Winter is cold and damp in Japan. People here say it is dry, and often use humidifiers, but compared to Europe the air feels chilly and moist. We are still in the balmier early stages of Autumn meets winter – the bone-chilling shroud (compared to the roasting ovens of late July and August) not usually arriving until January and February – but I myself am feeling the changes in the air acutely.
Woods are good at this time of year – sandalwoods and cedar woods, spices; vanilla: seasonal perfumes to gird the spirits.
Maison Crivelli’s Santal Volcanique is a punchy and fiery number that is the bestseller of this brand founded in 2018 by entrepreneur and traveller Thibauld Crivelli ‘ (“Glowing spice clouds, acid ashes, tremors; burning adrenaline. Ascent, 2700 meters. Beyond-black slopes; parched ylang, scorched sandalwood and cedar. Cascading coffee, cardamom crackling, roasting ginger. Roaring softness”).
I am not entirely sure how coffee ‘cascades’ exactly, but the beginning of this warming and familiar ginger-centred sandalwood (amiable and cheering) does have a flinty volcanic sulphurous whiff to it: a prominent searing ylang ylang and cardamom opening that cedes later to warmer wood notes always punctuated by the ginger : it is a vivacious scent that would work well on a young man in his early twenties wanting impatiently to pre-announce his presence. Almost like a less sulking, lighter version of Gucci Envy For Men, Santal Volcanique has a certain, quick-stepped vigour.
Bois Datchaï, another perfume in the range, is a more ambiguous scent, a soft guaiac wood and musky cedar powdered incense with a palpable heart of blackcurrant (one of the best uses of the cassis notes I have come across in perfumery) – and a soupçon of tea and cinnamon that with its quiet eroticism reminds me in some ways of Courrège’s soft cuir Empreinte. A scent that you open to over time. If the boyfriend strides a touch arrogantly and over eagerly into the cafe on the corner in his ‘volcanic’ sandalwood wantonly philosophising, she is swathed in silk scarves and this : hands in the pockets of her ivory covered leather jacket smoking and smiling wryly at his jokes, she gradually makes her presence felt more subtly, cannily.
More immediately approachable and mellower than either, the cafe owner himself is clad cozily in a modern-traditional perfume by Parisian perennials Maitre Parfumeur Et Gantier. Bois De Turquie is a classic, sweet woody spice in the mould of Feminité Du Bois with a consolidating, similar mien. A foundation of sandalwood, myrrh, bay laurel, with an understated mandarin and orange blossom top note and subtle patchouli and sweet incense in the base, this well balanced boisé would probably make a good Christmas present for a companion you might know who is scared to stray too far from conservative parameters in scent but who you secretly want to soften and nicheify just a little. Discreet. Tasteful. Easy. With a brand new knitted sweater and a glass of brandy by the fire, as we come into this winter holiday season round the Christmas tree wondering about the new year to come, all three of these pleasing scents – while not-mind blisteringly stunning – are still comforting, enjoyable : and very wearable.