Coconut is the airhead of perfumery; the fluffbomb; the beachy, pineappled ditz, and a note that seems to invite scorn from a large number of seasoned perfumists. When coconut is listed as a note in a perfume, there are many who seem to almost panic at its presumably nut-brained, bimbo IQ; its lithe, suntanned flesh, its sheer happiness, who must be assured that the coconut note in question is not too prevailing, that there is just a hint, isn’t there? (as in Olivia Giacobetti’s tastefully coconut-laced fig perfumes L’Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier and Philosokos); that its swaying, palm-fringed tropicalia will not infringe too much on their delicate, rose incensed senses.
I am quite the opposite. I love coconut. In food, in drinks, as perfume and incense, even to bathe in ( I use Phillippine coconut cooking oil once or twice a month for this purpose – it is fantastic for the skin), and I think, ultimately, that for some bizarre whim of destiny, I probably suit coconut scents more than any other (even vanilla included). It is a smell I find comfortably effortless and pleasing, an aroma that I love to emanate from my skin. I find it nerve-binding; optimistic; an escape into easier, balmier climes and skies that let me breathe some relief and simple ease: to me it just smells delicious.
And so, as a committed coconut lover, and as a kind of coconut ‘coming out’, and as someone about to go on holiday to a place where coconut is in virtually everything (apparently the area of Java I am going to is famous for its rich, coconut laced dishes..) I present to you, here in brief, some of my lovely bunch of perfumery coconuts . If you know of any more worthwhile scents that any of us coconut lovers out there would be likely to enjoy, please do feel very free to share the hairy love.
NOIX DE COCO DE MALAYSIE – YVES ROCHER
In my view, the best perfume bargain in the world.
I do not exaggerate. We all have a staple in our wardrobe, often one that is cheap for when the pricey and cherished stuff runs out or feels too precious for us to touch, and this happens to be mine. Coconut, yes; but not piña colada, or too creamy, or too synthetic, or ‘too’ anything. Rather, this lovely perfume is a vanillic almond coconut, as cosy and pleasing as a big new white bean bag on the floor of a brand new apartment, and as comforting as your favourite coconut almond shampoo and conditioner ( I used Boots’ best for years at university, and this scent reminds me of its sweet, soothing perfume).
A scent of easy calmness and perfect balance, Noix De Coco, which I first discovered in Mexico City (YES! there is an Yves Rocher shop right next to our hotel…I will sneak in and buy loads of perfumes when Duncan is having a sleep!), and which seems to vary in colour from transparent to lactic cloud depending what country you find yourself in – I personally prefer the latter, for the illusion of just-cracked fresh coconut milk – may not be a complexly orchestrated, artistic ‘masterpiece’, but then it doesn’t need to be (and to me, to be honest, it probably smells nicer anyway: for the price of a bottle of By Kilian’s Playing With The Devil, for example, I could literally buy 20 bottles of this, and I know which one I would rather smell of).
I use Yves Rocher by itself, or sprayed on clothes, in summer or in winter (when it really cheers me up on a cold January day), or else I find it works as a delicious extender and mixer of other scents that either comprise a coconut note that you feel needs augmenting (Cacharel Loulou, Montale Intense Tiare, Givenchy Ysatis), or else a novel and unexpected addition for intrepid layering (Kouros works beautifully with this, as did, to my counterintuitive surprise, vintage Calèche parfum).
And at around 9 Euros for a 50ml bottle, an absurdly low price I think for such a pleasant scent, you can use this little coconut treasure as often, and as much, as you like.
I personally try to never be without it.
I LOVE COCO – HONORE DES PRES
A more luxuriant, delectable, rounded and, amazingly, 100% natural, organic coconut is I love Coco, from Parisian outfit Honore Des Près.
This fleshy, almost airy, soil-drinking white coconut scent comes onto the skin living and breathing: the beachy breeze blowing through the rough hairs of its shell; the cool, milky inner chambers moist, threaded and full of essence. As the day goes on, the scent gets fattier, creamier, but nonetheless remains a real, caressing, high quality coconut perfume that in my view is one of the best on the market.
VIRGIN ISLAND WATER – CREED
This is a sheer, coconut water for the moneyed and the rich; for the Russian-minted oligarch and his monogrammed tailored white shirts, sipping cocktails with his blonde, bodied consorts on the French Riveria. Elevated, fixed, a Creedishly silvery and dashing coconut note is cleverly and effortlessly shot through with an extended addendum of lime for summery, emphatic effect. Unusual, lingering, and strangely sexy, this is a scent with a definite vacational je ne sais quoi.
PINA COLADA – DEMETER
Probably the funniest scent in my collection, this unwearable party trick is a far less upmarket cocktail – more cheapo 18-30 Club Med – the lads and lasses chundering into the swimming pool - than the immaculate, smooth-pressed, ‘beautiful’ yacht people above. I do kind of like this though : a syrupy, boiled sweet pineapple colada steeped in leeringly sweet, condensed, coconut juices that is always a fun way to get a party started ( ….”fancy a spritz?”)
(…party guests wailing and rushing for the bathroom in instantaneous, insulin shock…..)
G – GWEN STEFANI HARAJUKU LOVERS
I have been wearing G recently at work, and this scent is the only coconut I can imagine being suitable in the office. G is apparently what La Stefani herself wears, and I really like it too, a lot. Slim-lined, sheer, a touch ozonic; but a long-lasting, clear and surprisingly robust modern coconut perfume with an imperceptible, ‘green apple’ top note and a pleasant, but never acrid, woody, cedary base note that works as an excellent counterpoint for a workday, contemporary tropical. G manages that desirable, but rarely adroitly accomplished, feat of persistent, idiosyncratic subtlety. It may be simplistic, but it is a scent that is executed without pretence and that does its job very efficiently. I have been very pleased with its performance.
There is also a special summer version, ‘G By The Sea’, available, which I am quite eager to get my hands on as it is apparently more oceanic and tiare-laced than the original and sounds like the perfect summer perfume, though the chunky plastic mermaid (gargoyle in drag?) of the bottle will not be accompanying me to the classroom, I can tell you.
VITTORIA APUANA – I PROFUMI DEL FORTE
When I first smelled this at Berlin’s KaDeWe department store a couple of summers ago, I was beachfoaming at the lips with want, but simply didn’t have enough cash left to purchase it as I discovered it right at the end of my holiday.
What I smelled and sighed over at that time was a creamy and rapturously delicious infusion of natural smelling plumeria/tiare, sponge-petallish and alive, with vanilla, raspingly fresh coconut and an unusual, ravishingly delicate and ethery top note from the banana tree – fruit; leaves….
If this all sounds too much, it probably is ( on the card I felt as if I had died and gone to heaven as it really seemed to somehow capture the essence of that warm and tropical breeze I so adore, but I found it, on skin, a touch cloying when I came across it again at London Liberty last year, so definitely try it on skin first).
Nonetheless, I still have my languid, stolid, coconutty eyeballs fixed ignobly in its direction, and will simply have to get my hands on it again at some point. This is lapping, lulling beach in a bottle, a coconut symphony; a sigh of sappish sweetness and light.
SEXY COCONUT (pour lui et elle) – JEANNE ARTHES
While the popular image of Japan – austere, severe, exquisitely beautiful – is certainly true in many respects (particularly in traditional cities such as Kyoto and Kamakura, where I happen to live), there is another much more fun, trashier side to this country that finds its expression especially in the summer time here, when kids from the city flood to the coasts and get tropical. Jeanne Arthes is a low-market brand that does quite well here with its Sexy Boy and Sexy Girl fragrances, and, interestingly, this sweet, appealing take on Chopard’s Casmir (also a coconutty, drippingly luscious vanilla sandalwood worth looking at) is the only one billed as ‘unisex’ (one of the many fascinations of Japan is its intriguing twists on gender, particularly among the youth..)
See those skinny, pretty young Nihonjin splashing in the waves, emerging for some beer and some pizza, and a quick spritz of Sexy Coconut, a sharp and fruity top accord over coconut, peach and ambery sandalwood, before they head off to some reggae, rockin’ beachside bars..
COCO EXTREME – COMPTOIR ET SUD PACIFIQUE
A cold, streaming blast of coconut; joss sticks, a cocktail of nuclear-strength noix de coco synthetics and reconstructed coconut flesh that means real, high gravity coconut business. I do find Coco Extrême a bit much sometimes ( it could almost be a Marvel Comics super-hero; Coconut Man, shooting through the city skies, leaving vapour trails of cocolo nimbus in his wake as he battles his nemesis, the bile-firing, pit from-hell-screeching OUD COP) but I have to say that I do sometimes use my (now almost empty) bottle of this perfume as a top-up, a tiny touch on the neck to complete, nicely, an outlandishly tropical profile ( I once went to a party wearing Loulou, Yves Rocher Noix De Coco, and then, the moment I arrived, just a touch of Coco Extrême, and I can tell you the compliments came rolling in like a lovely barrel of coc…
INDIAN COCONUT NECTAR by PACIFICA
I have in my collection a coconut body lotion I picked up at the Tokyo flea market for almost nothing one Sunday, something by a Thai company called Ma Praw, and it has the most hilarious, deliriously lip-dribbling effect: it smells exactly like a Thai meal has just been put on the table: a coconutty, jasmine steamed rice that fills up the entire room, putting Etat Libre D’Orange’s intriguing limey, coconut Fils De Dieu to shame with its strength, delectability and intensity.
We had some friends staying recently, and one, Elaine, had sneakily put on some of this body lotion after her shower. As I mounted the stairs soon afterwards I found my mouth involuntarily watering in some Pavlovian response ( I adore Thai food ), the entire air from the bottom of the stairs to the top vibrating an edible coconut rice that seemed bizarrely incongruous in the context of perfume: can you actually imagine going out of the house smelling like this? ( I can, and have, and will, naturally…).
Indian Coconut Nectar may not have the same gustatory power, but it is a very foody, almost savoury and edible coconut perfume all the same that reminds me somewhat of those delectably sweet coconut desserts you get in Indian restaurants; or the spice-laden coconut ice creams they serve known as kulfi. It has that dense, stranded, honey-infused and dessicated thickness that I associate with such desserts, and in the solid perfume version that I have, makes a very pleasing and strength- inducing firmness that I like to dab on the wrists and neck (with a furtive drop or two underneath of the unctuous Ma Praw for good measure).
COCO ET VANILLE – LA VANILA
And so to the night. The sun has gone down, we retire to our beach huts, or our condo, and shower up for the evening’s pleasures ahead. This little number, clearly influenced quite strongly by Dior’s doughy sex bomb Hypnotic Poison, isn’t a bad way to sit at the bar, perfumed up for the night, tipsy and sunkissed, the feeling of the sun still pressing your shoulders; your eyes roaming the joint; the condensation on your iced glass pleasingly wet and promising.
COCO ET VANILLE - E COUDRAY
Then later, why not slather on the sinful, almost sickeningly sweet decadence of the Coudray amalgamating of thick, ambery vanilla notes with the boudoirish creams of coconut…..smear yourself down, oozy and glistening, with the crème de corps; spray on some edt, smothering away all your anxieties, and with warm, voracious slowness, bite your way out, then, into the coconutty; palm-laden; fecund; tropical night.
It is yours.