On Monday morning at Strawberry Fields in Kamakura I had a naughtyish splurge on a cache : for sixty pounds sterling, a vintage 30ml Opium parfum, a No 19, a Caron Fleurs De Rocaille extrait, but these were kind of thrown in, really, because the real purchase, and prize, was this vintage edition of Amouage Cristal for men ( or possibly Gold? Experts please weigh in ) that was roaring to me silently from the top of the glass shelf.
The bottom of the bottle says Cristal, apparently a rare perfume on eBay that sells for around 1,000 dollars – the Japanese internet has one for half that
but the notes do seem to match those of Gold, an intense ( though this word doesn’t do it justice, not remotely ; I have never known anything like it ), aldehydically animalic, musky soapy floral that smells just like a pristine extract of Madame Rochas parfum on United Arab Emirates steroids and cristillated to spectacularly nuclear strength.
The second I sprayed this oily, golden slick of perfume on the back of my hand I experienced a delirium tremens of being enveloped, head to toe, in regal downiness and flowers; rose, jasmine, but most specifically a powdery sandalwood and overall smell that reminded me very specifically of Imperial Leather soap – which I have always loved, and can use up a whole bar of in one long sitting…………….despite the swirl of richness gradually coalescing into one skin smell, the overall feeling is definitely that familiar scent; I use the talc and the deodorant spray, and having this too as the main event after all that initial background pampering will be orgiastically pleasurable for me. I was practically WRITHING on the train back home in olfactory arousal: tending and loosening like a cat in heat …… perhaps the sublimated civet, that I experience without consciously sensing it: some secret code of sensuality immersed in the blend that makes it just so horny yet so MAJESTIQUE.
To me, anyway.
D was having none of it.
“it smells……. pissy, or something” he said when we met in Ofuna : “I don’t like it”.
And on Basenotes :
“Musky, soapy floral, like taking a bath in the clawfoot tub of my gtandmother’s house in the seventies “
says one reviewer.
“I got through the initial blast of granny’s partially soiled bloomers, tiptoeing around the house trying to avoid my wife”,
Most other reviewers spin variations on this ‘old lady’ incontinence theme ( WHICH I DON’T GET AT ALL ::: I JUST SMELL SWOONWORTHY ARAB PRINCES IN WHITE ROBES )
– an (ageist, sexist ?), scaredy-cat reaction to a man’s scent that veers from the usual, ‘masculine’ brutality? Or maybe Duncan is right after all and I am just blind : though he does like the beginning, which is glorious: derailingly erotic for me personally, there is something in the base he can’t abide. A grimacing recoil. It almost makes me fearful, like some dreaded halitosis I am unaware of, that my olfactory apparatus has gone awry. Why does it smell like that to him ??????
As another reviewer of the perfume says, (as I mentioned I think this perfume must be Gold, (though please correct me if I am wrong) / could the ‘cristal’ on the glass be just referring to the material of which the bottle is made? It does feel ludicrously expensive]]
Yes. That was what I was wanting to say.
Wow is precisely the word I would use to describe this extravagant creation.
Which obviously I am only going to be able to wear indulgently alone, doors locked and bolted ,at home.
How nice to have a weekend free after surviving six days on the trot :; yesterday at home with wine and cooking and an 80’s kitchen disco, blissfully listening to all those old 12” singles we lugged at backbreaking maximum weight from England to Japan.
Today, en route from Kannai station down Isezakicho street to our favourite Thai restaurant, Im Aroy, Japanese jasmine perfume already in the bag; Thursday, here I also picked up a pristine Ricci Capricci velvet-boxed parfum for virtually nothing, and there will be more later – we passed these dangling, perfumed atrocities that I immediately recognized as Hell’s Bell’s, Devil’s Weed, or Datura, one of the absolute poisinest plants in the natural world, psychotropic to the max, leading to hypothermia, convulsions, visions, and death (and probably easy to just slip into someone’s tea).
I grasped and inhaled one of the non-decomposing flowers pictured, and it smelled beautiful – literally intoxicating, and much closer to Serge Lutens’ Datura Noir than I had ever realized
Most current perfumes featuring ‘sandalwood’ have what is to me a rather sharp, metallic, ‘endocrinic’ edge, or twang; that synthetic santal preparation that is a boon to the bank accounts of niche perfumery as everybody else seems to love it except me – I still yearn for the real thing, the more mystical resonance of bark.
Most men’s fragrances these days (and they are almost always ‘woody’) have a poreless intensity to them – a ballast of bludgeoning opacity that you, or at least I, contrary to their intended purpose, find myself wanting to flee rather than go up close.
I like a proper sillage, a trail of scent that you occasionally catch on the air, a brain and nasal dialogue with yourself on how much you are enjoying another person’s smell, what it is, what it conveys, the aesthetics.
Some perfumes have a ‘disappearing act’ built into their olfactory DNA. A-now-you-see- me-now-you-don’t, a hide and seek. A guessing game. Not being a perfumer, nor knowing anything whatsoever about chemistry, I have no idea how this is technically achieved, but I do know that possibly the best example of this curious phenomenon was when the D once wore Hermes’ Poivre Samarcande in Berlin; most of the time I couldn’t smell it when I was standing next to him, but could occasionally smell it powerfully across the street: strangers would come up to him in a bar, turned on and intrigued by the almost villainous aroma invisibly circulating around him and wanting to know what it was, and yet it would sometimes disappear, and then reappear, at unpredictable intervals. Up close, though, you would hardly know it was there.
Dariush gave me a bottle, in London, of Acqua Di Parma’s Colonia Sandalo Concentree, a sturdy, almost grave, unsweetened, very dignified, and yet somehow quite mysterious sandalwood scent that is very different from your standard niche contemporary fragrance of this type (all creamy, buttery, sweaty, and ‘sexy’). No – sometimes I really enjoy a more controlled scent that keeps you at a distance, yet draws you in, and I decided on this occasion (redistributing the pleasure), to give this one to D’s father- who wears the original Acqua Di Parma Colonia Intensa very well, as I had an instinctive feeling that with his pale skin type, it would work well on him.
It works marvellously. At the end of our trip, when the family picked us up at Norwich station, I kept catching, even before we got in the car, an orthodox, precise, yet softly sensual, powdered, straight, dark aroma on the air (the sandalwood is mixed with lavender, cardamom, tonka bean and citruses – there is nothing sweet or floral, the overall feeling very English rather than Italian). Up close, from the bottle, I had found the perfume too condensed and powerful – there is an ‘amber’ note in the base that I would never personally take to – but back at the house, too, in the living room as we drank tea and ate cake on the sofa,the scent trail of this perfume was great : every time Rod would go out of or come back into the room, I would catch a drift of a presciently constructed wood perfume that took me back in some ways to my beloved original Crabtree & Evelyn Sandalwood – one of the only sandalwood scents of this genre that I have ever worn convincingly. Di Parma’s Sandalo is very dry, anhydrous – but in a good way. Clean. Blameless. Wholesome, but not aseptic (when I went back into the living room a few minutes after we had gone into the kitchen to have dinner, I even thought that Daphne had possibly lit some Indian sandalwood incense -in the space …….. the scent was floating in the room, in the air, like invisible smoke). Though some may find its formula too conservative, not obviously, nor sufficiently sandalwood, to me, this perfume is a shapeshifting presence, with a quiet, deeply santalian essence at the base that pulls me in : an understated, yet curiously penetrating, exemplar of gentlemanly refinement.
I woke up through a tunnel of nightmares on Saturday morning and opened my eyes. Duncan had gone in to work for the opening ceremony of the school year; I had to get myself together for the evening’s performance.
Meeting Lona in a park to practice our moves, described with great precision by D in his notes (almost impossible for a person like me, who possibly has dyspraxia – a horrific clumsiness, as any of my friends or family members would vouch: a virtual lack of coordination and spatial awareness (which is why I would never drive – it would lead to death)) ……….I can’t even remember one part of dance choreography, nor get left and right correctly)) We nevertheless went through the instructions, like Japanese junior high school students doing their hip hop routines unselfconsciously in municipal areas for hours, to get them right
D then eventually turned up, reeking of, and drenched in, Rose Jam by Lush, a perfume I know he hates, passionately (when he hates a perfume there is always a visceral revulsion and rejection which begs the question why on earth he was wearing this sticky, Turkish rose, geranium and honey perfume that is like plunging your tongue into dollops of sickly sweet Russian rose jam in rice pudding smeared on somebody’s body)………………….well, the piece, based on an inscrutable poem called The Promenade Of The Damned, had we, the handmaidens – though I felt somewhat more Anglo-Saxon than ancient Greek, more like a disrobed courtier from Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite – burning candle wax onto his laurelled head, and rose petals (drenched in Nahema); blowing glitter (he is still sparkling this morning); we came on bearing a pictorial representation of the sun, and a hand (Icarus), and rakes on either side, a bit grim reaper:: you could feel a slight hush and murmur in the audience as the first bit of visual stimulation of the night changed the sphere; ;;;;D coming in in a chameleon’s head and doing a slow motion flight towards being burned (and he had wanted a literal rose scent to augment the feeling in the room, seen a perfume with rose in the name back home as he panickedly tried to get his things together in the suitcase and come up to Tokyo, having forgotten, somehow (I never would have) that this was a perfume, that for him (and me, actually – just too potent and cloying), is very, very wrong.
In England I had secretly scented his coat with two perfumes: on the collar, too much 1899 by Histoires De Parfums, an aromatic spice very redolent of fresh tobacco (in homage to Ernest Hemingway), one of a few perfumes I bought there, for D, as he loves tobacco perfumes, the other being a lavender for my mother, and a full bottle of Fragonard’s delectably lascivious amber, Reve Indien, which out shalimars Shalimar in its civety richness (gorgeous); I had also borrowed Daphne’s Santa Maria Novella Patchouli for radio interviews and surreptitiously lined his coat with it, at the base, at the back. Now this is a classic patchouli, brilliant, tightly made, but it did, on this woollen coat, smell pungent as hell, and still continues to do so; right now, the earthy, musky scent of the entrails of patchouli in its driest death throes trails him like a long unwashed hippie, the balsams of the 1899 still lingering like sex on dirty sheets; the cloying erotica of his detested rose jam almost making me quite embarrassed last night, post performance, as we tried to find somewhere to eat : nowhere would have been suitable, I knew this: people in restaurants would have been repelled by how strong we smelled – – – – I had also rather overdone the Nahema – we smelled like an orgy of roses and dirt musk, most definitely enigmatic and troubling; but also, quite possibly, quite disgusting.