Jovoy, as I have mentioned in previous reviews, is a boutique in Paris filled to the rafters with hard core haute perfumerie. They also have their own line of fragrances and ‘La Liturgie des Heures’ is one of them. Now anyone who has read my review of ‘Gardez-Moi’ from Jovoy will know how in love I am with this fragrance. ‘La Liturgie des Heures’ is completely at the opposite end of the spectrum, yet also has quite a hold over me. It is certainly not love, but this perfume is so powerful in it’s delivery and so evocative that it demands to be written about.
Where ‘Gardez-Moi’ is a joyful splash in a bowl of summer fruit punch, ‘La Liturgie’ is a solemn sunday morning in the depths of winter. On the Jovoy website it is described as
“evoking the image of an old monastery where the scent of burning incense fills the air just like the chanting of daily prayers.”
It is very hard to conjure up another picture other than that which is described above. This perfume is so, so clear with it’s imagery that it acts as a transporter, whisking you straight into an old church on a cold day….
It is morning and the sky is already tired from holding up the clouds. They wrap around it like a yellow-grey muffler, blurring the light into tertiary colours. It is cold and dry right down into the stone, too cold even for frost to form. The skeleton leaves cling to branches as dark and brittle as a witches bones, whispering their last cries into the close of the year.
You do not want to leave your fireside, but it is a day of worship, so on with your Sunday best and up the lane to church. The iron bell in the steeple is tolling. A woollen scarf wrapped around your throat and as many layers as will fit under your coat, you know that the air inside the church will be even colder in it’s stillness. By the time the service is over your feet will be icy and your nose dripping. Still, you know you cannot miss it….
The path up through the graveyard is overhung by a huge old Yew tree. Hollow inside, it spills it’s mulchy heart out onto the dry grass. The leaves, like smooth, flat pine needles, are so dark green they almost seem black. Tiny red berries grow in clusters all over this ancient protector, guarding the church from evil spirits. The gravestones are grey and cold as only dead stone can be. Covered in yellow splotches of lichen, so old that the names of the people beneath have long since been erased by time. Up to the doors you trudge, wreathed in frozen breath and the weariness of winter.
The dim interior of the church you have known your whole life. The floor is paved with chill tiles, red and black and cracked with age. The dark wood pews kneel permanently towards the alter, above which the stained glass glimmers darkly.
You take your seat and your eyes immediately find the piece of wall with it’s bubbled plaster that you have stared at every Sunday for so many years. The service begins and the scent of incense rolls out in thick clouds across the pews, this holy somnambulist who would carry you on a prayer into sleep if it weren’t so cold. As you run your thumb across the pages of your prayer book, the musty paper smell reminds you how many others have been here before you, and how many will come after you have been committed to the hard earth outside…..
An hour later you emerge blinking into the weak winter light, frozen and befuddled. Down the lane on frozen feet you hobble, towards your warm hearth fire and a cup of tea. Unwinding your scarf in the hallway, you catch a drift of incense that followed you home, infusing the fabric with it’s solemn humility. The sombre hum of resin that resonates in the chill … From the dust we have arisen and to dust we shall return….
For me ‘La Liturgie des Heures’ is about as reminiscent of church as it is possible for it to be. As a child I was struck with a very stark sense of my own mortality whenever I went to church, so frankinscence and myrrh still provoke those feelings in me now.
‘La Liturgie’ opens with a very sharp, almost alcoholic cypress note which is almost immediately resinous and sappy. I have read a lot of reviews that call this aspect of the fragrance very pine fresh, like furniture polish. I certainly detect the coniferous hints but for me the resin is deeper, mixed with damp soil and leaf mulch.
Of course the incense is prevalent throughout, and very true in it’s representation. It smells of cold smoke and black, glowing embers inside a brass censer. Once the myrrh is present the perfume doesn’t shift it’s shape, it stays as a steady, sombre distillation of church itself, right down to the dust on the floor underneath the pews and the dry paper smell of the prayer books. It is rather uncanny actually.
I don’t believe that a deconstruction of ‘La Liturgie des Heures’ will actually lead to a better understanding of the perfume. This it has in common with ‘Gardez-Moi’. Both fragrances are more than a sum of their parts and also present themselves as more of a whole than a progressive scent. Everything is experienced all at once and all recedes slowly together. A pleasant aspect of ‘La Liturgie’ is that it warms as it fades, taking the chill out of your bones.
As I have repeated over and over in this review, the experience created by ‘La Liturgie des Heures’ is so uncannily fitting of it’s description that I believe it is owed huge credit more as a piece of olfactory art, rather than a nice perfume for people to wear. I certainly won’t be wearing this in the conventional sense. I will wear it rather like one would wear headphones to listen to an audiobook. It is so transporting and real that it needs to be experienced rather than overlooked because of it’s strangeness.
It is true that there are probably only a few who will want to actually wear this perfume on their skin on a daily basis, but for those with a love of resinous, atmospheric, incense infused fragrance, ‘La Liturgie des Heures’ is an absolute must.