GREEN TEA IN THE AFTERNOON : THE POUR UN ETE by L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR (1995) + HYOUGE by PARFUMS SATORI (2008) + TEA TONIQUE by MILLER HARRIS (2016)

 

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Japan has a deep love of green tea.

 

While it might be as coffee and cake obsessed as any other nation – there are western style cafes wherever you look – and loves its Earl Grey and Darjeeling and ‘Royal Milk Tea’ (usually Ceylon and Assam boiled with hot milk), ‘O-Cha’  drunk for centuries, is at the very pinnacle.

The most popular drink from the ubiquitous vending machines is definitely cold green tea; my colleagues drink bottles and bottles of it. Matcha ice cream is as popular as vanilla; you can buy green tea cakes, sweets, chocolate, lattes; grades of the tea leaves ranked and filed according to quality and prefecture; catechin content; strength, cholesterol reduction, competing brands honing their products to tailor-fit the notoriously picky Japanese consumer.

 

 

One of the nicest experiences you can have as a tourist in Kamakura is to go to Kokedera, or The Bamboo Temple, on a rainy week day afternoon and sit at the tea shop down by the cave through the grove of rustling, towering bamboo, beside a waterfall, stirring your frothed, bitter matcha tea in a bowl and listening to the water and the green in the trees. Yesterday, suffering from Friday fatigue, but needing to pay the rent, I went round to my neighbour and landlord and Japanese mother’s house; humid and raining, quiet except for the sultry but balmy cool breeze.

 

She was alone, Mr Mitomi now retired in his eighties, gone to pay his respects at an ancestor’s grave. Mrs Mitomi herself looked well, better than she has recently, though I was quite shocked to hear that she had been hospitalized for two weeks for a gall bladder operation that we had known nothing about (these days, clad in our masks, all busy and interiorized, rushing around not quite hearing or noticing things properly you sometimes don’t see the wood for the trees…..)

 

She asked me in and whether I would like green tea or coffee; Over caffeinated already I felt more like cha, which was there in the pot, boiling water at the ready to add to the tea leaves to drink very hot – probably not orthodox in some green tea establishments, but how we both personally like to drink it.

 

It was a very pleasant and funny half an hour there before I had to head off for work; occasional comfortable silences as we reminisced ( I have known her for almost a quarter of a century now), the taste of the green tea clear and fresh; purifying- both relaxing and energizing at the same time.

 

 

I think I feel similarly about green tea in fragrances : they are somehow ‘off the grid’; quiet and elegant; removed from the vulgarity, and this time of year as the temperatures rise  they strike me as perfect as a contrast to the humidity : a coolness.

 
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I remember Olivia Giacobbetti’s green tea for L’Artisan Parfumeur, inspired obviously by the classic Bulgari but with a more prominent jasmine facet, being more luscious and citrus. This current version I own is somewhat flatter; more soapy, lackadaisically indolic. Curiously, I have found that by layering it with Roger & Gallet’s take on green tea ( very sharp, bright, fizzing yuzu, ginger, ceding to a lovely clean and lingering green tea note ) which gives me odour confidence on the hottest of days the two compliment each other very nicely, filling in for each other’s mutual deficits.  I might wear this combination to work next week, even tweak it perhaps with some Hyouge ( formerly known as Oribe), a perfume that smells of freshly cut grass and newly whisked matcha bubbles – a very unusual scent  that takes you out of yourself.

 

 

It was strange in a way that I was drinking green tea in the afternoon with Mrs Mitomi, as I don’t really have it so often: a bottle of Tea Tonique by Miller Harris had also arrived in the post in the morning. Earmarking this as a possible perfume for Duncan, though I was quite taken with it myself – the clever thwarting of a gloriously fresh green floral Earl Grey/ Mate tea accord with a rash note of nutmeg and birch tar citrus at the core of the scent creates stark and beautiful contrasts within itself – On me it is a little smoky, refined but still fresh ; on D it smells nothing short of truly SPLENDID -floral, very tea – like;  a delicate revelation.

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after school

 

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July 3, 2020 · 10:49 pm

lime

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I don’t go all that often for lime, even if I have always loved the Sicilian citric thrill of the mandarin and lime opening accord of the classic Armani Pour Homme. I have never entirely taken to the ‘Gentleman’s Limes’ of the colonial tropics a la Penhaligons or Geo F Trumper for various reasons, one of them being that I don’t care for the darkgreenness of lime being combined with neroli, sandalwood or musk.

 

Lime on food is definitely blissful – with coriander on grilled swordfish, squeezed on Tom Yum Kun. It is also perfect in a cocktail. A slice of lemon is of course lovely in an iced gin and tonic but lime has the edge : cooler, more vitalizing.

 

 

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On Monday night I met D after work outside The Bank in Kamakura, which we sometimes use as a rendezvous point : an old bank from the early twentieth century converted into a bar that is never open.

 

On this occasion it was, so we decided to go in for a quick G + T before dinner; the only ones in there, the shaded stone and the marble of the interior naturally cooling and quiet.

 

 

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I actually happened to be wearing two lime perfumes, coincidentally, having one of those wonderful days where you are enjoying life tremendously and your perfume choices are just right; rocking the sillage as you walk along in the gorgeous afternoon sunlight counting your blessings and loving how you have decided to scent your person ( as I write this I am miserable on the train in the heavy rain on my way to the school in Yokohama, but let’s go back just two days).

 

Montale’s Aromatic Lime has become such an annual staple for me that I recently acquired another bottle, just as a reserve. Although the opening couple of minutes are a little on the ‘perhaps too much’ tip – almost chocolatey, like a lime infused ganache; soon this deep, multilayered perfume of effective performance becomes the most perfect chypric patchouli base that is enjoyable by itself, sprayed on clothes,  or on one or two wrists but even better layered with other, lighter fragrances. For those who love Sisley Eau Du Soir and the like, this dry, highly long lasting faithful accomplice is essential; on Monday I layered it with my home-doctored 500 ml bottle of L’Occitane’s Eau Captivante, a fresh, slightly ozonic citrus/mint/basil to which I added copious doses of vetiver, grapefruit and lime essential oils, creating a refreshing, very lime-centred cologne that I have been wearing on a daily basis and loving ( and look at the colour of it! You KNOW I have been messing  with it, greening it ; sometimes you have to, if you want a perfume to capture its name)

 

 

 

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I am actually wearing Eau Captivante today as well, in my suit. Where I ordinarily would never have considered wearing anything sharp and zinging to the work place, one of the small advantages of this new Covid-19 pandemic era for the perfumist is that firstly, everyone is wearing masks, all the time (extraordinarily exhausting while teaching – at the weekends I am so depleted I can hardly move; all the exertion from trying to animate a sea of masked zombies with less oxygen than you actually need; I overcompensate by going overboard and arrive home a limp rag), but at least, with the windows open as well – even with the air conditioning on, not good for the environment I know but I vastly prefer it as air conditioning just truly doesn’t go with my physiognomy – I consider it the enemy; on the trains the breeze travels down the train so much better and comfortable than being openly refrigerated. As a result, I feel more free and easy about scent: whereas before I was always hyper aware of every last trace of base note or middle note left hanging in the air, now I am indifferent – and obviously it is the last thing that anyone is worrying about in the first place.

 

 

 

 

 

Here in Japan, people are still wary: you have to be. There has been a rise in cases in Tokyo and Yokohama with the full reopening of the country, though it is nothing like the situation in Europe and North and South America (David if you are reading this in São Paulo, I hope you and your loved ones are safe; I love a crushed ice, lime drenched Brazilian caipirinha too, while we are on the subject..,,,,,,would love to make it out there one day).

 

 

 

 

 

Compared to our long, dark but safe sequestration in Kamakura for three months, I must admit that I myself have generally been enjoying the return to the ‘real world’ over the last month, overall ; both exhausted and energized simultaneously. Yet obviously, a greater pall still hangs over much of the earth for so many geopolitical and social reasons, not even taking into account the damage wrought by what is increasingly being seen as a truly dangerous virus that ravages the human body in so many ways and will leave millions of people with compromised bodies and health systems, probably for many years to come. It is genuinely scary,  and we are still in the tunnel.

 

 

 

 

Which is why it is so lovely, if you can, and are lucky enough to live in a place where the situation is relatively under control, to just saunter along, and try to forget about all of this for just one selfish evening ( having just purchased a vintage eau de parfum of Rochas’s beautiful Mystere from an an antique shop with your last money before pay day), on the way to a date with your other half, easing contentedly into the aura you have created with your scent choice lingering gorgeously on the summer air, lightly spiced, aromatic,vetiver, grapefruit and lime, to cut through the grime and the misery temporarily :  fill the air around you with a moment of lung-fuelling freshness.

 

 

 

 

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RED SANTAL by ABEL (2016)

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There were two incidents at the Piramide Del Sol.

 

The first happened when I had a severe attack of vertigo attempting to climb one of the lesser lunar pyramids.

 

The second was more painful. I had stupidly crawled into the grass in order to get the best photographic angles of Teotihuacan, Mexico’s largest pyramid, in awe of the Aztec majesty  in the blazing hot afternoon sun.

 

Suddenly I felt hot shooting pains in my legs, an immediate, infernal itching on my thighs and calves. Without hesitating,  and in full view of other tourists I tore down my jeans to find my legs crawling with red fire ants. Batting myself hysterically not realizing how ridiculous I must have looked – man in cowboy hat in his underwear, arms flailing wildly and screeching, once I had prized off the incendiary critters from my leg hair I shook down my jeans with vigor in order to restore some dignity to myself before running, clothed,  up to a random Japanese tour group that was standing near by. Skin throbbing and smarting as I shielded my eyes from the sky, I asked the unperturbed lady in charge if she knew what was going to happen to me next.

 

 

 

’Taihen desu yo.

 

Sugoi netsu ni naru yo’

 

 

 

– said the woman, seeming to almost slightly enjoy the conveyance of this  news that it was going to all be very ‘tough’ ; that I was going to have a terrible fever and be bedridden for days…,.

 

 

 

Toxic ants  !

 

 

 

Fuck !

 

 

 

Making our way towards agitatedly towards the exits (“It’ll probably be okay”) said Duncan semi-reassuringly, imagining me writhing and sweatridden like a dirt covered extra in Apocalypse Now, burning up and hallucinating and generally ruining our holiday by perishing in the middle of it before we even got to our friend’s nuptials in Guadalajara, we encountered a laconic, muscular female Mexican security guard in mirrored sunglasses patrolling the perimeter as bored as death and cool as a watermelon. I decided to go  up to her for a second opinion in my rudimentary Spanish learned from Almodovar movies – although unfortunately I had never encountered the word ‘ant’ ; She peered down slowly at my pathetic self through her shades, gun in silver holster, as I jabbered on excitedly about poison and delirium and weddings – but was far more sympathetic and calming than the tour guide had been ::…….just go and lie down and drink lots of water, you will be alright, they are not so bad (I also happened – gracias a los dios – to have had a very effective Aesop lemon hand cream with me in my jeans pocket that I applied to the bitten areas liberally as soon as I had whipped off my Wranglers :  I swear it worked brilliantly as an antidote). The Officer seemed to know what she was talking about, in any case,  so I decided to take her word for it, calming down a couple of notches and deciding instead to just drink daytime beers to either forget about the whole thing, or else hasten my death as the insectoid venom coursed through my veins with the bubbles in the big windowed cafe near the entrance, dulling and sharpening  our senses beautifully with ice cold Coronas and staring out quietly at ancient magnificence. The bites were very itchy, and I felt a bit odd  (though that could have been incipient sunstroke) but other than that I was fine.

 

 

 

 

 

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I don’t quite know what led me to start thinking about this ridiculously typical anecdote yesterday evening, but sprawled out blissfully in front of my projector watching Takashi Miike’s ‘Desd Or Alive’ I was unconsciously plunged into memories of hot fire and inflammation on spraying Abel’s perfume Red Santal onto the back of my hand: a flinty aridity of fleshless spice and desert sands that took me a few moments to recognize, until my memory found the link I was looking for : D’Humeur Massacrante – a long disappeared perfume I used to love  by L’Artisan Parfumeur. A dryness of furious nutmeg and paprika alongside sulphur like the flash of a match catching light, this was one of my favourites in the legendary ‘Mood Swings’ box from 1994 that Duncan would wear a quarter of a century ago as part of his sly artillery alongside other dry and spiced elegantly masculine perfumes such as Cacharel Pour L’Homme and Comme Des Garçons’ Incense Series Jalsaimer.

 

 

Red Santal, an all natural perfume from Amsterdam based house Abel, fits neatly into this category of sparse woody hotness, with a bone-dry moisture-sucked base of two kinds of sandalwood plus a hot tempered intro of cloves and black and pink pepper over ginger and thyme. I rather like it : longevity on the skin is not as powerful as a synthetic hybrid might be but there is a lucidity to the natural essences that works. Rather than the usual, lugubrious butter of the more typical, creamy sandalwoods, this is a brisk and energizing flame of controlled heat, moderately livid. : and inflamed.

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THE BLACK NARCISSUS’S BATHROOM

 

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As part of PerformIstanbul’s Stay at Home series, D Whom is offering ‘Three Rooms : Kitchen’ tonight at 9pm Japan Standard Time.

 

Our house is in absurd chaos, insanely messy, but I can assure you the stolen magnolias and lilies smell divine.

 

 

For last week’s inaugural episode, Bathroom, see here

 

 

 

 

For Kitchen ;

 

 

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THE QUIETUDE: MANDARINE PAMPLEMOUSSE by CREED (1976)

 

 

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The first time I ever purchased this clear, subtle beauty was around twenty years ago (she will agree that it almost seems like another lifetime), when Helen came to stay here for the first time. All in Japan was still new to me and to her; bewilderingly beautiful and revelatory; the light, the tranquillity of Kamakura, the sharp intake of breath when a Noh-masked performer entered the theatre stage left.  Slow and deliberate as a phantom, in awe-filling layers of fine-broidered, trailing kimono.

 

 

I left a bottle of Mandarine Pamplemousse under her pillow in the tatami room, light filtering through the afternoon so that when she woke up from the long jet lag the next day, this citrus would be the first scent of association she would have with a new day in Japan.

 

 

It was an anti-intuitive choice of scent in a way  – for someone whose favourite perfume is Après L’Ondée; this was more glassy and citric. If less rueful and melancholic than the Guerlain, there was still somehow a similar quality of homeostasis; a balancing, and calming, of the emotions.

 

 

 

Creed is often criticized by the cognoscenti (for various reasons I don’t entirely understand), and many people find this scent lacklustre, not close enough to its name. It is true that this cologne smells neither especially of mandarin, nor of grapefruit, but more of a fusion of clear, cleaning notes like a hair preparation for Aphrodite:  an Apollonian, fruited flower grove of the imagination (white flowers…clover? gentle wild jasmine? honeysuckle?) scenting the sunbleached clean stones of a gentle, natural ambergris. It is refreshing to the spirit: A perfume made explicitly for afternoon sleeps on cool white sheets. Unlike the more utilitarian citruses that I use on a daily basis for work, Mandarine Pamplemousse occupies its own special space now in the pantheon for me and is not a perfume that I will spray with abandon. Discontinued, instead, this bottle will be conserved in my cabinet as something precious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE BLACK NARCISSUS INTERVIEW WITH FRAGRANTICA

 

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An interview with the delightful John Biebel.

 

 

https://www.fragrantica.com/news/Author-Neil-Chapman-and-Perfume-In-Search-of-Your-Signature-Scent-13784.html

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FRUIT COLLECTION BY DOLCE & GABBANA : LEMON, ORANGE + PINEAPPLE (2020)

 

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Today was something of a mindfuck of a day with the opening of the CiAL ‘Newoman’ department store in Yokohama – the experience of which I will have to write about later, shrivelled as a dried persimmon as I feel right now, reduced by my first impact of corona consumerism, which had me running for the exits. and then a night of fully masked teaching.

 

 

But fruit?  These really are VASTLY overpriced for what they are. A rip off  ! The orange was light aquatic rubbish; the pineapple far less convincing than the same flavoured chewing gum I had the other day ; the lemon I would enjoy in a boutique hotel hard milled into a pretentiously conceptualised trope, sorry, soap, briefly glittering but otherwise just another non eligible interface in my fragile conscious.

 

No – get your fix at the fruit market. Buy a cheapo approximation. Eat fruit. Avoid             S H O P PIN G

 

 

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MOUCHOIR DE MONSIEUR by GUERLAIN (1904)

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I picked up a bottle of Guerlain’s classic Mouchoir De Monsieur the other day for thirty dollars: I could not resist. Although I remember smelling this Belle Époque ‘gentleman’s cologne’ at least three decades ago, probably down in Harrods on one of my always exciting Perfume Day Trips to London – when to a much younger person still in his tender teens its louche lemon and civet just smelled like a lascivious adult’s bad breath.   I don’t know if have experienced it much – if at all –  in all the years that have intervened.

 

 

One of the ‘secret’ Guerlains : those that are still in production for the faithful but are not usually put on display, the version I remember was silkier, more lemony, musky and even more deadeningly animalic,  like a bristling and unwanted  moustachioed kiss: strange  to think that the purpose of the dandy’s liquid accoutrement was to gently douse one’s embroidered mouchoir – one’s handkerchief, as a gesture of love or a declaration of flirtation to a finely dressed lady who was probably dressed in Guerlain’s contemporaneous Violette De Madame – a kind of twirly moustached his ‘n hers, fashionable and of the moment  – and a symbol of cleanliness and hygiene when the almost filthy animalic contents in the flacon were anything but.

 

 

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On me, this newer, attenuated  version of Mouchoir smells like a vintage Shalimar drained of its vanilla and iris crossed with the cooler DNA of its cousin Jicky, a legend that has never quite worked on me. I like this perfume better – more citrically fresh minus the prettier Jickyian herbs and lavender and the less candid civet base, Mouchoir De Monsieur comes across more suave; understatedly erotic. Funny to think now of my horrified youthful self recoiling in ingenue dismay; openly grimacing at all this semi-bawdy Parisian suggestivity (cloaked in what I could tell was its secretly elegant nonchalance) in the imposing perfume halls of that department store in Knightsbridge on a bustling Saturday afternoon many years ago and me here now : lying back this evening, reclining like a lounge lizard, inhaling the back of my hand quite contentedly.

 
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Any thoughts on this perfume very welcome.

 

 

 

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THE SWEET, BITTER GREEN OF SUMMER : : HERMIA by KAREN TIMSON (2019)+ TINDRER by BARUTI (2016) +ABSINTHE MINDED by ANKA KUS (2019) +GREEN CROWNE by ALMAH (2019) + BONSAI by HOUSE OF MATRIARCH (2019)

 

 

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June is the greenest month. It rains all the time, the whispering mountain undergrowth, tangled and heaving:  steamy with life and tingling death. Raindrops lodged in a spider’s web, collected; slowly descending along the veins of the leaves of new hydrangea like glass tears. Stems, blades of grass seething with chlorophyll :  the slow camera of photosynthesis. If there are bitter greens: benevolent greens, Tindrer, by Baruti, is definitely the former, a piercing loam violet shrouded in morning mists that is chilling as a gothic fairytale. Disconcerting  (it makes me shiver), it is as if this perfume exists on two simultaneous temporal planes; one deep below, where the twisting violets grow over the roots of an old oak tree, and above – an ozonic hiss of cold, silent death.

A friend of mine has often stated that if he were to choose his own exit,  absinthe would be his chosen conduit. Dying in the gutter, but staring at the stars. Thick with green,  poisonous anis, this liqueur –  this perfume – laced with wormwood, fennel, poured viscously over sugar cubes to sweeten the venom (‘patchouli and woods attempt to induce the wearer into a comforting, disinhibitive state, while sobering oakmoss and amber ease you back into the material world ), it is a decadent’s headache in a bottle. Wear it, drink it: :  intoxicated to the point of annihilatory bliss, he blurredly makes his way out, staggering into the moonlit Japanese garden to find a place among the gnarled roots, the damp moss, lie, and make his hallucinatory passage. Still conscious, he feels his way half blind towards a shaded space beneath a boxwood, writhed with ivy and potent green notes of every shade;  breathes in the air; supine; a toxically fresh herbarium of witchery in dark, coniferous chrysanthemum and aglaia bush of black copal and fir trees gradually closing in; mysterious, daunting like the stunted, clipped and menacing topiaries of vengeful Bonsai.

Hermia : the flash of the new mock orange in summer hidden in greenery as he discovers himself awakening to a new clarity. Daylight. Bird song. Subtle unobtrusion ; the rarity of morning : orange blossom, vetiver, cassis and basil are fresh, simple, there is an ease. Mesmerizing though the darkness of the forests and the secrets of the woodland inevitably are, I prefer this green, freshing uplift to the doleful siege of the dark pine forest. Yes, the final denouement of Almah Perfumes’ Green Crowne, as cheering a scent as I have discovered in recent times, might ‘merely’ be a clean, shampoo-sheened modern skin musk, but I personally prefer such gentle, mood boosting presence to the ominous, malevolent descent into coniferous murk and blackened woods that are my bane; the vivacity of those green, Calyx-like scents with their eye-brightening openings that freshen the senses into sunlight : basil, bergamot, cardamom, marjoram, citruses, a verdant perfect equilibrium of loveliness. Though the pall of this sombre season with its deep verdurous gloom is always numbingly hypnotic – (the woods are lovely, dark and deep…………….but I have miles to go before I sleep……………), I ultimately need more scintillant uplift  –  the promise of growth –  life; citrus, flowers, meadows – and sun rays –  to resist its raindrenched,  Orphic pull.

 

 

 

 

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