Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Holly oak nymphs and suntanned satyrs: Papillon Artisan Perfumes Dryad review

Source: Wikipedia
There are many things I like that are not 'me': black leather jackets, Converse trainers, full length low backed Grecian gowns in red or white, and the concept of taking someone a present of muffins in a cloth-lined basket. I am not too sure how I look drinking Vermouth, but I enjoy that too, and persevere. And so without further ado I can announce that as with Salome before it, the next, soon-to-be-released scent from Papillon Artisan Perfumes, a green chypre-oriental called Dryad, is technically not me either. And I like it!

When I sat down to write this post I was fully expecting it to remind me of a magical, Narnia-like forest behind the caravan park outside Killarney where we holidayed every Easter as children...It had mysterious mossy mounds and earthworks at every turn, from which shot up exuberant bushes of curly-tipped ferns. The air was cool and pure and eerily still, save for the occasional call of a hoopoe (the absolute jackpot in I-Spy points!). Dryad might equally have reminded me of some trees much closer to home, namely the 600 sessile oaks in Brocton Coppice, with their distinctive gnarled, skyward-sprawling arms and lichen tattoos. Some are 1000 years old, and there is speculation that they may have inspired Tolkien, who was stationed in a training camp on Cannock Chase during WW1. Or for that matter, Dryad could have taken me back to the sun-dappled forest of tall pines surrounding Liz Moores' house, where Tara of A Bottled Rose (whose own exquisite review of Dryad is up today!) and I were privileged to sniff the first mod of the scent last May.

But a strange thing happened: for when I sprayed Dryad yesterday, my nose headed down a different avenue, and didn't come back. The wood nymphs which inspired Liz's creation were still very much present and corrrect, only they live in a sunnier climate. But before getting into my impressions of the scent proper, a bit of a preamble on the thorny business of dryad nomenclature may be in order.

Brocton Coppice ~ Source: Geograph

A 'potted' dryad digest

My goodness, there are a lot of different kinds of dryad! I haven't managed to find a complete consensus on definitions, but it seems that a 'regular' dryad is a low level goddess aka the entity or spirit of either a specific type of tree (ash, laurel etc) OR a location or area of trees (grove, glen, vale) etc.

"The 'dry-' part of dryad comes from the Greek word for 'oak' and used to refer to only oak tree nymphs, but now it has become the overarching term for all wood nymphs." - Enclave Publishing

Which leads us to a key cohort of tree nymphs called hamadryads - eight in all, the daughters of Oxylus and Hamadryas:

Karya (walnut or hazelnut), Balanos (oak), Kraneia (dogwood), Morea (mulberry), Aigeiros (black poplar), Ptelea (elm), Ampelos (vines), and Syke (fig).

Hamadryad tam ~ Source: Etsy

These hamadryads are born 'bonded to a certain tree', which they inhabit. Some sources have the hamadryads as physically part of their trees. In either case, unlike regular dryads, who are immortal, if a hamadryad's assigned tree dies, they die as well. So poor old Ptelea above must have lived in constant fear of Dutch elm disease, for example. Then I am thinking that it is the Balanos hamadryad that is the particular focus of Dryad the fragrance, for as Liz Moores explains: "the pefume is centred very much around oakmoss".

    Also worthy of mention are the Oreiades, a 'branch' of nymphs associated with mountain conifers, and reputedly 'tougher and tetchier' than your average dryad. Oh, and I was especially taken with another dryad 'offshoot': the Maliades - nymphs of fruit trees, and also - in a surprise twist - the protectors of sheep.

    And while we are on the subject of random links...the mother's name above, Hamadryas, is also a genus of arboreal butterfly, that camouflages itself on trees and and - unusually for butterflies - lives on sap, rotten fruit and animal dung, as well as making a 'cracking' noise with its wings. Well, the males, anyway. How apt for a butterfly-themed perfume house like Papillon! Though the Hamadryas hails from the Americas, while the more soberly patterned Dryad butterfly is native to Southern Europe and further east.

    Dryad butterfly ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons (Zeynel Cebeci)

    And at the opposite end of the scale, Hamadryas is also a baboon described as 'one of the least arboreal monkeys', so they are not much use to us and our tree-dwelling preoccupations. And even more bizarrely, in view of my recent review of Vero Profumo Naja, and Liz Moores' well documented set up for in-home snake husbandry, Hamadryas is another term for a king cobra! I did not see that coming. The exegesis of this perfume is getting deeper and deeper, and I haven't even mentioned how it smells yet...

    So on at last to my impressions. To my nose Dryad is the scent of woodland - woodland involving oaks indeed - but it instantly transports me 1100 miles from home to the hardy scrubland of the garrigue in the Languedoc Roussillon area of southern France. I am mindful, however, that Your Forest Mileage May Vary.

    The garrigue ~ Source: Wikipedia

    The garrigue

    Wikipedia describes the garrigue as an ecoregion - and even more amusingly as "discontinuous bushy associations of the Mediterranean calcareous plateaus". On closer inspection, these discontinuous bushy associations turn out to be dense thickets of kermes / holm / holly oak. We are clearly in the habitat of a splinter group of Provencal hamadryads...

    "You don’t just visit the garrigue. You absorb it and you feel it with every sense that you possess. You feel the Tramontane or the Mistral winds in your hair, the crunchy gravel and stones of the paths under your feet and the hot, Mediterranean sun on your face. You smell and taste the myriad of sweet and spicy flavours as you brush through the undergrowth: lemon, oak, thyme, pine, rosemary, lavender, aniseed and fennels, peppers and juniper, even wild asparagus and the tree strawberry grow here." - The Good Life France magazine

    Source: Pinterest

    Dryad the perfume

    Notes: narcissus, oakmoss, jonquil, clary sage, galbanum, costus, tarragon, apricot, benzoin, Peru balsam, cedrat, bigaradier Orange, bergamot, deer tongue, lavender, orris, vetiver, thyme, styrax and orange blossom

    On first sniffing Dryad, I got a bracing burst of a citrus-inflected herbal bouquet. There is oakmoss to the fore and it remains pretty pronounced throughout the scent's development. The opening reminded me a lot of Guerlain Sous le Vent, the (relatively short) note list for which has some crossover:

    Notes: lavender, tarragon, bergamot, green notes, jasmine, carnation, iris, woodsy notes

    I think it was that association between the two scents that tipped me immediately into my garrigue scentscape. On my skin Dryad is a warm, but not arid scent, rather than one that speaks of damp forest floors with their more rooty, earthy odours, although I know that oakmoss can also smell of that. I haven't tested Sous le Vent in many years, though I do remember describing its texture as 'granular', which may have been something to do with the particular blend of herbs and the petitgrain of my hazy memory - and quite possibly invention! Dryad is not 'granular' and it does have a deeper green dimension as it wears on - a mix of the resinous grassiness of vetiver and the 'Dolby Surround green' of galbanum. If this forest could sing, it would be a soprano, veering to a mezzo soprano, but never descending into the deepest register of a contralto.

    Echo ~ Source: hexapolis

    Then here and there I catch fleeting hints of recalcitrant flowers, like the dryads themselves (who are noted for their shyness), as they dart in and out of their trees dodging satyrs - and generally darting, as they do. This is where Echo, the mountain nymph, comes into the story, as Liz explains:

    "I included narcissus absolute because Echo was a Dryad who fell in love with Narcissus and I liked the full circle with myth and materials. It felt more complete."

    And even though the narcissus and jonquil are playing hide and seek with me, it is undoubtedly their presence, together with that of the orange notes and iris, that ensure that Dryad never feels masculine, not even in its more markedly herbal opening phase. Nor is it at all dark and ineffably singular like Ormonde Jayne Woman (though I like that one too!), or like some of those retro green chypres, which I find a touch too acerbic for my taste. As she did with Salome and the 'animalic chypre', Liz Moores has come up with a softer, more modern and accessible interpretation of the 'take no prisoners' green divas of yore. Which is not to say that Dryad is a mere slip of a girl of a chypre - not at all - it sits squarely between wispish and waspish, and that's fine by me.

    Holly oak ~ Source: Gerbeaud

    Towards the far drydown, Dryad sometimes come overs a little bit all unnecessary - though not on every wearing. This may be due to the costus getting its furry thing on - but we are talking fairly sedate and demure intimations of intimacy. Overall (and please forgive this crude schema) if you were to compare Dryad the perfume to the structure of an oak tree, the bright, citrus and herbal opening would be its canopy of leaves, its trunk the oakmoss, and its undulating branches the floral and other green and slight animalic facets that weave in and out of the composition.

    The girl

    To return to the theme of something not being me...during my year in the South of France I lived with two other girls, who rejoiced in the names of Dick and Knuckles. Here is the relevant snippet from my 2013 review of Dita Van Teese:

    "They were both extremely body-conscious as it happens, with matching eating disorders. One of the duo existed entirely off Granny Smith apples, which she sat munching while devouring the complete works of Emile Zola, I never did figure out why. I once thought of writing my memoirs from that year and calling it 'The Three Thin Women of Antibes' in a homage to Somerset Maugham.

    Now my villa-mates may have been thin, but they punched above their weight when it came to relationships - I use the word loosely because they were. Yes, the year was punctuated by a steady procession of hot tempered, arm-windmilling Frenchmen coming and going at our villa, while I stood meekly by, occasionally emptying waste paper baskets full of apple cores."

    Source: Chief River Nursery

    Speaking of 'holly oaks', it truly was like living in a soap opera, with suntanned satyrs circling round my housemates. Of the two girls, it is the apple muncher whom I would most closely associate with Dryad. I will call her 'L', though she remains completely ungoogle-able even under her full name. L was tall and willowy, with a sleek, jet black Eton crop, that had a dark green Lois Lane sheen to it whenever her hair caught the light. A raven-haired 'Twiggy', if you will, to stay with our woody theme. She was poised and elegant, shy and fey, with a softly spoken Edinburgh accent and a penetrating stare. L also had a knowing glint in her eye that belied her diffident manner. Dryad would have made a perfect signature scent for her, capturing the aromatic pot pourri of the garrigue and teaming it with L's unique blend of inscrutability, vulnerability, and a soupcon of danger. I would never have met someone like 'L' had we not been thrown together by chance, and I was not her usual kind of friend either, but - you've guessed it - we liked each other too.

    Hmm, now if Liz Moores would just do a scent inspired by the hamadryad of the Granny Smith tree, that would be an even closer fit for L.  Though I can't recall where she stood on sheep.

    A mouton from the garrigue!

    I know where Liz Moores stands on sheep, mind. She is the protector of every creature, and her house a veritable mini-Longleat crossed with Noah's Ark. And so the ethical dimension to her creation of Dryad is entirely in keeping with her nurturing, all-inclusive, and cheerfully chaotic menagerie:

    "For me, there's a moral tale here also because maybe if we looked at everything and everyone as being intrinsically holding its own spirit, we would care for nature (and each other) a little more."

    It's a fine sentiment for these uncertain times. I don't know how we can navigate the creeping approach of another Cold War, if that is what lies ahead, but putting your best foot forward and spritzing the sensuous, warm woodland in a bottle that is Dryad, has got to be a good way to go.

    Liz with her latest rescue owl, Ghost


    Unknown said...

    Oh, you coordinated your lovely reviews. Very clever. I will let you know that the Dutch elm disease dryad has made me spit my coke 0 all over my tablet. You are bonkers, bonkers.

    Vanessa said...

    Hi Sabine,

    It was a half coordination, hehe. I knew T was posting today and I have drifted to posting on Wednesdays for a while now myself. Had I had all the facts at my disposal, you might well have got a post on trousers sooner, of all off-topic things(!), but there's another leg to go in that saga, and Dryad was the other review 'on the go'. They are shaping up to be the new buses!

    Sorry about your tablet. I spilt my tea three times yesterday, including over three bath mats at once. On one of the occasions I spilt it I was actually mopping up previous spilt tea at the time. And today I carbonised a hot cross bun. It's been quite a week for mishaps.

    Tara said...

    Loved hearing about where Dryad took you, V. The south of France in your student days! Perfume is so much fun partly for that reason.
    I've been reading about Greek mythology lately so I wasn't surprised when I also read about the huge amount of different of dryads. The number of gods and goddesses is endless!
    Liz's quote about the spirit of all things definitely comes across in the perfume. Very, very clever.
    I also loved your comparison of Dryad to the different parts of the oak tree. Spot on!

    Vanessa said...

    Hi Tara,

    Perfume does indeed have marvellous kaleidoscopic properties, such that whatever it throws to the fore on your skin and in your mind can take you in all manner of different directions. I greatly enjoyed your moody meditation on the enchanted forest and I think I know that faraway look of yours!

    Unknown said...

    I saw those hot cross buns. Impressive achievement, my dear.

    Vanessa said...

    That was one bun, split in half. Quite enough damage even so. Had I not made it half the height, I may very well have set the house on fire. ;)

    crikey said...

    Have I mentioned lately that I bloody love the way you review perfumes? I really do.

    You and Tara have created the most powerful hankering with the way you've thought about this and expressed your different responses to it.

    (I've been bumping into many non-standad dryads in fiction recently--like the london ones who have taken to living in lamp posts in Kate Griffen's Midnight Mayor novels. Some nice twists on old figures.)

    I wonder if your apple-munching friend had read "Cold Comfort Farm" at an impressionable age, starring Flora who “liked Victorian novels. They were the only kind of novel you could read while eating an apple.”

    Vanessa said...

    Hi crikey,

    Thank you for saying so! I do often wonder if I am unacceptably meandering, personal, or both(!) to be a bona fide reviewer, but as with the Vermouth, I persevere - and can't seem to change.

    I loved the lamp post-dwelling dryad - that is brilliant! Must check out that author.

    And I laughed at the Cold Comfort Farm reference, which I have read, but had forgotten that particular quote. Too good. If only I could track L down there is so much I would like to know about her life since our year together (1979/80), and could lob that question in while I am at it. ;)

    Undina said...

    I think that when perfume brings out memories, it has fulfilled it destiny - even more than when we just like the scent.

    It was interesting to read about my nick's terrestrial sisters. And, of course, I'm curious to try this perfume - for the name at least :)

    Vanessa said...

    Hi Undina,

    I so agree with you about the effects / job of perfume, and look forward to hearing your impressions of this one.

    I spent so long reading up on dryads, trying to cross-reference sources and find the definitive background, that I never got as far as watery creatures, though I would have been equally interested!

    Ingeborg said...

    I didn't know all of this about dryads, interesting.

    So this doesn't have much wet forest in it? I don't much want the smell of clay and soggy earth in perfume. Oak and plants from a sunnier climate must smell better! I think I should try this, even if Salome didn't work on my skin.

    Vanessa said...

    Hi Ingeborg,

    Not for me it didn't, but some of the other reviewers have mentioned 'damp' in their descriptions, so as I say, your forest mileage may vary. Definitely give it a go, I say.

    liza said...

    nice post

    Vanessa said...

    Thanks, Samia!