Dear Primrose (in the Steampunk Universe)

Virginia Sandalwood, Santalum virginiana, overlaid by the primary fragrant molecules.  Hermèssence Santal Massoïa smells remarkably similar to this denizen of steampunk North America.

Virginia Sandalwood, Santalum virginiana, overlaid with structures of the primary fragrant molecules

Dear Primrose,

Please forgive the tardy nature of this correspondence.  It approaches Christmas in the Electrical Universe, and I am therefore quite busy.  Compounding the busy season, there is a curious tradition here, in which all presents for Christmas must be bought the day after Thanksgiving.  Thus, in order to experience the full Christmas spirit, I performed all of my Christmas shopping this weekend.  Surely a bit of madness, but nevertheless things reached an odd state of grace.  However, that is another story.

I do have something very interesting to report.  While visiting one of my favorite stores, I was introduced to a newer fragrance from Hermès, named Santal Massoïa.  This is a part of their more exclusive Hermèssence collection.  Smelling this fragrance for the first time, I was astounded to discover that it smells almost exactly like American sandalwood.  You will recall that – unlike our universe – sandalwood is not doing so well here.  Not only is it poorly distributed across the globe – what little there is has been badly managed – so much so, that there is almost none left in the wild.  Worse still, sandalwood species never even existed in Europe and the Americas.

You will also likely recall that the American and Spanish varieties of sandalwood have a much different creaminess from Indian species, due to the presence of various long-chain lactones.  Interestingly, in this universe, such lactones are not found in sandalwoods, but in several completely different species.  One of those is Cryptocaria massoia, known as massoïawood, and it is that name which gives rise to the name of the Hermès fragrance.

The Hermès fragrance is both simple and complex, exactly like the wood that it unknowingly mimics.  The fragrance persists, almost unchanging in its woody warmth, for hours and hours.  I have a sample on paper, which seems not to have changed, or even diminished, in over 24 hours.  What little change I note – the barest suggestion that the scent is somehow brighter or fresher – cannot be positively ascribed to either the fragrance or my faltering sense of smell.  Overall, the fragrance is that of Indian sandalwood, but creamier in a coconut sort of way, until it is something entirely different.

When I smell this perfume, I am reminded of my youth.  I remember Appalachian sandalwood carvings, jewelry boxes, and the like.  Though I loved the similar woodworks in cedar, the sandalwood pieces always made me dream of faraway places, and the hope that one day I would become a sailor or an airshipman.  Little did I realize that I would travel even further than that!

I will endeavor to bring back some of this fragrance – not only because it is now one of my favorites, but because I think it may have scientific value.  The perfumer for Hermès, Jean-Claude Ellena, may have subconsciously created a missing part of this universe, according to recent gap theories.  If so, the behavior of the gap could be instrumental in determining the convergence or divergence of our universes.

I do hope that you have been well.  How is the Count?  I look forward to showing him the results of our expedition.  No doubt he will already know every one of our findings before we even return, through his mysterious and important connections, but still, it is great fun to see his enthusiasm for our meager explorations, as if he were seeing them for the first time.

Oh – by the way – I discovered something on the electrical steam-ether that is used here.  I thought you might enjoy it.  I will include it at the end of the message.  The gears don’t actually do anything, but it is rather charming that the people here anticipate some of our technology in their fantasy worlds.

Take care and best wishes.  If you don’t hear from me again, Merry Christmas.  I suppose if I should be unable to return, I would rather that was the last thing I should say to you.



Electrical steam-ether location:

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