Although my city of origin, Birmingham, seems to be considered to be the dog’s arse of the UK –  the region whose accent is always used in TV soaps to denote stupidity, backwardness, forever uncool, ugly, unaesthetic, I have to say that in many ways I love it. The unpretentiousness, the friendliness, the space, the ease, I had a lovely time yesterday afternoon wandering (in my limited capacity with my knackered knee) down the back streets, taking pictures in the piercing afternoon light of abandoned industrial warehouses, absorbing the changes, remembering things from my teenage years,  meeting up with an old friend from 30 years ago and having an intense, cyclonic, wonderful conversation that can only be described as quite amazing, cosmic.



Before we met, though, I went to Selfridges, which is housed in the iconic silver alien spaceship building that I am always very drawn to, and compared to the anally retentive, if immaculately turned out (obviously) sales assistants of Japan and their cold, possessive, rapturous awe for the costly foreign ‘brands’, hovering above you, not letting you spray, NEVER giving you samples unless you propose marriage first, it was a delight to be able to just browse the surprisingly extensive ranges they were selling, pick them up, smell them, put some one, gather samples, with sales assistants who were affable and sweet, non-controlling/passive aggressive, and happy to let you get on with what you SHOULD be doing – ie. sampling perfumes and enjoying them at your leisure until you find the right one.



I loved the Armani Prive high tech bell jars, which allowed you to somehow fully experience each scent from top note to base in a sensurround olfactory panorama that you would never get from merely spraying on a tester strip or from the bottle. I knew most of them already, but had never smelled the latest addition to the collection, Myrrhe Imperiale (sorry, I don’t know how to do French accents or put up pictures on my father’s computer so this is just a tossed off post before we go out to the countryside to look at daffodils – they are egging me on to finish this quickly as we speak), but I was surprised to find that it was really quite an excellent rendition of myrrh that I had an almost synaesthetic reaction to.



Myrrh is a weird essence, a compelling but off-putting substance that I am magnetized by but slightly repelled by in equal measure. It glows, it beckons, it has soul: it binds and dries (I have made some fantastic skin creams with the rich, viscid essential oil that drips, oh so slowly from the dropper if it hasn’t already coagulated and iced up and gone solid in the bottle); it is both hot and cool, pungent and subtle, sweet, yet burnt. These last attributes were used interestingly in Annick Goutal’s Myrrhe Ardente, which I like and admire for putting myrrh at the centre of a scent so stridently, although the tension between the vanillic sweetness of the backdrop and the seared myrrh crystals is not one I would readily want to challenge myself.  Lutens’ La Myrrhe is divine, that angelic upward swoosh of aldehydes and oranges among the incensed floralcy, and I would certainly like to own a bottle if I ever manage to get back to the shop in Paris. It is though the myrrh had been sanctified in that scent, looking down from some Sheldrakian, celestial plasm in the sky – unreachable, cherubic, crystalline.



The Armani take on the note, Myrrhe Imperiale, struck me yesterday as extraordinarily vivid, earthed, and burning, now, slowly but surely, in the present. Over the years I have myself burned a lot of frankincense and myrrh crystals (it made me chuckle when reading Denyse Beaulieu’s book The Perfume Lover, where she talks about trying to cover up the swathes of smoke that would seep from her apartment doors, vexing the neighbours. In my previous apartment, my Japanese neighbours complained to the landlord about me doing exactly the same thing). There is something exciting, slightly pyromaniac, about alighting the edges of a piece from Somalia, standing there with the lighter, waiting for it to set fire and bubble, watching the flame go as high as it will before you blow it out and watch plumes of black smoke descend to the ceiling, releasing the myrrh, or the frankincense, clinging to the rafters, hoping that the scent will stick…


This perfume is no way as hooligan nor untrammelled as my own mischievous myrrh business : it is an Armani. And all is in ingenious balance, clasped in a perfected vanillin, oudhishly fierce amber backdrop that persists for the duration of the perfume’s skin life, yet never threatens to overwhelm or drown out the rich, smouldering myrrh that seems to burn before our very eyes. On smelling the scent just once, my mind’s eye was seeing, quite clearly, trays of firing myrrh resinoids, translucent, burning orange, piercing the air.


Filed under Flowers

21 responses to “SMOULDERING: :::::: MYRRHE IMPERIALE by ARMANI PRIVE (2013)

  1. Dubaiscents

    I had to laugh at you getting in trouble for burning too much myrrh and frankincense in your apartment. Over here you are assaulted by that smoke everywhere you go (don’t get me wrong, I love it and always will associate it with my time here in the Middle East) but, sometimes enough is enough! No amount of complaining will help me though…..
    I really enjoy this newest addition to the Armani Prive line. I can see why it is replacing (sadly) Ambre Orient because, to me, they have a lot of similarities. Despite Myrrhe being more smokey and incense-y (of course).
    Hope you are enjoying your time in the UK!

  2. Veritas

    And what are you wearing on the first day of spring? For me it is 1000 Flowers Fleur no 1- a gorgeous modern take on No. 19….Jessica September Buchanan really is an undiscovered talent…..

  3. Lilybelle

    It sounds like you’re enjoying being at home again. I’m glad. 🙂 Going to see the daffodils sounds wonderful! On the first day of spring here it is gray and chilly, but I think I saw some tree buds – joy! And I’m wearing Caleche edt. I used to burn frankincense (not myrrh, but maybe I had those too) on charcoal tabs years ago when I lived for a while in a dump of a warehouse apartment in Brooklyn. I hung up my vintage cocktail dresses to decorate the brick walls, and before I left each morning smoke bombed frankincense to counteract the scent of the garbage bags in the hallway that were not picked up very often. Ah…the days of my youth!

  4. Martha

    I love reading that you are going out to view the daffodils. There are a few up in one of my flower beds. Spring is sprung. I have been wearing, and really enjoying, Eau de Camille and Le Muguet. Those two because of the lovely reviews you posted a few weeks ago. Both are extremely pleasing, but I am very attracted to Eau de Camille. It is a wonderful green fragrance, almost alive in its greenness.

    I haven’t burned whole resins for many years, but I still have the handmade (by me) raku pot that served as the brazier.

  5. Martha

    It is a porcelain pinch pot with a coiled foot. It was fired in some sawdust in a big metal barrel. You set the sawdust on fire and a lid goes on top of the barrel which dampens the flame so that the sawdust smolders for a day or two or three. Once the fire’s out and the contents of the barrel are cool, you just start unpacking the pots. Raku firing leaves distinctive scorch marks on the surface of the vessel or object.

  6. Dearest Ginza
    Myrrh is as magic to The Dandy, so this is wonderful news and I’m wondering how I’ve missed this arrival, especially as I was hovering (I do so love that word) in the area of the Armanis at Selfridges this week.
    I trust you enjoyed the daffodils and the knee is not proving to be too much of an impairment.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • The knee is fast becoming a nightmare, I must admit. I have been walking much more than I should, but it has seemed unavoidable (and what a NIGHTMARE getting from one place to another in our capital).

      As for the Myrrhe: you have smelled it already. You know the smoothness of the current fashionable amber oudhs, you know the score. And yet: there IS something distinctly burning myrrh about this one, and it is definitely worth a sniff and a spray. Say I.

  7. I love the way you write here, and the thought of burning myrrh. Maybe I’m reading too much into the language, but I see the tension between your home town as a backdrop and the burning myrrh and I love it. I have only once been to Birmingham and that was when I was probably about 12 to the NEC for the Clothes Show Live, which I was extremely lucky to go to (with my best friend Helen who lived next door, which I’ve only just remembered, both of us secretly harbouring the endearingly strange childish delusions that we might be ‘spotted’ to be the next Kate Moss or something) and don’t remember anything of the city, so I don’t know anything. BUT, this reminds me of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey, simply because of the sense of toil and history and industrial landscape, and then, in the final scene a bonfire, around which all the children on the street seem to gather.

    • I am vain enough to enjoy being analysed, and I I like what you write here as I am not aware of these deeper possibilities myself. I just wrote it without thinking.

      It is true though that it is certainly not emotionally uncomplicated being back (certain people are driving me INSANE), and it is also very possibly that smelling burning myrrh was like a mirage in the desert. x

  8. katherinec

    And then also, whilst watching the film, one of my favourite parts of a Smiths song suddenly appeared “I dreamt about you last night, and I fell out of bed twice”

    • This holiday has been all about Prefab Sprout’s Swoon, for some reason, which I have been listening to and dreaming to, although when in Brum the other day I found myself singing ‘….do you have a vacancy for a back scrubber…..?’

  9. I know for me the idea of where I come from on a wider scale and certainly visiting family in my home town is emotionally crazily complicated, but the thought of having lived so far away culturally from this country for so long, things must stand out so well and yet be still emotionally tied up. Anyway, I LOVE the idea of burning myrrh! I don’t think I’ve really listened to Prefab Sprout, will listen…

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