Humans are a smart bunch. We consider ourselves superior to those in our family tree that still dwell in the trees. When we stepped down we left our animal instincts behind. Now, we’re creatures of logic, who make rational decisions based on rational thought. The Sherlock to our ancestors’ Watson, guided by our head, not our gut.
But in that head, the old circuits still remain. And our brains are lazy. Thinking is hard. It takes energy, effort, sweat. So whenever it gets a chance, the brain cuts corners. It steps around the busy, thinky, logical zones and heads straight to the primitive bits.
Like any slacker, your brain keeps this half-arseing to itself. So when you make a decision, even one cobbled together by primordial circuits, you assume it’s reached rationally. Here’s an example: imagine a man, flamboyant and outgoing, well-dressed and always the life of any party. Now, is it more likely he’s a fashion designer, or an accountant? Your brain can picture a dapper designer, so stops there and serves up that answer. But pause and think and you’ll realise there’s millions more accountants out there. So odds are, our wardrobe-savvy man is one of them. Lazy brain.
Another example – the cap on Ermenegildo Zegna’s new Essenze range. It’s black, polished. It glistens. Within the machine-tooled metal lie a pair of magnets, opposite poles, which means it greets the bottle hungrily, and thunks like a sports car’s door. It’s a luxurious experience just opening the bottle. So before you’ve even smelt what’s inside, those primitive, sensory areas have decided that yes, that big number on the price sticker seems fair. Even if it is just an eau de toilette.
Yet the juice confounds those expectations. Amber Gold is a Benjamin Button of a fragrance. It opens heavy, a dizzying waft of rose and amber that your granddad would just love. But time is kind. The heft dissipates and subtler, lighter notes emerge: sandalwood, vanilla, lavender.
What was all gold leaf and velvet opens into something breezier. Spice arrives and leaves and the other notes follow, one by one, bid goodbye at the door then head off into the night. Eventually, only amber remains. And your brain says yes, it’s time to pluck the cap off again. It’s the only logical thing to do.
Available in store at Harvey Nichols, priced £145 for 125ml of eau de toilette.
Bottle: Like an oil baron’s paperweight, all cut glass and oleaginous metal.
Head notes: rose, amber;
Heart notes: lavender, vanilla, ambranum;
Base notes: sandalwood, vetiver, benzoin Siam, patchouli.
Best for: Evoking a more luxurious life, if only briefly.