Although most of our physical and emotional energy has recently been sucked up by the demands of the school new term on top of the exhausting (but marvellous) complications of making a sumptuous and ridiculous comedy horror movie up in Tokyo, there are still times when a relaxed and quieter weekend here in Kamakura are what the doctor ordered. The other weekend was just that: a Saturday spent just pottering about at home, and the Sunday a walk down into the small but ancient capital of which we are so fortunate to be residents.


I had noticed a small bottle of scent that I had somehow become oblivious to. I suppose there are so many perfumes just lying around in various nooks and corners of the house that I sometimes just overlook them. This one, though, I didn’t even realize I had: an extrait sample bottle of Hové Parfumeur’s Pirates’ Gold, that I had received, along with Spanish Moss (now where has that one got to?) when I bought the delightful Vetiver and Plage d’été from that glorious shop in New Orleans back on New Years Eve, 2015.


That city still haunts us and we want to return.  This time, in summer perhaps, to drench up the heat and the atmosphere even more – I don’t mind how sweltering it gets; it couldn’t be any hotter or more humid than Japan is in August and we can both handle it fine – there was just something about that place; so spirit-filled and weird, that I think we both have ‘Southern Gothic’ now permanently infiltrated as part of our psychic bloodstream.


I had just been reading Daphne DuMaurier’s page turner Jamaica Inn (1936), a surprisingly violent but very exciting thriller set in Cornwall about pirates and all manner of plundering, murdering and generally fiendish devil-doing, and so the sudden sighting of Pirates’ Gold, a small bottle standing on some furniture in the piano room, seemed opportune. Prising open the lid (I don’t think I had ever smelled it, even though it had been there for over a year) I was greeted with a warm, dense, rich and golden smell of aldehydes and spice; of leather and old-fashioned hunk papa and thought to myself yes, this refulgent specimen might make a very nice Sunday afternoon scent for the D – I’ll get him to try it when we go out.


And he did. It was glorious on him, (he now keeps the little bottle tucked inside the change pocket of his wallet, which was scented by me with pure patchouli oil and gets people swooning when it is opened; you can see pupils slightly dilating when he gets his money out to pay), especially when then pared, later, with a dose of vintage Amouage Gold Man, a bottle of which is available at a Kamakura antiques shop I frequent for 20,000 yen (about 200 dollars, but she says that it would have originally cost about 100,000; this is a boxed set with soap in the almost ridicuously adorned gold Arabic bottle) and which she allowed us to spray on Duncan even though I wasn’t planning to actually buy it. I think I have bought enough things from her now that she knows that I can be trusted and that when it comes to perfume, I am the real deal.



We went to a Turkish restaurant. The food in Japan, whatever you eat, is always high quality. Whether you are an aficionado of washoku traditional Japanese cuisine or not ( and I am not, on the whole, I like about half of it), whatever you eat is delicious, fresh and aeons better than anything you can get back home or in the majority of other countries. The French bread is as good as that in Paris, the Chinese food unbelievable, even cheap, basic Japanese eateries incredibly well made and good value, and this is why eating out here in this country is always such a pleasure. The simple fact is that a mediocre establishment just won’t get any customers (as food is basically life here in this culture, to an extent that annoys me if I am truthful), and so to survive, you have to be good and incontrovertibly oishii (delicious).



And so it was. But what was stimulating my senses far more than the delectable beef in yoghurt and tomato sauce that I was eating along with some very fresh and piquant meze was the smell, from across the table, of Duncan’s combined gold. Amouage is an aldehydic, floral, and very animalic sandalwood, resplendent and regal, that wasn’t quite his actual cup of tea for its rosy, almost ruinous sourness, but which I can tell you from my end where I was sitting, smelled very erotic (was it the civet, the rock rose, the glorious dryness of the blend, whose tenacity was getting on his nerves, particularly when mingling with the male repleteness of the Pirate?) I don’t know. But what I do know was that it made me realize quite profoundly how little perfume is consciously and intelligently used these days as a purposeful object of desire: that a well chosen scent selection can be a genuinely seductive swirl of odours that discombulate the senses and scythe effortlessly through the resistance of the rational; that the inhalation of a beautifully made perfume emanating from the body of a human being can root you in a moment of sensory perception that has nothing to do with politics or logic or the everyday and for a few seconds at least can plunge you into something that feels like eternity.



The texture and the heft, the dense thickness of these scents with their varying layers of wood and ambered perception then got me dreaming back to Mexico City. We went there about ten years ago before attending a friend’s wedding down south in Guadalajara, and I still remember the joy, after the endless journey from Japan, of waking up in such an unfamiliar – and for a British person living in Japan – very exotic location, in our hotel room, and the pleasure of unpacking and taking out the new perfumes I had brought with me. All perfume lovers know this  feeling. Yes, you have your essential fragrances with you in your suitcase that you know you will wear sooner or later, once you are a few days into your vacation. But what a thrill to arrive in a brand new place and after your first shower of that day to apply something you have never even tried before, a heady collaboration of sense and temporality as the perfume fuses with the sensations you are experiencing as you head out the door and let the new environment just wash over you. I remember on that sun-filled August  morning I was wearing Yerabate by Lorenzo Villoresi, a lovely hay-like green aromatic citrus that was perfect with my morning coffee, but then as the evening wore on I  took out from my pocket the vial of Habanita parfum that I had got from Les Senteurs on Elizabeth Street, London, and which I had saved until this sunset moment, and wore like a cloak.



The experience of both Golds on Duncan somehow suddenly caterpulted me back to this first wearing of Habanita as we recklessly explored all neighbourhoods of Mexico City, later that evening and night, heedless as to which parts might be more dangerous than others ( if this was even true)  my tobacco-fused vetiver vanilla, dark and a little bit dastardly,  the perfect accompaniment. And on that Sunday in Kamakura, as we sat in the Turkish restaurant by a window overlooking the main town square, my smell brain had strangely brought it back to life so completely I found that I was craving it (anyone else out there love Habanita?): that elegant fusion of smoky, sinewy richness that was so ripe, and alluring, in that new and thrilling Latin context.



In my view, perfume does not need to be just this tame, thoughtless afterthought that it is for the majority of people who just wear any old cheap commercial rubbish that has no spirit or tangible greatness. It can flood the sky and the air all around you, be the colour that cradles your brain and your day as you three dimensionalize what you are living with sight, and sound, and the memory of smell. With perfumes this sensual and rich, created by knowing perfumers who have perfected their art and filled their languid liquids with intelligence, sensuality and poetry, it can be an anchor.


Filed under Floral Aldehydes, Flowers, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Vetiver

20 responses to “IN SEARCH OF : : : GOLD by AMOUAGE (1983) + PIRATES’ GOLD by HOVE PARFUMEUR (?) + HABANITA by MOLINARD (1921)

  1. Renee Stout

    I have loved Habanita since I discovered it at 18. I’m now 58 and have never been without it. It’s perpetually on my top 25 list. I too have that small sample bottle of Pirate’s gold from Hove and it’s wonderful!

    • Delighted to hear it. There’s something just so rumbling and deep about it, like chocolate velvet. They would make a great his and hers as well I would imagine.

      (I was finally able to write again this morning!)

  2. I remember liking Habanita a lot but it was years ago when I wore it. I probably still have a mini of it around here somewhere and will try to find it.

    • For some reason the smell of it flooded my brain on that Sunday, in all its tones and textures. I know that the final vetiver/tobacco/vanilla note is addictively exquisite. Heavy in just the right way.

  3. Tuskanny

    Oh yes, Neil. Personally I met this Habanita eau de toilette at a very tender age, repelled and attracted and mesmerized at the same time by the powerful scent. I remember beautiful Brigitte Bardot’s typical voice and elocution uttering its name in a commercial on tv). Yes, this Habanita has been with(in) me ever since. And I really can understand this notion of craving it…
    It was very nice to read a piece of your writing again, thanks, i really enjoyed le détour par Mexico…
    Bye dear !

  4. veritas

    Nice to see you back in action…writer’s block gone….

    and thank you for reminding me of why I love perfume…the last paragraph was utterly sublime….

  5. Lilybelle

    I enjoyed that post. If you ever return to New Orleans I hope you’ll let me know so we can meet up there. I’m about 1.5 hours drive from there. Funny, but Habanita (I have the edt) evokes for me a house in the deep south, New Orleans maybe, cool and shady indoors with the shutters closed against the intense afternoon sun and dust motes swirling in a sunbeam, post lunch time when everyone is resting. An old room with old books and old leather chairs. That’s where Habanita brings me for some reason – vivid visuals, sounds, and feeling of place.

    And now you’ve reminded me, I have a set of three Parfums by Hové in a box, a souvenir from a trip to NOLA, and I can’t even remember what I selected. I should dig them out. I have Bourbon French’s Vetivert and Patchouli and soaps and a few other fragrances. They always seem so irresistibly right in New Orleans, and so wrong at home!

  6. I find your writing anchors me like a great perfume. Seriously! I almost stopped reading mid-way, thinking, Oh, this warrants a really good reply that will let Neil know how much we NEED to read him, how soul-satisfying and essential his observations, and dammit I’m just not up to it first thing in the morning, can’t do his gift to us justice. And now I sound like a silly fan girl, so I should quit while I’m ahead! But yep, what you say about the role of fragrance resonates with any real perfume lover. A soundtrack to our lives and then some. I would love to have sniffed that air around Duncan. And I do love my bottle of dusky, sultry, heady vintage Habanita.
    Thank you.

  7. Lesputnik

    Thanks for writing again. I love Habanita, it is voluptuous and dominant, sensual and taking itself not so seriously at the same time. Next one on my (very long) wish list!

    • I really want some as well. The craving was VERY strong the other day! I agree about the not taking itself seriously, actually, and that is a very good selling point. Self serious perfumes can be a bit irritating. What would they be if we were to name them?

      • Lilybelle

        I like that, too, about not taking itself seriously. Originally, Habanita was meant to scent cigarette papers, did you know? I live the idea of that. 🙂

      • Lesputnik

        Some simple creations that are not that layered and sophisticated, I am thinking the Molinard Eaux de Parfum (vanille or patchouli) but also some perfumes that are so insanely strong and inexpected that they just can’t be taken seriously, like Borneo Serge Lutens or Sable (the only Annick Goutal that makes me react – so peppery)
        What say you?

      • Ha! As you probably know if you have read my Borneo review, it is not strong ENOUGH for me and I have to add extra patchouli!

  8. Zubeyde Erdem

    😳😳😳 What’s going on again with me I don’t know,nowadays. I’m truly one of your blog’s fan. I was reading daily without making comments. It is like taking some art classes reading your articles. But nowadays I’m stacked with watching Britan or America or other countries got Talent tv program. And crying mostly with them together…
    This morning I entered again to your classes just to see what I missed during last few days….
    Turkish restaurants, Habanita Molinard ??!! Damnnn N you made me cry again ( in fact I’m not able to control them in anyhow😊)
    Just, last Friday I see off my cousin from Tokyo to Istanbul who was visiting Japan for business purpose as a member of 74 person. So it was a unique opportunity for me that I could send with her ( in fact with them) my perfumes to HOME for their safety ( also one cannot carry that much perfumes in suitcase you know)
    If you mean a kind of triangle like icy bottle Molinard it went to Turkey now.
    Do I love it, not too much actually but jeausly of it little bit ( with some others too )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s