Some women are scared of scents that are too green, or whose predominant notes include violet leaves, herbs, cut grass notes, or galbanum, a bitter aromatic gum resin that famously greened up Chanel No. 19, Bandit, and Vent Vert.
To those folks I say, I'm sorry. Silences is not going to change your mind. First off, Silences by Jacomo is green to the extreme, so green that in my oft-mentioned Haarman & Reimer fragrance "Duftatlas" fragrance family chart, it's clinging to the side of the green end of the floral spectrum like a weird sea creature suctioned to the side of an aquarium.
With a bitter, herbaceous almost chalky galbanum beginning, Silences starts off with a tiny drop of sweetness from orange blossom, but then throws lemon and bergamot into the mix just so that you know it's not kidding around about this "green" business. (Galbanum resin is obtained from the Persian ferrula gummosa plant you see to your right.)
A soft, almost powdery whisper of orris bridges the green with the delicate and clean florals rose, lily of the valley, and jasmine. By the time it dries down, this austere beauty is delicately soapy, spicy and soft all at once.
Top notes: Galbanum, bergamot, green notes, orange blossom, lemon
Heart notes: orris, jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, hyacinth
Base notes: Moss, sandalwood, cedar, musk (Perfumers: Gerard Coupy and Jean-Claude Niel)
Correction: Yves Tanguy and Jean Claude Niel
In Vent Vert, galbanum signaled the Rites of Spring, the rawness and near-savagery of things coming to life. In Chanel No. 19, as in Silences, galbanum suggests contemplation, stillness, and — well, silence.
More so than Chanel No. 19, though, and I'm not sure how the perfumers achieved this, Silences feels as one Basenotes reader put it, "melancholic," and another, "pensive." To those descriptors, I would add, "spooky."
I That's right, Silences is a beautiful and yet spooky perfume. From its opaque, black, urn-like bottle to its name, which is a little deathly, Silences is something of a surreal perfume. It''s connected to life, with green notes and florals that signify renewal, yet it's oddly disconnected from the familiar, a little uncanny. (It reminds me of a Rene Magritte painting: so realistic as to be unfamiliar, i.e. surreal. In this painting, "The Voice of Space," abstract spheres hover above a realistic field, rendering it strange.)
I don't know if there's an outer limits of green outside of which, if you travel, you reach the Twilight Zone, but if there is, Silences is there, waving its green flag.
When I began thinking about Silences a few hours ago, wearing it, sniffing it, reapplying it, etc., I was going to begin this post by saying that green fragrances are like the short haircuts of the perfume world, appreciated by the few who know you don't have to be conventionally "feminine" to be sexy. Sometimes cerebral, slightly intimidating fragrances can be just as sexy, I would have continued, providing the icily gorgeous Catherine Deneuve in "Belle de Jour" as an example.
But the longer I wore Silences and took in the mood it conjured, I realized this wasn't just a green perfume of the fresh, wild and raw Vent Vert variety. This is a perfume so bitter, bracing and sour that it lives up to the review Tania Sanchez (I think unfairly) gave to Chanel No. 19 in Perfumes: The Guide. And mind you — the following is an endorsement for Silences, a perfume I will definitely be wearing this spring/summer: "This extraordinary perfume appeals to anyone who has ever wished to know what it is to be heartless."