Monthly Archives: November 2013

PRECIOUS ONE by ANGELA FLANDERS (2012)

another erotic tryst….

The Black Narcissus

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The talk is all of tuberose, and jasmine, and fleurs de nuit, flowers floating ethereally above vetiver and oakmoss; a velvety, new, but classically-leaning chypre that won Angela Flanders the award for best independent fragrance at the 2012 FIFI awards.

The first thing I can say about this fragrance is that I can really see why it won this award: it has depth, richness, and integrity, and is one of the earthiest women’s perfumes to have been released in decades.

Which brings me to the second point: there is some serious gender subversion going on here, as the perfume, to me, smells emphatically masculine, almost brutishly so. I love the idea of delicate, spindly, fashion creatures honing in on the Precious boutique in Spitalfields, London, on a  cold Monday morning, being seduced by the immediacy of the store’s in-house fragrance, and emerging, clad in moss and peat, ready to overturn…

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VINTAGE BAL A VERSAILLES: AN AERIAL SHOT

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The first time I encountered Bal a Versailles was in Luca Turin’s original Le Guide from 1992. There is something in reading about a perfume that you think that you will never be able to get your hands on that almost makes it more enjoyable: the thrill of the holy grail; the abstract, luscious taunting of the unreachable and unattainable.  I can see myself poring over his reviews again and again, dreaming and yearning, trying to prise apart his spare, poetic French, his enticing yet hermetically sealed descriptions of long lost perfumes by Molyneux, Jacomo, Revillon, of the just opened Shiseido Palais Royal, of dozens of delectable sounding perfumes I would probably never smell in the future and just feel my internal organs clenching up with intense longing; an almost masochistic craving that was acutely pleasurable even when unfulfilled. His cunning words painted sufficiently salivating, impressionistic pictures to gloriously pique my curiosity and vainly try to imagine how this legendary perfume, the famous Bal A Versailles, must actually smell.

In his review of this scent, if I remember correctly (it has been some years), there was, naturally, a fantastical, extravagant ball;  the richly dressed revellers close and thronging; splendorously bedecked: and our heroine, barefoot, dancing feistily and libidinously near the feast’s kitchens, oblivious to protocol and convention, under a sky lit up respendently with fireworks. Turin touched brilliantly on the tightrope walk between glittering, sun-god richesse and glaring vulgarity in his descriptions, and make no mistake about it, Bal A Versailles does have a huge thwack of the vulgar, dolloped adoringly in its glowing, syruped, accords: it is lurid, sweaty, thick with those oily, glinting floral paints of liquorous orange blossom, rose absolutes, and pissy, indolic jasmine essences; all glinted and carnivaled up even further with notes of rosemary and mandarin, of lemon and of lilac; a riot; a mess of gilded lacquer to hide what we then know full well is about to come –  that base: the sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli, castoreum; the resins, the benzoin and tolu balsam; the vanilla, the musks, but most of all the civet, the lick of a thriving, voluptuous tongue on the neck, the tiny, ensensitized, golden hairs shivering with anticipation of what is about to come if she can just slip quietly away from those dastardly crowds….away from the mirrored magnificence, the powdered perruques; the politesse and refinement; and into the arms of the bestial, nourishing pleasures to be had in the shadows behind the beckoning marquee; lace-ripping throats thrust down hungrily on grass. Flesh, and lavish: full, greedy kisses.

Yes, Luca Turin knew full well that this perfume is certainly verging on the tacky, on the grotesque even, but that it is also irrevocably majestic and sumptuous.  Its turgid, engorged elegance does not give a fig about standard, common decency, but is more a perfume for those who live for hedonism and the fleshly, epicurean pleasures. An aristocratic vulgarity, then – knowingly fun and ribald; regal, radiant and jasmined, but equally, filthily indecorous.

 

 

 

 

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When I first then came across a vintage parfum of Bal A Versailles at a fleamarket (in vaporisateur form; somehow the most intensive experience one can have of this perfume, with all the notes blocked together so handsomely), having been ravished by the base notes I of course then wanted to know more, and looking among all the blogs, discovered some brilliant reviews that if you are interested in finding more about this rightfully much loved cult scent, you simply must read. The Non-Blonde encapsulates its essence most perfectly, and coincidentally invokes one of my favourite films, Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut in the process to contextualize the masked, sordid orgies of the perfume’s base, the frank and unapologizing eros at its heart. Like me, she believes that there is a right time and wrong time for this perfume; you really have to get it right : on dirty skin and in summer I would rather die, seriously: in winter, especially in snow, after a long hot bath with candles and the right soaps; perfect, warm, clean skin, letting the parfum sink in slowly into your chemistry, and, in my own case, possibly topping it all with talcs, just because;  to lock it in nicely like a she-wolf under glass; lying, patiently, like a dandy in my bathrobe, waiting for this perfume’s slow, rich, magic to take effect……..When I do this, and have judiciously chosen the right time to wear her; when I walk out into the icy, wintery night and feel the eskimo furred, languorous and purring warmth of the vanillic ambers rising up subtlely and slowly from my skin,  a burnished nuzzling halo of secrets and longings, loving, three dimensional, alive, I sometimes think that there is no better perfume on this earth.

 

I am not alone. Another seminal review of Bal A Versailles that I have read many a time was by one Beth on Perfume Smellin Things, an almost uncomfortably passionate account of how this perfume defined a tumultuous love affair that almost destroyed her, but which ultimately, now, only gives extra symbolism to a perfume she loves more than any other: a private, engorging triumph of a scent that she says is her, that encompasses all she is. This is a must-read. You can smell her affair in this piece. It is raw and dark, erotic, and quite emotionally wrenching. Yet as much as I love this smell and must always have some in my collection, I could never feel the same as this writer: it is simply too complex, embroiled; too basically disgusting for me to have as my signature. It would be like subsisting solely on truffes and chocolate ganaches. It would be sickening. And yet when I find it on the cheap here in Japan, always exciting as I love the box and bottle (why is there so much of this stuff here? It seems like the last place on earth where such a perfume would be acceptable?) I often buy it, whether to give it to others, or to wear by myself once the temperatures drop enough for it to feel right. It is not an easy perfume to just leave there on the shelf. Too precious.  A treasure.  Yet as I keep saying, get it wrong, as I did on Saturday night when I just wanted to scrub myself down in a citric, lemony shower and felt embarrassed to be out in public (particularly with Duncan in an uncharacteristic overdose of Jicky parfum), you end up regretting it all night, as those sour, pungent indoles and curdling, animalic florals begin to slowly eat you alive like starving leopards at the circus. Get it right, though, and it is animalic perfection, like being consumed, and seduced, by a beautiful, heavy breathing panther.

 

 

And speaking of beasts, there is one other review that is absolutely essential, one of the funniest I have ever read. Perfume Posse was always amusing in any case, but the review of Bal A Versailles on there is quite hilarious, collating all the splayed-open, beastly horror stories in one, rip-roaring go. Needless to say, despite the bawdy humour and the scatalogical jokes; the talk of cat butts and horse dung; of indoles and foulness; all those who rant and rave about this perfume on that forum do say that, ultimately, when all is said and done, that despite, and because, of its glistening over-complexity, its richness and filth; its unsuitablity for polite society – a perfume you must keep as a private, guilty secret, a perfume to scandalize even yourself – they absolutely love it.

 

 

And so do I.

 

 

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Jean Desprez Bal A Versailles vintage edt and parfum: the gunkiest, most viscous, floral, musked, vanillic amber the world has ever known. In Japan, tossed into bargain bins for five and ten dollars apiece. exquisite, if mightily, naughtily precarious…. get it wrong and you smell like a skunk. Get it right and smell like the Marquis De Sade gone to heaven

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November 18, 2013 · 3:31 pm

STOP THE PRESS! AFTELIER PERFUMES’ CUIR DE GARDENIA EXTRAIT IS GORGEOUS

 

but my computer is broken and I am trying to write this on my iPhone and I can tell you, with the devil incarnate that is autocorrect, plus my aubergine fingers, that writing is NO fun ( this I literally my eighth attempt). 

 

the perfume, just deliciously arrived in my postbox: immediately, for me, knee weakening. not gardenia, as in gardenia, but plumeria; tiare: a tropical, moist, neptunian, sultry white witch emerging, hair slicked to shoulders, from the sea. sweet Italian bubble bath honey. cuir: but fresh.tango’s eminently wearable younger sister, unencumbered

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D A M A G E

 

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The brilliant, gloriously fun new Lady Gaga album, Artpop, is a magnificent, brain-mangling opus so infernally catchy, that when I am not dancing like a dervish around the kitchen or up and down the stairs, my head is so gloriously full to the bursting with hooks, synth bursts and choruses that I can’t even think straight let alone sit down and write about perfume

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O sweet fig : FLAGRANT DELICE by TERRY DE GUNZBURG (2012) (+ miniature figathon for Nina: L’Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier; Diptyque Philosokos; Miller Harris Figue Amere; Angela Flanders Figue Noire; Sonoma Scent Studio Fig Tree; Carthusia Io Capri )

updated figginess for a cold november day

The Black Narcissus

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The pantheon of figs is dominated by two classic creations by Olivia Giacobetti –  lover of the ficus carica and of transparent, fresh fragrances in general – and the very talented perfumer who did Premier Figuier (‘the first figtree’) for L’Artisan Parfumeur in 1991 and Philosokos ( ‘fig lover’ inGreek) for Diptyque in 1996. Both of these scents capture the cool, lactic, dark-green essence of the tree’s lobed rough leaves.

The Diptyque creation is the stricter fig of the two; more spartan and verdant, the leaves of the tree forming the centre of the composition. A tiny hint of coconut adds a hint of sweetness, although this is soon undercut by a fresh (almost harsh), woody note of white cedar that lasts for hours on the skin. Philosokos is refreshing and headclearing, a ‘calm in the storm’ kind of fragrance that allows you to re-equilibrate yourself in…

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Chestnuts roasting on an open fire: CASTANA by ATELIER CLOON KEEN (2012)

The Black Narcissus

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Chestnuts, or ‘kuri’ in Japanese, are a winter staple in Japan. In Tokyo, and in most cities and towns in fact, there are chestnut vendors who trawl the streets at night with their tinny transistors wailing the traditional Edo period ‘chestnut song’ among the cold, steaming red neon: the nuts, in their shells, fragrant, unpeeled, and roasting hot as you grab a quick late night snack before the last train home.

 

 

Marrons glacés, Mont-Blancs (with which I now have something of an obsession, when combined with a piping hot cup of caffe latte on a cold rainy day in winter) and anything chestnutty in fact, are very popular here( they are also traditionally eaten pickled): the tiny, shrivelled, squirrel brains both nutritious and unique in texture, and aroma, and flavour.

 

But although I was always familiar with the famous Christmas time song by Nat…

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