Category Archives: amber floral musks




I am something of a baigneur myself. While a shower is more revitalising – if I wake up in natural power mode a bath could pull me under – once I get in the bath it is quite hard for me to get out. I stay in for an hour or two, depending on duty: shower first, a la japonaise – the western mode of marinating in your own juices unclean and not how it should be done; similarly, shoes should be left at the entrance – you know it just makes sense……………….: soap that body down, rinse, then get into a hot bath with essential oil – bergamot, eucalyptus, sometimes vetiver – and start to dream. The pleasant ache of muscles dissolving in heat, then cold water added, at which point the sensation is as lovely as turning over a duvet cover in the night and feeling your physical self breathe with the pleasure of the slight cooling; an alleviation. After, more thermal heat.

Shampoo the hair and perhaps use more soap in the bath tub, later (heresy! You are not supposed to do that here, but I never said I had gone completely native); eventually – I am always fascinated by the arbitrariness of the moment we decide that the shower or bath has come to an end; what is the trigger? – If you are at an onsen, or hot spring, you will be boiled pink as a shrimp, cooled in the rotenburo steam of the outside air – or else plunged into the alternating cold pools that make you gasp out loud – full-scented with the mineralic of the volcanic waters, soothed with the beautiful linger of hinoki soap clinging to your skin, warmed through ; cleansed.


L’Officine Ufficielle’s collaboration with the Louvre, in which twelve classic paintings in Paris have been rendered in fragrance by a selection of renowned perfumers, is an effective collection of contemporary perfumes – particularly La Baigneuse, based on the coy, but voluptuous, Valpinçon bather by Ingres, painted in 1808.

I remember when I first met D, walking wide-eyed into his room in Cambridge and seeing a postcard of this picture on his curiously covered walls that looked like a museum – he was always far more well versed in the History Of Art than I was, being taken to galleries in London on day trips from Norwich by his parents as a child, his easel in his back garden, doing paintings of his own – and I have always relied on him ever since to fill me in on the details of paintings, and for that matter, the kings and queens of England – I was never that big on history, either. I was the one to fill him in on cinema, perfume and pop music; we met in the middle studying literature (he, incidentally, can’t stay in a bathtub for more than about fifteen minutes, though it is usually less than ten).

Le Wiki tells us that

the Valpinçon Bather (Fr: La Grande Baigneuse) is a painting by the French Neoclassical artist Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780–1867), held in the Louvre since 1879. Painted while the artist was studying at the French Academy in Rome, it was originally titled Seated Woman but later became known after one of its nineteenth-century owners.

Although the painting was not met with favour by critics when first exhibited, almost fifty years later, when the artist’s reputation was well established, the Goncourt brothers wrote that “Rembrandt himself would have envied the amber color of this pale torso”, while the Louvre described it as “a masterpiece of harmonious lines and delicate light”.

Ingres had earlier painted female nudes, such as his Bathing Woman of 1807, yet this work is widely regarded as his first great treatment of the subject. As with the previous smaller work, the model is shown from behind, however The Valpinçon Bather lacks the earlier painting’s overt sexuality, instead depicting a calm and measured sensuality.

Remarking on Ingres’ ability to paint the human body in a unique manner, the art critic Robert Rosenblum wrote that “the ultimate effect of [The Valpinçon Bather] is of a magical suspension of time and movement—even of the laws of gravity … the figure seems to float weightlessly upon the enamel smoothness of the surface, exerting only the most delicate pressure, and the gravitational expectations of the heaviest earthbound forms are surprisingly controverted.”

All well and good. I do love the colours in this picture and the warm, powdered textures of the woman’s skin, even if the setting feels rather artificial (where is she?)

Her perfumed rendering?

This had to be an orris perfume, clearly, and who better to make it than the reine de l’iris herself, Daniela Andrier (creator of all the Prada iris perfumes as well as such cosy classics as Gucci Eau De Parfum). Here, though, rather than the chic sidewalk wearability of such perfumes she goes deeper and more weighted; private; bodily (‘the private crevasse of her shame‘……). La Baigneuse is a chalky, musk-laden iris, powdered, savoury, thick and underbellied with incense and patchouli, a base you feel rather than detect, freshened with a soap-like lemongrass and orange blossom top accord that triple mills the ingredients together in a binding and emotionally touching ‘just-bathed-all-day’ feeling that is simple; emotive; pleasing.


Saint Joseph Le Charpentier, another perfume in this line of twelve eau de parfums, alabaster fragranced boxes and ‘scented postcards’ from Le Buly is derived from

an oil painting by Georges de La Tour created circa 1642. The work depicts a young Jesus with Saint Joseph, his earthly father.

Joseph drills a piece of wood with an auger, which reflects the shape of the Cross and the geometry of the wood arrayed on the floor, set cross-wise to the seated child Christ – a foreshadowing of the crucifixion.John Rupert Martin writes that Jesus’ patience represents “filial obedience and the acceptance of his destiny as martyr”.

This painting, created around the year 1642[1] is one of several tenebrist paintings by La Tour. Others include The Education of the Virgin, the Penitent Magdalene, and The Dream of St. Joseph. In all these works, a single, strong light source is a central element, surrounded by cast shadows. In both Joseph the Carpenter and The Education of the Virgin, the young Christ is represented, hand raised, as if in benediction, with the candlelight shining through the flesh as an allegorical reference to Christ as the “Light of the World.”

The word that stands out for me here is tenebrist, or great contrasts between light and dark, and Buly’s perfumed namesake is a ‘deep note of cedar wood, infused with verbena, pink berries and vetiver’, though to me it smelled more like a tender, illuminating sandalwood. This is not a note that I would usually go for, but for those who like soft, deep, enveloping wood accords rather than the more prevalent sharp aggressions, I would definitely recommend this composition by Sidonie Lancesseur, creator of such rich elixirs as Mad et Len Nin Shar and Frapin L’Humaniste; here again, restraint leads to a softer, more serene orchestration; like La Baigneuse, a perfume for calm, and reflection.


Filed under amber floral musks, Flowers, Iris




On Monday morning at Strawberry Fields in Kamakura I had a naughtyish splurge on a cache : for sixty pounds sterling, a vintage 30ml Opium parfum, a No 19, a Caron Fleurs De Rocaille extrait, but these were kind of thrown in, really, because the real purchase, and prize, was this vintage edition of Amouage Cristal for men ( or possibly Gold? Experts please weigh in ) that was roaring to me silently from the top of the glass shelf.









The bottom of the bottle says Cristal, apparently a rare perfume on eBay that sells for around 1,000 dollars  – the Japanese internet has one for half that









but the notes do seem to match those of Gold, an intense ( though this word doesn’t do it justice, not remotely ; I have never known anything like it ), aldehydically animalic, musky soapy floral that smells just like a pristine extract of Madame Rochas parfum on United Arab Emirates steroids and cristillated to spectacularly nuclear strength.









The second I sprayed this oily, golden slick of perfume on the back of my hand I experienced a delirium tremens of being enveloped, head to toe, in regal downiness and flowers; rose, jasmine, but most specifically a powdery sandalwood and overall smell that reminded me very specifically of Imperial Leather soap – which I have always loved, and can use up a whole bar of in one long sitting…………….despite the swirl of richness gradually coalescing into one skin smell, the overall feeling is definitely that familiar scent; I use the talc and the deodorant spray, and having this too as the main event after all that initial background pampering will be orgiastically pleasurable for me. I was practically WRITHING on the train back home in olfactory arousal: tending and loosening like a cat in heat ……  perhaps the sublimated civet, that I experience without consciously sensing it: some secret code of sensuality immersed in the blend that makes it just so horny yet so MAJESTIQUE.




















To me, anyway.





D was having none of it.






“it smells……. pissy, or something” he said when we met in Ofuna : “I don’t like it”.













And on Basenotes :





“Musky, soapy floral, like taking a bath in the clawfoot tub of my gtandmother’s house in the seventies “




says one reviewer.




“I got through the initial blast of granny’s partially soiled bloomers, tiptoeing around the house trying to avoid my wife”,





says another.





Most other reviewers spin variations on this ‘old lady’ incontinence theme ( WHICH I DON’T GET AT ALL ::: I JUST SMELL SWOONWORTHY ARAB PRINCES IN WHITE ROBES )




– an (ageist, sexist ?), scaredy-cat reaction to a man’s scent that veers from the usual, ‘masculine’ brutality? Or maybe Duncan is right after all and I am just blind : though he does like the beginning, which is glorious: derailingly erotic for me personally, there is something in the base he can’t abide. A grimacing recoil.  It almost makes me fearful, like some dreaded halitosis I am unaware of, that my olfactory apparatus has gone awry. Why does it smell like that to him ??????





As another reviewer of the perfume says,    (as I mentioned I think this perfume must be Gold, (though please correct me if I am wrong) / could the ‘cristal’ on the glass be just referring to the material of which the bottle is made? It does feel ludicrously expensive]]










Yes. That was what I was wanting to say.





Wow is precisely the word I would use to describe this extravagant creation.




Which obviously I am only going to be able to wear indulgently alone, doors locked and bolted ,at home.














Filed under amber floral musks, Antidotes to the banality of modern times, Civet, Classics, Floral Aldehydes, FUCK EVERYTHING, Hairy Masculines, LUXURIANCE, Masculines, Musk, New Beginnings, occasionally sickening scents, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, pigs, postcards from the edge, Powder, Psychodrama, Urine









Apricot dunes; the glow from a studio-lit, ochre trompe l’oeil sunset; seagulls on the soundtrack; the glistening ‘ocean’ beyond. A seasoned French actress, distractedly reaches down into the pillowing sands and scrutinizes, with her smooth cream hands, carefully placed pebbles, starfish and seaweed.




On the beach, pensive, to a backdrop of golden, solar rays…



















It is probably quite hard for the perfume youth of today to imagine how exciting – and rare an occurrence – it once was when one of the great ‘houses’ – Guerlain, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Givenchy, Christian Dior – released a new scent. They were like monuments, fortresses, designed to be aesthetically pleasing but also infallible, made to last. Perfumes that, naturally, were not designed for everyone, but once, if they did catch your senses and made you hers, would then become your perfume, to buy again and again, your signature: huge money-making engines for their parent companies, who relied desperately on these gleaming olfactory colossi to line their coffers for couture.




Rather than the constant floods and inundations of scent that we are treated/subjected to now, ever intrigued but over and underwhelmed, we were almost starved of new perfume back in those days. What you saw was all there was, and if you were bored by what you were smelling you just had to wait. A long time. Many years would pass between the launch of one major scent and the next, and to budding young perfume obsessives, always on the look out for new perfume adverts in fashion magazines like Vogue, the arrival of a long gestated new perfume always felt like a real, magnificent, event.




The concept for Dune had apparently already been thought out and worked on behind the scenes at Dior back in the 1980’s, but it was presciently decided that the next project, the purple hearted, bullet shocker Poison, was more scandalously fitting to the Joan Collins times (and their instincts were most certainly right in that regard), with the result that the project was somewhat put on a back burner for a while until the radical explosion of all things ‘natural’, pared down, marine and ozonic occurred in the following decade, when Dune then suddenly emerged as if out of nowhere: a heavily, but immaculately, made-up Venus, transpiring from the foaming waves of luxeful Perfumia to claim her crown.





At the time, I myself was a second year university student, back home for the summer, working, believe it or not, on a golf course. Although I am the last person on earth to play golf (those pastel colours; checked trousers, all that ‘gear’…….) it was, in many ways, the ideal job for me at the time: entirely solitary, surrounded by trees and nature in my wooden hut, just listening to music, looking at the sky, and finally having definitively enough time to properly read the long novels I had always wanted to read as the hours of green and blue stretched on before me ( I have great memories of losing myself entirely for days on end in great big nineteenth century tomes such as Anna Karenina). There, with the kettle boiling quietly, the birds in the trees, the occasional customers coming for a round of mini golf – I merely had to collect the money and hand out the tickets, and then take the flags down at the end of the day – passing the summer quite nicely, saving enough money to set myself up in Rome that November: I was immersed in aloneness, literature, music and perfume, and, more importantly, the great and exhilarating unknowingness of an upcoming Italian future.





Dune was released during that summer. It was a period in which samples were given out more freely at the department stores, and, as usual, I managed to get a lot of them, vials and vials of the scent which I would try on my hand while sitting outside, or even soak the cassette liner notes of the tapes that I had in the hut with their contents, to make the scent last longer, to be opened and experienced at will, so that in this way Dune formed an almost permanent scented backdrop to that carefree period and is seared in my memory as such (maybe that’s why my Prokofiev Violin Concertos I+II tape went all funny – the very reels of music themselves were drenched in sea broom and soft burnished powder of mollusc).





Although I was never entirely sure if I actually liked this scent – and certainly never wore it beyond the confines of my golf cabin – despite the fact that there was something too full, opulent and strangely off-putting about it, I knew that I was extremely fascinated by it: that weird combination of ambery, salty warmth, and floral, quite definitely duney seaness that all felt so peculiar and uneasy, yet new; compelling. It had a certain thrall. I had simply never smelled anything like it before.





Yes, this rather groundbreaking perfume, which felt, almost, as if it had come from another planet, had been proudly announced by Mothership Dior to be the very first ever‘floriental oceanic’, a very unusual concept at the time, when anything that reeked of the sea simply didn’t seem suitable, somehow, for a fragrance. It was a forceful, clinging floral amber scent with top notes of sea broom and lichen, peony and lily, immersed in a smooth marine compound, edged with rich and salty flowers, benzoin, ambers, and musks. Desperately original and popular when released, I later soon got sick of smelling it in Rome, where, together with the ultra-swimmingly sweet Trésor, it blotted the air all around it with its comeliness, the women of Rome taking it to their commendable, tailored bosoms (these women were always just so deeply perfumed ; profumatissime) with an overly great abundance of maquillaged enthusiasm.




To me, Dune always felt self-satisfied and overplenished somehow, more a performance than a perfume, with several acts, all perfectly balanced (the original formula was extremely complex): warm, emboldening and luminescent, but still, always that unsettling contrast between those sandy, decaying seashells whitening in the sun, and the more demure and feminine flowers and balsamics lurking beneath, an aesthetic tension which, when all is said and done, makes Dune the enduring creation that it is.

















In a old and crowded box, dusty and thrown in together like trash, I recently retrieved a vintage parfum of Dune – the one you see in the picture – for a dollar at a fleamarket as you know I always do, and for that price I thought; well, why not. I was quite intrigued to smell this perfume again, to be able to reappraise its flaws, and its charms. And besides, I had never smelled it in extrait.




As you might expect, the current formula still on sale worldwide at Christian Dior counters is said to be a rather unsatisfying reformulation of the original perfume that was released, which was bolder; more detailed; a more extreme and delicate arc between the marine notes, the florals, and the sandalwoody ambers (these new versions of the Diors seem more like snapshots, somehow). This little bottle I got in Tokyo, a considerable amount of which proceeded to spill all over me when I eventually got the stopper off coming home on the train, was unboxed, the label worn off as well, but the perfume inside, dense and full, rich,was still fresh, intense, and rather pleasing. This smell is at once entirely familiar to me: stamped in my brain, nostalgic, comforting, even, yet still retains that inherent strangeness that the original formula always had and that made it distinctive: that insistent, almost sickly amber that also inhabits the base of Cartier Must parfum (a scent I adore); the emotional component coming I suppose from that sense, beyond the immediate, concentrated perfume essences in the heart of the perfume, of an enlivened, agoraphobic dream vista; a beach stretching off for miles and miles, and miles and miles, into the distance.


















Filed under amber floral musks, Oceanic, operatic






























Whenever I smell a perfume by Roja Dove I usually think two things:



1.  That the quality of the ingredients is extremely high, and that the creations available in his growing stable of perfumes are a beautiful throwback to a time when perfumes didn’t smell cheap, pink, and nasty.



2.  That they don’t really have any discernible character. I always smell chords, and lovely notes, and delicious things floating up towards my nostrils, but they always tend to remind me of some other perfume; reminiscences of Mitsouko here, of another amalgam of Guerlain or Dior there, of roses, and amber, and jasmine (and always bergamot), but rarely coagulating into something unique, distinctive or especially memorable.



And Innuendo, a scent I applied in extrait, as I settled down with a glass of wine post-work to watch a film and relax last night, seems to suffer from the same, repetitive identity crisis (‘who am I?’), while simultaneously plushing up my senses, as usual, with something, once it settled down, that made a rich, comforting, and very sensual wrist companion.































The other day, as I came up the escalator from the basement supermarket in Ofuna, I found my smell brain instinctively uttering










a sudden yearning in me, perhaps because of the drab, rainy season weather and the scentless zombies that were coming at me from every direction with faces like miserable, slapped arses, for the kaleidoscopic, tropical, fruited and heavily made-up event perfumes of the eighties, on this occasion for some unknown reason The Body Shop’s shiny, laundry- soap Xanadu of musks, glinting oranges and faux frangipanis that was, at the moment, exactly what my smell brain was craving as food. The scents that abound these days are often so damn serious and worthy (in niche), or else shallow, cheap and crass beyond belief (in duty free) that sometimes I just yearn for the days of Ysatis, Poison, Lumière and the like, shining extroverted amulets of perfume that women would wear on their sleeves like sleek, bejewelled hearts – pedestrians be damned –  the delectably noxious fumes that would encircle their tart, stiletto medusas.




Or else Obsession, which despite what anybody might say about it (I’m talking to you, Perfumed Dandy) for me personally remains an absolute cornerstone in my olfactory life, the precise moment I went insane over perfume (my university friends will attest to how strongly I smelled of Obsession For Men and all of its body products (good lord the liquid talc) how I stank up the entire staircase with it even though I lived on the fifth floor); or the moment, when a friend of a friend got into a taxi, all dressed up and gorgeous and  wearing the original Obsession, with its delectable, delectable amber and taunting top notes of mandarin and I practically swooned, instinctively wanting to sink my teeth into her neck like a dizzied, inflamed, Saturday night vampire.





Roja Dove, a flamboyant type if ever there was one (you should have seen his Scarab-beetle-green jacket at The Jasmine Awards) obviously has a yen for this opulent period in recent perfume history too, as his Innuendo is like a heartfelt paen to this decade of earrings and excess, of synthetizers, eyeshadows and lip gloss, of extroversion, in spite of whatever the press copy for the scent might say about Innuendo being a ‘delicate scent of suggestion’, a ‘feminine perfume of violets, orris, and musk….. soft as a whisper’.




No, the somewhat confused entry notes are a glacé swirl of Bulgarian rose, iris, orris powder, and citrussy orange jasmine ylang in the finest eighties tradition, a miniature, inverted tornado of diffusive, womanly vapours that suggest the dresser (“a lingerie draw, make up, a knowing look” as the perfumer himself suggests), and big, beautiful hair being teased up ready for the juiciness of the evening ahead – an excitement that the spritz of this perfume can surely only heighten.  At this point in the proceedings, however, we do not have the sense of a perfume that has been fraught over for years and years until its idiosyncratic heart is nailed and become unmistakable, like the true classics, but a kind of generic, sweet and floral cloud that floats above her lovely head but doesn’t quite know what it is trying to say.





But. As the clock hands seem to go faster (“Will you hurry up?!”), and she clasps that bracelet to her wrist; by the time she is actually ready for the door, last check in the mirror, she is smelling as heady and delicious as a panther queen: those sweet, floral, but almost redundant heads notes faded, now, and what is left just the most perfect amber – sultry, skin-cushioned, soft, crushable, (an expertly crafted base accord of labdanum, tonka, orris, patchouli and musk) that smacks less of innuendo, now, and more of thrilling, stark, and downright suggestion.


















Filed under amber floral musks







It’s strange. Despite the reams that pour out of me on perfume, there are certain scents that I find myself almost unable to write about for fear of not doing them justice. The scents I am talking about are so complex, so ingeniously put together that they rise above the usual analysis and enter into the realm of poetry; beyond the obvious striations of most perfumes and into something tender and eternal.



These perfume ‘reviews’, which I plan to tackle at some point, but will not  publish unless I feel they have captured, at least a little, of that scent’s essence, will include some of the genius perfumes by Guerlain; Chamade, Apres L’Ondée, and particularly Vol De Nuit; N° 19 by Chanel; some Carons, and, undoubtedly, Jean Desprez’s seminal Bal A Versailles, the richest, most decadent floral amber I have ever smelled and a perfume with one of the best final accords – powdered, voluptuous, living – of all time. I don’t wear the extrait much, but when I do, and only in winter, I plan it with meticulous, military precision; calculating in advance exactly how many hours I need to bring if off perfectly.



How long in the bath, then how long to let it sit on my skin before the glorious base begins to emerge…….. and I smell, basically, like the ancient God Bacchus.



Yes, Bal A Versailles is a belovedly notorious animalic in the perfume community, and with good reason. The floral unguents of the heart, fusing immutably with the vanillic resins and animals of the finale, are like nothing else, and the extrait, available quite easily if you look for it, is a cherished trophy of many a true perfume lover. There are very few perfumes, if any at all, that are more resplendent.






*   *    *









In 1989 I am not sure if the word ‘flanker’ even existed in perfume talk, but if it did, then Revolution A Versailles, a perfume I knew nothing about but spied at a Berlin antiques market by Schoenberg city hall, would surely have been one.  And a not very special one at that, I am afraid to say, though I do love the bottle and that red target design (sorry if this led you to believe you were about to discover a masterpiece..)



No, this revolution would not have been televised, though I have to say that I do quite like this perfume; one of those big boned, eighties-opulent affairs, taking some of the ambery base of the original Bal, and layering it with a sandalwoody, plummy, flagrant jasmine and thick rose heart à la Caron Femme, or Jasmin Imperatrice Eugenie by Creed (but not quite as bosomy and ludicrous, but then what could be?), with perhaps some touches of Balenciaga’s more tender and touching amber-rose Prélude.




Revolution A Versailles, in truth,  is  a  touch vulgar, rather brash, even,  but something I would be definitely quite happy to smell on a woman at some high-swinging party; unpretentious, vivacious, full of life






Filed under 'Orientals', amber floral musks, Flowers