TWENTY TWO OLFACTORY MEMORIES OF 2022

1.The ridiculously good smell of Rogue’s Jasmin Antique on my mother :

I had sent a bottle of Manuel Cross’s extraordinarily life-like jasmine to my mum a couple of years previously as I knew immediately that this was a good one, but it wasn’t until we met in Windsor at the Royal Adelaide Hotel in August that I got to experience this in person. Wow. Admittedly insistent and unwaning, the simple, but genius formula, of living jasmine flowers gently decorated with a little vanilla, clove essence and musk, drifting on the surrounding breeze is like no other.

The best jasmine ever made.

2. The gardenia in my wallet:

The very best perfume I smelled all year was honestly this : I plucked an exquisitely perfumed gardenia from a neighbourhood bush at night; enclosed it in my leather wallet, and when I opened it the next day the scent was almost obscenely beautiful. Paying at the cash register, with shop assistants registrably noticing the scent as I handed over my enfleuraged 1,000 yen notes, has never been more amusing nor so thoroughly ecstacizing.

3. Boiled ginger and fried chicken curry :

This year was the best ever at work for me: a serene and very unstressful, mutually respectful environment (and openable windows!). I have some lovely colleagues, one of whom, Mr K, with his openness, kindness, and insistence on a positive atmosphere, has made a huge difference to my daily life. You get to know each other’s foibles and habits: he spends all his money on mod cons for his expensive new home and motorbike, and thus economizes by eating the same thing everyday : very cheap fried chicken and Japanese curry. I am always microwaving ginger in rooibos for health : the two scents mingle: they are familiar to everybody around us.

4. One Day’s Pu’er Tea

All niche perfumeries have ‘discovery sets’ now where you can peruse 2ml vials of the often overextensive catalogue of fragrances in each collection. The bottles in this sample collection were bigger; enough to get a real handle. Sometimes I find that it is easy to overlook the best fragrances in any selection because you are drawn to the more unusual or outrageous: this was also true, at first, with Hong Kong perfumery’s One Day’s tea collection, which was immediately appealing to me, especially the Jasmine and Osmanthus. Oolong was by far the most unusual; Pu’er, essentially a sandalwood tea, the least surprising – but it was, eventually, also a real slowburner of love and recognition. The gentle, refined sillage glow of this on the D is probably my favourite perfume on him all year.

5. The smell of flying:

Everything about being on an aircraft headed elsewhere, from the plastic of the overhead lockers to the scents worn by the tightly dressed stewards and stewardesses to the slow familiar heat up of the onboard meals, smelled utterly exhilarating for me when we first sat down on our Etihad Airways flight and ordered a G + T : the sheer anticipation and blue of the sky and clouds outside.

6. The scent of crisp apples pinched from the tree in my brother’s garden :

Crisp cox; still with the leaves from the stem: the true beauty of the beginning of Autumn in England.

7. The WTF weirdness of Miskeo Brume:

New Australian brand Miskeo has two very modern, relatable, fine perfumes – Epices – a streamlined aromatic citrus, and Daim – a holographically fresh suede I would definitely recommend. Brume, on the other hand, is one of those unfathomable weirdos that made me exclaim, out loud, ‘Oh my god!’ when I smelled it. This is totally new, unchartered territory, a fierce, ozonic/ aldehydic green with juniper, lentisque, moss and seaweed lemon that practically takes your eye out.

8: The pore-sealing hideousness of Tom Ford Noir Extreme Parfum:

This overboiled nightmare, one of a whole plethora of too densified concoctions that contain everything but the kitchen sink, so compressed and everyman amber, sweetened and woodied, is very emblematic of the frightening direction that a lot of nauseating niche perfume is going in generally. The olfactory equivalent of the asphyxiated girl drowned in gilt paint in Goldfinger.

9. The lilies where I live:

The osmanthus tree in the garden; the perfect magnolia; the plum blossom and narcissus.

Yes. But the giant lily fest in July and August, growing wild in abundance in the mountains, luring me in, and occasionally staining my clothes with their overeaching pollen pistils as I ride by deliriously on my bicycle, most definitely takes the biscuit.

10. My sister in Fracas by Piguet

Good lord how this suits her.

The scent trail she left in the house, in the morning, when she had already gone off to work…..

11. Finally smelling Violet Volynka:

In the end, this very elegant, spritely, yet ever so slightly sluggish, violet leather perfume wasn’t quite my Birkin, but the thrill of finally smelling it after all the wondering and thwarting showcased the sheer founts of curiosity that new perfume releases can still provoke.

12. The new Ralph Lauren Polo vs Calvin Klein ‘Everyone’

Killing time, thinking, very naively, that I was about to board the return flight to Japan at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, on a whim, with eyes rolling like a tombola I approached the CK stand with its cynically yawnworthily ‘hip’ and overexplicated photo essay on gender inclusivity and homosensuality and smelled the scent – which smelled of absolutely nothing. Ironically, the RL newest edition of Polo – always a typically manly brand – smelled of nothing but neroli. A rough source of neroli, admittedly, but just raw orange blossom. For me, the latter of these youthful skateboarders’ spritzes was much more interesting in terms of subverted gender expectations by far: men in flowers – – WE LIKE.

13. Vintage Farouche:

I came across a shop this year near one of my work places that blows my mind. Already, as you will remember, I have a massive vintage Shalimar; I have eyes on others; they have more stock they are going to bring in for me specifically so watch this space for more surprises. This year, the icing on the cake vintage-wise was the pristine supremacy of the Nina Ricci Farouche parfum, which in this untouched extrait has an almost tearworthy beauty beyond words: every time I glance in its direction, at its red velvet box, I feel an intense satisfaction.

14. Frederic Malle’s Synthetic Jungle :

It ate my brain.

15: The smell of the incense at Ryukoji Temple:

The Buddhist ceremony we attended at a temple in Fujisawa this November was intriguing and mesmerizing, all to an olfactory soundtrack of the most austere kyara and jinko Japanese agarwood incense. As the lights went out, and you were suspended in absolute darkness, very slowly being re-illuminated by the monk who was lighting the candles (as beautiful a metaphor on hope and life after death as you could hope for), in the pitch black, all you could smell was slow burning, beautiful smoke.

16. Fleur de Weil :

Just looking at the daily newsfeed on the miraculous Fragrantica can either induce extreme envy and terrible Fear Of Missing Out – or else give me a feeling of overwhelmed panic and inundation. How to possibly catch up?

This is why it is sometimes also fun to also explore the rejects; those that didn’t make it. Even from more recent times. The more inexpensive. The lost obscurities.

I was, of course already very familiar with the exquisitely benevolent Antilope by Weil from 1946; also, this year, the haunting Weil de Weil which was sent to me courtesy of the lovely Diane. Fleur is one I tried for the first time yesterday, having picked it up last week at Genio Antica in Ebisu; a failed perfume that nobody bought from 1995 in the manner of rosey Sophia Grosjman classics like Boucheron Jaipür and Trésor, but so much lighter and aerated, with fresh top notes of tagetes/ marigold, plum and pineapple and a sheen of soothingly disarming fields of wild flowers. This was only a miniature, but I now want a full bottle.

17: The erotic intemporality of Chanel Nº 5 modern edp :

I had a full, unfamiliar, heterosexual frisson with this perfume in the summer. My photographer and filmmaker friend Michael – aka Belgium Solanas, – introduced me to his artist/showgirl performer friend from Nagoya when we were at the fascinating Daikanyama party where we all caught Covid. Blinded by the gorgeousness and familiarity of her perfume, which she was wearing quite a lot of, I couldn’t at first place it. Quickly, we found ourselves sat in a corner slightly coy, sipping our drinks and eyeing each other while talking (she also liked me: the twist being that on that day I was Burning Bush…); Later, in October, we were to share a dressing room at a different event in Setagaya. When I walked in to get ready, seeing her half dressed from behind by the mirror, all I could smell in the room were magnificent blasts of the contemporary Nº5.

My god she smelled good.

18: The smell of cinema:

This was the year, after two years away, that I went back to the cinema. Beginning with No Time To Die, when I found myself literally weeping with pleasure as the grand and ludicrously sweeping credits came up on the screen, from the spectacular overwhelm of it all, the plenitude of sound; sitting and basking in the true happiness that is real cinema again. It being my dad’s 80’th birthday (he has spent his life watching planes and obsessed with aviation in general), my family paid for him to fly in a real World War II Spitfire over the English downs and the sea in June; apparently an extremely emotional moment that I wish I could have witnessed. Instead, I took myself off to the military airbase town of Yokosuka, where I enjoyed the undeniable thrill of the year’s most financially successful film, Top Gun: Maverick. Otherwise, we went for more typically arthouse fare like the brilliant Titane by Julia Ducouneau – which left us in a deliciously exhilarated mush in the backstreets of Isezakicho; the hilarious and bizarre Zola by Janicza Bravo, starring Elvis’s granddaughter, Riley Keough, as well as, most memorably perhaps, a beauteous cinema in Shizuoka prefecture where we melted in the strange holistic beauty that was Apichatpong Weerusthakul’s meditative opus, Memoria. The multiplexes had the expected smell of popcorn, artificial indoor lighting, and greyfoam seats; the art house cinemas a more thoughtful aroma, occasionally tinted with freshly opened bottles of locally brewed craft beer.

19: Eilish by Billie Eilish:

It is fascinating to meet your friends’ children. Aside from having mindblowingly clear, profound, and acutely mutually perceptive conversations on every possible topic with my best childhood friend Helen – who I was nervous about meeting initially, but who I then wished I could have talked with for days (how we lost out during the pandemic in all our isolation!) it was wonderful to spend a whole car journey listening to Billie Eilish’s excellent Happier Than Ever on the stereo with a true, teenage die-hard Eilish fan, Helen’s daughter Esther, avidly listening in the back seat. We had some very interesting exchanges; she eyeing me curiously (my favourite quote was when she said, after discussing our very differing feelings about weather and temperature: “You confuse me”.) She naturally, at home, had the eponymous debut scent by the singer, Eilish, which I was extremely eager to try (particularly on the young girl’s hand, who clutched the bottle as if it were a religious relic): when I eventually got the chance to see how it was – very briefly – I only had time for a couple of quick inhalations, I realized that this was in actual fact a beautifully produced gourmand vanilla that exuded from her skin like a golden chalice.

20: The smell of the ancients:

These are the only smells in the list I haven’t actually physically smelled myself – but oh how I wish I could. Currently researching everything perfume-related for my talk in Hawaii next year (!!!), I find myself longing at the pit of my stomach, when reading about ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, to be able to actually experience the detailed, lascivious descriptions of all the scent orgies, and the worship of perfume generally that went on in the past in so many different cultures : the unguents, the distillation, the ointments, smeared, drunk, eaten, bathed in… our olfactory lives, now, are so bland and psychologically repressed in comparison : : : : SOMEBODY BUILD ME A TIME MACHINE.

21. Hume’s Legumes

Few things make me happier than the aroma of D’s delicious vegetable stews and broths cooking downstairs. Drifting up from the floorboards, the smell is absolutely delicious. Fresh rosemary, lots of garlic and bay laurel with locally grown produce, weekends together are a true contentment (one of the great things this year on our street has been the new farm produce collective that has a market just thirty seconds from our house every Friday morning : a real boon of regeneration for the community as a whole). Hurrah for healthy, home-cooked food.

22. THE SMELL OF FRESH AIR

Because sometimes, after everything, you just want to sweep away all the bullshit on a brand new sunny or cloudy or rainy or whatever it is day, put your head out of the window, and inhale.

*

Thank you so much for putting up with my strange excesses this year, for reading my splurges and excesses. The correspondence and conversational exchanges we have on here have been a real source of pleasure for me.

All the best to you for 2023 : let’s make it a good one.

Neil

x

49 Comments

Filed under Flowers

49 responses to “TWENTY TWO OLFACTORY MEMORIES OF 2022

  1. MrsDalloway

    Happy New Year and all the best for 2023! We moved house (and town) this year, so a lot of my memories are to do with that – fish and chips the first ghastly evening penned in by boxes and fresh paint as we’ve gradually spruced the house up. We moved away from the built-in cupboards that my perfumes were in so I bought a giant bureau for £50 from a charity furniture shop, with a two shelf cupboard on top of the desk part. I love how it is becoming impregnated with scent and will likely stay that way wherever it ends up in future years.

    • Fantastic. I love the sound of all this and hope the new home – with its collection of vintage Diors etc – will be a beautiful haven for you.

      Happy 2023

      • MrsDalloway

        Thank you! It was winter when we moved, so I’ve also loved anonymous-looking plants suddenly popping out perfumed flowers in our tiny garden. The previous owner was a great gardener in some ways, though one of 2023’s projects is to abolish the astroturf.

      • Abolish that shit and replace it with real words!

        Enjoy the perfumed flowers. x

  2. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    To read all over again. This and the one before this.
    Most of the time I just dive. Oh, M. Ginza!!!
    And my comment is just as spontaneous.
    Now there is something, along with the previous, to keep and let the scent do its work.

    My keepsake souvenir:
    A drawing made by my neighbour, 6 years, Isolde. Containing two hearts. She put it under my door yesterday. The second one by her hand. The first had hearts too. Hope it will take me through 2023!

    Nelxxx. (You, Duncan and the cat)

  3. No fascinating new scents in my part of the world, but delighted to read of your brilliant finds!
    Weirdness: finding fake Le Labo & Byredo scents at the attar shop near the mosque, they were surprisingly accurate too!
    I shall have to try Jasmin Antique, sounds like a good addition to my floral collection.
    Is it the current formulation of Fracas you speak of? I have wanted a bottle for some time but heard the modern formulation is subpar.
    I’m thinking of starting to blog again. Lots of new curry recipes to share, possibly put my gallery online? Something to do til tourism picks up here again.
    Happy 2023 to you & yours!

    • Please do start the blog again and share the recipes – I would love really indetail (ie don’t tell me two cloves of garlic when you actually mean two ACTUAL GARLICS) Indian/Nepalese recipes.

      Do it please !

      Thanks so much for this year. x

      • Miriam Carothers

        Thank you for consistently being my favorite writer on the entire internets and this delightful end of year list. Happy New Year Neil et al.

      • That is an amazing thing to say : thank you very much. I just splurge it out impulsively so if it comes across well then that is totally wonderful.

        Happy New Year to you too.

  4. Tora

    Happy New Year, Neil! Thank you for all your words. XO

  5. Karina

    Your thoughts have been a joy to read – I always look forward to a new post and take my time to read it with a bit of time. I sometimes think it’s weird knowing things about you when I don’t even *know* you and ask myself – would we actually hit it off if we met? Weird thinking – I suppose that’s true of many a blog, but perhaps more so here because I feel you share so much. Now I’m rambling… I wanted to say thank you for sharing your thoughts along with your perfumed experiences, which brought me here in the first place. It’s been a pleasure to “know” you in 2022.

    • You too – and I hope we can get to know each other better.

      I know exactly what you mean about feeling familiar with someone who posts: you probably do actually know me quite a bit, as I do (over)share – if I could without hurting certain people, I would do it more, and be TOTALLY uninhibited (a weird compulsion to have: after writing something personal I often feel extremely vulnerable and overexposed) – but as you say, there is no guarantee that the flesh and blood reality would appeal.

      Some of the regular commenters I also feel I know pretty well though we have never met. You build up quite a strong psychological profile over the years; people reveal flaws, arrogances, defence mechanisms, but also a lot of fascinating portraits and incisive insights into various things that build into something quite wonderful.

      I have never been into the pretty pretty ‘Oh I am so glad you enjoyed the Lancome, Cynthia!’ approach to perfume websiting. It is fine, but I would be bored to death and would never comment back as politeness, just politeness, is quite dull for me. I want something with more teeth.

  6. Happy New Year to you and yours! I have yet to smell many of the things you described, but can recently relate to planes and cinemas. Cheers to more fragrance!

  7. Robin

    Indebted to you, my very dearest Neil, for all your words and observations and reflections — all wrapped up in the usual inimitable honesty and brilliance. It was a very good year for your readers. Glad to hear it was for you, too. Big love, R.

  8. I SO enjoyed starting my year with this. Sat in bed reading it to Steve, can ‘we’ make it an annual tradition please? I never thought I would need inspiration to take notice of the olfactory world but that it what this has left me with, a renewed enthusiasm for taking it all in….properly. And Esther will be so excited to have featured, you were so right in saying that she ‘eyed you curiously’ she could not be more intrigued by you. And she will be more delighted still to know that you approve of Billie’s perfume and album (and that you called her a teenager).

    • I have been trying to add, again with some difficulty that undoubtedly one of my highlights this year has been the smell of by new loft bedroom. It always feels permeated, to a greater or lesser extent, by the fresh air from the field it overlooks, and mingling in the air is a combination of the Japanese incense you gave me; the barely there scent of wool from the heavy welsh blanket currently sitting on top of the duvet; a subtle and complex aroma from a large wooden box that contains many smallish and mostly empty perfume bottles that I keep for the trace of memories that they hold; and the deliberately created scent from the wide, heavy drawers in our large Georgian chest (feels a bit of a Granny ish thing to do but I am very glad I did) dotted, inside with small cotton bags filled with a handful of rice into which I put a few drops of a Japanese oil (hinoki? no another wood, the name escapes me) you gave me many years ago and a few drops of geranium oil, the combination works really well.

      Oh and an occasional spritz into the air of Sublime Blossom by Miller Harris…adds a certain something that’s very helpful, freshening but slightly odd and interesting.

      The overall effect in the room, is beautiful, aerated and tranquil. Hurrah! …..at last.

      The ‘lowlights’ btw, are too numerous to

    • Ha! I thought she was: I really loved that car ride, and our all too fast goodbye at your house.

      The idea occurred to me after I had done this post that it would be a nice annual tradition, but then again, the whole thing happened completely spontaneously and might not be fresh if I were to think about it too much.

      • Truly delighted you have that new space over the park and that it smells pleasing to boot. I totally understand the horror of malodour – our house is rarely how I want it, although when we came in on the 1st from our feast at the Mitomis’ house, it smelled REALLY nice. I had been burning the same incense – which is running out – have to get some more tomorrow when we emerge from our cocoon and go into town. It is a necessity.

  9. Happy New Year! I am amused by the gardenia in the wallet. As we age, we’d love Pu’er Tea. It’s supposed a tea for old people. 🙂

    • Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

      Suits me to a Tea!

    • Hilarious. Well, it is perfect then: my favourite of all teas, aside the daily Earl Grey, is Vietnamese lotus tea, which blows my mind. I haven’t got onto Pu’er tea yet properly – maybe I still have a few years yet.

      • hahaha. I didn’t like it when I was younger. But it’s become my cup of tea. It has a soothing effect and won’t keep you up at night as other black teas.

      • I would NEEEEEEEVVVVVVVVVVER drink anything even SLIGHTLY caffeinated in the evening unless it were a teaching energy emergency – rooibos all the way baby; not just uncaffeinated but also drowse inducing. This bitch has nerves like livewires

      • You might be amazed by the truth that Pu’er doesn’t keep you up at night. The tea is good for keeping heart and blood vessels healthy. I don’t drink coffee at all and I hate it!!! OMG. I love rooibos. I drink it everyday and recommend it to everyone who has sleepless problem. I don’t have this problem. But I just love it.

      • Believe or not, I’m drinking my favourite rooibos tea now. it is good to have it to start my day. ☺

      • What I love especially about rooibos is that you can just have it as it is – lovely and warm, balsamic flavour – or add spice, as I usually do. Ginger works best but cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg as well – star anise tonight to ward off colds.

        At first it used to be ultra expensive here in Japan but now it has become so popular that convenience stores sell it and you can buy hot rooibos tea in vending machines now as well.

        HURRAH FOR ROOIBOS.

      • The rooibos I’m drinking now is mixed with pumpkin spice. I am thrilled to find someone like me who loves rooibos too. I found the tea here around 2011. I also met a guy in subway (tube in London)from South Africa who came here to look for jobs. The first thing I asked him was, is it true that Rooibos tea is the national tea in your country? He replied, yes. (BINGO!!) Sorry to post my article link here. I really love it and wrote about it in 2017. YEAH!! Go go go for rooibos! https://editordevil.com/2021/01/13/rooibos-tea/

      • Cool. Wish I could read it!

        One big shock from this year was when at Helen’s house and they offered me rooibos with milk. I said WhAT?!!!!! imagining it was a massive faux pas to put milk in it – but actually it was perfect. That’s probably why they have rooibos latte is South Africa – as you said, I heard it is extremely popular there.

        I used to drink chamomile tea. But now I think it just smells like warm urine.

      • Well, I still have some chamomile tea on the shelf…🤔it’s okay, but not great. I never thought of this combination, rooibos with milk. I sometimes make Hong Kong style milk tea for breakfast, Ceylon black tea with evaporated milk (Black & White brand from California), a perfect combination. Okay, I know you don’t like any drink with caffeine. Oh, do you like chai? It has become my another favourite tea. I have lemongrass and ginger chai at home.

      • I don’t like caffeine? Darling, chigaimasu. I have way too much of it unfortunately, but only in the AM.

        The HK tea sounds amazing.

      • LOL. My eyes, no, it’s the problem of my brain. Have a nice day at the other end of the globe.

  10. Arionna

    How beautiful your descriptions made me want to transport to sniff beside you.

  11. Hanamini

    Another really fun and beautiful read, thank you. Today I’m enveloped in a slightly scratchy jumper and Weil’s Zibeline, which the wool is releasing every time I move my neck. I will have to try the Fleur! Some houses just don’t put many feet wrong. Happy 2023 to you and thanks for all the great reads (and comments thereto), they have been a godsend. May the new year bring lots of happy scented and other adventures!

    • To you as well. A happy year.

      Speaking of which, Fleur is nothing special – not poetic or especially elegant or mysterious; just clean and happy – perfect for a supermarket sweep on a sunny day in 90’s mode; easy, brainless and carefree.

  12. Bob in Chicago

    Happy New Year! I loved the 22 scents – all of them ! Best regards, Bob in Chicago.

  13. rosestrang

    Happy New Year Neil, and here’s to another year of beautiful creativity! Rose x

  14. 22 scents for 2022! I love this. Not sure which of these olfactory snippets I love the most, but the crisp apple, the smell of flying (although I haven’t been on a plane since 2016 – must remedy that), and of course, the smell of fresh air gave me a real pang of recognition. To which I would add the smell of the sea – having returned from a beautiful walk in Waxham (D will know it) on the penultimate day of the holidays , seeing seals at a respectful distance, but just breathing in the sea air. It felt so restorative. Mine has been a curiously unscented holiday, mainly sponsored by Zerobase and a variety of other bland emollients, thanks to the skin rash which is finally abating. But I’ve started the year doused in Vetiver for Men, which I haven’t worn for decades, and it feels right for now. So comforting. Love to you and HAPPY NEW YEAR xx

  15. Bland emollients, sea air and Guerlain Vetiver – it all somehow sounds perfect.

    When we were at the coast in the summer – a really lovely day out – the beach STANK of some kind of seaweed that was washed up everywhere and was being baked in the hot sun. I had to insist we retreat to higher ground and drink cider in the pub instead. It was a Mundsley or something – really nice place. Love Norfolk!

  16. Andrew

    When do you plan to be in Honolulu? I’m going to be there February 28-24 and would love to buy you a drink. I’m very fond of your writing style and extremely jealous of your immaculate vintage fragrance finds. Our resale stores here in America do not carry used fragrances unfortunately.
    Andrew

    • Hi. Thanks for the offer. If I were there then I would gladly meet up, but we will be there at the end of March.

      Thanks for reading.

      Re: immaculate vintage finds, most of the time I am using pictures off the internet to find the best possible shot – sometimes of course they are my own finds like the giant Shalimar, but it is more of an old dusty collection that a pristine perfume museum our house – plus I am not particularly houseproud and not that bothered about keeping everything in a tip top state as long as they smell good!

      I remember being in New Orleans and there were some similarish antique markets which had some vintage perfumes – too much White Shoulders and definitely over priced – but surely such thrift store bargains exist? I have heard the best finds are at estate sales, where you just sweep off with someone’s entire collection. Have you ever tried that or is it too offputting?

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