Tuesday, 21 December 2010
We Three Kings: Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh - Frankincense
Three Kings Icon ©2010 Megan Ruisch
FRANKINCENSE: Diptyque – Eau Duelle (“ebony and ivory”)
Notes: bergamot, cardamom, pink pepper, elemi, juniper, saffron, calamus, frankincense, cypriol, black tea, vanilla, musk, amber
I love the word “frankincense”. It rolls off the tongue in the same satisfyingly clunky manner as the name “Blenkinsop”. I may in fact love “frankincense” as much as my other favourite words: “gutta percha”, “tangerine”, “susurration” and “kibble”. That said, I had to trawl pretty widely to find a perfume featuring frankincense with which I had a particular rapport. I was initially going to choose Flower by Kenzo Oriental, but on checking the notes found that the incense in that one is “Chinese”, which, like that country's livelier styles of fireworks, is something else altogether. A blend of agarwood and sandalwood I believe, whereas frankincense (and myrrh) are of course both fragrant resins.
Then I remembered my newest fragrant squeeze, Eau Duelle by Diptyque, which I am quietly confident of Sibling Claus giving me for Christmas this year. Classed as a woody oriental and created by Fabrice Pellegrin, it has a number of my favourite notes in it, notably saffron, but also pepper, which was in the Kenzo that failed on the incense technicality. And while Eau Duelle is primarily a soft, cosseting scent featuring not one but two types of vanilla – the lighter firnat and the darker bourbon – its beguiling appeal is also due to the smoky tendrils of frankincense in the base.
The duality of Eau Duelle works on a number of levels: the internal light and shade of the vanillas themselves, and of the vanillas versus the incense, all echoed by the contrasting monochrome livery of the Diptyque brand. And beyond the frankincense connection, there are other tie-ins with the Christmas theme: Eau Duelle is both comforting and mysterious, like so many aspects of Jesus's life, if that is not too crass a comparison. And as the Son of God, Jesus embodied the duality of the divine in human form – “by flesh embound”, indeed.
Moreover, the wise men are traditionally depicted as being both black and white – well, one or the other, I mean, not both colours in the same Magus. That would give a very different spin to the term “Bah! Humbug”...
Then I guess there is the uneasy duality of Christmas itself, for somewhere buried underneath the groaning mountains of food and presents there is a religious festival struggling to get out, though every year it slides a little further into secular oblivion. Which brings me to that other, politically correct, duality of “Christmas” versus “the holidays”, a phrase I heard countless times during my recent trip in the States - it is standard usage over there but still sounds strange to British ears. There are holiday cards, holiday trees, holiday pies, holiday feasts, holiday wines, holiday gifts, holiday traffic and (presumably) “holiday holidays” - as distinct from “holiday holidays” - which as their name suggests are at a completely different time of year. Intriguingly, I heard on the news the other day that President Obama is planning to take a “holiday vacation”.
So yes, Eau Duelle would have been a good choice for the baby Jesus all ways round. Perhaps, in the next edition of the Good News Bible - or whichever one is the latest update of the original King James version – we will read that the wise men brought gifts of shares in an Emerging Markets Technology Fund and a £10 mobile phone top up, a bottle of Eau Duelle and....er....some myrrh.
But then again, nothing has quite the ring of frankincense. And a word that is at once a perfume and an object lesson in the beauty of the English language – why, that is a very precious gift indeed.
The other participating blogs are listed below - we have all chosen different scents, so every post will be a different interpretation of this theme!
Redolent of Spices
Scent of the Day
All I Am - A Redhead
Chicken Freak's Obsession
Notes from Josephine
The Perfume Chronicles
My Perfume Life
Photo of Eau Duelle from the Diptyque website, photo of the Magi from Wikimedia Commons