Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille

My grandfather Asher painted this in the last year of his life, a few months before I was born. I am named after him, in accordance with the Ashkenazic tradition of giving child a name that starts with the same first letter as a dead relative. I have bits and pieces of the grandfather that I never knew. I know that he was born in (what was at the time) Ukraine. I know that he was the only member of his very large family to survive the Holocaust. His skill for mending shoes allowed him to remain in a labor camp when the rest of his family was sent to Bergen-Belsen. I know that he led an escape from this labor camp to Russia, where he served in the army and forged passports to help other Jews escape. After the war was over he came to Brooklyn, where he married my grandmother and worked as a taxi driver. I know that he was a hero. I know that he had blonde hair and hazel eyes. I have heard his voice once, on a recorded interview that he made for the Holocaust museum. My family tells me that he was funny. Sometimes they tell me that I am like him. God, I wish that I had more than this to share with you.

One last detail that I have about my grandfather is that he smoked when he first arrived in America. Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille is one of my greatest treasures because it is one of the few things that helps me to feel as if I knew my grandfather. I put on the warm, rich tobacco scent and imagine that this is what he smelled like when he came home at night. Unlike the darker By Kilian Back to Black, Tobacco Vanille is a perfume meant to comfort. It is sweet, lightly spiced, and achingly wonderful. I wear Tobacco Vanille and feel fierce pride and love for my grandfather, my namesake. A man who survived and helped others to survive. A man who witnessed the revolting worst of humanity and was still able to paint something so beautiful.

This post was inspired by this touching review of Tabac Aurea, in which Olfactoria’s Travels remembers her grandfather. 

13 thoughts on “Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille

    1. Thank you so much. At the Jewish high school I went to, almost everyone’s family had a story like mine. But those stories seem much less common out in the “real world”, so I wanted to share it.

  1. A touching tribute, Ari. When he’s gone, to be a truly inspiration for his family descendants and friends is the best long lasting memorial to a great man.

    Happy coincidence of names —> I have similar feelings with *Tabac Original* (Maurer and Wirtz’s cologne), which is the one I associate to my grandpa :). He also survived a civil war, he was a great sculptor artist and one of the best people I’ve ever met (yes, although I’ve lost several members in my life…, I’ve been so fortunate that I had enjoyed grandpa over the last 30 years).

    1. GeM, thank you and I love hearing about the time that you got to spend with your grandpa. A sculptor! My great-grandfather made violins, but I don’t think we have any sculptors in this family.

  2. Echoing the others who have described this post as a “touching tribute” – it is exactly that. One thing I am learning from yours and B’s grandfather-themed posts is the fact that **all grandfathers smoked** – mine died when I was about 6 but was always pictured in photos with a pipe. He was a gunner in the First World War and during some recent research into our family tree his army medical records came to light, which gave his weight, height and chest measurements, and also mentioned that he had a “slight cardiac debility, two vaccination marks and piles.” I barely knew the fellow but these little personal touches make him feel more real!

    1. Vanessa, thank you very much. I suspect that my grandfather picked up smoking in the army as well, because he was young when his family was deported. Vaccination marks, poor thing! As if I wasn’t afraid enough of needles already…

  3. This is really beautiful, Ari. You are justifiably proud of your Grandpa, and I am proud of him too, with no connection to him personally. It is a rare thing to encounter a heroic person, let alone be related. Thanks for sharing this. (And I hope it will go in “the book”!)

    1. Thank you for your incredibly kind words! But I am actually being very careful not to post much that I am thinking of saving for “the book”! I want y’all to have new material and not to get ripped off just because you were long-time readers!

  4. I think it is wonderful that you use your love of perfume to describe such a special man. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story with us.

  5. It was great to meet your grandfather, Ari – thank you for sharing.
    Both my grandfathers taught in the WWII but by the time I knew them neither of them smoked so I do not have that association for tobacco perfumes (which I like including Tobacco Vanille – I just bought a decant of it and enjoy wearing it from time to time).

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