It’s ironic. Where By Kilian’s In The Garden Of Good And Evil series was a selection of fruity florals without much real hint of the sensual, in the post yesterday I received, unexpectedly, the latest from the Asian Tales collection – Imperial Tea. I quite like tea fragrances, and so was readying myself lackadaisically for a delicate, unthreatening scent that might be nice come Spring. Instead, spraying this perfume on the back of my hand I am assailed by an intense and beautiful green jasmine, rasping on a bed of fresh Chinese (oolong?) tea leaves; impertinent in its reach, hypnotically sexual, the kind of perfume that is guaranteed to turn heads as its wearer moves knowingly through the room in an open-at-the-neck white dress.
I don’t have the official notes of Imperial Tea to hand, but to my nose, it is essentially an inspired infusion of jasmine with tea, or tea with jasmine: a marriage. The jasmine used in abundance in Chinese temples and perfume oils: indolic, pungent, erotic, almost harsh and disturbing, but here paired beautifully with an equally no-nonsense fresh tea leaf accord, well tempered, the tea calming down those fierce jasmine blooms, the jasmine bolstering the tea: similar, vaguely, to Jean Claude Ellena’s Osmanthe Yunnan in construction but with three times the heft and eros.
There is a scene in Sofia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette where the ill-fated Dauphine Of France shows her brother, a prince of Austria who has come to visit and remonstrate with his wayward sister in Versailles, a gift she has just received from the Emperor Of China: a magical novelty apparently never seen before in Europe.
“Watch”, she says, as a dried, furled up Chinese jasmine flower opens up rapidly in a cup of hot tea. “Isn’t it just divine?” she intones, as the jasmine comes alive in the heat of the tea’s embrace and gives off its rich, luscious scent to the surrounding chambers.
I also like the ‘story’ behind this scent, the tale of an imperial concubine, sick, who is cured by the discovery of revivifying jasmine tea when her son, desperate to make his mother well again, espies water that is flowing from a ‘hidden tree’, the signifier of wellness and amorousness, once she drinks of it, that will restore the emperor’s secret lover once again to her robust, flower-bud sensuality.
Being a perfume by Calice Becker (author of other such dazzling florals as Beyond Love and Mi Corazon – its ylang ylang variant ), there is in fact, as you might aspect, also a very fresh, watery and contemporaneous aspect in the backdrop of Imperial Tea which will undoubtedly disappoint people looking for a really rich, dirty jasmine, one that comes on thick and gets more and more animalic as time goes by (for one of those, try Amouage’s Jasmine extrait, or Histoires De Parfums’ La Reine Margot). No. Like Beyond Love, Becker’s fêted tuberose scent that gradually fades down to a delicate, but perfectly balanced tuberose skin scent, Imperial Tea does the same but with jasmine; clean, pleasant, wearable. The difference with Imperial tea, though, lies in the boldness of the top section, which is, in my view, ineffably carnal.
Yes. There is something in the initial rush of tea and jasmine in this scent that is so vivid (and indeed very Asian): delicate, but like the secret apparatus that lies at the heart of a flower, flushed with sex; a different, more vernal, form of carnal flower.
25 responses to “SEX BOMB IN CHINA : : : : IMPERIAL TEA by KILIAN (2014)”
Another beautiful review…I am looking forward to trying this one.
Shei shei. Sniffing my hand as we speak. I really like it; had to write about it immediately!
Sounds like such a divine scent. I may have to look for this and try it. I do adore my jasmin dirty, but I love jasmin so much I would be interested to see how this one evolves on the skin.
I have found it disappears rather too quickly, actually, but as a look at me sexy spritz it strikes me as highly pleasing.
Do you like the Calice Becker approach?
Thanks for the heads up on this one. I like many of Calice Becker’s work. I love Osmanthus Yunnan. Must try!
You sound like the ideal candidate!
Gorgeous review! I adore the combination of tea and jasmine in perfume, and recall the most beautiful M &S bath oil from the mid-90s combining these (earl grey tea and jasmine with royal jelly!) which alas was discontinued after a season! Coincidentally-enough I was talking to a sales assistant about this yesterday, and she was very excited about the combination of these elements. I had stumbled across Angela Flanders’ wonderful shop just off Petticoat Lane in Spitalfields and was testing her Earl Grey fragrance! The assistant was inspired and set about mixing it with the jasmine they had – it smelled divine! We had a fascinating chat. I’m wearing Flanders’ Earl Grey today and it is a calm, unfolding – almost laconic – mix of Bergamot with hints of patchoulie, black pepper, rose and I think lavender and oak moss! Her scents have something very steady and relaxed about them- partly due to the fact that she came to perfume- making in her 50s, starting out with making pot pourri to for the antiques shop she ran (she is now 90). Her men’s range is divine – there’s a rich, plummy patchoulie that I suspect has a hint of bay laurel in the mix and a woody unyielding Vetiver. Definitely one to check out !
I love her, the shop, and actually, the scent I left with when I went there was Earl Grey. I got cloves more than anything. The Dandy loves that one as well.
The Royal Jelly thing sounds divine.
Now have a sample of this and it is more like the M&S royal jelly thing than any other I’ve smelled! That strong whack of tea! Also received a pack of tea from China yesterday – a huge brown packet of large, woody, green-black leaves, courtesy of my friend Chuanyao whi is one of the people organising my theatre visit out there!
I am so excited you are going there.
So am I!!!
Lovely review. I run away from most jasmine’s cloying indolic heft, so the watery tea like aspect is intriguing. Most tea scents go nowhere for me, but this sounds like something more. Interested……
I mean it’s possible I am overblowing it, but I know for sure that I would love to smell someone walking past me in this. It’s not the standard jasmine, to me at any rate. I can SMELL East Asia in it, and the story for once fits with the actual fragrance.
I don’t love tea scents, but I love Jasmine Tea — what was the one by L’Artisan? That one was nice. This one sounds wonderful. I’ll have to get my hands on a sample.
The L’Artisan one was much more subtle, if I remember: The Pour Un Ete: in a way more lovely and delicately blended. This is more simplistic, almost harsh at the beginning. I think that it will definitely be a love/hate number for most people.
From L’artisan parfumeur, I’d rather point at “La haie fleurie”.
As of “Thé pour un été”, I can’t set it apart from “L’été en douce” in my memory. Both are from Olivia Giacobetti, in the same brand.
“La haie fleurie” was the true jasmine soliflore of L’artisan parfumeur’s line. It was a natural jasmine bomb, shaped like a honeysuckle. It had the heft of “À la nuit” from Lutens, if not for a more overripe start (late jasmine harvest?), and the main accord of “24 faubourg” (an orange hue of honeysuckle). It’s the daring character and overripe part that makes “imperial tea” closer to “La haie fleurie” than the other two.
It was from Jean-Claude Ellena, before his formulae went on diet. I have yet to try his “jasmin de pays” that he made lately for Perry.
I LOVED La Haie Fleurie !
You are right ; a jasmine honeysuckle bomb, the latter not present enough in perfume !
The only tea perfume that I’ve tried is the green tea perfume by Bulgari. I had smelled it on a coworker and thought she smelled fabulous. On me, not so much. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve ventured into tea perfume territory though I like to drink it nearly every day. Victoria Frolova from Bois de Jasmin one day featured a Shalimar tea recipe, which I followed, and now I have this lovely blend of jasmin green/earl grey black tea with vanilla bean, lavender buds, and rose buds. She recommended grating tonka bean into the mix, but I didn’t have any tonka bean. I so admire those blooming tea flowers you feature in this post. What a feast for the eyes when you have one of those in a clear glass pot or cup.
I have a question for you that is not related to perfume. I have been told that there is a clothing store in Japan that is like Uniqlo only better, but the friend who told me this can’t remember the name of the store. Do you have an idea about which store this might be?
Actually, no, because Uniqlo is unbelievably cheap and very wearable, and I can’t think of anywhere better. I do wonder sometimes though how they can sell things at such prices and what the working conditions must be like wherever they are sourced….
As for tea fragrances, I am the same as you. I prefer them on other people.
Trying to stop myself hyperventilating in anticipation here. I just commented yesterday on another blog that as a tea merchant and perfume lover, I have been on a quest to find a frag’ that does justice to my beloved Jamine Pearl. So far I haven’t been impressed with tea perfumes. But this … This could be The One. Thanks for the great review and the heads up. Must. get. sample.
Hold on a sec I feel terribly responsible. It struck me this morning that in amalgamation the final accord is a bit like bosomy old Jean Paul Gaultier: still fancy it?
Lol! Mr. Ginza, you’re so funny. 🙂
Oh god. You bugger. Now every time I drink Jasmine Pearl, I will have the vision of man skirts and Madonna pointy boobs in my cup…
You’re a tea merchant? I am so impressed and I’m not kidding. Tea is becoming like wine for me, as I am less and less interested in intoxication by alcohol and more and more interested in the pleasures of tea.
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