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.