I bought a new perfume after 23 years of being married to one.
If you know my adversity for synthetic colognes sold with discounts prices and gift-with-purchase, you know it wasn't any of that.
It was a walk in the past into one of those mid 17th century literary salons.
I will not be abandoning my Patchouli, but 'it's like choosing what to wear in the morning', that's how I was broken into the New Me by Carlos Huber, the one of the only two Latin American 'noses' in the world.
Here's how it started.
As I am getting ready for the event where the master perfumer will be doing a one-of-a-kind appearance, I realize I am walking to Babalu without wearing my own perfume.
(Un)consciously naked. This is going to be interesting.
Unusual to say the least. The fixation with my own scent started from getting acquainted to the Galateo of Giovanni della Casa: a debutante is supposed to own her own personal fragrance. God only knows I am long past that decade.
Carlos is behind the counter like a master mixologist and we are welcomed with a refreshing gin cocktail, the perfect concoction for a steamy Miami Beach afternoon. (Don't you even think I got drunk and bought the perfume like one would get married in Vegas and not remember the following day.)
The atmosphere is understated and chic as usual at Babalu, the 'antithesis to a department store' [Greg, one of the owners - cit.] boutique cornered in the most unusual real estate spot of Miami Beach.
Huber sniffs (baaad pun) I am Italian and Paolo, the other owner of Babalu, says he is too - 'molto piacere'.
As I ask where is Carlos from, I realize I didn't come prepared. Another sign that this is going well: no expectations.
The nose behind Arquiste is from Mexico, 'but I spent all my summers in Florence, as long as I remember.'
Signs of the unexpected are folding over me like an origami flower. Seize the moment.
FB - "How did you begin the path to fine fragrances?"
CH - 'I am an architect specialized in historic preservation.'
History, Tuscany, travel, a unique zeal for the past and the aromas of past moments.
I am charmed and intrigued to hear how those stories got trapped in the bottle and I want to spray them out. But since I cannot keep my mouth shut, we diverge into talking about heritage, living in different countries, national pride. An engaging conversation with a stranger who wasn't a stranger anymore.
FB - "How were you drawn from designing homes, rooms or bridges to the ethereal job of combining essences into fine fragrances?". They seemed two opposite worlds, one tangible and the other ephemeral.
The fil-rouge unifying both worlds is time - and memories. Buildings have their own unique scent fruit of the combination of materials used, events that happened there, people that populated or visited them.
WARNING: if you are intimidated by old constructions or don't like history, do not proceed.
Each fragrance of the Arquiste line is an olfactive reminiscence of events of centuries past in detailed minutiae. Life in 1695 in a Mexico City convent, a good harvest in a Calabria from 1175, the day when Louis XIV married la Infanta in June of 1660 produced two fragrances, one masculine and one feminine.
FB - "How would you convert someone like me who has had one perfume forever?" And then my rant about patchouli blah blah blah went until he said:
'Let's not give too much credit to a perfume. The perfume becomes who you are, not the other way around.'
I start getting the whole essence (I swear this is the last pun).
'What the perfume smells on the sliver of paper is not how it develops on your skin', Carlos continues. 'When you spray the perfume on your skin, it goes through phases and it builds on you in a different way it does on anyone else.'
'Let's say you remember that day you spent in the garden in Florence, the cypresses, the honeysuckle, poppies, jasmine, you wore a linen blouse and leather boots.'
Carlos is good. He brought me back to my summer vacations. This is getting better by the minute.
Gotta say we took a train ride on the Orient Express, did a VIP tour of the world through centuries and landed on our almost exclusive fragrance. Our essence in a capsule.