Sometimes you must hide your partner’s perfume. Confiscate it so it can’t be worn. This is something I had to do recently when D had been overdoing his Nebbia Spessa, which I bought him for his birthday and which seems to be his favourite perfume now but which I simply cannot for the life of me tolerate in this cold weather, when it makes me feel as if I were being whipped by cruel, iced ocean winds next to the desolate rocks of the Japan Sea. The scent – though brilliant – is a fully fledged marine ozonic: algaed, and sea herbed, and god knows what else (krill? plankton?) ; bracing, saline, complex, quite mesmerising, but it is also a very intense parfum extrait and is probably the strongest perfume I have ever known. Three sprays of it the other night (about eight hours after application) were killing me in the hotel that we were staying in : I could hardly breathe. A bit like drowning. So no – this one is staying out of current circulation and is going to have to wait until the broiling heat of August I am afraid, when it will cut through the air like a blade of sea grass under a salt blue sky and serve its original purpose. But there will be no Nebbia Spessa this Christmas.
What instead I would like to be smelling him in is Comme Des Garcons’ limited edition Beads, which is a collector’s edition of the original CdG 2 from 1999 by Mark Buxton, housed in a very appealing, shiny magenta design that fits in the hand and looks cute even if you don’t wear it (I picked it up at a recycle shop for very little a few months ago, the way I buy most of my perfumes). I was slightly confounded at first by the smell of it: typically obtuse and deliberately weird as you would expect from this house – designed to smell principally of Japanese calligraphic ink: a luminescent, aldehydic sheen; Chinese cedar, magnolia, mandarin and juniper among other synthetic details. This stage of the perfume is odd, to say the least. I move away from the wrist, keep it pointillistic (I prefer the mirage, from a distance.) So fresh, but so obviously ‘man-made’ – there is no smell remotely like this in nature and I always think : ‘Is that really how I want him to smell? Can I take this fantasma all day?’ And yet………later on, as the notes of the scent evolve into his skin – good lord – I think this might honestly be the most swoony thing he has ever worn. It makes my heart melt. Cushion. Like curling up into a ball. A cat by the fire. There is a goodness to the scent, a trustability and sensuousness as it softens into the most gorgeous, lingering balsamic incense – an ambered labdanum, and just the right impression of animalic musk in the perfume found in the base of the highest quality Japanese coil incense. It is this, where senses and cerebrality are coupled; you are lifted off the ground, beyond banality and into your own mind and inner space, that I love in this tender perfume full of light that will most certainly be requested over the Yuletide break. Yes. Beads for Christmas please.
Another hazy maze of powdered richness I picked up cheaply the other day while doing the rounds in the Yokohama thrift stores was Caron’s much vaunted cult perfume Parfum Sacre (in reformulated eau de parfum), but what an emotional perfume nevertheless. Not having had any access to Caron perfumes at the time of its release in 1991 when I was still a university student, the first time I ever came across this curious anachronism was on a shelf in a perfume shop in Kamakura, back when pharmacies still bothered with recent perfume releases, and I remember picking it up and smelling it and thinking wooooh, this is a fulsome lady, who she? ; so big; dramatic, operatically emotional but hidden under the guise of religiosity; genuinely enigmatic and affecting, if simultaneously slightly off-putting (like a great mwah mwah lipstick kissing diva of giant proportions who keeps mussing your hair and squashing you inadvertently with her boundless cleavage while swinging her rosary on the way to a baptism). I do remember that this perfume glowed, though; it was as if the perfume were alive. Throbbing, within itself. Had secrets to tell. Relentlessly. And I don’t know the precise release date of this bottle of Parfum Sacre I now own, but I can tell that to some extent it has lost some of that original synergy, which was unmistakeable. And yet: even in this iteration this is still something of a gorgeous scent that perturbs the emotions with its heart of purring myrrh, and musked, Damask roses, studded with peppercorns; swathed in old-fashioned aldehydes, cinnamon, clove, and vanilla . I have been wearing it around the house these last few days; spraying it on my bedclothes at night as it strikes me as so mollifying , particularly as the temperatures are dropping outside; each time I smell it I get taken to a different place. I shall squirrel it away lovingly in the depths of my finest bedroom wooden closet for special purposes, perhaps save it just for this time of year (like Nuit De Noel). I am not sure if would ever actually wear Parfum Sacre out of the house though: I would feel as though I were endowed, unwillingly, with great strapped down metaphysical breasts, an embonpoint stretching the limits of an angora sweater to its maximum capacity before bursting open like a Niki de Saint Phalle under the blue, star studded sky (she closed her eyes and her head filled with stars), which is not a look that I am necessarily going for. Hail Mary, though, that Caron still make this kind of thing : Gina Lollobrigida curled up asleep, tight, on the seat of a Catholic confessional.