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Bombay Duck London

Memoire Liquide Encens Liquide

Choice, as we all know, is a tyranny.  Too many of anything to decide between, and we tend to turn on our heels.  (A study once showed that if a food store samples out 26 different jams, that converts into fewer sales than putting out six for customers’ delectation.)

So being faced with a carousel of couple of hundred different Mémoire Liquide scents on a carousel in Fred Segal in Santa Monica, The Scent Critic almost turned on her own plimsoll-clad heels:  single notes (from hippie-ish Patchouli to Jasmine), complex blends with evocative names (think:  Flowering Tobacco, Florentine, Mystère de Maroc, Ciel Bleu, L’Orange Sanguine, Violette Glacée, Chartreuse Intense…) Just about anything your fragrant heart desires, all packaged like something you’d find in an ancien French apothecary.  What’s more, Mémoire Liquide will also custom-blend a scent for you, fusing any of their essences into an entirely mixed-and-matched bespoke fragrance.

Which is fine and dandy if you’ve got plenty of time at your disposal, but somewhat frustrating for The Scent Critic, who had a flight to catch and wasn’t expecting to stumble across this Disneyland of distillations.  So:  I took  short-cut, attracted – as ever – to the notion of incense, and purchased a bottle of one of Mémoire Liquide’s ready-to-wear ‘Reserve Editions’ (packaged rather like an old leather diary):  Ensens Liquide.  (Each of the five fragrances in this edition is known as ‘Le Livre de Parfum’, because of the book/box.)  I liked it at first sniffed, and keyed in my Amex number as adeptly as I could with fingers crossed.Sultry, mystically deep and somehow, when breathed deliciously in, almost blood-pressure-lowering after the excitement/bewilderment of having my sense of smell overloaded by so many other scents from the same label.  It’s warm, sweet and smokey, a bit like stepping inside a Japanese temple.  This is a very refined incense, mind:  not Catholic incense, or Indian incense, but altogether more soft and delicate.  In the nicest possible way, it’s a slightly ‘contemporary spa’ smell, of the type encountered when you’re booked in for a much-needed massage in a five-star hotel (which is probably why it has that slightly blood-pressure-lowering effect, on me).

A black tea note adds to the ceremonial feel of this:  close your eyes, and you’re enjoying that pre-massage ritual of having your feet bathed in hot water, while sipping a hand-crafted pottery vessel containing a tannin-rich brew.  (Although in truth, The Scent Critic doesn’t find that ritualistic lotus-flower-and-brass-bell prelude to a spa ritual particularly relaxing, itching always to leap on the couch to have her aches and kinks kneaded away.  But there’s a kind of Pavlovian languor that Encens Liquide triggers in me, because of its ‘expensive spa exeprience’ evocation.)

Unusually, this is a totally cut-to-the-chase fragrance:  no top-note distractions, just a fast-track to the smokey warmth at its heart, which ultimately blurs to a skin-like muskiness.  I also really love the lashings of amber swirling through veil of smoke, giving almost a candied edge.  It’s soft and smooth and super-nuzzleable;  intimate, and sensual, yet – oh, I don’t know why, but makes me want to go see a Japanese art-house movie, with a sushi chaser.

The woodsy base pushes all my buttons, too:  like burying your nose in an old pencil box that you might have had at school, with its slightly dusty cedar echoes.  As the days when I wear this go by, I fall in love with it a little more deeply.  With the nostril-boggling selection Mémoire Liquide creations to choose from, I lucked out to find such a ‘hit’ at first sniff.

Apparently the best way to discover your ultimate Mémoire Liquide match is to start with an individual consultation with one of their ‘expert perfumers, who leads the customer through a selection of over 150 fragrance offerings.’  So:  can I suggest that if you’re L.A.-bound, you check in at Fred Segal at the start of your vacation, not the end…?  Forget Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Universal Studios or star-spotting on Hollywood Boulevard:  there’s enough to explore within Mémoire Liquide’s range to keep you entertained, all vacation long.

Just don’t blame me if at the end, you leave empty-handed.  Not because you didn’t find something you fell in love with – but because you simply couldn’t choose.  Frankly, it must happen to them all the time.

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