And day of rest it was, yesterday. After a long break, I am coming back to the blog with a new post, so long overdue. But, what is more important, with a slew of new ideas, projects and inspirations, some of which I am going to disclose here in the coming weeks.
Yes, the book was completed and submitted (but no, it’s not going to see the light before the end of the year) and after a somehow troubled last few months, I just settled in a new place and managed to rearrange my organ. The reason I have neither written nor blended scents in while is that I did not have a space to do so in my old place. Now I have it, and that’s good news, and inspiration is back.
So, rearranging my organ I had to face the issue of sorting the ingredients. It is a useful exercise (and I suggest everyone tinkering with scents to do it from time to time, not least because, by opening the bottles one by one and smelling get you to rehearse the whole set of your materials): some of the ingredients get misplaced with time, others are forgotten or overlooked, and simply never used, resulting in the disruption of the initial criteria according to which I had placed the bottles.
The issue of criteria is crucial. Some of the materials are pretty straightforward: woods are woods, flowers are flowers, citruses are citruses. Although the criterion may be questionable and the boundaries are blurred (I lump cinnamon bark with spices, for example, but it would not be entirely extravagant to group it with woods), these are no-brainers.
The whole thing gets much more complicated (and intriguing) when it comes to other materials, which got me to think that the primary criterion I use to sort them is not what they are in nature, but what their use is and what they smell of. I realised that I have a slot for materials that remind me of water, but that most of them are in fact more related to earth – geosmin, patchouli (which is, in fact, a herb), earthy pyrazine, mitti attar etc. – or things that I identify as related to watery edibles, like melonal, calone and the like. Right, I do have a slot for “edible” odours: coffee, cocoa, saffron tincture and safranal (which I divorced from the spices. Why I see saffron, as opposed to basil absolute, as an edible and not as a spice is beyond me), tonka bean (and coumarine with it), vanilla etc. But I also have assigned a space to reeks, that is, to all those ingredients that are outright disgusting when smelt pure, but are so subtly awesome when are used below the threshold of consciousness (civet, castoreum, different kinds of tars. I also place ambergris here – to me, it smells of rotten teeth when pure – and this is the reason why you’ll find ambrofix along with my “bad smells”).
Some chemicals are utterly unruly, when it comes to categories. They could stay with the stinks as well as with flowers or edibles (some aldehydes form example). But one of the most interesting of my own categories stands besides the stinks: it is the slot I have assigned to leathers, tobaccos, hays and intoxicants. Here too the boundaries are not fixed (I have moved wormwood, the plant absinthe is extracted from, with woods and not with drugs), and far from unquestionable. But, after all, the arrangement of an organ must be functional. An organ is arranged finely when you can quickly find what you need, when you need it. So I found myself putting my anisaldehyde with “drugs and intoxicants”. The path that led me to line an innocuous molecule that smells of bitter almonds is quickly explained. Among the intoxicants, stands methyl benzoate, which is what dog actually smell when trained to detect cocaine. To me, methyl benzoate only smells of one thing: a waxy glue that was very popular in Italy when I was a kid, and ubiquitous in schools and homes in the 1980s:
The name of the glue was Coccoina. It clearly resonates with “cocaina” – hence my assigning the poor anisaldehyde (which nowhere smells of cocaine nor of any other drug) a place next to hashish and cannabis.
When I’ll need to use it, it will come way handier to resort to “the chemical that smell of Coccoina”.