This was our brief exchange this afternoon/ evening, in very different faraway parts of Kanagawa prefecture, this delightful ( still sealed !) selection, waiting for me on the kitchen table when I got home – apparently got for about £3.50; and for me anything but ‘moderately exciting.’
For me this was thrilling. All are cool and deliciously delicate and green, and will look perfect in my central perfume cabinet yesterday, which I thought needed some more flower covered boxes and voila ; l imagine the future bathing, and layering , and the thought of gardenias and lily of the valley make me already look forward to next early summer – May; June when hopefully things will blossoming as usual, and things willbe better.
In these vile, vicious and cruel times, such moments do make a difference
Red, in perfumery, is usually created with notes of rose, of spice; deep unguents, rich powder; cherry; geranium, carnation. Rouge D’Hèrmes, Giorgio Red; Tom Ford’s Jasmine Rouge; BDK’s Le Smoking Rouge; Comme Des Garçons new Rouge – all of them take the redness of red – a colour that emanates strength and inner warmth, boldness and courage, and orchestrate their ingredients to capture its strengthening synaesthesia (on days I wear red neckties for work, I can physically sense the colour’s innate power and energy: studies have also shown that in sport, competitors or teams that wear red have a much higher statistical chance of being victorious; the human brain responds instinctively). This colour has a forthright energy and confidence – and red perfumes usually follow suit.
Rather than the all-out, jewel-loaned red carpet glamour we often associate with precious gem stones and their liquid inspiration, I find that Puredistance’s new Icon Ruby -—Rubikona, is – perhaps surprisingly – a more introverted and self-enveloping creation than we might have expected: a warm and reassuring scent that is based on the concept of the enduring love that a mother usually feels for her child. With the approach of winter, and of Christmas, and other traditional family celebrations, it thus feels apposite.
Having heard this perfume described in one review as being similar to Hermès’ Rouge Eau Delicate (in my view completely inaccurate), I will admit that before smelling Rubikona I was excitedly gearing myself up for an operatic, powdered rose – a floriental with a hint of the Tchaikovskian tragic.
Adjusting my senses to reality, I came to see that Rubikona is in fact a soft, warm and lingering ambered-patchouli, with glinting floral (ylang, iris, rose), gentle clove, and citrus facets (grapefruit, mandarin, bergamot), notes that all provide the precious sense of transparency, or translucence that the perfumer and the perfume house were looking to capture in a luxurious scent (available in extrait only) based on the ruby — and that it works nicely on its own terms. I have been enjoying wearing this perfume around the house these colder last few days – it is soothing.
Fitting effortlessly into the Puredistance collection somewhere between Warszawa and Gold, I would personally describe this perfume as a lactonic patchouli soliflore, almost like an evolved Thierry Mugler Angel or Cacharel Eden, with the delicate florals and citruses surrounded its milky halo ; quite craveable and smooth, and suffused with light. Although one of the company’s mantras for the perfume is ‘chic inside out’ (and it could certainly work that way on certain individuals, if they actually can find any elegant gatherings to go to this winter), I myself find Rubikona to be much more of a comfort scent – to spray on a freshly tumbled-dried favourite hoodie and spend all day alone. Good for introspection and defending yourself from the outside world: protective. A perfume, in other words, fit for the times.
On December 19th I will be doing an in-store book reading at the pop up Miller Harris store in Yokohama’s swanky newest department store, CIAL NeWoman. I have therefore been getting reacquainted with the house’s full range of fragrances : as with any company with an extensive catalogue of scents, I like some more than others – but it was interesting yesterday to re-experience Tender, a perfume by Bertrand Duchaufour that I had somehow overlooked.
Based on the final novel by F Scott Fitzgerald, a story of schizophrenia, decadence, lost love, and chronic alcoholism, the author apparently considered it to be his best, although it took several decades before it was recognised as being one of the Great American Novels and he died without being fully aware of its future literary and social significance.
A poignant quote from the book (which I adore for some reason, as it strikes me as getting to the very essence of things) :
” I ask you to remember. Somewhere inside me there will always be the person I am tonight”
– is written on the back of perfume’s box, and was the entire inspiration for the perfume. Miller Harris CEO Sarah Rotherham presented the idea and the brief to perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, who immediately came up with the olfactory concept of blending the green scent of fresh tulips (very French riviera of the period) and the scent of the black ink of the immortal words that were printed on the page.
The scent itself is eccentric: complex, obstinately avant-garde, as you expect with the creations of this perfumer, for whom innovation and a strong desire not to repeat himself are some of his strongest artistic motivations: in perfumes such as Déliria for L’Artisan Parfumeur, or the cute oddball that was Tralala for Penhaligon’s, Duchaufour’s palette is always experimental (“ Strange children should smile at each other and say, “Let’s play.” , one of the famous lines from the book that also seems very applicable here).
ink black tulip peony hyacinth cyclamen aldehydes
cinnamon saffron leather musk
styrax olibanum vanilla patchouli
make up Tender, a sweet, charming, and gently symphonic perfume that immediately struck D and I yesterday as being simultaneously both truly nostalgic in some unplaceable way, and yet very modernist/contemporary (and we couldn’t put a finger on what it was that it reminded us of exactly: those dry spongey banana sweets you used to get in paper bags at the confectioners? Pink carnations? Some perfume we had known in the past?)
Piquant and emotive, both scintillating and soft ; sueded, this perfume strikes a nerve.
“Later she remembered all the hours of the afternoon as happy — one of those uneventful times that seem at the moment only a link between past and future pleasure, but turn out to have been the pleasure itself.”
The perfumes of Dusita always have a ‘recognisability’. Even when the accords that Pissara Umavijani uses in her perfumes are not quite like anything you have ever smelled before (the viney green rainforest tang of the vetiver/clary sage in Erawan; the lush, flower moist rapture of Melodie de L’Amour, or the strangely beautiful esoterica of her last perfume, Le Pavillon D’Or), there is a cohesion and balance that you can grasp immediately; intuitively. You ‘know’ these scents.
For her latest release, Moonlight in Chiangmai, Ms Umavijani has created a less tenebrous and ‘difficult’ perfume than its predecessor. Although based on the idea of lunar light and moments of reflection as the perfumer looks out in contemplation onto Chiangmai, a city in northern Thailand, for me, this is not a nocturnal perfume – but an assertive and an active one for daylight.
More legible and in some ways more simple in style and execution than many of the other perfumes in the range, there is a directness to the construction here that makes this more of a commercial proposition; with the noticeably traditionally masculine main accord of Thai teak wood contacting with a warm and flinty Indian nutmeg and fresh Japanese yuzu tingling top note when the perfume first goes on, a counterpointing glowing slight sweetness that surrounds the forest rasp from subtle undertones of night blooming jasmine and benzoin, this is a more forthright and rugged fragrance for Dusita that will appeal to those who like traditional ‘male’ aromatics; a dependable warmth; and yet also, for me, with an interesting, inbuilt contradiction: while the perfumer may have been yearning for the country she was born in while isolated in lockdown in Paris and thus consciously reconstructing her homesick memories in a perfume (Despina Veneti’s interview and review of Moonlight in Chiangmai gives an in depth background to the inspiration and creation of the scent), to my nose, with its slightly retro feel and the ease of its exuberant minimalism, rather than evoking Chiangmai (a place I have never been), to me it seems clear that in spending so much time in her actual surroundings, in the Dusita headquarters on the Rue De La Sourdière in Paris – those influences and traditions have perhaps unconsciously been absorbed. Rather than the conscious ‘exoticism’ of perfumes like Oudh Infini or Fleur De Lalita, the balsamic vulnerability of La Douceur de Siam – evoking, for the western nose, far flung places and and the ‘unknowable Asian’ – this new release, in its sturdier realism (an antidote to the introspective melancholy of the times?) strikes me as being by far her most European.
Like Saint Laurent, Goutal no longer uses its original first name. I miss Annick. I also miss what is missing: the earlier perfumes’ noblesse. While this perfume house can usually be counted on to present very pleasant, fresh, French fare – thus making a release such as the crisp new orange blossom above quite commercially viable in Japan, where recent fragrances such as Rose Pompon and L’Isle au Thé will have done quite well with young female department store consumers (a recent and quite similar neroli/ lemon blossom perfume was also the cute and gentle Chat Perché, which was perfectly targeted to kawaii loving women in their early twenties, who have eschewed all sense of overt sexuality in recent years, clad in white and oat coloured baggy clothes that are very homely; self-contained; this kind of unovert floral thus ideal; quite nice, not offensive to anyone…)
But where for me the original Néroli by Annick Goutal cologne is an essential floral, I am less bowled-over by the new Le Temps Des Rēves, which opens up with a familiarly ‘bracing’ orange and neroli accord (don’t you feel there has been something of a glut of orange blossom perfumes in recent times?), but then widens out, softens, into a blander, flatter ‘bran absolute’ and musky ‘flower milk’ accord that I can imagine being effective on some people; just so; (and so feels like a certified future hit) ……but which doesn’t take me into the realms of dreams……
It is sometimes interesting to compare perfumes from different eras that have been popular in their day. To see where we are. What has changed. The colognes and aftershaves and perfumes and fragrances that men wore and wear; the tropes that they conjure. Unlike in most other areas of human history, when it comes to scent, for once, the male of the species often gets the hard end of the stick – an equivalent pour homme version made after the fact. Everyone perfume lover remembers, or at least knows the name of the chalky melancholy violet that is Le Dix. But few – except the absolute diehards – are familiar with Balenciaga for men.
The house of Jean Patou has an unreachability and ultrastatus in my mind, principally because the boxed extrait of 1000 is one of the most precious and exquisite perfume purchases you could ever make. Every step of opening the suitcase clasped box (taken out of the outer covering case, not seen here) to the reveal of the velvet tucked bottle inside, with its beautiful jade green/ red juxtaposition of bottle and stopper, to the wire cutting of the sealed chamber – like entering a forbidden bank vault; to the extraordinary oddness of the contents – is a moment of extreme pleasure. Likewise with Moment Suprēme or Joy – there is a sheening aloofness, a lofty sense of removed entitlement with Patou perfumes that gives them a certain luxurious, intrinsic value.
Thus, you will see that I was unable to resist, coming across it out of the blue yesterday in a typical Japanese ‘recycle’ shop at lunch time (where do these things come from? Who has been hiding these unwanted, unopened perfumes for decades and decades in an unwanted drawer in an house or apartment somewhere and then suddenly decides to sell it off for less than ten pounds sterling? ) – a pristine, full, boxed bottle of Patou Pour Homme, a perfume I knew absolutely nothing about, and had never smelled.
My heart leapt. I have had a pretty rough and intense couple of days for various reasons, plus my lesson was being observed later on by someone in the evening. Having found this, though – knowing that when I got home, finally, in the evening, I could open it and smell it, that it was concealed in my work bag at the back gave me an intense feeling of inner delight, as though I had somehow stolen something precious, and nobody knew my secret. I purposely didn’t look up the notes, but instead let my mind wander.
I know too well first hand from living as a teenager yearning for the other side, the monotonous restrictions of ‘men’s perfumery’, though from just looking at and holding the box in my hand I couldn’t quite work out what year it would have been released – probably I would have said seventies rather than eighties – but I didn’t want to do any research, nor, as I often do, rush to some park after work and then let it smash to the ground. This time, I exercised enough self-restraint to actually wait until I got home; cycling back from the station, not letting myself get anywhere near it (will power is truly not one of my strong points).
What would it be like?
There was something talismanic and unnameable about not just finding a vintage perfume to make my heart leap, but one that was a complete mystery. I sensed it would probably not be a light citrus chypre like my beloved Chanel Pour Monsieur; the design of the box suggested something warmer, more aromatic. Tobacco, perhaps. Could it be spiced and fascinating like Hermès Equipage? Or could it even be an untethered beast like the same house’s Bel Ami? Might it be dark and patchouli coniferous, like the wonderful Capucci Pour Homme with its heartrending final warmth on skin, or sweaty and pituitary like Christian Dior Jules? A dark, compressed macho perfume I am sometimes in the mood for; sometimes I wear and enjoy them – Azzaro Pour Homme; Givenchy Gentleman;Ungaro. Would the Patou step outside the box and have some (to me at least) as yet unknown quality to open up the vistas of masculine perfumery and experience another genus ; a new stratification?
It would not.
I am a very reactive, decisive, person, and I usually know immediately what I think of a perfume. Naturally for fairness I wait, and experience the creation in all its stages – and we all know that surprises are very often in store if you wait long enough – and as predicted, it being Patou, I knew that it was going to be high quality and well made, but to me I just sighed with a great disappointment as I realised it was just one of those. The lines and lines of similar perfumes lined up at the chemists’ and supermarkets of my youth. So boring. A scent type I have smelled a million times before – any aftershave from the era; the dusting old bottles in my maternal grandfather’s bathroom that he never touched; a generic, leather aromatic fougère with all the ingredients you would expect – grandly complex – and yet dull as dishwater. And dare I say it, banal. If I am going to go for an aromatic, I prefer the weird 80’s overload of Rochas Macassar, or the hard-bearded natural elegance of Rochas Pour Monsieur; the green exuberance of the soapily bizarre and magnificently complex Krizia Uomo; if a simple, manly leather, then my bottle of Ralph Lauren Chaps – warm, supple, loving as talcum, will do very nicely, splashed under my pyjamas at night,thank you.
To me, this is simply uninteresting. Yes, it has some warm, oriental facets, and undoubtedly would suit some people beautifully, some Mills & Boon perfection, a hunk – a douchebag, (but I would rather wear Aramis – I love the pissy tang of that one on occasion, or Kouros, one of my younger self’s true loves) ; this instead just reminds of another rare dullard I have in my collection, Carven Pour Homme…..just too….. controlled; lacklustre; a ‘man’. Stroking his chin. Being manly. And ‘game’. And yet on Fragrantica, a place that every perfume nut, myself of course included, goes to immediately for confirmation and affirmation of his or her views, or to gasp at the gaps in perception between your own, and that of the other contributors/maniacs/raving lunatics’, to my great unsurprise, this perfume, perhaps, admittedly, a sina qua non of its unflinchingly standard type, is absolutely lauded to high heaven. One of the best perfumes ever made. The best masculine ever produced. People crying out for it to be made again (as if ! This kind of smell is so outdated) – so I am very intrigued, if you happen to know or own or remember this gem yourself, what I am potentially missing here. I haven’t worn it throughout the night; just smelled it (and yawned) for a couple of hours on the back of my hand. The juice is most definitely in order, not turned – the whole thing is immaculate – the good news for me being though that on eBay, 5ml miniatures of this go for a 100 dollars, and I could get at least 400-500 if I ever decide I feel like selling the bottle.
Speaking of crowd-pleasers and the fact that my tastes do often go against the grain, particularly in cinema, where many a 95% popular and critical hit on Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes leaves both D and myself stone cold, not deliberately or perversely for the sake of it to be different, because that would be extremely boring behaviour, but just because it strikes us as slightly tedious or over earnest or just too obviously eager to win a prestigious award and thus takes no real chances and does not truly stimulate us in anyway whatsoever. We dutifully sit through these productions, stoney eyed and feeling nothing inside, then say ‘right, shall we go upstairs?’
In truth I often feel the same way about music, books, restaurants, and most definitely perfume; I guess my tastes are my own. And I am genuinely pleased for Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk
– perfumers at Guerlain – that their L’Homme Idéal series, which, like the super successful La Petite Robe Noire collection pour femme, is based on a cherry almond-tonka-vanilla soft contemporary ambered fruitchouli gourmand type of accord that everybody seems to like except me (and you), that this selection of flankers garners such fanatical praise on perfume websites and at the shelves of Sephora across the world, as it means that the coffers of the worshipful maison on the Champs Elysées will hopefully be overflowing with revenue, meaning (in an ideal world) that Guerlain will be able to maintain the quality of the classics, and continue to invest in producing interesting perfumes like some of those in the Art Et Matière and Aqua Allegoria ranges ,as well as on occasion disinterring lost wonders from the archives (or the tomb) and Lazarus-ing them back to life for our delectation.
As a Guerlain fanboy, and a person who likes to just sit and gaze at his perfume collection like King Knut on the seashore, I therefore semi-considered picking up the edp of L’Homme Ideal the other day at Opal (one of the best recycle shops in Yokohama on occasion, if you are willing to stalk it enough( and – gratifyingly – one of the only places I have ever been to that lets you actually smell things in advance of forking out your hard earned cash ; you can spray the perfumes on freely). This fortunately prevented me from buying a scent by Nobile 1942 which I thought seemed kind of horny in a Gucci Nobile kind of way, at first, but which became, yes – banal, on Duncan’s hand later on, which certainly saved me money, but there was also L’Homme Idéal there as well, which I had smelled and dismissed in the past already at some airport or other but decided to give a second chance (such an annoying name and thoroughly empty concept’ though – ‘the ideal man is a myth, but his perfume is a reality’, (what?) which is why in the advert, thousands of mindless brides are hysterically chasing a typically handsome and bankable groom down the streets like bloodhounds after a poor fox, or, as in the picture above – a flip-through-the-model-agency catalogue selection of hyper groomed ciphers all caressing and flirting with a cardboard poster – for me, the ‘campaign’, and the perfume itself, is as enjoyable as having my head filled up with cement).
L’Homme Idéal ticks all the boxes. Sweet. Rich. Warm. Cogent. Woody. Vanillic. Modern. And on my skin – though I could in a way appreciate its grandchild-of Paloma Picasso Minotaure and Jean Paul Gaultier Le Mâle’s sweet and musky lineage, and the fact that men are now allowed to move away from husky tobaccos and the stoic manliness of a bore like Patou Pour Homme and smell like cherries, it is still, for me, cloying, headache inducing – and contains no beauty. As we sat in a restaurant in Yokohama the other day after a wonderful time just aimlessly wandering around the backstreets, and I smelled this egregious smell on the back of my right hand, proffering it up for Duncan’s inspection (‘Oh God’, he says, it’s so…………sweet and unmoving and has no space to breathe inside it), I found that there was no choice but to go and scrub the gourmand encroachment right off my skin at the washbasin.
No space. No room to manoeuvre.
Just a smell.
Then again, I suppose, in some ways the judgement of this Guerlain was not entirely fair given the control circumstances.
Because look what I had just found in an old antique shop down the road, and which I was wearing all over my other hand, and which we were smelling rapturously: cooing over its inspired, and immaculate construction, the fact that it was so ambiguous and kept morphing and changing and was bloody delicate and incontrovertibly stylish and chic.
The perfumes of Atelier des Ors are really not shy. Strong, direct, sensual, and unhindered, the brand ‘poetically magnifies each of its creations in a glittering ballet of stardust’ — literally, injecting swirling flakes of pure gold leaf into each flacon. A popular niche perfume house that does very well in that fabled treasure trove of extravagance, Harrods in London, it is easy to understand why : a well made rose oudh perfume like Rose Omeyyade with its raspberry uplift, heart of pure rose, and a lingering, rich woody finish, will appeal to a wide ready made customer base; in particular, loyal Middle Eastern customers, who apparently make up a large percentage of sales in the current perfume halls (hence, perhaps, the great selections available of a wide variety of agarwood based fragrances there). At 275 dollars, these perfumes are not cheap – but not astronomical, either (relatively; in comparison with a lot of high end oud); the appeal of the packaging and presentation – like a gilded dungeon of Egyptology or a pantheon of sun gods set against 1920’s silent movie black – easy on the eye also for the casual or occasional visitor among the crowds, lost in the boisterously eager, moneyed caverns of British luxury.
The perfumes are fortunately pleasing to the nose though as well: Lune Feline one of those instantly addictive vanillas with musk and tonka, that ooze up against an orchidaceous and slightly sandalwoody backdrop and are very inwardly and outwardly sexy, purring and overt; Larmes Du Désert an almost Lutensian spiced incense reminiscent to me of Filles En Aiguilles but tighter and more arid, with elemi and cardamon over myrrh and patchouli, a tingling, burnt crystallized effect that is chic and unhurried. Iris Fauve is ‘another iris’: powdery enough; warm enough (myrrh, musk, liatris, labdanum), removed enough (bergamot, vetiver) though a hint of nargamotha and cinnamon in the centre of the scent – quite acacia leaves in autumn – gives the perfume its own voice. In any case, this iris has an understated aura to that will work if you are an orris completist, with a soft emotiveness almost akin to the classic Ombre Rose – but watch for the sweetness in the last accord as it develops on skin.
Dense and sweet does indeed seem to be an embedded codeword of this house: a contemporary ‘opulence’ painted in thick strokes that doesn’t wimp out like many thin niche perfumes do, and is definitely in the positive rather than negative (and passive aggressive – my most hated trait, present in perfumery as well as human beings) – register. Patchouli seems to be one of the most used notes: Aube Rubis a pointedly darker, cassis-tipped more ferocious Angel Redux (for me, a ship that sailed away a long time ago), but if you like the glamazonish night scents of that ilk – and many still do – this will make an enjoyable, long-lasting substitute.
Personally, I think I prefer the fresher, ‘sport’ perfumes of the more recent Riviera Collection. After all the ‘orientalia’ of the main body of the perfume house’s offerings, it is quite nice to get a burst of sea air, of grapefruit, ozonic white flowers, even if this is probably not the right season or weather to be trying such scents. Blanc Polychrome is a proper après-tennis scent, perfect for off court or lawn whites, all zesting citruses and white flower buds and clean musks; it might not smell like it exactly comes from nature, but is great for a shower and a sparkling pick me up and to brighten the conversation. Less packed-to-bursting, and more simply enjoyable, is Pomelo Riviera, the perfume from the range I would probably pick for my own use; the cheering tint of pomelo peel – astringent, like a greener grapefruit – blended cleverly to neroli, bergamot, rose, a hint of jasmine, and a light aquatic note that feels like a sea breeze: a stimulating contrast to the heartier, more ambered and embedded fare in the main range. I would certainly like to smell all of these eventually, in order to get the full picture.
Though masked, they of course recognized me from way back. I told them about the book, and they said they wanted to see it. I bought a box of Jinko Denpu – a rich and aromatic spiced agarwood because I feel like a heavier incense for the genkan (house entrance), now the colder weather has come; and the sandalwood in question – whose name I can’t read – for the kitchen. Although it possibly smells more exquisite in the box than when burned – often the case; really you should ask the assistant to light a stick on site in order to be sure ; it is still rather nice. Binding. Warming. Peaceful and uplifting.