A place with nothing but unappealing, cheapo knick-knacks, hideous furniture, second hand electrical devices, bits and bobs, ugly jewellery boxes…..a place I would never even sully your mind with for its intrusion of drab, functional banality, for fear your very eyes would suddenly fester on their stalks.



I suppose we had wandered in because we once got a fake leather sofa from there, because D has an eye for a bargain, and because they had once gotten hold of some coconut incense that for a while I then became vaguely addicted to.



As we were about to leave, my head turned, my synapses connected, my heart lurched, and I let out that familiar OH  MY  GOD, as my startled orbs alighted, dazzled, on a very cherished sight in a cabinet right in front of the cash register that I had somehow, in my visual boredom, overlooked: a classic, vintage, Guerlain box of extrait.





Dear reader, if you have never had the delight of owning and treasuring one of these black and white dazzling preciousnessess, I urge you now to feast your eyes on the beauty of these boxes, the almost classically Grecian aspect that surely inspired Diptyque in their own design, and which I could just sit and gaze at for hours (the shape of the gold! the lettering! the way the weird inner box, which I have never seen anywhere before, a very sixties/seventies design of silvery rain and green, nature-laden splotches of flora,  is hidden, counterintuitively, in terms of design, within).



See, like one on slow motion autopilot, hypnotized, how my hand reaches out intuitively with not even a nanosecond of hesitation, and grasps this treasure firmly, ready to fight off any (non-existent) contenders; expecting, with guzzling excitement, for it it be my beloved Vol De Nuit.



But no: to my bewilderment (how can this be?!!) it is almost even better.



By the very next second my ravaged old brain has understood, magnificently, that this is not Vol De Nuit but CHAMADE.






































Look at those two words in juxtaposition, words I have never had the luck to see before in all my years of Japanese vintage hunting. Never.  So rare, so beautiful.



And cheap as chips.




Yes, how much was it again? Three thousand, six hundred and fifty yen? Twenty one pounds? Thirty five dollars? For a rare, vintage, unopened bottle of possibly the most beautiful perfume ever made?



I do think so, yes. Oh yes, sir, I do.




Bought, bagged and thrust into my coat pockets, I emerge from this shambolic, unlikely contender of a shop, my Sunday quite made, all thoughts of knee pain and work issues banished in an instant by the perfume that rests in my pocket, which I am now lifting to my nose on the street, having carefully, lovingly, set it free from its entrapment, possibly sealed within since it was purchased by someone somehow just too blind to see its beauty.




It uncoils itself, rises up from its liquid, and lets its green, blue, heartbreaking emanations reach my amygdala: ah yes, that’s Chamade alright, in all its Turkish rose glory, more concentrated, intensified; more hyacinthine, more galbanumy, a more direct arrow to the rabid fetishist’s, softeningly perfuming coeur.





The perfume sits in its exquisite box on the table of the Chinese restaurant we end up in, as the D and I while away the afternoon in a leisurely fashion, relaxed and dreamily, and post-bath later I wear it in bed, the room full of the scent of blooming, enamoured hyacinths….









Filed under Flowers


  1. efemmeral

    What a find!

    And, Oh the spooky psychic scented connection!

    Again you do this! I am wearing vintage Chamade in all her bucolic regal wonder today.

    Which feels strangely intimate: like you she usually embraces my slumbering…

    • Seriously?

      These things are very fascinating to me, these coincidences. Especially with such a rare essence.

      To be honest, I haven’t actually been able to properly review either Vol De Nuit or Chamade, as they feel almost beyond me.

      C strikes me as one of the most emotive scents ever made, and yet she is not pathologically sensitive or yearning: she feels full, and real, and just

      • efemmeral

        Seriously. You are the Scent Whisperer on many levels 🙂

        Those two do seem almost beyond words, perhaps a small poem to them occasionally is the best approximation we mortals can attempt!

        You are right. C *is* emotive. An full. And so deep and round, as though containing all states and seasons and ages at once and without contradiction or tension. Amazing stuff.

  2. I was able to make out the katakana, and then – oh my …!

      • In Japan, if I find a Guerlain, it is almost always Mitsouko, which I respect enormously, but cannot wear myself. Shalimar is something like my second skin: Vol De Nuit a masterpiece I can’t quite write about yet, but definitely one that I can wear ( I do think it is in some ways my favourite Guerlain simply for the fact that I find it so mysterious), but Chamade….I don’t know: like its name, it really does make my heart beat.

        And in that shop, I was emphatically NOT expecting to find such treasure.

      • I’m really a newbie when it comes to perfume and unfortunately, I haven’t tried this one. But I’ve read up on Chamade and your descriptions (as well as others I’ve come across in the internet) had me swooning …

      • If you like the smell of hyacinths you will probably love this perfume. Please seek it out!

  3. Sally M

    That’s it. I’m moving to where you live. CHAMADE for gods sake. For $35 measley dollars. I knew it was going to be a good story by the title of the post. I knew it was going to be a Guerlain find when I saw the first picture. But Chamade. I actually moaned aloud when I read what it was and then looked around guiltily to see if anyone had heard me – after all, I *was* in Starbucks. Chamade is such a perfect scent for the hint of spring that’s in the air – that wonderful green opening that bursts into hyacinth. It’s just so bright and intoxicating. Then theres the rose and galbanum and jasmine and blackcurrant – all told in a collection of notes that dont seem as if they should all play well together, yet in Chamade, they positively sing. The dry down is what I love the most – it has an underlying classic powderiness, a warm sweetness that isn’t cloying at all, but simply creamy amber-y.
    I’m so glad you found this masterpiece – it came along at the perfect time when you needed a boost .

    • And I am delighted that you know why I also exclaimed out loud in this shop. You describe it perfectly: the ‘green opening that bursts into hyacinth’……I hadn’t thought of that but you are right….the hyacinths aren’t instantaneous but come a few seconds in, and in this extrait there is a very clear galbanum note that mingles with those hyacinths…..

      But also, as you say, it is the base, ultimately, which I honestly think smells like nothing else on earth, that is so emotive. That segue from green and vernal to carnal and hauntingly powdery, rosy and vanillic truly does strike me as extremely inspired. Almost as though the perfume is working against itself, and yet knows itself perfectly.

      • efemmeral


        working against itself, yet knows itself perfectly.

        Oh! how you wrest new things from these same old words of ours!

  4. Tara

    So jealous – not for the first time 🙂 How wonderful.

    Well spotted.

    • I do wonder sometimes if I am living in a strange magical zone where such things just don’t happen elsewhere. I doubt that in England such a vintage artifact (an artifact that still smells perfect as it has been concealed in its papery catacombs and box since it was manufactured) would find itself, unlooked at, in some shop just selling random sundries.

      Surely you would look it up on the internet and try to gauge its worth?


      • Helen Tomkins

        this is the stuff, and I mean this quite literally, that my dreams (recurring) are made of: a junk shop, in a Japanese back street, a vintage Guerlain find of such exquisite unlikeliness. Chamade!!! sealed!!! perfect!!! aaaaargh!!! £28 amongst random bloody sundries

      • Naturally I was thinking of you, H.

        What do you think of the strange, silver box?

      • Didn’t you have the vintage cologne: were you wearing it at Julia’s wedding?

        I remember it smelling poetic, and emotive, but actually very carnal in its later stages.

      • I think you are right about Julia’s wedding, and how perfect, even in the depths of winter. It is a complex and sophisticated scent but the pleasure it brings is so pure and uncomplicated for me.

        I have always thought these boxes were strange, really not an obvious choice at all and I do like them in this context (partly for that reason), but if they weren’t viewed alongside all of the Guerlain loveliness, then I’m not so sure.

  5. You’ve pretty much described my addiction and fueled my desire. A vintage Chamade extrait find is the best remedy for a bum knee!

    • You understand. x

      Such a beautiful ‘item’, if I can even call it that. And considering its surroundings, something verging on miraculous I would say. I love Chamade – Duncan thinks it is the best women’s perfume ever made – and so to find this beautiful thing on a cold rainy day felt like Charlie and his golden ticket. kind of.

  6. Ooooh you have my briefs in a twist over your most delightful find! I’m glad for you and also glad that the Chamade extract has found a home where it will be well-loved.

  7. Marina

    What a find! With the bad comes good! It’s funny how the ebb and flow of life and the karmic wheel gives and takes…..lucky find!!!

    • well you know me better than almost anyone on here as you have the Facebook version, and have experienced the live in the flesh version as well……i have been vile recently: and this did feel like a blessing

  8. Lilybelle

    ~~~Swoons~~~ breathlessly. OMG!! I adore Chamade. I have the current parfum, and it isn’t nearly as good as the vintage. Enjoy, you lucky ducky! 🙂

    • Now finally I think I have something to send you.

      I can spare a ml or so: I think you need to have some. And I agree: the new parfum is very hyacinthy but it lacking something. I still think the parfum de toilette is in some senses the perfect version, but this is vying for my attention.

      did we already exchange delivery addresses?

      • Lilybelle

        You are very sweet (thank you! ♥ ♥ ♥) but I’m not sure how to exchange delivery addresses (?). Every time I try to log into WordPress it doesn’t recognize my password or something. I usually give up in exasperation. I tested the current Chamade edp– I think it was edp — last December in a Guerlain boutique in Florida, and it was pretty good. Modernized and sweetened a bit, but nice. The parfum was somewhat disappointing. It is missing some depth in the basenotes, inevitable I suppose given the restrictions, and possibly given the allocation of budget (I don’t know, I’ve become cynical). They charge a LOT of money for 1 oz. parfum to package it in generic cardboard and thick coke bottle glass. Just venting for a moment. The first Chamade I had was a gift when I was a teen – the round flat bottle of edc. It was lovely. Sparking. What a shame they don’t make those anymore.

  9. katherinec

    Oh it is sort of Grecian! And definitely must have inspired Diptyque somehow. I had a dream that I was in someone’s house and it was pristinely exciting and Winona Ryder was wandering around with a Mimosa candle (don’t know where that came from), which is off topic, but the house reverberated that sort of design, classic and soft but modern and somewhat monochrome.

    Also, there was a piece in the Sunday Times Style magazine by Chandler Burr about perfume being as important as other mediums and that it wouldn’t be long before it was recognised as so. I think perhaps they have featured other articles on vintage perfume. It makes me wonder, however much is left of these, whether it will become a more lucrative money-making trade for those who collect fine art objects. But then I’ve always wondered why there was not more in place to protect the heritage as there are in other areas of culture, and perhaps it could mean a resurgence and resurrection of the great perfumes and perfume making eventually…

    • I think what you say about fine art and ‘the great masters’ is totally relevant, actually. you have experienced the vintage version. I am dying to know, when you have some time, how you think (as you have a very psychical understanding of perfume) it compares with the current version. I mean you may even prefer it, but in the pure ‘rare art’ meaning, yesterday’s find was absurdly exciting. To me, very beautiful to look at, and as I love hyacinths so much, olfactively thrilling.

  10. Martha

    Aaargh! I am filled with envy. You are unbelievably lucky. Chamade extrait for $35 !? I spent around $135 for vintage Vol de Nuit extrait, in the parapluie bottle, about 1 year ago and have been doling it out ever since.

  11. Wonderful find! One of those moments of magic. x

    • And your lovely coffee cups in the backdrop. We love them, you know. We use them after I have had my principle mugs upon waking up, when we want a qualitatstasse a bit later on in the day. a small one. they heat up perfectly, and some how make the coffee taste much better. i love the design, and don’t entirely know how you could part with them.

  12. Twas meant to be that you were in that store. Fate my friend. What a lucky boy you are 🙂

  13. Rafael

    Gasp! Kismet. I never tried this one as it always implied “Surrender” but I’ll have a look at home in the new Sense and Sensibility book and see what she has to say about this. It’s a fun little book isn’t it? I like how she’s more primal and not snarky like the Turin man.

  14. Dearest Ginza
    Once more your shopping exploits leave one green.
    Chamade green to be precise.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  15. Amazing score!

    You know, if you ever decided to try you hand a an alternate career track, I would set up an e-commerce site for vintage perfumes from Japan 🙂 Japan’s loss would be the world’s gain (and your profit 😉 )

  16. I’ll just have to call you The Supreme Vintage Perfume Whisperer. What a find!

    And speaking of coincidences, NST’s Lazy Weekend Poll was all about difficult / unpleasant notes. Mine is Lily-of-the-Valley. Robin mentioned Parfums MDCI Un Coeur en Mai as a possibility to cure me of hating LOTV unless I also have a problem with hyacinth. Well, I have no clue what hyacinth smells like and now I guess I just have to go try Chamade at a Guerlain to get an impression!

    • But I am not a lily of the valley lover either, not really; there is something sickly sweet about them. They fascinate me, but that slightly animalic tinge to that ‘heavenly angel’ aspect is mildly nauseating.

      Hyacinth also has a twang of rot in its later heart, but it is pungent, alive….BLUE.

      You have to smell the real flowers first! They should be in bloom right about now. Then you can enjoy the top note of Chamade even more.

      • Nothing is in bloom right now in these here parts, dearest Ginza, and if they were, they would have all died. At the rate we’re going, we will probably have snow Easter Week. That said, I may pop into a florist to take a whiff. Thanks for the suggestion!

  17. I thought I was immune to vintage perfumes’ charm but since Chamade is one of my favorite perfumes (even in its current formulation – I have a bottle of extrait) I held my breath while reading your story. I’m glad you rescued it! It definitely was out of place and now it will be much happier at your place.

  18. Did you find the soap in the same store?

  19. I live near a quaint area with vintage shops and have never found even one perfume in any of them. What a lucky find…vintage Chamade in extrait!

    • Trust me, Chamade is an extremely rare find, even in the vintage utopia that is Japan. This is the only time I have ever found the extrait, although Duncan once came home with TWO parfums de toilette!

      The soap was sent to me by the lovely Brielle as a get well present. I LOVE it!!

      ( I do realize, of course, how insane I must appear in these posts…..)

  20. Chamade is truly one of the finest scents created chez Guerlain. It took me many years to come to this realization, and many missed opportunities to own an extrait, but I know proudly proclaim it a masterpiece in the hallowed halls of parfumery.
    What a truly auspicious find, for the type of shop you describe, truly auspicious.

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