by Euphorium Brooklyn
EAU DE PARFUM
Family: Fruity floral
Perfumer: Stephen Dirkes
Notes: Plum blossom, plum nectar, apricot nectar, anise, green tea, hinoki, yuzu zest, moss, hiba incense, cedar, snow, frozen earth
Ume could be the setting of a Japanese anime movie. On some other planet, spring and winter nearly co-exist, as the transition takes thousands of earth-years to complete. There is a landscape of permafrost with deep veins of shimmering minerals. Ancient snow-capped mountains keep a watchful eye on the valleys below, which reveal damp boulders marbled with chartreuse mosses. Plum trees shower the land with sweetly-scented confetti as they continuously and patiently celebrate the coming of spring.
On a more earthly note, Ume wears as a delicate floral with obvious fruity undertones. The ingenuity of the fragrance lies in its strong heart of icy earth, with a palpable mineralic edge that makes the perfume truly unique. Soft woods and incense only enhance the earthy aspect of the fragrance, rather than throwing it out of balance and making it weighty. A rare find in that, rather than "warm and cozy", the fragrance is soothing because it's crisp and cooling. Clever.
Although plum blossoms have long been ancient symbols of hope in painting, poetry, song, and ritual throughout Asia, it is in the summer of 1860 that the UME perfumer, Rudolf Komodo, begins to work on the fragrance.
In 1860 the first Japanese Embassy sailed to America and were received by poets, politicians, merchants, and the social elite of New York City.
Tateishi Onojiro, a teenage member of the Japanese Embassy, quickly became a celebrity amongst New York’s society and the American press at large. Walt Whitman composed the poem A BROADWAY PAGEANT for the reception of the embassy in New York.
…The box-lid is but perceptibly open’d — nevertheless the
Perfume pours copiously out of the whole box.
– Walt Whitman, (excerpt), June 16, 1860
In thanks, Mr. Whitman was invited to meet Tateishi Onojiro (whose nickname soon became “Tommy” in the American press) at a party hosted by the Bennett’s of Washington Heights on Thursday, June 21st.
The meeting of Tateishi Onojiro, Walt Whitman, Rudolph Komodo, and Senora Bustello at the Bennett’s “Fete Champetre” set the wheels in motion for what was to become one of Mr. Komodo’s most celebrated fragrances…
Mr. Whitman, often complaining about an embarrassing lack of interesting conversation, compelled Mrs. Bennett to extend an invitation to a Mr. Rudolf Komodo and a guest of his choosing. As he had known Mrs. Bennett through various “Transcendental Sensualist” circles in New York, he was embolden to add in explanation, “If Mr. Komodo should prove to be less than stimulating, he is certain to bring something or someone that most assuredly will. Mr. Komodo is good that way.” (R. Komodo, Notes of an Enlightened Lizard, 1853)
Beginning at 2 o’clock, the Fete Champetre was well under way by the time Mssrs. Onojiro, Whitman and Komodo found themselves together with libations on the veranda. Mr. Komodo was joined by his guest, the Señora Bustello to the pleasure of them all. After Mr. Komodo had prepared his infamous benzoin cigarettes for the group, Mr. Onojiro held the three enraptured with his story of viewing plum blossoms by the light of a full moon and the joy and sadness that it had filled him with. Before he could finish his tale, Mr. Onojiro was summoned away by his exiting colleagues from the Embassy.
Mr. Komodo and Señora Bustello returned to the Euphorium in Brooklyn, where they both maintained apartments and set to prepare “hospitalities sublime” in expectation of an exceptional evening that lay ahead. Komodo felt a slight flush of jealousy when he detected a certain whistful look in Señora Bustello’s eye as they road in their carriage home.
Having set the scene in the Euphorium’s Grand Salon and made it lush and intimate with tapestries, fabrics, and cushions of all description, perfectly arranged candlelight illuminated the stage for Tateishi’s storytelling.
Musicians with gongs, bells, wooden blocks, rattles, a zither and a flute were placed behind a folding screen and instructed to create an aural conduct to the time place and emotion of where Mr. Onojiro would take them in his tale. Once settled in place, Mr. Komodo offered the musicians champagne infused with powerful hallucinogens and muscle relaxing herbs which rendered them near comatose.
Mr. Onojiro arrived late in the night to find Komodo, Bustello, and Whitman all in a most informal state of undress. Reclining on their sides, resting on silk pillows under a thick green grey haze, the only motion in the salon came from the snaking tendrils of smoke lifting so softly from the incense brazier.
Uncertain whether to enter the chamber or turn and flee, Tateishi caught Señora Bustello’s eye as her long lashes fluttered, just escaping the arms of Morpheus to awake and became utterly transfixed. Frozen by both her gaze and apparition, the young Mr. Onojiro felt himself float and be drawn into the room as if by some magnetic force as the Señora slowly rose, adjusting her robes to greet him.
Before Teishi could comprehend and respond to the Senora’s welcoming arms awaiting his embrace, Rudolph Komodo somehow snapped to a standing position in one quick gesture to proffer a welcoming hand to Teishi, have his other hand reach around Teishi’s back to remove his tailcoat, have him seated on a large cushion, and pass him a metal pipe of Chinese origin all before Teishi had a chance to speak.
As the three sat in a circle around the brassier in silence, Tateishi felt his tension and fear slowly evaporate in the wordless calm of his peculiar hosts. An ethereal music eased into his consciousness, so quiet and with such long periods of pause between tones, it was as though it had been composed for landscapes to comprehend and musicians in deep dream states to perform.
After instinctively knowing to draw from the pipe he had been offered, the rushing excitement of his soul flooding into his mind that was close to completely overwhelming him was punctuated or derailed by a violent gurgle and shudder from a form lying on a pillow to his left. “Good God Walt! Not again!” barked Komodo as a Professor Rosenkreuz entered the Salon.
Both Rosenkreuz and Komodo rushed to Whitman and rolled him over to reveal an ashen green pallor. lighter in tone than the grizzled grey hair and gnarled beard, matted in vomit that surrounded it. Rosenkreuz wanted to bring him to his lab for study and he and Komodo dragged him. immobile save from wobbling, like a tranquilized bear from the room.
Now standing next to each other, Bustello and Onojiro notice they have been holding each others hand. Shyly they drop their hands as a Mr. Chevureuil entered the salon with a silver platter of honeyed plums. Explaining that he had chanced upon Komodo, Rosenkreuz, and Whitman in the corridor en route to greet the esteemed Mr. Onojiro, he thought to bring plums to calm potentially restless stomachs. Etienne retreated behind the musician’s folding screen after passing the bowl of plums to Señora Bustello.
Tateishi refusing from politeness, the Señora pulled back the plums and sought to entice him by indulging in their delight herself. As the glistening honeyed plum reached her lips in the flicker of a candle’s light, a soft note on the cello began to seep into the room tense with longing and desire. Responding in kind, the musicians’ pace increased and rhythms were formed from behind a folding screen.
Tateishi closed his eyes for a moment to deeply inhale the bouquet that enveloped him and another to focus on the scent of the dripping sweet plum between the painted nails of Señora Bustello. After imagining her lips purse and open to taste the plum, Onojiro opens his eyes to see her delight in the plum exactly as his mind had imagined.
The Señora and Tateishi’s eye’s lock and they rise to the rhythm of a pavane. Turning to face one another, Bustello plucks a plum from the bowl in her hand and raises it in offering to Tateishi. Both knowing that this time Tateishi will not refuse, they savor their anticipation in slow promenade. Plum, rich and over ripe, with notes of milky sweet apricot, juicy stone fruit nectars, and blossom rich honey, entered him and he lost himself to the plum.
Mr. Komodo enters the room to place a tray with a small tea service and a miniature “bonsai” plum tree on the floor and invite the Señora and Mr. Onojiro to sit with him around the tree.”Now, Mr. Onojiro, if you please. Do tell us of your story of the plum blossom and the butterfly as we drink your beautiful tea”. With that, Tateishi began…