It has been a WILD week – the ascension of the new Emperor to the throne of Japan has brought in a ten day holiday for the majority of the country – and the last five or six days have been very intense and bizarre (for another post)…



Today, exhausted, I decided to take a bath in the pau rosa or rosewood oil, a present that my friend had brought back from a trip to the Amazon last month, bought from a floating market just down from the river from Manaus in Brazil, the town that famously has an opera house in the middle of the rain forest (famously captured fictionally in the brilliant, if utterly deranged, film by Werner Herzog from 1982, Fitzcarraldo).










This is a very beautiful rosewood essential oil, albeit drowned in a carrier oil I can’t quite place, but it certainly is, as it says on the bottle, great for aches and pains, and was very relaxing. I am now also wearing an old perfume by L’Occitane, Rosewood, which is clearly inspired by the original Feminite Du Bois, by Shiseido, which I have also put on and am enjoying……there is something about the fresh, almost spicy floral scent of rosewood oil, with its huge percentage of linalool (apparently this is an essential ingredient of Chanel No 5, I hadn’t known), that is unlike anything else. These perfumes take me back to my first few months in Japan; the smoothness of temple wood in the Autumn sunshine…..




It is also strange that as a child, for no discernible reason, I developed an obsession with the Amazon and once wrote off to the Brazilian embassy in London for leaflets and pamphlets all about Brazil. They came, in a huge manila envelope, and I would pore over them incessantly, memorizing facts, and assuming that one day I would go there. As it happened, I did get a job in Recife, and was considering going, but I had met Duncan, and couldn’t do it. Instead, I went the opposite end of the emotional cultural spectrum, and ended up here, in Japan.









Filed under rosewood, Woods

24 responses to “PAU ROSA

  1. Tara C

    I love the smell of rosewood too, Aedes Palissandre d’Or and Feminite du Bois are my favourites.

  2. I also love the Palissandre d’Or!

  3. David

    I remember reading that you had considered going to Brazil for work. It’s still here, even if you just visit. True, there are many problems. But lots of good things, especially as a tourist. My friend from France came over last year for Carnival and didn’t want to go back to Paris.

  4. Matty

    Palissandre d’Or sounds lovely.

  5. Robin

    Lost a little in translation, as they say, but of course Brazilian rosewood is a different thing than what is commonly referred to as Palisander rosewood. Same genus, dalbergia, but Brazilian rosewood, aka d. nigra, smells different: among other things, a little sweeter and generally more powdery. Lovely, lovely oil.

    • I didn’t know this. As you know, I am not a fan of woody perfumes in general, but I can do rosewood. There is something anointed and ethereal about it; definitely of a higher register, not really even ‘woody’.

  6. Robin

    You have that rare ability to describe something so beautifully – and so precisely – in so few words. Poetry, really, more than prose.

    I think that two fragrances that at least were once mainstream and easily available really epitomize Brazilian rosewood: Lutece (the original Houbigant) and Ombre Rose. They’re heavy on that dense, thick, almost dusty sweetness so different from something like the smooth, creamy palisander-centric Begum from Xerjoff.

    • I adore the original Ombre Rose, and hadn’t made the connection to rosewood (and I don’t know Lutece – what a gorgeous name).

      And thanks for the poetry comment: there is no finer compliment.

      • Robin

        Hey, Neil, another Ombre Rose fan? I wore it when it first came out and there wasn’t anything else like it. Instant love. So, take Ombre Rose, replace the rose with heliotrope, throw in some orris root and Tonka bean, and wallah! Lutece. I wonder if you might like it, too. Maybe a bottle of extrait is lurking somewhere in one of your vintage haunts. . .

      • I was wondering if you had got/read the book yet. I mention this perfume in the context of Adam Ant and Boy George

      • Robin

        Adam Ant and Boy George were yes, definitely part of the Ombre Rose era, although my musical tastes ran more to Echo & the Bunnymen and The Psychedelic Furs.

        Your book ought to get here by early next week. It’s coming all the way from Toronto, most of the way across the country, so it’s got a few miles to travel. Can’t wait. The price was insanely reasonable. I hope most of the money is going into your pocket and not the publisher’s. It was your blood, sweat, tears, sleepless nights and risk of nervous breakdown, after all, not theirs.

      • It was!

        Funnily enough I listened to Ocean Rain all the way through the other day – it was gorgeous.

      • Robin

        Ocean Rain is great! Wow. I really should dust off some early-mid eighties music. It was a good time for British music. Modern English, The Cure, The The, The Smiths, Joy Division, The Stranglers (best version of Walk on By ever), Tears for Fears, New Order, Ultravox, Siouxie and the Banshees. . . It was a good time for me, too. Must have been for you as well. I can only imagine the bands you got to see perform live in smaller venues on their way up.

      • I was crushed at the Head On The Door tour at the Albert Hall.

    • Robin

      Turns green with envy.

  7. I used to work for L’Occitane and we had the rosewood essential oil. I was crazy about it! It is really such a cocooning type of smell.
    I have, and adore, Lutece by Houbigant. I will try to get a package together for you in the coming months, once I am back from Barcelona.
    I think you would find it interesting, but a bit quaint. It is very similar to Ombré Rose though, which I am simply crazy for.

  8. Lady Murasaki

    Since you liked the rosewood oil, allow me to suggest a Brazilian brand that works really wonderfully with the Amazonian plants: Natura. They do a really nice job exalting things from our nature that most Brazilians don’t value nearly enough, sadly (it’s somewhat understandable since we have six dramatically different biomes, but it doesn’t justify it in the slightest). They also work directly with the indigenous populations doing a wonderful forest preservation work with their ingredient suppliers (I don’t work for the brand but had to do deep research about them for a college credit haha).

    They have plenty of generic scents, but their Ekos line is completely dedicated to Amazonian plants. I would recommend the eau de toilette Flor do Luar (Moonlight Flower) which has this really nice, slightly sweet and oily green smell and references this rare river flower that blooms only in full moon nights and was painted by the botanist Margaret Mee in 1988, and also the Priprioca parfum and the eau de toilette Magia da Floresta (Forest Magic) both containing copaíba and priprioca balm. I don’t like woody scents but these are more on the balsamic and aromatic side. I also recommend their bath products, especially the Andiroba, Ucuuba and Murumuru butter and soaps, simply divine.

    My favorite thing about their products is that they really capture the sensation of being in contact with the Brazilian flora in a very authentic way that I see most people, even Brazilians, don’t really get the chance of experiencing. And with the bonus of green products (no nasty petroleum derivates here!).

    • These sound ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING. Do you think I would be able to get samples?

    • I would love to write about them.

      • Lady Murasaki

        Hello again, and I apologize for the delay. I don’t think Natura is selling in Japan yet (I know they have these ”fancy” stores in the US but I couldn’t find anything in Japan) but I think you could get them through this online store: The site is in Portuguese but I think you can use it fairly easily with some help from Google Translate. I don’t know them at all but they seem to be a version of the Brazilian supermarkets you see in every country full of Brazilian expats (like Japan), except dedicated to Brazilian perfume and bath and body products, so you will be getting the exact same products we get in Brazil since it’s meant to supply Brazilians in Japan (not the fancy curated fragrances especially developed for foreigners like in the fancy NY stores) We Brazilians in general have a love and hate relationship with our country, but I always thought these excessive cravings for things from home (that leads to this kind of stores and supermarkets) very curious for a people who bad-mouths their country so much. I guess the myth about the word ”saudade” being such a tricky and untranslatable word holds some truth to it. Back to the store: I suggest you stick to the Natura brand and the EKOS line since it’s dedicated to Brazilian plants, and maybe the Tododia and Essencial lines (the other lines and brands they sell are a lot more generic and fruitchoulier). I recommend everything from the Ekos line, fragrances, soaps and body lotions and body oils alike. There were a few plants I didn’t even know existed before I found them on this line, it’s truly a treasure made from the Amazonian flora. Fingers crossed it works and you can get a few of these, I’d love to see them here on The Black Narcissus.

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