There is always a great deal of talk about performance and projection on perfume-nut websites, as though one were test driving a Maserati. At the current niche prices, however, it is perfectly understandable that purchasers of high-end cult perfumes value mileage per millimetre. You want your scent to smell good from start to finish, and you want it to last. Hence the prevalence of nuclearized wood amber oud bombs that never end and coil the intestines in disgust; or else the ululating, fake vanillic cyberflorals that singe off one’s eyelashes. With olfactory tenacity, there needs to be some midway level for me of pleasuring the senses while not dominating my vision, but, conversely, not just dissipating into nothing.

Currently, I am in quite a niche-appreciating mode of olfactory being, having, to my surprise, not just tolerated, but actively enjoyed wearing several recent releases. For whole days at a time. As I come back into a much more balanced and cheerful state of mind after all the mayhem of this last year and a half, I find myself more curious about samples I may not properly have taken time to analyze sul serio : I have some Symphonie Passion, for instance, by Unum – a house I tend to be quite drawn to – but this had laid forlorn and ignored in my bedroom for a few years until I randomly tried it again yesterday and found myself liking its delicate architecture and understatedness. It is very nice; a soft yet initially sharp aromatic vetiver/cedar with an unusual top note of peony alongside a press release of sheer gobbledygook (the alarming levels of utterly incomprehensible drivel from perfume houses that are pumped out by automatic translation apps – though I often doubt whether the original copy for these hyperbolized spreadsheets of machine-like purple prose was much better in the first place – is almost, now, an ironic and quite hilarious art form in itself: many a night has seen me and D laughing in the kitchen reading through the latest risible blurb that often doesn’t even approach basic grammatical competency. Passion is infectious, but it does need some lexical constraints). I enjoyed the Comme Des Garcons 2-like edges in this scent, though, the contrasting sharpness and softness, even if overall, it is not especially longlasting. At $210 dollars for 100ml, however, and with a bottle (above) that I find quite covetable and stylish, I would definitely consider getting this one – I like to have weekend scents that I just feel comfortable in; to just tune out to.

Another perfume with soft vetiver in its heart is the peculiarly waxen, powdery; slightly putrid, but still charming Casanova by Tiziana Terenzi ; a perfume that I was surprised to find myself craving last weekend when watching a ridiculous genre serial killer film called Solace on Netflix. This is one of those perfumes whose ultimate structure and blend of accords I instinctively felt from the offset just somehow didn’t quite work, and yet the sum of the whole adds up to something that eventually crawls its way into your bedsheets; or at least under your skin. I would be quite unable to tease apart the notes of this perfume by myself – looking at the brand’s website, it turns out that the ambered/boisé base accord that I find rather troubling is composed of leather, myrrh, guaiac wood – never a favourite note of mine – cardamom, and the usual musk, sandalwood, ambroxan and vetiver; while the top notes feature fig leaf, pink pepper, jasmine and orchid: no wonder these weird, antituitive combination of notes – which smell of makeup, perhaps Casanova’s own, as well as his conquests as he climbs up into Venetian bedchambers to notch up yet another love conquest – feel uncannily unamalgamated. And yet something really works about it; something bodily and pleasantly intrusive, even if, it has to be said, at the end of the day, the stamina of the scent is a little weak. With a name like this, you could be forgiven for expecting a perfume with a lot more skin-clinging manpower.

Immensely enjoying record shopping and perfume hunting on a bright sunny day in Yokohama this last Monday prior to Duncan’s birthday (honestly, I feel like a completely different person since vaccination, and yes, don’t worry, I am aware of the persistent dangers and am not being stupid, or overly risktaking, but still, the change inside me right now is dramatic, feels revolutionary; unified in mind and body; not fractured and constantly in a state of bare suppressed fury and fear :: I can think clearly, and not about that) —- and so was blissfully able to concentrate on what I was perusing in each shop I went to, as though this were the only thing in the world that I would ever have to think about ever again; the amoeba level joys that sometimes exist in proper Shopping Therapy. Although I had wanted to possibly get UNUM LAVS for D, as the pope of my affections, only Nose Shop Shinjuku stocks this particular brand and I am still not comfortable heading right into the heart of the metropolis; instead I chose the not dissimilar Liquides Imaginaires’ Sancti, a beautifully balanced nutmeg/ ginger aldehydic frankincense that smells perfect. For myself, I lingered over several perfumes in the store, including the new Velvet Tonka by Parfums BDK, a house that has gained some fame for its rather gorgeously cherry coke amber, Rouge Smoking. Initially seduced by the gorgeously lilting sweet almond oil of Velvet Tonka melting into a vanilla, rose and powerfully coumarinic heart of tonka bean essence, as the day went on, on me, it started to teeter into nausea; far too strong, even withstanding several sessions of automatic train station foam soap and water. The persistently woody note of amyris and ‘amberwood’ – a chimera of a monster note that always gets my inner alarm bells ringing – were like hidden pillars of stubbornness erected through the entirety of the scent from top to bottom in a way that detracted, for me, from the ‘velvet tonka’ hidden in the heart, but which still might nonetheless prove quite sensual – this reminded me somewhat of the buttery sensuality of the original Moschino, or even the strange dissonances inherent in Paloma Picasso Minotaure – – – – quite the sex monster on particular individuals – – just not on me.

The final perfume on Monday that immediately prickled my fancy on first impressions, and which I had a couple of sprays on skin, was Experimentum Crucis by Etat Libre D’Orange, an aromatic chypre that is perhaps the closest I have ever come to finding a substitute for my beloved L’Occitane Patchouli. Complex, expensive, an undeniably well-structured creation by star perfumer Quentin Bisch, the main accord of this intriguing scent is a flinty patchouli-rose aromatica laced with honey, jasmine and akigalawood, with an unusual top accord of cumin, apple and litchi. Though not mentioned as a note used in the perfume, the overall effect of the perfume is very fresh peppery, with a dry, essential patchouli note that gathered and gathered in strength as the day went on to a point I eventually found oppressive. Though D said he quite liked it on me when we met up much later in the evening, there was something too spiny about the note – pointy as a black pencil lead, that was piercing through into my back brain as the day went on, and that made me realize, at the inner instinctive level, that this is not something I could or would want to carry off. Perhaps, as with La Traversée Du Bosphore, Bertrand Duchaufour’s poison-apple-laced perfume for L’Artisan Parfumeur, there is something about the artificial syntheticity of certain fruit notes, particularly ‘apple’, that always put an undesirable, secretly unwanted venom in my chalice. I do like my perfumes to be present, and there, but also somewhat in the background of my consciousness, not vying for my attentions, like a nemesis.


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  1. Robin

    You made all of these sound so interesting and unusual that I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching them a little more. Talk about opinions running the gamut. Shows how subjective it all is. Intriguing and frustrating. I suffer from perfume lover’s FOMO: thinking that somewhere out there is a fragrance, probably niche and obscure and insanely expensive and impossible to get, that will blow the doors off of every single bottle I’ve ever tried.

    I don’t know if any of these would be that, but you sure have me wanting to try them, just so my nose can have a bit of fun experiencing them — the good, bad and ugly.

    This phrase caught me above many fascinating, contradictory Neilesque ones scattered through this: “Slightly putrid, but still charming.” That scrambles my brain, N.!!!!!

    P.S. I gave a dear young friend a decant of vintage Quadrille and got to thinking whether I’d ever read a review of it from you. I don’t think you’ve ever done one. You MUST. You could go all ultra-deep-purple prose on it and entertain us thoroughly. It is SO good. I’d forgotten just how good.

    • Quadrille…….floating just off somewhere into my brain, soft and Mitsouko-y; I am not sure where my bottle of it is, but will now have to revisit it!

      As for these random quadroon of fumes, yes – exactly what you say. None perfect – though I may want the Unum, simply because it is harmonious, and the strange peony note is an interesting counterpoint to the more mellow vetiver. The Casanova….I would like your views on this one. It is WRONG. Waxy and inharmonious, but there IS some poetry in there somewhere and I literally did wake up craving that, and only that, on that one weekend morning. Also the Crucis – I can imagine NEEDING a dot of that particular, lychee-pepper-patchouli, either to layer with something else, or just on a whim. But at 30,000 yen, it might be too much of a waste. The Velvet Tonka was definitely too sickly – but I did love the opening!

  2. Interesting fragrances, but I don’t know if any would be to my liking. Sancti, which you purchased for D, would be more my thing.

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