Saturday, 21 November 2009


I love camellias. I have three around the house, all of them survived various vicissitudes (cat nipping the buds, mom putting them in full sun to have a bit of light and then wondering why the burned leaves...) but they never really bloom too much. They are fickle - needing lots of light while they shouldn't be exposed to direct sunlight, the soil shouldn't ever get dry but too much water is no good either, the buds start growing around August but camellias bloom in winter. And they shed the buds on any occasion - draft, lack of nutrients, bad mood, anything. One even doesn't need a herbivorous cat.

The Universe already tried a few tricks to prevent me from travelling. Jesus, Buddha and Elvis probably were happy with their mission so far so now Phase II started, to keep me at home. Not that everything worked perfectly well, just yesterday, after a long pause, my mom dusted off the old routine of You're so disgustingly fat that it hurts to look at you and you'll die a miserable death of Type II diabetes, which I doesn't call particularly persuasive argument for Home Sweet Home.

Anyhow, the camellia blossomed. My mother announced it with pride (not sure what was she proud of, that she's as good windowsill farmer as I am? that she's been watering the plants well?), I thought to myself So far so good and pondered how come that it's pink when I clearly remember having one white and one purple. Plants are weird, I'm telling you.

As anyone who has come close enough knows, camellia blossoms are not fragrant at all. Obviously, all plants have a certain smell, they smell of, well, plants.

Hanatsubaki means, if internets are right, camellia blossom. It's a limited edition fragrance produced by Shiseido which was never on sale, only given to a few chosen in 2008, when it was created as a re-edition of the original Hanatsubaki created in 1917 (follow the link to see the wonderful bottle of cut glass. The new one is by far not as exciting).
I'm not a chosen one, I'm just a humble hunter-gatherer with a thing for Shiseido. So I simply hunted-gathered the fragrance out in the wild. Knowing the lack of smell in camellias, I expected a grand abstract composition evoking the tough green foliage and fragile flowers that, if one is a good gardener (1), cover the branches and consequently the floor, or, if one is lucky to live in the right climate and can grow them outside all year long, the snow. Camellias indeed can stand frost and snow but sun burns them (2).
I was surprised because... nothing. I smelled subtle and fleeting citruses, jasmine (not sure about that one, it colours the juice quite significantly but this one is almost colourless) or possibly tuberose, there is that specific tang of tuberose plus bergamot, something generally fruity and a pinch of rose (the soapy sort) and that was all.

At first, I thought that it was my skin that ate the fragrance. I tried a time-honoured trick and dabbed a bit of the fragrance onto a tissue and kept it in a sealed bag (that zippered one). It lets the perfume develop and usually lasts for a few days or even weeks. Nope, the day after, everything was gone.

I've experienced a similar effect that The Scent by Issey Miyake a few months ago and discussed it with Helg. I hardly smell The Scent, which can be said about most fragrances by Issey and also about nearly all Kenzo's stuff. Helg agreed to my theory that it may be some specific anosmia to whatever musks form the base. Could be.

I however have another theory which I like much more: it's a joke. Camellia scent. Great abstract synthesis of lack of smell.

I don't really get one thing. Maybe someone in the know may explain. The outer box says Hanatsubaki and adds some rants in Japanese (3) while the inner box (pretty pink leatherette with blue sheen, I want such a nail paint, damn) and the bottle says Euthrixine, adding in a language similar to English (4): 'The origin of our ways lies in bringing each customer ultimate beauty and well-being.' I suspect it is a contorted way of saying We care about the customers. Doesn't explain Euthrixine. Comments and clarifications welcome.

The stopper, being a glass ball, is in fact a lens, too, showing my windowsill garden reduced in size, distorted and upside down. So far for jokes.

I sent a sample to Helg, I'll prompt her to try what she can make up from that one.

(1) so, not yours truly
(2) something like me, wearing birks until in November, mom gets pissed and says that I'm mad, and getting rash when exposed to direct sunrays. No wonder that I like these damn plants.
(3) no I don't know all languages despite the gossip. And yes, there is lots of gossip and I've experienced people asking unbelievingly "Oh you really don't speak Icelandic?", adding humility to the list of my non-existent virtues.
(4) I see words but not sense

1 comment:

  1. I believe it was originally given to the employees of the company (a tradition still being carried out I hear). Perhaps that helps unlock the somewhat cryptic message on the bottle.