Fragrant Fictions #2 - Bascule
The second in our irregular series that pairs the house’s fragrances with good reads.
There’s nothing like a bit of shameless escapism when it comes to summer holiday reading and few would see Jilly Cooper’s ‘Riders’ as overly serious or too demanding. Set as it is in the cutthroat world of competitive showjumping, it’s hard to imagine another book that pairs so seamlessly with our Bascule eau de parfum.
Bascule was, after all, originally inspired by a showjumper and not just any showjumper. Charlotte Casiraghi is the granddaughter of Princess Grace of Monaco aka Hollywood movie actress Grace Kelly. Sarah was intrigued by her. Charlotte was a woman who appeared to effortlessly find success in everything she touched, a veritable Renaissance woman who was variously—sometimes simultaneously—a successful model, active in contemporary philosophy and, of course, a renowned equestrian who competed on the international showjumping circuit.
Sarah started working with nose Ashely Eden Kessler and, over a very long time, Bascule began to take shape.
A Stable Relationship
The equestrian is at the heart of this fragrance: the sound of a curry comb cleaning a shiny coat and the perspiration of mucking out. And, the smells of stables; hay, metal tack, grass and, of course, leather.
In Bascule, the leather is complex. There is definitely the whiff of a saddle warmed by the body heat of both horse and rider. But, Ashely took a particularly luxurious approach to the leather accord, modelling it partly on the leather interior of a classic Bentley. A clever combination of ingredients builds both its well rounded depth and ethereal freshness at either end of the spectrum: bergamot, lily of the valley, vetiver, amber, musk, fir and tobacco. And then, that final coup de grâce, lusciously uncomplicated peach. It clinches the deal with its image of a horse that has just performed superbly being rewarded with delicious, juicy fruit in the shade of a tree, fresh grass wafting up from underfoot.
Jilly Cooper’s 'Riders’ takes us straight into this world, albeit with a lot more saucy revelations and ribald debauchery than Bascule’s original inspirational showjumper.
When it was published in 1985, ‘Riders’ struck a chord with the spirit of the times. The 1980s was famously a decade of excess and conspicuous consumption and everyone wanted to share in the luxury, sipping champagne without a special occasion, joining a swanky yacht club or flying off to an exclusive beach resort in the Maldives.
International audiences voraciously consumed any media featuring wealth and glamour, from glitzy soap operas like ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Dallas’ to a plethora of magazines offering paparazzi stories on film stars and the fabulously rich. In the case of Britain, audiences lapped up anything to do with posh people, the traditional upper class, whether fey Merchant Ivory films offering a glamourised past or tabloid coverage of scandals involving the British Royals. Jilly Cooper’s racy tale of showjumpers with double-barrelled surnames competing and consorting all over the Cotswolds was right on target.
Best in Class
Set in the mythical county of Rutshire (an obviously tongue-in-cheek name), it’s your classic tale of rivalry, avoiding the horror of four faults whether in the arena or in the boudoir.
The male protagonists are a posh bloke to the manor born and the darkly smouldering bad boy born on the wrong side of the tracks to Gypsies. They take their playground rivalry into the privileged world of showjumping, aided and abetted—and just as often thwarted— by their respective wives and lovers who are every bit as hell bent on winning. In Cooper's over-the-top romp, the rider most skilled in the saddle can be the only winner.
“One I’ve been wearing a lot is Sarah Baker Basule. This is basically if Jilly Copper’s ‘Riders’ books were made into a fragrance… It is sexy! It is naughty. It is a romp of a fragrance. It’s got peach juice that sizzles on hot leather. It’s go tobacco. It’s got smouldering hay. It’s got a really surprising soapy note of lily of the valley and it’s got cut grass. It's like someone who has ridden all night to get to you on a horse and they’re a bit sweaty and they smell a little bit of the horse and the saddle and then you demand that they have a bath before the ravage you. But then you think, “Actually, maybe I don’t need you to have a bath.” But then you both have a bath afterwards.” Suzy Nightingale- On the Scent Podcast
Readers from all walks of life devoured Jilly's prose, swooning at the idea of being seduced by entitled cads or identifying with strong women who were better riders than the men could ever be. Cooper also tapped into Freudian myths about the special relationships between gymkhana girls and their burgeoning sexuality understood through taking control of a trusty mount.
We’re donning our jodhpurs and raising a glass of summer champers to Jilly and her deeply naughty read. In this tale of summer, all those equestrian notes mingle with green and sun-drenched scents.
There is also something additionally fitting that the story’s denouement plays out at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics: Ashley Eden Kessler, Bascule’s nose, is of course a Los Angelina.