Although I have restrained myself from opening each of the bottles for this week’s reviews until the day of putting digit to keyboard, I had a sneaking feeling (being a Yoga bunny and Indiaphile from way back) that I might fall for this element of Fresh’s Eat, Pray, Love edition in a big way – with its serene whispers of the Orient, its humming base notes (as centreing as a session of Kirtan chanting), its waft-you-to-an-ashram drifts of patchouli, amber, musk.
The Scent Critic is fond of incense, of dark and woodsy aromatherapy oils, of earthiness. Perhaps because as a wordsmith she spends huge amounts of time ‘in her head’, The Scent Critic likes to feel grounded – in common with Elizabeth Gilbert, in the soul-seeking second chunk of the Eat, Pray, Love book. This is why you’ll find me on a Yoga mat, with near-religious devotion, at 8 a.m. three mornings a week.
And almost uncannily, this is downward-dog-in-a-bottle. Actually, at the Yoga centre I go to, my Prana yoga mat lives alongside a futon on which Ayurvedic massages are carried out – and over the years it’s picked up the fragrance of the massage oils. Well, Pray smells exactly like my mat, as I scoop my nose along the surface in chaturanga. (Albeit without the subtle undertones of rubber.)
One deep breath, and I’m transported to Christmas in Goa. (Where I once ate pakoras for lunch on 25th December, while reclined on a sun lounger, a blissfully defiant menu choice after years of sweating over a hot stove and polishing silver.) Pray is the jasmine garland that you’re handed, as a gesture of hospitality, in temples (and boutique hotels). It’s all of the more alluring elements of Indian aromas: the woods, the hot baked red earth, the spices, the fragrant vine scampering up the side of a building so fast you can almost see it growing, the sweet cardamom-flavoured chai that’s so addictive. (There are many other, entirely grotesque smells that you encounter in India – a country in which you’re on total sensory overload 24/7 – but trust me: they’re nothing you’d want in a perfume.)
In a more westernised, perhaps ever-so-slightly-sanitised way, this teases the senses – it doesn’t overload. (Or overpower). It’s incredibly comforting, like snuggling under your pasmina for 15 minutes relaxation after class, or encountering the warmth of a hot water bottle that someone’s slipped in your bed on a cold winter’s night. After spice-rack twists of juniper and pink pepper in the topnotes, I actually don’t catch much of the other ‘heart’ notes (peony and rose). But being basically base-note-heavy, it has real staying power: the incense hangs around as lazily as joss-sticks burned in a shuttered room, fused with sweet musk, amber and (yessssssssss!) loads and loads of patchouli. Hippy-dippy? Yeah, man, you bet. But Lev Glazman, Fresh’s founder and chief ‘nose’, is a very clever man, and (after two out of three), I’ll come straight out and say that these Eat, Pray Love scents are no mere marketing gimmick, but wearable and covetable in their own right, even without the link to this season’s most hotly anticipated movie.
As someone savvily pointed out yesterday, this is probably the first time we’ve ever encountered a scent of the film of the book. But if these take off – and they’re lovely enough to – so why not…? – maybe they’ll have a life long after the movie’s gone to DVD. And on mornings when I can’t get to class, I’ll definitely be smelling this. It may not give my hamstrings the same sort of workout, but it evokes the calm and clearheadedness that is the real reason I hit the mat so obsessively.
Next up? Love. In 48 hours’ time. Because as we all know, you can’t hurry Love…