EXQUISITE ABSTRACTION : : : 1+7; 2+6; 3+5; 5+3; 6+2 extraits de parfum BY D’OTTO (2022)

I have become quite interested recently in the concept of neurodivergency. Used to describe a wide variety of ‘disorders’ or mental differences ranging from severe autism to those on the spectrum to those whose brains simply work differently to the majority, I wonder, sometimes, whether I also belong in the category of the neurodivergent.

Firstly, the dreams. I dream so intensely, all night, every night – full, blistering oneiria with incredible detail, emotionally wrought; often exciting; erotic, frequently terrifying, exhilarating but exhausting – a lot also have soundtracks (D has seen me waking up singing a theme or song before); to me this is entirely usual, and yet, when I ask people around me – students, teachers, hardly anyone seems to dream or at least remember their dreams, and then I almost feel alienated and embarrassed as though I were a different species, realizing that my brain is so much more febrile and wild; porous and delicate than the average person but I don’t feel remotely sad about this either – to me my dreamlife is such a rich universe that I almost feel pity for those that don’t have it. I often feel too sentient; empathic like a sponge; slightly psychic. Extremely oversensitive to light, noise, atmosphere; colour; smell. Exhausted by too much human connection, even though I am a teacher – the eternal difficulty for the extroverted introvert.

So far so good (at least I think so – is it strange to just accept yourself?). The other side to this, though, of course, is ‘imbalance’, if it needs to be seen that way (I keep telling students, and this is one area I do well in and which is very important to me, as I feel it is my mission to encourage these young vulnerable people not to be too down on themselves about not being perfect in a culture that tends to be perfectionist; that you don’t have to be good at everything; that the widely held, and very guilt-ridden belief that perseverance and endeavour can triumph over everything is utter nonsense, because it just is – no one can be good at everything and neither should they necessarily want to be – the human tapestry of possibilities and potential so vast and multicoloured that there are always and always will be people who can do something you cannot and vice versa; and because I have myself heard very technically sound pianists pounding away like machines on the keys at migraine inducing levels at day long ‘happyokai‘ recitals of eager child to adult amateurs in staid, pleated dresses and mini tuxes and yet you just know that no matter how much they practice like furious automatons in their houses at night they will never actually be able to play a lick of music ,and that listening to even a couple of hours of this innane furiosity made both me and the d feel like our heads were going to explode; I truly believe in proclivities, natural abilities, inclinations; interests; we are not like hot irons that can be hammered into shape by convention even if other people try to make us believe we should be – and although it is always good to try different things (if you want to), when it comes to lacks, and inabilities, I believe that desperately trying to overcome them when you lack the innate ability is like flogging a dead horse.

My own disabilities definitely include a great lack of spatial awareness – a very chronic clumsiness that could be termed dyspraxia (oh the smashed perfume bottles!) I have to focus for a long time and try desperately hard to work out which way to put a gas cylinder into the kerosene heater, something a lot of animals and young babies could certainly work out more quickly. I think I may also be slightly dyslexic when it comes to numbers (in fact I know I am). While I can work out percentages in my head so am hopefully not 100% clueless, it is quite easy for me to forget my PIN number at the bank; very easy for me to get numbers the wrong way round (the students also laugh, but have largely got used to, my total inability to count; I invariably hand out the wrong number of papers to be distributed around the classroom — ‘Mr Chapman, er, two more please‘ is a frequent refrain – a problem that became rather more serious when – and this embarrasses me to admit but here we go – back in 1993 when working at an international language school in London, and on a day trip to Cambridge, I failed to count the number of students on the bus home (my mind went totally blank and I was just faking it as the bus driver was urging us to leave), leaving two Russian girls behind in the city who only by chance saw our very bus going by one of the colleges, hailing it down furiously and shouting at me in outrage as I sat slumped, red-faced, at the front near the driver’s seat mortified all the way to the drop-off).

Yes. I knew instinctively that I never could, nor would want to, drive a car (and have never even had one driving lesson – no one needs Neil Chapman behind the wheel on the road), and though I did my very best, I managed to get an abysmal grade E in my maths O level, the British equivalent of a junior high school diploma, without which you can’t go to university, meaning that when the system changed to GCSE the following year, I had to go to the secret maths dunce class on afternoons when others were outside playing tennis or doing drama club, just scraping a C with a great deal of perseverance (and utter, utter boredom).

Anyway. Mathematics. My discalculia.

How is all of this relevant to perfume?

Well, primarily for the fact that in trying to review this collection by new Italian brand D’Otto, with perfumes created by the excellent Paolo Terenzi, a perfumer with a mind-boggling number of Italian niche fragrances under his belt, most famously for Tiziana Terenzi, I simply couldn’t work out which was which ( compounded by the fact that when viewed upside down on the futon, the vials seemed indistinguishable) It has actually been hard to do this review this morning as I have been so confused, eventually having to spray each on on tissue with big numbers written in black marker pen and even then I have not been sure that I have been describing the right one. A baboon could do a better job.

I also fail to entirely understand the concept behind the names of these scents (it seems to be a given now, in the independent perfumery world, that practically any new launch by a new scent outfit must embrace a visual, artistic, historical or topographical crux around which that house tries to distinguish itself from all the others clamouring for attention in a very overcrowded market; hence we have endless brands trying to embody international cities; colours; music; movies; years in history; elements; animals, the list goes on and on and can be fun and interesting sometimes even though personally I just prefer an enigmatic title of something like Arpege that doesn’t try to explain away too much about the olfactory composition with other conceptual constructs but rather just is what it is; here, the idea, apparently, is that each piece in this initial collection of five fragrances corresponds with a particular painting from the early twentieth century period of abstract art; hence we have Kandinsky, Mondrian, Klee etc each represented in perfume – which I get, but what’s with all the f****** numbers?)

Scrutinizing the five samples from the D’Otto collection, I was at first completely incapable of working out which was which. My brain…..went into warp hole incomprehension. 3+5, 5+3, 2+6, 6+2, even just writing this has scrambled the wires (I gave up the Japanese written system the first week I was here as I just can’t imbibe it mentally – sonically and aurally, I have absorbed quite a lot over the years, but my number phobia stretches to other alphabets as well, blimey I am limited! ) As a selling point, I don’t think this is particularly smart . Even if you are a mathematical genius drawn to numbers, do these perfume names draw you in? (the bottle design does, but..) is there an enigmatic inscrutability here that I am just not getting because it is numbers themselves that just don’t appeal ? (I remember my mathematician friend George, who I was joined at the hip with at university explaining to me in frustration one day that my quick-damning prejudices against his mystifying studies ) were just locking me out of a whole beautiful universe that I would never be privy to : and for a brief moment, I may have regretted my temperaments and leanings and wondered how it would have been if I had been born an entirely different person.

But now to the perfumes themselves.

1+7, which I can recognize because there are no other perfumes with the same digits, is really rather beautiful.

Although I intensely dislike the painting this perfume is allegedly based on (I have an aversion to all shades of brown so cannot, for example watch westerns or any film with that palette) and have no synaesthesic nod of recognition smelling and looking (to me 1+7 definitely smells green and white), this is a scent I would like a full bottle of. It is lovely. The opening is totally delightful, reminding me of the green, citric shampoos from the 70’s I have waxed lyrical before about on here; the whole, gentle, fresh, natural, like wind blowing through the trees in spring. I feel calmed by this. I smell hope.

5+ 3 is also very handsome perfume. As one Fragrantician says, this is quite reminiscent of vintage Serge Lutens’ Chergui – I was thinking Cedre at first, but no, they are right, it is Chergui, so if you miss the original version of that strange and unusual blend that many people still pine for and feel like a denser experience, you will really love this; it is deep, mysterious, with a gorgeous tobacco honeyed mystery to it that could prove quite magnetic on the correct wearer. Again, I personally sense zero connection to the Mondrian, with its clean lines and primary colour palette – this to me would be a deep honeycomb amber with flecks of coral and dark orange – but perhaps that is just my weird cerebellum.

3.5, which I keep confusing with its anagram – is an obvious homage to Christian Dior Hypnotic Poison – a higher quality version thereof, and indeed very luminous, positive, like the happiness promised by the cheerful painting – if potentially a little bit sickly (this is the full Italian diva ; radiant and self confident – you can just feel her, bare-shouldered and self-confident, swanning into the gala). I like it, even if I have never been drawn to the works of Paul Klee – I just don’t like them – and can find no bridge whatsoever between the picture and the smell.

2.6 is the only perfume from the initial D’Otto collection that I can see any resemblance / match to the painting the scent was inspired by. Dark, bitter, this is the kind of wood scent that has me running for the hills and has been done many times before by houses like Byredo, but if you like such scents, the familiar, creosote dark brown/ blackness, 2.6 is a fairly convincing rendition.

It might smell good on you, but I must say that I don’t like 6+2 at all; to me it is just yet another overdone woody where the inchoateness of amberwood chemicals cancel out each other into a black hole of manly – but then I am just not able to appreciate any perfumes of this type in the first place – I just have an intuitive aversion to this whole genre.

The original inspiration that this scent is based on (by far the worst match!)

is also, I must say, just so hideous to me personally that I literally hesitated whether to insert this one into this piece. Looking at the above painting just makes me insane – it is wrong to me on every level, to the point of nausea. But I guess that is the point. These things are very subjective :: for the perfumer who has come up with a high quality batch of perfumes that many will find pleasurable (I do recommend trying the sample set if any of these sound appealing), these paintings – all considered masterpieces by the establishment – are representations of what he was seeing in olfactory form. For me, however, strangely, there is virtually no correspondence between the two.Then again, my brain is different…


Filed under Flowers

32 responses to “EXQUISITE ABSTRACTION : : : 1+7; 2+6; 3+5; 5+3; 6+2 extraits de parfum BY D’OTTO (2022)

  1. I too have always suffered dyscalculia.
    Not sure where my fear of numbers came from. I hate even counting anything over 10, especially money. It was routine in my California public elementary school to be humiliated about my lack of math skills before the class – although I was reading & writing at university level by age 11. I somewhat overcame it to get through a year of calculus & statistics to get into the pharmacy program. I was always told I was lazy as far as math, that words, language, communication, music came so easily to me I must be bright enough to understand maths too.
    I can drive, but I hate it after daily commuting for 15 years on California freeways. (One must drive in California, it is not an option)
    I have perfect pitch, am musically talented.
    I associate colors with scents and flavors.
    In painting and photography my color sense is excellent, yet all but the most basic composition is difficult. (I know good composition when I see it, but to come up with it on my own is near impossible)
    I think school & university should be about finding your strengths and weaknesses. The emphasis should be on exploring & expanding your strengths, not being humiliated about your weaknesses.
    I dream vividly, but my dreams seem like random neuron firings to be honest.
    Terenzi seems to assigned the numbers some tonal scale.
    Love the bottles – glamorous, modern, and classic all at once.
    6+2 = I don’t understand these wood upon wood upon wood topped with more wood and resin things. It’s an overpowering mess to my nose.
    2+6 = Why would you do that to brilliant saffron? Another wood upon wood overbearing Oriental thing. I think 6 & 2 are Terenzi’s code for wood and resin/amber.
    3+5 + Judging by the notes, this seems like the only scent I’d be interested in. 5 seems to be Terenzi’s code for floral? Perhaps 3 is vanillic amber?
    None of these compositions seem very original to me.

    • Actually 1+ 7 is quite original – modern and airy green with classic nuances. I am looking forward to trying it on D as well.

      If you like Hypnotic Poison you would probably like 3.5 but it is a bit overpowering

    • Re abilities etc – I definitely agree that although we shouldn’t necessarily be too pigeon-holed as a science or liberal arts student too early, at the same time there is not much point insisting on the impossible. One of the good things about the education system here is the balance of subjects that students have to study right up to the end of high school. On the other hand it can make them feel very inadequate if they can’t do one of them.

  2. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    I understand your ability not to be able to relate to numbers. I go completely blank as well. I consider it an advantage.
    Also concerning images or pictures. To me they always evoke and they are never the carbon copy of what I see.
    When I read your description of perfumes I can almost smell them. When I read the d’Otto version copied by you, I go blank as well. They don’t speak to me at all. And as for combining that with numbers… is like trying to drive two cars at once. I don’t drive either! Except in my dreams and even there I don’t have a licence .

    When I combine images or music in my writing (on-line) I associate. It is never literal.
    In your writing I discover the same (happy to me) tendency. So go on being dis- or de-whatever, dear monsieur Ginzaintherain. To my everlasting delight!

  3. This is fascinating to me on so many levels. I’d only heard the term as “neurodiversity,” but neurodivergence makes sense as well. I was good at math until my last year of university, I think, when suddenly I wasn’t, and I have no idea why. Now I rely on calculators. My bête noir is orientation – even in familiar cities, I get lost and go the opposite direction thinking it’s the right direction.
    Dreaming: I do dream a lot. When I was younger they were filled with much more fear and love; these days they are mostly tedious and realistic in a mundane way.
    Driving: I learned to drive later than most people and find it stressful so avoid it as much as possible. When I need to drive, which thankfully isn’t often these days, I always rely on the GPS (see point above about always getting lost).

    Looking at those numbers, each pair adds up to 8 so I would have guessed it was some subtle way of saying the perfumes are really all the same, or (like with MFK’s Gentle Fluidity duo) contain different amounts of the same ingredients. Then again, I do tend to read too much into games like that.
    Had to laugh because you and I have the complete opposite preferences for the paintings! I absolutely love Mondrian designs, am drawn to the Klee, and once completed an 800-piece jigsaw puzzle of that exact Kandinsky on my own. However, like you, I dislike a lot of brown.

    • The brown thing bugs me about myself and I would like to get over it (also quite hard, when J-fashion has been exclusively about beige and everything around that colour for the last few years like some kind of Japanese Amish nightmare so I can’t avoid it). If a film has brown tones I can’t watch it, and whole eras like the really brown cubist period I would just walk past in a gallery because my brain can’t stand it.

      As for the art, this is very interesting. The Mondrian I like too, but the perfume was so thick and gooey and oozey that it didn’t REMOTELY – at least in my view – capture the cleanliness of the lines. I would want something fresh with distinct head heart and base to try and capture something like that.

      Ida Meister at Fragrantica loves Klee and is always putting up pictures, and I am permanently baffled as I just can’t stand them for some reason. Kandinsky! It is a lifelong aversion for me; so whimsical and messy and UGLY! But the point of this piece was the fascination of neurodiversity – I think we react to perfumes in precisely the same way, and that is something I love.

      • And no explaining why, hence being unable to get away from ourselves and our likes and dislikes. Good thing there’s something for everyone out there!

      • Definitely!

        By the way, I can’t believe I didn’t even think of adding the numbers together – it never occurred to me ( which tells you everything ).

        Looking it up, the number 8 signifies wholeness, perfection … a work of art.

        Quite the conceited conceit

  4. Robin

    Still hobbled by this tablet, Neil. Still really wanted to peck out a reply. I’ve been loving your posts lately, and as always. I want to reply with something more, but please know that behind this short note is a long love letter to the black narcissus.

    • Oh thanks Robin. There is no exasperating fury like technological exasperating fury – so hard to resist just smashing the computer against the wall – I have had so many problems trying to post things on here and then losing them you wouldn’t believe it. JE COMPRENDS.

      Thanks for reading though. This one I almost deleted because after finishing it and putting it up I thought shit, I have spent the entire time talking about maths and my own weirdities and not enough about the perfume. I consulted Duncan and he said keep it so I did. Glad I didn’t delete.

  5. Hanamini

    I loved this write-up; so many ideas, so much truth, so much flavour about those perfumes. Hey, is this driving thing a thing? I too can’t drive, or get very far with numbers. Though my spatial orientation is good. As for dreams…vivid ones are still remembered many many decades later, including some stonkers from early childhood. But: I only remember the ones where I have either slept in or woken in the night. If I wake with an alarm after an uninterrupted night, the dream is gone before I get to brushing my teeth. As for synaesthesia, I have to wear perfumes that in some way match what I’m wearing—it can be very obvious, like rose for rose and green for green, or more abstract, like Puredistance Antonia and Frapin Esprit de Fleurs only with blue, and the bottle is involved in all of that too. Today, however, I’m enjoying the polar opposite of D’Otto and its bottles and art and maths; a zero-concept Yardley Fragrant Gardens that I found in a drawer, which smells and looks exactly like what it says. I think I’ll read your post again, though, for entertainment beyond the literal.

    • I think I would love the Yardley Fragrant Gardens, having a real soft spot for that tender Englishness in all the talcs and inexpensive perfumes…

      Dreaming is weird. Mine is honestly probably quite abnormal – I see things in movies about people ‘having weird dreams’ as though it were something shocking, but mine are honestly CONTINUAL through the night; the cat wakes us up at random times to be let out and I am guaranteed to be in the middle of an epic: mostly they are movie length, with so many different characters – famous people, friends – sometimes people I have only met once in my life a long time ago; quite often entirely new people, which fascinates me; it’s like a concurrent universe I enter every single night. I think this is some kind of neurodivergence, actually, as I don’t know that many people who have a similar thing.

  6. David

    I loved this post. I don’t follow social media anymore, so people who still write blog posts like this are true heroes in my book. I have heard that people who vividly dream and are able to recall dreams are the healthiest people, physically and mentally. It’s the dream stage of sleep that is the healthiest….which is why this pothead here has finally given up weed. Weed inhibits the dream stage of sleep. I am dreaming again, but, unfortunately, they haven’t been pleasant. I guess I have to completely detox to dream the good erotic dreams again.
    I’m not a big fan of conceptual perfumes like the ones you described. They just go way over my head, even though a part of me likes to make sense of the inspiration behind the notes chosen. But the bottles are certainly beautiful.

    • All the conceptualism can sometimes come across as a bit desperate, I think, although here the overall package does work.

      I actually was unable to dream earlier this year in the summer, not coincidentally when I stopped writing on here as well – this was obviously total mental burnout. All I was dreaming were stuck, tedious, mental repetitions, and I would be desperate to wake up from them. I can imagine that dreaming is healthy from many perspectives, so am glad you are dreaming again (in my case, even when they are horrific nightmares, I find there is something cathartic or therapeutic about it once the initial terror fades; if nothing else, just the wonderful realization that it isn’t real…).

      Erotic dreams are obviously delightful. I love ones where things happen that I could have never have imagined in my waking state and with people I would never have even considered attractive in the least. I once had the most blissful dream I was kissing Art Garfunkel in an aureole of light- and it was like kissing an angel

  7. OnWingsofSaffron

    Oh Neil, this post is just a revelation! Reading this, finding myself mirrored in many ways, and then again not, it just shows how immensely different humans excel in their strengths (and fail in their weaknesses), and at the same time, how some social standards of what one should be able to do is so maddening.
    So let me, as we say in German, let me down my trousers too. I cannot for the life of me do maths. I need my bloody ten fingers to count something perhaps up to 16. If I pay something, I cannot, in a jiffy, calculate what I am supposed to get as return money; I just cannot. I regularly get into a fight with my husband as he seems to calculate things (interest rate, cost of living, wear value etc.) completely different than I do, resulting in ghastly differences.
    I do however, have a pigeon’s sense of space and direction, especially if I’m not pressured. I can remember which road, which turning, which crossing after years. I can even walk off into the right direction in complete darkness, I just somehow “know” or “feel” … And yet you could shoot me at blank point, but I would not/never drive a car here in Germany (another topic for tremendous rows)! So, there you go!
    PS: The presentation of these dreary black boxes is not exactly exciting. And lastly, though maths isn’t my forte, I do understand the concept of £ 225,00. Grazie mille, but no thanks!

    • LOVE.

      We are pigeons!

      D and I complement each other in this respect. He is relatively good at reading maps; I cannot. CANNOT. But like you I can remember where I have been and sense where to go – perhaps not in complete darkness (amazing) but close. What IS this?

      Where are you on the scale of the dreaming?

      • OnWingsofSaffron

        Not much dreaming, though. Yet my husband swears by the theory that dreams are produced in the guts! Yep! So whenever he eats kale, cabbage, onions, garlic, lentils, beans, you get the gist, he has the most intensive dreams. And that brings us to another point of disagreement between the two of us: who on earth wants to eat „Schonkost“ for dinner?!

      • Your husband is right.

        For me , I will dream profusely no matter the state of my stomach, but when I eat the wrong thing – I have various gastric issues and can’t help eating late at night because of my job – if I am indigestion dis-ease the Alptraums most definitely get more nasty

      • Just looked up ‘schonkost’: translated as ‘light food ‘:


      • OnWingsofSaffron

        Ah, Schonkost! So quintessentially old-school Germany! Those days when all Germans would go for a „Kur“ once a year at some Bad Thisorthat, sip ghastly water, do early morning gymnastics outdoors and have mud-baths in the afternoon, and eat yucky Schonkost for dinner!
        So, „sich schonen“ means to preserve oneself, to go easy on oneself; and „Kost“ means food as in „board“ or „fare“, completely lacking in anything elegant or delicious. So Schonkost is what you eat after you‘ve been sick.

      • So it’s just boiled vegetables basically ?

      • OnWingsofSaffron

        Yes, prepared very plainly, with very little salt & no spices; gruels; rusks; herbal teas. I think the idea behind Schonkost is a protestant disdain for culinary refinement and pleasure, and a thorough chastisement of the body …!

      • OnWingsofSaffron

        Perhaps we can discuss the term “Sättigungsbeilage”—yet another this time (socialist) East German word pertaining to the drab consumption of food—another time 🙂

  8. I can’t imagine what it is like for people who don’t dream. I dream almost nightly, and they are usually pretty involved. It is a sign of a healthy brain.
    I understand the dislike of maths, I used to be like that as well, until someone who was brilliant at them taught me many different concepts about the different maths, then I seemed to get it. So now I enjoy numbers immensely, but on that note, I am not a fan of the perfume titles.
    I like names, beautiful names. I don’t like lazy ingredient names, and I surely don’t want an addition equation for a name. The bottles are lovely though.

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