the mountain moonlight, and roses…..TAUER PERFUMES’ INCENSE ROSE (2008) + UNE ROSE DE KANDAHAR (2013)

Originally posted on The Black Narcissus:



The very existence of an innovative and imaginative independent perfumer such as Zurich based Andy Tauer, an alchemist who produces strange and unique perfumes within his own apartment and boxes them, packages them, and sends them to his eager recipients all over the world, is quite gratifying in this overly compromised and commercialized world of vacuous, olfactory pap. Tauer’s releases regularly get the fragrant stratosphere all lathered up; stark, strong, and very contemporary blends that defy the usual gender-seductive expectations and take perfumery into interesting, and unidentified, zones.

They are not to be taken lightly, however. For me personally, Tauer scents are never an easy wear. Rather than just an immediately pleasing smell to apply, to fuse with and merely enhance my own physical aura and persona, these very complex (very male, actually) perfumes feel more like miniature, fully realized tableaux or skin-inhabiting theatrical productions; dramatic plays or ballets…

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Just when you are seriously getting back into writing again, the computer conks out.


It’s just not the same on an iPhone.


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PERFUME IN MOSCOW: a look into Soviet scent







I have never been to Russia, much as I would love to. This article has just appeared in the Guardian, though, providing an intriguing insight into Soviet perfume culture in the days when even perfume could be seen as political.


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It is getting really cold. It is time for Bal A Versailles.

Originally posted on The Black Narcissus:




The first time I encountered Bal a Versailles was in Luca Turin’s original Le Guide from 1992. There is something in reading about a perfume that you think that you will never be able to get your hands on that almost makes it more enjoyable: the thrill of the holy grail; the abstract, luscious taunting of the unreachable and unattainable.  I can see myself poring over his reviews again and again, dreaming and yearning, trying to prise apart his spare, poetic French, his enticing yet hermetically sealed descriptions of long lost perfumes by Molyneux, Jacomo, Revillon, of the just opened Shiseido Palais Royal, of dozens of delectable sounding perfumes I would probably never smell in the future and just feel my internal organs clenching up with intense longing; an almost masochistic craving that was acutely pleasurable even when unfulfilled. His cunning words painted sufficiently salivating, impressionistic pictures to gloriously pique…

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Apricot dunes; the glow from a studio-lit, ochre trompe l’oeil sunset; seagulls on the soundtrack; the glistening ‘ocean’ beyond. A seasoned French actress, distractedly reaches down into the pillowing sands and scrutinizes, with her smooth cream hands, carefully placed pebbles, starfish and seaweed.




On the beach, pensive, to a backdrop of golden, solar rays…



















It is probably quite hard for the perfume youth of today to imagine how exciting – and rare an occurrence – it once was when one of the great ‘houses’ – Guerlain, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Givenchy, Christian Dior – released a new scent. They were like monuments, fortresses, designed to be aesthetically pleasing but also infallible, made to last. Perfumes that, naturally, were not designed for everyone, but once, if they did catch your senses and made you hers, would then become your perfume, to buy again and again, your signature: huge money-making engines for their parent companies, who relied desperately on these gleaming olfactory colossi to line their coffers for couture.




Rather than the constant floods and inundations of scent that we are treated/subjected to now, ever intrigued but overwhelmed, we were almost starved of new perfume back in those days. What you saw was all there was, and if you were bored by what you were smelling you just had to wait. Many years would pass between the launch of one major scent and the next, and to budding young perfume obsessives, always on the look out for new perfume adverts in fashion magazines like Vogue, the arrival of a long gestated new perfume always felt like a real, magnificent, event.




The concept for Dune had apparently already been thought out and worked on behind the scenes at Dior back in the 1980′s, but it was presciently decided that the next project, the purple hearted, bullet shocker Poison, was more scandalously fitting to the Joan Collins times, (and their instincts were most certainly right in that regard), with the result that the project was somewhat put on a back burner for a while until the radical explosion of all things ‘natural’, pared down, marine and ozonic occurred in the following decade, when Dune then suddenly emerged as if out of nowhere: a heavily, but immaculately, made-up Venus, transpiring from the foaming waves of Perfumia to claim her crown.





At the time, I myself was a second year university student, back home for the summer, working, believe it or not, on a golf course. Although I am the last person on earth to play golf (those pastel colours; checked trousers, all that ‘gear’…….) it was, in many ways, the ideal job for me at the time: entirely solitary, surrounded by trees and nature in my wooden hut, just listening to music, looking at the sky, and finally having definitively enough time to properly read the long novels I had always wanted to read as the hours of green and blue stretched on before me ( I have great memories of losing myself entirely in great big nineteenth century tomes such as Anna Karenina, among others). There, with the kettle boiling quietly, the birds in the trees, the occasional customers coming for a round of mini golf – I merely had to collect the money and hand out the tickets, and then take the flags down at the end of the day; passing the summer quite nicely, saving enough money to set myself up in Rome that November: immersed in aloneness, literature, music and perfume, and, more importantly, the great and exhilarating unknowingness of an upcoming Italian future.





Dune was released during that summer. It was a period in which samples were given out more freely at the department stores, and, as usual, I managed to get a lot of them, vials and vials of the scent which I would try on my hand while sitting outside, or even soak the cassette liner notes of the tapes that I had in the hut with their contents, to make the scent last longer, to be opened and experienced at will, so that in this way Dune formed an almost permanent scented backdrop to that carefree period and is seared in my memory as such (maybe that’s why my Prokofiev Violin Concertos I+II tape went all funny – the very reels of music themselves were drenched in sea broom and powder of mollusc).





Although I was never entirely sure if I actually liked the scent – and certainly never wore it beyond the confines of my golf cabin – I knew that I was kind of fascinated: that weird combination of ambery, salty warmth, and floral, quite definitely duney seaness that all felt so peculiar and uneasy, yet new; compelling. It had a certain thrall. I had simply never smelled anything like it before.





Yes, this weird perfume, which felt, almost, as if it had come from another planet, had been proudly announced by Mothership Dior to be the very first ‘floriental oceanic’, a very unusual concept at the time, when anything that reeked of the sea simply didn’t seem suitable, somehow, for a fragrance. It was a forceful, clinging floral amber scent with top notes of sea broom and lichen, peony and lily, immersed in a smooth marine compound, edged with rich and salty flowers, benzoin, ambers, and musks. Desperately original and popular when released, I soon got sick of smelling it in Rome, where, together with the ultra-swimmingly sweet Trésor, it blotted the air all around it with its comeliness, the women of Rome taking it to their commendable, tailored bosoms (these women were always perfumed; profumatissime) with an overly great enthusiasm.




To me, it always felt self-satisfied and overplenished somehow, more a performance than a perfume, with several acts, all perfectly balanced (the original formula was extremely complex): warm, emboldening and luminescent, but still, there was always that unsettling contrast between those sandy, decaying seashells whitening in the sun, and the more demure and feminine flowers and balsamics lurking beneath, an aesthetic tension which, when all is said and done, makes Dune the enduring creation that it is.















In a old and crowded box, dusty and thrown in together like trash, I recently retrieved a vintage parfum of Dune – the one you see in the picture – for a dollar at a fleamarket as you know I always do, and for that price I thought why not. I was quite intrigued to smell this perfume again, to be able to reappraise its flaws, and its charms.




As you might expect, the current formula still on sale worldwide is said to be a unsatisfying reformulation of the original perfume, which was bolder; more detailed; with a more extreme and delicate arc between the marine notes, the florals, and the sandalwoody ambers (these new versions of the Diors seem more like snapshots, somehow). This little bottle I got in Tokyo, a considerable amount of which proceeded to spill all over me when I eventually got the stopper off coming home on the train, was unboxed, the label worn off as well, but the perfume inside, was still fresh, intense, and rather pleasing. This smell is at once entirely familiar to me: stamped in my brain, nostalgic, comforting, even, yet still retains that inherent strangeness that the original formula always had and that made it distinctive: that insistent, almost sickly amber that also inhabits the base of Cartier Must parfum (a scent I adore); the emotional component coming I suppose from that sense, beyond the immediate, concentrated perfume essences in the heart of the perfume, of an enlivened, agoraphobic dream vista; a beach stretching off for miles and miles, and miles and miles, into the distance.


















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An anomaly in the Caron pantheon, The Anarchist is a big thrashing mess of overcrowded ideas in a hideously, hideously overdesigned copper chalice that I could never, ever have anywhere in my possession.



That said, anarchy is the theme of the scent, and its greatest hits of brooding, fearless male (guaiac; cedar; sandalwood, mint; vetiver, mandarin, neroli, lime, basil; a fierce a prominent cinnamon note over citrus with a slew of brash and overwhelming aldehydes) does eventually, after some time, gradate to a warm, loveable hero – woody, aromatic; appeased.


































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Just to say that an article I wrote recently on my beloved Guerlain Vol De Nuit, an in-depth look at the perfume and the thematic and olfactory connections with the novel by Antoine de St.Exupery that the scent was based on ( it is such a curious, haunting and diffident creation, and one of the most enigmatic, difficult and beautiful perfumes ever made in my view), has just been published in issue three of the prize winning Odou Magazine: the piece I wrote in issue One, Perfume Haters, won the 2103 Jasmine Literary Award this year, much to my extreme delight.



It looks like it will be a very interesting issue, and you can either order a ‘physical’ paper copy or digital version at the website.











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