Category Archives: chypres































In these times of brash crassness, not only politically and culturally, but also within perfume, it is nice to come across a new line of scents with a sense of detachment. A fullness of essence, but also an undeniable, quiet dignity.


The initial five fragrances in Lyn Harris’s new collection comprise two light hearted and exuberant creations (Heliotrope, which I reviewed recently, and the zingingly and refreshingly green Cologne, which I am definitely going to wear soon when Spring fully awakens), and three others – Rose, Leather, and Velvet, that all vibrate at lower, more reflective – even depressive – oscillations.














I must confess that I am tired of rose. This is not the fault of the flower or the aroma itself, but of the sheer avalanche of chemical, synthetic pink pepper ‘peony’ bouquets over the last few years that sicken me to my stomach. They have ruined one of my favourite essential oils, very nearly ( I can still enjoy the scent of a good rose otto, just about ), but it has been a two pronged assault: either the Salvatore Ferragamo Stella Mcartney Paul Smith Valentino plastic bride horror, or on the other, the fake oudh/ rose pseudo oriental harem that provokes equal levels of olfactory lassitude.



Perfumer H’s rose is not a scent I would personally wear either, but I do like it. Rather than a shrill soprano, this is a fulsome contralto: liquid and aromatic, the rose at the heart and within the perfume calling to you with magnetically soft fougere accents beneath –  gentle, uncliched patchouli; black pepper, carrot seed and smooth, delicate musk – a beautiful woman in a trench coat, perhaps, at twilight, on some secret assignation.










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Again, Perfumer H takes the route less travelled with Leather, avoiding the standard bitter hide quinoline of most cuirs or leathers and giving us in its stead a melancholically grey suede  – frowning but good hearted –  on a bleak, winter afternoon. Smelling this scent I was immediately reminded of the Arab perfumery I visited many years ago in Kuala Lumpur’s China Town,  years before the whole oudh craze began, when I experienced so many new kinds of smells that it was as if I had landed on a new  planet.


Besides the Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese oudhs that were so pungent and animalic I could hardly comprehend my nostrils, there were also other incensed, medicinal, clay-like scents on display in that fascinating purveyor of perfumes that transfixed me completely even though I didn’t quite know how to process or make sense of them. Perfumer H’s leather is no way near as ‘difficult’ from a western perspective, but it does very much remind of some of those perfumes, with their tendrils of Catholicism woven into the Islamic textures. There is a very cool (in all senses) aspect in this perfume, with iris, and Earl Grey tea accents layering the soft kid leather of the heart. It is a sophisticated scent, suave and seductive, but with just the right level of disengagement to make you want to find out more.







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Duncan was wearing Velvet when we spent an afternoon in Jimbocho two Sundays ago – the place you can see in these non sequitur photos. This scent has a quite classical feel to it – masculine but refined, a woody aromatic chypre with an orris/spice and oakmoss, frankincense/ patchouli undertow, that leaves a nuzzling, prickly sillage in its wake –  more like the tangible rasp of tweed to me than the smoothness of velvet, but it is certainly an excellent modern update of a bygone format. Gentlemanly – letting you read between the lines and slowly feel out its personality. Thoughtful. Sensual. But prudent.








Filed under chypres, Flowers, Leather, Rose


Mitsouko ad 1974 Guerlain

Mitsouko is not my favourite perfume. It is not even my favourite Guerlain.

But there is a I4ml vintage parfum by my bed, like the bottle in this picture, and I keep finding that I unstopper that stopper, budged though it is in that bottle, and, recently, keep wearing it while I sleep.

It is a doctored edition, I will confess (and I know that that is outrageous.)

There are several different vintage parfums in there: a touch of parfum de toilette, one drop of ylang ylang oil cause you know  I do that, and a significant amount of added bergamot.

But last night I got it to exactly how I want it.

Remixed her up a treat, to the proportions that I think I remember.

Yes, she can be witchy, damp and sour-tempered; yes she can be musty.

But when you get that golden ray effect, that Chinese empress pillow of velvet, the rueful, gustatory glow of the citrus and the mosses, then I suppose it makes sense why this is currently my night-time companion.

Duncan is always asleep. The cat is in the other room at the moment.

This glides me quite nicely to the next zone.


Filed under chypres















They kiss:  and the smear of her lipstick, the taste of her mouth, her hair, her skin – this scent, in all its complexity, kissed in a furl of hands, of gently undone white shirt and leather coat, is the imprint left on your lips: your eyes: your brain.





Fresh, light-pink top notes of peached rose, jasmine, artemisia, melon and bergamot – a most intriguing top accord – don’t attempt to mask the urgently animalic soft leather whip of the base, in a deliciously ambiguous chypre that is perverse, stylish, and clever.





Like a striding, soft-shelled armor of extreme chic, Empreinte, particularly in vintage parfum – though the eau de toilette has its own breathy exhalations – is an immaculate example of the genius of French perfumery as it once was – the layers of veneer, poise and sexuality, all concealed effortlessly beneath an outwardly respectable semblance of stilettoed, modish glamour.




















La Nuit, that petite, guileless maelstrom from Paco Rabanne, is Empreinte’s younger sister.






A wildebeest, in tulle, who wears tiny, summery floral-patterned cotton dresses, thigh-high, degenerate; but can barely keep them on herself for five minutes.







None of us mind in the least.








The pretty, fatty, fatigued pink floral departure of  jasmine and basil-tinted rose in this perfume cannot even begin to disguise the lust that is underpinning it; clinging, tongue-smearing civet, honey and beaver at alarmingly high dose (read into that what you will);  sweet woods, oak moss, patchouli, and musk. It is hard to imagine what the perfumer had in mind, but the result is certainly disturbing, arousing, and one of the most animalic commercial perfumes that was ever released:  a million miles away from the designer’s demurely fragranced beginnings (Calandre, Metal, and the later banalities that have come since this time such as XS Pour Elle, Black, and Lady Million). La Nuit was a sweet, grotesquely attractive eighties anomaly, and I’d always wanted to encounter someone who could carry it off successfully, as my own bottle is used only sparingly for private, night-time pleasure and reminiscence. I wondered though: what contemporary woman could possibly carry this off with the right combination of earnest love for what is ultimately a great scent, yet with a wink at its undoubted ridiculousness? A blonde, definitely, and in fact, since writing this, I have found my La Nuit girl;  Carla, night club chameleon, linguist, and make-up scientist from Australia. She tames it, makes it her own.







La Nuit also has a very sentimental place in my heart for a rather amusing reason. In 1987 or so, my father came back from a Paris business trip and, in a hurry, had mistakenly picked up a bottle of La Nuit, which he had thought was the classic Paco Rabanne Pour Homme, at duty free. He came in reeking of it – flowers; a rind of nymphomania – and we were in hysterics. It would have been scarcely possible to find a less suitable scent for him, and I smile every time to this day when I smell it. The bottle lay around the house, dusting and secretly loved by me in the outside veranda, for decades, where I would spray it in the air or on myself: imprinting, indelibly, its strange, lustful, piggy pinkness on my young, adolescent brain forever. It is a scent I thus know inside from out; a unique and bizarrely unintellectual scent that I can picture in my memory – that I can feel vividly in my smell brain, without even having to go upstairs to search for the bottle –  very intimately.

















Vintage bottles of both of these scents can be found at online sites quite reasonably if you look.


Filed under chypres