a flash of fruit and the night was mine………….BLACK ANGEL, DEVIL IN DISGUISE and SLEEPING WITH GHOSTS by MARK BUXTON (2012)











Perfumer Mark Buxton, famous for his iconic creations for Comme Des Garçons and other houses, released an eponymous collection of scents last year comprising five striking, idiosyncratic creations that, surprisingly, despite their innovations, don’t seem to have been much written about.

I quite like them. Each perfume in this collection is pared down, simple, but plush and striking, and although the names of the perfumes might put us in mind of horror films, the morbid, and the ridiculous creations of Black Phoenix Lab, with their constant allusions to the satanic, the scents themselves are anything but.  Rather, I find the perfumes to be more like stark, modern, scented novelties: a blast of rhubarb here, of ginger or elderberry there, or of quince, Buxton choosing to overdose on one or two ingredients in each fragrance, an effect that draws and locks you in or leaves you cold depending on your reaction to that particular facet.

Although I tend to prefer more nuanced, extended perfumed stories on the whole, where head notes and heart lead slowly and inexorably to base in a constant play of shifting back scenery and fragments of emotion,  sometimes you want something fresh and arresting, and these unfussed creations fit that bill nicely, scents to spray on nonchantly (as you know they are going to work  out on the town);  quickly check your hair and face, and go out that door to your appointment in the city.



Sleeping With Ghosts (” a fantasy of extreme tenderness”), my own favourite in the collection, may sound daunting and gothic but like all the Mark Buxtons, the name is misleading (or at least playfully titillating): what you might imagine to be an incensey, ghoulish scent in fact a very fruity and vanillic thing that while linear and monothematic, is touching. It is a composition dominated by a sweet, spectral vanilla suggesting poigant memories; a lover’s body that has graced your sheets but has now gone, leaving nothing but the sensation that they are still there… just traces. These are the ghosts that the perfumer seems to be alluding to; those feelings of infatuation, happiness and spontaneity that love and reminiscence evoke, and a sense of yearning for those feelings again come springtime.

If vanilla is custard yellow, this is pink ivory white: pitched higher on the musical scale, creamily fruit-tinged; an insidious, addictive smell that dominates the scent, fused with barely perceptible touches of vetiver leather. The beginning of the perfume is the stage I like the best though, as it is all about the vivacious smells of tagetes, peony flowers and, notably, a very bright and deliciously juicy quince, an unusual note in a perfume and one that works perfectly over the softer notes in the base (which I find less compelling). I keep wanting to rewind back to that salivated  beginning.



** *

Rhubarb is another delectable fruit, with its tart, summery tang, and though it is gradually becoming more popular as an ingredient in perfume (especially as used by Jean Claude Ellena in perfumes such as Rose Ikebana, and by Duchaufour in the latest Aedes de Venustas) it has never been used as extravagantly as it has in the curious Devil In Disguise (“the divine wind of danger”).

A gorgeously flamboyant note of rhubarb leaves and neroli is used in this upfront scent, which was apparently inspired by the experience of sitting at a café in Italy and being tantalized, and turned on, by the smell of a woman sitting somewhere out of sight, as Buxton sat with his coffee and dreamed of recreating this feeling in a perfume. The frisson of fruit and carnality works beautifully,  though the contrast (some might say the friction) between that mouthwatering opening and the splayed realities of the musky, sandalwood base are something of an acquired taste.

I can imagine this perfume being extraordinarily erotic on the person that can pull it off, actually (go on….) but for me personally the scent’s bridge between head and base could have been fleshed out more. Having said that, the directness and brisk transparence of this formula are a large part of its appeal.





*   *     *

Once in a while you smell a scent that gives you an unexpected boost of serotonin; a bottled mood-enhancer. Many of the best perfumes are melancholic; you sigh wistfully as vistas and memories open up in your soul and you indulge your inner self;  or else they are occasionally pure seduction and you swoon and loll your eyes like a loon. There aren’t that many scents, however, that just make you happy.

Black Angel, which tells the story of the moment when a stunningly beautiful woman suddenly appeared through the dry iced smoke to Mark Buxton in a nightclub, has one of the most immediately uplifting and optimistic top accords I have smelled in years (a racy jasmine and mandarin-infused ginger), capturing, perfectly, the feeling of a night to come; cuba libre in hand – that intoxicating sense of summery anticipation.

Duncan took to it immediately, with its limey disco pulse and internal good-time engines, and has worn it several times out to great effect. The base of the scent is perhaps more generic (a styrax/patchouli/amber accord), merely pleasant where the top is so captivating, but on the whole this perfume works beautifully (I am not sure whether my reaction to that gingery goodness in the head notes is some subjective memory that it re-evokes – possibly a deodorant I loved when I was seventeen?), but it is certainly somehow familiar.

Duncan’s reaction to it, however, shows that ultimately it is the perfume itself (which feels intrinsically heartfelt with its fun, upfront integrity) that is objectively good, much like the other scents in this collection (Wood & Absinthe, a good quality, quite haunting vetiver, and Sexual Healing, an osmanthus/elderberry leather (yes you read that correctly) that I am less keen on but which is certainly interesting).

For a change of scene, and an immediate, and easy blast of the positive, these nice little perfumes work a treat.


Filed under Ginger, Mojito, Perfume Reviews, Quince, Rhubarb, Vanilla

20 responses to “a flash of fruit and the night was mine………….BLACK ANGEL, DEVIL IN DISGUISE and SLEEPING WITH GHOSTS by MARK BUXTON (2012)

  1. brie

    Love me a “blast of rhubarb” (favorite rhubarb scent being the discontinued Britt Red) and the names of these fragrances are indeed interesting! Black Angel appeals to me the most because I am always on the lookout for the ultimate happy fragrance…to date the perfumes that put me in a state of euphoria are Jour Ensolielle, Reglisse Noire and Orange Sanguine.

    May I add that I am extremely jealous that YOUR significant other not only samples and offers insight but also WEARS fragrance! Then again there is a new generation of perfume enthusiasts in my house so I do have some sharing going on. Yet I would love to snuggle up to hubby’s neck and actually smell something other than Dove soap!!!

    • ginzaintherain

      And yet: a soap smellin man is no bad thing….!

      • brie

        this is true but every once in a while I would like some fragrance on his neck and/or down yonder (am I allowed to say that?) LOL!!

      • ginzaintherain

        On this blog you can say anything. In fact, to be honest, I don’t want The Black Narcissus to be a bastion of propriety like some perfume blogs. I myself swear a lot when the moment is right, and there are no prudes in this house.

        A spray on the abdomen is perfect, especially earlier in the day, and that is what Duncan does. I myself am more like a dusted bonbon, scented from head to toe…

    • ginzaintherain

      I bet he smells lovely anyway. Duncan is not a scent fiend like me, but I know he enjoys it.

    • brie

      Goodness you are too funny (but at least now I have your address so that I can mail you samples!). As much as I desperately wanted that $200.00 full bottle I only had a sample of Orange Sanguine and believe you me I drained it quite quickly! However, I will keep my eye out for other Ateliers and any samples I receive will be promptly sent to you…I promise (and let us hope the package doesn’t get confiscated and/or I get arrested…wouldn’t hubby be thrilled about that!). As soon as my clean vials arrive I will send you samples of Reglisse Noire and Jour Ensolielle mentioned above as well as others you were interested in and a few surprised that I think you might like (I have this thing for West Coast artisanal perfumers so you will get some of their goodies).

      • ginzaintherain

        Thank you so much, and though you are the Mother Theresa of the perfume world, you know I do insist on returning the favour so you can send me your address to my email address: opoponax8@hotmail.com and when I think of something worth sending it shall reach thee.

        ps. just lie on the envelope: say stationery, or an ornament or whatever. On no account say perfume!

    • Is that really your address? If so, this perfume fairy could grant your wish 🙂

  2. My favorite rhubarb scent is the new one from Jul et Mad, Terrasse à St. Germain. As for other fragrances that make me stupid happy, I would put Bombay Bling up there 🙂

  3. Pingback: Mark Buxton Black Angel Fragrance Review | Notable Scents

  4. Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:

    BLACK ANGEL WAS THE PERFUME THAT DUNCAN CHOSE THE OTHER NIGHT FOR OUR CHAMELEON PARTY, AND ONE GUEST, ALEX, WAS PAROXYZED BY IT: what IS that perfume, i could could (expletive) somebody right on the spot….always a good sign that a perfume is kind of working….

  5. Tora

    I have never smelled a perfume with rhubarb, or rhubarb leaves. I can only imagine…We share the same full body ‘dusted bonbon’ style of perfume application. I enjoy full immersion!! Your descriptions make my mouth water.

    • Then you may be disappointed, as on whole these perfumes don’t QUITE reach that point of no return….

      and yet, the fruity beginning of ghosts IS quite definitely mouthwatering, uplifting, and worth a try. I would quite happily wear it often if I had the full bottle.

      and duncan rocked the angel the other night as well…

  6. Dearest Ginza
    One waits for what feels like an age for a remarkable rhubarb perfume to come along and then in a matter of hours The Dandy reads about two of which he was only vaguely aware.
    People are talking about Jul et Mad all over and now you bring back to that Buxton collection that I never did get around to trying.
    Back on terra Britannica such a short time and already so many scents to search down!
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  7. I’m elbow-deep in tuberoses over here, and you want to add rhubarb? What an interesting mental combination. Today so far I’ve worn Fracas pure parfum and By Kilan Beyond Love,and my after-dinner scent will be Tubereuse Criminelle. Yesterday was Gardenia Passion followed by Gardenia Tuberose. I don’t quite know what came over me. Ginza, if you get a minute, do take a look at my post of today on the Aussie Perfume Junkies. It’s about my current obsession with white florals and I would love to get your input.

  8. Damn, Ginza, I keep trying to comment and they keep disappearing into the ether. Let’s see if this one sticks, and if it does, then I’ll think of something to say.

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