Cretan afternoon………GREY FLANNEL by GEOFFREY BEENE (1976)

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My brother was fifteen; I was seventeen, our first time in Greece.

 

 

In the white villa we lounged among the sheets; the scent of eucalyptus in the afternoon outside:

sun flickering the walls like lizards.

 

I had got some perfume samples, just before we left England, of a bewilderingly green and strange men’s scent, with the sharp, verdant smell of green beans and bitter violet leaves, and it seemed to us at the time unwearable. Fascinating, and addictive, but unwearable.

 

Instead, we used the vials as cooling agents in that searing heat, flicked them at sheets and the walls, a beautiful, aromatic green that intensified the sun baked brush outside.

 

 

Quite obscure now but still available, I didn’t smell this scent, then, for twenty years until my grandfather’s funeral, when my cousin Dominic, who was sitting in the pew in front, and who I hadn’t see in decades (our sides of the family are estranged), had a alluring, gentle soap andwood scent that was unusual, beautiful and almost distracted me from my grief. I recognised those base notes subliminally, somehow but couldn’t place it.

 

He told me later that it was Grey Flannel. The happiness I felt, at what it brought back to me, made me feel almost guilty.

 

 

 

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36 Comments

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36 responses to “Cretan afternoon………GREY FLANNEL by GEOFFREY BEENE (1976)

  1. That was quite a flashback. Very ground breaking and unusual; still is I think. I must have vintage bottle…somewhere.

    • I don’t get my own bottle out enough, possibly because I am not sure if it IS vintage or not. It smells like Grey Flannel, for sure, but it doesn’t have the green bean shock of my memories, when it was a truly startling, and very unusual, men’s fragrance .

  2. brie

    I was wondering when you would get around to this one….I myself wore Grey Flannel…had a full bottle which I adored…until another man recognized the scent on me (really did not match what I looked like at the time…young blonde haired ingenue) and I was shamed into never wearing it again….I recently purchased an all natural oil from an Indian Co -Maroma for Men Lavender and Cedar. And when I wore it my mind instantly went to Grey Flannel. I would love to sniff it again….

    • How awful that you were shamed into not wearing it: I imagine it smelled lovely on you, and very intriguing.

      Talking of things that remind me of it, Byredo’s Green immediately brought Grey Flannel back to me as well – it is such a distinctive accord that anything even vaguely like it will bring it back. Could you wear Grey Flannel now, do you think?

      • brie

        I could and I would because in my middle age I no longer care what people think. Then again I would be dealing with perfume hating co-worker”s tirade all day if I were to wear grey flannel to work…might be a bit too bracing for her!.

      • Just a little on a NYC spring morning must surely be ok…

  3. Sounds divine. I’d love to try this one. Is it still made or would I have to go vintage?

    • Hi Nina! I don’t know if it has been reformulated (Neil would know that for sure) but I know that you can buy it from online discounters for a song!

    • Nina-
      Have sent Neil a link which he can forward to you if you really want it….8 oz for about 20 dollars!

    • Thanks Brie. Actually, Nina was saying she wanted something green and this was what made me think of putting it up on here.

    • N

      The current version, which I think is the one I have now, isn’t quite as good, but is still pretty lovely. The vintage was an incredible violet leaves and literally, the exact smell of frozen green beans. VERY distinctive and odd, but lush and beautiful. It was amazing in the scenario above, when Greg and I were in Crete and I had a lot of little vials of the stuff and was literally just flicking it all over the walls. For me this is an absolutely Greek smell to me now because the whole room was awash with Grey Flannel for the holiday. Great memories. And for Dominic to have worn it as well, after being estranged for so many years, was quite amazing as well. It helped to bring about a reconcilement because after asking him what scent he was wearing we went for a talk outside, as the feuding family members stood about, glaring. Perfume as a bridge, an arbitrator!

      • brie

        amen to your last statement about perfume being a bridge …completely agree!

      • ninakane1

        These are two brilliant memories. I can just see you and Greg in that Greek hotel, and from your description it sounds a very elegant and appropriate scent to wear to a family funeral – violet leaves in particular are soothing and help with grief. Ideal for a reconciliation and I’m glad it helped you and Dominic connect. I find the smell of frozen green beans very evocative. My grandad would grow beans every year and when harvested would store them and other veg in this big old deep fridge freezer in the garage. The garage was this strange, dark, cobwebby, concrete place – very male – and a source of strange fascination and foreboding. We were always banned from it as kids due to the huge hacksaws hanging from the roof and the push-lawnmowers with their swirly lacerating blades. But the main reason for the ban was the freezer with its tempting smell of frozen blackberries, and the possibility of tiny children climbing up and tumbling into it, the heavy lid slamming shut – a horror frequently envisaged by my Grand parents (who had some reason to worry having 8 kids, and subsequently 31 grandchildren, all lively and curious…!). Sometimes in the Summer, I would creak open the door a peek, and stare as long as I dared, then slam it shut to run off into the sunshine and smell the sweet peas! Thank you for thinking of my quest for green – I will definitely give this a go. x

      • Stunningly evocative images!
        It’s funny: D and I were talking yesterday about what incredible scent and visual memories we had from our grandparents’ houses, and how, cruelly, those sensations have stayed with us even stronger than the memories of the grandparents themselves. For certain kinds of sensitive, absorbent children, the other microcosmos of another house can be such potent stimulants.

      • serafinarose

        I agree too Brie – it most definitely is.

  4. The last time I smelled this was in a cab a few years back. The cab driver smelled awesome and when I asked him what it was, he pulled out a bottle of Grey Flannel and told me to help myself. Beats those multicolored trees hanging from the mirror any day!

  5. Dear Ginza
    This is one that stares out at me from the internet often. All inviting in its claims of greeness and originality, bordering on the unwearable.
    Your images may have sealed the deal. But there is the question – ever present – of reformulation. The price seems to indicate something that has been boiled down to the very bones…
    Can you advise a dandy?
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • I bore myself with my constant imploring for vintage, but I have to say that I did wear this the other day (my bottle has been staring out at me from my cabinets and I fancied verdancy) and although the beginning was pretty good, it didn’t entirely satisfy. I am pretty sure the one I have now is a reformulation. The top notes of the old one were as startling as dragonflies; revivifying, fresh, and most certainly NOT unwearable, especially for a dandy. I imagine it worn with pale lilac velvets and grey linings and smelling utterly exquisite. For a men’s perfume it is truly unique, and in my view very very elegant.

  6. ‘Whirl up, sea—Whirl your pointed pines,
    Splash your great pines
    On our rocks,
    Hurl your green over us—
    Cover us with your pools of fir.’
    H.D.

    For some reason, your review has recalled this poem to me. x

  7. Pingback: Scent Memory – Grey Flannel – Geoffrey Beane – 1975 – l’élégance est un rituel | The Fragrant Man

  8. A lovely review. I’ve often wondered what this smells like. It’s the first time I’ve heard green beans mentioned as a note! However, I do love violets, so I will seek this out. It doesn’t seem to be expensive either.

  9. Love this review. Have just bought a bottle of the EDT. x

  10. ninakane1

    Now had a chance to try some of the contemporary EDT. Definitely get a hint of green beans but also a strong smell of plimsoll rubber and that cool freezer smell that conjures dental mouthwash ( is there mint in it?). Alcohol strong with a tang of cold vodka or gin. Violet leaves but also getting lavender, thyme, poss cedar, pepper and also something like benzoin or even damiana. It warms quickly getting into the skin and under it, bringing the salt and sweat to the fore in a cool soft-macho way. Reminds me of Trussardi Uemo – who was the nose behind it? Liking it mucho.

    • I am not sure, but I always found it extremely distinctive. Know exactly what you mean about the plimsoll rubber as well, and definitely deep freezers. I find that it is quite a good scent to kind of declog the brain with on a summer’s day. Almost anti-intuitive, as though you were adopting a green disguise, a green bean violet mantle.

      Will you wear it out in public?

      • ninakane1

        Absolutely. Wearing it today to Dante’s 10K charity run! I love having a solid, decisive, all-encompassing masculine scent to wear! Spent much of yesterday evening drenched in it smelling my skin obsessively (why I reckon it has benzoin in). Switched the telly off, stuck Josquin on the long-player, lit some candles and spent the evening reading a biography of Wittgenstein instead. It’s quite elegant and intense! Love it.

  11. Lilybelle

    I treasure my husband’s old mellowed bottle of Grey Flannel. He doesn’t wear it but sometimes I do in a certain mood in a certain season.

    • Exactly!

      It is just there for when that exact moment is right, like a green dap piling daydream about Greek myths.

      • Lilybelle

        Yes, I remember those days…when there was peace and quiet and time to daydream about Greek myths, to fantasize that you were in them. Before cells phones and internet and texting and 500 TV channels.

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