With its acerbic fuselage of sharp, gleaming galbanum; bergamot, leaf notes and blue hyacinth; an unsentimental floral heart of narcissus and cassia, and a dry, resinous, woody base, Silences is both sexed and restrained;  attractive and scary, an almost callous scent, bitchy even, despite its cool, midnight vulnerability.

I always imagined Silences on a jaded Japanese ‘hostess’ of the eighties, reclining on the black velour banquette of a nightclub in Ginza, scrutinizing you as you pass her doorway, eyes meeting yours, not shrinking from your gaze. A shrewd, black cat on the surface; in reality nervous, tender, wanting you to look deeper.

This is the house of Jacomo’s keeper, its classic, and is still sold in France, or at least it was the last time I was in Paris. Often compared to Chanel N°19, another angular, no-nonsense, green-woody floral, I find that the Chanel – more powdery, complex and beautiful ultimately – wilts nonetheless in the presence of Silences, which is more bolstered, pared-down, eye-on-the-game.

Curiously affecting on the right person, Silences, with its minimalist, verdant breaths of flowers and resin, its shiver of night garden, catches your brain with a wordless immediacy: digs her talons in with a simple, mesmerizing chord structure;  fixes you with her stare;  kisses you, and refuses to let go.


Filed under Flowers

43 responses to “SILENCES by JACOMO (1978)

  1. Marina

    I am currently in that state. I’m on the hunt I’m after…it.

  2. ninakane1

    I think I tried this when I visited you – in fact, I think I kept pairing it with Je Reviens. It was one of the scents that persuaded me to go green with my choices! I think I was ambivalent about the scent, but loved that curious round black bottle. I love how you describe it here.

    • Thanks.

      On Marina it smelled perfect. On me ( I am wearing it right now ) it kind of works, and I love it, but make it a bit dilly and pickled. It BREATHED on M (who recoiled from Je Reviens, incidentally….interesting how these things go).

      • Je Reviens is a difficult scent. It’s very extreme. The more I wear it (and I don’t wear it often), the more wary I am of it. It’s a bit like a truth drug – or an enema scent perhaps! I find if I wear it I go through three distinct phases of immediate giggly high, followed by huge melancholy and loss and feelings of being completely cut off from the world, beyond hope, through to a huge sense of relief, like when you get through a hard winter and you suddenly look out of the window and realise the leaves are lush and green, and the sun’s shining. I now only wear it if I know I have to clear something out emotionally and am geared up for the teary stage it invariably puts through! It’s one to use with caution I find. I’ll have to try Silences again sometime and try and work that one out.

      • ninakane1

        Still love Je Reviens – utterly intriguing perfume, but like I say…

      • Nina, I’m intrigued by your emotional journey on Je Reviens. The idea of a perfume-led emotional catharsis makes perfect sense to me; after all, what touches the limbic system more directly than scent? But that you have a journey with distinct stages, and can knowingly use it when you need to clear emotional gunk, is fascinating. It sounds like guided imagery, but on the scent level. Are there other scents that have equally strong but different emotional effects on you?

    • I ADORE how you describe your reactions to Je Reviens: and all of it makes perfect sense to me. That stalactitey, cavernous, sonorous, mournful beauty part is indeed incredibly melancholic, but there is something warm and sunlit and incensey about the final stages that is quite grounding. Amazing that all this could be achieved in a perfume.

      • ninakane1

        Thanks Neil, I love how you describe the last stages here! You’re right that’s exactly how it is. Thanks Feral Jasmine! I think most perfumes actually have this potential and this is why Neil’s writing and talking about them is so wonderful because he articulates the character and architecture of each perfume so distinctively. Most people don’t have a vocabulary for describing their response to scent, other than immediate acceptance/rejection of it. Neil’s lifelong immersion in and passion for perfume and his interest in how people respond to them have resulted in him having a huge emotional literacy when it comes to reading scents, and this is what makes his writing on them so generous and beautiful in that it allows others to start thinking about perfume in this way, and recognising not only the individual shape if the perfume, but it’s emotional and psychological effects, which will vary from person to person.

      • Thanks Nina. I had never thought of it that way!

  3. I am entranced by your ability to evoke the spirit of a perfume in so few words. And what a precious gift to give a friend: a scent that lives and breathes on them that they would not have found for themselves.

    • If I do manage to do what you say I can do, then I am delighted. Thank you. And you are right about finding perfumes for friends: I LOVE it, which is one of the reasons I love having a large collection, precisely for that moment. Silences didn’t truly come alive until Marina wore it, and now hopefully it will become one of her signatures.

  4. marina

    I am that friend and words cannot express how expertly and profoundly he knew me to recommend Silences and vintage 19 to me. Anybody that knows me knows me to be a certain way with certain predilections and affinities. We are all complex individuals. Neil you have the gift of matching scent with person and writing about it in themost enchanting way.

    • ninakane1

      I second Marina and FeralJasmine in that – Neil you truly do have a gift in that department. It’s wonderful.

    • I don’t know if I do: I just go with a certain flow, but the whole ‘process’, not that it feels like that, but the experience of suddenly reaching for a perfume without knowing why and it sometimes working, explosively, is totally satisfying and captivating to me.


  5. marina

    and i cant get the aoud lime out of my head

  6. Lilybelle

    Silences was too austere for me when I had a bottle, so I moved it on to a more loving home. Recently, however, my preferences have changed so much that I’d probably love it, as I did Molinard de Molinard when I resampled that a few weeks ago, and I wondered where that had been all my life (right under my nose!). I love reading your posts, as always. 🙂

  7. Nancysg

    Silences is the first scent that I have purchased both old and new versions of. I find it to be the perfect blend of green with powdery wood. The contrast perhaps suits me. A little dichotomy in life.

  8. Dearest Ginza
    What a perfect comparison you make between the oft-compared 19 and this masterpiece.
    Yes, ultimately this is more unsettling, strident even and that no-you-smell-me-now-you-don’t muguet at the opening always unbalances me.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • It is a quite brilliant creation, I would say. I honestly hadn’t quite really understood it though until Marina tried it at my house. I wonder how it smells on you…..quite elegant I would imagine.

  9. I do love Silences in the spring. I don’t even mind the current version. Great photos chosen as usual, Neil!

  10. So much good writing happens on this blog, in the comments as well as in the posts. Every morning I look forward to reading what Neil and his articulate friends have written. Neil, you have formed a sort of perfume salon, where anyone inspired by the writing and the topic gets to take part, and it’s quite lovely.
    Speaking of articulate commenters, I have missed Brie on the comments lately. Does anyone know if she is okay? I hope it’s a lovely Internet-free vacation.

  11. Holly

    I recently ordered a sample of this and sadly STC no longer carries it. I was going to tralala and forget about it … until now. If you have a moment, I hope you’ll let me know if you think I should be pursuing the “vintage” version. I usually would do so in most cases, but I see that the current version of Silences is readily available here in the states. Have you ever had a sniff of that one? Thanks for another great review!

    • You see I reckon that the current version is probably OK, somehow, not that I can totally vouch for it, but I have heard such things, for once.

      Remember: there is a sour, resinous quality in this scent, which is precisely why it is so interesting. But it certainly isn’t ‘pretty’ per se: more…..well kind of what I say here. Bitchy. Green as hell. Depthful (you need it)

      • Holly

        Neil, it would be terribly remiss of me not to return to this post and comment. I ended up buying a bottle of the current version of Silences, and it has been so perfect for me that it has blended into my life so seamlessly as to be almost indistinguishable from myself.

        I always thought that a holy grail would be something astonishingly beautiful and somehow apart, otherworldly. It has been quite surprising to find that for me, Silences is very much like a relationship where you discover that someone fits with you, somehow their rhythms match yours and you find yourself at home despite all your differences. There’s a sense of relief and wonder, of coming home to a place you didn’t know existed beyond myth and fairy tale.

        You were right. I need it. Thank you so much.

      • How lovely. And how interesting. I know that feeling precisely, and there is something quite prescient about this scent, something sentient – so I can imagine how it could fuse with a person in this way…


    • Just because it has that midnight, quite….how can I put it…something concealed, and compacted, and yet poetic. With not an OUNCE of sweetness. That is the point. I would love to know what you think of it. Just go for it!!!!!

  12. Lilybelle

    Silences – too bitchy, too tough and fibrous for me. I’m a wimp, though. 🙂

  13. This has been a captivating thread to read. You have attracted a stellar fan base, Neil, and deservedly.

    I can see how Je Reviens might bring out a chronological range of strong feelings and subsequent catharsis. My relationship with it is powerful, but simpler. I have stockpiled it for the pure joy it gives me.

    Silences. I dig it. So much depends, however, in which version you’re wearing. I’m now wearing Silences vintage edt and current edp, and vintage (quite elderly, glorious) Chanel N°19 edt and about a 15-year-old (if memory serves) edp.

    My vintage Silences edt has the ultimate bitch factor: the green is ferocious, dark, sharp, almost olive in that same bitterness of the oil that almost turns to keffir lime peel (fibrous is such a good word), warm golden-brownish from a great deal of vetiver and oak moss. It is most like very old Chanel N°19 vintage edt, but only a cousin; the N°19 has serious underpinnings of orris root and that overall Chanel refinement. I know that it (the Silences) lasts for eons on skin.

    My current Silences edp is much different than its vintage edt counterpart. The colour, in my mind’s eye, is less olive, more Spring green. It has a soft floralcy more akin to vintage N° 19 edp, but again, without the amazing orris; the impression includes a green rose, hyacinth and narcissus, and it goes a little powdery on the drydown. There is an echo of Calice Becker’s Vent Vert. It has been almost completely declawed. There is nothing bitchy about it. I find it utterly un-difficult, charming, and a helluva steal for the few dollars a bottle it goes for. Without the oakmoss and vetiver, its staying power is reduced, but still decent.

    Oh, by the way, my Rouge d’Hermès has just come in the mail. Whee! I’m going to wait until all these bits of wrist and arm have toned down and then give the Rouge a whirl.

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