Nothing good comes from summertime in New York City. Everything outside is too hot, and everything inside is too cold. The underboob sweat struggle is real. The subway stations become circles of Hell where you play fun games like “What Is *That* Smell?” and “I Hope It’s Just Vomit!” Every subway car is packed except for the one that you’ll get onto because you’re sure everybody else must be a sucker, but then it turns out that’s the car with no air conditioning and oops the doors just closed. Like I said, nothing good comes from summertime in New York City. Thank goodness for Zoologist Perfume’s Dragonfly, then, because I’m convinced it will prove to be a small respite from another miserable summer.
Dragonfly is a 2017 release from Zoologist Perfumes, a clever niche perfumery in the habit of making delightfully complex fragrances inspired by and named after various animals. I’m not one to get excited about stillwater and bugs, particularly in the summertime, but I am fond of Zoologist’s work, and Dragonfly really does it for me. There’s still some powdery heliotrope and iris at the heart, but they’re background ambiance to the notes of rainwater, rice, and papyrus, which do a fantastic job of stripping away any excess floral color till there’s nothing left but a pale sheen. It’s brisk and refreshing, and as conceived of by perfumer Juan M. Perez, Dragonfly’s something of a 21st century Apres L’Ondee, a sheerer, silvery take on watery heliotrope and iris, like a reflection in a perfectly still pool. No wonder Zoologist calls it “an impressionistic pond“.
I’m particularly obsessed with a chilly, bitter note that weaves in and out of the opening and heart of the fragrance that I suspect is Helional, a note of which I’ve become particularly obsessed with since I’ve been reading Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’s Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. Helional is an aldehyde that Turin describes as smelling “like a sucked silver spoon”, and all the fragrances in that seem to best and most intriguingly use that note (Estee Lauder’s Dazzling Silver and Lalique Flora Bella, for example) have all disappeared into the ether of gone-too-soon scents. There’s a chilly, metallic quality that gives Dragonfly a mirrorlike quality, so while I can’t say for certain it is Helional at work, I’m definitely delighted to experience the metallic/floral contrast in action.
And really, it’s small pleasures like this that make New York City summers (almost) tolerable, because heaven knows once those subway doors close, you’d better believe you’re gonna sit in the tunnels for a good twenty minutes because of train traffic ahead, so you might as well smell good while you sweat and wait.