Lip-pinched gin lemon on an immaculately tendered lawn. Beyond: the spruce trees. In the foreground, a sedate, but rather formal pock, pock, pock of summer bowls as a white, pristine, ball runs slowly, but surely, along the grass.
A quietly gentleman-ish English idyll, inspired by the grand, stately home of Bleinheim Palace in Oxfordshire, ancestral home of Winston Churchill and other Dukes Of Marlborough – Blenheim Bouquet is a discreet, and muted, citrus green that I bought for Duncan recently at a discounted Yokohama emporium. Fresh, refined, but faint, this scent has a discreet dourness to it – very removed from reality (just like the upper classes that have always ruled the land): a consummately realized contusion of lemon and pine, pepper and lime, and a subtley sun-dried lavender.
Short-lived, but with a pronounced and effortless delicacy, this pleasant, if inconsequential, early creation by Penhaligons, even in this (probably 80’s/90’s re-introduction), has that pre-war, shuttered, nightingale glimmer: the satisfaction of knowing that you are alright in your world of comfort and seclusion: that all things are in place as they should be, yes, just so.
Across the lake, the city of Paris is now proliferating in all its creatively glittering, roaringly twenties condescension. The couture houses are in motion, and perfume is soaring; Chanel is taking the metropolis by storm and Francois Coty is in the last twilight of his alchemy (Paris was one of his very final creations), a miniature, boxed extrait of which I bought recently from a Kamakura antiquery, and which I had, I admit, initially dismissed with one cursory sniff as ‘just another of those powdery floral aldehydes a l’Interdit (which I was never really fond of) -but which, now that I come to try this perfume again, on night at home in bed, I find to be fulfilling.
Sweet. Powdery. And then some. But also thick, uplifting, light, heady :all heliotrope, lilac, ylang ylang and jasmine/ Bulgarian rose (there is more than a hint of Patou’s Joy in the head notes, though that classic was yet to be invented, again showing this Corsican genius’ prescience): swoopingly feminine, musked, and melancholy ( one can only imagine the pleasure that this perfume must have given to women in its heyday as they got ready for an evening with the products sat alluring on the dresser) : the unfettered, and more joyful, cousin of Caron’s original Fleurs De Rocaille (one of the most heartbreaking perfumes ever made, in my view) and Chanel’s own inextinguishable and more baleful No 22, which had debuted merely the year before. In this precious vintage formula, untouched for many years, hidden in the dark of its ornately decorated paper box, with her doomed-to-be Tonkin musks and powder-pressed floral essences, this Paris, is, in all truth, an anachronism: beautiful but almost unwearable, like a ghost, or a genie, that has been suddenly let out of its bottle full of Jardins Des Tuileries prettiness and alacrity, her optimism for the future and what possibilities there may be to come, still pitiably alive, and intact.