INTO THE LABYRINTH: : NOMBRE NOIR PARFUM by SHISEIDO (I98I)

The Black Narcissus

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I had wondered if this day might one day happen. Whether I would, in my ever-thrilling voyage into perfume, discarded by the Japanese as worthless flotsam in the bargain bins of flea markets, ever come across one of perfumery’s truly coveted holy grails: Shiseido’s Nombre Noir. A perfume so rare it has become legendary among scent lovers, long discontinued (and all remaining stock apparently destroyed with bulldozers), there are very few bottles left available in the world, now, the ones that do exist usually going for mind-boggling prices (around a thousand dollars seems to be the standard). It is a perfume that has been enraptured over, exaggerated, mythologized to the point that its very name for many of us has an almost talismanic energy. A black, pulsing, Japanese jewel. An amulet.

 

 

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As well as the usual flea markets and antique shops I frequent, I have recently…

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SOTN

 

 

 

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Shalimar eau de toilette; vintage Vetiver de  Guerlain in cologne, and natural vetiver oil.

 

Earthy; warm, sensuous, enveloping. My kind of scent for a Saturday night birthday out in Tokyo ( a rabbit themed, moon viewing ‘Moon Bunny’ shindig at the Lapin Usagi hidden away joint down Omotesando for Duncan’s birthday).

 

His own scent of the night: Brosseau’s saline sweet, dandyishly enigmatic Violette Menthe: a strange little perfume that leaves room for illusion.

 

 

God knows what this taxi driver must make of these rich, luxurious fumes though

 

 

 

 

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BELA LUGOSI’S DEAD…..D’HUMEUR A RIEN by L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR (1994) and BLACK AMBER by AGONIST (2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: BELA LUGOSI’S DEAD: D’HUMEUR A RIEN by L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR (1994) and BLACK AMBER by AGONIST (2011)

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COLOGNE OF LOVE: : : EAU AIMABLE by LE COUVENT DES MINIMES (2015)

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes a perfumer reaches an alchemical perfection, in which all the elements within not only balance and harmonize each other but reach for something further: that intangible, effortless loveliness that we ultimately want from a scent ( I am rarely in search of difficulty:  I want ease, and immediacy, and pleasure ).

 

 

 

‘Eau Aimable’, or ‘Botanical Cologne Of Love’, achieves these criteria with flying colours. An inexpensive creation, it nevertheless has a bridling, emotional simplicity in which a warm and endearing note of orange blossom and neroli is combined with oranges (petitgrain, bergamot, orange essence and mandarin); some wild rose (or eglantine), some sugared almond vanilla, and – the stroke of inspired genius –  a bitter dash of capucine (tropaeolum magus), a form of nasturtium flower – pictured above – that cuts through the feathery softness of the blend like a Campari drunk at sunset.

 

 

 

There may be oranger scents available on the market, but this is the orangest.                  Soft, smile-inducing, and somewhat reminiscent of the quite similar By Kilian’s Love, Eau Aimable is nevertheless less rigidly confectioned than that delectable portion of vanilla meringue; more ephemeral, fleet of foot. The perfect pyjama-donned, bedside sleep scent, it is a lovely, gentle, cologne that just comes on; winks angelically; and, as you fall into dreams –  a mere halo of eiderdown now remaining on the skin –  has gone…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE TRANSFORMATION

The Black Narcissus

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And so it goes. The beard is shaved off: unwillingly – I don’t recognize myself.

But that’s the rules.

The work clothes are washed; then rewashed (and hung outside in fresh air, for fear of contamination).

The body is soaped down; scrubbed. the hair, panthèned; conditioned.

Scent? A little. The rules say please do not.

But, just before leaving the house I find that I just do anyway; I can’t stop myself: a small spray, on each cuff, of Montale Sunset Flowers: that sheeny, bright lemon leaf, green apple violet wholesomeness I bought the other day on a strange anti-intuitive whim. For this precise purpose.

I iron my suit while staring out the window absently. Drinking coffee, willing myself into the spirit. A suit really shouldn’t be thrown into the washing machine in this way I realise but I am neurotic, aware of my smell at all times, and it…

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PERFUME MANIACS

 

 

 

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Me and Olivia out in London with some treasure…..

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ENGLISH DAWN: : : :: ROJA DOVE ROSE PARFUM (2016)

 

 

 

 

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One of the first things I noticed when I first arrived back in England, standing in my parents’ garden in the early morning light, my mother’s great love and a place just overflowing with flowers, trees, and plants – was that roses really smell like roses. 

 

 

 

 

While the place I am lucky enough to live in here in Japan, Kamakura, is certainly not devoid of smell stimulations – osmanthus, jasmine, wisteria in particular can be especially hypnotic when blossoming in spring and autumn; the plum blossom and narcissi at the end of winter piercing and heartrending; the gentle, pale pink drifts of sakura cherry flowers the very quintessence of Japanese beauty, at the same time, that most English of flowers – the rose, while grown here in many houses’ gardens here, is unscented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will often see a stunning looking rose on a stem here on my way home and lean down to smell it, but usually there is nothing, or merely a hint of a very faint, overcultivated rosiness, almost as if, just as with the cruel mastery of the bonsai, the roses have been deliberately bred to have no scent.  As with much in Japanese society, the visual and the conceptual always supercede the olfactory. It is the correctness of the rose that counts, not its fragrance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admittedly, when grown in profusion – in the sea-front rose gardens of Yamashita park in Yokohama, for example, when the breeze blows from the city or the sea across the heads of the flower tops, standing afar you may then catch a glimpse of true rose perfume and remember what the flowers do smell like, but this is still nothing like the wilder and thornier, raspberry-gleaned beauty of the ragged-edged sturdiness of the roses I encountered in my garden back home which were actually replete, and lush, with the full-bodied, emotionally irresistible scent of full blown roses in English summertime – a smell that almost seems, to me,  to contain the entirety of life itself, a secret just waiting to be unlocked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The majority of recent rose perfumes, in my view,  have been terrible. Either the perfectedly commercial, synthetic sweetnesses I intuitively reject for their ‘wedding day’ primness and banal and ugly sexual conservatism; the hystericality of all the metallic, purity-pinkness that I always abhor; or else over-egged wood and oudh puddings pillaged in slavery and patchouli. Unable to breathe, or bloom. Thick set. The rose essences struggling. Dead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rose Parfum, by contrast, a very pleasing new release by Roja Dove, seems to have instinctively realized these concerns of the true rose fancier, flowering off in a totally different direction to the majority of contemporary roses, both veering in a saporously classical direction, while simultaneously revivifying the note into something fresh and new. I really like it. Unfolding, this perfume comes across like a slightly bitter green hybrid of Nahéma and Nº19; the peach-soft down rose of the former contraposed against the verdurous iris galbanum of the latter, a dew velvet poise that took me immediately by surprise ( I had forgotten that new perfumes can still actually smell beautiful ) and which drew me to immediately wear the perfume on my first few days back in England. It was perfect for long train rides and staring out of the windows on green fields and old memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

While certainly not as magical as either of those ultra- classic perfumes (which I consider to have achieved perfection in the art of perfumery), Rose Parfum nevertheless also has a more distinctly English quality to it than its more languorous French counterparts. Though it may lack the typically suffusive Parisian powderiness and musk, it also has a certain crispness and briskness, a sense-lifting pleasure, a brightness, like rose buds themselves when they flower in the bud-green mote beams of dawn. And though the perfume’s dry down might not have been quite as well developed as the opening, veering into a slightly pot pourri sourness, on my skin at least, at the same time, neither did this truly ever irritate. I wore it comfortably, all through the day , and if you are a rose lover ( I had forgotten, almost, that I am), I most definitely would recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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