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Visitors to the CB I Hate Perfume gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn have the opportunity to smell and test the building blocks of Christopher Brosius' perfumes. Those are the accords, single scents that capture a particular smell, place or experience. The accords are grouped and categorized- food, flowers, wood, chemical, smoke, etc. They give you a glimpse into the perfumer's world and the language he uses for creating his more abstract ideas.
I love playing with the accords. Sometimes it's an adventure, other times it's like indulging in Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, from boiled rice to a plastic doll head, it's all there. You can smell scenes from your childhood, romantic getaways or pure fantasies, and you can make your own combinations using them. Surprisingly, there is no cat accord. As far as I know, Brosius is a dog person, so he might not be familiar with the particular joy of burying your nose in your cats neck or kissing the forehead of a milky kitten. I'll pass on a tuna breath accord, though.
As simple as some of the accords seem, they still meld and react with your skin. Some of them actually have quite a complex development, often more than you'd find in commercial bottled dreck. My favorite is the Skin Series, that includes everything from Wet Sheep and Baby Butt, Clean to Fig Leaf, Crushed and Macadamia Coffee.
Soap, Tabac is part of the Skin Series. On my skin it starts very sharp, clean and soapy. The soap is ambery with more than a hint of powder (I suspect the husband finds it too powdery for his liking). It's a nostalgic smell, from days toiletries were less elaborate, bathrooms had simple white porcelain sinks and laundry smelled simple and clean. But there's a lot more here than soap and childhood. The Tabac part isn't smoky or dirty in any way. Instead, it's warm and natural. The longer it's on skin, the more familiar and personal it becomes. It's not a "shower fresh, I'm not wearing any scent" perfume. Soap, Tabac has too many naughty ideas to be that. It's more about the potential of what exactly you're about to do with that clean skin of yours. The possibilities are endless.
While some of the more popular accords can be purchased online (cbihateperfume.com), most of them, like Soap, Tabac ($25, 15 ml perfume absolute) are bottled to order and only available at the gallery, 93 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn. That's where I bought my bottle.
Photo by Alfred Eisenstaed, 1940. Life.com