Monthly Archives: August 2013

THE BLACK NARCISSUS GUIDE TO COCONUT

 

 

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

 

Coconut is the airhead of perfumery; the fluffbomb; the beachy, pineappled ditz, and a note that seems to invite scorn from a large number of seasoned perfumists. When coconut is listed as a note in a perfume, there are many who seem to almost panic at its presumably nut-brained, bimbo IQ; its lithe, suntanned flesh, its sheer happiness, who must be assured that the coconut note in question is not too prevailing, that there is just a hint, isn’t there? (as in Olivia Giacobetti’s tastefully coconut-laced fig perfumes L’Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier and Philosokos); that its swaying, palm-fringed tropicalia will not infringe too much on their delicate, rose incensed senses.

 

I am quite the opposite. I love coconut. In food, in drinks, as perfume and incense, even to bathe in ( I use Phillippine coconut cooking oil once or twice a month for this purpose – it is fantastic for the skin), and I think, ultimately, that for some bizarre whim of destiny, I probably suit coconut scents more than any other (even vanilla included).  It is a smell I find comfortably effortless and pleasing, an aroma  that I love to emanate from my skin.  I find it nerve-binding; optimistic; an escape into easier, balmier climes and skies that let me breathe some relief and simple ease: to me it just smells delicious.

 

And so, as a committed coconut lover, and as a kind of coconut ‘coming out’, and as someone about to go on holiday to a place where coconut is in virtually everything (apparently the area of Java I am going to is famous for its rich, coconut laced dishes..) I present to you, here in brief, some of my lovely bunch of perfumery coconuts . If you know of any more worthwhile scents that any of us coconut lovers out there would be likely to enjoy, please do feel very free to share the hairy love.

 

Image

 

 

Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image

 

 

 

NOIX DE COCO DE MALAYSIE   – YVES ROCHER

 

In my view, the best perfume bargain in the world.

 

I do not exaggerate. We all have a staple in our wardrobe, often one that is cheap for when the pricey and cherished stuff runs out or feels too precious for us to touch, and this happens to be mine. Coconut, yes; but not piña colada, or too creamy, or too synthetic, or ‘too’ anything.  Rather, this lovely perfume is a vanillic almond coconut, as cosy and pleasing as a big new white bean bag on the floor of a brand new apartment, and as comforting as your favourite coconut almond shampoo and conditioner ( I used Boots’ best for years at university, and this scent reminds me of its sweet, soothing perfume).

A scent of easy calmness and perfect balance, Noix De Coco, which I first discovered in Mexico City (YES! there is an Yves Rocher shop right next to our hotel…I will sneak in and buy loads of perfumes when Duncan is having a sleep!), and which seems to vary in colour from transparent to lactic cloud depending what country you find yourself in –  I personally prefer the latter, for the illusion of just-cracked fresh coconut milk –  may not be a complexly orchestrated, artistic ‘masterpiece’, but then it doesn’t need to be (and to me, to be honest, it probably smells nicer anyway: for the price of a bottle of By Kilian’s Playing With The Devil, for example, I could literally buy 20 bottles of this, and I know which one I would rather smell of).

 

I use Yves Rocher by itself, or sprayed on clothes, in summer or in winter (when it really cheers me up on a cold January day), or else I find it works as a delicious extender and mixer of other scents that either comprise a coconut note that you feel needs augmenting (Cacharel Loulou, Montale Intense Tiare, Givenchy Ysatis), or else a novel and unexpected addition for intrepid layering (Kouros works beautifully with this, as did, to my counterintuitive surprise, vintage Calèche parfum).

 

And at around 9 Euros for a 50ml bottle, an absurdly low price I think for such a pleasant scent, you can use this little coconut treasure as often, and as much, as you like.

 

I personally try to never be without it.

 

 

Image

 

I LOVE COCO – HONORE DES PRES

 

A more luxuriant, delectable, rounded and, amazingly, 100% natural, organic coconut is I love Coco, from Parisian outfit Honore Des Près.

 

This fleshy, almost airy, soil-drinking white coconut scent comes onto the skin living and breathing: the beachy breeze blowing through the rough hairs of its shell; the cool, milky inner chambers moist, threaded and full of essence. As the day goes on, the scent gets fattier, creamier, but nonetheless remains a real, caressing, high quality coconut perfume that in my view is one of the best on the market.

 

 

 

VIRGIN ISLAND WATER – CREED

 

This is a sheer, coconut water for the moneyed and the rich; for the Russian-minted oligarch and his monogrammed tailored white shirts, sipping cocktails with his blonde, bodied consorts on the French Riveria. Elevated, fixed, a Creedishly silvery and dashing coconut note is cleverly and effortlessly shot through with an extended addendum of lime for summery, emphatic effect. Unusual, lingering, and strangely sexy, this is a scent with a definite vacational je ne sais quoi.

 

 

 

PINA COLADA – DEMETER

 

Probably the funniest scent in my collection, this unwearable party trick is a far less upmarket cocktail – more cheapo 18-30 Club Med – the lads and lasses chundering into the swimming pool  – than the immaculate, smooth-pressed, ‘beautiful’ yacht people above. I do kind of like this though : a syrupy, boiled sweet pineapple colada steeped in leeringly sweet, condensed, coconut juices that is always a fun way to get a party started ( ….”fancy a spritz?”)

 

(…party guests wailing and rushing for the bathroom in instantaneous, insulin shock…..)

 

 

G – GWEN STEFANI HARAJUKU LOVERS

 

I have been wearing G recently at work, and this scent is the only coconut I can imagine being suitable in the office. G is apparently what La Stefani herself wears, and I really like it too, a lot. Slim-lined, sheer, a touch ozonic; but a long-lasting, clear and surprisingly robust modern coconut perfume with an imperceptible, ‘green apple’ top note and a pleasant, but never acrid, woody, cedary base note that works as an excellent counterpoint for a workday, contemporary tropical. G  manages that desirable, but rarely adroitly accomplished, feat of persistent, idiosyncratic subtlety. It may be simplistic, but it is a scent that is executed without pretence and that does its job very efficiently. I have been very pleased with its performance.

 

There is also a special summer version, ‘G By The Sea’, available, which I am quite eager to get my  hands on as it is apparently more oceanic and tiare-laced than the original and sounds like the perfect summer perfume, though the chunky plastic mermaid (gargoyle in drag?) of the bottle will not be accompanying me to the classroom, I can tell you.  

 

 

VITTORIA APUANA – I PROFUMI DEL FORTE

 

When I first smelled this at Berlin’s KaDeWe department store a couple of summers ago, I was beachfoaming at the lips with want, but  simply didn’t have enough cash left to purchase it as I discovered it right at the end of my holiday.

  

What I smelled and sighed over at that time was a creamy and rapturously delicious infusion of natural smelling plumeria/tiare,  sponge-petallish and alive, with vanilla, raspingly fresh coconut and an unusual, ravishingly delicate and ethery top note from the banana tree – fruit; leaves….

 

If this all sounds too much, it probably is ( on the card I felt as if I had died and gone to heaven as it really seemed to somehow capture the essence of that warm and tropical breeze I so adore, but I found it, on skin, a touch cloying when I came across it again at London Liberty last year, so definitely try it on skin first).  

 

Nonetheless, I still have my languid, stolid, coconutty eyeballs fixed ignobly in its direction, and will simply have to get my hands on it again at some point. This is lapping, lulling beach in a bottle, a  coconut symphony; a  sigh of sappish sweetness and light.

 

SEXY COCONUT (pour lui et elle) – JEANNE ARTHES

 

While the popular image of Japan – austere, severe, exquisitely beautiful – is certainly true in many respects (particularly in traditional cities such as Kyoto and Kamakura, where I happen to live), there is another much more fun, trashier side to this country that finds its expression especially in the summer time here, when kids from the city flood to the coasts and get tropical. Jeanne Arthes is a low-market brand that does quite well here with its Sexy Boy and Sexy Girl fragrances, and, interestingly, this sweet, appealing take on Chopard’s Casmir (also a coconutty, drippingly luscious vanilla sandalwood worth looking at) is the only one billed as ‘unisex’ (one of the many fascinations of Japan is its intriguing twists on gender, particularly among the youth..)

See those skinny, pretty young Nihonjin splashing in the waves, emerging for some beer and some pizza, and a quick spritz of Sexy Coconut, a sharp and fruity top accord over coconut, peach and ambery sandalwood, before they head off to some reggae, rockin’ beachside bars..   

 

 

COCO EXTREME  – COMPTOIR  ET SUD PACIFIQUE

 

A cold, streaming blast of coconut; joss sticks, a cocktail of nuclear-strength noix de coco synthetics and reconstructed coconut flesh that means real, high gravity coconut business. I do find Coco Extrême a bit much sometimes ( it could almost be a Marvel Comics super-hero; Coconut Man, shooting through the city skies, leaving vapour trails of cocolo nimbus in his wake as he battles his nemesis, the bile-firing, pit from-hell-screeching OUD COP)  but I have to say that I do sometimes use my (now almost empty) bottle of this perfume as a top-up, a tiny touch on the neck to complete, nicely, an outlandishly tropical profile ( I once went to a party wearing Loulou, Yves Rocher Noix De Coco, and then, the moment I arrived, just a touch of Coco Extrême, and I can tell you the compliments came rolling in like a lovely barrel of coc…

 

INDIAN COCONUT NECTAR by PACIFICA

 

I have in my collection a coconut body lotion I picked up at the Tokyo flea market for almost nothing one Sunday, something by a Thai company called Ma Praw, and it has the most hilarious, deliriously lip-dribbling effect: it smells exactly like a Thai meal has just been put on the table:  a coconutty, jasmine steamed rice that fills up the entire room,  putting Etat Libre D’Orange’s intriguing limey, coconut Fils De Dieu to shame with its strength, delectability and intensity.

 

We had some friends staying recently, and one, Elaine, had sneakily put on some of this body lotion after her shower. As I mounted the stairs soon afterwards I found my mouth involuntarily watering in some Pavlovian response ( I adore Thai food ), the entire air from the bottom of the stairs to the top vibrating an edible coconut rice that seemed bizarrely incongruous in the context of perfume: can you actually imagine going out of the house smelling like this? ( I can, and have, and will, naturally…).

 

Indian Coconut Nectar may not have the same gustatory power, but it is a very foody, almost savoury and edible coconut perfume all the same that reminds me somewhat of those delectably sweet coconut desserts you get in Indian restaurants; or the spice-laden coconut ice creams they serve known as kulfi. It has that dense, stranded, honey-infused and dessicated thickness that I associate with such desserts, and in the solid perfume version that I have, makes a very pleasing and strength- inducing firmness that I like to dab on the wrists and neck  (with a furtive drop or two underneath of the unctuous Ma Praw for good measure).  

 

COCO ET VANILLE  – LA VANILA

 

And so to the night. The sun has gone down, we retire to our beach huts, or our condo, and shower up for the evening’s pleasures ahead. This little number, clearly influenced quite strongly by Dior’s doughy sex bomb Hypnotic Poison, isn’t a bad way to sit at the bar, perfumed up for the night, tipsy and sunkissed, the feeling of the sun still pressing your shoulders; your eyes roaming the joint; the condensation on your iced glass pleasingly wet and promising.

 

 

Image 

 

 

 

COCO ET VANILLE –   E COUDRAY

 

Then later, why not slather on the sinful, almost sickeningly sweet decadence of the Coudray amalgamating of thick, ambery vanilla notes with the boudoirish creams of coconut…..smear yourself down, oozy and glistening, with the crème de corps; spray on some edt, smothering away all your anxieties, and with warm, voracious slowness,  bite your way out, then, into the coconutty; palm-laden; fecund; tropical night.  

 

 

 

It is yours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

73 Comments

Filed under Flowers

BEELZEBUB IN A HAIRNET : IN THE CITY OF SIN, FORBIDDEN GAMES, GOOD GIRL GONE BAD (2012), + PLAYING WITH THE DEVIL (2013) BY KILIAN

Image

Apologies for the lack of new reviews and input recently; I have been in the middle of the exhausting and hellish ‘summer seminar’ at my Japanese school, and in any case never even got to finish it due to a nasty ear infection, which has seen me deaf, listlessly bloated with antibiotics, fed up and just lying sluggishly supine, feeling sorry for myself, on the tatami mat in this roiling, sweltering heat (I have just been outside and the thermometer says 36 degrees, at 4pm….people are apparently dying across the country…) I think the penicillin might be finally starting to kick in though as I am sitting here writing this: it had better, anyway, as I have only today and tomorrow to get ready and start packing for Indonesia (and I don’t especially fancy my eardrums exploding on board my All Nippon Airways flight, what a frightful scenario that would be..) As you may know, I am going to be staying on an organic vanilla and cardamom farm in western Java, and am just WILLING these bacteria to F off in time for the holiday to begin. AND LET IT BEGIN: I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF ALL THIS ‘DUTY’ AND ‘DOING ONE’S BEST’ and being polite and well-mannered and ‘upright’ and all the rest of this bloody repressive, stiff, repressed, self-controlled society – I   N E E D   T O    GET  O  U     T    OF  J  A  P A N  for a while or I am going to  eX p L O DE or commit mass murder.     * * *     Anyway, just in case you are wondering why I have suddenly disappeared, that is where I will be, studying about vanilla for five days (yikes, I have never done anything agricultural before), and then going on a trip across the country to visit several cities including the mystical, and apparently stunningly beautiful, ancient temples of Borobudur. I will be back in September, hopefully reinvigorated and ready to dive back into writing about perfume, which is the thing I love doing the most. And luckily, during this exhausting, debilitating season of shit, some lovely people have sent me some luxuriant and generous things in the post for me to review:  there is now a growing backlog of scents for me to delve into now and describe and I can’t wait, quite frankly, to begin.   I was sent a whole load of perfumes the other day, including very large samples from the nifty, overexpensive niche line By Kilian, whose perfumes I usually quite like (Beyond Love, Back To Black, A Taste Of Heaven especially), though perhaps not quite enough to actually go and buy a full bottle (I don’t really like those overembellished, over-titled flacons anyway). Always exciting to rip open those packages and see perfumes you never even knew about, though, with names like In The City Of Sin and Good Girl Gone Bad, even if one’s inner cynic does immediately lift one of its eyebrows upon contact with such fodder. The By Kilian range has been expanding exponentially recently, what with the ‘Arabian Nights’ oud line and the so-called midnight in ‘The Garden Of Good And Evil’ range (which I have rechristened, for my own personal use, as ‘Noontide In The Salon Of Shampoos And Conditioners’ as the perfumes in the range have nothing, and I mean nothing, remotely evil, interdicted,  or even especially sensual about them, their themes of ‘forbidden fruit’ and the reinterpretation of Eden and the original sin translating, in reality, into fresh n’ fruity – and at certain moments quite lovely  – modern fragrances that evoke less an Eve that is being tempted into The Fall, into the consciousness she had hitherto been denied by the treacherous, satanic snake, than Eve at the salon, having her hair done in a fashionable wave, chatting, and drinking a cool and refreshing apple soda over ice.)   Quite a nice distraction, anyway, in this state I am in, these overpriced, ‘black magic’ fruity numbers, rivulets of sweat  pouring down my body, half woozy from the drugs, not entirely compos mentis….     IN THE CITY OF SIN Supposed notes: Head: Calabrian bergamot, pink peppercorns, cardamom Guatamala Heart : Apricots, caramelized plums, Turkish rose absolute Base : Indonesian incense, Atlas Virginia cedar, ‘rich Indonesian patchouli (seriously, there is NO patchouli or incense in this perfume whatsosever….).   In The City Of Sin (such a misnomer)  is a pleasant and peppery fruity wood vanilla that has a certain langour to it, as though a semi-louche passionfruit were lazing nonchalantly in some leather doorway, waiting for the hungry, leering johns in this unconvincing Gomorrah to come along and hook her up. Ultimately, however,  she seems to lack the energy to unzip those bazookas and really take things any further. The scent is nice enough, in an easy, office-friendly kind of way, but the generic clean musk woodiness that underlies it soon takes over and you realize that if this is sin, it would be quite easy for even the most libidinized of humans to remain holy.     FORBIDDEN GAMES Head: apple, peach, plum, cinnamon bark from Laos Heart: Bulgarian rose orpur, geranium Bourbon, ‘midnight jasmine’ Base: Madagascar vanilla, ‘Laotian honey’, opoponax ‘A nectar of fruit prohibited to mortals’, a ‘potpourri of fruits’, Forbidden Games is much more pleasingly luscious and naughty, a plethora of glinty, fruity shampoo notes over a light, fresh ‘n frisky Madagascar vanilla opoponax and a gentle, free-and-easy heart of self-bronzing sunscreen, the apple-crisp contrast between the almost bitter fruited top and more sensual, vanillic bottom being what gives this scent its appealing, sly-lipped wink. Though nothing special, sprayed on to a young girl’s freshly washed mane, a swish here and there on a springtime sunlit street would certainly attract a few head turns and come-thither blow kisses.   (I might actually take this one on holiday with me to Indonesia. I can imagine post-shower, a bit on my wrists alongside mangoey smorgasbords of Javan breakfasts and coffee, it could work out quite nicely and put me in a fine morning mood. Then again, its overly familiar drydown – that drugstore chemical fruitiness that seems to inhabit almost every contemporary product –  might start to get on my nerves… )     PLAYING WITH THE DEVIL Head: blood orange, blackcurrant, peach, lychee, pepper, Heart: rose, jasmine, pimento Base: cedar, patchouli, tonka, benzoin, vanilla     To me this is really quite a crap, confused perfume, rehashing the already dull themes of Calice Becker’s work for In The City Of Sin to sour and weirdoid, fruitmashed effect, almost as though Mugler’s Angel, hair still slathered up high in diva towel with treatment pack,  had oop oops then inadvertently de-balanced, and toppled herself over into a vat of hard boiled fruit gum mixture. Bubbling, slowly down under,  she has given up the ghost.   An ‘original’, if cacophonous, start in this perfume is redolent, only intellectually, with the mix-up-everything-and-see-what-happens vibe of Amouage’s Interlude Woman, but in the case of that perfume’s development, things only get better, and richer, after the initial kiwi-lala confusion, until you finally begin to understand and relent to its characterful goodness, whereas Playing With The Devil, like all the fragrances in this particular range, fades down, eventually, to something muted, and just….. normal.  I feel pretty sure that this characterless scent will elicit no response from anyone passing a By Kilian concession in a department store, and will not sell a single bottle, unless the prospective buyer leaves it on long enough to get to what is, in some ways, I suppose, a half decently sultry conclusion if you concentrate hard enough.   Lucifer, though I am sure, will be weeping feebly somewhere down in his crummy old hell, irritated and enraged over this bloodless, feeble misrepresentation of his popular image.  He has probably already contacted his attorney in LA.     GOOD GIRL GONE BAD Jasmine Sambac, Chinese Osmanthus, Rose De Mai, Indian tuberose, Egyptian narcissus, Virgian cedarwood, amber Rihanna, on the other hand, will probably not be running to her lawyer to start litigation over this scent (presumably named after one of her best-selling albums), as it smells rather gorgeous, at least initially, with a fresh, natural floral snap of sambac jasmine, creamy osmanthus and old school tuberose that beguiles the senses and makes you think for a moment yes, Alberto Morillas, now you’re talking.   A familiar blackberry musk, and a banal, annoyingly synthetic sandalwood then soon sets in, however, and we know at this moment that this girl isn’t really so ‘bad’ after all, that there ain’t no putresence here, be it moral, of the mind, or of the flesh (she has had no experience, she is but a cipher). The rot, the sensual rot, hasn’t even begun to set in to this nubile, watery young thing, who smells, as she knows full well and thankfully, just as sweet, and as predictable, as a flower, but who fades; regrettably (mercifully?) just as damn quickly.

29 Comments

Filed under Flowers

Adulterous: CABOCHARD by GRES (1959)

The Black Narcissus

Image

 

 

 

 

Image

 

 

 

 

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…

View original post 53 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Flowers

NUANCES by ARMANI PRIVE COUTURE (2013)

Image

 

 

The fundamental aesthetic of Milano fashion maestro Giorgio Armani has always been a form of stratospheric normalcy; an incontrovertible elegance and simplicity that most of us mere mortals could never even hope (or in my case, want) to achieve, with its unfussed, seamless drapery and cut; its perfection; its conservatism. Look at any Armani show in the haute couture season, and he is invariably the least daring creator, particularly when compared to the more ‘out there’ designers of France, the UK, or Japan who seem, often, to push the boundaries of weirdity and alien unwearability to fiercely artistic, but sometimes unintentionally comic, effect.

 

 

The thing about Armani is that his clothes, even at the very top of his range, are always, ultimately, wearable. And the same thing can be said for his perfumes. While La Femme Bleue, which I have never smelled but have some kind of weird crush on, having read gorgeous reviews by The Non Blonde and Olfactoria about its oneiric, black-irised, cacao-lunared shimmeringness, does seem to warrant the extreme lust that a limited edition can inspire (1000 bottles worldwide, and Birgit somehow got her elegant, Viennese hands on one), the new perfume in the iris-themed Couture Collection, Nuances, is also rather nice, also a limited edition of 1000, and will convicingly accompany any extravagantly priced Armani creation with its taut but ‘romantic’ urbanity, its airtight, rounded tastefulness (the perfume was conceptualized around a particular metallic grey organza the company has created for one of its recent shows, and this ‘material’ effect does somehow come through in the perfume’s execution).

 

It is, however, as others have also noted, nothing new. In fact, on first application last night (a gorgeous package that came through the post yesterday from the generous Dubaiscents, just in time to spike up a tired, jaded perfumist into writing again), it was so resonantly familiar that the excited anticipation of a perfume that might be strange, enigmatic, perhaps austere, a quality I usually associate with iris, quickly wilted into a more shrew-eyed examination of what it was exactly that the much more standardized, formulaic perfume in the vial reminded me of.

 

And it is this: Prada Infusion D’Iris, which I like and consider one of the best mainstream commercial releases of recent years for its integrity, the sense that it smells like a perfume for once, with its own identity, balance, and lovely, endearing smell. It is also a perfume I find, on occasion, quite annoying somehow, with its wrapped-and-ribboned fashion perfection, a delicate and lovely scent that nevertheless leaves no room to breathe. If you know the Prada, then you will be immediately able to imagine Nuances, which takes that same benzoin and bergamot-infused, sweet, powdery iris accord, and places it neatly over (an again, familiar) modern, niche-level vetiver, the kind of vetiver found in anything from Vetyverio to Vetiver Extraordinaire; that refined, insistent, unearthy, but loveable and woody twenty-first century-vetiver we kneau so well, wedded convincingly to a high-quality sandalwood and heliotrope accord that allows the scent to persist for quite a long time on the skin as the iris, or orris root – not as pronounced as you might like or expect – encircles the blend; breathing a summoning, balancing gentility into the whole.

 

 

And there you have it. This is the kind of perfume that is very likely to draw compliments when the person who can afford to buy it (500 euros) walks into the room, as it is so accessible, pleasant, even charismatic.  There is a cinnamon-woody richness there in the base that for a few fleeting seconds was reminiscent for me of vintage Feminité Du Bois extrait, and this warmer aspect, and the decent quality of the ingredients elevates the scent above the more commercial (and ten times cheaper) Prada with an almost incensey richness that is quite pleasurable, even if the perfume overall lacks anything that could make me swoon. That ‘elevation’, though, is what this line is all about: and though Nuances is not what I would call special, it is certainly a well-crafted iris-vetiver (more a vetiver) that will not for a moment, I think, let down its chic, moneyed, and immaculately-attired, wearer.

21 Comments

Filed under Flowers