On Bibi’s recommendation, I decided to stop off briefly at Nose Shop, Yokohama on my way to work yesterday to have a quick sniff of some of the perfumes by Perris Monte Carlo, a well regarded perfume house whose wares I had somehow deliberately neglected – probably because of the overly patterned gold flacons that don’t really appeal to me aesthetically. I had imagined they would be too loud; thick; synthetic.
In fact, this high quality line of scents may be bold and unhesitant, but most of the perfumes I smelled yesterday were also quite rich, well-crafted and impressive. Tubereuse Absolue is fantastic – a proper, full on, head-turning trumpeting tuberose that combines all the Greatest Hits of the flower in one bottle; you get the green biological aspect of Carnal Flower in part of the opening act but also the buttery nightgown fabulousness of every other niche or classical tuberose you can think of in the mix. This is a DECLARATION ( I was certainly not going to be spraying this on to go to a windowless classroom yesterday afternoon (it’s still such a horror!), but the sheer exotic splendour of this number will certainly have me going back to try it again on skin. Rose De Taif, a dark, concentrated rose, is also very full-bodied: a crimson affair, dense and inchoate, impressive, but something about it didn’t quite grab me (is there some shrill citronella in the mix with all the roses that was bringing me down?) Likewise, the ylang ylang perfume in the lineup piqued my interest initially in some ways but proved ultimately indigestible. Meaning ‘big island’ in Malagasy, seeing this name on the bottles of both Patchouli Nosy Be and Ylang Ylang Nosy Be gave me a slight pang – as I wrote in a post long ago, we were once on the verge of going to Madagascar, D about to hand over money for our extremely expensive air tickets from Japan, when we decided to cancel at the last minute because of a giant swarm of locusts that was blighting almost the entire nation and could have turned the journey into a nightmare. We were going for the vanilla – but ending up going to an organic plantation in Indonesia instead. Still, although – I was quite shocked to read this – the island off the north coast is now off limits due to violent attacks on tourists – it is not possible to go to the famed ylang ylang distillery in the now aptly named town of Hellville as you might get killed, something I would be passionate for as I do love this note – we can but dream.This perfume though – odd, ambery, spiced and offputtingly aquatic in places – doesn’t work for me. Too complicated. Too many elements. And I don’t need the cardamom. I still believe that there has never been a perfect ylang ylang perfume (discuss) : for me, the best use of this creamy yellow floral probably remains as the chief player in Nº5, but I have never encountered an ideal, fully realized solo performer. No one ever quite fully captures it. The patchouli was quite good, as was the Vanille Tahiti – solid, monothemed elixirs – but not exciting.
More impressive for me was Jasmin De Pays. It is interesting to see how artists, perfumers, can evolve and be unleashed when released from the restricting commercial pressures of giant behemoths. And yesterday I could immediately sense, internally, a feeling of unshackled liberation in the new work of Jean Claude Ellena in this recent joyful and unbridled floral. Yes, the Hermessences were very exciting for perfume freaks when they first came out – before we were drowned in so much niche in the intervening years we could no longer see the wood for the trees. At the time, all these exclusifs from the major French houses were watched closely by every overexcited fumehead such as myself because they represented a potentially exhilarating luxury alternative to the mainstream, some polished unconventionality, something soaringly unique, but in eventually always hewing to the pallid transparency that seemed to be required by the French leather giant in all the uninspiring perfumes that came out one after the other such as Le Jour D’Hermès. Kelly Caleche, Voyage etc etc etc, for me at least there was always an unpleasant, metallic wanness; something sharp and glassy that got on my nerves.
Previously, in his earlier, more full and orchestral phase, the perfumer had been freer, less constricted, making such gorgeous perfumes as Van Cleef & Arpels First, Sisley Eau De Campagne – so original, so green and perfect in summer – as was his Eau Parfumée au The Vert for Bulgari which I still wear on lazy Sundays, and the incredibly beautiful Eau Du Navigateur for L’Artisan Parfumeur, one of my personal holy grails. In La Haie Fleurie – a honeysuckle jasmine that was so bounteously romantic it made your eyes water, Mr Ellena, as with First, painted with much thicker brushstrokes, yet still always preserved a certain elegant mystery, delving into his great love of jasmine (as a boy, he would actually gather and distil lroses and jasmine in the fields of Grasse – the man couldn’t possibly have better credentials in this regard), so I was delighted to smell his jasmine for Perris, which is FULL ON. A Total Flora. Jasmine, with jasmine, jasmine, and then more jasmine. Indolic, sunny, full, with just hints of clove and marigold/tagetes, Jasmin De Pays is a somewhat straight and linear soliflore (possibly too simple), that nevertheless has an air of summery triumphance. Similar in impression to Serge Lutens A La Nuit, that perfume feels slightly flat in comparison with Jasmin De Pays, which is more rounded : robust: and full of light. Like his other recent creation for Perris, Mimosa Triannon, which is a brisk and ethereal French country side road take on mimosa wedded gently with rose and hawthorn (with some nods to the strange coolness of Mimosa Pour Moi), but fluffier; less melancholy, quite poetic, I need to go back and give some of these a proper blast.