My memories of India are of mornings filled with mystery and anticipation. The haunting sound of the first call to prayer from the muezzin swirling in through an open window with the pre-dawn mist, waking the peacocks who add their plaintive cry. Chants from the Sikh gurdwara follow soon, as do tendrils of rosy sweet dhoop (incense) that meld with the dung-fire smoke from the villages, as early morning puja begins. By the time morning has settled in, the mists have burned away, and the koyal birds have begun their sweet song that will continue through the rest of a day bursting with sunshine, as the green parrots in the trees resume their daily gossip and the vendors begin to make their rounds, crying out their offerings of fresh orange juice, vegetables and shoe repair. Cows come grazing along the street, sometimes stopping to inquire mildly into the goings-on of the households they pass. Rickshaws and cars fight for the road, and a constant stream of many voices flows reassuringly throughout the day.
In the foothills of the Himalayas, however, you can find a different kind of morning. A morning where the mist lies quietly on the tea fields, and the only sounds come from a distant village going through their own motions of greeting the day. The smoky scent carries clearly across the chilly air, but fainter, and the air is purer and lighter. It is against this backdrop that I envisioned the fragrance promised by the Mariage Frères Rose d'Himalaya candle. Their website describes it as "The nostalgia of calm mornings filled with sweet fragrances escaping from tea gardens at dawn. Rare Darjeeling mysteriously reveals its elegant perfume of fresh roses at that moment when the mist rises heavenwards and the first rays of sunshine caress soft petals...'.
It is a lovely candle, and the quality is superb. The liquid honeyed tea notes complement a tender dewy rose — I am reminded more of wild roses than of tea rose or Bulgarian roses. The candle is demure yet structured and elegant, with a hint of a green note adding lift to the composition. The tea is comforting and sweet, while the rose, and the slightest hint of smoke and woods, gives the scent a slightly wistful quality. I am less reminded of mornings in the Himalayas than of meanderings through hill towns in the hopes of finding a hidden treasure in the ancient bookstalls filled with the scent of old manuscripts, rose incense and the vendor's freshly brewed cup of chai. It is a soothing and beguiling scent, both intimate and distant at the same time. Perfect for winter on the East Coast as the snow drifts pile up against my window and I dream of far off lands.
Note: image at top left via the author; image at top right via Mariage Frères.
See also: Mariage Frères Thé Rouge candle.