Monthly Archives: December 2020

HORSES AND CHERRY BLOSSOM : : MOUSSE ILLUMINÉE by ROGUE PERFUMERY…… and THE LAST DAYS OF 2020

2020 was an ouroboros; a snake eating its own tail.

Time itself has felt compressed, elongated, stretched, quickened; repressed:

Devoured.

Christmas/ New Year 2019 feel like eternities ago to me, and yet just like yesterday. More recent than the summer or this Autumn. Whole swathes of time feel irretrievable, as though our brains themselves went on lockdown; pouches of time put away; stored. The spring feels like centuries ago. The usual, graspable continuity trashed. Our emotions mushed. Mangled. In survival mode.



How wonderful it would be to be able to just say phew, we got through the year. But despite the excitement over the vaccines, those syringes of hope that I am looking forward to having injected into me as soon as possible, the coronavirus continues to rampage its shitty way through the world, causing untold misery for hundreds of millions, billions of people, whether from struggling to survive economically because of the damage the pandemic has caused, contending with the symptoms of the disease itself, or mourning the loss of people who have died from it. I know that I am stating the obvious.

I must also say that I do feel very lucky to have been here in Japan. The country does have its strict, suppressive tendencies sometimes, but overall it is a rational, civilised, and really quite sensible place. The US has roughly three times Japan’s population but one hundred times more deaths. The UK has half Japan’s population but a far, far, higher mortality rate. Purely from the self-preservation perspective, being here in a country where masks are worn at all times inside, and out – with the crucial exception of eating and drinking – has been a blessing. The policitization of mask wearing- is surely one of the main reasons for this, as it is just so obvious, even for one as unscientific as myself, that the virus would thus have been otherwise constrained. This was a heinous blight on humanity, and so unnecessary.

What has also become more clear to me recently though is how truly complex so much all of this is; what we can realistically expect people to actually endure. What the limits are (Sorry, also, if this post is an incoherent ramble; I don’t physically have the capacity today to go back and edit this post too much, as I mentioned previously, I seem to have some kind of shoulder/arm/wrist/hand/tendon problem – possibly repetitive strain injury, and although I can write more easily on a computer as I can type very quickly – it has become almost impossible on my phone at this stage; each tap of the key too painful – it is obvious that I definitely need to see a medical professional about it at the earliest opportunity if I can do so safely in Tokyo. So frustrating. . I literally can’t even spray a perfume with my right hand – the very height of effeteness. So it would probably be better for me to just sit staring at a screen rather than posting on one. Just riding out the rest of 2020 with yet another TV show. It is just that writing The Black Narcissus all through this year; being able to express so many different sides of (my) life and feelings and thought processes in a way that has been so stress-relieving : interacting, having a space where I am able to vent, knowing how others have themselves been doing, has been a wonderful experience in itself. I have felt connected. ‘A room of one’s own’. A world apart from the grubbier, shabbier, aggressive, and cell-ravaging real one. So today, on the last year of 2020, I just wanted to really say thank you, and to wish everyone a much happier and safer 2021. Our communication has meant a great deal to me. And I hope that it will continue.

Where was I?

Oh yes, I wanted to write about my hypocrisy.

One thing that I have realized, recently, as I was saying, is the fact that it is so easy to make pronouncements, nonchalantly, about various aspects of this difficult time, particularly in relation to other people: one of mine being, what is wrong, precisely, with having to stay in the house? Why are you bored? What’s wrong with being at home all the time? Isn’t it better than being out there and risking dying from asphyxiation and virulent fevers? It is, but I don’t think I have quite taken into account the strain that many people have been under, nor the individual character traits that make different people react as they do to being denied stimulation and human contact. Extroversion/introversion. Physically active, vs physically lazy (like me). Everyone has been under pressure and stress: each, with their own particular predicaments. For me, teaching in a mask, sometimes several two hour lessons at one time, in environments that have been very far from safe, with almost no ventilation, and zero social distancing; a viral hotbed (both D and I have had students or their family members who have tested positive; we know it is in the population and must be in the air around us, and this has caused me to just zone out, pretend it isn’t real, which I know is a great stressor in itself, that lie ——the consequence of which being that any free time, any days off just spent here, feel like bliss. Just dancing alone in the kitchen to old records, a big middle finger to Miss Corona.)

At the same time, now that I can’t spend my days writing, and am off work, I find myself waking up thinking how the hell am I going to fill up my days. Writing on here is my lifeblood; but for the time being I probably can’t actually do it. This is a great blow. Even lifting a book or a newspaper is painful, so I can’t really even read. All I can do is watch Netflix. Which is great, but also after a while, more than a little stultifying. Or go for a walk. And I suppose this is what a large majority of people have been feeling all along , as well. Especially those who don’t necessarily feel the need to express themselves publicly like this. For the more active type of person, the more naturally socially cooperative, not being able to go anywhere or do the usual things you do must be extremely hard to deal with, day after dull day. Wake up. Repeat. Go to bed. In this regard I myself am the opposite: my work days require such a great deal of exertion that I am always contented to be at home. Until now. Now I understand more how my and D’s parents have been feeling; my friends stuck at home working on Zoom, just trying to hold their family households together but without any letup. Boredom is not something I usually suffer from. But in these new circumstances, I can feel it slowly encroaching.

Another way that I have been hypocritical – very – is about going out.

I have berated my parents for going to a restaurant on my mother’s birthday, when they were gasping for some kind of social atmosphere, to properly celebrate the occasion, and have a meal cooked by somebody else (we all know that these are the most dangerous places for infection) – but despite what I said to them in warning, I can’t deny that D and I have been eating out all along since the end of the first lockdown – and even before. Partly because it simply hasn’t been as dangerous here, for whatever reasons, but also because in my case, greed overcomes common sense – and everyone else has been eating out too. True, compared to a normal year there has been virtually no socialising at all. We don’t really meet friends. No one has stayed over at our house (very unusual). We haven’t been to Tokyo at all. I have seen people socially in the flesh maybe five or six times all year.. So in that sense, we have been very careful.

Recently, however, it feels as though it has been unravelling. I tut when I see the pictures of people out on the streets in the UK, shopping for Christmas, but then I myself have an event in a department store where I can’t help hugging my friends, and then end up asking a group of ten of them if they fancy a cocktail on the top floor because I just wasn’t able to stop myself ; a place where we were all sat together with our masks off, next to a margarita Mexican lounge thronging noisily with people laughing and eating and drinking. I think we were even sharing some nachos. Insanity. And this includes an older friend of mine who has some serious respiratory problems and should be taking the most serious of precautions but was out having a drink anyway because he just really thought fuck it – I need this, and it was so nice (but in retrospect so very stupid). A different part of your brain takes over. The Pleasure Principle. You forget how much you have missed doing it; talking to people face to face; how integral other people are to your existence.

A week later, my Japanese colleagues and I went for a lovely walk in the forest overlooking the temple complexes of Kenchoji and Hansobo as arranged; there was Mt Fuji, and the ocean – the sun was bright, and it looked incredibly beautiful. We had a lovely lunch at the soba place one minute from our place. And they came back to my house to listen to records and drink wine. Talk and eat English mince pies. Wearing masks just didn’t seem right. And so we didn’t , except intermittently. Again – foolish. And then, just a few days ago, on the way back from Atsugi we met Michael – who we haven’t seen for a year, since making the ‘Martin’ video in Osaka (which is in a state of emergency): Kamakura was packed; we went to a bar, a restaurant overlooking a Japanese garden at night that we chose for its sparsity, but then after for a nightcap there was another place, maskless with young women and each other; talking for hours. I feel that we have been reckless at every turn, and a part of me hates myself for not having been stronger; having had more will power to just be clinical and logical. Not risking infection with a terrible disease. What is the psychology of this? Have you been at all similar? Or have you been dutifully locked away the whole time? Have you been a perfect model, coronacitizen? I have tried, but I definitely can’t claim first or second prize. I think in my own case, it is partly the fact that I am constantly in a swirl of people at work with no protections, and can’t avoid taking crowded public transport, although always masked, masked, masked (I can’t wait not to wear a mask any more! ) – so I suppose being constantly immersed in this congested, human soup I have become a little gung-ho. We even went and stayed at a hotel at the seaside.

Admittedly, the New Fujiya Hotel, a classic institution we have never been to before, very popular with couples, extended families, all kinds of people,was strict about Covid-19 prevention measures. Sanitiser everywhere, preordained masks; obviously the mass breakfast buffet was hands clean first and then rubber gloves before you could touch anything, but still, everyone there, to some extent, was taking a risk (again, why? Should we not all just have been stuck in our houses? Then again, the number of deaths is far less than the annual flu here……….).

Just in front of this blue neon sign on the front of the hotel was a rotenburo, an outdoor hotspring that was good for my aching skeleton, even though it was strange to be walking stark naked in the cold afternoon onto a balcony little sheltered from the strong winds. The thermal waters themselves were very soothing, even if soaping down and showering beforehand felt anti-intuitive and a little chilly.

Pre-bathing, as J-hotels usually do, the establishment had its own selection of signature toiletries; available for sale, of course, at the hotel gift shop in the lobby; a honey shampoo/conditioner/body soap, a camellia one, and my favourite – horse oil and cherry blossom, a bottle of which I even took home with me as an Atami souvenir. On a poster, they even went to the trouble of breaking down the shampoo into top notes, middle notes and base notes, a la perfume.

The smell is lovely, actually. Not quite vegan, to say the least, or of that ilk, but with the sakura and rose and cherry and almond it smells like Loutens Louve and Elizabeth Taylor’s Diamonds & Rubies, and I am always on the look out for new shampoos that suit my remaining follicles. Glowing from the waters, soothed deeply in the muscles and skin, we went back to our room, got dressed and went out to our favourite Chinese restaurant (oh the chicken ) wandering the always delicately run down and haunting streets of Atami, a deserted if tourist-populated place that stems from another time, but nevertheless always bids us return.

Down at the beach, Christmas Eve, as scattered crowds gathered, stood apart, on the sands, there was, to our surprise (we only heard about it ten minutes before) , a special Covid-19 Christmas five minute firework display. Despite the winds, we decided to huddle with the other people there, socially distanced. At first, after rampacious Queen’s Thank God It’s Christmas had echoed strangely along the coastline, ghostly reverberating in the delayed feedback promenade tannoys announcing the beginning of the show, those there looked out to sea, the harbour, expecting the horizon to be lit up with colour. Instead, as a J-pop christmas hit about the Holy Night began on the radio station and the fireworks began, we had to adjust our expectations to economic reality, as a rather small scale celebration of Christmas ‘fire flowers’ took place to the right by a jetty.

As the voice over the loud speaker thanked us for being there and urged us now to go back to our hotel accommodation for virus safety, I felt a little desolate for a few moments as though in North Korea; while the old song from Pinocchio, When You Wish Upon A Star came on unexpectedly to the sound system; , its timbre perfect, its timelessness and emotivity potent as I thought back over past Christmases with my family and I found myself crying – sad, yet perfectly happy to be alive in the moment.

On Christmas Day and Boxing Day, D was wearing Rogue Perfume’s Mousse Illuminée. He also wore this scent this time last year, when we went to the hot springs in Hakone, where I remember its red-coloured woody mossiness being perfect in the cold, mountainous air. This year, with its coniferous tang over cedar, it smelled, to me, purpler, in tone, like grapes ; regal ; a celebratory aspect that went ideally with our walks around the neighbouring hot spring towns of Yugarawa and Manazaru.

I remember at that time last year I was going to write a full review of this perfume, but somehow the days passed over the New Year holidays into 2020, December bled into January and then everything happened ; first in China, then over here, with the cursed Diamond Princess docked in Yokohama back in February, a time when none of us had any idea of the global ramifications of it all but I was here, ranting and raving on the Black Narcissus about the incipient dangers to us all like a deranged Cassandra. The stress was mounting. There was a head in the sand evasion among the authorities in Japan, a pretending nothing was happening; then all of a sudden we went into lockdown, a strange and unnatural-while-totally- natural time that passed by so quickly and yet so slowly, days repeated, a grip on life, the anchor of the daily routine fallen to the sea bed of subconsciousness. You never really knew what day it was, or even the date or the month; time, as we knew it, had definitely changed. Some of you reading this have probably been in this situation ever since that time ; some alone, not even with the comfort and psyche-preservating bedrock of a partner to talk about it all to and share meals with; I do realise that people who have truly been isolated have had it really hard. But even for those in more fortunate positions, the uncertainty, fear and worry of it all as you ‘grimscroll’ or whatever the expression is through bad news after bad news has taken its toll; an ‘end of days’ panic; even if you were in relative comfort and could enjoy the new quiet, the stepping back from the frantic alarm clock normality, there was still that underlying apprehension. Always. Like a lump in the psychological throat. For me, these blocks of time; abnormal, extreme, were something I just plunged into like everyone else ; the initial doom-of–dark-clouds lingering above wherever your mind went in order not to go mad, but thus, losing track of time in the process; then, for me and D and all the sweating teachers of Japan, the contrasting havoc of plastic face shields in boiling hot July when I was thrust back into it all or else lose my job (being the only person in the company refusing to go in to the office had put in me a precarious position), and going back – though part of me thrilled to interactions in the classroom, it was still a time I only could get through each day, with my eye on the finishing line of each term, exhausting (relatively, of course: I can only vaguely imagine what it must have been like all of this time being hospital workers fighting to keep patients alive day and night. In fact I can’t imagine it. And I know have no right to complain). On top of it all, though, to really fuck us in the head and heart and soul and everywhere else, of course we then had to have the truly torturous, extended electro-convulsive shock treatment of the American Election, which in its future Orwellian implications – actually more dangerous to humanity in the long run than the coronavirus – left me truly battered, quasi-lobotomised; bound for intense and longing hibernation the moment it seemed that we might finally be out of the water.

Perhaps this is why last Christmas feels more recent: because the subsequent ten months were just too much for the mind to take in. I remember D and I walking along in the crystal cold air of Hakone, at the end of 2019, waiting for the bus to take us up to the hot spring, the comforting semi-new school aroma of the Rogue Perfume hanging in the clarity of the trees around him. Fast edit in my mind clip to just a week ago, and he was still wearing it, like a continued moment (A little too Ralph Lauren Polo-like to be a regular feature, I did still really enjoy smelling this on him this year and I think it might become a regular Christmas Scent. I was wearing my vetiver oil – my staple of this yea – and some Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Racine).

This Christmas Day itself we wandered happily and aimlessly, out in the open air; a warm December day, by the sea. In the evening, after a fantastic meal in a French restaurant (again taking risks…..my god the crispy crab quiche and perfect pumpkin soup though .. ) we Facetimed with our families; D’s grinning nieces and nephews and his brother and sister-in-laws and parents in the kaleidoscope of the Zoom frame; my parents in their red jumpers and Christmas hats; my sister, in London, unable to get home – wrenching, but, again, also a reminder of how much technology has been an absolute godsend this year. The true isolation, otherwise, would have been hellish.

It has been an indelible year: terrible. Yet despite the distress of it all , I feel that I have been extremely lucky. The effect on the world of this virus has been huge. For different people in different, and unique ways. We will be talking about it for decades to come. Monumental. And I personally have had it comparatively very easy, even if it hasn’t been a picnic for me either, I have to say: each of us has their own problems and issues to contend with: I have in fact had other experiences unconnected to this, connected to some close family members, that have been truly like nightmareish horror – convulsions to the spirit that have made me ill – but which I can’t discuss. My parents have suffered terribly, but continually managed to have a brave and cheerful face whenever I have called, and if you are reading this, I must tell you I love you for it. It has been very tough for both of them. It has also impacted my own health, and my mind. Work has not been easy. Being a ‘foreigner’ has its challenges. Simultaneously, I cannot deny that me and D have had a blast: making films, writing, going on short trips, binge-watching TV series, smelling perfumes, walking around beautiful Kamakura, dancing around the kitchen; . I feel appreciative of things; the important things. Yes, it has been a maelstrom, and I sincerely wish, for all of humanity, that next year is far, far better. More peaceful. More stable. Let the vaccines work; let some sensible, decent people take control, and let’s put 2020 behind us. We do not need a repeat. What this mad, bad, dangerous year has also taught me though, is how resilient people are; and how exhilarating life can be on a daily basis, how precious. And, because of my naturally hedonistic tendencies and what might be described as reckless behaviour – as detailed above (and the inherent desire for physical contact: which you don’t even quite recognize in yourself after a while – you know, some of us just couldn’t help giving each other a hug the other week at the talk I gave because we did it even before we had a chance to even realise we were doing it ) – a deeply keen awareness of the vast, messy, contradictory chaos of being human.

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STOLEN : THE SECRET CHANEL PERFUME AT THE HEART OF ‘BLACK SWAN’

The Black Narcissus

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Just watched Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Mother!’ again

(which my own mother HATED, possibly with good reason, though I think I kind of like it, as did Duncan and my sister)

Any thoughts?

via STOLEN : THE SECRET CHANEL PERFUME AT THE HEART OF ‘BLACK SWAN’

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December 29, 2020 · 5:03 pm

BAL A VERSAILLES FOR CHRISTMAS


Spending a few days in the Atami hot springs for the therapeutic waters.

Can’t say no to a 5 dollar unopened parfum de toilette from a junk shop in the classic crystal flacon. Can’t wait to try it when we get home (I am not taking my chances with this one)

Have a great time whatever you are doing x

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THE DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS EVE : ANGEL by THIERRY MUGLER

https://theblacknarcissus.com/2016/12/24/the-day-before-christmas-eve-angel-by-thierry-mugler-1992/

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Fun at the Miller Harris event, yesterday afternoon.

Thanks to the staff and my friends for coming x

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December 20, 2020 · 11:03 am

roll out the red carpet

An announcement for my in-store appearance at the department store in Yokohama tomorrow.

I am mentioned precisely at the 20:00 mark.


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvt9t5ffyjU

Hopefully see some of you there tomorrow! It will of course be socially distanced and masked.

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‘THE JOY OF EXTRAITS’ : : PERSOLAISE INTERVIEW WITH THE BLACK NARCISSUS FOR THE PERFUME SOCIETY’S ‘SCENTED LETTER’

PERSOLAISE : Would you agree that the extrait is the most luxurious form of a perfume?

THE BLACK NARCISSUS : I suppose it could be argued that buying an extravagantly huge bottle of vintage Shalimar cologne and splashing it on willy-nilly over yourself would also be an undeniably luxuriant experience – truly indulgent – but at the same time, the experience of taking a boxed extrait from your perfume cabinet, carefully removing the inner box with its plush velvet interior and lovingly applying some precious Shalimar extrait from the stopper (knowing that with each drop you use from the 7.5ml you have been given, the contents gradually disappearing, almost a mascochistic pleasure) cannot entirely be beaten. Just that one drop, which will unfurl and reveal itself over time and reveal the essence of the perfume’s message. There is something special about all of this.

Why do you think extraits fell out of favour?

Perhaps because popular fragrances became so strong and powerful in the 80’s and 90’s (Giorgio etc), that no one needed a more potent version of the same thing when the mileage was already so impressive with a simple ‘edt’ (having said that, the original extrait of Calvin Klein’s Obsession is actually pretty sublime), or else the perfumes in question were ozonic, aquatic – light by design.

And why do you think they are becoming a bit more popular?

Regarding the current rise in popularity of extraits, the cynic in me thinks it just another way to capitalize on ‘exclusivity’, by making already expensive perfumes even more so (it is amazing to think how reasonable the old extraits were!). On the other hand, it is possible that perfume lovers are just rediscovering the enjoyment to be had from a more private experience that is less about sillage and more about a certain private intensity.

Do you think that some perfumes were ‘born’ to live as extraits, whereas some simply work better as an edt or an edp?

I do. Grès Cabochard is incomparable in the extrait; the balance of the leather patchouli hyacinth combination is perfect; I find the top notes in the light versions extraneous, almost an obstacle to ‘get through’, where in the most concentrated version it just is what it is, how is was ‘meant to be’. Other perfumes, say Givenchy Ysatis, I am not sure benefitted from having an extrait version, as the gorgeousness of the edt allowed all the multifaceted components to shine through more fully. You shouldn’t necessarily try to ‘condense’ something which is perfect already.

To be honest, it all depends on the type of perfume that are in vogue at any one time. I don’t think fruity florals or ‘florientals’ lend themselves as well to the eau de toilette/ parfum stratification as well say, say, the chypres did. The vintage extrait of Yves Saint Laurent Y, for example, is very dark and moss/ patchouli rich, quite private, moody and autumnal, whereas the far fresher edt was all honeysuckle and mirabelle plum and green notes that made it incredibly joyful and springlike. If you were an Y lover, you could have modulated the precise tone of the perfume you wanted on any given day, wearing either/ or depending on the weather, or both together for more layered and intriguing effect. I can’t imagine the same thing happening with a perfume like Angel.

Many other perfumes also come in different concentrations, of course, almost making them feel like entirely different scents; in which case it is a question of trying them and seeing which iteration speaks to you personally. While many people adore the No5 extrait, for the quieter, but more concentrated and fulsome jasmine ylang rose triumvirate over the very perceptible old fashioned musk and iris that holds it all together, for me, in the extrait you totally lose the essential aldehydic triumph of Ernest Beaux’s creation, which needs the lighter zest and delirium-inducing orchestrations in the edt to properly shine through. I also never really felt that Après L’Ondée entirely worked as a parfum (despite the chilly, extra cold almond-stone atmosphere that the now discontinued extrait contained……..) as it was actually even more attenuated and shy than the original (which is very diffident to begin with!).

What defines an extrait? Is there something operatic? Intimate?

Some extraits are truly operatic: outrageous. The old Carons were like a miniaturised box at the opera and the stage and the theatre as well; opening up with crenellated satin fan interiors like a diva’s drawing room, taking up a huge amount of space on the dresser: attention-seeking, resplendent, to reveal the star of the show – the bottle of extrait – at the centre. A perfume like Poivre studded with tears and glowering with spiced menace, was a true duchess and prima donna. Mess with her at your peril.

At the other end of the spectrum, because you usually apply an extrait with a stopper, not the more workaday action of spraying from a slight distance, physically touching your skin in order to be judicious about how much you want to wear – there is a bond between you and your perfume once this ritual has been enacted – and that action in itself makes this form of perfume far more intimate.

If you had to choose…..

No19 vintage extrait is my ultimate perfume in terms of just smelling fantastic; a scent I can trust, and admire very deeply. But if I am honest with myself, I don’t know that I love it more than Vol De Nuit, which is so extraordinary and emotive in extrait it truly takes me to another realm……

Some of these decadent Narcissian quippings form part of Persolaise’s recent piece on Extraits, the full article of which you can find in the latest edition of The Perfume Society’s Scented Letter.

Thank you to Persolaise for letting me pontificate on these glorious preciousnesses. x

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“What colour is the scent that makes love bloom? …….. ………..that MADE love bloom………….” SHISEIDO SUZURO (1976)

I found and bought this yesterday. Suzuro vintage parfum (30ml) by Shiseido. I had never even heard of it. It was there. I got it for 25 pounds but it is up for grabs on eBay for $550. Ultra-rare. Apparently Shiseido’s ‘best perfume’. Impossible to find. I thought I should get it.

A museum piece.



What does it smell like?

No 19 crossed with Arpège.

Admittedly neither; but also definitely also completely both.

I offered my wrist to D when he came home after the scent had procured itself for a few hours on my skin.

“Is that not Arpège?”

“It is.”

” And is this “,

(dabs stopper onto the back of hand) ” not 19?”

“It is. Wow.

“???????”

For anyone who knows these two perfumes as intimately as I do (and I know there are plenty of you out there), this is a very odd thing.

On the skin, at first, the hyacinth/galbanum/vetiver/iris/neroli chic amalgam is immediately the Chanel seventies masterpiece – which Shiseido had already commemorated in its far less expensive local Japanese drugstore perfume Murasaki- but also, in its soul, nothing like it. This is Shiseido. I feel echoes. It has its own heart. some memories of Inouï, and Shiseido Kamakura. Something local ( the Shiseido factory is just down the road).

Even so, as we know, vintages are different, accentuate different facets….. so on first inhalation I definitely felt that this could easily be just a slightly, mysteriously different 19 (but what is that I am smelling……..is it …….chamomile?). Sharp, citric; very green…..

Quickly, a different personality takes over; a more tamed, calming, and domestic mimosa and sandalwood-led aspect – fuzzier, tender, rather lovely – that eventually leads to a slightly sharper version of Arpège (one parent from 1927, another from 1970, how odd.)….

Doppelgängers mating; and giving birth to a hale, and very sensible, mysteriously intelligent lovechild. ….

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all i want for christmas is a cache of vintage caron

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VIOLET AMBROSIA by MANDY AFTEL (2020)

I got an email out of the blue recently with this photo from my friend A in London (she works in the Houses Of Parliament and doesn’t like to be identified), saying :

“I blame you”.

There was a photo of a flower attached.

“I was re-reading something you wrote about Keats and Rome and violets …..”

“So I blame you.”

It turned out that A had also coincidentally been to the very same cemetery that I used to languish in as a university student many years ago, and through the intensity of those recollections had now felt compelled to order some quite expensive violet plants to place on the balcony of her London flat ; a selection that had included

Viola Odorata ‘Alba’.

Viola Odorata ‘Colombine’.

and

Viola Odorata ‘Donau’.

She sent me a picture of another one – a rather unimposing little thing – that had just flowered.

‘Oh my god. Does it smell like a violet?’ I asked (I would love to have perfumed violets in my proximity).

‘YES’ – came the reply.

Somehow, violets have come up several times in our conversations (we met thirty years ago at Cambridge and then again at my book launch last year at Rouillier White – an amazing gathering of people I hadn’t seen for decades). She was persuaded enough by my review of Geoffrey Beene’s green-violet heavy Grey Flannel to go and check it out (now a staple, I believe);both of us love the scent of these passionately timid flowers in their mauve and green vulnerability, and are always on the lookout for a new one.

While it is sometimes satisfying to wear a florid, regally powdered number like Violetta Nobile , or a sweet, fluorescent violetta such as Insolence, it is also rare to find a more natural, violet perfume that isn’t overly concentrated on the bitterly head-piercing note of natural violet leaf absolute, which I only personally enjoy in traces. Mandy Aftel’s new Violet Ambrosia does have an undertone of that sharply green oil, but it is blended skilfully with a classically floral proper violet heart note as well as an unexpecteddance partner of genista monspessulana :: broom absolute.

This is an interesting choice of contrast : the cheering, yellow floral broom note makes a sunny counterpoint to the more doleful violets, even if on my own skin there is a slightly sour, oily, ‘vintage Caron’ aspect for a few minutes before the violets decrescendo into a calming and soothing mimosa-soft finish with violets still apparent throughout (and probably more so on paler, more delicate skin types). Samantha at I Scent You A Day fell in love with this one immediately, and it is definitely recommended for anyone who likes the small privacy of violet flowers respiring from a carefully appointed place on morning wrists. A scent to potter around the house to.

A – I don’t know if Violet Ambrosia quite has that edge you seem to like in scent (and I don’t know if you would go for the hints of sandalwood and vanilla in the heart), but for its deceptive simplicity, and the lovely gentle and sincere finish on the skin – a perfume ‘for a new day’, I do think you might want to add a sample of this one to your violet purchase list. X

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