My Latin is sparse and rusty, but still good enough to know that stringing two nominatives together, as in Aqua Sextius*, will not get you into Oxford. But Guerlain (Aqua Allegoria) gets away with it, so why not? The fragrance, composed by Cécile Zarokian, is a technical marvel. I’ll wager that every oil house has analysed this one to death and told its perfumers to copy it. It belongs to that very small number of compositions that pretend to be transient top notes and are actually extremely stable heart accords. These range from the charming (Eau de Guerlain), to the loathsome (Light Blue) via pure, abstract genius (CK One). A telltale sign that AS belongs to this rarefied group is that you immediately feel, when spraying on skin, that AS is already partway into the score. It’s as if by some enchantment, no matter how early you get to the concert, you cannot catch the first bar. That’s because there is none. We are so programmed to perceive fresh top notes as transient that we expect them to recede in seconds. When a fragrance like AS bends the laws of physics we feel an obscure but powerful sense of wonder. It is not the (lovely) citrus-herbaceous accord of AS that makes it great, it’s the fact that this fresh little nothing turns out to be huge and canters in slow motion. You can have it in two versions in the same bottle: on skin, as a mouthwatering fresh-warm thing, and on fabric as a woody citrus. Jul et Mad should by rights sell it in 1-litre spray bottles.
*Jul et Mad claim it was the Latin name for Aix en Provence. Wikipedia reassuringly explains it was Aquae Sextiae.
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