APRICOT BARNYARD

 

 

 

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Japanese suburbs like their houses and front yards largely trimmed, and neat, but we don’t and want it green and overgrown, so have asked our landlords to not cut our garden. The result: the biggest osmanthus tree outside this window where I am writing, stretching right up to the telephone wires – and it has just bloomed.

 

 

 

Right now the scent is like the colour: an ethereal apricot cream. Soon though,  as I have written before in my paen to osmanthus and its inimitable glories, the perfume will become thick; and rotten peachy, and unwanted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Right now though it smells beautiful: fresh, delightful and new,  a light haze of florally cottoning apricot. It doth beguile. Interestingly, today, I will also be able to smell again the osmanthus absolute, in its natural state, when I go, once again, up to the ear clinic in Tokyo, a four hour round trip (the reason I have been absent from this blog: a horrendous, and debilitating, ear infection which I have still not recovered from), where I will be able to then, once I have been violated once again with sharp metallic instruments and received the next dose of antibiotics, go to the Seikatsunoki, or Tree Of Life aromatherapy store, just down the road in Omotesando, which has the biggest selection of essential oils you can possibly imagine, from everything you have read about in your guide to aromatherapy, all the lavenders and citruses, patchoulis and hyssops, to Japan only available extractions such as hiba, shiso and hakka Japanese mint (among many, many, others), and then to the most exciting: a selection of very expensive, but also very tantalising, floral absolutes,CO2 extractions, and ottos. The jasmine sambac, by far my favourite, I have bought on more than one occasion to make perfume – it smells gorgeous, just as it is, actually –  but then the other, distillated, absoluted essences can almost, even to the perfume-familiar, come on like strangely disguised impostors but nevertheless still really fascinate. Tuberose is stern, and forbiddingly unsweet. Iris has no powder: it is peculiar, green, unadorned. Violet leaf is harsh, and almost unconscionably bitter. Frangipani is….I don’t know. It continues to elude me. Carnation is densely spiced and fruit-carnal, and darkly enigmatic.

 

 

But osmanthus? It stinks. Like animals in the barnyard. Shocking, when you know how sweetly innocent the flowers’ perfume begins. True, there is a hint of that apricot breeze I am getting right now from my front garden window which I am breathing in deeply like an early autumnal dose of pure happiness. But that floral fantasma, just distinguishable in the gunk, is drowned out almost completely in a foetid musk-funk of hooves, soiled farmyard hay, and beasts’ furred, slovenly behinds: animalic, thick, and very overpowering. Perfumers, when they use this ultra-expensive material, must use very, very, little. Like the slow, reeking ooze that has been issuing forth from my left ear, a putrid, sweet-smelling custard, it just shows you what we all boil down to: ultimately, in the end.

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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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