by Euphorium Brooklyn
EAU DE PARFUM
Family: Oriental woody
Perfumer: Stephen Dirkes
Notes: Javanese lime, ginger, clove, vanilla bean, palm sugar, benzoin, vetiver, cypriol, oud, ambergris
A woody perfume of Southeast Asian roots (literally), Usar is the scent of a hot day on the island of Java. The fragrance prominently features earthy vetiver under the blazing hot sun, splashed with the juice of a tangy Oriental citrus to perfectly harmonize with the sweetness of palm sugar syrup, while wafts of clove cigarettes drift past the nostrils. This fragrance might make a vetiver lover out of you.
About the Perfumer, Rudolph Komodo
1860’s co-founder of Euphorium Bile Works, Rudolph Komodo was perhaps the catalyst for the establishment of the Euphorium and in large part, its success. Salesman, charlatan and natural scientist, Rudolph Komodo was ever the graceful and ingratiating host of the Euphorium. Rudolph enticed, woo’d, seduced and charmed every guest they entertained and ensured that all inductees would encounter a bounty of most pleasant and discrete offerings. “For a price, always for a price…”
Infamously cheap and miserly, with a keen eye on the bottom line at all times, “For a price” was one of Mr. Komodo’s well-worn expressions. While Dr. Christian Rosenkruez felt this stemmed from the hardships of Rudolph’s working class background, co-founder, Etienne Chevreuil saw a meanness in Mr. Komodo’s nature and his ability to revel in the misfortunes of victims of his greed. Ironically, it was Rosenkreuz’ compassion and empathy that Komodo took as pity and nursed a smoldering dislike. In the case of Chevreuil, his distain for Komodo engendered some small measure of respect.
Raised in Indonesia by his mother and grandmother, Rudolph was surrounded by natural beauty throughout his childhood and demonstrated a keen interest in the natural sciences. Hearing stories of “Ora” (The name for the Komodo Dragon in the original Komodo language) as a child from his grandmother, Ibu Bakar (reported Ata Modo tribe descendent with familial ties to the Bugis people and the Sultanate of Bima), Rudolph developed a life long interest in and study of the Komodo Dragon. Mr. Komodo held with the traditional Ata Modo people’s belief that the Komodo Dragon is the exiled brother of man from creation myth. Descendants of the Ata Modo people believe they will always be connected to the dragons. By studying the Dragon, Rudolph felt he was ultimately learning about himself. Rudolph was born with a skin condition which caused scale-like disfigurement to his neck and left hand, further connecting himself to Ata Modo beliefs. Rudolph’s father abandoned him and his mother shortly after Rudolph was born, which Rudolph always blamed on his disfigurement. Because he felt responsible for driving his father away, he began life a tortured soul, longing for unattainable memories.
The Komodo Dragon detects odor by sampling the air with its long, yellow forked tongue. The two tongue tips retreat to the roof of the mouth, where they make contact with the Jacobson’s organ. The Jacobson’s organ (named in 1811 for its discoverer and Rudolph Komodo’s father, Danish anatomist Ludwig Haribo-Jacobson) is an organ of chemoreception and part of the olfactory system. It detects heavy moisture-borne odor particles. Lighter airborne odors are detected by another set of olfactory sensory cells located in the main nasal chambers. Mr. Komodo developed theories that odors oscillated at different frequencies much like sound waves. He felt the Komodo Dragon possessed two olfactory systems to receive two widely different sets of scent frequencies. Rudolph thought that notes in a fragrance could be tuned to a specific harmony to induce an euphoric reaction. This idea became the basis for the now renown, “Komodo Process” of harmonizing fragrances. Rudolph attempted to train himself to detect the lower “Dragon Frequency” scents (as received by the Jacobson’s organ) with little success beyond briefly securing an income from private sessions of olfactive training with a select group of wealthy patrons. Rudolph was unable to arrive at any conclusive findings, publish his research or receive professional acknowledgement for his work. (see “The Incident at Usti nad Labem” or “The Moravian Suppression of 1843″)
In addition to scent reception, the Jacobson’s organ is important for communicating a variety of chemical messages, such as readiness for sexual activity and the detection of aggression. Rudolph found his own way to continue his father’s research and began to create olfactive aphrodisiacs. As a young man, Komodo began peddling an array of tonics and elixirs composed mainly of alcohol, opiates and hallucinogens, as near-magical “Minyak Hadangan” (traditional Indonesian Dyak/ Islamic Occultist, aphrodisiac/spell-casting oils). He crisscrossed the giant archipelago from village to village, market to market, bar to bar and brothel to brothel many times over. More importantly, Komodo was establishing an extensive network of psychoactive botanical, opiate and fragrance material suppliers that would go on to supply much of Euphorium Bile Works’ production for decades to come. It was Mr. Komodo’s sharp business acumen (a master manipulator of graft, corruption and underground financial systems), developed during these years, quite literally as a snake oil salesman, that gave Rudolph the ability to commodify and profit from the on goings at the Euphorium.
In his observation of Komodo Dragons, Rudolph noticed something in the nature of that creature that affected him profoundly. He identified the Komodo Dragon’s capacity for self-loathing. This primitive, brutal, ancient killer could not suffer the stench of its own bilious saliva and would attempt to mask its own smell, scenting itself by eating fragrant grasses. Rudolph imagined the myriad of bacteria, pathogens and neuro toxins found in the mouth of the Dragon might have inspired the usar (vetiver), cypriol and palmarosa grasses to grow even more fragrant on the Island of Komodo. After observing a gaharu tree (agarwood/ oud) with the characteristic scars of a Komodo Dragon bite to the trunk and its fragrant, darkened heartwood exposed, Rudolph began years of research on pathogens as catalysts for fragrant transmogrification.
Based on his knowledge of Bugis “Tolotang” shamanism partly learned from his grandmother’s stories of the “La Galigo” (traditional Bugis creation myths and stories), partly cobbled together from various tribal shamans across Indonesia and partly imagined, Rudolph was retained by the Sultan of Komodo as his personal “minyak” purveyor and shaman/ spiritual guide. Through his association to the Sultan, Rudolph was able to travel abroad for a grand tour of Europe and was quick to make great use of the opportunity the Sultan’s official connections provided.
PERFUMER’S INSPIRATION (Extended)
In 1859 Rudolph Komodo led an expedition to the Island of Komodo to bring the first Komodo Dragons to the western world (Predating the 1925 Burden expedition by some 66 years). Rudolph brought three specimens to Greenpoint, Brooklyn to establish a colony for research. With several unsuccessful breeding attempts, Rudolph began creating USAR as a reptilian love potion of sorts to increase the Dragon’s amorous activities by offering them an accord composed of notes from their island home. Very soon, USAR became more a means of sentimental reminiscence for the homesick perfumer to return the fragrant islands of his youth.
Rudolph Komodo writes of usar (Sundanese Vetiver), Dawn creeps just above the volcanic hills of Dago Atas, north of Bandung, West Java. In the bamboo forest where the ghosts live, the cool of the night air lingers and a light dew clings to petals, grasses and spiderwebs for but a few fragile moments. An old woman with bundles of thin, gnarled, yellow roots piled high on her back, makes her way along the dirt path that passes in front of my home. Nearly doubled over from the weight of her load, she manages a plaintive, yet resonant cry of “Lara Setu! Usar!” announcing her wares of fragrant vetiver roots to all she may pass on her way to the little red brick distillery (burned mostly black now) just outside of town…
With daybreak the world begins with the unstoppable force of nature, brilliant with the glow of the struggle, strife and triumph of life. Midday refuge from the Javanese sun is best taken internally in the form of the Jeruk Nipis. This delightful and invigorating little lime of sorts, makes the most refreshing beverage when sweetened with palm sugar and chilled. The delicate lime is echoed by palmarosa as its sparkles with both floral and citrus notes in air fragrant with rich plumes from spiced “Kreteks” (clove cigarettes) and the sweet balsam of “Rokok Klembak Metryan” (benzoin cigarettes).
Like the Komodo Dragon burrowing through the thick usar (vetiver) grass to make a lair in the cool earth and fragrant roots after a day lived in the blazing bustle of humanity, now to take to the quiet hills for an evening’s repose. The sun sets and cool breezes fall from the mountain forest to the valley below. Drink in the comfort of warm, sweet bandrek (Sundanese spiced ginger, palm sugar and young coconut tea) before a traditional Sundanese bamboo flute and harp recital on the carved fretwork and filigree of a gilded veranda. I am transported for hours into the late evening by interwoven rhythms, undulations and gentle melodies. I dream of the scented layers of the gaharu (agarwood, oud) on Komodo Island, the ancient cendana (sandalwood) from Timor and sweet benzoin from Sumatra. Something darker and more ancient is revealed to me in the cool night air. It is only upon awaking to see a bound clutch of vetiver roots on the ground, I realize I had not let it slip my grasp from when it was handed to me by the old woman on the dirt road in front of my house at the break of dawn. –“Ibu Usar” from “Notes on Bandung and West Java” (1855)