As an audiophile of long standing and limited means, I am struck by similarities between loudspeakers and perfumes, especially in the manner of their choosing. Most people who don’t much care about sound (including many professional musicians who tend to listen to the playing, not the recording) buy little desktop or bookshelf speakers that adequately carry the spectrum but turn muddled and shouty when pushed hard. If they ever actually pick them by sound, they tend to go for the most impressive, i.e. the one with lots of treble and unmusical boomy bass, neglecting the midrange where most music and voice actually lies. That’s most of mainstream perfumery, all topnotes and bare but powerful drydown.
Then you have horn speakers, for those who love a huge midrange sound, colored by the resonant cabinetry, but capable of playing very loud, and with a wonderful old-fashioned chesty voicing. That would be the Roja Dove tendency of larger-than-life retro fragrances. Then there’s the tribe to which I belong, that likes speakers with very little moving mass, crystal-clear midrange (alas, by the time you can afford good treble, you can no longer hear it) and clean, musical bass. These are speakers (and perfumes) in which the rich inner details come through in a way which may seem unimpressive in the shop but rewards quiet attention at home. That’s electrostatics, ribbon and panel speakers in general. That would also be perfumes like Vol de Nuit (Guerlain, 1933), which in the old days stood a bit apart in the Guerlain lineup in not having a solo part, but instead a unique symphonic intimacy.
Let me now come to the point: Anubis is a modern Vol de Nuit, a fragrance to be enjoyed at leisure for its quietly luxuriant texture. It is in some ways truer to the spirit of the original than Guerlain’s, since Saint-Exupéry wrote of night flying between Toulouse and Dakar via names that even now, Ryanair and all, still make the heart skip a beat: Agadir, Cap Juby, Villa Cisneros, Port Etienne and Saint-Louis du Sénégal. The muted orientalism of Papillon perfumes is a perfect fit to that romantic itinerary. When I smell Anubis, I can almost see the straight red line stretching across a map of Morocco like alcohol rising in a thermometer, stamping a red circle at each stop and racing on in a different direction, before the movie cuts to a landing strip at bright dawn, men in starched white shorts and red tarboushes running to the aircraft carrying chocks, tall palms rustling in the background.