When working on this newest perfume, I wanted something comforting. My development began in the cold months of fall and winter, starting in 2019, but the final stages of development came during a stay-at-home order during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was lucky enough to have not been as directly affected as many are (luckily working as a perfumer and a writer means that I am perfectly conditioned for isolated conditions and working alone), but it does wear on one’s mind to know that so much of humanity is suffering.
So I finished development of the perfume right as the pandemic began to take off in the United States, right before the launch of Maher Olfactive. I considered delaying the launch, but instead know that many could use perfume as a comfort much as I have been, exploring new ones and revisiting the comforting embrace of old favorites.
When naming the perfume, I considered the notes – tobacco, pipe tobacco, vanilla absolute, sweet almond, cocoa, whiskey, saffron, spices, davana and berries – and how these items are very tangible part of many of our everyday lives, but much like the famous painting by René Magritte, The Treachery of Images, states that “this is not a pipe” next to the image of a pipe, the same idea of the symbolic representation of an item created through olfactory art is not truly the item itself.
So I decided that the perfume would be called This Is Not a Pipe. Brilliant! So brilliant, of course, that Demeter had already released a perfume under this moniker. The Treachery of Images is a bit of a handful to fit on a label, so I moved to simply Treachery. And this made a lot of sense.
Many of the things that bring us pleasure also can bring harmful consequences. Smoking a pipe, pouring a couple fingers of a fine single-barrel bourbon, or even indulging in an exquisite meal. However, in moderation, these pleasures are worth the risk because our lives are finite, and what is the purpose of a life lived without pleasure? Would the extra time gained be worth it if completely devoid of pleasure? And with a pandemic reminding us of our own mortality, this idea of the treachery of hedonistic pleasures really resonated with me.
With that out of the way, we can discuss the composition and execution of this idea.
Tobacco, Vanilla, Bourbon and Cocoa
The idea began with this familiar combination of items. Nothing groundbreaking, but in part that is why it is so comforting. I wanted to begin with the familiar and make it new. So the perfume is centered around a big dose of tobacco absolute and vanilla absolute. The sweetness and booziness of the vanilla absolute made it a great bridge from this accord to the whiskey accord, which begins with a big dose of oakwood absolute, a scent of fine, barrel-aged bourbon, then is fortified by methyl octalactone (also known as the whiskey lactone) and guaiacol, a very boozy note in its own right. To add some more depth and fortify this bridge, I used Vanilys, a dirty vanilla note that makes me think of the stories of selecting the dirty vanilla absolute in the composition of Shalimar, along with ethyl vanillin.
In order to push the tobacco absolute into more of a pipe-type tobacco, I used the sweet almond and cherry-tinged notes of an accord headlined bypara toualdehyde. Then, considering the coumarin-type sweet hay notes of tobacco, I employed tonka bean, Coumarex (a richer coumarin note), then underneath that, an accord featuring natural ambergris and fortified by small doses of ambergris-type materials, ambrocenide and ambroxan. Finally, to give some weight and resinous depth to the accord, I used labdanum absolute, a Peru balsam accord, beeswax absolute and dark-aged patchouli.
Finally, notes of natural cocoa, cocoa aldehyde and chocovan added the powdery chocolate and cocoa sweetness to the accord. Not a thick, syrupy chocolate, but rather a crumbling bite of decdant dark chocolate or a comforting powdered cocoa.
Saffron, Spice, Berries and More
I really love a berry note with a rich, sweet note. It blends so smoothly. So I began with a variation of a berry and apricot accord that I originally made for Chatillon Lux’s Lamplight Penance, then added berryflor to give it some more vibrancy, then folded all of that into a big dose of davana essential oil, a fruity/berry floral that works well with tobacco notes in my experience. Finally, I used small doses of apricot essential oil and Cassifix, a cassis-type material
For the spice accord, I began with Kephailis, a spice that complements tobacco very well. However, that did not seem sufficient, so I began thinking more deeply on what kind of spice would work well. I realized that the leathery, rich spice of saffron was an ideal note. So I created an accord with Safranal, Safraleine, and Pyralone, among others. To help balance it, the cool spice of cardamom essential oil added another bridge to the main accord to offset the contrasting saffron accord, and then added some rosey, floral spice notes of pink pepper essential oil and red champaca absolute. And finally, tiny little sprinkles of Indian black pepper, black cumin (far more well behaved than the regular cumin I’ve experienced), cinnamon leaf essential oil and laurel leaf essential oil.
At this point, the composition was very, very dense. And the final composition is still one that I would consider perhaps the most dense composition that I have made. However, using Iso E Super, Clearwood and Hedione, I added some airy notes that would support the tobacco and berry accord while creating space in which to really allow the scent to develop and bloom on the skin. And while this is not a scent begs to be worn on the skin, like Crystal Moon, it does unfold delightfully when reacting with body heat but also would be decadent when sprayed onto a scarf, coat or shirt. It also works great as a nice, fragrantic hug while staying at home.
Treachery will be available on Saturday, January 18 at 12pm Eastern through not only Maher Olfactive, but also American Perfumer, a retail shop featuring the best independent perfumers that work to further the new American fronteirs of perfumery, but also Sealed Essence, a retailer that curates perfumers worldwide who use the most exquisite and carefully selected raw materials.