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It’s Sunday, and I’m off to the flea market in Shinagawa, Tokyo.

The flea market, where I have had such days of  excitement at finding prize vintage specimens that I thought my head would blow off: other Sundays when I come back emptyhanded; and then others with just some old miniature bottle or other that nevertheless  yields me pleasure.

I always love going there in case, and never feel less than brimming as I enter that space, with all the stalls and the endless possibilities………….

Over the years, despite some unbelievable bargains, I must have spent a fortune: I am extravagant by nature, and can barely hold back; but I do sometimes have brakes, just about; and a more fiscally conservative side of me can kick in occasionally when I just say NO.

But when you find an extraordinary bargain, but for whatever reason don’t buy it, the regret – a gnawing ache in the gut – can eat at you for years. I still have this pangy feeling about Champagne, once finding a very rare, 15ml parfum – boxed, glinting and golden- for about ten pounds. But I didn’t snap it up. The reason was simple – the flea market in Tokyo had yielded so many treasures that day that I simply couldn’t justify any more spending, especially with Duncan hovering owl-like at my shoulder. Doing the right thing, however, is often very dull and now I really wish I had, that I had secretly found some pretext and nipped back naughtily to go and buy it.

When Champagne (later changed to Yvresse due to a dull law suit by French wine producers), came out in 1991, I remember Helen and I rushing out to Rackhams in Birmingham to try it (these were the days when new perfume launches by the big houses were much rarer and so much more exciting, when  the new fragrances were unveiled with huge advertising blitzes and you wondered headily to yourself as you arrived through the doors just what will it smell like?)

But the startlingly fizzy, already-decaying-fruit-over-candied-chypre accord had Helen immediately clutching her two front teeth for fear they were melting, a sensation that is really quite visceral, but in the parfum, an old vintage creature whose powers had become exponentially stronger over the years, it was like nothing on earth.

One sniff: instantaneous molar meltdown; teeth fizzing away and piffing like sugary sherbet dips in rice paper. Just thinking about it even now gives me acheing urgings in my front two teeth. The parfum: a gigantic, neon-red, plutonium lychee spaceship glowing like a bawdy chypric message from another planet. Dazzling. Pulsating, and sending out strobes.

Without exaggeration I can say that it was probably the strongest thing I have ever smelled. It was spectacular, and I’d have loved to have owned it. Even touching the box was like fingering a nuclear reactor. It should have been part of my collection.


Filed under Fruit, Perfume Reviews


  1. Not possessing it physically seems to flare up the scent in memory.

    • ginzaintherain

      You are right. It was monstrous in a way, but alluringly so. I was thinking what you said before, Pensee, and wondered if you had ever tried any osmanthus scents, such as Osmanthe Yunnan by Hermes, which is a very delicate and unusual Chinese tea, orange, and osmanthus …..

  2. ginzaintherain

    I think you might spontaneously combust in Champagne!

  3. tonkabeany

    saturation point is not a good place to be…..I would so love to have that sense of excitement. if we had all the money (and therefore perfume) that we could have how long would it be before the excitement would be a distant memory?

    • ginzaintherain

      H you are right, and there is a delicious pain in having to leave certain perfumes behind… ( though you know they never reappear, those oddities…. there was a bottle of Guy Laroche Clandestine I am still lamenting…..)

      As for the Champagne, as Pensee said, its potency is probably far more searing in my memory. If I had bought the spaceship, it would just be sitting at the back of the cupboard, batteries dead.

      > Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2012 21:20:41 +0000 > To: opoponax8@hotmail.com >

  4. Once again, your powers of description enchant me. I think that you will need to start your own steampunky band: Ginza and the Giant Lychee Spaceship.

  5. I had the same feeling last weekend in Islington over a bottle of something heliotrope smelling by Crown Perfumery. I wasn’t particularly enamoured, but the smell kept drawing me back. I too was feeling the urge to just buy it at all costs. I had to walk away. I had spent enough that day. But what if…

    • Katherine

      I think I saw the same heliotrope! Just off Camden Passage? One of the very few places I have seen any old perfume in London.

      I can feel your angst and regret Neil! If there were such a treasure trove of a market in London it would be unbearable temptation. I guess I am at least thankful these wonders exist to fire my imagination even if I can’t get my hands on quite enough. I must make some money!

      • YES! That’s right, round that wee square bit that you wouldn’t notice at first, near the table that always sells silver and glassware?!

        What are the chances hehe. Are you going to buy it?

    • Katherine

      No, no money. Plus there are others i’m dying to buy online! I wonder if it was the same, a small shop that’s part of the market-y bit that also sells clothes and jewellery and fabric flowers? There’s another shop up from that next to cloud cuckoo vintage that has a few bottles..

  6. Marina

    I remember demonstrating that when it came out. I was 21. They paid well.

    • Wow, you lived with it and therefore know it better then anyone. For me it WAS sexy and elegant, if a touch anachronistic, but was it not fizzy and sweet?

      Did it not melt the teeth?

  7. brie

    Shopping without Duncan is advised!

  8. Lilybelle

    I wish I had all the bottles I gave away over the years. I gave my bottle of Champagne to a perfume loving office friend, and she gave it to the lady who came in to clean. Then again, I suppose I gave it away for a reason: it wasn’t for me. I remember well the days of excitement when a major house released a new fragrance. It was an event, and we couldn’t wait to get our greedy little noses on it. I used to feel the same way about new lp’s (actual vinyl!). 🙂

    • Oh god yes. Yes. Records….

    • No but I do really remember that at that time, releases were few and far between, and when they were launched with all the fanfare, and the adverts: Vanessa Paradis tweeting Coco in her cage, Fahrenheit, Egoiste, they really were love/hate blockbusters, and we would literally get on the thus from Solihull to Birmingham to go and smell them at Rackham’s.

      The Champagne experience is indelibly printed on my mind. We both, absolutely, had the humming tooth thing, as though it were effervescent and overripe.

  9. Dear Ginza
    This description has me aching with laughter… a ‘plutonium, lychee, spaceship’… what a wonderful invention.
    Perhaps you could develop a comic book franchise based on the inhabitants of said interstellar contraption and option it to Hollywoood… that way you would have the gazillions required to track down and purchase the missing perfume.
    Problem solved.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  10. I once owned that but don’t have it now. I do remember it well.

  11. Another hunt begins 🙂

    I love Ombre Bleue by the way! It arrived just the other day.

  12. theasceticlibertine

    Your description has me wanting to unearth the tiny bottle of Yvresse I own to spritz and sniff. Will do tonight. 🙂 I know they’re not any different but the completist in me wants to someday nab a bottle that actually says “Champagne.” Your description is so great that I share your now-wincing over not buying the bottle, even though I also know how it feels to have just hit your spending limit and having to turn away. Great post.

  13. I do have a love/hate relationship with Champagne. I tend to either really enjoy it, or find it terribly cloying and oppressive. I think I might have sold off my last bottle of it a short while back. I will have to go check…maybe wear it again if I have it.

  14. Hanamini

    How lucky yoy are to have those flea markets, Ginza! I shall have to venture to Camden Passage. Used to live across the street from it….no recollection of perfumes from those days except Chloe and Anais Anais…. I have a (half full) bottle of the original Champagne…it’s on my shelf….still smells as vivid as it did when first bought it. I guess I was lucky I didn’t give that one away…but I don’t ever seem to find the right occasion to wear it. A new year’s party with a theme, perhaps (I’m very literal…). I never smelled the renamed Yvresse, but I do remember thinking (and still do) that the new name was brilliant; they could hardly have come up with anything better than this combination of Yves and ivresse (intoxication/drunkenness). I get fizziness and something a bit dated, but it’s never cloying on me. (Not like two unspeakably awful samples I re-tested at the weekend and still cannot get off my hands, now scrubbed raw.)

  15. Robin

    Vintage fruited chypres are my wheelhouse, dear N., as you know, so Champagne already has that going for it. I’m not an unswerving fan of the fragrances created by Sophia Grojsman (you know that distinctive signature flourish of hers, blowsy and soapy-fruity: not my desert-island profile), but I don’t think she’s done better.

    I know that at the time, when you and Helen tried it in ’91, it was a sugary bridge too far. I don’t remember ever trying it back then, but I would imagine I did as well, and clearly I wasn’t impressed enough by it for it to leave an impression. When I found a couple of full bottles over the years at flea markets I, — naturally — snagged them. (Very few vintage bottles at flea market prices have ever escaped these clutches.) What impressed me was how champagne-like it is. There’s even a bit of old yeasty lees underneath the fruit basket. Which, come to think, while tickling my fancy as a vintage champagne worshipper, might have added to Helen’s and your queasiness, since, like blue cheese, it falls squarely in the acquired-taste category.

    Wearing it right this minute it smells, oh god, comparatively bone-dry — compared, that is, to the current (atrociously insulin-time high) sweetness bar set by La Vie et Belle et al. The chypre aspect of it is the thing that leaps off the wrist. Thank you, thank you, oakmoss, for being a component that lasts nearly forever without a hint of fatigue. It’s even still got a bit of fizz, dear old thing.

    How perspectives can change in thirty short years.

    Yes, dear Neil, it should have been part of your collection.

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