Monthly Archives: February 2013

Adulterous: CABOCHARD by GRES (1959)

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A dark, brooding, and very three-dimensional scent of greys, purples and black that hovers, tantalizing as velvet, above the skin, Cabochard (French for ‘obstinate’ or ‘pig-headed’) amazes with its complexity, the devious integrity of its construction. Its suggestiveness; the citrus, the hyacinth, geranium and sharp flowers: its strong woody tang of patchouli, tobacco, amber, and leather, alluring facets that all seem to develop on different levels simultaneously, right up to its last shadowy, chypric, powdered exhalations.

 

It is a perfume that was once described by one eminent critic as illuminating the secret life of a woman in Paris, her tweed suit tossed onto the bed after a hard day at work in a moment, perhaps, of clandestine liaison. And it is true that Cabochard is  reminiscent of lipstick, perfume and powder compacts falling from a well loved leather purse in the late light of afternoon. There is a nonchalance, a madamish insouciance. But the piquancy of the citrus oils and tobacco also make it in today’s context rather masculine,  androgynous at best. It is a gorgeous, intriguing scent, especially in its final, powdery, patchouli earth notes, and in vintage parfum, essential.

 

 

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Filed under Chypre, Patchouli

BOOBS………………….Le N° 9 by CADOLLE (1925)

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According to Les Senteurs in London (the only place you used to be able to buy this now obscure treat except for the original Belle Epoque lingerie store on the Rue Cambon, Paris), this effortlessly dreamy blend was created, back in the day, as a ‘riposte’ to N° 5  – the founder, Hermione Cadolle,  a less uptight Gabrielle Chanel (her main rival on her street) – dreaming up brassières – she invented the bra – and courting clients such as Mata Hari and Marilyn Monroe for her dusky, silken wares like the fabled soutien gorge. She had to have a perfume for the store, and as N° 5 was all the rage, this was her retort: the woodier, more lissom seductress.

 

Of all the perfumes I have smelled in my life, this is possibly the most seamless: unlike N° 5, with its very obvious ylang ylang/ rose/ iris/ musk gradations, Le N°9 is so smooth, creamy, soft and melting it is almost impossible to distinguish any of its components. With its lilting, balsamic conclusions of cedarwood, Siamese benzoin and Penang patchouli; its breathy,  equable memory of flowers, the resulting bedroom aldehyde lorelei is luminous, powdery – and impossibly soft and erotic.

 

 

 

 

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20 Comments

Filed under Floral Aldehydes, Perfume Reviews

THE TREE THAT SOOTHES…………………….. COCOA SANDALWOOD by SONOMA SCENT STUDIO (2013)

 

It is exam season in Japan, or as the locals call it, ‘exam hell’: students and teachers cramming and exhausting themselves into high schools and universities; an impressive, if sadomasochistic, demonstration  of Japanese will power and conformity. Some of my colleagues have been working straight since the beginning of November and yes I mean straight: with the exception of January 1st, some of them have been coming into school every day, for at least twelve hours, for about six weeks. This is illegal, but the pressure is so high to get the results that they can really not do otherwise.

 

 

And there I am, with my three week holiday at Christmas and New Year, waltzing in to do my bit come the first week of January, but even a month of it has left this indolent foreigner feeling frazzled and debilitated: I came home on Friday night feeling teary and depleted; a husk with his juice sucked out, porous sensitivies over-flooded with tense, heightened Japanese voices. Knowing I would have to be going in on Saturday morning  as well for a whole day of examination interviews, I decided just to collapse in to bed…

 

 

But perhaps just a touch of perfume beforehand, something new, before I turn out the lights to let my mind veer…….?..something from those little boxes of samples I had not yet tried that might subdue my humming synapses..?

 

 

Yes.

 

 

I semi-randomly alight on something called Cocoa Sandalwood, apply it wearily to the back of my hand.

 

 

 

And

 

 

 

 

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suddenly a towering forest of sequoia trees flashes up before my eyes. I can feel them, smell the cool of them, the bark, the dappling light between their trunks, as they soar up into the sky that is blue, and the air that is clear, miles and miles of them out in the Californian country – a synaesthestic mirage that makes my soul briefly snap into place again on a disconnected plane and I find myself wanting to go back down into it all again, back down from the shimmering skyline treetops and back into the forested depths, this time to Hitchcock’s Vertigo and the mysterious redwoods behind which you disappear, somewhere in the heart of deep green………….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All of which I realize might sound rather exaggerated and forced, but which I did actually experience on Friday night, lying on my futon as something loosened its grip on my psyche and a gentle, alternative universe released me….

 

 

 

 

 

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I have been finding this recently with natural perfumes. There is something in the essences themselves, the plants’ ‘life force’ if you like, that speaks, that stimulates my nervous system in a very different way to other perfume ( which is perhaps more purely aesthetic). Where I was expecting to just find the usual sandalwood (one of my least favourite notes in perfume as I have always found it so fatty, unmysterious, and splayed somehow), the perfumer (Laurie Erickson) surprised me with a creation that temporarily took me beyond myself.

 

 

 

 

The sequoias I ‘saw’ originated, I imagine,  in the significant dose of Cedar Virginia that opens the perfume, giving the richer, more oozy New Caledonian sandalwood a solid backbone through which a slow, warm sap of cocoa absolute, cinnamon bark, coffee, rose, clove, vanilla and ginger rises slowly, the sandalwood gradually thickening in generosity, expanding and revealing its wise, sagacious  depths. Soothing, comforting, with an excellent equilibrium between savoury and sweet, the perfume helped me, finally, to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Cocoa, Perfume Reviews, Sandalwood

BORN TO LOVE PERFUME

A friend of mine put this ridiculous picture of me on Facebook yesterday, a photo taken about 23 years ago I think, and a photo I have absolutely no memory of, but it for sure is me….look at that imperial gaze, fresh from the water….undoubtedly ready for perfume directly

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Filed under Bric-a-brac

THE SARACEN AND THE COSSACK: TWO CHEST-BEATING LEATHERS – YATAGAN by CARON (1976) & CUIR DE RUSSIE by PIVER (1939)

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According to the house of Caron, the yatagan was a Turkish saber once used by the fierce, proud horsemen of the Ottoman empire, with a ‘curved and finely sharpened blade’, its very name hinting unambiguously at the unmerciful, sheath-laden phallus and its inexorable, compulsory conquests.

A virile journey: a battle in the sour-thighed, chest-rugged stakes with a similarly resolute fragrance, Piver’s classic Cuir de Russie. Both flowerless, dry, rugged creatures, expertly constructed to throw up jaw-clenched, fist ready accents as the accords develop within their worn, leathery hearts and they prepare to slay their (knee-buckling, pliant, and often extraordinarily willing), victims.

Yatagan is severe: dry, spicy, with precious woods, artemisia, styrax, and a good, healthy dose of sweaty leather. It is a pine forest: our frowning Saracen alone, in battle garb, listening to the trees and the smell of the soil.

In the distance are snow-capped mountains.

The Turk, growling, quite sure of himself, is a more ferocious stalwart than his Russian counterpart, and we watch him prowl his terrain; alert, ever-ready to wield his not inconsiderable weapon.

Later, when finally reaching home, exhausted, there is a lingering of smoke and incense as his wife pulls off his damp clothes by the fiery light of the hearth and she administers, lovingly, a sweet and sincere kiss to his rough and weathered cheeks.

Cuir de Russie is the smell of a proud cossack’s boots: animalic, manly, and polished, as he rides out across the steppes in his attempt to slay the Turk. While similar in theme, the cossack is more swarthy, rugged and sour, has more tobacco, a wide, salacious splendour of dry leather. More convivial too: there is humour in this vodka-swigging man: refinement even, though never ostentation….

 

 

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Filed under Leather, Masculines, Perfume Reviews