Monthly Archives: March 2018

SWOON………the best lavender I have ever smelled and the most gorgeous, almost obscenely ecstatic tuberose: : : : : VERT GALANT + DENTELLE DANS LA COEUR by HENRY JACQUES







You are always being told about the most ‘precious essences sourced from the finest sources’ and all that rubbish: your nose and brain and your olfactory instincts, however,  usually know differently. But at Henry Jacques, an exquisite perfumery serenely sequestered on the top floor at Les Salons at Harrods, I really did feel that the materials being used here were the toppest of notch: gorgeous, limpid, potent elixirs in pure perfume only that were expensive and unattainable in some ways but ones that I dream of and WANT: you never know, there might be a windfall at some point when I don’t hesitate to just treat myself and come home with a flacon of dream.



I wasn’t intimidated. We sat ourselves down in the two available arm chairs there (once they are occupied, no other customers are allowed in the space) and asked to be taken through the range. From florals through citruses and then other blends, please. Leave out the standard masculines. Just show me the flowers. And the orientals. And possibly the musks, and even a couple of oudhs. I want to smell them all, and please also seal the blotters in hermetically sealed envelopes. I want to smell all of them at my leisure later. These look really interesting.





We were there for at least an hour, undisturbed. The assistants, personable, enthusiastic, but with just the right level of dignity and mild hauteur, would then dip the paper blotters into the thickly glassed flacons and bring them over: I knew right from the very start that these were indeed made with principally natural materials of extremely high quality, and was pleased that there was no bullshit, no PR materials, no advertising, no extraneous imagery (the perfumes are available in the standard, almost Caron-like bottles or else fancy flourishes of glasswork that were housed in secret, walled cabinets, revealed to you at precise moments); just perfumes, made in Grasse, that you wanted to own, and cherish, and wear.





Opening my bag of about fifty Henry Jacques perfumes scent a strip a week later, I am amazed at how living and real and gorgeously fragrant all the perfumes still are on the card. Potent: undiminished. Their hearts on their sleeve, ready to seduce. Seemingly divided into soliflores, contemporary note-centric formulae, or else stunningly neo-classical aldehydes and balmy orientals, there honestly wasn’t a bad scent among the ones I tried: the extortionate Bulgarian Rose would be the best possible indulgence, just a dot on the skin, before going out in the evening – this couldn’t have been more reflectant, effulgent – the very heart of the Bulgarian rose essence. Picking up scent papers randomly (they are sprawled out as I speak on the bed at my parents’ house), Decibelia is a beautiful galbanum focused-sweet pea; Kavianca the most perfect aldehydic floral – all jasmine and rose and raspberry and iris, like No 5 raised up to goddess status and looking down through the crystalline clouds of Mount Olympus; Valentys probably the best peach perfume I have ever smelled; all honeysuckle, bright jasmine; Nahema roses and powder; and Whydia an almost Ysatis-like beauty of mandarin, neroli, ylang ylang and cedarwood balsamics.





Wisely, the assistants asked me to save the ones I wanted to sample on skin until last, although I was unable to resist trying the gorgeous rosa centifolia based Rose Myosotis on my left hand that put me in mind of the original Caron Rose, in extrait, but less mossy and Daltroffesque. On my right, though, I knew from the start that I was going to have to have the devastating Dentelle Dans La Coeur, the best tuberose I have ever smelled and that had me going goggle-eyed in ecstatic white flower pleasure: the tuberose to end all tuberoses (so fantastic to have this kind of revelation): shimmering, white inflorescences of sheer petallic pleasure; the wintergreen weirdness of Tubereuse Criminelle and Carnal Flower self-pleasured to perfume strength; outrageous; but no sweetness, no sugared, vanilla musks or sandalwood, just the most delicate, creamy skin scent that lasts underneath (and which merely from a little perfume on my hand, which graced my cashmere sweater, and emerged again, a few days later, when out with Helen, a non-tuberose lover who admitted that this indeed, smelled utterly beautiful on me; marmorean, like a ghostly but living white statue from another world.)






I had no more skin space. But I asked the two Henry Jacques assistants which scents they had left out of the equation, whether there were any that they had omitted. Although I had sampled some of the house’s masculines (very good: Fabian Absolue a more natural reworking of Fahrenheit; Soudain L’Hiver a deep coniferous rendition of the original Polo) this is never my main line of interest, and I wondered what the curious green-tinted bottle at the front of the tray of perfumes was: had I already smelled that one or not?




This is a lavender. I didn’t think you would like this one, given your taste for the white florals and orientals. Would you like to try it?






And good god. Lavenders are always too thin; too vanillic; too incensed; too cologned; too animalic. This one, this absolute beauty, though graced in the undertones with some sandalwood and light oriental facets, felt spiked; green; vivid ; alive: but not the almost gaseous evaporatorial emanations of the farm-distilled standard essential oil; that yes, but welded with the lavender absolute, cleaner, but deeper; purer; self contained. The sheer strength of this botanical panacea captured in perfume: I was desperate to just own the thing (‘we only sell about five pieces of this one a year’) : it seemed to hold tranquillity in concentration, as though spiritizing the plants on the stem, in the fields of England, Bulgaria, and France; so green, so replete………………. a marvel.












Filed under Flowers









While the main perfumery hall at Harrods is a cacophonous miasma and clamouring jam-packed of competing people, perfumes, sounds and smells- and not a particularly enjoyable perfume browsing experience from my own perspective – take the escalators up to the sixth floor to the recentishly opened Salon De Parfums  (the former Ali Baba’s smoke and mirrors black and gold reliquary of perfumes, The Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie, which I used to love visiting for its carpeted luxe and gilded tranquillity, has been moved and extended to a corridor of white and boutique perfumeries), and you have a quiet, expansive and very enjoyable way to sample perfumes at your leisure.





Sat in each polished, private and hushed, enclave, the assistants very happy and willing to take you through their particular house’s collection (because in essence there is nobody else there and all they have to do otherwise is talk to each other; dust their surfaces; or stare into space) this, for me, is a kind of perfume nerd bliss. Persolaise and I spent a good two and a half hours there just being led through various collections – one of which I had not even heard of before and which was divine – I will probably write about that one next and more about this pleasurable space of high class perfumery in general – unstressed, smelling endlessly, at our own discretion, and, sat down in comfortable chairs at a table to boot which suited my tired London legs no end as the personable and attitude-free assistants brought the perfumes to us one by one at our request; each one sealed in an envelope for decontamination purposes to be smelled again later and recalled as and when necessary.





I have no real interest in Burberry as a brand, neither in terms of clothing – that ubiquitous and supposedly iconic chequered pattern bores me to tears-  nor the very obvious and unmagnetizing fragrances that have not even ever grazed the outer edges of my olfactory consciousness –  but the space at the Bespoke Burberry concession, all wood panelling and quiet glass, at that particular moment the collection looked inviting. As is often discussed by the perfume writers and bloggers, all fashion and fragrance houses now, post the Chanel Les Exclusifs, have their own higher priced ‘exceptional’ collections for the people with money, and usually in my experience, it has to be admitted, though overpriced, the perfumes are in general far more appealing than their duty-free and high street poorer siblings; usually they are note and ingredient rather than brand recognition- based, higher quality, with the odd little beauty raising its head when you were least expecting it (Givenchy’s Immortelle Tribale for example, which I smelled in Istanbul airport on the way back to England, is quite a wild and creative curry fantasy, new and interesting, the likes of which I  don’t think I have experienced since Diptyque’s iconoclastic and sadly discontinued L’autre (the wrenching smell of a cumin-stenched armpit after a night at an Indian restaurant)).








Burberry, also, has some unexpectedly savage little concoctions up its sleeve in its collection as well, one of which is so extreme, and so disgusting, that you would assume that the entire thing was a joke – the Burberry representative herself seemed rather embarrassed by it as well – and which when smelling it again on the perfume card last night elicited grimaces of revulsion, horror and great amusement from my family and, later in the evening, from my original perfume partner in crime and best friend Helen, who, as she stood outside our front door and I proffered this brand new perfume for her to smell, memorably said to me, while swallowing her nausea, that the perfume, ‘from throat to gut’, gave her a ‘feeling of sickness’.








I have written about Francis Kurkidjian recently, in relation to Black Mirror and the perfection of his flawlessly light-riven blends that are almost android-like in their futurism and airbrushed infallibility. I also wrote that he is something of a genius, and a chameleon, who is not wedded to one particular style and can produce whatever is expected of him by the brief. Thus, when being taken through the Burberry Bespoke range, all created by FK, we immediately hone in on the two obvious commercially appealing blends – as confirmed by the member of staff who said that these two perfumes were selling like hot cakes- Amber Heath, a solid, warm, optimistic and very wearable Obsession-like amber that I would wear myself without hesitation as it feels less repressed and oppressive than his own also appealing Grand Soir; fluffier and more feel-good if lacking in any twists or obvious originality; Garden Roses, similarly,  a fresh, high-paced, harmoniously balanced modern rose that is simple and uneventful but eminently wearable and convincing – my first thought was that you could also quite easily wear both of these prototypical fragrances together for a more sensual base and a light, rosy, pink spritz as a contemporary afterthought.






At completely the other end of the extreme though, far more inventive, button-pushing and downright weird, is the freakish oceanic High Tide, which in my own body produced that repelled but wide-eyed (because genuinely new ideas are always, no matter your primal emotional responses to them, stimulating) reaction of ‘wow, what is that’ – Persolaise agreed with me as well, this was definitely a perfumer being given free reign to produce whatever he wanted as long as he had a few more objectively pleasing scents in his range, as he has made something that is somewhat indescribable – a conflicted and clashing confection on the one hand of bergamot, aldehydes and panoramic sea notes, and a jasmine and a quite dirty oak moss and possibly immortelle/cumin-like underbelly. To me, it reminded me a bit of unfortunate and unsuccessful self-tanning experiments as a teenager, those lotions that react with your sweat and melanin and produce a peculiar smell of curdling skin: imagine that smell, if you know it, and then running into the waves on a hot summer’s day and you have something of the effect of this jarring, surprising, and quite indigestible, perfume.










Ivy Musk, though. Jesus. This is a monster. A joke. Surely. The pooiest civet I have ever smelled – one that makes Mouchoir De Monsieur smell like L’Eau De Issey Miyake in comparison::  a really faecal, gut-churning animal civet that for all I know might be entirely synthetic (seeing that the poor prodded antagonised creatures are not usually used any more by perfumers with a conscience), with completely anti-intuitive fresh and ozonic green notes overlaying the foul-breathed and genuinely shocking decaying gorgon heart in a manner that is, for all intents and purposes in modern society, unacceptable. HILARIOUS.  It would be fascinating actually to do a Youtube video of this one: stop people in the street, make them stick their nose in the envelope, and film their reactions: it would be a dead certain kaleidoscope of olfactory horror and dismay, a WTF of what are you trying to do to me, that isn’t a perfume, that is vile, are you having a laugh, what the fuck is that: myself and Persolaise were also very much WOAH, and even assistants in other boutiques said ‘have you smelled the new Burberry Ivy Musk?’ – you imagine it must already be a new in-joke among the Harrods Salon de Parfums staff.






Yes. This is most definitely a perfumer run amok. Going a bit apeshit and, because of his stellar reputation generally, getting away with it. And there is something quite exciting about this. A perfumer, amid the mindless banality of modern popular ‘fragrance’, just letting off a bit of steam and taking off the trivial brakes (HA! you think all my perfumes are clean?’!) The sheer extremity of it (especially given the fact that at the Burberry boutiques you can choose the dilution of your perfume by percentage- the strongest version of this perfume could totally be used for terrorist attacks as crowd-clearing stink bombs, making it true guerrilla perfumery). As if Francis Kurkdijian is just there in his perfume studio laughing to himself and slapping his thighs in glee as he  sees just how far he can push this particular idea: hiding the huge, society-scandalising, shit-breathed godzilla within a name as innocuous as ‘Ivy Musk’, a concept in which we rightly imagine a scent that is green and light-natured but instead faint and clap our hands over our mouths and nostrils in instinctive horror in its presence. Like Etat Libre D’Orange’s equally ‘challenging’ Secretions Magnifies, though – a perfume I find repugnant beyond measure – there is still something about this ludicrous new release that is oddly compelling, even magnetising – you almost want to seek out, and timidly sniff, the low percentile jackpot winner for whom this almost incomprehensible perfume works as a boggish and carnally seductive komodo dragon scent: its balls, its collusion. Its absolute fearlessness.

















Filed under Civet, Flowers

















When my dad picked me up at Solihull station late last night after a fabulous time in London and Portsmouth (more on that later), I asked him if he had just been eating ginger nuts – the deliciously ginger tasting hard sweet biscuits that they eat every morning with their early morning tea (and which I dunk into the brew for that cheekily delectable half melt – I don’t care if it makes me a pleb) : : : but then, as the powerful, not smell, not hallucination – maybe holographic brain insertion (all I could smell was ginger nut biscuits and I thought that the car was choc-a-bloc full of them, even though I knew that this was an impossibility), my head began to reach further.





It couldn’t fool me. IT also was so familiar: what was this? I knew this smell. Had a perfume leaked? (I was so laden down with samples and bottles and goodies that one bag had completely broken on the platform at Leamington Spa; had I, in my typical clumsy oaf non spatial awareness just thrust it down onto the concrete and damaged one of my preciousnesses without realising? Oh so plausible an explanation. ) But it felt internally familiar. A comforting sediment. In my psyche. And then I became aware that what I was smelling was very similar indeed to the perfume I made when I came back from Java -(called, imaginatively, Java- please read my review) :: : :: all cacao, coffee, patchouli,and cardamom: distinctly similar: : : and then I realised, oh no, has the Gorilla Perfumes Cardamom Coffee I picked up at Persolaise’s (jesus the man is generous), a scent I liked immediately as I love cardamon so much – D and I never drink tea without it, sometimes with fresh ginger as well – you can’t beat it – has it leaked?









-At this point my head was so full of ginger nuts though,:: : my head had become a ginger nut: I could hardly think straight, my dad was speaking ginger nut








– hauling my load into the house as my parents went to bed, I knew that this was one of the intensest perfume experiences of my life. As I emptied the ruined bag and saw the smashed bottle in the bottom corner, the glass pulverised like sugar crystals, with not a drop remaining, I saw that a full thirty millilitres of this pungent, sweet, chocolatey spice drink had been unnaturally liberated from its thick, chunky confines and had filled the entire car and house. Like chemical warfare (but the very best kind). The gingerest, cardamomest (because the oil really did come through, clearly, once I saw it), biscuitest, smellfest I have ever had. An amazing thing to go through actually. ALL IN ONE GO. Because much as I was disappointed by the loss – this would make a really lovely wintery comfort perfume and I would also have enjoyed spritzing it round the house for a perfect, ersatz, Hansel and Gretel gingerbread house bonanza –  the sheer, diluvial pleasure of such a huge wave of ginger (because it does smell like ginger, like ginger confectionery), all at once, was like a sugar junkie or the ultimate ginger nut enthusiast having the best, purest, and most ecstatic hit of his life



Filed under Cocoa, Coffee, Spice






At the house of Persolaise, as we gather for breakfast, even the marmalade is created by a perfumer : Marmalade by Perfumer H.


Lyn Harris’s morningtime confection is made of the darkest and bitterest oranges from Seville, at just the right edge of sweetness, infused with unexpected (but judicious) additions of aromatic  lavender and bergamot.



Intriguing, and delicious.




Filed under Flowers








































I am oddly unfamiliar with London, considering I once lived there. I had never before been to Grosvenor Square, a rather beautiful, wide, open space not far from Oxford Street where I came down from Birmingham only the day after arriving back in England to be a judge of the Best Independent Perfume category at the upcoming Fragrance Foundation Awards, and where I walked around for a while in the grey, melancholy air before meeting up with Persolaise and Neela Vermeire (name dropping! she seems rather lovely) and then getting down to business in a recording suite at the Marriott Hotel, sampling and commenting on and debating all the merits and demerits of the perfumes (like a stuttering deer in the headlights, I was also interviewed, snippets of which will possibly be flashed up on the screen at the event like an absent, or dead, actor at the Oscars).





It was quite exciting, though. Twenty five perfumes were appraised by we five judges, one of whom was Joanne Harris, the author of Chocolat, the others bloggers and perfume writers, and we were to give scores and comments, the winner – the short list will go up soon – simply the perfume with the highest score. Although I am very quick in my judgements of perfumes ( I just know how I feel immediately) it was still quite difficult to decide what kind of perfume should win this important category, ultimately. As these are all houses that have not yet been vacuumed up by the big conglomerates, you want the winner to be an example of real originality and creativity and if possible, a true exemplary of the perfumer’s art. So should you be just choosing one that you personally like and would wear yourself, or one that brings perfumery forward? Some of the entries, in truth, were dull as dishwater, predictable and merely pleasant, while others  more daring, but simultaneously made my stomach churn. Balancing the subjective and the objective is almost impossible, though, and I think that in the end we might have chosen one that was less original, but which made us all, ultimately, go ooh. 






From there, saying our goodbyes to the camera crew and the Fragrance Foundation organisers, Persolaise and I walked quickly through Mayfair down towards Hermes ( I wouldn’t have had a clue how to get there, but he was gliding through the streets as confidently as if he owned them); past several perfumeries but no time to stop if we were to make it on time for the 4pm meeting with Christine Nagel (pronounced with a soft g like a j – I had thought it was like the German for nail, but she is in fact very French), an intimate event in a presentation room upstairs in the boutique with other perfume and fashion types, the Hermes people all milling about along with liveried waiters serving rose tea, champagne and luxurious tidbits  – gorgeous raspberry chocolate, ganaches, meringues, and duck egg sandwiches : (I was glad I had gone emergency shopping the day before with my mother in the rain to get some new clothes – I think I just about looked the part..)





Personable, gentle, and very appealing, Ms Nagel is almost shy and modest as a speaker. There was a translator on standby just in case, and also – which I thought was quite novel – a storyteller poet (who you can see in the picture next to the display of the exclusive , and very expensive, snakeskin bottles), who recited a poem inspired by each scent as an accompaniment to the perfumer’s descriptions of her inspirations and technical processes. What could have been embarrassing and really squirmingly self conscious (the Candy Perfume Boy said that it would probably have been unbearable if it had been someone English), was actually quite effective, I thought, giving another aspect to your experience of the perfumes, as I sat there, the rain visible outside, seeing myself in this cosseted world of luxury and realising just how superfluous, privileged, yet enjoyable this honeyed chamber of perfume actually was.





With each description of the five new fragrances, the polite, and genuinely charming Hermes staff would come round and either apply some of the scent (in the case of the ‘essences’, which are liquid perfumes) to your hand, or hand out scented papers, as the poet in the background proclaimed her verses. Cardamusc, one of two bright, luminous, aldehydic white musk oils that Christine Nagel developed as homages to the original Tonkin musk, is in fact very clean, clear, relaxing, with a pronounced initial cardamon note that fades fairly rapidly but does eventually leaves a warm, gently animalic tone on the skin  (the story of a woman who as married to a lake, which eventually evaporated and condensed to the point that she simply scooped him up in a bottle) : linear, simple, but nicely done. Musc Pallida, which I think I prefer, is similar, but with a comforting almost violety iris accord that puts me in mind, somewhat of White Linen, but done the Hermes way, and far more smooth and opalescent. I said to the perfumer when we were talking afterwards that I would love to wear this one to bed, as it has that pure, post bath and soap calm that would go deliciously with freshly washed pyjamas, but I can imagine it equally going well, worn with a white shirt, or white dress, on holiday somewhere new, on a balmy summer night.





Myrrhe Eglantine, which was presented next, is to me the obvious ‘star’ of the collection in terms of commercial potential – a very arresting modern wild rose/rosehip accord that is slightly redolent of perfumes I have smelled before by Montale such as Roses Musk, and an almost marine (though the perfumer told me there actually wasn’t any marine notes in it) aspect that held memories for me, somehow, of Calvin Klein’s Escape. With quite a rasping note of Somalian myrrh beneath all of this modernity, Myrrhe Eglantine, for me, is therefore quite an interesting blend of the contemporary populist (given the continual popularity of fresh roses – I can see this selling quite well in Japan) and the ancient curious, as the meeting of the resin, which eventually becomes more prominent on skin, is, as Christine Nagel stated and intended, combined with the sheer freshness and alacrity of the wild rose notes, quite ‘troublant’ and unusual.




Cedre Sambac is definitely a more challenging affair.  By far the most ‘difficult’ of the five new perfumes, it is a very bold, and initially quite strongly statemented heart of pure Moroccan cedar wood oil (I have always preferred the Virginian, unless it is softened and sweetened a la Lutens in perfumes like Feminite Du Bois) blended cleverly and seamlessly with an equally potent note of natural jasmine sambac essence, and which from the bottle or on paper is almost too harsh for me: like CB I Hate Perfume’s Where We Are There Is No Here – see review – it makes me feel as if I am trapped in a sawmill, or a home furniture store – though I think this is ultimately because of my natural aversion to this essential oil. On skin, however, trying it last night while watching Dunkirk with my parents back at home, the perfume was very much warmer, more skin loving, and  torrid. Heated and present and very woody, Ms Nagel told me she loves perfumes that are enveloping – that really surround you, and this is perhaps the main difference between her style and the more delicate scents of Jean Claude Ellena. Despite my reservations towards this one,  I can imagine Cedre Sambac being quite provocative and perturbing on the right (woman’s?) skin. It would hold you like a shield.





Agar Ebene, the last of the poems (in this case the story of a gazelle rubbing itself sensuously against  the bark of a tree in a forest) would also be better, I feel, worn by the right woman (not that I believe that perfume is gendered, obviously, but sometimes it is just more stimulating and subversive when going against the grain of male/female cliches), as its suave and defanged oudhness, tempered with a beautifully supple, but twilight dense accord of forested fir balsam that is as soft and warm as Hermes kid leather gloves, would be less expected and obvious than it might be were it worn, for example, by the typical, moneyed patrician male Hermes client (in which case its more palpable masculinity might take on the form of subtle arrogance). There is a glow and an understatement to this scent – very smooth and effortlessly elegant – that is rather sensual; a suede like ease; yet with something pulsating and concealed underneath – on the right person – that holds the possibility of a quietly unspoken eroticism.





The event, and the mingling, and the conversations all soon coming to an end, The Candy Perfume Boy, Persolaise and I asked the waiters for some champagne, continued with some nibbles (the rhubarb cake you see in the picture was divine), had a peruse of all the other Hermes perfumes as we were in the store, and then, before heading to Oxford Circus to go our separate ways, made a beeline for Louis Vuitton, which was just down the street, to sample their six recent perfumes and smell the natural essences from the perfume organ that was on display (in truth, more interesting than many of the perfumes themselves). Fun though, anyway, chewing the cud with absolute perfume people, a chance, I rarely get to have in the flesh.






Walking the streets now, the light quickly fading, and with a definite chill in the air – the looming, cold stone edifices and the solidity of the shut-out historical grandeur of the city just confirming my deeper instincts that, when all is said and done, I don’t belong there,  my complimentary box set in the classic Hermes bag swinging ostentatiously at my side (quite a novelty in a way for me, it’s weird what that confers on you…) I then, having said goodbye to the boys, made my way keenly towards the darker, more daily realities of North London, on different Tube lines and buses, lost in contemplation of when I once lived there – so many years ago now, it feels like an alternate lifetime – to have dinner and stay the night at Olivia and my brother’s.

















Filed under Flowers










I find myself back in England.




In the grim rain, yesterday, such a cliche of my country, the continuing 36 hour day of one minute closing the door to our house in Kamakura and the next dragging my suitcase up the stairs to my parent’s house and looking out onto their garden (see picture).



Immediately handing out perfumes for my mother, then going to her collection upstairs and of course spilling some of the carefully sourced vintage (because it is her favourite perfume of all time) Van Cleef First eau de toilette bought by Olivia for her birthday or Christmas, all drenching its beautiful, pristine green jasmineness into my pyjama trousers, positively symphonic in its aldehydic majesty, but not what I was hoping to wear to bed (the room I am writing in this is still very filled with its luscious smell). You forget, sometimes, that perfumes are not always vaporisateurs, but dabbables….




What’s very strange about this rather impulsively decided on trip is that it was supposed to be in August. That was when Duncan was hoping to come back initially as he gets more holiday, but I knew, instinctively, and categorically, somehow, that selfish or not, I HAD to come back now, to be with my family and friends in the flesh, not just on FaceTime, in the spring holidays to absorb the Englishness and all the green and whatever else might possible occur, so he will join me later. But having been on a kind of institutional Japanese conveyor belt of trauma and its aftermath  – surgery, rehab, clinics, back to work, entrance exams, deep in me, psychologically and emotionally (and physically it has felt to me) I simply had to get myself OFF this charred and bruised continuum and just come back here (home?) for a while – it felt like an emergency. Though I may be a disenfranchised citizen now, with no right to vote (in either country), and no access to health care here, the trees are enough, it’s all in me, what I like and what I don’t, the air, the changing sky – you can’t ever get away from your home country, its light and its heart, no matter how long you live somewhere else.







But listen to this.







After I had booked the holiday and had the tickets all set, last week, completely out of the blue, I had  an email from my literary agent in London saying that a publisher is potentially interested in my perfume book idea (finally!) I am going for a meeting with them next Monday. Just now, at this particular time, while I am actually in England.




Then, not only am I am going on some kind of perfume speed dating with Personaise at Selfridge’s next week, but we are also going for a private meeting with Christine Nagel  AT Hermes, in Bond Street, later TODAY to get a sneak pre-view of the five new perfumes she has created for Hermes (people, how exciting is this?!!), (just got up and am drinking coffee and when I finish this I will hop in the shower, spruce myself (what to wear, what to wear?!!!!!) and get on the train down to London Marylebone.. ).




Before THAT (and again, all of this happened after all the dates were already set and unchangeable ), I get another completely unexpected email, perfectly timed, asking me to be a judge at the Fragrance Foundation at a hotel today in Mayfair, choosing finalists and the winner of the Best Independent Perfume ( the very day after I arrive! when in fact, I was supposed to be at my students’ graduation party – they expected me there and it was very naughty of me to have to excuse myself, and I did want to go there and congratulate them – we had some excellent results this year – but something in me knew that I wanted to get here, instead, as soon as possible; if I had not followed my impulses and gone against what I was supposed to be doing I would have missed both that and Hermes and would have been gnawing my fists in frustration). Somehow my partially psychic instincts knew all of this in advance – I don’t believe that it is coincidence.




The excitement is great. And I can tell you, after all the difficulties of last year, all of this is EXCEEDINGLY WELCOME.






Naturally, I will be keeping you all abreast of what happens, but is all this not bizarre?



Filed under Flowers






Patchouli has become something of a cliche in recent times. Overused in its refractionated, ‘patchouli lite’ guise – the familiar bane of candyfloss duty free perfume everywhere you go – or else overloaded with sharp smelling roses and  oudh in countless Eastern inspired niche scents, it has been difficult to find a patchouli-based perfume that captures the peculiar earthiness of this particular aromatic material while taking it simultaneously in new directions.




While Tempo, the latest release from Diptyque in celebration of the house’s fiftieth anniversary (their first release was L’Eau in 1968, a spiced pomander scent based on an Elizabethan recipe that I adore) is nothing revolutionary, it is, at the same time, quite an appealing and alluring take on patchouli. Three different distillates of patchouli leaf oil from the company’s sustainable plantation in Indonesia – all tempered with by the perfumer slightly to accentuate different aspects of the raw material – are blended smoothly and unostentatiously in a very soft, mellow, and almost powdery accord of violet leaf, sage and mate tea that has quite a wistful, melancholy quality : patchouli whispers at the edges of shadows – sensual if somewhat unexpressed – that I find quite enigmatic.






Filed under Flowers






Tom Ford’s latest release, Vanille Fatale, which just came out  yesterday here in Japan, is a rich and convincing gourmand chock full of goodies : vanilla Madagascar, coffee absolute, roasted barley (!), frangipani, and mahogany among other lusciously sounding ingredients, all coalescing creamily into a great humping vanilla on a mission.


Sweet ( some might say sickly), lively, and completely over the top, with its thick, coconut-like facets and a strangely appealing clumsiness, Vanille Fatale puts me somewhat mind of Serge Lutens’ pleasing Un Bois De Vanille, except dressed up in the shaggy monster costume that the wry and poignant father character wore at the end of the brilliantly funny German absurdist comedy ‘Toni Erdmann’ ( probably the best film that I watched last year ; so trenchant, incisive, lovely, bizarre ).



I don’t know. I quite like this. Sometimes, especially at this grey and cold time of year, when you are still in semi-cocoon mode and need comfort –  the weather here has seemingly gone straight back into bleak urban winter mode –  you just need a scent that is good-humoured, big-boned; furry. Ridiculous.







Filed under Flowers

CHYPRE, by COTY ( 1917 )









I have not smelled it.




But this EXQUISITE bottle, priced at an excruciating ¥78,000 (of course the owners won’t let me smell the contents), is still there, taunting me, in an upscale Shinjuku antiques shop.





Have any of you readers out there ever tried this legendary original?







Filed under chypres


















Utopia and dystopia are often very close, at least for me. Perfection is perfection, but it can be cold – even terrifying. Black Mirror, a very British series made by Netflix that we have started watching recently through the recommendations of several friends, is a brilliantly realised, fantastically acted, if extremely discomfiting, ‘science fiction’ set of dramatic pieces taking place in the present or not too far away future that deals with issues related to the internet, to social networks;  virtual reality, and our complicated, addictive, and potentially lethal relationship with computers.




Each episode of Black Mirror is separate: self-contained, but there is an accumulative, quite disconcerting effect in gradually working your way through the series, the sheer realism and convincing potentiality of each story making you come to the conclusion that if we are not careful, what makes us human might be irreparably, irrevocably, changed if we continue to blindly (hence the black of the mirror?) continue to strive for technological ‘progress’ no matter the cost to our souls, pushed, to the side, by the quest for Convenience, and the innate inquisitiveness that human beings have to develop things just because they can, or more likely, for profit –  which is at the heart of everything –  the tech firms that control us and hook us on their apps; their programs, their soon to be omniscient artificial intelligence.




Though compelling – even essential – viewing, due to its unflinching – you might even call it sadistic – precision, coldly dissecting hypothetical realities in which, for example, human beings of means can have chips fitted into their brains that allow them not only to rewind their own memories but their partners and other people’s as well (what would this do to relationships?); use an app that recreates a deceased loved on in the body of an android (poignant in the extreme, but creepy as hell); have versions of themselves made as self-policers, trapped inside a computer but with exactly the same sentience (bringing up ethical issues of cloning and mind/body separation), and virtual reality games which plumb the darkest of your fears and are so terrifying they can literally kill you  – it is all cheering, uplifting stuff, and typically British, somehow, in its almost gleefully misrerabilist nihilism: I find myself watching it, my eyes wide open unable to turn away, but then filled with a cold, dis-eased chill afterwards that leaves me feeling very strange (one episode, dealing with a new form of punishment for violent criminals in which the convicted perpetrators are then drugged, awakened, and punished over and over again by the public who join in enactments based on the kind of crime that the perpetrator (allegedly) committed in a form of repetitive Sartrean hell  – basically 45 minutes of anguish and screaming – left us so unsettled that we didn’t want to watch any more of the series for quite a long time afterwards (because, though obviously extremely through provoking what kind of ‘entertainment’ is this, exactly, why do we do this  to ourselves?) It is, undeniably, a brilliant creation. So thought-provoking and relevant; prescient. And yet there is so little levity in the mix that you sometimes just want to simply switch the mirror off. 





Series 3, which we recommenced, after a break, with recently on the big screen in our projector room upstairs, transported the believably scaring dystopia of the UK to the relatively cheery and sunny shores of the USA, alleviating  – for me at least, as a Brit, some of the sheer horror that the first two series engendered in us. Episode One, ‘Nosedive’, featured the always intriguing (and very beautiful) Bryce Dallas Howard as a woman living in a not unfeasible world where all people, fitted with connected-to-smart-phone-contact-lenses, continually clutch their phones (so nothing new there), but a new system in which users are allowed, or rather, forced, to rate each person and encounter they have with each person that they meet, no matter how long or short the time they spend interacting, be it online, or in the flesh- giving them a rating out of five stars, and resulting in a beaming falsity and ‘HI!’s so bright they make your jaw ache. Anything though, a poisonous pleasantness, to maintain your crucial ‘rating’, the raison d’être of existence – which leads to truly toxic, Mr bluebird-on-my-shoulder levels of happy fakeness. A ‘4: 3’ – at least initially-  Lacie is full of ambition and desperation to ‘make it’ to the ultra-desired statehood of a 4.5, the point at which, like some form of digitalised caste system, individuals enter the high life with all its special dividends, opportunities, and most importantly of course, status: ACCEPTANCE.





The price you pay for this ephemeral, ethernet ‘happiness’, of course, is a life of incredibly shallow superficiality (not so different, in fact, from all the likes and the dislikes of our actual Facebook real world that we are living in, hence the inherent, frightening tensions at the heart of the entire series) all shark white, dazzling smiles, white clothing, and venomously cheerful have a nice days that would lead any sane person to recreat to a solo community of 2ness and be done with the entire atrocity, except that we human beings have an inborn need to be with other people, to be judged positively, to be truly approved, and the truth is, the majority of us will do whatever it in fact takes, to get this condonement.





While nervously laughing and grimacing as I watched this world of blinding whiteness and lethally unforgiving hygiene, the ad-perfect, synthetic demeanours of the characters so desperately trying to impress each other, I was reminded, in my smell brain, in olfactory terms, of many of the (in truth, equally brilliant) creations of the popular house of Francis Kurkdijian – a precise, futuristic, and light-refracting perfumer whose fragrances – with such indefatigable equilibrium, impenetrable formulae and such absolute seamlessness, have an almost anti-natural quality (Kurkdijian, even when using the finest naturals, somehow alchemizes natural materials into something unrecognisably beyond); to me, his perfumes always have the mark of an ultra-perfectionist. No sloppy, indistinct easy nicheness for this elegant, imaginative perfumer. No. In many ways he is in a league of his own. I think that he is brilliant, actually. But the citruses, in particular, like Absolue Pour Le Matin, Aqua Vitae, do disturb me.







A couple of years ago or so, I was given a bottle of the former, and a small sample bottle of the latter, and while I was sufficiently impressed by both of them to try them out on my work wear – surreptitious spritzes on the cuffs of my white shirts – and I enjoyed, to a certain extent, the clean, laundry musked patina of FK’s constantly CK One-quoting infallibility that I was giving off like an annihilating angel (sometimes it feels that this perfumer’s mission is to be cleaner than cleaner than cleaner than Clean, to the point where all mush, and  ligament, and marrow and human imperfections are sucked off; bleached into eternity: and gleaming replicas are found scenting in their place; a pleasantness, an erasure, almost, to the power of fifteen), ultimately, something inside me rejected the strictures of such a philosophy.







Aqua Vitae is a perfect case in point. A bright lemon and balsam modern perfume shot through with invisible steel, the benzoin and tonka-lasered in from the future – all in obviously perfect ratio (Kurkdijian is a master mathematician)  – the result, in many ways, is rather lovely, if still somehow oddly alarming in its almost eugenically poised aura  – a daytime scent for a new spring day that I enjoy keeping in my collection but approach with some trepidation (am I totally overreacting here?!)……but in, it I feel that I am losing something of myself rather than projecting or augmenting or presenting myself in a certain idealised light that I can do with the best of my perfumes….in Aqua Vitae I feel that I must smell like one of the terrified, grinning, smartphone-brainwashed ciphers in that episode of Black Mirror, my natural humanity tenderwashed; neutered. 







Absolue Pour Le Matin takes this forgiveless approach even further, with a sharpness cutting through its matinal rapture that very nearly severs the optic nerves: a note of ‘white thyme’ ( I love thyme in real life), but a cloned clone idea of what thyme was like three hundred years into the future, shimmering at the bottom of a lake, vitalizing the citric, metallic elements, but also rendering them too grimly clean and insistent (they grow, in stature, until I feel that the perfume is taking over my mind and I can hardly breathe, let alone even think straight anymore. This one I will not be wearing again (though Petit Matin, a more recent rendition of a similar theme, I do like better;  more lemony than thou, perhaps the most lemony perfume I have ever smelled, and I can somehow imagine myself walking into the teacher’s room one day in this on a bright day in June, and watching the now smiling heads turn in recognition, and pleasure)….






The recent Aqua Celestia, another example of the white masked ( I wrote white-musked initially, but Autocorrect changed it ‘for me’ – you have no idea how much I detest that invisible, always watching ‘intelligence’ –  and I kind of liked it) perfume takes this idea to hitherto unclimbed, truly stratospheric heights; perhaps Monsieur MK’s most spectacularly clean scent so far, it is an aldehydic soap and ice mountain of fresh mint, lime, blackcurrant and mimosa over stalacticial musks that positively shimmers in its crystallinity and which made me yesterday, when I reacquainted myself with the range in Yokohama Takashimaya, where the collection has pride of place, briefly transport myself, snow-like, to some kind of beauteous, synthetic heaven. As I stood there among the hordes of shoppers and the fluorescent lighting, I was temporarily mind-wiped – and not unpleasantly. This initial impression is sheer perfection, and if I were to obtain a bottle somehow (not likely, given the price of the thing), but let’s say hypothetically, I can imagine myself, when the weather in Japan gets so hot and muggy and you fear your own bodily stench so strongly that you will do almost anything you can to ‘impart freshness’, I can imagine myself breathing this happily from my maniacally double washed white, shirts, hoodwinking those gladly inhaling around me that I am some kind of hyper-secure, upstanding citizen: :: a saint, with a heart of glass –



– -like the airbrushed, whitewashed, depilated congregation at the wedding that Lacie is so frenetically attempting to get to despite every conceivable thing going wrong for her, her ratings continually (and quite comically) getting lower and lower and lower with each disastrous encounter she has : : :  a  disastrous conclusion to what was supposed to be the ultimate success in social climbing. Poised, perfected, with just the correctly, judiciously applied amount of sensuality, you can imagine the 4.5 and above congregation at her old ‘best friend’s’ wedding in the odd, pert spritz of Kurkdijian’s A La Rose (a quite beautiful and dewy modern rose that will achieve approval wherever you go); the more prissy, for masculin, and feminine, duos of Amyris and Pluriel, beautifully crafted, as always, but which I am not very fond of (even when FK gets more sensual – and he undeniably does; after all, this is the man who created Indult’s Vanilla legend Tihota and Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male, not to mention his own legendarily dirty Absolue Pour Le Soir; but even in these more carnal creations, such as the recent Grand Soir, an amber I rather like and would probably wear, even in these, they still have, somehow, those Kurkdijian parameters (and this is definitely a compliment as well as a criticism – something in me truly admires the deftness and civilising touches that the man’s perfumery brings), but yet.….even at their most ostentatiously sensual, they don’t ever, in my view, truly let go….. 









Unlike Lacie.









As she staggers, one misfortune after another, towards the wedding ceremony, slapsticks in mud, shrieks hysterically, and loses every shred of her dignity and social standing, her ‘rating’ plummeting down precipitously through the threes and the twos to an eventual, inevitable, zero, Lacie (un)ironically does finally reclaim her real humanity, cursing and letting the truth out like a ‘madwoman’ and condemning her, in this cruel and mercilessly ‘perfect’ world at least, to a life of hopelessness and nothing. In keeping with the general tenets of Black Mirror – the ultimate message always seems to be that we are fated to be controlled (and eventually, destroyed) by the exigencies of the internet and the flawless surfaces of each persona- in terms of perfumery you might say also that in at least one urban sphere of the niche fragrance market that we are expected to inhabit –  the innovative world of Francis Kurkdijian – you must always put forward a clear, diamond cut luminescence, a shield, almost, that keeps the chaos of the real biological body, firmly shut within. Hidden from sight. Denied. And while never less than compositionally impressive, and always immaculately presented, pinpointed and quite aesthetically stimulating for me, with each new release, these perfumes, in some ways, do also,  bring the disturbing, inhuman future of Black Mirror just a little closer each time to reality.


















































Filed under abstract moderns, Citrus, Lemon