bottom drawer for a few years – that would be great!

Of course, the whole thing is nicely set off by the gold foil text that just screams tacky! glamour!

Which leads me to the next exciting feature of Bane. A shiny gold button on the box lets us know that this is not just any old Bane. No sirree!

New Improved Bane

This is New Improved Bane. It is at this point that I wish The Cow was scratch ‘n’ sniff because in all truth that’s the only way I could convey to you the full magnitude of the claim of ‘New Improved’. My God. New Improved Bane smells like a blend of cough medicine, window cleaner and those deodorant lozenges they put in men’s urinals. I shudder to think of what it was like before they improved it. Then again, being generous, maybe the ‘improvement’ was just in the colour? The label lists nearly a dozen colorants. Now what’s that all about? Who cares what colour the perfume is? It spends all its life in a dark red glass bottle and now and then you spray out a tiny quantity that atomizes into a virtually clear vapour. It’s madness – they could have ditched the colorants and had the product on the shelves for four bucks!

NOT Poison

Some sense can be made of the whole enterprise by examining a sticker on the cellophane packaging in which the box is shrouded. Here, the makers of Bane attempt to simultaneously align themselves with, and distance themselves from, Dior’s famous ‘Poison’ by telling us that Bane ‘compares’ to Poison but doesn’t use the same fragrances. This could be put more clearly on a label worded like this:

Dear Customer: If you lack discrimination, have no sense of smell and are a tightwad, you can buy this stuff and pretend it is Poison. It would be a fitting accompaniment to your fake Rolex, and the kinds of people you probably hang out with will never be able to tell the difference anyway.

Dear Dior Lawyer: Please don’t sue us. Even though we are attempting to trade on your reputation we are just trying to get rid of industrial fragrances left over from our disinfectant factory and only olfactorally-challenged cheapskates would think it was anything like your perfume.

Of course, I could be entirely mistaken here – the manufacturers might simply be equating Bane with rat poison. Or insecticide.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the gilded eau de parfum attribution, one could be easily forgiven for mistaking Bane for a competitively priced alternative to Mortein.

It’s just a shame that it smells so much worse.

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*I couldn’t dig up much information about Bane (or ‘The Dorall Collection’) on the net (unsurprisingly) but as near as I can make out it is manufactured in Belgium. If that’s not the case I apologize profusely to all Belgians for the slight.

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