Monthly Archives: August 2019

THE SUMMER DIARIES vol 1 :LOHNA by HARRN (2016) +POUR UN HOMME DE CARON (1934) + POUR UN HOMME DE CARON SPORT (2015)

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It has been a languorous yet eventful summer and I am out of practice with writing so I will come back with a brief post on three perfumes we picked up on one of our recycle shop hauls : the simple, but timeless, Pour Un Homme, a perfume  I had always wanted in my collection for its soft ease but had never got round to buying, and a recent reiteration of the scent that I had never encountered before, the fantastic Pour Un Homme Sport, a welcome addition to the collection that has turned out a summer hit and D’s scent for most of August.

 

 

 

 

For those not familiar with Caron’s most famous masculine ( and probably the house’s bestselling scent) ,  this is essentially a potently subtle, fresh French lavender combined with a musky, civet-licked vanilla that will not suit everyone –  this was one of the perfumes I used at my book launch as an example of a good lavender scent : a lot of nodding all round, initially, then later, slight consternation as it ‘turned’ on some people’s skins and went sour or rangey.

 

 

 

 

On me it works. An intimate, soothing sensuality; manly, if you like ( James Dean wore this, apparently – an idea I find very erotic ), but really,  more androgynous, undefined; quietly self confident. Perfect for an afternoon tumble in the sheets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Carnally  discreet.

 

 

 

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Or not : depending what decade you find this classic being advertised in

 

 

 

 

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We had picked these Carons up in a great cache of fumes spree-d on one fun, sweltering day in Yokohama. I wanted more, and could have spent twice as much, but was trying desperately hard to act frugal and show some very necessary restraint  ( as we had unfortunately  haemorrraged quite a lot of money – more on that in the next post in the series ) and  I couldn’t afford it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With me, though, things I want – records, perfumes – often linger in my mind like taunts of regret-  sometimes things I only HALF want, but am materialistically intrigued by. Thus, when D said he had to go back the next day to the same area to buy a bizarre garment he had spotted that was perfect for a performance piece,  but had hesitated over because of the price – I gathered some coins and said he could go by himself, as I would be preparing my toilette for that evening’s night out in Tokyo and couldn’t bear getting sweaty beforehand;  but that if he was going back, there was something he should buy: Caron Sport  ( a combination of words – that sounds like an oxymoron but in practice isn’t ) : the lingering after/effect of which had remained lodged in my mind.  It was only ¥1500 ( about fifteen dollars), and, more importantly, something I could definitely imagine him wearing : on first impressions, a musky, minty, balsamic yet astringent smell,  almost vaguely similar to  Jean Paul Gaultier’s bestselling and cheaply shouldering Le Male, a scent we had both sometimes shared back in the day when we first met and still on occasion recall with affection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That evening, we were very excited indeed to have stage-side tickets to see the singer Neneh Cherry, someone I have always loved, but never seen in concert, at Billboard Live Tokyo in Roppongi. I got ready alone at home, taking my time,  dancing naked around the kitchen to her records, and we later hooked up on the train, me bathed and squeaky clean and happily sprayed head to toe for the occasion in another scent I had never heard of before but  picked up for five dollars on the same day:  Lohna by Harnn

 

 

 

 

 

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– a crisp and refreshing, uncliched combination of lavender and lemongrass (funnily enough, a west-meets-east harmony I have sometimes chosen myself in homemade herbal tea blends: somehow they can synergize quite beautifully), with undertones of mid-laundered cotton shirts that felt ideal for the hot summer’s day, and a perfume which is now fixed forever in my memory as The Scent I Wore To Neneh Cherry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Scent That Duncan Wore To Neneh Cherry was, and now always will be ( I love this self conscious STAMPING of a perfume on your memory like this : a deliberate etching in your heart and brain stem) : Caron Pour Un Homme Sport, a new version of the original that was released by the company in 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The base of this fragrance is truly great on D : a tonka/ benzoin/ white musk accord, a skin tattoo laced with a (slightly salty) real ambergris that leaves a silky,  but tangible trail of sillage down Tokyo escalators,  or on bike rides around Kamakura ( “ I am loving your bicycle sillage !” I shout into the wind ); the top notes strange but compelling :  leaves and twigs of lavender flushed through an anti-intuitive, brash, even almost amusing –  dose of grapefruit and mandarin and an unimagined twist of ‘Madagascar blue ginger’ , nutmeg and verbena tautened with a bodily essence of Virginia cedar.

 

 

 

 

 

The effect : revitalizing and clean, a tad cocky, yet warm and dirty: optimistic, uncomplicated, sexy  – and absolutely ideal for dancing .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TOO TENDER TO LIVE; TOO SWEET TO DIE……. FLEURS DE ROCAILLE by CARON (I933) + EAU DE FLEURS by NINA RICCI (I980) + FLEURS DE FLEURS by NINA RICCI (1982) + QUELQUE FLEURS by HOUBIGANT (I9I3)

Among the recycle shop delights of this holiday, the other day, at the most rundown Zushi scuz emporium I have ever been to – so messy and random and almost disgusting, in truth-  I found a parfum de toilette of Nina Ricci’s Fleurs de Fleurs (the absolute perfection of this bygone archetype) for one dollar. One hundred yen. 

I can’t tell you how soft and comforting it is as a bed perfume

The Black Narcissus

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These three precious floral perfumes were recently induced into my collection, all in vintage, all from junk shops; all, in some ways, too good for this world. Completely of another time. Too old fashioned; too trembling; too sweetly delicate and pure. And while from very different eras, all have similar composition, note lists and structure : in essence, soft flowers, like hand held bouquets from a garden, over gentler, antique musks, and sandalwood, amber and civet (in infinitesimal, well-calibrated proportions) to round off the edges. The space age chemicality of a Byredo Tulipe; or a red Kenzo Flower, are aeons away from this meadow, where we walk along in a flowing white dress, even a carefully tendered hat perhaps, pleasantly rueful in our reflections.

These flowers (all smell of cyclamen, of iris, jasmine, lily, lilac (especially lilac); of magnolia, mimosa, hyacinth, and lily of the valley), are like a perfumer’s…

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The Olfactory Detective: ‘Perfume’ in the Japan Times

 

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Buongiorno Narcissi

I hope you have been having a happy and perfumed summer/ winter, and have not even considered making an offer to buy Greenland.

Forgive my absence – I have just instinctively taken a long, airheaded, unthinking, much needed breather : : thoroughly enjoying taking a hiatus from this crazy, burning world and just basking, and recharging, in the glory that is the cicada chorused Japanese summer with D : the first time I have properly relaxed, and just been pleasingly brainless and free (just cycling and reading and going to the beach and to nice restaurants), for really quite a while. I have really needed this time. Naturally, I still have a thousand things I want to write about, but I just thought, in the meantime, I would put up the piece on the book that came out in the Japan Times today. I know the writer was planning a longer and more in-depth article until the editors came along and truncated it  (………….), but I must admit it was still quite exciting to find myself on the bottom right hand corner of the front page.

 

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I also quite like being described as an ‘olfactory detective’.

 

 

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2019/08/24/books/perfume-distinguished-nose-olfactory-detective/#.XWIFQTJh08Y

 

 

 

Speak soon.

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Filed under Flowers, PERFUME: IN SEARCH OF YOUR SIGNATURE SCENT reviews

FAIRY TALES BEGIN IN KAMAKURA

 

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would monsieur like some jolie madame?

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While I toil and bubble in the last days of the Summer Seminar, one’s beau has nothing to do but things Bohemian: research locations for his film; plan for the forthcoming Tokyo party, Disco Shinto; swan about generally; go to craft lessons in Shinjuku; have his new acquaintance from his life drawing/ art performance class, Dr Sketchy’s, come down to the house ( while I am naturally working );  troll the junk shops ; spend precious time with the cat, on the tatami or on the balcony ; do a touch of home improvement; read ; and lounge about the house proffering – to visitors, as they photograph him in clothes from their shared dressing up wardrobes –  vintage perfume.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BAD ROMANCE ? :: MY SPIRALLING VINTAGE PERFUME ADDICTION AND AMAZING NEW FINDS; THE TRUTH ABOUT LADY GAGA’s ‘ARTRAVE’; OUR WILD TOKYO WEEKEND, and CARON NOCTURNES (1981/2013 )

 

 

 

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This kind of vintage bonanza has kind of dried up now….

The Black Narcissus

 

 

 

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We are both feeling rather subdued, and ready for a quiet time of reading and swimming at the beach today after a wild rollercoaster of a weekend in Tokyo : three packed days and nights of urban intensity; food; art, sex, and ludicrous amounts of cheap, but astonishing, vintage perfume.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The centerpiece of all this hedonism was, of course, the Lady Gaga concert that I had been looking forward to for months, and which we decided to turn into a proper event: staying at a nice hotel for two nights for ease and extra pleasure, with dancing afterwards, and the following two days just doing whatever took our fancy in the continously fascinating metropolis that is Tokyo: a city that I love and seemingly never tire of : this endless and ever-evolving urban proliferation of shining glass…

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“PERFUME: IN SEARCH OF YOUR SIGNATURE SCENT” – THE TOKYO STORY, featuring MIZUNARA by PARFUMS SATORI (2018)

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We had an absolutely fantastic day last Thursday. Meeting up with a Japan Times journalist I had got in contact with with a view to doing an article on the sense of smell and the adventure of seeking out your own perfect signature scent, I was able to turn one of my long held dreams into reality: taking a writer on a ‘tour’ of the city (although in the end it was just one tiny swathe of it), and opening their eyes and olfactory senses to hitherto possibly unthought of possibilities in the realm of perfume and then have them turn the spoken words into a newspaper article   – which in fact will be published here in the next couple of weeks.

 

 

I have been reading Kaori Shoji for years (the Japan Times is delivered daily as a package with my beloved New York Times, and she is often a featured writer, particularly for profile pieces, cultural commentary, language lessons, and film reviews). As a bilingual returnee student who spent her formative years in New York but then came back to Japan, I have always felt that Ms Shoji has a sharp awareness of, and fondness for (and unflinching criticism of, where necessary) both ‘East’ and ‘West’; there is a wryness and melancholy sometimes, and yet simultaneously an absolute lust for life and a thirst for stimulation and realness in her writing that I can totally relate to. I instinctively knew she was the person to do the interview.

 

 

 

We met at Harajuku station, where I had carefully scented myself pleasantly (in a thematic of green tea and lemons – it was a REALLY hot day – I couldn’t smell like a powdery, sweating odalisque); and we went to a cafe for iced tea, where I was interviewed , we chatted, and I felt (as she took notes – so glad that it wasn’t a dictaphone, as I would have felt far too self-conscious) that I could say anything – I was on fire; in fact she could hardly get a word in edgeways.

 

 

 

So nice, though, to be in that relaxed space where you meet someone you immediately like and get on with naturally and can just communicate uninhibitedly (and SUCH a stark contrast to my disastrous radio interview I had a few months ago which I may not even have written about on here as it was just so embarrassing: LIVE, in front of two million people in Europe, with an ear infection, a terrible connection, a typhoon outside with multiple echoes, and questions I could hardly hear and were not  connected to what we had agreed on : : “So Neil, how does one go about attracting the opposite sex with the right aftershave….?”

 

 

 

 

Jesus. No – that was a horrorshow that I had rather forget. This, instead, was a meeting of minds. Someone who wears scent on occasion, likes certain smells (hurrah! She loves green tea – my instincts were right!)  but at the same time is not au fait with the goings on of the industry, the wild obsessions of crazed perfumistas, nor fully aware of the fact that this whole realm of decent perfumes exists beyond what we agreed was the sick, poisoned miasma of duty free, which she was surprised to discover we both scorn and loathe in equal measure.

 

 

 

We three – Kaori, myself, and Duncan, after the initial conversation, then went off to my favourite essential shop shop nearby, Seikatsu No Ki (Tree Of Life) as I thought it might be useful to get a primer on the palette- the basic ingredients used in perfumes-  in case she wasn’t familiar with them.  We had already ascertained in prior emails that she loved incense, which I had in mind as a possible direction to go in, but I also wanted to show her just how good pure ingredients can be on their own, putting some raw vetiver oil on my arm that was evocative of all  kinds of reveries connected to a high school boyfriend she had once had; the smell of him after kendo practice……she liked this so much that I can imagine her returning to get some for herself  to wear as a secret perfume.

 

 

 

From here, the sun radiating brilliantly down through the shade of the avenue of zelkova trees, we walked up the Omotesando boulevard to visit the Comme Des Garçons headquarters in Aoyama. For me, Rei Kawakubo’s perfumes and ethos really do represent a vanguard against the moronic platitudes of cheap perfumery: this brand, I feel,  has real integrity ( and I was so delighted to see that none of the formulae seemed to have been messed with, many of which are in my book  – the first chapter in fact begins with the green leafed innocence of Calamus ), and, having learned that Kaori once went to a Catholic school in America I thought ooh, how about some religious guilt ….I wonder how she will react to Avignon (starting in surprise; eyes closed as she inhaled it from her arm…………..oh wow, that is naughty) : it smelled fabulous on her, sexy if standoffish, with the softer incense notes rising up later in contrast with the harshness of the censer; Black Pepper, one of Duncan’s signatures – a ridiculously erotic perfume – also smelled great on her; dressed in black, like all the costumed assistants, who stood back and let us get on with what we needed, this gave Kaori an almost intimidating aura of grave don’t fuck with me that matched her delicate fierceness perfectly. Rejecting Incense Series Kyoto – we both agree that that perfume doesn’t remotely capture the essence of the city in the way that Avignon undoubtedly does; loving and being amused by Rhubarb and Peppermint, I also sprayed on the spicy original Comme Des Garcons scent on myself ,as well as White, which I bought for D as a present a quarter of a century ago on a cold winter’s day in London. It still smelled lovely.

 

 

 

 

Having been photographed outside, and inside,  the Comme Des Garcons store (all sweaty-faced and shiny….I cannot imagine going to a newsstand and seeing my face staring back at me, but anyway), we decided to have a quick look in Prada just along the way as, both being total cinephiles, I wanted to hear her reactions to the overpriced pop and movie collection (Tainted Love, Pink Flamingoes, Marienbad, Purple Rain) just as a contracts to the CdGs, which are actually far better value. Amused, but not sold, as time was running, we hailed a taxi and drove the short distance to Roppongi where I had made a prior appointment at- the quiet haven of scent consultation and Japanese aroma that is Parfums Satori.

 

 

 

 

‘Perfume’ (which the founder and perfumer had several copies of, dotted around the premises, bookmarked for customers) features a selection of fragrances from the Satori range, because I genuinely feel that they do present a completely different face of perfume to the majority of mainstream and niche; subtle but perturbing; dry, emotional, poetic, and I was interested to see how Kaori, as a person of Japanese heritage but American upbringing, would feel about them. Perhaps a little over eager and uncouth in my enthusiasms – I can’t really do the sit quietly and be ultra polite thing, especially when the conversation has been flowing just so damn wonderfully – in the taxi we had been condemning the current racism, chewed the cud on women’s situation in Japan, the film industry and how it works for movie reviewers, I could have talked all day; to then just be expected to sit and wait to be shown everything was impossible (especially because I am just so contained and repressed at work all the time) ; so, more like a puppy just bought on Christmas Day that yaps excitedly and just bounds about the house unfettered I went about the shop, taking liberties and picking up things randomly from the perfumed shelves to show Kaori. Wasanbon? ‘I love the smell of that – it is my favourite sugar’. Try this then. “Oh my god!” Pure pleasure. As was the eponymous Satori, the lovely spiced sandalwood that is at the helm of the collection and which smelled differently, but great, on each one of us (on that day it reminded me a little of Mitsouko).  We marvelled at the extreme oddness of Hana Kiraku, with its fundaments of melon and miso in search of replicating a particular species of magnolia (“Oh my god, this one is making me high”) ; the almost shockingly green, mind-clearer that is Oribe; then Satori-san introduced her latest perfume from last year, Mizunara, in Japanese and English, explaining to us the story of its inspiration: a particular species of oak tree found in the north of Japan, and the whiskey distilleries of Hokkaido, and the particular smell of the clear mountain air over 1,000 feet. By this point, we had all almost fallen into a dream-like state: one of those curious situations where you feel the membranes and boundaries between people have dissolved and you are existing in the same fluid, the same space :where you imagine that you are seeing the same imaginings and feeling the same sensations. Although too masculine for me to wear on skin, with its base of whiskey and woods and its crisp green top notes of rosemary, clary sage, galbanum and juniper, there is nevertheless a very natural, elegant expansiveness to this scent – it has space within itself – the smell of nature – that sent us all into an afternoon reverie. By the time we all left, and Kaori said she had to go, I felt as if I were floating on a cloud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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– me pictured with the perfumer Satori Osawa next to her perfume organ.

 

(You can tell how much I like having my picture taken)

 

 

 

 

What a great day though!

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Filed under autobiography, Green, Masculines, Oakmoss, Woods