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Perfume Notes: Anné Pliska
by Dain


Alain A. Fournier, Sailboats at Port.

In high school, I had a signature scent. It was called Organza Indécence, from Givenchy, a blowsy vanillic amber with a dominating sillage. I wore it exclusively, until it saturated every facet of my seventeen-year-old existence, from turtlenecks to love letters. Some twelve years later, I still have the bottle, but I can't go near Organza Indecence without gagging. Familiarity, evidently, breeds scrubbers.It has grown into such a monster—so quickly does my nose now fatigue of amber, overdosed on vanilla—that I can no longer broach gourmands without a sympathetic surge of nausea.

This unfortunate bit of early conditioning has barred me from the vast proliferation of sweet fragrances in the past two decades. From POTL (1998) to Chergui (2001) to Angel (1992), I react with unthinking, visceral repulsion, all except for Anné Pliska (1987). From first sniff to drydown revisited, Anné Pliska never lost its appeal.

On the surface, Anné Pliska is a genial thing, toothsome as dessert: candied orange zest and opulent amber bridged by vanilla. If you only caught a whiff of the sillage in passing, you would sense nothing but easy charm. Why vanilla, it always smells good. But this would not give proper credit to its maverick role in Anne Pliska, which transitions seamlessly from good ice cream to the powdery accord of benzoin and tonka bean of Shalimar, from modern literalism to classical form, with effortless skill.

Like my other enduring sweet, L'Heure Bleue—technically an oriental, but heavy syrup all the same— Anné Pliska blooms best in the heat, when the complexity of its structure expands more voluminously. It invites you to look more closely. Now, more than blood orange, you now pick up bitter, camphoraceous herbs in the opening, so distinctively inedible you now wonder how you dismissed it as a crowd-pleaser. The creamy vanillic heart is faintly savory, with a bitter edge—from saffron, perhaps. Beneath the heady incense base, the roughness of patchouli adds depth and melancholy, with leathery overtones from oakmoss. From top to bottom, therefore, Anne Pliska's progression is marked by contrasts: the inedible always acts as a foil to the edible, like a frame to a picture.

The history of perfumery is marked by innovations in structure, from the fougère to the great gourmands. This style, of mismatched notes that build to an unexpected harmony, though it borrows from classical convention (animalics add dimension to florals) is characteristic of the properly abstract, contemporary composition. It is not the cocoa and candy floss that makes Angel, Angel—cocoa and candy floss would be Pink Sugar—but the indolic jasmine, though it plays a supporting role, that makes it the eccentric marvel that it is, unique even in the company of a hundred imitations.

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8/18/2012 [2]




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