How often do you think about hares? Me? Rarely. I’ve eaten it once, when a friend cooked a whole one and served on my plate, unwittingly – an unusually textured piece of meat that was probably its testicles. So, for me, March brings a little reminder of that moment. And now for you, too, you lucky thing. But, every year, we think of that adage, “mad as a March hare”, and, for a few seconds, commune with the idea of doing something really wild. My March offering is to suggest an unusual fragrance. Or, at least, something a bit different to the more typical spring scents of lily of the valley and lilac.
It’s always worth having a look at Gorilla Perfume – sister brand of Lush – for bizarre possibilities in perfume, which permit experiments in strangeness without spending too much money. I will even use the word “diabolical”, as a few of their scents take some kind of cue from devil figures in folk legend.
Their fragrance oil Hellstone, £40, smells, to my nose, of a Bloody Mary with an eager application of black pepper and celery salt. It’s an explosive temper of a scent through its mix of clotted beeswax and sour-sweaty cumin. Devil’s Nightcap £40 for 30ml is its cooling counterpart. As a moss addict, I very much enjoy this one, which is almost as if I’ve got a parcel of tree-scrapings in my handbag, which I’m smearing over myself. And, if you are a lover of herbal smells, and can get past putting on something called Lord Of Goathorn, £29 for 30ml, of a morning, then this one channels that under-used anisic herb in both food and fragrance: tarragon. Wear all three at various points of the day and your eyes will be rolling about in your head.
For this month’s main Mad March recommendation, I’m going to keep the devil way down in the hole, to present something that offers racing energy and wide-eyed sparkle with a twist. But not such a twist that we’re channelling the goat lords et al. Rhubarb scents are one way to go. They are vibrant, juicy and offer a brilliant alternative to citrus. They’re also quite hard to track down. A few years ago, Comme des Garçons offered us Sherbet Series 5, which was maybe a little too reminiscent of trudging to the corner shop on a Saturday and asking for 4oz of Tom Thumb drops. If the nostalgia of this appeals, it is still knocking about online for £34. More recently, American fragrance boutique Aedes de Venustas launched a dusky boudoir take on rhubarb; however, at nearly £185 a bottle, that’s a lot of fruit crumble we could make instead.
This spring, a new option has presented itself on the market (said in the voice of a Californian realtor). Hermès’ new perfumer, Christine Nagel, has created Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate (scarlet) as a new addition to their excellent colognes range. This interpretation of rhubarb really is a thrilling ride. It takes the fruit from the shimmering edge of a knife blade into that mouth-watering tartness you get from the first taste of a summer pudding. And, beyond that, it weeps with sweet juice. This is a scent that will have your heart palpitating, preferably without any associated health risks. Rhubarb, in being unexpected in perfume, can be great fun, too, if we smell it without being told what it is. It’s so familiar and comforting, yet infuriatingly unnameable (is it orange? Is it rose?). You be the knowing one – they’ll be driven mad wondering.