Last Monday I went down to the lake to sit and sweat in the sun; look out over the water and just zone. It is lily season ; they have sprung up everywhere. From hedgerows, up in the hills. Straggling, unhindered. It is tropical and humid, always raining,;sometimes clearing. At times the air is so heavy it is almost difficult to breathe, like semi-swimming underwater (and that is before you even think about putting your mask on). Yet there is a jungle-like hot, vibrant moisture that is the perfect backdrop to these lilies, clambered over with butterflies –


















(the white/yellow ones just smell like more fecund and loaded stargazers; the orange spotted ones strangely vapid and odourless; the pink ones like vanilla ice cream)  – that provides an emotional form of solace. Just breathing in these floral emanations and the green fungus undergrowth as insects do their natural work is like a momentary hiatus; a chance to forget.





In my bag as I went down through the forest to the lakeside I had the four perfumes in the debut collection of Sarah Ireland, a British perfumer whose creations feel far away from the subtropical summer in Japan. Yet I enjoyed them, sitting there wearing them on skin, letting them fuse with my surroundings at that particular moment in time (success, for me, in a perfume is when I get that linkage in my mind that stays forever and I know that a moment in time has been encapsulated; just smelling Ginger Lily again this morning  I had that slight heart surge that makes me feel that it has become one of the ‘brethren’ – a perfume that stamped itself firmly in my consciousness. One – snd this is increasingly rare – that has actually got through to me.





Although there is a strange, clammy tension between the jasmine and pink pepper accord in the first few moments of this scent,  the blend nevertheless went perfectly with my stillness; the slow movements under leaves of a torpid, fresh water turtle labouring its way onto land and crawling steadily through the undergrowth up a hill, as a woodpecker tapped mindfully on one of the tree trunks behind me; a giant hornet startled me and made me scream out loud, echoing into the quiet (there was nobody there). Eventually, a transparent ginger lily note appeared as a conclusion and decided to stay, like a clarified Grès Cabotine or Dior Tendre Poison, clear and long lasting. It felt nostalgic but contemporary.  Real. I liked it. I will  wear this one in October and November I think, when the temperate sunshine will optimize a soaped wrist’s performance and give pleasant, yet unobtrusive sillage. Though I might smell a tad feminine in Ginger Lily – there is something a tad ‘school art teacher wears Ananya’  about it, this is a floral whose general cleanliness and good nature breeds trust .





Likewise, Crushed Velvet, a seductive rose patchouli musk with soft vapours of ylang ylang, vanilla and sandalwood, is sexual, but measured (the evident distaste for overstatement, quite British, is present in all of this collection – but it is a restraint I think works. The perfumes, though uncomplicated, unfold in time and space and present their themes with an unchallenging, but delicate clarity). At first, thinking that this scent might be good for one of my Tokyo goth friends, I soon realized that it would be too soft, enveloping, unthreatening (some of the people we know up there are really hardcore). No, this is a different kind of night creature. Crushed Velvet, either vermillion or a red-wineish purple (which somehow made me think of black Japanese grapes, perhaps the tuberose note à la recent L’Interdit), is more for a woman who goes for tarot and crystals; likes Glastonbury, and reads Yeats on her favourite tasseled chaise longue. It didn’t quite suit me (it might bring out my curves) but there is certainly a subtle artistry here that screams signature for a person who wants an unhashed patchouli rose without all the hoopla.




Far more suited to my personal needs is Keahia, a rounded, warm, fuzzy wood perfume that effortlessly blends vetiver with an equilibrium of natural smelling sandalwood, and a powdery (orris, osmanthus) cedar wood tinged with oudh (yes I also felt a spike of horror when I saw that note listed in the ingredients, but it is blended very deftly and almost imperceptibly, just adding body). I tend to prefer vetivers that are earthy and simple, which is why I usually just wear pure vetiver oil, but this is a soothing and pleasingly balanced wood blend that while simple, is also quite clever in its holistic and nerve soothing warmth. Slightly musky, quite dry, this is one of those perfumes that will bind you and keep you sane (these are all quite inexpensive too by contemporary standards; a 30 ml bottle is only 30 pounds). I sprayed it all over my clothes and was  happy.




Surprisingly, the most optimistic sounding fragrance in the collection, Summer Serenade didn’t quite work for me, even if theoretically it probably should be the one that I would usually go for the most. Summer needs citrus, but I find that mandarin and neroli cancel out each other, as do jasmine and grapefruit. While fresh and uplifting, and from certain angles almost redolent of vintage O de Lancôme, the theme doesn’t quite reach me. Still, that could just be my skin chemistry. It is certainly very bright and has zing. In fact, all of these perfumes made a very nice accompaniment to a day where I just let my mind wander and steeled myself for another tough, rainy week. As I sat there, the koi milling languidly by the edge of the water, I felt a thickening and a deepening of my consciousness, an at-oneness that took me close to a dream.



















Filed under Flowers


  1. OnWingsofSaffron

    Whoops, isn’t that a Giant Protea (Protea cynaroides) in the last photo? I was feeling the languid, humid hot air, thick with rain, you were writing about, and out jumps a protea from the sun-baked, bone-dry South African veld!

  2. OnWingsofSaffron

    Sneaky, nicht wahr 🙂

  3. LOL! Busted by a Giant Protea! Nevertheless, I enjoyed the prose and the pretty photos. I’m not familiar with the Perfumes of Sarah Ireland, but then there are tons of perfume houses out there now that I’m not familiar with.

    • God me neither – and I entirely be bothered to be either. But things reach me, and if I get inspired I like to write about them. These perfumes don’t dazzle, but I like the pared down clarity of them (and I literally will wear them, which you have no idea how rare this is these days. Most weirdo niche I can’t touch with a barge pole. I am finding more and more perfumes simply nauseating. Am I alone in this?)

  4. bibimaizoon

    Pink Pepper and Ginger Lily sounds like something I’d love!
    Just looked at the notes on the website- Pink Pepper · Ginger lily · Bulgarian Rose · Cardamom · Frankincense · Jasmine
    There’s a combo I’ve not seen before.
    Proteas remind me of late summer in my native California, dry, sharp, & prickly with bright color brought in by an occasional balmy breeze off the Pacific.

    • I thought of you actually when I put this up. I don’t know if you will love it instantly – I didn’t, for sure – but the end note is great. A ginger lily note that lingers beautifully with no interference.

      Definitely worth a try.

  5. Robin

    “It didn’t quite suit me (it might bring out my curves).”


    I think it’s so lovely that you took the time and focus to explore these scent of Sarah Ireland as you did. Very respectful. I really got into your state of being as you were describing it. Most enjoyable. Terrific piece Neil, and thank you for it.

  6. Lovely and languid piece of writing. I felt I was on the edge of the lake with you. I adore all types of lily, such a glorious flower.
    These perfumes sound absolutely wonderful, I would probably like a couple, but then again, you make all fragrances you write about sound desirable. Well, except the ones you don’t really like.

    • Yes I wonder recently whether people think I am gilding all lilies with my words too much. But I think I also write about my reservations in terms of saying these don’t ‘dazzle’ and are ‘afraid of overstatement’ etc – which hopefully comes across. I like these though, and if I say I am going to actually WEAR a couple, trust me, that is the highest praise coming from me. One good thing about this kind of perfumery is that it is not an ‘event’. Sometimes with the vintage masterpieces they feel too…….’much’ for daily wear, too involved. I quite like something simpler and less layered for daily use, particularly if it smells largely natural.

      • I appreciate simpler scents on others, yet they never seem to work well on me. I am more like the fragrance equivalent of the Kate Moss Opium advert; every day is a grand event, even if I am in the house in a nightgown.
        As far as you gilding lillies. I don’t believe you do, but when you find a fragrance pleasing, it truly radiates in your writing. Which is what stokes my desire to try many that you have written about. In reality, most probably would not suit me, again I am the queen of fragrances that make statements, most


        I love the idea of you dressing up in scent every day – it’s fantastic. For me with working and everything it’s more like a weekend treat. But like you, when I wear it, I WEAR it. It is so gorgeous when it works perfectly and it just surrounds you like a cloud made to measure. J’adore

  7. thehungrybookling

    Another engaging post! I could imagine your work filling the pages of a coffee table book that you would leave out proudly for all to see – a mixture of stunning photography and delicate words.

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