Monthly Archives: July 2012









A very rare find, my eyes almost popped out on stalks of amazement when I saw Diorling standing there impassively and forlorn, neglected by perfume-blind passersby at the Sunday Shinagawa flea market. Didn’t the seller standing obliviously at his stand know that bids for this perfume start at extortionate prices on e-bay? Did he not know that some perfumistas would be clawing each other’s eyes out to get their hands on a bottle of this rare and rarified creature?..








Dior Diorling and other Dior fragrances vintage 1955 ad (







The feeling of discovering these long forgotten treasures is, as you know,  one of the most constantly nerve-crackling moments of my life. One that never fails to send my red blood cells, anaemic from a week of too much reality, writhing and thickening with adrenaline. Perfume REVIVES me, like a vampire right after a feed.








In the past, during my expeditions among the various recycle shops and fleamarkets here,  I have come across countless vintage Carons;  a Guerlain Ode extrait;  oodles of Chanel parfums, and things I had never even known the existence of, such as Quiproquo de Grès (a lemon-leaf reinterpretation of Cabochard) and the exquisite Michelle by Balenziaga ,my avaricious thrill of clutching my Diorling (‘Mine!  Mine!! ! MINE !!’!  !) being childishly tempered, only slightly, upon then finding that the perfume had, at Roja Dove’s request, been made available again at the Harrod’s Haute Parfumerie, along with the legendary Diorama. It was thus not quite as precious or as exclusive a find as I initially thought. However, debate has raged over how tame the recent Dior reformulations have been: this edition is definitely the original, dirty-elegant dissipation from 1963. And while the top notes may have deteriorated slightly ( I am not getting much of the muguet/rose said to be in the blend), you would hardly know it; you would also hardly imagine it to be designed for a woman. Like  Cabochard, this type of chypre is a category of scent that in dry down is irrevocably bi-sexed: suave, nonplussed and wordly on a man as it is on a woman.






A shrewd creature dressed in tweed and satin and wearing Diorling could have a room in the palm of their hand.










Luca Turin once wrote of  ‘parfums fatigués’, those sly, ironic scents with hints of overripe melon and a whiff of decay; scents that reek, basically, of decadence, even death. Diorella (1972) is one such scent – a brilliant mix of fresh/stale; clean/dirty, at once citric and animalic. Dior somehow mastered this type of scent better than anyone else, Guerlain included – that regally supercilious Parisian paradox of chic and fromage.  Even the angelic Diorissimo has that corrupted aspect somewhere in the heart of its innocence; that depth and knowing. These scents have such style:  a true, fuck-you grace that can be almost daunting. And Diorling is of course possessed of similarly exquisite taste; restrained, low-registered, composed, but, if required, quite ready to pounce. I see it on the incestuous matriarch of Visconti’s ‘The Damned’, contemptuously lowering her lacquered eyelids, her half-forgotten, ever-present cigarette……. invincible, magnificent. That is, before her destruction at the hands (and body) of her son, played with malevolent disdain by the beautiful, and ice-hearted Helmut Berger.




The cruel vulnerability of a scent that tries to reason with your emotions even while dominating them. The laconic orange blossom;  peach-tinted flowers layering a subtlely spiced, wood-bedded scent laced with tobacco and patchouli that then softens to a complex, secretive series of moments (who was the Japanese woman that owned this perfume? Why did she discard such a treasure  at a flea market?); gives nothing away, titillates you with visions of times forever gone.







Filed under Chypre, Leather, Perfume Reviews

I FELL IN LOVE WITH A MANGO…..BOMBAY BLING by Neela Vermeire Creations (2011) + MANGO MANGA by Montale (2005)





A mango in Japan will cost you around 4000 yen. That’s fifty US dollars, or about 32 pounds Sterling at today’s exchange rate, and even then it will often be somewhat tarnished in its journey from Narita airport; small, sometimes stringy, a bit unfulfilling. While it’s true that these days, now the Japanese economy is supposedly in a state of permanent stagnation, and deflation the norm, mangoes do pop up more cheaply at certain fruit and vegetable shops, sometimes as ‘little’ as 700 yen,  the fruit, over here, remains a rarified exotic animal: clothed in a dainty little polystyrene protective hair net to lessen bruising, looking out in cold solitary confinement from the shelves of the fancier supermarkets.















I had never even eaten a mango until I came here, as the fruit just did not feature in my childhood nutrition – though I have to say that I was always drawn to papaya and mango Safeway yoghurts, a potently creamy tartness that was often given a perfumey rasp by the addition of passionfruit and flavour enhancers.




The first time I had a true, unadulterated mangorgasm, though, was in Taiwan, where mangoes come cheap and are delicious. I could hardly believe the difference, or what I was tasting when I got back to my friend’s Taipei apartment: these giant mangoes felt almost sinful in their overrunnings of sweet,tart juice; their shining, tropical flesh: I had two in a row and was in some kind of mango-trance, greedily devouring the fruit with a relish of infatuation.





It was at this moment that I really got the mango (or it got me).













Two perfumes that base their main structures round the fruit are Bombay Bling, by Indian designer Neera Vermeire, and Montale’s Mango Manga, a Tokyo exclusive (until recently) that ties in with the ‘mango boom’ of recent years (Japan has these ludicrous media-drive fads: we are currently in the middle of a ‘lemon boom’). Both mango perfumes make me smile and dissolve coldness; both are completly OTT.













Bombay Bling is described by Ms Vermeire as a ‘joyful creation’ that embodies every aspect of the ‘very modern, colourful, eclectic, esoteric, ecstatic, liberal happy side of buzzing India’. For me it is a trifle, but a dazzling one, beginning with one of the most delectable opening salvos I’ve come across in a very long time:  a thirst-quenching mango lassi like a cool glass of yoghurt draped in tropical leis and beads – a myriad of bright rainbow colours conjuring up the scintillating promise of Bollywood effervescence: a  ffffffffrrrrrrruuuuitty, and I mean FRUITY opening of mango, blackcurrant and lychee, as bright as sparkling pop dust on the tongue; a mango seen through a jewel-encrusted kaleidoscope.












It is very difficult to dislike a smell as optimistic as this, even if you might not want to smell of it personally (I quite happily would), although I have to say that the miracle doesn’t quite go on forever – the base, flatter as the celestial fruit notes fade, is a bit standard poptastic-vanillic-floriental – but really, how can you complain when the top notes give you such a thrill.





Notes:  a fresh, modern, fruit cocktail of mango, lychee, blackcurrant and cardamom.

An opulent heart note garden of plumeria, ylang ylang, tuberose, cistus and cumin.

And a soft, oriental base of vanilla, patchouli, cedar, sandalwood and tobacco.













Montale’s perturbingly fecund rendition of the mango actually made Duncan and I laugh (which is surely a recommendation in itself – not many perfumes rise/descend to the level of comedy). In the presence of Mango Manga, Bombay Bling seems suddenly artificial  – shatters into thousands of shards of GM coloured glass : adorable, wearable, but most definitely a laboratory creation. Mango Manga, which I was expecting to be cute and fresh – a childish little thing to fit in with the idea of comics and Japanese kawaii – is a slippery, slimy, real mango, full of overripened juice dribbling embarrassingly down the chin; a cascade of discarded mango skins on a Kuala Lumpur street,  rotting and waning by the dustbins as the avid South Asian sun begins to set.




It even feels oleaginous, thick, on the skin……. Oh this is a mango in all its earthy glory alright: foul, almost; gorgeous. Rotten, or starting to: alive. And very, very funny.





When I tried this (on the other hand was Montale’s Chocolate Greedy, which smells EXACTLY like a jar of stale chocolate Mcvities – I was really going for bulimia overdrive that day), it was a sweltering afternoon in Tokyo and the mango on my hand seemed fruity and fitting. I was intrigued: where could it possibly go from here?  Putrefactive heart notes of fruit fly enfleurage, laced generously with tones of headspace, gellied, maggot?




As we settled down in an over air-conditioned restaurant called Istanbul, and a delicious bottle of Turkish red, the mystery was answered wonderfully as the listless mangoes of the beginning began to dissipate, and, to our amazement, a warm, gorgeous, real perfume emerged – rich, sensuous, of obviously good construction and materials that reminded me a lot of vintage Miss Balmain perfume extract – that sultry, 50’s strawberry leather that I adore.



So it wasn’t a joke after all! At this point, the scent was really rather suggestive, going perfectly with the belly-dancing vibe of the place we were eating in, as we tried to envision who it would work on best. But this didn’t take long – it could only be a full-figured, Mediterranean or Middle-Eastern woman of confident bearing who could pull off this scent with the right passion: invisible swirls of Arabian, saffron-dusted flowers drift about her person, exuding humour, fun, sex, and love of life.

Mango skin: mango bosom.




Mango Manga notes: mango, sweet orange, jasmine sambac, ylang ylang, neroli, Moroccan oud, oakmoss, cedar, vetiver.














Filed under Chypre, Fruit, Fruity Floral, Mango


Apologies, and thanks, to you lovely people who have somehow come across this site, but The Black Narcissus is currently too befouled and maddened by the sado-masochistic realities of the Japanese education system; too mind-fucked to post a word.

Shall return anon when the wonders return of themselves.


Filed under Flowers

INTO THE WHITE:::::::::::: NEROLI 36 by LE LABO (2006)


Filed under Flowers









Patchouli is a very polarizing perfume ingredient, partly due to its associations. Some people really, really hate this smell……




For those coming of age in the sixties and seventies, inexpensive, musky ‘love oil’ patchoulis were of course the smell of unwashed dope-smoking hippies and the headshops in which they congregated – the scent effectively masking the smell of marijuana……a penetrating, dirty-black, vine-like odour that got in the nose hairs and stayed there. Perfume forums discussing any patchouli scent even now usually state whether it is ‘headshop’ or not, as if this were the worst crime in perfumanity, as though the Summer Of Love were something to be quite ashamed of…… hairy,  filthy hippy.











For Eighties kids like me, growing up near Birmingham with my excited Saturday visits to the Oasis underground ragmarket in the city centre, ‘patchouli’ was the acrid, cheap and very crude smell of scary Goths and their Sisters Of Mercy leather; their Sex Gang Children records and piercings, terrifying and compelling at the same time as I glanced at them nervously while looking through the record racks for my latest 12″s.  Their smell (like decomposing corpses freshly interred, then suddenly yanked out of the soil from a dark, dank cemetery), if they ever brushed past me with that brittle, back-combed Siouxsie hair, made me shudder.




















I don’t think I really came to love the note – now in my absolute top five perfume ingredients, until a dalliance with a Frenchman I had in Marseilles one summer, a rather pretentious chap (‘Je suis le patchouli’) who nevertheless had a genius ability for mixing different scents, even ones I would have considered utterly incompatible. On the night in question, the handsome boy came towards me through a haze of dry ice at whatever club it was, but it was the scent of him that reached me first, that truly clinched the deal. The Kenzo Pour Homme I knew. But Angel? And what was that other, divine smell that tipped the layering into genius? Whatever it was, it blew me away. And of course I found out minutes later, after a kiss with the stranger, that it was Patchouli by L’Occitane, a gorgeous scent, a patchouli that had such emotion within it  for its violet, clove-rose, and powdered base….



Fast forward a few months and a letter from him came to my flat in London. I opened it, and have honestly in my life never had such paralyzingly strong emotional reactions from a scent      (he himself was not the issue…it was that sense of triggering, of time and place and being transported that so amazed me, the incredible power of perfume to punch you in the gut to another place in an instant, especially when it smelled so beautiful)….




Thinking back on his scent-combining, though, I suppose it was more obvious than I had thought: Angel and Kenzo are both founded on patchouli ( though I still think mixing the oceanic and the vanillic in such an impactful way was very clever on his part), and it seems now that I was destined to love this note to death (sandalwood and I will never be friends: vetiver is good for those days when I want to feel more elegant – Maitre Gantier et Parfumeur’s Racine the perfect scent for this mood), but I am ultimately more of a down to earth creature at heart and patchouli feels so very right to me, with its lingering, earthen smell that evokes cold, wet soil and the inexorable pull of the grave……. yet also that strenuous heat and warmth, that octaved, bone-dry wood….it is a smell that is mysterious, spiritual, and erotic simultaneously, and the fact that a lot of other people hate it is fine with me as I have always been something of a belligerent olfactory terrorist.





Patchouli went out of fashion for a long time, but with Angel, Coco Mademoiselle, and the endless list of smell-a-likes in the recent patchwave, it has long been making a comeback – too much so if you ask me – in its current, chemically remixed, attentuated form à la Tom Ford White Patchouli that smells very fash but lacks the true, beautiful liquor of those slowly fermented Indonesian leaves. Personally, though I am a huge amber and oriental lover, on the whole I don’t need my patchouli softened with sugar or cream: no Montale Patchouli Leaves, Patchouli Patch, Profumum Patchouly, Ombre Fauve, ‘Intriguant’ Patchouli or Patchouli Antique for me: I like it raw. Either a really good, aged essential oil, or else something rich and dark like the sweaty mechanic smell of Patchouli by Lorenzo Villoresi; the original, aerial Patchouli by L’Artisan Parfumeur- whose discontinuation was a crime against true patchoulists – or the rich, Catholic blackness of Patchouli by Santa Maria Novella. Lucky Scent, that infernal torturer of my brain with their treasure troves of so many perfumes I want I could lose my mind, has some patchoulis I like the sound of in their tantalizing stockrooms, such as Patchouly Indonesiano by Farmecia SS Annunziata, but for the time being I will stick, very happily, with my beloved Borneo 1834 by magicians Christopher Sheldrake and Serge Lutens.













I should qualify whatever I say about Borneo, and its position in my pantheon of holy grails, by saying that I do, in fact, remix it myself, sacrilegious and extravagant as this may sound. It is so almost perfect for me, but it just needs that extra dose of good patchouli essential oil, stored in the dark for a few months (I have had four bottles so far and done this), to reach what I feel is perfection, to take it away from its vague intimations of powdery orientals like the original Emeraude by Coty. Otherwise, it is perfect, and I cannot live without it, with its black-widow, chocolate-bean magic;  its musty, enveloping thickness. On a winter’s day, in a long black felt coat, it is heaven, but it also works in small dabs on a beard in summertime after a shower; and clean clothes, and out for fun somewhere on an August night; so dark; so dashing.




I also love the romantic story behind the scent, of how in the year 1834 the first patchouli-scented shawls made their way to Europe by ship from Java; how they set off a craze, and how this idea was translated into a perfumed story……

…that strange, and very original, top-note introduction of sharp green galbanum, cardamom and camphor (used on the ships to ward off the silk-eating moths), and which always reminds of Japan as it used a lot here in incense and medicines: then, the intense, dark Sumatran patchouli smothered deliciously in that blanket of dark, unsweetened cacao absolute and licorice..the hint of powder and dust, like the dry beating of caged moths’ wings…..




What is astonishing in this scent is the complete lack of sweetness; the absence of vanilla or sucrose….this really is no Angel. The result of the inspired arranging of these seemingly irrational ingredients is a brooding but delicious scent with anisic overtones that I find mesmerizing, a scent that feels so comfortable on my skin and clothes it has become one of my favourite perfumes of all time.


Filed under Patchouli, Perfume Reviews









When I hear the name of this Lebanese designer, like most people I can only think of a luminous Halle Berry in her Saab-designed dress as she went up to collect her Oscar for her brilliant performance in Monster’s Ball (the magic of the occasion snatched away by what I saw as the possibly tokenistic double-whammy of Denzel getting one too – this year’s theme: African Americans! Next year’s: Gays….!) Somehow to me this diminished the historic nature of her victory, but it was certainly a great platform for Elie Saab, who was caterpulted, at that moment, onto the world fashion stage.


The designer’s perfumed debut was also awarded the fragrance Oscars last year at the annual FIFI awards, for Best Feminine Fragrance, Best Feminine Bottle, and Best Feminine Media Campaign, and it came as no surprise – the scent is as slick, as glitzy, as unchallenging, as the cinematic fare that is routinely awarded Academy Awards at the ceremonies : easily digestible, expertly made and packaged/promoted – a scent, in other words, with a very instant, immediate appeal.


Which is to say that it smells quite lovely, one of those scents you spray on and say ah yes I see: one that is legible, familiar and so obviously destined to be a hit that you might even find yourself starting  to applaud Francis Kurkdijan for a  job well done.


Essentially an unctuous, honeyed, orange blossom/sweet jasmine scent, brightened with mandarin and spice, the perfume has a sun-kissed carnality, an easy glamour as smooth to the touch as you imagine Halle Berry herself to be. A scent that comes on like a gala: Adult-American, as sexy as the shimmering, gold-flecked body creams used to make starlets like Charlize Theron glow like the statuette: but also fixed as the flashbulbed smiles of the botoxed faithful who pack out the Kodak Theater yearly in the delicious parade of self-congratulation that I would never miss for the world.

This perfume is like a California tattoo, one that remains for hours, radiant, but unchanged, with little development, and none of those strange surprises in store that make great perfumes great.


The base notes of patchouli and cedar are perfectly paired with the top florals, but while ravishing, there is no grace. No time for the perfume to insinuate its way into your consciousness – we need ACTION! LIGHTS! – perfume as instant as the light streaming through the camera shutter.


Le Parfum is gorgeous and lifeless simultaneously, just like those larger-than-life goddesses imprisoned forever on celluloid.




Notes: orange blossom, mandarin, Grandiflorum jasmine, Sambac jasmine, rose honey, cedar, patchouli.


Filed under Flowers, Orange Blossom, Perfume Reviews









Charles Baudelaire categorized the dandy as a man who has ‘no profession other than elegance….no other status but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own person. The dandy must aspire to be sublime without interruption…. he must live and sleep before a mirror….’

Yet the true dandy was no mere clothes horse. In cultivating a skeptical reserve with his direct opposition to the unthinking bourgeoisie, these beautifully coddled individualists were following a code which ‘in certain respects comes close to spirituality and stoicism’.


Dandyism was also not limited to the male of the species. There was, of course, Beau Brummel, but there was also Marlene Dietrich. And then Cora Pearl, the ‘quaintrelle’ (woman-dandy) courtesan, whose extravagant income was apparently sufficient to allow her to dance nude on carpets of orchids, bathe before her dinner guests in silver tubs of champagne, probably mildly bored as she did so.


Naturally then, the true perfumed dandy wears perfume for the beauty of the perfume alone; trends and petty concerns over seduction are of no concern. He might therefore wear any perfume in the pantheon; the flowers, the musks, the powders; she might pick a scent from the roaring masculines, a brisk citrus aftershave, and carry it off beautifully. This notwithstanding, the more established image of the powdered, exquisite gentle man or woman and her peacock consorts is served pretty well by some of the following scents and their decadent, nonchalant, graceful ambiguity.


“I wish to be a living work of art.’


(Marchesa Luisa Casati, renowned quaintrelle).




James Craven at Les Senteurs told me that there’s a small but steady band of ‘epicureans’ who come to his shop for this obscurity from Creed, a most eccentric seventies’ concoction that is the perfumed equivalent of the decadent’s unlaundered nightshirt. A curious, metallic-noted orange blossom begins; then, ochred-acacia leaves of Autumn; musky, yellowing powders: leather: and a corrupt (but subtlely: this creature has taste) end of civet-hinged musks.




A collection of old-fashioned flowers for the modern dandizette; she or he who wants to spoil themselves in musky, forlorn sweet-peas, those fragrant flowers scaling trellises in summertime. ‘The sweet peas from my garden’ are powdery, rosy, infused with heavy, trembling lilacs.




Trumper is the ultimate emporium for the London gent (really, you have to go), and this, to me, is one of their crowning glories. Echoes of the Empire and tropical malaria cures are conjured up by the curative sounding name, and the scent – a gorgeous, luminous and powdery thing laced with rosemary – is odd and beautiful.














A warm, overripe breeze. A foetid satiety, and a perfume perfect for the bronzed, sybaritic woman who wants nothing more than to lie down flat on her sunlounger with her gin. One can’t help but think of Sylvia Miles in Morrisey & Warhol’s Heat.


A pronounced banana-leaf top note conveys the sense of the tropics: full bananas, unswaying in the dead, still air: champaca flowers with their drowsy torpor, and an apricot-hued osmanthus over a salivated sandalwood/civet, these listless ingredients adding up to the most ennui-imbued scent I have ever smelled. Sira des Indes is smooth yet enticing, almost angry; and devastating on a woman over forty who just doesn’t give a shit.









Recast as Rouge (which see), Parfum d’Hermès, which has the same basic structure, just dirtier, can still be found in various corners of the world, and I know an antiques shop near my school that has a 400ml bottle that no Japanese person would ever touch (I will, eventually). I know they wouldn’t buy it because the rude animalics here are so blatant that all the flowers, spices in the world just can’t hide its intent. It smells of a dirty mouth covering yours; a Sadeian perfume that would work shockingly well on one of his followers, female or male.



Mona di Orio, the perfumer behind Carnation (pronunciation: in the French manner – meaning ‘complexion’ not the flower) seemed to be seeking here the smell of a virgin’s face after a day in the sun – easy prey, perhaps, for the creatures above from Parfum d’Hermès (or Pasolini’s Salò). It is a weird smell at first, something paint-like and sour in among the dirty blooms (wallflower, geranium, jasmine, tinted with musks and styrax), but progresses to a heavenly maiden’s cheek, white; the thick, healthy skin just ready to pinch.



The maiden’s male counterpart is Hammam Bouquet; fresh from the Turkish baths with a blush on his face.

Hammam is musky, powdery and pink, with rose otto, orris and lavender over the more manly exhalations of civet and musk. Once the boy gets his breath back, he dons his white powdered wig, his cape, and rushes back earnestly to the Old Bailey.




One of the lesser known perfumes from the illustrious stable of Caron (surely one of the Dandy’s favourite parfumeurs…)is French Can Can, made especially for the post-war American Market for a bit of imported ooh la la: a strange, naughty, and now rather anachronistic perfume that treads the line between coquettish and coarse without descending to banality. Can Can is of very similar construction to En Avion (a cool, spicy, violet leather) but overlaid with more garish, extravagant bloom: rose, jasmine and orange blossom kick out from under the tulle. Behind faded, musty curtains lies a decadent heart of lilac, patchouli, iris, musk and amber.

Thinking of a candidate for this perfume (who wears tiers of fluffy petticoats that I know?) I hit upon my friend Laurie, who is never afraid to dress up in extravagant numbers – I can even see her actually doing the can-can – and with the slogan ‘Dancers: powder, dusty lace’ presented her with the scent. She came back to me later (after I had sprayed her bag with the stuff) ‘No: greying crinoline’.









Only the dandy would wear a perfume called Pot Pourri. Bizarrely, this has recently become a massive hit with the art crowd in Tokyo (the brand’s reputed naturalness is popular with the refined eco-conscious). It is unusual, androgynous and beautiful: spiced roses, herbs, berries and grasses from the fields of Florence, fermented in Tuscan terracotta urns with darker, interior notes of resins and balsam. The result (medicinal, meditative, aromatic) is very individual; very…..dandy.




What else should be placed in the Dandy’s wardrobe?


Filed under Flowers, Herbal, Musk, Orientals, Perfume Reviews, Powder



Lithe; draped in white fur (clean body underneath), Tamango is an insidious, feminine, disco smell; very much of its era (the YSL Rive Gauche 70s), but despite (because of?) its obscurity, lovely.  At the tiny Leonard boutique in Paris a few years ago, which I went into because I adore their orchid-patterned ties, the perfumes seemed relegated to the bargain bins, almost an embarrassment, hopelessly dated there in their crummy old bottles, but I was amazed at how appealing some of them were. With one sniff of Tamango, I  saw Elvira, Michelle Pfeiffer’s beautiful, gazelle-like, coked-out moll in Scarface, dressed up in this as she descends in the lift; back turned to us, for her first appearance in De Palma’s film – the moment when a dazzled Al Pacino knows he must have her (and we can’t keep our eyes off her in that blue satin dress…)


Tamango doesn’t smell expensive (and isn’t), and you’ve experienced these notes many times before: that meringue-fresh, sparkling chypre (rose/hyacinth/bergamot/muguet vs vetiver/oakmoss/tonka, with sud-like aldehydes and musk for tenacity), but the ratio here is spot on. This scent emotes, and I can still see it really working its magic on the dancefloor.





One of the best bargains you will ever find online.


Filed under Flowers

OF TOKYO: PLAY SERIES (BLACK) (2012) by Comme des Garçons + HINOKI (MONOCLE 1) (2008)







Hinoki, or Japanese cypress, is a very beautiful smell that you cannot really avoid if you live in Japan. It is more smoky than cedar, more lemony than cypress, a soothing yet powerful essence that the Japanese use as a building material for temples and shrines, as an incense, in bath salts essences, and to make the wooden rotenburo, the open air hot springs that the people so revere. Even the soap you use before you enter the waters, at my favourite onsen in Hakone, is hinoki scented.


I love hinoki. Unlike other evergreen essences it does not have a harshness – the lung-searing directness of pine, the depressing forest-floor darkness of fir. It is antimicrobial, like those; pure, but also somehow tranquil.



In fact, I like the essential oil so much that I once made a rather lovely homemade blend of Moroccan rose otto, patchouli, a touch of ylang ylang extra; then clove, iris, and a big dose of hinoki, the essential ingredient at the centre of the perfume that took it almost to the realm of the spiritual.

A small dab here and there was great on a winter jumper.









Monocle magazine’s ‘collabo’ with the ever-quirksome fashion legend Comme des Garçons sought to capture the Nippophilic air of a perfectly designed onsen, taking the essence of hinoki and combining it with an appealing chart of ingredients (on paper, or the computer screen at least): camphor, cedar, pine, thyme, frankincense and a strong dose of turpentine, that, like the latter, with its well known paint-stripping qualities, somehow succeeds in desapping the hinoki like a particularly virulent form of Dutch Elm’s. The addition of these moistureless greens somehow lessens the title note, a vascular desiccation that sees the tree juices sucked out, along with their Japanese spirit.



I know that some people love this fragrance, and rhapsodize on its evocations of ancient, shinto-filled forests. I cannot agree. Real Japanese incense has a smouldering liquid at the heart of it – never simplistic or linear, it seems to contain the carnality of humans even as it renders that animality to smoke: it is sensual while being severe.



The incense note in the Monocle fragrance is dead. Dry; it signifies ‘urban’ in the worst sense of the word (cut off from nature, believing every word of the latest ‘directional’ hype). The result is a flat, ashen little scent for fashionistas that I wouldn’t give the time of day.














As for Comme Des Garcons, I have bought a fair few of their scents over the years (the original spicy eponymous scent and its offshoots White and Cologne; Calamus, Incense Jalsaimer and Kyoto, and Vettiveru), and although I can never fully get into the company’s taut efficiency, I still find them intriguing as a brand, like to try out their modish offerings. At one of the Tokyo boutiques on Sunday, where I always feel horribly boring in whatever I am wearing as it seems that nothing less than a mushroom smock, a bustle and striped leggings – the full industrial rumpelstiltskin caboodle and hair of razored black asymmetry (and that is just the boys), will do. But scootling uneasily among the racks we did come across the new ‘Play’ series, which comes in colour-coded thematics of red, green and black, and thought they deserved a sniff. Black seemed the most inviting, and I got Duncan to spray some on. He immediately went for it, pepper hound that he is, declaring it full bottle worthy.



Though the notes – birch, black and red pepper, pepperwood, thyme, and citrus notes – sound harsh, the scent is in fact quite comforting and warm, a pleasing grey smudge of scented charcoal; snuggly almost, the notes of violet and black tea ceding to a masculine base of tree moss and soft incense. It was familiar, somehow (we both felt this, and I was struggling to come up with what it was – the first minute reminded me, strangely of Tuscany by Aramis, which I always thought was a beautiful scent), and easy to wear. The longevity on the skin was unexceptional, but overall the creation was aromatically satisfying, if slightly lacking in depth.




Still, I was ultimately unmoved. In recent times, Japanese aromatherapy companies have started to produce more indigenous essences, such as hinoki, hiba (which I like even more – a darker, richer, smoky cedar that I scent the house with), shiso, and yuzu among others. I was even startled to find an oil of my favourite winter fruit – iyokan – the other day, which is the most gorgeous orange you have ever smelled, a lip-smacking joy in wintertime when you rip off that thick, oil-filled peel.





For the time being, If I want the smell of Japan I will stick with these. Sometimes you don’t need to tamper with nature.








Filed under Japanese Cypress, Japanese Perfume, Masculines, Pepper, Perfume Reviews, Woods










Krystle Carrington, in soft-focus dream time, slowly lifts her hair from her pillow.




Her eyelids snap open.





Light furls in through the blinds as she descends the white, spiralling staircase in her ivory colored nightgown; one slipper after the other; her towering, great tent of hair not moving, not an inch.



She is alert. Primed,  somewhere in her gut, for another ferocious, nocturnal encounter.





With Alexis.





Sleepily, Krystle fumbles; switches on the chandelier, glancing quickly about her in the opal landing mirror, trying worriedly to make sense of what is going on, as Blake, finally waking up from a dream about oil, and finding his wife absent, intuitively follows traces of her luminous, phantasmic, skin-oozing scent down the ivoried, cascading staircases towards her.




The perfume she has lovingly applied to her décolletage, before retiring for the evening by her magnificent dresser, that she is trailing, like ropes of plush, silken-cream ribbons, is  Oscar, by Oscar De La Renta:  fulsome, blurred – a magnificently US blockbuster that she emanates from her skin, soft;  womanly and lubricious, as a dream.




Fuzzed. Caressing. Hyper-feminine. Close.




That bottle: that squat, thick stopper……..that suave, and voluptuous, and dense, almost tropically Californian blend of orchid; basil, peachy orange blossom; jasmine, tuberose, and lavender absolute, splayed unselfconsciously, lovingly, over a full, man-dominating, Santa Barbara-goes-oriental base.





Oh, she know exactly how good she smells.





And so she hovers on the landing.




Beatific; unmoved: radiant.






Yet Alexis, standing there, hands on hips, eyes defiant, vilified,  manages to outpower her, again – again, yet AGAIN !-  in the poisonest; the most sugared, powerful,  cloyingest Venus fly trap of a perfume that there ever was:  Oleg Cassini.
















Krystle’s hand begins to lose its grip on the handrail….


Filed under Flowers