I have had an extraordinary weekend which involved making an online commercial film  in my capacity as a writer who finds inspiration in travel and other cultures; driving around Tokyo with an Italian- Japanese co-production of twelve people scouting for filming locations, and then a day yesterday spent filming me at home among my perfume bottles and an interview done in my bedroom.


People going in and out of the house all day rearranging things, it was strange having your nest opened up like that but curiously expanding to the mind as well : I felt fully alive and in the moment scrambling up the closed off forest – because the typhoon damage has still not been cleared away  – as a last minute idea to get me staring out across the valley to the sea like a nineteenth century romantic  taking notes as the cameraman followed me with zigzagging movements through the foliage and we reached the peak over Kenchoji.



i hadn’t prepared for the interview because I wanted it to be spontaneous. Just answer as things came naturally to mind, but it was a novel experience having me in a closed off set, our room sealed off- crew milling on the street outside, causing a commotion as my neighbours wondered what on earth was happening.



i can’t remember what I was saying or how it came out ( so hard not to feel self conscious in such a situation ). There was a lot about travelling and Japan, and of course about perfume and its powerful link to emotion and temporality; for some reason I took the original Nina by Nina Ricci (1987) from the table as it was precisely one happy summer’s afternoon on the day of a piano competition I had nervously been entered for at the age of sixteen and done ok, and this was all the family sprawled on the bed, me lackadaisically taking my mum’s white flower embossed flacon and spraying it cavalierly : for me now, this is thus one of the most precious bottles in my collection capturing a carefree moment in time.




I realized with perfume though that it need not be only core experiences in your life – romantic love and loss, family – but that it can also be a memory-sealing document of friends who come in to your life for a while and then move away; you lose or lessen contact maybe but try to keep in touch, and this was the case of Denise, who I wrote about in my book under Tresor (because she wears it so very gorgeously). We spent a lot of time together around 1999/ 2000, when she left here to go back to Scotland and then Australia; and for a significant birthday we presented her with champagne and nice chocolates and some Guerlain Mahora.




Mahora was a strange release for Guerlain, out of step with the times in many ways; a dense, sweet, overloaded tropical floriental of frangipani, tuberose, jasmine, almond blossom – and probably coconut -over tightly intense woods a la Samsara extrait and vanilla ( in fact the second I smelled it I remember thinking that this perfume was essentially Samsara takes a holiday on a tropical getaway): an almost vulgar palimpsest of Jean Paul Guerlain’s most outrageously strong eighties symphonia made as sweet as marrons glaces with all of the oxygen sucked out for good measure. Mahora, in its dry viscosity,  was a perfume that practically made me panic.




Nevertheless, at the same time I clearly remember us all having a ball when the perfume had a misguidedly enormous launch in Japan – the very country such a perfume was the least likely to succeed : NO ONE wears perfumes like this here (the unfortunately chosen name of the fragrance already had something puttanesca about it in English; in Japanese, a ‘mayora’ is a ‘mayonnaise whore’: someone who spreads or squeezes it onto everything, even rice ( I am a semi mayora I think myself)…….and then of course you have the SMELL, which we were spraying on ourselves quite decidedly – at one department store or other because I am always drawn to tropicalia even if the perfume feels like a display of tropical flowers and fruit locked away in a dark mahogany cabinet ; I also sprayed my just bought limited edition art cover  CD of Madonna’s Music CD with the parfum – so CONDENSED it is almost miraculous it still smells o Mahora to this day. We were on the train in Tokyo around rush hour though, and the effect was something like a chemical warfare attack with people instinctively covering their faces in biohazardous preparation: yes we had of course overdone it because the three of us had just been in a silly mood and we were enjoying the smell but even then at that time of its release I knew that this perfume would not be a commercial success. Voluptuously forced, it faded from sight, turned into ‘Mayotte’ for a while in one of the Guerlain exclusive collections, but I found it attenuated; boring somehow……….,if you are going to be Mahora : you might as well be Mahora.



Which smelled divine – as fully expected – on Denise, whose skin makes her smell like a queen. I remember us all lounging about together at our house in Kamakura eating the chocolates, drinking the champagne and luxuriating in the Mahora : it is now, two decades later, a time and a perfume I remember with great fondness :the bottle you see pictured now brings all of this back with great clarity. Serendipitously, we will all be meeting again in the summer, finally : she and her partner are coming back for the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics; still smelling lovely I imagine, and where we will continue from where we last left off as though the passing of time were irrelevant .





Filed under Flowers

25 responses to “GUERLAIN MAHORA PARFUM EXTRAIT (2000)

  1. I still have my bottle (which may be older than yours) and a back-up bottle of the same vintage. I do not wear very often but I do wear it mostly to bed.

  2. Cath

    So exciting! I’m so happy for you. Can’t wait to see the commercial (will it air in Japan? If not there’s always YouTube).
    Aah, Mahora. I love it. I think you’ve written about it before and somehow your previous review brought to mind the image of that wrinkled lady suntanning with a reflecting board in the movie “There’s something about Mary”. 🤣 I still love Mahora though.

    • !

      I hated the whole cowboy look of that Music period actually – I do often reference the Madonna but that is not my favourite period. The perfume, though – so THICK, no?!

      The ad will come out in the summer – it should be a global thing!

  3. Well done Neil. That’s pretty amazing, a global phenomenon! My daughter likes your writing.

  4. Renee Stout

    I have the bottle you pictured and I love this scent…so underrated and unfairly maligned simply because of it’s name, more than anything.

  5. Tara C

    How exciting! Sounds like a great adventure. This year is definitely looking interesting for you! You may have hit what they call the tipping point.

  6. Robin

    A celeb is born. Meghan, Harry (who now live close to us) and now our Neil. How exciting! Do link us to the commercial when it all comes together. Sounds like it’s going to be quite epic.

    Mahora was an anomaly. I have a bottle myself, essentially abandoned in the back of my fridge because I don’t reach for it and it’s slowly migrated there, but I do appreciate it for its sultry tropical decadence. I can imagine it smelling great on certain skins, and also it being an excellent conductor for memories. The mention of Nina was lovely. That one I do wear quite a lot, especially after reading about your love of it some time back, right around the time I acquired a couple of bottles through my flea market goddess Marlene. I must get that Mahora out again and reread your description as I inhale.

    ” . . . a dense, sweet, overloaded tropical floriental of frangipani, tuberose, jasmine, almond blossom and probably coconut over tightly intense woods a la Samsara extrait and vanilla ( in fact the second I smelled it I remember thinking that it was essentially Samsara takes a holiday on a tropical getaway: a palimpsest of Jean Paul Guerlain’s most outrageously strong eighties symphonia just made as sweet as marrons glaces with all of the oxygen sucked out for good measure. Mahora was a perfume that practically made me panic.”

    This is so good!

    • Thanks. It is a perfume. I wanted to capture that Mahoma feeling !

    • Did you watch Martin by the way ?

      • Robin

        Forgive my elderly brain. Martin? Please jog my memory, N.

      • Robin

        I would have missed it if you hadn’t mentioned it! (I can’t get notifications of your new posts, for some reason.) So glad you did.

        Just watched it. Had a smile on my face the whole way through. It’s just SO good. The music is perfect. So is the rest. The evolving couch scenes, strobing, hypnotizing . . . the beautiful Burning Bush wandering alone in Osaka . . . You look so good as BB, by the way; something just comes together so poignantly, fragility and strength together. My fave was you in the back corner with the karaoke singer superimposed. It is exactly how I’ve pictured your spirit, the essence of you in Japan: Other, observing, self-contained and still allowing yourself to absorb sensation, ideas, references.

        Bloody brilliant, truly. Mindblowing. It’s still playing in my head.

  7. Mahora is a mahama bama mamma.

  8. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    It all flooded back.
    I bought Mahora some decades ago, during a long vacation in the south of France and I absolutely loved it! I felt like a baroque pirate desert queen. Very exotic! All it wanted was a djellaba and a pirates hat! And it smelled exactly as you describe it!
    I find it difficult to wear now, have to rediscover it, I think.
    The perfume bottle lost its spouting mechanism, so I have to break it; that feels like letting the ghost out with destination unknown and how do I reseal the bottle?
    I am very curious if it will still smell as great on Denise …
    And I wish you happy reunion!
    You are really becoming a Famous Persona!
    Wish I could see and hear the commercial.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s