But not only did I find it Just Nice, I couldn't even smell the orange. I smelled a gingeriness that reminded me of Bois 1920 Sushi Imperiale, and anything that reminds me of Sushi Imperiale is a bonus, but it wasn't enough. Slightly spicy, slightly prickly, slightly sweet, slightly bitter. And? So? Sushi Imperiale is friendlier, Pacifica Tuscan Blood Orange is orangier, what's the big deal?
Then I smelled Bois de Copaiba. I didn't like it, but I could definitely smell the bitter orange note. It was nailed in my mental olfactory dictionary.
Then I learned to love Lorenzo Villoresi Musk and Parfumerie Generale Iris Oriental. I don't know why I link these into the chain, but I do. I think it's the increased liking for prickly, bitter, un-soft notes.
And there was all that recent experience with Those Roses, with those bitter citron-like notes that I couldn't tolerate with roses, but unbeknownst to me I think that I was developing an increased tolerance for that particular type of bitterness.
And all the while I was staring at Theorema, discontinued but still available from discounters, putting it in my online shopping cart, taking it out, putting it in, like Eeyore. I didn't like it much, but I didn't want to lose the chance to own it if it's an acquired taste that I might, too late, acquire.
So today I sprayed on my sample, and suddenly, with much excitement, I got it. I could detect the orange note, like that in Bois de Copaiba but much quieter. Bitterness like Those Roses, but without the roses. (Actually, the notes list does list Eglantine rose, but I don't smell it, so that's OK.) Something incense like, but quieter than the perfumes that are focused on those notes. Gingery, like Sushi Imperiale, but, again, quieter. Quiet spices, making me think of nutmeg and just a tiny bit of cinnamon, but less gingerbready and cheerful than Tea for Two. Restraint all around.
I suspect that all of this restraint is part of what took me so long to assemble this one in my mind. Theorema reminds me of Ivoire in this way - not in the way that it smells, at all, but in its composition. They both assemble a complexity of notes, presenting each note with subtlety but also without rushing to rescue you from bitter or sour or melancholy aspects of the note. And they both make me feel as if the perfumer (in this case, Christine Nagel) knew exactly where she was going at every stage of the fragrance's development, without a single missed step.
I'm liking it all the way through, from the beginning with stronger orange and a gingery buzz, now down to quieter wood, traces of spices, something faintly salty, and the barest trace of orange. It's lovely. I'm getting a bottle.
(Minor update: It wasn't done when I thought it was done. A few hours later, the orange has surfaced again. Yum.)
Edited to add I Smell Therefore I Am.
Image: 'Still Life With Oranges, Jars, and Boxes of Sweets', by Luis Melendez. Wikimedia Commons.