About six months ago I discovered a new brand based in Lebanon. Ideo Parfumeurs is a husband and wife operation of Ludmila and Antoine Bitar. M. Bitar is the creative director or as he refers to himself “the storyteller”. He weaves a descriptive paragraph from which Mme Bitar composes each new release. Another aspect they manage to achieve in every release so far is a mixture of cultural influences. Based in Beirut they are trying to capture the crossroads character of a major Middle Eastern city. For the latest release Tarbouch Afandi there are French and Middle Eastern influences throughout.
The story M. Bitar uses for Tarbouch Afandi goes like this, “Leon left the French club in Marrakesh. He loved these casual meetings amongst gentlemen. The bridge game had been tough, and the subtle smell of the cigars lingered on his summer shirt. The times were certainly dangerous, but Morocco in the 1930s was probably the safest. Next week he was leaving for Cairo. The scent of the honey-tobacco chichas would replace the cigars, and the locals would call him Afandi, a sign of respect. They feared him, but little did they know about his real plans. On his way back to Europe, he would pass by Beirut, and meet his mistress. He loved how she smelled a mix of cedar-wood and violet leaves. She was sensual and playful. She would place the local tarbouch on his head, smile, laugh and drink mandarin liquors all night long. Planning revolutions had its benefits.”
Antoine and Ludmila Bitar
The way Mme Bitar uses that is to create three distinct city-hopping phases as our erstwhile revolutionary stays on the move. Marrakesh, Beirut, and Cairo are all represented in much the same way they appear in M. Bitar’s story.
While the story begins in Marrakesh the perfume opens with the scent of Beirut as described. A syrupy mandarin leavened by the right amount of peppermint and pine. Both can have unfortunate household cleanser associations but here Mme Bitar employs them as lift to the mandarin. The perfume then moves to a rich tobacco as we end up in Cairo but with memories of the woman he left behind in Beirut. She is represented by violet, cedar, and the clove smell of her Kreteks. He finally gets home to Marrakesh where the tobacco is twisted much sweeter using benzoin. Patchouli and vetiver provide the Oriental foundation for the full story to rest upon.
Tarbouch Afandi has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
So far I have enjoyed everything M. and Mme Bitar have produced storyteller and perfumer have formed a fruitful artistic collaboration. Tarbouch Afandi is evidence it is still growing.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle provided by Ideo Parfumeurs.
There are times I am not ready to watch something when it is being shown on TV. That was the case about a year ago, when the FX cable channel began showing the miniseries “The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story”. The beauty of the current day is when I am finally ready it is there to be watched. Over this long Holiday break, I went through the entire series to find something that was much different than expected.
My reticence sprang from having lived through the trial itself. We were on vacation in North Carolina when OJ Simpson led a police chase in a White Bronco on the LA expressways. From that moment, it was nearly impossible to escape the coverage. I found everything about the case and the attending media circus irritating even while it was being shown everywhere. Throughout the trial everyone involved were turned into two-dimensional caricatures who almost all came off as some differing shade of con man or fool. I don’t think there was anyone covered in glory when the “Not Guilty” verdict was read that day in the courtroom. I know it felt to me like the justice system had somehow become sullied. This was why sitting through ten episodes of television depicting this seemed like it was going to be depressing.
Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran
What The People v. OJ Simpson managed to do was to add in the nuance of personality to what were punchlines. Throughout the series, the people involved in this case mange to come alive in a way which recaptured their honor. Nowhere is that more apparent in the portrayal of defense attorney Johnnie Cochran by Courtney B. Vance and of lead prosecutor Marcia Clark by Sarah Paulson. The series showed these were people who not only believed in the idea of justice but their part to play in the system. It shows the flaws in both characters but it also shows the humanity which shaped both. Both actors deservedly won Emmy Awards for their portrayals.
Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark
The best episode is the sixth, titled “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” which concerns Ms. Clark and all that was going on in her life outside of the courtroom. One of the reasons I started watching this at all was a perfume reason. Ms. Paulson tracked down a 1990’s vintage bottle of Lancome Magie Noire to wear every day she portrayed Ms. Clark. In this episode Ms. Paulson truly does inhabit the psyche of Ms. Clark and turns that caricature into something to be admired.
By the end of the series the verdict was the same as it was in real life. Yet somehow it felt less like a pyrrhic victory for Mr. Simpson and more like redemption for everyone else. If you stayed away because of the subject matter, like me, I recommend giving it a try I think it might allow you to see something you thought you knew very well quite differently.