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Saturday, 24 July 2010

Ajne Calypso - Embrace Your Inner Nymph(o)!

I had intended to feature Ajne Calypso (or Comme de Calypso, to give the scent its full name) in my 100th post in May. I figured that a review of this, my most expensive perfume, would make an interesting counterpoint to my earlier piece about Lidl's Suddenly D'Or, the cheapest bottle in my collection. For neither perfume appears to have been written about elsewhere. Instead, I chose as my subject Maison de Kurkdjian's APOM pour femme, drawn to the neat symbolism of the phrase "a piece of me" for the way perfume now permeates my daily life.

So, with summer in full swing, this seems like as good time as any to write about Calypso, a tropical floral from the niche natural perfumery Ajne, based in Carmel, California.

Notes: cardamom, frangipani, jasmine, vanilla

If there are any other notes in the composition - I thought I detected sandalwood and ylang-ylang at one point, but I may have imagined it - Ajne is keeping them under wraps. As a rule, its note listings lean to the coy side, as I doubt that all their scents do really contain as few ingredients as those declared.

I own the 15ml gold filigree bottle, which at full retail costs a wallet-busting $225. I did have a couple of gift vouchers to mitigate the pain, but Calypso still worked out (including P & P and customs charges) at 100 times the cost of the Lidl scent: £8 vs 8p per ml. Okay, I hear you all asking: "So does the Ajne smell a hundred times better than the fruity floral, spookily close clone of Ghost Luminous that is Suddenly D'Or?" Well, clearly I am not going to answer that, so let's just say that I like Calypso an awful lot - and more than the other one. It should also be borne in mind that Ajne's scents are made entirely from essential oils, and it isn't inconceivable to me that their raw material costs are in fact 100 times those of the Lidl perfume, whose bargain price may partly be attributable to the knock off packaging and lack of advertising spend.

As the notes suggest, Calypso is a sultry number - a bit like Ormonde Jayne Frangipani but with greater heft. Texturally (thanks to the vanilla?) it has more in common with the demure yet "come hither" style of SL Un Lys, so if you lose the lilies and substitute an even headier duo of frangipani and jasmine, plus a tangy but possibly fictitious hint of ylang-ylang, you won't go far wrong. Calypso is extremely intense on first application (which is of course a feature of essential oils). But relatively soon the scent mutes down to a smouldering tropical blend with no one note dominant.

As for the origin of the name, until now I had associated the word "Calypso" with Afro-Caribbean music, swiftly followed by other stereotypical images of a tropical paradise: cocktails, palm fringed beaches, hammocks, coconuts, avocado trees(?), sea shells, turtles, all-inclusive Sandals resorts, Rastafarian gigolos etc - with the odd spot of gun crime and drug running thrown in to pep things up. The scent is unashamedly sensual - veering to slutty even - but this is high end, sophisticated slutty. Calypso is staying at the Jalousie Hilton in St Lucia. She accessorises her sarong and maxi-dress with metallic flipflops, and is single-handedly - or rather, double-wristedly - pioneering the fashion revival of yellow gold jewellery.

Here is the description of Calypso from the Ajne website:

"Calypso celebrates the magical qualities of a woman. She is at once nurturing, yet independent - confident, yet tender. She will surround you in her mystery, creating a sultry aura of subtle sensuality."

So far, so Bo Derek (minus the sarong, even!). But having dug a little deeper, I think I have found a Greek nymph who may have been the ultimate inspiration for the wearer of this fragrance...

"The Greek goddess Calypso was described in Homer's Odyssey 2,800 years ago. Calypso, who lived on Ogygia, an island near Malta, was unmarried, independent, and history's first documented feminist. There she rescued the hero Odysseus from death as he drifted astride the keel of the his ship that Zeus had shattered with lightning. For seven years she kept Odysseus on her island, passionately loving him and offering to make him a god."

(from www.reverseskinaging.com!)

This account puts quite a positive spin on events, but others cast Calypso more in the role of captor - a sort of one-woman proto Baader-Meinhof gang, if you will. Whatever the truth of the matter (insofar as a myth can be said to be "true"), it seems that Calypso's influence may have had a stultifying effect over time:

"He (Odysseus) is forced to live a vegetative existence, perhaps at first a welcome rest, but then a womblike entrapment. The name Calypso means "eclipse," and indeed, Odysseus' long stay on Calypso's isle is an eclipse of all that he has known of life...and also of his consciousness of himself as a warrior hero and shrewd initiator of action."

So how much of this goddess/nymph back story chimes with Calypso the perfume? Most of it, I'd say. For the goddess and the scent are feisty and feminine, beguiling and comforting - but (as is sadly so often the way...), its sultry charms may pall somewhat if applied continuously for seven years.


Painting of Calypso by Arnold Boecklin, drawing by John Flaxman.

14 comments:

  1. "double-wristedly - pioneering the fashion revival of yellow gold jewellery." Love that!

    I think of Calypso the goddess/nymph when I hear this word, but I think her name ties in quite well with the lotus-eating, hedonistic Caribbean resort culture. Great post! I now want to try this...

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  2. Hi LBV,

    I am not surprised that you have heard of Calypso the goddess/nymph, with a great aunt who was a Professor of Classics! : - ) By contrast, my knowledge of the myth is "Wikifresh", though I do know my Scylla from my Charybdis.

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  3. My top-of-the-head quick association blob that is "calypso" includes steel drum at the top of the music. In fact, I heard one (steel drum) playing the Habanera from Carmen along the Seine the other day, a conflation of concepts nearly worthy of palm-fringed resorts and the Baader-Meinhof gang. (Remember, I am feverish, so sometimes what is arch is merely a short bridge easily bringing together concepts... ;) )

    Anyway, I see that in the end, you like this Ajne nymph that is Calypso.

    So now to decide whether to enjoy muchly now, and run the risk of exhausting its charms...or hoard and release occasionally, like a bottled Catherine of Aragon...

    I don't think I know my Scylla from my Charybdis, despite the thorough teachings of our 5th grade Sex Ed teacher.

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  4. Incidentally, what has happened to your background? Don't mess with a febrile mind. Are we aloft?

    ;) It's kind of fun, actually...is this blog journey making you feel you are flying?? :)

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  5. Oooh!!! A fragrance similar to OJ Frangipani but with greater heft? I'd say that's definitely worth the $$$. (Of course, I am easily enslaved by Calypso's kind...even when it means I'll be saving my pennies for the next seven years for the pleasure of said enslavement.)

    Thanks for the review, Flittersniffer. I'm completely unfamiliar with this perfume line, but definitely intrigued now. (And yowza, that bottle is a knock-out, too!)

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  6. Ajne is sooooo painfully pricey. Even the samples are out of my budget most of the time.

    I, as you are aware, don't get that same smoothness you do from Calypso, no matter how much I wanted to love it. I'll stick with my beautiful Printemps and enjoy the last drops of de Lavande (courtesy of my equally beautiful friend).

    Loved reading your review!

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  7. Hi ScentSelf,

    Thanks for stopping by from your lit de maladie! I am making full allowances for your currently feverish imagination, whose workings appear to be broadly similar to those of your imagination in rude good health. : - )

    ..."thorough teachings of my 5th grade Sex Ed teacher". Very good!

    I can't actually see more than a cm of the flying background on my own computer, so it is just a hint of powder blue. I realise though that others may have PCs with a wider screen format. And though I have the carbon footprint of a frequent flying elephant, and it seemed quite apt on that account - much of my material being drawn from my travels - on balance, I would much prefer a more abstract background, if I could find one which doesn't mess with the current placement of my photos.

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  8. Hi Suzanne,

    I believe Ajne's ingredients are pretty luxurious generally, and I guess jasmine in particular and possibly the Madagascan vanilla may have bumped up the cost of this one.

    I guess it is some small consolation that if you lived in Stockholm, and Ajne ever found its way into the city's perfume outlets, you'd have to save your pennies for ten years rather than seven! : - )

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  9. Hi lovethescents,

    I do love Printemps too, and I remember your not falling for this one in the same way. There are Ajnes that I don't find smooth (it is something to do with the intensity of the essential oils - Lakshmi and Aphrodite being two cases in point), but this one behaves like a "regular" perfume on me once it gets going, and I have received compliments from friends and fellow perfumistas while wearing it. Not Mr Bonkers, obviously.

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  10. Okay chaps, am experimenting with a "non-aviation-themed travel format".

    Let me know what you think...

    I believe I am fast becoming what is known in graphic design circles as a "template tart".

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  11. Hee, but there are so many partners...erm, templates...to choose from...

    This one (the washed wall with the paintings) is currently being employed by AlbertCAN over at Les Tuilieries, I do believe. Lovely, but used.

    Which suggests you should drop this partner like a hot potato and move on to another, unused one. Tart. ;)

    And what's that you say about the gyrations being remarkably similar??? :) :)

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  12. Hi ScentScelf,

    Good grief - have you always had two "c"s in your name? In that case, I may have been misspelling you for months. Or possibly on occasions spelling you correctly quite by accident. Selective dyslexia is my rather poor defence.

    Have just checked out Les Tuileries, a blog I had not heard of before, I must admit, so my choice of a similar background was pure coincidence. That is the trouble with these ready-made designs on blogger - there are more blogs out there than choice of template, so you can easily end up picking the same one as a few other people.

    It was arguably worse when I started out last year with a black backdrop, because I immediately clashed with Ines. Next I dabbled in various shades of grey, all of which were in use by other perfume bloggers.

    This is a more specific clash, granted, but I think I will stick with it for the moment till something else presents itself that I can work with, as there are so few options on blogspot which preserve the integrity of photos in past posts when you switch. Plus AlbertCAN has opted for the transparent centre panel. And his blog list hangs to the left. : - ) And he has probably never heard of me. So I am, to all intents and purposes, the graphic design spider under the bed.

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  13. Bravo for under the bed. I went through gyrations a while back, and am still staying the course, to borrow a phrase.

    Yes, always two "c"s. It's an interior nod to the Old English (supposedly) that started it all, "Scelfleah," and then plays with the fact that neither the "sc" in scent or scelfleah are pronounced as they look.

    You are the first person to even launch a discussion, so there, I've answered a question not posed. ;)

    And yergh...I realized after the fact that it might have seemed I was stirring up the pot...look, you post regularly and often, and AC changed his for his last post and hasn't reappeared since, and there is a limit to ready-made backgrounds, and and...so, sorry if I came off as, well, insert proper British word here.

    Quietly, please.

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  14. Hi ScentScelf,

    I am not sure I quite follow your multi-nuanced use of gyrations, or rather the first instance still has me foxed. In your last comment I take it to mean "design variants".

    I was most interested to learn of the etymological roots of ScentScelf, to which I would never have otherwise tumbled.

    No "yergh" necessary! I am happy to have the similarity pointed out to me, but I feel that AlbertCAN and I move in sufficiently different orbits for our common choice not to impinge unduly on the collective consciousness of the perfume blogosector. There was that dispute recently involving two perfume bloggers with the same name, which was resolved by the the newer person changing her title. This was to avoid genuine confusion and misdirected traffic, whereas here the worst outcome is a mild case of deja vu. : - ) (Says she, all eight legs crossed.) Hold on, I just remembered a perfumista friend by the name of Arachnes_Spool....oops...

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