Monday, January 23, 2012

CB I Hate Perfume- M5 Where We Are There Is No Here

From the way Christoper Brosius describes his newest perfume, M5 Where We Are There Is No Here (#405), I half expected it to be on the weird concept(ish) side. In Brosius' words:
405 is a paradox – the antithesis of perfume. It is completely intangible and almost undetectable. Yet it has great presence and allure. Like the ghost of a flower, it touches the subconscious of those who wear it – and those who encounter it. Inspired by the last of Cocteau’s films, WHERE WE ARE THERE IS NO HERE is made to create a special place in the inner world. The world of poetry. The world of the imagination. The world of the surreal.
The ghost of a flower is in this case an ethereal jasmine. Forget everything you know about jasmine: the carnal and indolic, the green and sharp, the romance of summer nights-- it's not here. But it is still a jasmine, somehow, a little sweet, somewhat holographic. You can't see (or smell) the parts that connect the flower to its earthly roots and supplies. It's suspended in the air just a step or two ahead, but will you be able to touch it? Is it real? There's something trembling in the air right in front of you- is it a prismatic rainbow or is it a scent? Do you see it or smell it? Is it there at all?

The idea for an abstract and surreal perfume came to Brosius as he was watching Le Testament d’Orphée, the last film made by Jean Cocteau. I haven't watched it, but from what I understand, Cocteau depicted himself rising from the dead to relive certain moments from his past. Fragrance-wise this idea could have taken many shapes. From this fascinating NY Magazine article about the process of creating Where We Are There In No Here, I'm guessing that by the time Brosius zeroed in on jasmine and sandalwood, the path he took had less to do with Cocteau's movie and more with his own personal quest.

Now, I know that when many of us hear jasmine and sandalwood we think Samsara. I've spent the last week wearing M5 Where We Are There Is No Here during the day and dabbing vintage Samsara parfum (the original thing with real sandalwood) to try and understand the opposite approaches and how different these perfumes behave and develop on skin. Samsara is a luscious sex bomb. M5 is what's actually under the flashy clothes, heavy makeup (I'm thinking of the 1980s-90s Guerlain ads), and overdone hair. After sleeping a night in Samsara in a heated room under heavy comforter and assorted cats, there's a certain scent left on the pillowcase and sheets. It's not necessarily perfume; it's pleasant, though, and more musky and ambery than you'd think. M5 has a similar thing going on, but it all happens on skin, just behind that hologram of a jasmine.

If there's any sillage to Where We Are There Is No Here, then I'm missing it. The fragrance hovers just above the skin, where my camisole meets my dress. Sometimes I smell myself, sometimes I don't. The husband says M5 smells very CB, and I know what he means. There's something in the base of the perfume absolute that is both vegetal and ambery. It's recognizable if you tested many of CB's fragrances. Yet, it's different enough, more vague, the muskiness has nothing in common with the ripe and slightly stewed fruit of Musk Reinvention.

After days spent with M5 on assorted body parts and in various capacities I think I like to wear it generously, not so much dabbing as anointing.  It's a personal scent and I hate to use the cliche of "skin scent" because the latter often hints towards coziness while Where We Are There Is No Here is not a cuddly fragrance to go with your hot cocoa and marshmallows. It's an armor of sort, that can be worn on the cruelest NYC days when you have to face boardrooms without fumigating them, or when you know you'll be in closed quarters with a cranky soul that tends to protest your Joy. This? let them try. They'll never figure it out-- it's not really here.

Notes: ISO E Super, Hedione, Moroccan, Indian and Egyptian jasmine absolutes, amber absolute, Australian and Mysore sandalwoods, and a special “invisible musk” accord designed specifically for this perfume.

CB I Hate Perfume- M5 Where We Are There Is No Here ($21, 2 ml perfume absolute or $135 100 ml water perfume) is available from

Art: Her Mind Lives In A Quiet Room by Deborah Klein.


  1. Ooh! This sounds like exactly the perfume I've been after! I've been looking for an ethereal jasmine with a heart of darkness for a while now - the closest I came was Frazer No1 (jasmine, nutmeg and sandalwood).

  2. Fantastic review! I wear a lot of Brosius' scents and could never come up with the adjectives you do--I just know I love wearing them. Never in a million years did I think I'd want to walk around smelling like burning leaves, but it's like some kind of crazy sex pheromone for Mr. Petals, who spends a lot of his spare time climbing mountains and making fires. :)

    I simply must try this, but I'll have to wait for spring. I don't think they ship the water-based fragrances in winter, though I could start with a sample of the absolu.

  3. What a beautiful review! You make it sound like a must-try.

  4. Hiya Gaia my Guru, ye wordsmith extraordinaire!! Oy, I shall indeed haste a sample my way after your review - Wicked!

    Zanne :)

  5. Great review! Can't wait to sample this one!


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