I am extraordinarily excited to be able to announce that Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, of DSH Perfumes, has created a bespoke one off fragrance for my talk – Scent: The Language Of Flowers – on March 25th at the Doris Duke Theater and the workshop on perfume appreciation on the 26th, ‘Scent Literacy’ at the Honolulu Museum Of Art, as part of the ongoing Cross Pollination exhibition.
A melliferous gardenia island breeze, with a hint of yuzu, I will have to wait until I get to Hawaii to smell it.
Sometimes it is good to go back to a house you have overlooked.
Though always sensing the integrity and craftsmanship of ‘masculine powerhouses’ Duro and Black Aghano as well as the toxic clubland femininity of Narcotic Venus, Alessandro Gualteri’s generously potent (and deliciously designed) style-guide elixirs are too domineering and forceful for my particular sensibility.
At least I thought so.
If Baraonda – a comely woody whiskey Amber is not quite my tipple – I am ambivalent about the liquor (in my personal experience good things rarely come of it ) and detest the note in perfumes, I can still appreciate why this cult favourite has the reputation of ultimate seductability : warm and expertly blended.
China White, though, an ode to a certain recreational white powder, has no such negative associations because I have never tried it. Its reflection in perfume- a haunting, medicinal floral powder that I found myself sniffing from the back of my hand like a line of (you get the drift) when I tried it on skin the other day, was curious and unique, reminding me a little of Marlene Dietrich’s signature perfume by Creed, Angelique Encens (1933); that melancholically autumnal cassia bark heartbreak; dense and chalky and strange.
Looking it up, typically I find that this is the one they are going to discontinue.
Blamage, apparently a serendipitous, ‘unfortunate’ mistake by the perfumer, is another haunter : I don’t ordinarily like smoke notes in perfumes but this one is indescribable and enigmatic ; leather and incense ; niche but not typical. Almost indecipherable. I need to retry.
Fantomas – an extraordinarily weird melon / smoke / gunpowder / rubber, in the drydown ,on scent card the next day, is nothing more than a standard oudh. From the bell jar and nozzle though, it smelled rather beautiful, like the pristineness of icing sugar as you pass by the sealed vitrine of a high end cake shop, near the edge of a winter city park.
Up close, the melon note, with other tropical fruit, is highly perturbing (you definitely wouldn’t get the job at an interview wearing this) – and yet there is something here – an impenetrability, even ethereality; a conviction in the artistry on display – that I think will probably draw me back in for further tests.
D has woken up in one of his manic ferocious cleaning modes : as I lie supine, reading almost every page of the New York Times, he flies through the house like a witch on a broomstick, accidentally knocking off a rare ‘extrait de fraise’ strawberry perfume extract from the shelf of the ‘discobloodbath’ toilet and then, being barefoot, traipsing the sploshed out parfum around the entire house
Good lord it smells sweet.
I came downstairs and my brain was instantly remixed from a grey miserable Thursday morning to a lobotomizing sugar rush of grape bubblegum and strawberry cough syrup : strangely addicting and oddly cheering ( I had almost forgotten about this rarity, just left on a shelf, but now I never will ; one of those NOW SMELL THIS dinner party post prandial afterthoughts to make your guests gag ( repulsive; unwearable, yet strangely marvellous )
Anyway, thanks D : it was quite a fun start to the day
These last two weeks I have been trying not to use my right hand. I have been dictating vocabulary rather than writing it on the blackboard – more useful when you think about it – typing on my phone with my left thumb (fairly successful); chopping vegetables lefthandedly (far less successful – I look ridiculous) : stapling and doing up buttons (ditto) and leaving all the washing up and making of beds and other duties to D, who comes home to a heap every evening but so far is being very understanding. The situation is better than it was, a bit – I still haven’t had it checked out professionally but might on Monday – which is why I am having a quick type with both hands now as I have woken up in a very good mood and the sun is divine after the foul grey gloom of the previous days – just been for a lovely frosty sparkling morning bike ride – and I felt like saying hello, how are you?
Whatever I have got – RSI, slight tendonitis? – the worst action seems to any clenching or pinching of the index finger and thumb, which is exactly what you do when you spray on a perfume. As I mentioned before, we have been spraying a whole bunch of fumes into little atomiseurs to take to Hawaii; that and writing too much fucked the fingers up into their current claw like state, so I am loathe to use scents right now that require a big old push to get any smell out. The ideal is instead a perfume like Roseberry – pictured above, my February work scent, probably not entirely suitable and yet somewhat suitable, which has one of those delicate little mechanisms that allows just the very gentlest pressing of the top to let out a soft spraylet of a few microdots of freshly emitted scent to alight on the back of your hand: meaning that if you feel like a subtle top up at any time, naughtily in the elevator doing down, as you contort your claw to writhe like a twisted pteradadon into your coat pocket to take out the green and pink liquid in time, using pressure, rather than your forefinger, to release the rosine, you get a measured rush of the strange and delicious top notes – green aldehydes, chamomile and wine lees, along with some luscious Turkish rose – but not an overwhelm – and then continue on your way.
If you want a proper spray – after work, say – then you can have one. The design of the bottle allows for this eventuality. Just push harder. The point being, why can’t more perfumes be like this? You should – always – be able to judiciously choose how much you want to use at any given time when you are deciding how much scent you feel like wearing; the extrait strength perfumes by Puredistance, for example, are appealingly stored in their sleek glass tubular bottles, but they provoke fear; you know that when you spray them you will be getting a full thwack of dosage that comes on too strong; an oil patty to the throat; precious particles wasted as they fly beyond the confines of the wrist, landing pointlessly on the edge of the desk; on the carpet.
Plenty of other perfumes – especially some vintage vaporisateurs – which are like petulant, over or underworked hose pipe urethras, are often nothing short of disasters.
Some just leak down the sides of the flacon, eventually accumulating in thick drops of coloured water that drip in unexpected places – I had an oleaginous fiasco with an old Diorissimo extrait the other day ; hands soaked in dribbling muguet juice like a hag in Grasse;
; the worst ever occasion, though, definitely being a precious Monsieur de Rochas that once pressed, never stopped spraying as though it were on a whizzing suicide mission; two or three tries and the whole thing had gone, like the Wicked Witch Of The West fizzling out in her black crinoline dress but without the turned up clog slippers.
When you spray on a perfume, you don’t want to be soaked
(do you agree with me that it can sometimes just be far too much?)
—- – – so thanks very much to the designers of the bottles at Rosine, whoever they are. For a temporarily enfeebled perfume lover, these small – but actually huge – manufacturing details – can make all the difference.
The base accord in Morocco – a neo-retro spice souk-lite cologne with a pleasing roundedness – is all woody powdered musk warmth of the old school style : D met me in it on Saturday night and it was lovely – this suits him down to the ground.
The beginning, though, is none other than vintage Opium – this could easily work as a dupe – just less floral and sultry, dried spices rather than wet crocuses ; less balsamic – no vanilla.
Fascinating that D should be wearing a scent that reminds us both of one of his mother’s absolute classics – one that he grew up smelling as a child. Daphne has moved on from Opium and Coco now: she has gone more down the sleeker, more contemporary rose/oudh route ( though she still sometimes wears Magie Noire layered with her beloved Patchouli Santa Maria Novella ). Both of them smell great in earthy aromatics ; the Mediterranean family DNA.
I am writing this mainly left- handed on bus with big thumb (thanks very much for all the advice x )
D and I have been spraying left right and centre for Hawaii ( if you want to smell some rare vintage gems then please do come to the workshop on Sunday the 26th of March).
Among them will be this beauty ; a ginger vetiver amber I had assumed wasn’t for me, only for him, until realizing on Monday it actually smells GORGEOUS on me ( I knew where there was a bottle ; bought a backup because I will need it)
Who knew that you can smell masculine and hot without coming across as a total dick ?