Japanese suburbs like their houses and front yards largely trimmed, and neat, but we don’t and want it green and overgrown, so have asked our landlords to not cut our garden. The result: the biggest osmanthus tree outside this window where I am writing, stretching right up to the telephone wires – and it has just bloomed.
Right now the scent is like the colour: an ethereal apricot cream. Soon though, as I have written before in my paen to osmanthus and its inimitable glories, the perfume will become thick; and rotten peachy, and unwanted.
Right now though it smells beautiful: fresh, delightful and new, a light haze of florally cottoning apricots. It doth beguile. Interestingly, today, I will also be able to smell again the osmanthus absolute, in its natural state, when I go, once again, up to the ear clinic in Tokyo, a four hour round trip (the reason I have been absent from this blog: a horrendous, and debilitating, ear infection which I have still not recovered from), where I will be able to then, once I have been violated once again with sharp metallic instruments and received the next dose of antibiotics, go to the Seikatsunoki, or Tree Of Life aromatherapy store, just down the road in Omotesando, which has the biggest selection of essential oils you can possibly imagine, from everything you have read about in your guide to aromatherapy, all the lavenders and citruses, patchoulis, oranges and hyssops, to Japan-only available extractions such as hiba, shiso and hakka Japanese mint (among many, many, others), and then to the most exciting: a selection of very expensive, but also very tantalising, floral absolutes,CO2 extractions, and ottos. The jasmine sambac, by far my favourite, I have bought on more than one occasion to make perfume – it smells gorgeous, just as it is, actually – but then the other, distillated, absoluted essences can almost, even to the perfume-familiar, come on like strangely disguised impostors but nevertheless still quite fascinate. Tuberose is stern, and forbiddingly unsweet. Iris has no powder: it is peculiar, green, unadorned. Violet leaf is harsh, and almost unconscionably bitter. Frangipani is….I don’t know. It continues to elude me. Carnation is densely spiced and fruit-carnal, and darkly enigmatic.
But osmanthus? It stinks. Like animals in the barnyard. Shocking, when you know how sweetly innocent the flowers’ perfume begins. True, there is a hint of that apricot breeze I am getting right now from my front garden window which I am breathing in deeply like an early autumnal dose of happiness. Yet that floral fantasma, just distinguishable in the gunk, is drowned out almost completely in a foetid musk-funk of hooves, soiled farmyard hay, and beasts’ furred, slovenly behinds………………..animalic, thick; almost rotten, and very overpowering. Perfumers, when they use this ultra-expensive material, must surely use very, very, little. In infinitesimal doses, I would imagine. Because in the raw, and in concentration, osmanthus absolute really is kind of disgusting. Like the slow, reeking ooze that has been issuing forth from my left ear, a putrid, sweet-smelling custard, it just shows you what we all boil down to: ultimately, in the end.
27 responses to “APRICOT BARNYARD”
Hopefully theres a few more good years before the terminal rot sets in.
Good answer! Forgive my morbidity I just can’t help myself at the moment.
Osmanthus is apparently very good for you .. mix some flowers with green tea. It is spring in NZ and I have a bush of Osmanthus delavayi in full bloom the flowers are white and very sweetly scented.. Every time you write about Osmanhus Fragrans it inspires me to get one of them as well. Osmanthus Fragrans is also called Devilwood.. that might cheer you up LOL.. hope your ear gets better soon.
Thanks. We have SUCH an abundance of those little flowers I might indeed try making some tea. A gorgeous idea, actually.
Oh Neil, you poor dear. I am so sorry to hear you are not well. An ear infection is just one of the worse things to suffer from. I do hope it will clear up soon though and you will be feeling like yourself again. The osmanthus tree sounds quite lovely, will you be making a tea from the petals?
Do take care and heal up. I am wishing for your speedy recovery.
Thanks Brielle. How are you doing these days? I am mulling buying the current Nahema edp as I became obsessed with Olivia’s parfum over the summer. I LOVE it. Will I be sorely disappointed?
I am well, thanks. The current Nahema isn’t too bad, it isn’t vintage swoon worthy, but it is not too bad. I think you might find it acceptable. I can only wish you luck that you will find a nice vintage bottle, on one of your jaunts out hunting for scents.
Do take care.
Oh no: twenty years in Japan and no Nahema and there never will be and in any case, those vintage caches are definitely thinning out now! The pickings are slim compared to how they used to me. I might get the new version anyway just for that initial loveliness. There is something extremely comforting about that perfume. I can imagine never actually wearing it outside the house, just after baths and in beds and loving it. Are you a fan?
Ouch, hope you’re better very soon. Not 1 October for the osmanthus this year?
No. September 26th! I should send it to Donald Trump for evidence of global warming. I know the fucker would take heed.
Hope you’re feeling better soon. ❤
Ugh it has been horrendous, but thank ye. x
Sorry to hear. Horrendous must be the word. Meanwhile, here I am, both ears clear and pain-free, going back and reading your paen to osmanthus with enormous joy. How right you were and are! Beautiful writing. Oh, and I love osmanthus (only through perfume; we don’t seem to grow fine-smelling osmanthus here on the west coast of Canada), especially in the form of vintage Jean Patou 1000. Thank you thank you thank you . . . and hope the suffering ends soon.
God so do I. I am not myself….I love 1000 myself as well, obviously, and think it really does capture how the flowers smell. No hairy hooves in that one.
P.S. I meant to add that it doesn’t seem fair that you’re the one in agony and we’re the ones getting such pleasure from your writing!
No it gave me some release. I was drying my hair, smelled the flowers coming in through the window and thought, ah, maybe I can write something…
Thanks very much for saying so.
deliriously good writing! to conjure up that ultra pretty, fruity delicacy and then plummet so rapidly and gloriously into the world of stinking beasts bums and ear custard is hilarious, genius.
Thanks H. It did slightly make me laugh I must confess. Things are NOT good at the moment so if I can at least create something good that is a bonus!
I simply adore Nahema, in both versions, it is a magical scent. I feel you will most definitely take pleasure in it, especially after a lovely bath.
Yey. But don’t tell Duncan.
We’ll keep it our secret. 😉
hasnt Nahema been deleted.. can you still get it in Japan??
the parfum was, but the edp in whatever version it is in is still available. some things happened recently to me and nahema felt like a talisman. i need that beautiful cold rose peachiness no matter what!
xxx Rather late to the party, I love this. (And hope you are feeling a little better).
A bit, yes. Thanks for asking! Hope you are still revelling in the Autumnal.