Monthly Archives: July 2020

SECRET GARDENIA by MILLER HARRIS (2019)

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There is something alien about gardenias : the pallid translucence, the sensual coldness of their ardor. I love these flowers , they are in full bloom now ( these photos were taken just round the corner from our house ), but I know that I will never quite fully GRASP them.

I don’t think any perfumer truly has either. The closest I have come to smelling a photorealistic , bottled gardenia was in a Hawaiian soliflore – just gardenia, very lifelike – Gardenia by Royal Lei.

Miller Harris’ Secret Gardenia is a pleasant new variant on the theme, though it smells less natural – more ‘produced’. If tuberose is Diptyque’s ozonically wood-fresh, Hanoi raining courtyard-inspired Do Son, this is the London gardenia equivalent, married with the restrained Englishness of an unthreatening and easy to wear floral such as Floris’ Nightblooming Jasmine. Pear and ylang ylang grace the cool if full bodied demureness of gardenia : the whole generally quite pleasing, clean : coyly suggestive

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PERFUMISTA by ANATOLE LEBRETON (2019)

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What is a perfumista ?
And do I qualify as one ? ( Do you ?) Although I write primarily on perfume/scent/fragrance and have even published a book on the subject, spend most of my disposable income on perfume, essential oils and incense, and like nothing better as a present or a bargain find or even a luxurious purchase; like to keep up to date with what is new by going up to Tokyo and having a good look/sniff around ( I do miss that ), am unjaded and delighted every time a perfumed postal delivery comes to the house – even if I am quite often disappointed by the contents within; not being one who is glued to the scentnewsfeed 24/7 to find out about every new release I fear it might disqualify me from being a true rabid and addicted fragrantista.

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( three perfumisti : at the 2014 Jasmine Awards :

from left : The Black Narcissus, The Candy Perfume Boy and Persolaise ( Brian De Palma / Steven Spielberg / Martin Scorsese).

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One thing I do know is that perfumed oases/ babylons such as the lush, unobtainable vale of temptations that is Luckyscent – for any non-perfumistas reading this, a website/ online Heaven of never-ending perfumes that you could spend hours, days, forever reading, ceding your finances until credit ruin in the search for The One ( like YouTube and its inexhaustible wellsprings of the familiar and the tantalizingly obscure : always a ‘you may also like’ to click on next, more overdraft deductions, there is always another beautifully described perfume you are yearning to try, and the obsessed perfumeholic will click and flex, waiting for the arrival of the next precious elixir to be untapped from the vial ; I do know some people in real life for whom all of this expense and insatiability veers dangerously close to an actual addiction; the hunt and the splurge the main act in itself: a feeling I have empathy for, but in reality have to some extent been able to resist.)

From Luckyscent :

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From my perspective, this perfume would make quite a nice rose chypre for the budding young perfumista who wants to flash an edge of vintage while not being bogged down in the full must (that is not remotely how I see ‘old perfumes’ myself, obviously, and I will in fact be doing an interesting project with Art And Olfaction in August on the subject), .

But for the uninitiated neophyte, the full Guerlain Parure / L’Arte di Gucci, or even Sisley Soir De Lune, which in its first incarnation was a real rose patchouli chypre stunner ( I remember how amazing it smelled on you Emma, that brilliant night of karaoke) might just be too drenched, Rose-heavy; overpowering. In Perfumista, the earthier moss / spice / castoreum we might otherwise expect from a classic of the type is replaced with a more approachable, young, but for me slightly anodyne, insistent white musk that comes with the neo- mousse de saxe and the pleasant rose, making it gentler, more upbeat, but for the hardcore rose chypre lover, despite the fact that the perfume had input from some real Perfume Lovers, possibly not quite sufficiently vampish and gorgeouso for the very picky and exigent One Who Needs More.

Ironically, there are other perfumes in the House Of Lebreton that strike me as more suitable as new cravings for the discerning and extravagant niche collector – though these are quite reasonably priced – the suave abstract leather of L’Eau Scandaleuse, for exsmple, or the orris-heavy, waxen lipstick poisoned-almond that is the more fascinating Incarnata.

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Arch as an odalisque, strange and coolly moreish, for the completist who likes every available shade in their genre of fragrance selection, from Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose to Martin Margiela Lipstick On – a scent I was once on the verge of buying until I thought more carefully of my monthly bank balance – scents like these are the very essence of what makes a true perfumista – those for whom perfume goes beyond an accoutrement or commodity, a personal signature, something to just ‘wear ‘: but turns instead – sometimes dangerously – into a full blown, hedonistically consuming obsession.

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GREEN TEA IN THE AFTERNOON : THE POUR UN ETE by L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR (1995) + HYOUGE by PARFUMS SATORI (2008) + TEA TONIQUE by MILLER HARRIS (2016)

 

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Japan has a deep love of green tea.

 

While it might be as coffee and cake obsessed as any other nation – there are western style cafes wherever you look – and loves its Earl Grey and Darjeeling and ‘Royal Milk Tea’ (usually Ceylon and Assam boiled with hot milk), ‘O-Cha’  drunk for centuries, is at the very pinnacle.

The most popular drink from the ubiquitous vending machines is definitely cold green tea; my colleagues drink bottles and bottles of it. Matcha ice cream is as popular as vanilla; you can buy green tea cakes, sweets, chocolate, lattes; grades of the tea leaves ranked and filed according to quality and prefecture; catechin content; strength, cholesterol reduction, competing brands honing their products to tailor-fit the notoriously picky Japanese consumer.

 

 

One of the nicest experiences you can have in Kamakura is to go to Kokedera, or The Bamboo Temple, on a rainy week day afternoon and sit at the tea shop down by the cave through the grove of rustling, towering bamboo, beside a waterfall, stirring your frothed, bitter matcha tea in a bowl and listening to the water and the green in the trees. Yesterday, suffering from Friday fatigue, but needing to pay the rent, I went round to my neighbour and landlord and Japanese mother’s house; humid and raining, quiet except for the sultry but balmy cool breeze.

 

She was alone, Mr Mitomi now retired in his eighties, gone to pay his respects at an ancestor’s grave. Mrs Mitomi herself looked well, better than she has recently, though I was quite shocked to hear that she had been hospitalized for two weeks for a gall bladder operation that we had known nothing about (these days, clad in our masks, all busy and interiorized, rushing around not quite hearing or noticing things properly you sometimes don’t see the wood for the trees…..)

 

She asked me in and whether I would like green tea or coffee; Over caffeinated already I felt more like cha, which was there in the pot, boiling water at the ready to add to the tea leaves to drink very hot – probably not orthodox in some green tea establishments, but how we both personally like to drink it.

 

It was a very pleasant and funny half an hour there before I had to head off for work; occasional comfortable silences as we reminisced ( I have known her for almost a quarter of a century now), the taste of the green tea clear and fresh; purifying- both relaxing and energizing at the same time.

 

 

I think I feel similarly about green tea in fragrances : they are somehow ‘off the grid’; quiet and elegant; removed from the vulgarity, and this time of year as the temperatures rise  they strike me as perfect as a contrast to the humidity : a coolness.

 
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I remember Olivia Giacobbetti’s green tea for L’Artisan Parfumeur, inspired obviously by the classic Bulgari but with a more prominent jasmine facet, being more luscious and citrus. This current version I own is somewhat flatter; more soapy, lackadaisically indolic. Curiously, I have found that by layering it with Roger & Gallet’s take on green tea ( very sharp, bright, fizzing yuzu, ginger, ceding to a lovely clean and lingering green tea note ) which gives me odour confidence on the hottest of days the two compliment each other very nicely, filling in for each other’s mutual deficits.  I might wear this combination to work next week, even tweak it perhaps with some Hyouge ( formerly known as Oribe), a perfume that smells of freshly cut grass and newly whisked matcha bubbles – a very unusual scent  that takes you out of yourself.

 

 

It was strange in a way that I was drinking green tea in the afternoon with Mrs Mitomi, as I don’t really have it so often: a bottle of Tea Tonique by Miller Harris had also arrived in the post in the morning. Earmarking this as a possible perfume for Duncan, though I was quite taken with it myself – the clever thwarting of a gloriously fresh green floral Earl Grey/ Mate tea accord with a rash note of nutmeg and birch tar citrus at the core of the scent creates stark and beautiful contrasts within itself – On me it is a little smoky, refined but still fresh ; on D it smells nothing short of truly SPLENDID -floral, very tea – like;  a delicate revelation.

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after school

 

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July 3, 2020 · 10:49 pm

lime

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I don’t go all that often for lime, even if I have always loved the Sicilian citric thrill of the mandarin and lime opening accord of the classic Armani Pour Homme. I have never entirely taken to the ‘Gentleman’s Limes’ of the colonial tropics a la Penhaligons or Geo F Trumper for various reasons, one of them being that I don’t care for the darkgreenness of lime being combined with neroli, sandalwood or musk.

 

Lime on food is definitely blissful – with coriander on grilled swordfish, squeezed on Tom Yum Kun. It is also perfect in a cocktail. A slice of lemon is of course lovely in an iced gin and tonic but lime has the edge : cooler, more vitalizing.

 

 

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On Monday night I met D after work outside The Bank in Kamakura, which we sometimes use as a rendezvous point : an old bank from the early twentieth century converted into a bar that is never open.

 

On this occasion it was, so we decided to go in for a quick G + T before dinner; the only ones in there, the shaded stone and the marble of the interior naturally cooling and quiet.

 

 

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I actually happened to be wearing two lime perfumes, coincidentally, having one of those wonderful days where you are enjoying life tremendously and your perfume choices are just right; rocking the sillage as you walk along in the gorgeous afternoon sunlight counting your blessings and loving how you have decided to scent your person ( as I write this I am miserable on the train in the heavy rain on my way to the school in Yokohama, but let’s go back just two days).

 

Montale’s Aromatic Lime has become such an annual staple for me that I recently acquired another bottle, just as a reserve. Although the opening couple of minutes are a little on the ‘perhaps too much’ tip – almost chocolatey, like a lime infused ganache; soon this deep, multilayered perfume of effective performance becomes the most perfect chypric patchouli base that is enjoyable by itself, sprayed on clothes,  or on one or two wrists but even better layered with other, lighter fragrances. For those who love Sisley Eau Du Soir and the like, this dry, highly long lasting faithful accomplice is essential; on Monday I layered it with my home-doctored 500 ml bottle of L’Occitane’s Eau Captivante, a fresh, slightly ozonic citrus/mint/basil to which I added copious doses of vetiver, grapefruit and lime essential oils, creating a refreshing, very lime-centred cologne that I have been wearing on a daily basis and loving ( and look at the colour of it! You KNOW I have been messing  with it, greening it ; sometimes you have to, if you want a perfume to capture its name)

 

 

 

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I am actually wearing Eau Captivante today as well, in my suit. Where I ordinarily would never have considered wearing anything sharp and zinging to the work place, one of the small advantages of this new Covid-19 pandemic era for the perfumist is that firstly, everyone is wearing masks, all the time (extraordinarily exhausting while teaching – at the weekends I am so depleted I can hardly move; all the exertion from trying to animate a sea of masked zombies with less oxygen than you actually need; I overcompensate by going overboard and arrive home a limp rag), but at least, with the windows open as well – even with the air conditioning on, not good for the environment I know but I vastly prefer it as air conditioning just truly doesn’t go with my physiognomy – I consider it the enemy; on the trains the breeze travels down the train so much better and comfortable than being openly refrigerated. As a result, I feel more free and easy about scent: whereas before I was always hyper aware of every last trace of base note or middle note left hanging in the air, now I am indifferent – and obviously it is the last thing that anyone is worrying about in the first place.

 

 

 

 

 

Here in Japan, people are still wary: you have to be. There has been a rise in cases in Tokyo and Yokohama with the full reopening of the country, though it is nothing like the situation in Europe and North and South America (David if you are reading this in São Paulo, I hope you and your loved ones are safe; I love a crushed ice, lime drenched Brazilian caipirinha too, while we are on the subject..,,,,,,would love to make it out there one day).

 

 

 

 

 

Compared to our long, dark but safe sequestration in Kamakura for three months, I must admit that I myself have generally been enjoying the return to the ‘real world’ over the last month, overall ; both exhausted and energized simultaneously. Yet obviously, a greater pall still hangs over much of the earth for so many geopolitical and social reasons, not even taking into account the damage wrought by what is increasingly being seen as a truly dangerous virus that ravages the human body in so many ways and will leave millions of people with compromised bodies and health systems, probably for many years to come. It is genuinely scary,  and we are still in the tunnel.

 

 

 

 

Which is why it is so lovely, if you can, and are lucky enough to live in a place where the situation is relatively under control, to just saunter along, and try to forget about all of this for just one selfish evening ( having just purchased a vintage eau de parfum of Rochas’s beautiful Mystere from an an antique shop with your last money before pay day), on the way to a date with your other half, easing contentedly into the aura you have created with your scent choice lingering gorgeously on the summer air, lightly spiced, aromatic,vetiver, grapefruit and lime, to cut through the grime and the misery temporarily :  fill the air around you with a moment of lung-fuelling freshness.

 

 

 

 

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