Monthly Archives: February 2016

old soaps in a junk shop



February 21, 2016 · 4:14 pm










This is a full on, fruit-throated little minx: plummy, osmanthussy, and violet to the max, a sort of Caron Aimez Moi by way of Creed’s Love In Black,  rapacious and unapologetic, extravagant, and in love with all shades of mauve, purple and violet.


Quite nice, if a little throbbing and sweet.



Filed under Flowers



The scent: piquant and peppery lemon rose, accentuated by the rain.


Filed under Flowers

Party girl : LOU LOU by CACHAREL (1987)










Because I am SERIOUSLY into this perfume at the moment.

Olivia, at least I know you understand…..











I was very wrong about the reformulation in this original (and rather naive) review.  While the re-edition does a brilliantly cunning approximation in the blaringly triumphant top notes, making them fresher, and dare I say it for a few seconds even more appealing, the dry down in this deceptive little wannabe is total and utter crudsville. Just wan and thin fake sandalwood, nothing,  as our little baby Loulou chokes on an E and expires her last in a pile of plastic trash.


The ORIGINAL Loulou, unfazed and unhinged, just keeps on smoking, pouting…….flaunting…..and she smells gorgeous throughout: of almonds; of vanilla; of deepset heliotrope, of resins and of joss sticks: in hindsight a brilliantly, androgynously, incensed-sandalwood trouper.



Where her try-hard doppelgänger is already entering rigor mortis on her tray in the morgue; the real deal Loulou is tossing back a cherry brandy cocktail;  smouldering; and laughing on a last minute plane to Goa….


Party girl : LOU LOU by CACHAREL (1987)


Filed under Flowers










Of all the British perfumers – Penhaligons, Czech & Speake, Floris, Jo Malone, Angela Flanders, among others, it is Miller Harris, founded in 2000, that is perhaps the most consistent, both in terms of integrity, texture, and overall theme, yet also the most daring. Although I only have a couple of the house’s  fragrances in my collection (Citron Citron, a tight and acerbic lemon, and the almost wilfully strange, sharp and contrapuntal Terre De Bois), this is a house that in my view has always combined a very appealing ‘English flower garden’ aesthetic with something harder, yet diffident, at its heart. From the uncompromised ferocity of Feuilles De Tabac, to the nonchalant pink feather boas of Noix De Tubereuse, the purple hippy Figue Amere or the melancholically rain-imbued La Pluie, you always sense in a Miller Harris perfume that there are more complex emotions lurking beneath ( I think this is the problem with many niche perfumes: where all the pizazz and luxe is very glinting and surface, emotionally, the scents are often dead inside). Base notes with Miller Harris are always rich and high quality and very contrasting with the more ethereal middle and top notes – there is a summer garden seriousness that belies the airy-fairy, raspberry trifle la la la.




It seems now though that Lyn Harris, always the sole perfumer for Miller Harris, has now left her original perfume house and started a brand new venture in London, the quite mysterious sounding ‘Perfumer H’. This new venture has a more stripped down and singular aesthetic – quite zen, almost, in terms of the shop surroundings and the bottle design – and currently just five perfumes that correspond to the classic fragrance classifications of citrus, floral, wood, oriental and fougere, a collection that will be refreshed bi-annually (though perfumes in the back catalogue will be still available for purchase).



They are all very good  (reviews of the rest of the collection will come later) but I unhesitatingly first went straight for the Heliotrope, a powdery, anisic, almondy flower scent I am always drawn to – we even once had some actual heliotrope plants, faithfully true to the smell I was expecting from the perfumes I knew, if rather faint, in our old garden, until we discovered that the flowers are actually dangerous cat killers – highly toxic to those keen-eyed, fluffed up beasts – so that was that; but in any case, I often tend to enjoy floral confections that contain this note. Heliotrope forms an important part of the odour profiles of such classics as Guerlain’s Apres L’Ondee and L’Heure Bleue, as well as the gorgeous Loulou by Cacharel; soliflores are uncommon, but I did once consider buying LT Piver’s Heliotrope Blanc (though I feared I may have just ended smelling like a fat, lacy courtesan so I desisted in the end). Also Etro, who never shy away from unfashionable notes – smell their pure, Ouzo-ish aniseed Anice for an example – do a nice, powdery and sweet heliotrope that while cossettingly powdery and comforting to the nerves, is nevertheless a bit high on the caster sugar.



With her own Heliotrope (the ‘oriental’ in the current collection), Perfumer H is more cautious about overegging her almond pudding and instead goes for diaphanous and clear: the top accord of this perfume is delectable, floaty as an eggshell, closely dusted as sugared almonds, angelic: yet with the sense of waters still flowing below (it is quite floral and citric simultaneously), the vanillic bonbons of the base notes caressed by a prominent neroli/orange blossom note that I personally find a touch regretful as I just want the almonds: give me almonds, give me arsenic! give me cyanide! Almond blossom was always a smell that made me go almost delirious when I was at university, down by the river; its scent – so piercing and pure, both pensive and ecstatic – was the ultimate heralding of the English spring and the death of winter, and in Cambridge the gardens and the river at this time were so beautiful you could die – I would be doolally, and beside myself, skipping about like a March hare scavenging armfuls of  tulips, but even at this age, now, even the presentiment of those vernal sensations still make me excited and  happy to be alive.



This heliotrope scent brings back some of those memories. Of that delirious carefreeness. A calm and unfussed deliciousness. If the idea of a light, downy, orange blossom heliotrope tickles your fancy, therefore, I would highly recommend trying it. As the perfume settles on the skin, the heliotrope flowers nuzzle and fall asleep gently in their natural eiderdown, the orange flowers gone; the vanilla and powdered musks  just right: not too sweet but not too thin, either – addictive but innocent: simple but not stupid.








































I leave you with a nicely played rendition of Scott Joplin’s ‘Heliotrope Bouquet’:































Filed under Almond, Flowers

FOUGERES AND THE BABE MAGNETS: Classics and otherwise in The Ladykillers’ Hall Of Fame………. featuring Kouros, Aramis, Paco Rabanne Pour Homme, Fahrenheit, Green Irish Tweed, Tsar, Drakkar Noir, Antaeus, Jazz, Platinum Egoïste, Azzaro Pour Homme, Safari, Cerruti 1881, Rive Gauche Pour Homme, Polo, others……










Source: FOUGERES AND THE BABE MAGNETS: Classics and otherwise in The Ladykillers’ Hall Of Fame………. featuring Kouros, Aramis, Paco Rabanne Pour Homme, Fahrenheit, Green Irish Tweed, Tsar, Drakkar Noir, Antaeus, Jazz, Platinum Egoïste, Azzaro Pour Homme, Safari, Cerruti 1881, Rive Gauche Pour Homme, Polo, others……

Leave a comment

Filed under Flowers








Alfonso de Portage, race car driver, and one of the inspirations for ‘Monsieur’.















Gianni Agnelli, industralist, another.













Mark Birley, playboy billionaire: and yet another.






‘Manly and elegant… the formula, both simple and essential, has evoked, since its genesis, remorseless seducers who would playfully flit from women’s embraces to social merrymaking’.




Indeed. On smelling Editions De Parfums’ latest release, Monsieur, these are exactly the feelings that are conjured up in your mind’s eye: of a man who means business. The ad, featuring a tailored, bespoke suit sleeve just covering a very obviously expensive Swiss made watch, is very Bond: every detail just so; sleek, jaw-clenched; very narcissistically self-aware.


Much has been made of this new perfume’s extragavant usage of patchouli  – Monsieur is supposedly to patchouli what Carnal Flower is to tuberose – which the promotional materials claim has not been used at such a high dosage (50% of the formula) since the 1970’s: presumably a reference to the patchouliest of classic masculines – Givenchy Gentleman (one of my favourite perfumes of all time, incidentally –  a delightfully hirsute, but effortlessly elegant patchouli leather) on which which this modern competitor is apparently doing an exclusive penthouse riff.



And it is quite effective. Opening with an almost disconcertingly sharp mandarin note bathed in rum , the clear, refractionated patchouli essence of the perfume soon makes its sensual  presence felt: very taut, and very polished, while presently, more trouser-heavy, carnal notes of musk, amber, amber and vanilla make their presence in the base as our protagonist begins to feel a bit restless and horny at the end of his long and impeccable business day . You can almost smell his later conquests here, with a bodily, more intimate aspect laid bare under the overall patchouli frame: yet another successfully accomplished seduction at some private members’ club, the creme de la creme of his upper echelon, socially stratospheric, quiet brutality (think Michael Fassbender in Steve Mcqueen’s tale of passionless sex addiction, ‘Shame’).










I can imagine this fragrance being quite a big hit for Frederic Malle. Though apparently boasting more patchouli in its construction, this is used more thoughtfully and judiciously than the trowel-it- on, bucketload indigestibility of the hodgepodge patchoulis by Tom Ford or Christan Dior, which plug themselves up ungraciously with synthetic ambers and everything in-the-kitchen-sink to create real nose bombs that I personally cannot at all abide: too brash, sweet, and unharmonious (at least to my own very oversensitive nose). Monsieur is undoubtedly more ‘classy’ and has a definite quiet stealth in its overall construction, which the remorseless seducer that the perfume is intended for will undoubtedly use to his advantage.




The inherent problem with this perfume for me though is that is has little soul. If androids ever become a reality in the future, a few spritzes of Monsieur on the Italian bespoke suit and about the crotch area would certainly make the artificial intelligence seem more humanistic (and undeniably masculine). But that’s about as far as it goes, and I think the source of this sense of something amiss lies in the kind of basic materials that are being used: the perfumer, Bruno Jovanovic, like many perfumers using patchouli in a modern context, uses a particular form of the essence obtained by molecular distillation (‘to purify it in the extreme to turn it into the key link in the evaporation chain’) in order to make a smoother and less fuzzy variant. And I can definitely see how this would work: patchouli is known to have perhaps the lowest evaporation rate of all the essential oils in aromatherapy, which is precisely why it is so insistent, persistent, and long enduring  (and why so many people hate the stuff). It thus makes sense, from the perfumer’s point of view, to use a more purified, streamlined version of the smell that will blend more effortlessly with the other notes and give the composition lift and clarity. For me, though, as I have written before, the very earthiness and complexity of patchouli oil, its soil like darkness, is where its beauty lies. These neutered patchoulis are missing the point in my view: it is like draining the indoles and disturbingly erotic elements in white flowers such as jasmine, gardenia lilies and tuberose, or syphoning off the dirty-skin velvetness of other basenotes such as labdanum, benzoin or costus; the hairshirt compromised pleasures of  decaffeinated coffee, or dealcoholized wine.



There is, of course, a place for experimentation with aroma materials, to contemporize them and make them feel newer and fresher in the latest contexts. But for a bitter orange/ mandarin patchouli accord you are so much better off going with Micallef’s under-discussed, but very beautiful Patchouli, with its intimations of Campari and late night trysts, or for a really classical but very masculine, pulsating hard-on patchouli, Lorenzo Villoresi’s brilliant version of natural patchouli leaves: a midnight-dense, beautifully composed creation that, rather than setting out on a day or an evening of seductions and conquests, doesn’t even have to try.


Filed under Flowers, Patchouli




February 14, 2016 · 10:09 pm





What at perfume to wear to Madonna tonight?




The part of Tokyo where we were filming yesterday – Asagaya, near Shinjuku, has plenty of little curiosity shops that have vintage perfumes: my friend Zubeyde, who lives in this part of town,took me on a tour that yielded several thrilling bargains, including a miniature vintage parfum of this venomous classic that I snapped up for five hundred yen.


The thing  is, this particular bottle smells GORGEOUS. My character, Burning Bush, was wearing Poison yesterday and several people commented on how nice it smelled: the musk, my least favourite part of the scent, attenuated in this edition, the rich, fruity jasmine concentrated and lush, cassissing up the tuberose and the berries, purpling from within: plush, compressed, disarming and swoony.


Never mind the follow up, this really is Hypnotic.


Right now we are sitting in a strange, atmospheric cafe in Asagaya recovering from last night: Tiffany lamps, a dangling cactus garden under lights: Nat King Cole on low, real Tokyo eccentricity. Once we have gathered ourselves we are going to see the Botticelli exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in Ueno: Madonnas before the Madonna.


Then perhaps a sento bath somewhere, dinner, and off we’ll go to Rebel Heart, my bottle of Snow White witch perfume nestling in my jeans pocket, ready to be unstoppered again, just when the moment is right.





Filed under Flowers

JUSTIFY MY LOVE: Truth or Dare by MADONNA (2012)

JUSTIFY MY LOVE: Truth or Dare by MADONNA (2012)

Leave a comment

Filed under Flowers