The perils of editing a post on your phone on the bus.
The perils of editing a post on your phone on the bus.
Vol De Nuit, a masterpiece from 1933 that is still in production, is perhaps the house of Guerlain’s most difficult, troubling, and mysterious perfume. Of the handful of still extant creations by Jacques Guerlain, it is this scent – Night Flight – based on a delicate and poetic novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, that is the most unreachable and impenetrable of his perfumes: strange, distant, opaque. Where the heart of Après L’Ondée, from 1906 – wistful, exquisite, a sigh of melancholic longing in its heliotrope and violet-touched rain-drop transparency, does wear its heart on its sleeves (and is all the more vulnerable and beautiful for it), and L’Heure Bleue (1912) a delectable confectioner’s joy suffused with more melancholic, crepuscular consciousness, is never really afraid to emote, Vol De Nuit is held back; shadowy, and wary. Where we are quite sure of Mitsouko’s mossed, woodland austerity, its almost grave and ceremonious…
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Artemisia, galbanum, lavender, bergamot, black pepper
Sage, jasmine, cyclamen, basil, rose, cumin
Leather, costus, tonka bean, oakmoss, amber, civet, musk
The last time I was in Paris you could still buy Jules. That was almost a decade ago, though, and even in reformulation I doubt that it was destined to remain very popular. Jules is just too intimate, too husky and sensual, to appeal to the fashionable common man.
The gravest mistake in contemporary men’s perfumery is the conflation of masculine and macho. Almost any scent released onto the market these days that is targeted at homo erectus is fuelled with clichés. Granite-jawed, gym-locker hardness: wooden aggressions with slim concessions to ‘freshness’ (immaculate, GQ grooming); the latest spice; ozone; citrus. And though these perfumes can occasionally work on a subcellular level as Pavlovian lust-flaggers (the heterosexual woman, the homosexual man responding with their pituitary gland in a spike…
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Source: ANAIS ANAIS by Cacharel ( 1978 )
On my way back to school yesterday, in Fujisawa ( you could see Fuji-san today, when I took this picture ), I was pristinely unscented as is humanly possible.
Every work garment, from coat, to suit, freshly washed. Brand new shirt and sweater. Shampoo: a rosemary and geranium organic affair that leaves no perfumed residue. Body: generic soap and then eucalyptus bath: tonic, regenerative – but evaporative.
Waiting on the train platform, complimenting myself on my relative smellinvisibilty (ideal for the Japanese workplace) I suddenly felt disturbed. Nude. Balded. Peculiarly vulnerable.
I couldn’t stand it. And with just a couple of tiny, tiny spritzes on the back of each hand ( Guerlain Mandarine Basilic, because let’s be realistic), I felt like a black and white colour-by-numbers; coming back to life.
Just a hint of scent, at the borders of my periphery, and I felt more natural. Like a lens, coming into focus.
As a high school seventeen year old stripling, of a morning, before leaving my house, I would always raid my father’s after shave collection ( these were literally ‘after shaves’, the lighter, fresher, apres rasage format of men’s traditional fragrances that are often subtly different and more pleasing).
All of these were impeccable, scents I retain in my collection and wear even now : Eau Sauvage, Kouros, Paco Rabanne, Givenchy Gentleman, and Chanel Pour Monsieur. All of them fresh with complexity and aromacy: none of them the chest-beating machos ( Jazz, Tsar, Drakkar, Safari) that make me want to take my life.
The above creations suited me quite nicely, ( alongside Armani Pour Homme and Givenchy Xeryus that I had also bought for myself), but it was Chanel Pour Monsieur alone that had, and still has, the unique capacity to not only transform my own mood, but the air itself.
Essentially an aromatic citrus chypre, this curiously uplifting, innovative yet traditional cologne is based on lemon, verbena, bergamot, cardamom and neroli with lightly spiced undertones of lavender, nutmeg and a gentle, almost vanillic oak moss. While the eau de toilette can sometimes veer into almost flyspray-like citronella briskness, the after shave, for me, as a teenager, splashed on my face and neck and wrists, was nothing short of heaven.
I would walk through Malvern Park on the way to Sixth Form College; Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare, Keats and Bronte in my rucksack along with my French and German textbooks, look at and smell the sky, the trees, the flowers all around me and they, and my life itself, would be truly ameliorated and intensified by the beautiful smell that was emanating from my skin, a blissful harmony of nature and man-made art that has not been replicated since. It would be no exaggeration to say that it was a sensation that made me ecstatically happy.
I believe that this beautiful, softly exhilarating effect comes from the brilliant contrast between the citric uplift of the top accord, experienced simultaneously with the pliant and softly sensual mosses of the base, like new April sunshine filtering down through young leaves onto the soft, mossy bed of a forest clearing- a facet this perfume has in common with Guerlain’s Mitsouko ( after an hour or two these scents smell virtually indistinguishable on my skin).
But where there is something miserable and dour for me in Jacques Guerlain’s grimly beautiful masterwork, Pour Monsieur, while a touch old fashioned for me sometimes, nevertheless achieves a feat that cannot be dismissed lightly. Almost thirty years after I first started wearing this beautiful perfume, on this bright, sunny morning in January, Japan, in its understatedly joyous, lemon-leafed, contrapuntal elegance, I feel almost exactly the same as I did back in those days of future-forward, world-is-my-oyster oblivion: that Henri Robert’s most uninvasive of citrus masculines: refreshing to the senses and the spirit: glassed, nuanced, liberating -really is optimism, bottled.
I watched Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and Paul Schrader’s Cat People again last night. They filled me with strange yearnings: I NEED TO GO BACK TO NEW ORLEANS
There are some cities I love but could not live. Kyoto is one. New Orleans is another. While diametrically opposed in many ways, both of these places are so drenched in their own atmospheres, so full of ghosts and their self-prolonging essences, that when I am asleep they pervade my dreams; insinuate themselves perniciously in my bloodstream, leaving no room for space.
These are places that could possess you.
I only spent four days in New Orleans, but it has made quite an impression. Compared to Miami, Tampa, and Anna Marie Island, with their clear, ocean-kissed florid air (and where I had almost dreamless sleep), walking around the so-called City Of The Dead, built upon the colonial conquests of an all-pervading, palpable Louisana swamp (the city is fading; sinking, it is the Venice of the Americas), the air there is damp, tainted; flourished. There is something inexplicably unsanitary about the…
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