Ultramarine, perhaps the most popular scent for men – EVER – in Japan, is in my opinion, an absolute, bottled oxymoron : a ‘morbid oceanic’, if you like, and surely the weirdest perfume ever to be a megahit (which it undoubtedly still is here, even two decades after its release: an extremely popular choice for the young surfer about town – so much so that if you smell a perfume on a man in this country it is quite likely to be this surprise hit flanker for Givenchy). Though nowhere on the best seller lists in other countries, in Japan it is considered something of a reference perfume, one that everyone knows will help you pull, a scent that is seen as definitively sekk-u-shi (….er…SEXY). To me, though, having been exposed to its ‘charms’ at close range on countless occasions, this cadaverous wave of nautical chemicals just smells like dirt-caked zombies, smiling; riding the morning surf with their rictus grins of joy as that salt comes crashing down on their uncrackable, sun-shining skulls.
Few perfumes make me react the way this does: a kind of severe, mesmerizing repulsion where I find myself hypnotised by the seaweed death notes of the base, but find I have to soon move away to less perfumed climes – to some fresh air.
Perhaps it is that very algae that the Japanese love, though – the inexorable pull towards the ocean, though I have to say there is a certain urgent, compulsive sexuality about the scent: a do or die, fuck-me-on-the-spot quality that must appeal to the rebel and outsider (and remember: only those who are a bit rebellious in this country DO wear perfumes this strong…)
The weirdness in the perfume that I keep referring to comes from a deep registered, under-seafloor rumbling of acrid tobacco, cedar, cardamom and vetiver; a ‘blue’ accord of half-rotted marine creatures; some imaginary highnoted ‘waterfruits’ (sea cucumber? kelp berries?) and herbaceous, bright and minty citrus top notes – all the clashing, thrashing ultramingling octaves you could ever wish for in a scent.
I’ll give Ultramarine one thing. It is certainly unforgettable.
Yet despite the free-for-all mixes that keep coming out (‘Evening Dream’, ‘Beach Surf’, ‘Ice Cube’, ‘Morning Surf’, ‘Midnight Swim’ and many, many more, even a ‘Pour Elle’) I would say that ultimately this one is only for the boys. I once did a ‘man to man’ private lesson with a youngish woman with an exsanguinated, grey-tinged pancake complexion who was maladvisedly drenched in Ultramarine.
It was really quite difficult to concentrate the lesson as I was so affected (and masochistically fascinated) by her scent….
Never mind the grammar: this was like being locked in a taxidermist’s overnight, or having my head thrust and held in an undertaker’s coat, cold; vicious; come directly from the formaldehydic, graveyard rain.