( our own vaguely Bohemian botanical balcony..)
I first met Dariush Alavi ( aka Persolaise ) at the Jasmine Awards in London. We clicked immediately and met up for a drink shortly afterwards where we exchanged life stories, perfume ephemeralia and email addresses, later also discovering that we share three, major, passions : perfume, Madonna, and the cinema (and not necessarily in that order). Not often in accordance, either, but those fiery differences of opinion make for stimulating conversation and give new slants on various perspectives, from what are the best Madonna songs – we had a fantastic and rather joyous night of karaoke here the other night together with Duncan and the legendary Madame Persolaise); whether Martin Scorsese is as good as he is made out to be (he believes he is; I still have my doubts); to what niche perfume houses are soulless and overpriced (I am perhaps more cynical about a lot of them than he is) to a shared adoration of the classic Guerlains and Chanels and Diors – I gave him some immaculate Diorissimo esprit du parfum and cologne; a Joy vintage parfum in the classic black and red bottle and an extrait of Le Galion Snob because it shares the very same name as his book.
On their part, the Persolaises came laden with gifts. They had asked if there was anything that they could bring to Kitakamakura from the U.K. and I said Heinz baked beans – because I love and grew up with them and you can’t really get them here, plus, you know, any perfumes that you don’t need, samples and what not, never imagining that when they came down to our house for two nights after a few days in Tokyo that Dariush would be proffering up to my eagerly clasping hands full bottles of intriguing, extortionate niche, including Tom Ford’s Shanghai Lily and, from the more recent Private Collection of 2016 (scents I had not yet got round to smelling before), the delicately lush and entirely convincing, Vert Boheme.
Knowing my opinionated vociferousness and innate ease in speaking the truth (sometimes a social handicap, but basically a gift), Persolaise told me to just be honest if I were to review any of the ridiculously generous cache of valuable bottles that he had given me, and I will be. Two of them I am at best ambivalent about, the ouds and pure sandalwood are already safely stowed away in my perfume cabinets for potential future moments, but even though we clashed a little over Tom Ford, whose perfumes I often quite like but whose psychological depths and validity I often doubt ( he loves Tuscan Leather, Noir De Noir and Santal Blush; I like Jasmin Rouge, Grey Vetiver and Ombre De Hyacinth but have never bought a full bottle of any of them ), I have to say that the two Private Collections that he gave me were completely up my street.
The man is very detail oriented. A perfectionist, I would say, so I imagine that he must have carefully selected which perfumes he was willing to dispense with, mulling over properly which ones I was likely to enjoy, as a dusky, spiced, clove-studded carnation lily and a refreshingly green mandarin honeysuckle are just what the Narcissus ordered.
I had briefly smelled Shanghai Lily before somewhere at a department store in Tokyo, and had immediately formed a generally positive impression of it. Far more impressive than the dull and lacking Lys Fume, whose small sample bottle I sometimes use as an air freshener in the computer room upstairs, Shanghai Lily is a fully realized and genuinely atmospheric, warm ( yet dark) composition, veiled and vanillic, almost ghostly in its florality but still narcotically seductive. While the soft, woody, skin-huggy base is not quite as compelling as the almost cinematically vivid beginning of the perfume, as night lilies exhale their torpor on breaths of languid, almost melancholic spice, this is definitely a perfume that I will wear when my clove-studded cravings start tearing their heads come the Autumn and Winter.
Vert Boheme is perfect for this season, and I am drenched in the thing as I write this on my iPhone heading out for a day of scent researching in Ginza. I had of course read about this new quartet of 70’s inspired green perfumes and was rather interested to see how they had been executed, whether the perfumers involved had managed to capture the essence of the greener trend of four decades ago (No 19, Silences, Cristalle) yet transmogrify them successfully into a contemporary setting.
Judging from this particular perfume, they have. Vert Boheme has the basic odour template of the original Chanel Cristalle without its harsher metallicisms; rather it has the lush, dew dawn sunbeams of Annick Goutal’s lovely Eau De Camille ( 1983). The base, while not the heightened poetry of the finest perfumes, is still extremely pleasant: gentle, green, like the memories of lying in long grass. The top notes are alive and refreshing, a burst of mandarin and galbanum entwined with magnolia and freshly opened honeysuckle, not too chemicalized or overly strident, and the whole has a quietly elegant yet subtly passionate aspect to it that I am finding extremely enjoyable. I think I, or rather Persolaise, might have found my scent for the rest of this summer.