The Clarimonde Project, Part III

As this might be my last installment of The Clarimonde Project, I would like to thank Lucy of IndiePerfumes for inviting me to partake in this extraordinarily inspired adventure. I’m hoping many of you have listened to Clarimonde via Librivox and perused the other participant’s blogs for reviews and beautiful prose inspired by this haunting romance.

There’s one aspect of this story that I have not touched upon yet, and that is the ending when Clarimonde is revealed to be a vampire. Romuald, the priest who fell madly in love with Clarimonde, did not disentangle himself from his lover once he discovered that he had been drugged nightly by her so she could drink his life giving blood. Rather, he seemed to relish that he kept her alive, so much so that his words could be mistaken for the prayer given before taking Holy Communion, “Drink, and may my love infiltrate itself throughout thy body together with my blood.”

When one celebrates Holy Communion, the host (bread) and the wine are symbolic of Christ’s body and blood. In Roman Catholicism specifically, the host and the bread are believed to become the body and blood of Jesus, which is echoed in the aforementioned words of Romuald regarding Clarimonde. Romuald not only partook in this ritual as a priest, but administered it to his parishioners as well. And at night, he gave of his own blood to save the life of Clarimonde. At one point in the story, Romuald even describes Clarimonde’s “beautiful hands” as “purer and more diaphanous than the host,” a direct reference to the Holy Communion.

This story is rife with death, rebirth, blood, flowers, decay, youth and passion. What an abundance of inspiration for a perfumer, right? Indeed it has been. I have three *perfumes at my table right now. One by Ayala Sender of Ayala Moriel Parfums, another by Dawn Spencer Hurwtiz of DSH Perfumes, and finally one by Monica Miller of Skye Botanicals. I have experienced them all separately, but as I have them together now, I am convinced there must have been a Clarimonde collective consciousness wafting through their creative spaces while they concocted their brews as they are rather similar.

They are all intensely floral perfumes that exude the weighty feel of aubergine velvet, burgundy brocades and red damask. Dawn’s perfume, Paradise Lost, is quite ambery and well-aged like a rich port. Monica’s creation, Sangre, is just as deep and dark as Paradise Lost, but it’s a little sweeter like over-ripe blackberries dripping in one’s hand. All three hint at a haylike note, but it’s Ayala’s Clarimonde Dream Pillow that emanates the most earthiness. It’s not a freshly tilled soil though, rather a soil on the edge of decay that is infused with rose, violet and carnation.

Each of these perfumes teeter on the edge between lushness and decomposition, which is right where Romuald existed. And all of The Clarimonde Project creations, including Mandy Aftel’s Oud Luban and Immortal Mine, by Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl are touched by the beauty and depth of this utterly captivating story. I am honored to have been a part of this event that so exquisitely married perfume and literature.

Visit IndiePerfumesScentLessSensibilitiesPerfumePharmerLostPastRemembered for more Clarimonde prose and watch for posts at JadeDresslerPerfume Smellin’ Things as well.

The Clarimonde Project Part I
The Clarimonde Project Part II

*Paradise Lost (DSH Perfumes) and Sangre (Skye Botanicals) are mixed-media perfumes as they contain small amounts of synthetics. Ayala’s Dream Pillow perfume is 100% natural.

Image of The Vampire by Sir Philip Burne-Jones at artmagick

Image of Victorian Vampire by FairyLover17 at etsy


The Clarimonde Project, Part II

If you read my last post, you know there’s an exciting blog project swirling in the ether, inspired by the darkly romantic short story, Clarimonde. Romuald, who despite his passion for the priesthood, entered into an illicit love affair with the hypnotic Clarimonde, only to regret it for years to come. At the end of his tale, Romauld implores the reader,  “Never gaze upon a woman, and walk abroad only with eyes ever fixed upon the ground; for however chaste and watchful one may be, the error of a single moment is enough to make one lose eternity. Lose eternity.”

My heart ached for poor Romauld as I read of his love literally vanishing into dust before his eyes. His subsequent deep anguish regarding that love made me feel even more despondent. Thankfully, I was soothed by the post at ScentLessSensibilities, as Sheila picked up the story where the author Théophile Gautier left off. Her continuation of Clarimonde centers around Romauld’s housekeeper at the presbytery and a mysterious perfume she finds during a posthumous sorting of his chamber. The perfume that Sheila was inspired by, Immortal Mine, was created by Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl for The Clarimonde Project. It is rich and floral, inky and dark, but I’ll stop there. Go read ScentLessSensibilities‘ review as it is far more inspired than anything I could attempt.

My sadness for Romauld has also been assuaged by a gloriously comforting oud and frankincense based perfume by Mandy Aftel. Mandy’s Clarimonde-inspired Oud Luban smells of wooden pews and altars suffused with incense that has burned for centuries and centuries. Oud Luban is a solid perfume that holds eight different types of oud in its midst. Surprisingly, it is a subtle and supple oud that caresses with suede, etherial smoke and a smoothly aged patchouli. It is both sensual and reverential, and I hope Romauld found comfort in such an aroma in the wake of Clarimonde’s departure from his life.

The Clarimonde Project Part I
The Clarimonde Project Part III

Oud Luban is available at Aftelier Perfumes.

Samples of Immortal Mine will be available for purchase by contacting Maria and Alexis at

Image from

Disclosure: Samples were sent to me for consideration by the above perfumers. Opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.Share

The Clarimonde Project, Part I

Is she from heaven or hell? Is she an angel or a demon? Perhaps both, considered Romuald, a priest who just moments before his ordination became fascinated with a goddless-like woman sitting in the congregation. She was radiant and wildly beautiful with hair like a river of gold and sea green eyes. Yet, even though he was utterly riveted by her, Romuald proceeded with his vows to become a priest of the lord, during Easter week no less.

For a full year, Romuald was haunted by his desire for Clarimonde, his worldly obsession. While he fulfilled his pious duties of prayer, fasting and tending to the sick and dying, he ruminated on the memory of her with a bereft heart.  But that would change one night when a horseman summoned Romuald to Clarimonde’s palace. She was on her death bed and he was needed for “matters related to holy calling.” Once there, he found Clarimonde lifeless in her chamber but as lovely as he had remembered. Overcome by grief he shed tears upon her cheeks and kissed her- which brought her back to life.

This miraculous occurance sent Romuald into a coma-like state for three days. He awoke to stern warnings from his abbot, Serapion, to do away with all thoughts of the evil temptress, Clarimonde.  Romuald did not heed Serapion’s advice. She came to him that night, a vision wrapped in dazzling white linen and spoke the words, “love is stronger than death.” He declared his love for her, and confessed it to be stronger than his love of God. And so began his nightly affair with Clarimonde.

There were now two men within Romuald, “a priest who dreamed nightly he was a gentleman” and “a gentleman that dreamed he was a priest.” As the gentleman, he was Clarimonde’s devoted and faithful lover. He lived in her Venetian Palace decorated with Titians and sumptuous fabrics of velvet and damask. His life there teemed with poetry, music, and worldly pleasures.

Whether it was reality or fantasy, Romuald led a double life. The tension between piety and debauchery is palpable in this captivating tale and speaks to the duality within all humans. But what I found even more salient within Romuald’s narrative, was how similar his feelings were for the church and then for Clarimonde. Romuald was nearly ecstatic on the day of his ordination as he waited with impatience and joy for the moment to finally arrive. “Never did a betrothed lover count the slow hours with more feverish ardor,” Romuald explained. “I slept only to dream I was saying mass.”

When he first gazed upon Clarimonde, he fell instantly in love with her, with a religiosity to rival the most devout priest. “She breathed her will into my life… I no longer lived in myself but I in her and for her.” He could have been speaking about God in such a manner, and actually was, just moments prior.

So what does this story have to do with perfume, you might wonder. Currently, it has everything to do with perfume! Lucy Raubertas of Indie Perfumes has ridden passionately through the blogosphere, snatching up perfumers and bloggers to join her in a chamber of Clarimonde inspired creations.

Perfumers Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes, Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes, Ayala Sender of Ayala Moriel Perfumes, Monica Miller of Skye Botanicals, and Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl of Cherry Bomb Killer Perfume have crafted Clarimonde perfumes that I will review in subsequent posts.

I listened to Clarimonde, a short story written by Théophile Gautier in 1836, via Librivox, and was entranced at word one. It is read by Joy Chan whose voice lends itself perfectly to this devilishly romantic thriller. I won’t reveal the ending, even though many of you are already privy to its conclusion. Fair warming, if you head over to the blogs of my fellow participants, Lucy Raubertas, Sheila Eggenberger, and Monica Miller, you will discover the dark outcome, but it’s worth it. Keep an eye on the blogs of Jade Dressler and Beth Schreibman as they will be contributing as well. And if you’re one who doesn’t mind a spolier, also stop by LostPastRemembered for a perfumed wine recipe to accompany this beguiling yarn.

The Clarimonde Project Part II
The Clarimonde Project Part III

Images: Autumn by John Atkinson Grimshaw and Choosing by George Frederic WattsShare