“Those white chrysanthemums on the kitchen counter top.”
“I bought them for you. Aren’t they pretty?”
“Oh thank you… but please don’t buy white ones, ok?”
A little conversation between my friend couple, one is Canadian, the other half Japanese, half Chinese.
I remember chrysanthemum has a green, faintly light floral scent. Every Chinese New Year my mom would buy some, of course, never white, together with gladiolus and cherry blossom branches and put them in a big vase. It’s a really strange bouquet because it doesn’t give off any aromas except when the vase water turns bad. To my mom, buying cut flowers for Chinese Years is really a traditional thing, almost like an annual homework exercise; our home never has any cut flowers for any other occasions. She stopped the ritual 15 years ago when she was no longer capable of going to the flower market and grocery shopping all by herself.
I had had fond memories of Chinese New Years with my family when I was younger, the only time all I needed to care for in life was school grades. Now that I have spent more than half of my life living in Canada, the smell of chrysanthemums becomes a memory trigger of good old days of a spoiled kid.
Serge Lutens’ De Profundis (From the Deep) boasts that it’s a chrysanthemum soliflore perfume, and that really gets my attention. When a bottle appeared on eBay at a good price, I blind-bought it. I knew it had got rave reviews, but I was always a bit skeptical when it comes to Serge Lutens perfumes. I own a bottle of Datura Noir, also by Serge Lutens, which is supposed to smell of datura flowers (which I have never seen or smelled one before) – it smells nice, but to me it’s a vanilla oriental perfume, not a floral perfume.
But De Profundis delivers. When I first smell it, my mind whispers “wow”. The perfume manages to recreate the ghostly greenness of fresh chrysanthemum flowers, the symbol of death and lamentation, very vividly that it’s a bit startling. I almost forget to appreciate the note development that follows when the “chrysanthemum” top note withers away and new life begins to push out of the soil notes with plumy/peony/woody sweetness. A sentimental perfume for the introverts, a light floral scent for the melancholics.