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Extra resources for A Little Book of Perfumes: The 100 Greatest Scents
I confess that I, as a naturally allergic, itchy, and wheezy person, one of these children who had to take a note to the teacher warning against peanuts, who carries an inhaler and fast-acting antihistamines, and who cannot seem to find a shampoo that does not turn her scalp into a dermatological textbook illustration, am very surprised by the industry’s ruthless weeding out of allergens in fine fragrance. After all, my allergy is my problem. I would never demand that other people stop wearing red lipstick because I can’t, or cease washing their clothes in enzymatic detergents because they could irritate me.
LT 2011: Perhaps all one can do is write futile teary letters asking if it is possible to buy, quietly, gallons of the old forbidden stuff under the table, as if it were scandalous, morally questionable contraband, like dolphin liver pâté. This once exceptional fragrance, both acid-sharp and a little sleazy, was formed of a delicious citrus so rich it was nearly greasy, an unabashedly meretricious jasmine, the austere bitterness of oakmoss, a slice of melon for garnish, and throughout a suspicion of dirty drawers.
Sadly, the use of birch tar is now restricted by the European Union, and I was afraid of what this would do to Cuir de Russie. The answer is not much. This superb fragrance still smells exactly as it should: to me, just like the interior of my stepfather’s 1954 Bentley Type R, in the back of which I sat alone as a child, toying with the mahogany fold-out table on the seat backs. What is remarkable is that this rich leather effect is achieved by mixing things that have nothing to do with tanned animal skins: ylang, jasmine, iris, all of which can be perceived in the top notes.