I "met" my first elephant in a zoo when I was little and a life-long fascination with elephants was ignited. My elephant-love led me from Babar children's stories and elephant picture books, to studies on elephant physiology and behavior, and the symbolism of elephants in art and religion, especially in Buddhism and Hinduism. My house is full of Ganesha statues and amulets, and I always go to Seattle's Asian Art Museum when a tiny statue of Kangiten is on (rare) view — two elephants stand face to face and tenderly embrace. I love the Indian paintings of Airavata, the white elephant god and mount of Indra, who emerged from the churning of the milk ocean, an event that made the nectar of immortality available for the Hindu gods to drink. (You may know him as Erawan; in Thailand, you'll see him depicted with three, or more, heads.)
I used to perk up with excitement when I'd see a photograph of elephants in a magazine or newspaper or hear their trumpeting on TV. Now? I approach such images and sounds warily; inevitably there's a story about African elephants killed for their ivory, or some body part that tiny men somewhere on this earth erroneously believe will empower their...erections. (Ever heard of Viagra, idiots?) Don't get me started on sportsmen (I lost my taste for Isak Dinesen the more I looked at photos of her, smiling broadly, amidst masses of dead wildlife on African safaris. Even in old age she dreamed of shooting animals, including elephants, for fun.)
Maria Candida Gentile recently launched Elephant & Roses1, inspired by a whimsical idea: elephants running through fields of roses in bloom. Though English colonists in India and Africa are mentioned in the PR materials, this didn't bother me, for Gentile imagined true natives, the elephants, stomping through the precious rose gardens created by the intruders. I enjoy Elephants & Roses; it's a fun musk perfume. If Serge Lutens Muscs Koublaï Khan had a daytime/summer version, this could be it.
Elephant & Roses begins with a brisk accord that smells of black tea and greens. Next up (and pretty quickly) is a light rose aroma, "roses on the air." The bright, almost-dry, rose scent is joined by the "elephant" (musk). At first, the musk is sweet and only slightly indolic; then it turns rough and fecal. This "animal accord" lasts for about 20 minutes on my skin before it changes character and becomes a more refined floral-modern musk. Elephant & Roses has musk from its beginning to its tail end of development, so beware. Though it's an Eau de Parfum, Elephant & Roses stays close to the body, so you need not fear frightening your neighbors; the scent lasts all day on my skin. And, no elephants were harmed in its making!
Maria Candida Gentile Elephant & Roses Eau de Parfum is available in 15 ml ($45) or 100 ml ($185). For buying information, see the listing for Maria Candida Gentile under Perfume Houses.
1. Listed fragrance notes of thyme, costus, osmanthus, rose, jasmine, ambergris, vetiver, sandalwood and animal accord.