Impermanence, up for an artisan category nomination at the upcoming 2020 Art & Olfaction awards, is a perfume with a name for the times. Like everyone around the world, I have been thinking a lot about how much the coronavirus situation has changed, and will continue to change, people’s lives; shaping their choice of career (how lucky D and I are to be in education, relatively unscathed compared to so many other industries), how they travel, interact, have relationships… much has been upended. We started 2020 wishing each other good luck for the new decade, and within weeks were plunged into profound anxiety and uncertainty. Who could have predicted it all (except the epidemiologists?) The impermanent nature of everything  – the insecurity, the swift severing of ‘now’ from ‘before’, in a moment, was profoundly revealed – or highlighted, depending on your own previous philosophy of life: we feel more mortal, vulnerable, but at the same time , if we are lucky, happy to be alive.



Christele Jacquemin is a French photographer/ visual artist who makes natural perfumes based on her experiences of travel; Impermanence was apparently inspired by the artist’s residence in the village of Jin Ze, a suburb of Shanghai, where she spent a month walking around contentedly, along the canals, photographing an unfamiliar ancient place, preserved from tourism, where everything was new and stimulating to the senses; that sense of ‘harmony and tranquillity’ I also yearn for again when you forget yourself for a while; visit a new place with a totally different culture that lets you see things through a momentarily ‘enlightening’ prism; I had very similar feelings when we spent a day on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in Cambodia in 2018 visiting some ancient ruins, and then spent the afternoon wandering around a vast deserted temple complex by the river, smelling strange looking tropical flowers and the hot, dry air – the soft swaying reeds by the water. I don’t think I could have been happier.



Such happiness is always transitory, of course – and is based on your own projections onto a place, not its reality. You always go back home (if you even can at this time….) to face what is ‘real’, and so Ms Jacquemin set about recreating the sensations of positivity and tranquillity she had felt while at the village in a perfume that is uplifting, gentle, and pensive. I quite like it: rosemary, a note that is underused in my opinion, is here distilled cleanly to be very green and pure, without the rough,harsh ‘milkiness’ it can sometimes exhibit, combined with blue ginger, hinoki leaves and citric freshness of bergamot (which, linked to the vetiver in the base, briefly reminded me of my beloved Caron Eau Fraiche, a perfume that always makes me smile in summer) before ceding to a very pure rose absolute enveloped in the geranium/lemongrass related note of palmarosa – also a material not often featured in perfumes (I have made great skin preparations with this essential oil; it has an incredibly positive energy to it that lifts the spirits, and rejuvenates the skin)  – over a light touch of vetiver and maté tea.



As with many natural perfumes, when I smell this, I feel that sense sharpening relaxation of the autonomic system I have when I walk into my favourite aromatherapy shop in Tokyo, Tree Of Life – a place with a wonderful selection of essential oils of every description; some obscure and ultra expensive: distilled flower oils like broom and osmanthus, natural tuberose, violet, varieties of Japanese tree wood oils I have never heard of, whole ranges of lavenders from across the globe, with diffusers and mists of mint and geranium and rose hissing quietly into the surrounding air (rose otto, rose absolute, always at the heart of it all, as it is in this perfume; always rose, for some reason……………   is the rose the centre of the universe?) It is an unusual combination of notes that is perhaps too cheerful, ultimately, to capture the more wistful and sad concept of impermanence, at least as I see it; the Japanese fatalistic attitude of ‘oh well, it’s my time’, the cherry blossoms being blown from the boughs by the rain and the winds when they have only just bloomed, short lived, like the young samurai ready to die at any moment with the sword, while the stubborn Englishman clings to life like the dying rose with its thorns on the stem  –  a metaphor that can be seen in reality through my own attitude in categorically refusing to go in to work during the worst part of this crisis while my compatriots went into the headquarters unquestioningly everyday, prepared for sacrifice, come what may  –  but I think that this subtle composition will still definitely find its own unique place in my collection. I can imagine picking this up at certain moments; when at home, in a simpler, more serene mood; mind uncluttered, ready to get on with my day.






Filed under Rose perfumes


  1. Harsh ‘milkiness’ seems like an oxymoron, but I think I get what you mean.
    I wouldn’t mind if rose is the center of the (perfume) universe…
    Agree that our happiness in new places is based on our projections onto a place rather than its reality. Cities we lived in are never the same after we and all our friends have left it.

    • An interesting point.

      I think what I mean about rosemary is that there is a kind of….rough, lactic quality in some essential oils: ok for the bath, but not for a perfume. The rosemary note here is very clear and streamlined, which I appreciate.

      I also love rose, but rose aromatherapy is so ubiquitous…I have gone off the note slightly in recent times. This is a nice, aromatic/aromatherapeutic rose though, easy on the senses; pleasing, if not, for me, at least, exciting (but then I don’t think it is supposed to be).

    • It’s like creamy French wine – I can’t STAND creaminess in a red ( I know Robin will be able to elucidate this point better; it is a quality I find in a lot of gold starred, highly recommended red wines that me and D both find repulsive, and thus usually go for Spanish or Italian 13.5 or 14%s instead where the lactic curve is more absent. I have noticed this in Muji’s lavender oil as well, which is why I have stopped buying it. Creaminess has its place – in a creme brûlée, for example, but not in certain olfactory conditions! Do you know what I mean?

      • I think I may have chalked it up to a nondescript “essential oil smell” when I encountered it. I’ve found some perfumes (like Marc Jacobs’ Daisy) to have an “oily” facet, but not sure if it’s the same thing as “creamy.”
        As for red wines, I might actually prefer the smoother, creamier ones (Merlots or Pinot Noirs) because I find the other kinds too sour and they give me heartburn. I don’t know enough about red wines yet, though, still learning. Have you tried amber wine? The ones I’ve seen are from Georgia, and they tend to be quite mineralic from being fermented in clay pots. I don’t think any of them are “creamy,” but some can be sour (the better ones are dry but not sour).

      • I am better with sour tastes than D is – we both tend to like wines deep, mellow, plummy – just not metallic or creamy.

  2. bibimaizoon

    Impermanence sounds quite lovely and unique. Florals are my favorite so I shall have to pick up a sample to try.
    I wonder too, why rosemary is not used more in perfumery? The original Yardley Old English Lavender (not the awful modern reformulation) had a prominent and brisk rosemary note reminding me of the fields of spike lavender and lavandin grown in my native Sonoma.

  3. Impermance…a perfect name for impermanent time. As far as your wine preferences and notwithstanding that I am a product of an Italian family, I much prefer Italian and Spanish wines, although I do like some of the more inexpensive French wines like Cotes duRhone and Bordeaux. I am not fond of California, Australian or New Zealand wines which are too strong to my taste. Portuguese wines have come into their own as well and are very good.

  4. Tara C

    Definitely a well-chosen name for these times. The scent doesn’t really sound up my alley (not wild about herbal scents or citric roses) but the concept is appealing. I have done a lot of intense thinking about impermanence over the past few months, as I’m sure many have. Buddhist philosophy has been quite helpful to me as a way of thinking about life.

    • Interesting. I am not a Buddhist but I totally agree. Which points in particular, if I may ask?

      • Tara C

        Mostly impermanence, compassion and ridding oneself of aversion/attachment, egocentrism and other negative emotions. It has helped me reduce the amount of fear I initially had over the virus.

      • I will never be able to rid myself of aversion nor attachment – I am just too passionate, but do agree the central tenets of the religion are usually far more likely to lead to peaceful societies on the whole and probably more fulfilment too. I am not sure how much the Christian sin/guilt aspect really helps people, even if the true Christian love they neighbour would, if people actually practiced it.

  5. Robin

    I remember being transported to some kind of sultry tropical paradise last year after breathing in the scented air . . . of the lobby in Fours Seasons Vancouver! After inquiries, I found out it was some bespoke scent and not for sale in any form (shortsighted of them, I think: a serious missed opportunity). Verbena was in it, and bamboo, I think, maybe ginger, that sort of thing. Not floral. Very natural and ethereal but it left a solid impression. At their Whistler Mountain location an hour or two drive away they pump in Cedar Seduction, which IS for sale, apparently giving the impression of a (rather deluxe) cabin in the woods, and other hotel scents can be had if one does some sleuthing online. (Los Vegas Bellagio’s Blue Ice sounds either sickening or appealing: “Airy Mediterranean Marine notes combined with the freshness of Cucumber, sweet Melon, Rose and Lily of the Valley ending with Blonde Woods with top notes of Grapefruit, Green Apple, Cucumber, Melon, Ozone; mid notes of Damascena Rose, Lily of the Valley; and base notes of Blond Woods, Musk.” Better than the smell of The Strip, anyway. There are several dozen on the website. Not affiliated, but I do find the idea of virtual high end hotel olfactory travel via diffusers, candles et al kind of interesting. Hey, if it’s good enough for the Monte Carlo . . .

    When I think of bad creaminess in a red, I immediately think of the sour cream or buttermilk taste — and rough mouthfeel on the finish — of certain reds, often Merlot, Cabernet Franc, sometimes Beaujolais. I never find it in a Spanish Tempranillo (mmm) or a Rhone or a Burgundy. But maybe you mean something else. Very difficult to describe flavours and scents, even if semantics don’t come into it, which they do. Sometimes it’s all confusing.

    • I have had tedious Tempranillos recently though as well, although on the whole me and D will open a bottle without even looking at it first and then go…..oh. and then look. And very often it is French. I just want it to TASTE NICE!

      AS for the hotels, my good the Vegas Bellagio sounds truly sickening. I can completely imagine it, and have been in hotels where the perfume is so strong in permeates your experience so much you can taste it. Aromatherapy shops smell very calming (even if my hippie alarm bells can also start to ring if it is TOO serene, with bird noises etc); I also find that aspect slightly difficult with natural perfumes. They don’t have the abstract extravagance I need. Having said that, I was wearing this again yesterday and I did rather enjoy it.

      • Robin

        “They don’t have the abstract extravagance I need.”
        Love that. So Neil.
        And so me.

        Bellagio sounds revolting, but some of the others almost make me want to plunk down the bucks for at least a candle. I am not monogamous when it comes to scent in my little shack above the ocean. (Is it a crime, do you think, to want the air to smell like a men’s aquatic now the weather’s getting summer? Ha. Thought you’d think so. True, though.)

        I’m wearing Myths Woman again. I really want to know your take on it. If you’re ever in Tokyo again in this lifetime and hit the Amouage counter . . .

        Seriously, I know it won’t be a lifetime, but how long do you think it will be before that kind of freedom will feel okay, be okay? I know how energized a trip like that makes you feel. I can imagine you might even be craving it right about now. I wonder what the new normal will look like there. But maybe the prospect of your return to work is plenty enough to contemplate and anticipate right now.

    • Tara C

      OMG that Bellagio scent sounds like a hit parade of all the notes I hate most. (shuddering in disgust)

  6. This fragrance sounds very interesting, but you have a way of tempting me with your prose. I would be willing to try it though, I enjoy a bit of herbaceous quality in a fragrance. Annick Goutal Eau de Hadrien also has a wonderful herbaceous note to it which is delightful.
    I didn’t know the Bellagio had its own scent? I loved the smell of the hotel when we stayed there a few years back. It doesn’t smell as bad as you would think, and I never would have suspected it contained all those notes.

    • Do you like natural perfumes generally ? I find that once in a while they make a nice break from regular scent, even if the ‘gaps’ aren’t filled between the notes in the same way as with when some synthetic notes are used. I find this simple, but relaxing.

      • I do not think I have ever actually tried a “natural” perfume. I usually like scents with lots of body to them, even lighter ones. So I really don’t know if natural perfumes would work, but I will give them a try.

      • I am not sure either, in truth. They do always lack something for the hardcore perfumista, but if I think of them in terms of aromatherapy, it is like an ‘aromatherapeutic bouquet’ – just nice for relaxing and whatnot.

    • That’s a relief. Everyone I know who has been to Vegas was disappointed by it, but I still have a hankering.

      • As far as Vegas goes, we love it. We are not big gamblers, just penny slots, and sometimes $1.00 bill slots, and we always end up making some money. We do not go there with the mind set that it is culturally enriching, but we take it at what it is and therefore enjoy it so much.
        We see lots of shows, especially all the Cirque du Soleil ones, which we adore.
        The shopping is also amazing, so many high-street shops in one place; love the Guerlain boutique in the Bellagio and the one at the Venetian. The food is also wonderful, a bit heavy on the portion sizes so definitely share.
        They also have two locations of my favorite patisserie, Jean-Philipe, well they did. Jean-Philipe, has pulled out and now they are just the hotel patisseries, which I have not tried yet, but I am sure the same pastry chefs are still there.
        It is well worth a trip. Oh, and yes, all the hotels have their own signature scent, which helps when you walk through the smoke filled gambling floors.

      • You see all of this massively appeals to me: as you will have gathered, both D and I are attracted to trash culture as much as we are the more noble pursuits. It’s just that it isn’t AS trashy and glitzy as we might want it, according to some friends (plus you might get machine gunned down from an unsuspecting hotel window while listening to country music).

      • It definitely is a more refined type of trash and glitz, not like a real experience with the real deal.
        The whole murder spree was fresh in my mind the last time we went there, back in 2017, so I was very leery of being in large crowds outside. It is a terrible thing to deal with here, never knowing when some crazy will decide to gun everyone down. I hate that so much, amongst other things here, and I could ramble on about about all the rest, but you understand.

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