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.