The only thing really lacking at our party the other night was perfume. Conspicuous in its absence, whenever someone did emanate scent the effect was startling: Chie in some fruity shampoo Japanese concoction that suited her slinky sequinned dress to perfection; Takako all femme fatale in her Songes by Annick Goutal: Aiko smelling beautiful as ever in the perfume she was surely born to wear, the dazzlingly alluring jasmine epic Sarrasins, and Duncan in the slick, gorgeous lavender semi-oriental Sartorial by Penhaligons: a ultra-suave, yet brilliantly measured scent that is quickly becoming his signature.  Aside these notable exceptions, however, and my own overly applied force field of Eau Du Soir, the evening was about as scented as the photographs I put up the day afterwards.  So boring, so bereft of depth, this flat, visual universe.  Where is the perfume?  It astonishes me the extent to which people are oblivious to the joys of three dimensionalizing their presence with a beautifully crafted scent; of their indifference, or their deep and potent fears of smelling ‘too strong’, or even of smelling at all, a profound paranoia of standing out that bores deep into the Japanese psyche, and, seemingly, the westerners living here as well.










What so many people don’t seem to realize is just how much a scent can adorn you, embellish you, become the ultimate finishing touch: make you come more alive on the dance floor or in conversation; how a well-selected scent can draw people in, magnetize, intrigue, even enthrall, with a beckoning sense of layers uncovered, an unmasking of the soul that simultaneously, and perversely, keeps you even more ostentatiously well-hidden. I want more encounters with people clad in interesting perfumes, the mutual intimacy of the internalizing of another person’s molecules; the breathing in, the mental and physical reaction, how we inhale, and exhale, each other in passing.








The evening after the party, tired and hungover, before going to bed I happened to pick up a sample spray of Guerlain’s Petite Robe Noire that was lying around on the floor long ignored, and thought I would give it another try. And I realized that although I had completely discounted this scent on first try as nothing but cheap Duty Free trash, I would have loved in fact to have smelled something like this on one of the girls, or boys, that came to the event; something sweet, fun, flirty and light-hearted, an ideal scent for the many little black dresses that were indeed dotted about the sparkling scape just begging for a dab or two of scent.



I love cherries, the fruit, the word itself, the connotations, the smell, and though demonized by many in the fragrant community as too ditzy and brainless, I am personally very drawn to cherry perfumes, and also to almond: to Serge Lutens’ Louve and Rahat Loukoum: delicious, simple pleasures with their gustatory allusions to Turkish Delight; L’Artisan Parfumeur’s light, Ottoman adventure La Traversée Du Bosphore –  another chewy gourmand scent I would also consider buying with its cherry almonds and fresh, delicate suede-vanille undertow. Some scents have a direct air of morello, others seem to allude more to cherries in a more pointillist manner, from the haze of their overall impression than the inclusion of actual cherry notes in their formulae; scents such as G by Romeo Gigli, an obscure nineties scent I am very fond of and love to wear in Spring with its very Italianate sense of benevolence, comfort: a breath of fresh air.  But if only I could smell some of these lip-watering scents on other people as well : the cherry-lip gloss calling card of a free and easy, up-for-it party scent.



La Petite Robe Noire is certainly no classic, but I think when you smell it independently of the great Guerlain classics that it is usually placed alongside at fragrance counters (which can only do it a great disservice in comparison), its good-natured, black-cherry/ almond, well-put-together vibe, with  sharper notes of red berries and bergamot on top over rosy, licoricey, vanilla/iris/patchouli base isn’t half bad with its cheeky glow you know and makes a convincing argument for Guerlain’s ability to stay commercial and relevant for the younger generation in the world of mainstream perfume. I would have danced very happily next to a girl wearing this.



And then, later, for a slower smoocher, What We Do In Paris Is Secret would also have been nice: sultrier, richer, more warm and powdery nape of neck:  a very pleasant, if perhaps overly unthreatening, floral gourmand by Dominique Ropion that has the heliotropine, honeyish Turkish roses in common with the Guerlain, and the bergamot, but with its doe-eyed, slower conclusions of powdery tonka, tolu, sandalwood and vanilla, you feel that this girl is more emotional – needy, even – that she is just about ready to really drape herself longingly over someone’s shoulders. Secrets indeed; the perfume might not be scintillatingly original, but it does have that elusive aspect of concealment that I like in perfumes. It reminds me in fact a little of Ropion’s similar work for Frederic Malle, Une Fleur De Cassie, but attenuated, less disturbing ( I have a hard time with that perfume for some reason and its feral, musked, renderings of Après L’Ondée). What We Do In Paris Is Secret is a warmer, sensual whisper of a perfume, with a well judged sense of subtlety.



For party purposes, though, you couldn’t ask for a much better scent that Escada’s Cherry In The Air, a ridiculously named perfume that I couldn’t help buying last year for that reason alone and also because in its initial stages it really is a cherry : synthetic, artificial as hell. When I sniffed the bottle, only semi-expectantly at a discount perfume emporium in Tokyo one evening, to my surprise I got that pleased, immediate, smile-inducing lift that a well composed scent always gives, perhaps because it reminded me so much of the Sour Cherry boiled sweets my grandmother always gave me when we went round to her house: I ADORED them (god I’d love to taste those again: can you still get them in the UK?). Yes, this is more sour cherry flavour than anything related to the fresh, tongue-dyeing juice of the real thing, which I imagine would be very difficult to replicate in a perfume. But the more the merrier: this scent is just intended to be fun I think, and it succeeds. With a hint of marshmallow and an admittedly less pleasing, eventual finale of false sandalwood, it nevertheless would have been divine on one of those laughing party girls. An effervescent, invisible kiss of hoopla and charm; someone who has forgotten the 9 to 5 tonight and is simply sipping on her drink, making jokes, living and laughing in the moment. 


Filed under Flowers


  1. Hahaha, strangely enough, la petite robe noire came to mind when I was thinking of liquorice perfumes for you the other day! But I wondered if it would be too sweet. It reminds me a little of Nuit de L’Homme – a hint of blackberry. And I was wondering what the general perfume environment of the party was like too, so this has answered that. This is a beautiful piece, Neil. x

    • Really?

      Yesterday was ice cold with an ice sky and I was dying so it was just a rehash of cinnamon, clumsily put together. This morning is ice bright, I woke up after five hours sleep feeling really lucid and fancied a touch of cherry.

      How well do you know La Petite? How does it smell on you?

      Am ya a cherry fan en general?

      • I love cherry in anything – and by strange coincidence, as you posted this earlier I was at the counter in TK Max eyeing up a big heart-shaped box of cherry liqueur chocolates each individually wrapped in scarlet plastic and pondering whether to buy them (I didn’t, just spent a ridiculous amount of money on candles instead). It’s a bit of a pound shop weakness in me – cheap cherry liqueurs – and I have no shame about standing outside the shop, dumping my bags, ripping open the box gobbling down a few before trundling on! petit robe noir doesn’t smell great on me though it is always one I can identify quickly on people – particularly wafting under the door of toilet cubicles! I have an unfortunate memory of this – do you remember me telling you about that creepy guy harassing students at my uni last year? Well on the night when I got stuck with him in the office on my own, I went to the loo and someone came into the cubicle next to me. I knew it was him because there was no-one else in the building and he breathed and walked really heavily, and made this strange noise with his throat (on purpose) to interrupt people. Anyway I knew it was him and waited in charged silence to see what he’d do – and there was suddenly this ‘spritz’ sound placed low down at the gap between the cubicles and this huge waft of Guerlain petit robe noir! He clearly wasn’t spraying it on himself – it was a little aggressive scented message to me – a kind of nasal intrusion into my space. Then he just walked out! Ever since then I smell it on people in toilets more than anywhere else!

      • Oops, bit drunk when I wrote all that last night! Bit of a ramble! From cherry liquers to stalking spritzers. And all in answer to a question you posed a year ago! Mi scusi x

      • No, I love it and wish you were on here all the time.

      • Actually only just read the comment. They keep changing the wordpress shenanigans and the ways of doing things. Most irritating.

        I am confused though. That weirdo actually came into the women’s loos and sprayed La Petite Robe Noire under the doors?

        If so, that is honestly one of the weirdest things I have ever heard. Insane, even.

  2. Sally M

    I must admit to being rather shocked and definitely disappointed at the lack of perfumes at your party. Assuming that the guests know your love for the juice, I would have expected them all to be positively drowning in a cacophony of smells, each fighting to be noticed and approved of (or at least given the nod) by yourself. How very odd. I wonder if its a reflection of what i describe as the “dumbing down” of perfume in so many public places these days – the political correctness of not wanting to impose of another’s personal space in any way, including the way we smell. But still! It’s a party! The perfect opportunity to make an olfactory statement…
    I must admit, I don’t care for La PRN – bit too heavy on the almond for my nose, but I get that in the resulting dearth of fumes at your do, it would have been better than the relatively empty air.
    On a positive note, I’m glad that you decided to go with the Eau de Soir…

    • That’s it exactly: a beggars can’t be choosers, almost anything half decent is better than nothing kind of thing. But this is Japan, Ms M, and people largely go unscented which is why the friends that were wearing ( excellent ) perfumes smelled so glorious and individualistic. The monstrous sillages of the eighties are unthinkable in the blander out context of today, and for many people that would be a good thing.

      For me it is utterly dull.

  3. I always think of LPRN as the perfect girls night out perfume. 🙂
    Which is why I love my bottle. 😉

  4. Tora

    I have never tried a cherry scented fragrance. But they are my favorite fruit to eat. I love the big packages of Reinier and black cherrie that show up at the grocery stores in the summer. So decadent. So sweet and satisfying.

    I bemoan the fact to that I travel in an almost scent less world. Why aren’t more people draping themselves in something that will transport me when I walk by? Alas, there is only the cheap vanillas at the gym, or some god awful men’s body spray. I agree, Neil, the world needs more perfumistas. At least in our universe…..

  5. emmawoolf

    I’m also a wee bit surprised at the lack of all-round fragrance performance at your party, even though it sounds otherwise marvellous. Honestly, couldn’t they have made an effort? I agree that most of us live in an almost scentless world, nowadays, wherever we live. I was overjoyed to smell some perfume on a friend the other day. It wasn’t anything wildly original or unusual, just the old JP Gaultier orange blossom number, but it smelt gorgeous on her, and as you say, it really did add an interesting dimension to her character. But needless to say this was at an evening gathering. During the day, at least here, out in the sticks, no-one wears anything. Most of the time, I smell absolutely nothing. Very sad. (By contrast I’m trying out a tester of Marni today, which I like, although it is a tad medicinal. Nice bottle though. Also wearing Mimosa pour moi, which I’d applied earlier and forgotten about. I don’t think the mixture quite works. But never mind, eh?).

    • I love this.

      What’s the Marni like Emmina?

      • emmawoolf

        Quite nice, it certainly isn’t the amazingly original composition it is claimed to be, but for a “designer” perfume it aint bad, imo. It has a rose note, and a patchouli one, a little like Soir de Lune, and something else I can’t put my finger on, a definite aspect of cough medicine, which isn’t explained by this list of ingredienti.. x

    • Ps adore(d) Mimosa PM but could swear they reformulated it. I barely touch my bottle as a result.

      • emmawoolf

        My bottle is at least 7 or 8 years old, so I think I my have the original? I like it, but sometimes find it a little sickly (you know I don’t like sweet perfumes), so to be honest I hardly ever wear it, only when it is cold, or very early spring, and crisp and sunny. Today was thankfully such a day xx

  6. Laurels

    My first thought with LPRN was that it smelled like everything else they were pushing at Sephora. I’ll have to give it another chance.

    • Nah. It DOES smell like everything else in Sephora. It was just that, under the circumstances of smell-desert, of nothing at all, I began to be able to see something more than total trash .

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  8. Neil, I couldn’t agree more about your comments. Even here in the U.S, I hear comments from a lot of people who they NEVER wear perfume as if that is a positive thing. I feel totally naked without fragrance (actually even when naked I wear perfume).

    • ESPECIALLY when naked I wear it. The combination is marvellous.

      As for people boasting about not wearing scent, well I can understand it in a way, but it would be a kind of brain and soul death to me. Life would become deeply BORING.

  9. It’s so nice hearing you all chatting And memorizing about The scents you are wearing And The sweets you were And are eating. Like sitting outside in The garden and catching drifts of conversation And scent. I love The big Black cherries also very much.
    We had a party too last night And The only person wearing scent was our neighbour who came in literally swathed in Poison And made in one go up for all The others I was So Busy with The food that I did not get beyond koriander, persil and basil And totally forgot my last coup de grace, that was resting in my bag. Are there scents based on vegetables And cooking herbs?
    I am going the Caron way as you have suggested Cher monsieur Ginzaintherain, whiich I keep pronouncing the French way. NeXT week Will arrive Narcisse Noire And Fleurs de Rocaille, from the 30ies. So I Will have a tangent ? présence of a cherished absence. I always open your post first!

    • If you get good vintages you will be in for a treat. Fleurs De Rocaille in particular is quite heartbreakingly tender. And Narcisse Noir is rich and strange: get dressed up, douse yourself in it, and please have an Amsterdam drink on me. I will be thinking of you. ‘

  10. How sad to not feel the need to express oneself through scent. I always find it to be the unspoken/unseen calling card for a person. Even in my rather humdrum winter mood, the one I am in at the moment, where some days I do not even want to shower, I still feel the need to cocoon myself in scent; today it is Sheherazade by Desprez, perfect for cold weather. I just can not fathom going without scent, it would be like going without oxygen.
    I just feel it to be quite an important part of who I am.
    While I adore so much of Japanese culture, I think thus would keep me from ever fully assimilating in with the populace there. I adore my scent and always will. Hopefully I won’t be ostracized when I do go to Japan some day.

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