I can build a whole world around a scent. One single, sensual scent can send me spinning off and throwing out images in a mad kaleidoscope of colours. There is both wonder and awe in this, as the memory of a notable scent haunts me, and can resurface at any point, completely unbidden. Yet these are only the intriguing scents. Every now and then, and I am never prepared for it, I catch a scent that is exceptional, and it haunts me like a poltergeist. A little over seven years ago I experienced such a wonder, and I am haunted still. I was in New York, and had just stepped over the threshold of the Kiehl’s store. It was the essence of cool.I saw one of Steve McQueen’s motorbikes draped in a leather jacket worthy of James Dean. I saw shelves of vials and potions. I saw pommades, poultices and all manner of ointments. Then a scent slapped me, and it was so powerful that I felt my pupils dilate.

Kiehl’s Original Musk Blend No 1 smells like desire. It reeks of it. I would say it is cloying. Rank. I would, but these are negative words. It is an unsettling, exciting scent that whispers ideas in to your ears. What does it smell like? I have no idea. I cannot describe it, even though I’ve tried many times. It is undoubtedly musky, but also so much more. It is a sweet smell, but laced with a tang that makes it just a little sharp. It is Amber-hued, and smouldering. As Jennifer Lawrence says or her nail varnish in  ‘American Hustle’ , ‘kind of sweet but kind of rotten’. If worn, it reactivates with perspiration and torments afresh, hours after being applied. Most evocative of all, its origins come with a mysterious legend.

Allegedly created in the roaring  20’s, age of the Charleston and the Jazz age, it lay undiscovered in a vat at the Kiehl Apothecary. There it waited, sealed and dormant, and was discoverediscovered in the late 50’s, labelled ‘Love Oil’.  It commanded reintroduction, and was made available from 1963. Thank Goodness it was. Whenever I wear it now, I feel embalmed. Armed. Armed to disarm. The scent is truly exceptional. It speaks for itself. Go seek it.


© Tom Tide 2016

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