Pandit (Garner James)

The best perfumery materials are perfumes unto themselves. Mysore sandalwood oil, oakmoss absolute, birch tar, rose oil, ambergris, Haitian vetiver, raw vanilla dilution, and orris butter are all rich and complex enough to stand on their own and carry the day. Jim Gehr's care package to me included a little corked bottle labeled "Pandit," which he said is an ode to Ravi Shankar. Why Ravi? Well it's safe to say Jim's a fan of the man's musical work, but Ravi was Indian, and Pandit is little more than pure Mysore sandalwood oil. The Indian connection is pretty much the whole point of the fragrance, and of course it smells incredible.

If you haven't smelled real sandalwood oil in a while, I urge you to revisit it. It's easy to forget just how lovely it smells. I think it's somewhat forgettable because it's definitely a "wood" smell with a smooth, buttery disposition that sends the mind to imagined places, and distracts from its essential odor characteristics, all of which are subtle. It holds a direct dryness that elicits images of soft, finely-carved planes, perhaps in an ornate 18th century French chapel, in the days when sandalwood was more abundant and used in the communion of human and divine spirits. Despite its transient effect on memory, sandalwood always comes right back to those who know it. It is to the sense of smell what bike riding is to adults: something that comes right back and brings a smile to your face. Pandit is an impossibly familiar perfume, and it's gorgeous.

I think it is one of Jim's rarer creations, a simple composition for personal use. It may or may not be available on request, but the little bit that I have will last me a very long time. Pandit is smoother than silk, as dry as a bone, and incredibly deep and nuanced, with a faint rosy twinge to its start, and a smoky musk in the finish. As a reference for Mysore sandalwood, there is nothing better. There are no designers, not Guerlain, Creed, Chanel, Davidoff, Ralph Lauren, Caron, or anyone else for that matter who ever used more than a smidgen of this stuff in their mass-marketed perfumes. There are quality grades to Mysore sandalwood, and the quality in this is tippy-top shelf. Pandit does not reference other popular or niche scents. It is simply a tribute to a talented musical inspiration, and the timelessness of India's exotic treasures.

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