Friday night I attended Luca Turin’s “Art of Fragrance” presentation, hosted by the Smithsonian Associates, and La Maison Française in Washington D.C. Patricia de Nicolaï, perfumer, co- founder of the impressive Parfums de Nicolaï line, and director of the Osmothèque in Versailles, was also on hand for discussion and book signing, along with Turin’s co-author, and partner in perfume, Tania Sanchez.
I think of Luca Turin as a romantic iconoclast, a polymath with discriminating taste, and pretentions to curmudgeonliness. An engaging speaker, he showed all the wit and eloquence one would expect from the co-author of the lovingly acerbic Perfumes: A-Z Guide. Turin opened his talk by dispelling the myth of perfume as an aphrodisiac, and deflating the notion of scent’s special relationship to memory, cleverly deducing that we have cause and effect mixed up: what we can learn from Combray is not that the smell of those little madeleine cakes trigger memories, but that because of their legendary role in the book, they make us think of Marcel Proust. The point was well made, and hilariously punctuated with a slide showing an arrow pointing from a photo of a madeleine toward one of Proust.
DH explains biophysics over
a hearts of palm salad after
Thanks to an engaging slide show (and a little discussion with DH after the presentation), I have finally grasped the shape theory/vibration theory debate, and I am happy to say I fully understand the fruit fly experiment.
Tania Sanchez and Patricia de Nicolaï were invited on stage for the rather brief question and answer. My only regret is that I would like to have heard Sanchez speak at greater length. Because we were sitting right behind all three, I got to eavesdrop and chat a bit with them before the talk, but I confess, I am very shy in the face of celebrity, so any attempts at conversation came from Turin and Sanchez, not from me. Luca Turin did give me a refreshing towel by Bulgari (still packaged, of course), which he joked about using as a dramatic prop in his talk.
Let me leave you with a fun fact: Turin says Tide Mountain Spring with Bleach Alternative is a fabulous chypre. I’m off to the grocery store.