Pyxis, by Scents of Time (owned by fragrance history-hunter, David Pybus) is ‘the lost perfume of Pompeii’. I think it’s fair to say he is using his creative license calling it such, because really we can’t be completely sure. However, Pybus has tracked down the story of a perfumer, believed to be called Sperato, whose house, or at least ruins of, are preserved near the Norcera gate of Pompeii. Sperato made love potions based on Sappho’s poetry; his garden revealed burnt seeds and spores of particular herbs. Though I don’t know how Pybus knows this, Sperato spoke of using propolis. I used to work in Neal’s Yard and I associate the idea of propolis with the smell of benzoin, because I learnt about them on the same day, so tenuously, I at least am prepared to go along with the fact Pyxis should have a benzoin base, which it does. The benzoin, to my nose, is the ‘glue’, rather like propolis might be to an ointment. Propolis is a waxy, healing substance made by bees.
Anyway, Pyxis is very similar to a fragrance by another perfume house trying to recreate aromas in history: Eau Suave by Parfums d’Empire. It is easy to see why when looking at the notes. They share rose (the heart) and peach. Pyxis has lavender, basil and rosemary, where Eau Suave has coriander and saffron, but they both share a sandalwood base. Both are also classified by their houses: chypre.
I think I possibly prefer Pyxis to Eau Suave, though I like them both a great deal. Pyxis is sweeter (by a small amount), more ladylike and has rather a lot of sillage potential. I shall wait to see how other people react to it as I work my way through the vial, but at the moment I am enamoured enough to consider buying a bottle.