Monthly Archives: June 2020









There were two incidents at the Piramide Del Sol.


The first happened when I had a severe attack of vertigo attempting to climb one of the lesser lunar pyramids.


The second was more painful. I had stupidly crawled into the grass in order to get the best photographic angles of Teotihuacan, Mexico’s largest pyramid, in awe of the Aztec majesty  in the blazing hot afternoon sun.


Suddenly I felt hot shooting pains in my legs, an immediate, infernal itching on my thighs and calves. Without hesitating,  and in full view of other tourists I tore down my jeans to find my legs crawling with red fire ants. Batting myself hysterically not realizing how ridiculous I must have looked – man in cowboy hat in his underwear, arms flailing wildly and screeching, once I had prized off the incendiary critters from my leg hair I shook down my jeans with vigor in order to restore some dignity to myself before running, clothed,  up to a random Japanese tour group that was standing near by. Skin throbbing and smarting as I shielded my eyes from the sky, I asked the unperturbed lady in charge if she knew what was going to happen to me next.




’Taihen desu yo.


Sugoi netsu ni naru yo’




– said the woman, seeming to almost slightly enjoy the conveyance of this  news that it was going to all be very ‘tough’ ; that I was going to have a terrible fever and be bedridden for days…,.




Toxic ants  !




Fuck !




Making our way towards agitatedly towards the exits (“It’ll probably be okay”) said Duncan semi-reassuringly, imagining me writhing and sweatridden like a dirt covered extra in Apocalypse Now, burning up and hallucinating and generally ruining our holiday by perishing in the middle of it before we even got to our friend’s nuptials in Guadalajara, we encountered a laconic, muscular female Mexican security guard in mirrored sunglasses patrolling the perimeter as bored as death and cool as a watermelon. I decided to go  up to her for a second opinion in my rudimentary Spanish learned from Almodovar movies – although unfortunately I had never encountered the word ‘ant’ ; She peered down slowly at my pathetic self through her shades, gun in silver holster, as I jabbered on excitedly about poison and delirium and weddings – but was far more sympathetic and calming than the tour guide had been ::…….just go and lie down and drink lots of water, you will be alright, they are not so bad (I also happened – gracias a los dios – to have had a very effective Aesop lemon hand cream with me in my jeans pocket that I applied to the bitten areas liberally as soon as I had whipped off my Wranglers :  I swear it worked brilliantly as an antidote). The Officer seemed to know what she was talking about, in any case,  so I decided to take her word for it, calming down a couple of notches and deciding instead to just drink daytime beers to either forget about the whole thing, or else hasten my death as the insectoid venom coursed through my veins with the bubbles in the big windowed cafe near the entrance, dulling and sharpening  our senses beautifully with ice cold Coronas and staring out quietly at ancient magnificence. The bites were very itchy, and I felt a bit odd  (though that could have been incipient sunstroke) but other than that I was fine.











I don’t quite know what led me to start thinking about this ridiculously typical anecdote yesterday evening, but sprawled out blissfully in front of my projector watching Takashi Miike’s ‘Desd Or Alive’ I was unconsciously plunged into memories of hot fire and inflammation on spraying Abel’s perfume Red Santal onto the back of my hand: a flinty aridity of fleshless spice and desert sands that took me a few moments to recognize, until my memory found the link I was looking for : D’Humeur Massacrante – a long disappeared perfume I used to love  by L’Artisan Parfumeur. A dryness of furious nutmeg and paprika alongside sulphur like the flash of a match catching light, this was one of my favourites in the legendary ‘Mood Swings’ box from 1994 that Duncan would wear a quarter of a century ago as part of his sly artillery alongside other dry and spiced elegantly masculine perfumes such as Cacharel Pour L’Homme and Comme Des Garçons’ Incense Series Jalsaimer.



Red Santal, an all natural perfume from Amsterdam based house Abel, fits neatly into this category of sparse woody hotness, with a bone-dry moisture-sucked base of two kinds of sandalwood plus a hot tempered intro of cloves and black and pink pepper over ginger and thyme. I rather like it : longevity on the skin is not as powerful as a synthetic hybrid might be but there is a lucidity to the natural essences that works. Rather than the usual, lugubrious butter of the more typical, creamy sandalwoods, this is a brisk and energizing flame of controlled heat, moderately livid. : and inflamed.


Filed under Flowers






As part of PerformIstanbul’s Stay at Home series, D Whom is offering ‘Three Rooms : Kitchen’ tonight at 9pm Japan Standard Time.


Our house is in absurd chaos, insanely messy, but I can assure you the stolen magnolias and lilies smell divine.



For last week’s inaugural episode, Bathroom, see here





For Kitchen ;




Filed under Flowers









The first time I ever purchased this clear, subtle beauty was around twenty years ago (she will agree that it almost seems like another lifetime), when Helen came to stay here for the first time. All in Japan was still new to me and to her; bewilderingly beautiful and revelatory; the light, the tranquillity of Kamakura, the sharp intake of breath when a Noh-masked performer entered the theatre stage left.  Slow and deliberate as a phantom, in awe-filling layers of fine-broidered, trailing kimono.



I left a bottle of Mandarine Pamplemousse under her pillow in the tatami room, light filtering through the afternoon so that when she woke up from the long jet lag the next day, this citrus would be the first scent of association she would have with a new day in Japan.



It was an anti-intuitive choice of scent in a way  – for someone whose favourite perfume is Après L’Ondée; this was more glassy and citric. If less rueful and melancholic than the Guerlain, there was still somehow a similar quality of homeostasis; a balancing, and calming, of the emotions.




Creed is often criticized by the cognoscenti (for various reasons I don’t entirely understand), and many people find this scent lacklustre, not close enough to its name. It is true that this cologne smells neither especially of mandarin, nor of grapefruit, but more of a fusion of clear, cleaning notes like a hair preparation for Aphrodite:  an Apollonian, fruited flower grove of the imagination (white flowers…clover? gentle wild jasmine? honeysuckle?) scenting the sunbleached clean stones of a gentle, natural ambergris. It is refreshing to the spirit: A perfume made explicitly for afternoon sleeps on cool white sheets. Unlike the more utilitarian citruses that I use on a daily basis for work, Mandarine Pamplemousse occupies its own special space now in the pantheon for me and is not a perfume that I will spray with abandon. Discontinued, instead, this bottle will be conserved in my cabinet as something precious.











Filed under Citrus, Flowers






An interview with the delightful John Biebel.


Filed under Flowers










Today was something of a mindfuck of a day with the opening of the CiAL ‘Newoman’ department store in Yokohama – the experience of which I will have to write about later, shrivelled as a dried persimmon as I feel right now, reduced by my first impact of corona consumerism, which had me running for the exits. and then a night of fully masked teaching.



But fruit?  These really are VASTLY overpriced for what they are. A rip off  ! The orange was light aquatic rubbish; the pineapple far less convincing than the same flavoured chewing gum I had the other day ; the lemon I would enjoy in a boutique hotel hard milled into a pretentiously conceptualised trope, sorry, soap, briefly glittering but otherwise just another non eligible interface in my fragile conscious.


No – get your fix at the fruit market. Buy a cheapo approximation. Eat fruit. Avoid             S H O P PIN G




Filed under Fruit







I picked up a bottle of Guerlain’s classic Mouchoir De Monsieur the other day for thirty dollars: I could not resist. Although I remember smelling this Belle Époque ‘gentleman’s cologne’ at least three decades ago, probably down in Harrods on one of my always exciting Perfume Day Trips to London – when to a much younger person still in his tender teens its louche lemon and civet just smelled like a lascivious adult’s bad breath.   I don’t know if have experienced it much – if at all –  in all the years that have intervened.



One of the ‘secret’ Guerlains : those that are still in production for the faithful but are not usually put on display, the version I remember was silkier, more lemony, musky and even more deadeningly animalic,  like a bristling and unwanted  moustachioed kiss: strange  to think that the purpose of the dandy’s liquid accoutrement was to gently douse one’s embroidered mouchoir – one’s handkerchief, as a gesture of love or a declaration of flirtation to a finely dressed lady who was probably dressed in Guerlain’s contemporaneous Violette De Madame – a kind of twirly moustached his ‘n hers, fashionable and of the moment  – and a symbol of cleanliness and hygiene when the almost filthy animalic contents in the flacon were anything but.









On me, this newer, attenuated  version of Mouchoir smells like a vintage Shalimar drained of its vanilla and iris crossed with the cooler DNA of its cousin Jicky, a legend that has never quite worked on me. I like this perfume better – more citrically fresh minus the prettier Jickyian herbs and lavender and the less candid civet base, Mouchoir De Monsieur comes across more suave; understatedly erotic. Funny to think now of my horrified youthful self recoiling in ingenue dismay; openly grimacing at all this semi-bawdy Parisian suggestivity (cloaked in what I could tell was its secretly elegant nonchalance) in the imposing perfume halls of that department store in Knightsbridge on a bustling Saturday afternoon many years ago and me here now : lying back this evening, reclining like a lounge lizard, inhaling the back of my hand quite contentedly.






Any thoughts on this perfume very welcome.












Filed under Citrus, Civet, Classics, Lemon














June is the greenest month. It rains all the time, the whispering mountain undergrowth, tangled and heaving:  steamy with life and tingling death. Raindrops lodged in a spider’s web, collected; slowly descending along the veins of the leaves of new hydrangea like glass tears. Stems, blades of grass seething with chlorophyll :  the slow camera of photosynthesis. If there are bitter greens: benevolent greens, Tindrer, by Baruti, is definitely the former, a piercing loam violet shrouded in morning mists that is chilling as a gothic fairytale. Disconcerting  (it makes me shiver), it is as if this perfume exists on two simultaneous temporal planes; one deep below, where the twisting violets grow over the roots of an old oak tree, and above – an ozonic hiss of cold, silent death.

A friend of mine has often stated that if he were to choose his own exit,  absinthe would be his chosen conduit. Dying in the gutter, but staring at the stars. Thick with green,  poisonous anis, this liqueur –  this perfume – laced with wormwood, fennel, poured viscously over sugar cubes to sweeten the venom (‘patchouli and woods attempt to induce the wearer into a comforting, disinhibitive state, while sobering oakmoss and amber ease you back into the material world ), it is a decadent’s headache in a bottle. Wear it, drink it: :  intoxicated to the point of annihilatory bliss, he blurredly makes his way out, staggering into the moonlit Japanese garden to find a place among the gnarled roots, the damp moss, lie, and make his hallucinatory passage. Still conscious, he feels his way half blind towards a shaded space beneath a boxwood, writhed with ivy and potent green notes of every shade;  breathes in the air; supine; a toxically fresh herbarium of witchery in dark, coniferous chrysanthemum and aglaia bush of black copal and fir trees gradually closing in; mysterious, daunting like the stunted, clipped and menacing topiaries of vengeful Bonsai.

Hermia : the flash of the new mock orange in summer hidden in greenery as he discovers himself awakening to a new clarity. Daylight. Bird song. Subtle unobtrusion ; the rarity of morning : orange blossom, vetiver, cassis and basil are fresh, simple, there is an ease. Mesmerizing though the darkness of the forests and the secrets of the woodland inevitably are, I prefer this green, freshing uplift to the doleful siege of the dark pine forest. Yes, the final denouement of Almah Perfumes’ Green Crowne, as cheering a scent as I have discovered in recent times, might ‘merely’ be a clean, shampoo-sheened modern skin musk, but I personally prefer such gentle, mood boosting presence to the ominous, malevolent descent into coniferous murk and blackened woods that are my bane; the vivacity of those green, Calyx-like scents with their eye-brightening openings that freshen the senses into sunlight : basil, bergamot, cardamom, marjoram, citruses, a verdant perfect equilibrium of loveliness. Though the pall of this sombre season with its deep verdurous gloom is always numbingly hypnotic – (the woods are lovely, dark and deep…………….but I have miles to go before I sleep……………), I ultimately need more scintillant uplift  –  the promise of growth –  life; citrus, flowers, meadows – and sun rays –  to resist its raindrenched,  Orphic pull.










Filed under Green, JAPAN PHOTOGRAPHY







Either I am suffering from the onset of Covid 19 anosmia, or this is just a new nadir at Guerlain, but this thin, wan chemicalia makes absolutely no impression on me whatsoever. The pomegranate is sharp and ‘fruity,’ : the orange I can’t even smell.


Filed under Flowers













We never made it to Halong Bay – or the Perfumed Pagoda  : instead we had one of the best days of our life in Haiphong. Still, it is easy to understand how a Spanish perfumer could fall in love with this mystical Vietnamese legend with its ocean -reflected mountains and write a perfume formula as an ode to a place he felt at home.

Dulcet sweet, airy and light, this translucent oriental white floral is a fresh gardenia/ magnolia / lily interwoven with a semi-aquatic top note of lotus flower exuding a watery facet delicately tinged with eucalyptus, dill seed, lemongrass; a gentle white musk accord laced with benzoin and amber that shines through the vulnerable flowers like a bead of sweat on a lover’s skin.













Halong Heaven – a naive,  romantically unhindered jeune fille of a perfume – exists in a very high key of unreality. Some might find it hysterical ; I find it pretty. True prettiness is underrated in perfumery these days; there are so many dreadful,  supposedly ‘pretty’ perfumes out there in the commercial world and beyond that actually have unnaturally vicious teeth.  Halong Heaven is slight – it does not dazzle – but it also does linger quite persistently in an opalescent dream-like state of white sheets and skin shadows, replete –  as the fan on the ceiling whirs slowly above; torpid in the stillness of afternoon.



Filed under Flowers








We drink our beverages hot, even in summer. Piping hot tea and coffee – always ; the only exception being iced Vietnamese lotus tea – which is extraordinarily light and refreshing on a sweltering, humid day.



In Indian restaurants I also like my chai freshly off the boil – so hot it burns the mouth and I know I have to wait. Rare that it has that perfect balance, though : of cardamom, ginger, masala, cloves, cinnamon – I think in a lot of popular places they don’t always have the time to blend all the spices in, and it can occasionally be too milky and bland.


No such problems with Amsterdam based luxury niche brand Baruti, who present a fresh, potent, perfectly balanced photorealistic chai to your skin with notes of steamed milk, ginger –  cardamom – all the spices to the fore;  cocoa, roses, vanilla and a base note of leather. It is a delicious summation, even if at extrait strength, this is probably a gourmandish hologram you probably want to keep between you and your wrist. Too much and you might cause contextual confusion in your anticipated audience ( ‘where am I again?) – a synaptic gamechanger.


I don’t really tend to wear full on gourmands myself, though  I love the dry, moisture sucking nuttiness of the coumarin note in Hermessence Vetiver Tonka, a perfume that smells great on me – not too sweet or too asphyxiating, an ‘overpresence’ I associate with the decadence of the more luxuriant current gourmands. Baruti keeps a judicious hand  – just – with the sugar jar in both Chai and the house’s latest release, Perverso, which like its fitting name, IS quite headstrong and uncompromising with its caramellized whisky of tobacco, chocolate and an extreme overdose of hazelnut : an accord that whirls about you, as though you were smoking a pipe through a face smeared lovingly in Nutella.


I happen to be very susceptible to nuts in chocolate : gianduja, noisette; pralines: the taste drives me………  nuts. In perfume terms I would probably rather smell this on someone else: on my own skin I would feel somewhat scandalized. Still, combined with darker woody and amber notes, in the base, used in moderation – one spritz, say, on a chestnut or russet coloured turtleneck as you walk into your local espresso bar I can imagine a subtle sillage of Perverso being quite chic; effective. Those with severe nut allergies, however, need definitely not apply.*





*figuratively speaking





Filed under Ginger, Gourmand