Andy Tauer’s Rêverie au Jardin gets very mixed reviews. Some people love it. Some get an unpleasant synthetic note from it. Others find it hard to identify the lavender that is RaJ’s main claim to attention. Still others just find the fragrance too thin.
I thought that too at first, sampling it initially alongside Tauer’s much stronger and more assertive fragrances. ‘Meh?’ I thought.
Then I noticed that Dee likes RaJ very much, so I went back to it. I’d bought a second Tauer set by then, and having ten samples gave me a chance to really explore the line. I knew by then that these fragrances are not going to reveal themselves instantly.
It’s not like spritzing your way merrily around the fragrance floor at your nearest department store. As with the work of many artisan perfumers, you have to give Andy Tauer time.
So I let myself be still with RaJ and finally, like some disturbance in the bushes on a calm day, I realised that something was stirring. Was it just the breeze, perhaps, or a bird pattering somewhere, looking for its mate? No, it was more than that. In my head I could hear some lines of poetry by T.S. Eliot, writing about the garden at an English country house, called Burnt Norton, which he used to visit in the 1930s. ‘Burnt Norton’ became the first poem in a cycle known later as The Four Quartets.
‘Burnt Norton’ explores the nature of time, of the past and the present, movement, life and death. ‘Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future … ‘ are the famous opening lines. The act of imagining the choices we do not make in life, the things ‘that might have been’, is evoked by the idea of walking down a passage, though a door, and into a rose garden.
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate … ‘
This is the garden Tauer has created for me. It is tranquil. The sun is warm and the atmosphere is dry, too dry for me to smell any fragrant note distinctly for very long, although for me the lavender is there.*
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to the
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery … ‘
RaJ is assuredly a garden fragrance but there are no wet leaves, crushed stems or damp earth. In some ways it is more like the dry gardens and bushland I know in Australia, and maybe because of that olfactory background of my own, I am more attracted to Tauer’s sharp, dry fragrances than his juicier florals, like Zeta or Carillon pour un Ange.
So we moved …
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry the concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight … ‘
Rêverie au Jardin is elusive. On my skin it is gentle and lasts only four or five hours. On clothes and it lingers for days, and catches me by surprise as I put on a jumper or jacket. Is it summer after all? I glance around. Surely someone has left the window open on to a sunny garden?
Rêverie au Jardin does not submit to analysis willingly. Likewise, T.S. Eliot’s work is challenging – or maybe not. The key is not to try an ‘understand’ Eliot’s poems at the start. You just read them and enjoy the bits you like – the rhythms or the images that speak to you – and let the rest shimmer at the back of your mind. Give yourself time, meander, and, as in a garden, allow your attention to wander.
Anyway, later I won a draw on Andy Tauer’s website (hurrah! many thanks Andy). I now have samples all thirteen fragrances currently on the market (three more will be added soon). I included a second sample of RaJ so that I can really live with it and apply it generously, which I think it needs.(The other duplicate I chose was Une Rose Chyprée.)
Why do I like RaJ? I like its dreamy airiness. I like its elusiveness and restraint. I like the green lavender, sweetened a little. Other than that, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.
If I buy a full bottle of RaJ I doubt will ever really ‘own’ the fragrance. A work of art is not something you ever really own. It remains ‘a perpetual possibility’, as Eliot might put it. I like that.
*For info, the notes are: lavender, galbanum, fir balm, bergamot, musky frankincense, orris root, rose, sandalwood, cedar, vanilla and ambergris.