Scent Semantics, October 3

This is the end of our year of “Scent Semantics”, monthly posts by several bloggers around the world when we choose a single word and write about a fragrance that it evokes for us. This month’s word is “Serenity”! The full name of this blog is “Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities”, and I got to choose this month’s word. So “serenity” it is!

One definition of “serenity” is: “the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.” After a recent trip to Las Vegas and a side visit to the Mojave Desert, the scent I’ve chosen to evoke serenity is Byredo’s Mojave Ghost. This is partly because our hotel’s toiletries were all Mojave Ghost, so I was immersed in that fragrance for several days. The other reason, though, is that I was so moved by the serenity of the desert. We went in the afternoon so we could see the sunset, in an area called Red Rock Canyon. It did not disappoint.

Mojave Desert sunset

Our small group was driven in a van by a local guide, whose passion for the landscape was infectious, along a 13-mile scenic loop route. We made several stops along the way, to see some special places and take photos. It’s a cliché to say this, but it is remarkable to this East Coaster how much life and fertility exists — thrives — in the desert. And it is indeed a very serene setting, especially around sunset. The air cools, the breeze quickens, the shadows gradually lengthen, and for a brief moment, even the atmosphere takes on a rosy hue to match the clouds that hover over the horizon. At that moment, the desert feels like one of the “thin places” on earth, where the gap between heaven and earth dwindles and time pauses to catch its breath.

Byredo captured this perfectly in Mojave Ghost. From the brand’s website:

Mojave Ghost is a woody composition inspired by the soulful beauty of the Mojave Desert. In this xeric wilderness, rare are the plants that dare to blossom. With a light and graceful character, top notes of musky Ambrette combine with fresh Jamaican Nesberry. Powdery Violet then unfurls to reveal Sandalwood. Finally warm Chantilly Musk rounds out a base of crisp Amber and Cedar wood, leaving the raw spirit of Mojave Ghost to linger on the skin.

Colognoisseur Mark Behnke wrote about Mojave Ghost in 2014, when it was launched, and explained that part of the perfumer’s brief was to capture the scent of a flower that survives in this desert, the Ghost Flower (Mohavea Confertiflora). One of the notes listed, though, is actually a plant from the tropics, the Jamaican naseberry or sapodilla plant. Mark explains the role it plays in Mojave Ghost, which is to create the slightly sweet, lightly spicy odor of the desert in bloom. Perfumer Jerome Epinette also brings notes of ambrette, violet, magnolia, sandalwood, amber, and cedar into his composition. The dryness of the woody notes evokes the dryness of the desert, while the floral notes, although based on non-desert flora, communicate that there are indeed plants that bloom there.

Mojave Desert flora

My own experience with Mojave Ghost is colored by the fact that for several days, I literally bathed (or showered) in it, via the hotel supplies. Hand wash, body wash, shower gel, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner! I’ve never been so immersed in a single fragrance, honestly. While I’ve certainly stayed in hotels that had lovely, scented, coordinated toiletries, I don’t normally use all of them and I don’t use them lavishly for several days in a row. But on this trip, I slathered myself with lotion twice a day to stave off the dryness of the air; and this hotel had the large, pump containers attached to the wall instead of those itty bitty plastic bottles, so I indulged freely. Back home, I pulled out a sample of Mojave Ghost eau de parfum to confirm my impressions.

Mojave Ghost toiletries

The sapodilla note is very evident at the opening, with the ambrette adding a gentle muskiness that suggests both the landscape and the presence of small, unseen creatures, like those that inhabit the desert. Mark Behnke finds that the sapodilla smells like cinnamon and fruit. I wouldn’t say I picked up cinnamon, but definitely something lightly spicy, a bit like the clove one smells in carnations. The fruitiness is also light, not overly sweet. The floral notes waft in as if on a breeze, supported by dry, woody sandalwood. Finally, the florals fade into amber, and sandalwood gives way to cedar, leaving a warm, transparent wash of fragrance on the skin.

This is not a difficult or demanding fragrance, and it does convey serenity, just as the desert sunset can induce a meditative frame of mind. Some commenters on Fragrantica have found it boring, but others cherish it. I find it peaceful. It doesn’t implicitly hold its wearer to any standard of costume or makeup, unlike some. Mojave Ghost would never remind you to wear lipstick, or stilettos.

Do I want a full bottle? No. But I could see springing for the hair perfume; I think that format would suit the warm yet sheer impression Mojave Ghost leaves.

What fragrance do you find serene? And please check out the posts by my fellow Scent Semantics bloggers:

Perfume Chat Room, September 30

Perfume Chat Room, September 30

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, September 30, and I have been to perfume Mecca, i.e. the Guerlain boutique in Las Vegas. Shout-out also to the Chanel boutique in the Encore hotel, where a very nice, knowledgeable sales assistant called Yannis chatted with me about Chanel fragrances and where they had the whole Exclusifs line. I’ll write more about that later!

Shalimar, at the Guerlain boutique

This is only my second visit ever to Las Vegas; as I’ve written before, it’s not really my kind of scene as I dislike crowds and noise, and I don’t gamble. But on this trip, I didn’t feel any need to visit or see most of the Strip; instead, I focused on doing a few specific things, including a “field trip” outside the city to Red Rock Canyon, culminating in sunset over the desert — just beautiful. The Guerlain boutique was top of my list of destinations, but I also checked out a number of other fragrance retailers so I could write an updated, longer post about perfume tourism in Las Vegas. Stay tuned!

I can’t believe September is over as of today. It is probably my favorite month, but I’m looking forward to the rest of the fall too. One reason I like the fall is that in my climate, that is the best season for planting in my garden; and it’s the season to plant the spring bulbs I love so much. Of course, it is also hurricane season, and my thoughts are with those who have already been so badly affected, as well as those who will be.

It has become a joke, but “pumpkin spice” season is in full swing here in the US! Everywhere I turn, there are pumpkin spice drinks, desserts, and room fragrances. Luckily, our hotel’s signature fragrance in all the bathrooms and associated products is Byredo’s Mojave Ghost, which I greatly enjoyed. Very apropos, since Las Vegas is in the Mojave Desert — and not a pumpkin in sight.

Hotel toiletries

Do you have any particular plans for October? I plan to keep clearing clutter from our house; and if I get really motivated, to bring some order to my fragrance collection.