Notes of Dried Basil

Arabella - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - writ­ten by Gary Michael Dault

writ­ten by Gary Michael Dault

By the time John got back to the loft, he was con­sumed with anx­i­ety about the ef­fi­cacy of his nose. What a rude, un­e­d­u­cated nose he ap­par­ently pos­sessed! "As a fash­ion de­signer, how could I still know so lit­tle about fra­grances?" he thought. "How could I be so un­schooled as to not know how they’re made, and how they work, and how they’re po­si­tioned and mar­keted?" And could his des­per­ate new Am­ber be born, just like that, like magic, out of nowhere? Born full­blown from the sweaty fore­head of his tem­po­rar­ily se­cured per­fume en­gi­neer, Ba­baloo Diaz? Anna could tell by the way he opened the door that things were amiss with her cou­turier. "What’s the mat­ter, Sweets?" she asked. "It’s my nose," John replied. "Got the snif­fles?" "I wish it were that sim­ple. No, I’m feel­ing stupid not know­ing any­thing about per­fumes." "But you know what you like, yes?" "Sure, but that’s like be­ing able to pick out a shirt, or de­cid­ing to send a fish back if it’s over­cooked. What I mean is that af­ter an hour with Ba­baloo Diaz …" "Who?" "This per­fume de­signer I’ve con­tracted. An hour with him and I re­al­ize I pos­sess a re­ally stupid, ig­no­rant nose!" "But the rest of you is nice," said Anna, giv­ing him a quick kiss on the cheek. "I’m se­ri­ous, Anna. I wish you could take cour­ses some­where in fra­grance stud­ies and end up with a rea­son­ably ed­u­cated nose. And, by the way, what the hell is vanilla lab­dar­ium? "Vanilla lab­dar­ium? I don’t know. It sounds de­li­cious, though. Why don’t we google it and find out?" Anna went over to the desk and opened her lap­top. A few light touches on the key­board and she was able to tell John all about it. "Vanilla lab­dar­ium is a resinous ma­te­rial ob­tained from the Mediter­ranean species of rock­rose …" "Rock­rose?" "Yes, a pretty name, isn’t it? That’d be a good

name for a per­fume, just as it is." "That’s true. Do go on," said John. "…a resinous ma­te­rial which is … a species of rock­rose. It smells rich, leath­ery, smoky and sweet." "A tall or­der, all at once." "This is like the way pro­fes­sional tasters de­scribe wines," said Anna. She con­tin­ued read­ing from the screen, "Its warm in­cense un­der­tone lends it a dusky somber qual­ity, while the top notes, rem­i­nis­cent of freshly cut wood, of­fer an in­ter­est­ing bright coun­ter­point." "Rem­i­nis­cent of freshly cut wood?" "Yes, ap­par­ently." She con­tin­ued, "Al­though a beau­ti­ful and com­plex ma­te­rial, it is heavy and opaque, with a ten­dency to eas­ily over­whelm other facets of the fra­grance." "It’s sort of star­tling to be able to char­ac­ter­ize any­thing as ephemeral as a fra­grance with words like ‘opaque’," said John. "I think it’s ex­cit­ing," said Anna. "Weirdly lyri­cal. The flights of lan­guage in per­fume de­scrip­tion are a lot like all those in­tox­i­cat­ing, if deranged, im­ages you find in wine de­scrip­tion." "It gets pretty goofy some­times." "I know," said Anna gig­gling, "but it’s fun, though. Just wait while I go drag out some wine mags. Hold on a minute." She went over to one of the book­shelves and re­turned with an arm­load of mag­a­zines. "For ex­am­ple," she be­gan, rif­fling through the pages, "how about this, a de­scrip­tion of a Cal­i­for­nian Pinot Noir: The highly per­fumed bou­quet evokes black rasp­berry, cherry cola …" "Cherry cola?" "Yes. Along with in­cense, and rose and oak­spiced ac­cents." "Huh." "There’s more," said Anna glee­fully, "Deeply pitched yet en­er­getic, the wine of­fers sweet red and dark berry liqueur flavours, with ex­otic hints of can­died flow­ers and vanilla." "Can­died flow­ers, huh?" Anna nod­ded. "It’s also de­scribed as pos­sess­ing a long, sappy pre­cise fin­ish!" She glanced over at John. "Funny," she smiled, "that’s the way I think of you!" He scowled. "And here’s an­other," Anna an­nounced, warm­ing to her task. "This is a Vou­vray from 2011. It of­fers cit­rus, ap­ple, min­eral, mushroom and lano­lin aro­mas." "I don’t want my wine smelling of lano­lin." "No? Okay then, here’s a Cu­vee Gas­tronomie Savoie within which, if you pay close at­ten­tion, you can taste flavours of white cherry…" "But only white cherry, not red?" "Shush, philis­tine. Yes, flavours of white cherry, quince, min­eral, beeswax and hints of tar­ragon, all of them held to­gether in a smoky essence which runs through it all and car­ries them into the fin­ish…" "Like a horse race." "…into the fin­ish with notes of dried basil. Are you im­pressed?" "Ex­ceed­ingly. Though now I feel even more like

an ol­fac­tory and gas­tro­nomic cretin." "So I guess you don’t want me to google all the other per­fume in­gre­di­ents and find out about them? How about we do a run­down on patchouli?" "No thanks." "Ac­tu­ally, I love patchouli," said Anna dream­ily. "Les fleurs du mal … And," she added with a wink, "it’s also a pow­er­ful in­sect re­pel­lent!" John laughed. "Lis­ten, let’s go out to din­ner. All th­ese per­fume names and terms are mak­ing me hun­gry." "It must be all that stuff about the freshly cut wood and white cher­ries," said Anna. "That’s prob­a­bly it." "And af­ter­wards, we can come home and go to bed and work at de­vel­op­ing your ol­fac­tory sense even fur­ther – to a point of your achiev­ing an out­landish dis­crim­i­na­tory del­i­cacy!" "And what would con­sti­tute ‘ an out­landish dis­crim­i­na­tory del­i­cacy’?" John asked. "Oh … well," she said, tak­ing his arm and steer­ing him to­wards the door, "stuff like be­ing able to tell by fra­grance alone, whether, for ex­am­ple, my fore­arm smells dif­fer­ent from my up­per arm, or whether my left breast has a dif­fer­ent per­fume than my right breast, that sort of thing…" "Maybe we should just skip din­ner," said John, en­cir­cling her waist with his arm. "No, no," Anna replied, "you can’t just leap head­long into mat­ters as sub­tle as this. You have to work up to them." "Like by din­ing." "Ex­actly. And, by the way, the poet who penned the de­scrip­tion of the Vou­vray sug­gested that the wine might be en­joy­ably con­sumed over a serv­ing of Chicken Vin­daloo – which made me hun­gry for In­dian food, so let’s track some down." "But I can’t imag­ine drink­ing any wine with In­dian food," John told her. "Beer maybe. Or a nice salty Lassi." "Yes, I quite agree with you, my om­ni­di­rec­tional con­nois­seur." "And this fra­grant In­dian meal we’re in search of will be prepa­ra­tion for the anatom­i­cal fra­grance train­ing to come later?" "Yes, sweet­heart. Think of it as ol­fac­tory fore­play."

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