The hottest I’ve been on Earth was in Tucson, Arizona, one July, long ago. My partner and I were driving from Virginia to Los Angeles, and one day, near the end of our journey, we stopped for gasoline and lunch in Tucson. Nearing the city, the car’s air conditioning was overwhelmed; the inside of the car became stuffy, warm like an…oven. Perspiration dripped from my nose. When we stepped outside the car, we were stupefied and in the dry heat all sweat evaporated. The air was as still as the inside of a tomb (and speaking of tombs, Tombstone, Arizona, was just an hour’s drive south). Heat, visible waves of it, attacked us from all directions: below, above, sideways. We were in Hell’s reception room: 113 degrees Fahrenheit. All we needed to complete the scene was the sound of a rattlesnake’s tail in full swing.
That said, the landscape and architecture around Tucson was breathtaking and the air smelled of dust, “hay,” wood smoke — and BBQ’ed meats.
I love all Astier de Villatte scented products, and a friend gave me their Japanese-made Tucson incense last Christmas. Astier de Villatte describes the incense’s aroma as a mix of wild grasses, parched wood, immortelle flowers and red earth. I’d describe Tucson as a classic campfire/fireplace scent, but in this fire you’re burning some pricey woods (fine cedar and sandalwood). As Tucson burns I also detect an aroma that reminds me of sweat (vetiver?)
Tucson incense sticks are smoky, so I usually burn the incense on my deck and let the breeze bring the aroma indoors. Tucson produces a powerful perfume (even unlit, a stick — or its ashes — can scent a room); Tucson’s after-burn leaves the house smelling like fancy, wood-scented talcum powder.
Astier de Villatte Tuscon incense comes in boxes of 125 sticks (30-minute burn per stick); $50.
Arquiste advertises its Nocturnal Green candle as:
December 1978. Midnight in the garden, Armando’s Le Club, Acapulco, México. The nocturnal scent of the garden, the pool surrounded by a lush mirage of palm fronds, grass and tropical flowers, a blue and green carpet stretching onto the starlit bay. Your senses get lost in it, feeling the cool wet grass underfoot turning into a warm sand as the garden merges with the beach, your head still spinning from the hot night. Breath it all in… you’re in paradise.”
I’ve never been to Acapulco, pre- or post-1978, but I enjoy tropical aromas and green notes in perfumery. Right now, I’m a galbanum fiend. Arquiste lists Nocturnal Green’s fragrance notes as petrichor, cannon ball tree flower (Couroupita guianensis), carrot seed, sea salt, seaweed, fresh-cut grass, jungle soil, oakmoss, vetiver. I love the wet-clay scent of petrichor but what intrigued me was the listed “cannon ball flower” (which is now on my must-see, must-sniff plant list).
Nocturnal Green is full of, you guessed it, green notes (and I do believe galbanum is one of them). As the candle burns I get a jungle/greenhouse vibe, with scents of aromatic leaves, damp, earthy roots, moss and a zingy floral note (reminding me of heavily scented snake plant flowers). Nocturnal Green conjures warm, humid weather and an abundance of plant life. The candle has great throw and the wax burns cleanly and evenly. Nocturnal Green would make a great perfume, and it reminds me of (discontinued) Issey Miyake “a scent.”
Arquiste Nocturnal Green candle ($80) was developed by Nicole Mancini and Rodrigo Flores-Roux); 251g with a burning time of 55-60 hours.
Note: top skull images by author; cannon ball flower image via Pierre-Joseph Buc’hoz, Herbier Artificiel 1783.