By Danielle DesRosiers Orris is the rhizome of the iris…
By Deborah Fulsang
Every young woman should know someone like writer, academic and perfume aficionado Denyse Beaulieu. If they’re lucky enough, she will teach them essential lessons of love, life, men and perfume.
“Some people have a signature fragrance that expresses their identity and signals their presence; its wake is an invisible country of which their body is the capital. “I’m not one of those people,” writes Beaulieu in her new book, The Perfume Lover, A Personal History of Scent (Penguin). “I’m a scent slut.”
Beaulieu’s perfume promiscuity is a bonus for us. After all, it is her racy scent-laden tale of love and lust that captivated the imagination of renowned perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour. The result is Séville à L’Aube, a new spritz by L’Artisan Parfumeur that comes inspired by a perfumed night long ago between a young Beaulieu and her Spanish lover.
The collaboration between Duchaufour (who is in-house nose for L’Artisan Parfumeur and who has also crafted Comme des Garcons fragrances as well as Acqua di Parma’s recent Blu Mediterraneo collection), and Beaulieu is also the framework of The Perfume Lover.
Beaulieu, born in Winnipeg and raised in Montreal, was always a Parisian in her soul. She went to The City of Light to take her PhD and stayed. She has lived there for nearly 30 years, working as a translator, beauty writer and fragrance lecturer. She is the author of Sex Game Book: A Cultural History of Sexuality, and is also the translator for the French Edition of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Beaulieu hosted a special fragrance talk at The Soho House, a cozy and cultured private club, while in Toronto last week. She shared her perfume-making experience with Duchaufour—not to mention that bygone evening in Seville, so ripe with the scent of orange blossoms—and captivated the members-only audience with the wild and wonderful history of perfume.
That history and those tales are also woven throughout the book, from Napoleon’s love of cologne to Love’s Baby Soft. It’s all there, in expertly written prose. As is Beaulieu’s own story, growing up in a house, where ironically, perfume was banned. (To her scientist father, perfume “ruptured his concentration.”)
She reminds us that fragrance and the rituals surrounding it are inextricably tied to humanity: to intimacy, sexuality, spirituality and fantasy.
And Beaulieu, in person and in prose, is not unlike the stuff of what she writes: She is ever the storyteller and provocateur.
“There’s a fantasy element,” she explains of fragrance. “Perfume is intimate. It penetrates you. It enters you through your olfactory bulb.”
Read the book: The Perfume Lover by Denyse Beaulieu, $22, (Penguin), www.chapters.indigo.com
Shop the scent, a soliflore of orange blossom, jasmine, lavender and frankincense: Séville à L’Aube by L’Artisan Parfumeur, $145 (100 ml), www.artisanparfumeur.com, and www.theperfumeshoppe.com, www.ogilvycanada.com