To accompany Sel de Vétiver, Jimmy created a tasting of hamachi and bluefin tuna with the Asian green vegetable tatsoi, presented on Himalayan rock salt. We follow that course with a Japanese rice wine, paired with a perfume from Fresh called Sake, one of the most original and beautiful scents I know. You can smell the warm, sweet acid of Japanese sake, like the scent of sugared vodka, but the perfume rounds this out and creates a scent that's part edible, part enveloping cotton cloud.
I'm not sure which people like better, the raw materials or the finished fragrances made from them. They love to inhale the perfumes, like Tom Ford's Black Orchid, a voluptuous, uninhibited gourmand that contains an extract of sugarcane from the rum distillation process (Jimmy created a vanilla-rum milk shake everyone wants more of). And L'Artisan Perfumeur's Ananas Fizz, a perfume that refines pineapple (ananas) into a lovely, fresh scent, which we present with a pineapple tarte tatin.
But people love the raw materials too. At the Carlyle, I hand around a touche dipped in dimethyl sulfide. "Wait until everyone's smelled it," I say, "then I want you to tell me what you think it is." A few have no problem identifying it. "Truffle!" they say. That's right; dimethyl sulfide is the compound that gives truffle its superrich, earthy-fatty smell. (It lends an amazing power to a perfume.) When I pass around a touche that no one can identify (ethyl maltol), I tell them what it is (the molecule that smells like cotton candy). They grimace and say, "Of course! How did I not..." and lean in hungrily to smell it again. Which reminds me of the great thing about gourmand fragrances: You can close your eyes, inhale deeply, and let your appetite, as well as your nose, guide you to what you like best.
Chandler Burr is the fragrance critic for The New York Times and author of the upcoming book The Perfect Scent (Henry Holt).
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