Amid the whirl of discarded samples and sniffing marathons for ‘Perfume’ ( final edits of the manuscript this weekend and then a courier is coming to the house to take it by hand from Tokyo to London ), I haven’t, perhaps understandably, been wearing quite as much scent as I might be in normal circumstances. For work, I have been alternating Roger Et Gallet’s Tubereuse Hedonie and The Vert – both crisp, fresh colognes with undertones of sophisticate that are unobtrusive enough for me not to worry about offending anyone while sufficiently present for me to feel protected by perfume. Both go well, also, with my iyokan orange Vaseline that I made recently for starbursts of citrus and dust killing moisture when the powder horror of the blackboard chalk phobia strikes; other than that, at weekends it has been mainly Vol De Nuit.
After working my ASS off for months, teaching and writing, I felt I deserved a reward. Something extravagant I would love – a new perfume. Candidates have included Unum’s Rosa Nigra – a dense, rose peach confection I have been intrigued by ( ultimately ruined, after a couple of hours by a deal breaking endocrinic sandalwood note); Etro’s Heliotrope, which I might still get, and Laboratorio Olfattivo’s Kashnoir, an oriental that starts out all lemon and opoponaxy but gradates to a heavenly, tactile skin amber : I might ask for that one for my birthday – it would be gorgeous once the weather starts to properly get cold : right now it is still lingering in a strangely balmy, clement warmth.
One weekend though, I realized to my dismay that I was running out of No 19. This filled me with a certain anguish, as I only wear the vintage, which I used to find all the time here
: thrown away like Coke cans in the trash I have got through so many bottles of the stuff, but those classic years of cheap vintage perfume in Japan have dried up : like fossil fuels, there are only so many flacons of this sublime fluid left and I have given too many of them away over the years ( no more ): wearing a 7ml I knew was there somewhere but couldn’t locate until we re-organized the first part of the collection I realized, when smelling how it lingered on the V-neck of a new woollen sweater, how indefinably sexy, haunting and elegant the final notes can be – an aura that hovers about me, makes me complete.
On a whim one free Monday afternoon I went into Tokyo to a old shop in an arcade I know that I thought might have some, and it did. It wasn’t cheap – but I bought the lot. And then yesterday, in Yokohama, I finally came across the beloved, coveted 28ml – bottles of which are becoming increasingly rare.
Though I should leave them virgo intacto with their waxen wreaths of papery sealage keeping their contents untouched ( I have managed to resist breaking open just one of them – I am like a tomb raider, wrenching apart bottle mouths), I can never resist smelling the contents, as each and every bottle is always quite different, revealing more hyacinth, galbanum, iris, vetiver- more leather – plus I find I don’t actually like the smell of the freshly released perfume : it is as if it is waking up from cryogenic deep sleep and has forgotten where it is, and WHAT it is. Like a good red wine, I find letting the fragrance breathe, coalesce and re-harmonize itself a way to reach a mellower, more cherished orchestration I can apply in the morning, quite liking its florality, but truly LOVING what happens on my skin a few hours later, when it feels like nothing less than an idealized augmentation of my soul.