Anaïs Anaïs (Cacharel)

Ignore the unremittingly girlish packaging for Anaïs Anaïs, seriously, because it has no bearing on the appropriate gender for it. Although I should point out that the white bottle and prosaically floral imagery of the EDT accurately suggests something at home in a white-tiled bathroom, or perhaps a sauna. Taking into consideration the dearth of convincingly unisex white floral fragrances on the contemporary market, the fact that this thirty-five year-old masterpiece is still in production should be considered a gift from god. As far as fresh florals go, you'd be hard pressed to find anything better.

What makes Anaïs Anaïs so resolutely perfect is not just its luscious, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink bouquet of every white cultivar imaginable, including natural (hammy-smelling) lily, hyacinth, tuberose, jasmine, honeysuckle, orange blossom, ylang, and muguet. It's the tension of these snowy petals against a steamy haze, redolent of a tiny bathroom after a forty-five minute shower, that makes it. Something in Anaïs Anaïs transports me back to a hilariously vulgar, el-expensivo hotel I stayed at, just one block away from St. Peter's Basilica. I remember seeing its Roman vases through luxurious billows of steam, top-heavy and perched precariously on Carrara marble to greet me whenever I stepped out of a scorching Visentin wash.

There's more to it though, something carnal, of its time, a precious burst of brightness in the shady industrial era of the late seventies and early eighties. It is a romantic purity, a tender gloss, the championing of simple pleasures, the act of pulling your nose aside for two seconds to sniff quickly at something gorgeous in the lobby of a big firm before an interview. It's eerie: there are times when I think the mysteriously humid wildflower accord in the heart of Kouros is modeled directly off Anaïs Anaïs. Cacharel found a way to bottle a timeless fragrance without sacrificing a certain "essence" that was intrinsic to the decade from which it came, so that every application is like misting my skin with Stevie Nicks' voice - orotund, a touch smoky, utterly wonderful. If Vicki Anderson wore fragrance, there's little doubt it was this one.

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