Category Archives: Citrus

EAU DE VERVEINE, SAIGON

 

 

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Greetings from Saigon; Good Morning Vietnam, etc; Tao Dan Park, where I inaugurated my remixed Verveine Naturelle by Cadentia – a full, if unvarying inexpensive verbena cologne that comes in huge 500 ml bottles – but which I have freshened and diversified with essential oils of bergamot, lemon and vetiver for extra development and interest.

 

It works a treat in this weather – hot and humid but nothing like Japan in August; this just feels lush and tropical. I have chosen a vetiver theme for the holiday : emptied/ sprayed virtually a whole bottle of a Florame eau biologique into my unusually early packed suitcase last week : the organic, dry, earthy vetiver with a slightly bitter adjunct of lavender mellowed down beautifully and has suffused all my clothes. Thus, for day, this cologne which I have decanted into varying sized spray bottles to secrete on my person works perfectly for day wear; at night I can shower and use something aldehydic with vetiver in the base (Calandre, Caleche), or a more ‘gentlemanly’ vetiver – last night I wore Vetyver by Roger Et Gallet which worked nicely during our first foray into the city, which, far to the south of Hanoi, where we went three and a half years ago, feels more expansive, languorous and less furrow browed : there is an openness.

 

 

For nightlife – who can resist a disco called Apocalypse Now ?  – I have Guerlain Lys Soleia, vanilla tropical lily that goes better with the vetiver than you might imagine and Unum Opus  1144 – a lemon opoponax amber: D is rocking his Comme Des Garçons Black Pepper, which is gravely seductive but a bit full on : I might try to find him something else while we are here. Mind you, it might be suitable for the Revolutionary Museum, which we are about to head off to, having come back for a quick sojourn at our hotel

 

 

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It’s so nice to be away !

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Citrus, postcards from the edge, Vetiver

BLACK MIRROR, AND THE PERFUMES OF MAISON FRANCIS KURKDIJIAN : : ABSOLUE POUR LE MATIN (2010), AQUA VITAE (2013), PETIT MATIN (2016) + AQUA CELESTIA (2017

 

 

 

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Utopia and dystopia are often very close, at least for me. Perfection is perfection, but it can be cold – even terrifying. Black Mirror, a very British series made by Netflix that we have started watching recently through the recommendations of several friends, is a brilliantly realised, fantastically acted, if extremely discomfiting, ‘science fiction’ set of dramatic pieces taking place in the present or not too far away future that deals with issues related to the internet, to social networks;  virtual reality, and our complicated, addictive, and potentially lethal relationship with computers.

 

 

 

Each episode of Black Mirror is separate: self-contained, but there is an accumulative, quite disconcerting effect in gradually working your way through the series, the sheer realism and convincing potentiality of each story making you come to the conclusion that if we are not careful, what makes us human might be irreparably, irrevocably, changed if we continue to blindly (hence the black of the mirror?) continue to strive for technological ‘progress’ no matter the cost to our souls, pushed, to the side, by the quest for Convenience, and the innate inquisitiveness that human beings have to develop things just because they can, or more likely, for profit –  which is at the heart of everything –  the tech firms that control us and hook us on their apps; their programs, their soon to be omniscient artificial intelligence.

 

 

 

Though compelling – even essential – viewing, due to its unflinching – you might even call it sadistic – precision, coldly dissecting hypothetical realities in which, for example, human beings of means can have chips fitted into their brains that allow them not only to rewind their own memories but their partners and other people’s as well (what would this do to relationships?); use an app that recreates a deceased loved on in the body of an android (poignant in the extreme, but creepy as hell); have versions of themselves made as self-policers, trapped inside a computer but with exactly the same sentience (bringing up ethical issues of cloning and mind/body separation), and virtual reality games which plumb the darkest of your fears and are so terrifying they can literally kill you  – it is all cheering, uplifting stuff, and typically British, somehow, in its almost gleefully misrerabilist nihilism: I find myself watching it, my eyes wide open unable to turn away, but then filled with a cold, dis-eased chill afterwards that leaves me feeling very strange (one episode, dealing with a new form of punishment for violent criminals in which the convicted perpetrators are then drugged, awakened, and punished over and over again by the public who join in enactments based on the kind of crime that the perpetrator (allegedly) committed in a form of repetitive Sartrean hell  – basically 45 minutes of anguish and screaming – left us so unsettled that we didn’t want to watch any more of the series for quite a long time afterwards (because, though obviously extremely through provoking what kind of ‘entertainment’ is this, exactly, why do we do this  to ourselves?) It is, undeniably, a brilliant creation. So thought-provoking and relevant; prescient. And yet there is so little levity in the mix that you sometimes just want to simply switch the mirror off. 

 

 

 

 

Series 3, which we recommenced, after a break, with recently on the big screen in our projector room upstairs, transported the believably scaring dystopia of the UK to the relatively cheery and sunny shores of the USA, alleviating  – for me at least, as a Brit, some of the sheer horror that the first two series engendered in us. Episode One, ‘Nosedive’, featured the always intriguing (and very beautiful) Bryce Dallas Howard as a woman living in a not unfeasible world where all people, fitted with connected-to-smart-phone-contact-lenses, continually clutch their phones (so nothing new there), but a new system in which users are allowed, or rather, forced, to rate each person and encounter they have with each person that they meet, no matter how long or short the time they spend interacting, be it online, or in the flesh- giving them a rating out of five stars, and resulting in a beaming falsity and ‘HI!’s so bright they make your jaw ache. Anything though, a poisonous pleasantness, to maintain your crucial ‘rating’, the raison d’être of existence – which leads to truly toxic, Mr bluebird-on-my-shoulder levels of happy fakeness. A ‘4: 3’ – at least initially-  Lacie is full of ambition and desperation to ‘make it’ to the ultra-desired statehood of a 4.5, the point at which, like some form of digitalised caste system, individuals enter the high life with all its special dividends, opportunities, and most importantly of course, status: ACCEPTANCE.

 

 

 

 

The price you pay for this ephemeral, ethernet ‘happiness’, of course, is a life of incredibly shallow superficiality (not so different, in fact, from all the likes and the dislikes of our actual Facebook real world that we are living in, hence the inherent, frightening tensions at the heart of the entire series) all shark white, dazzling smiles, white clothing, and venomously cheerful have a nice days that would lead any sane person to recreat to a solo community of 2ness and be done with the entire atrocity, except that we human beings have an inborn need to be with other people, to be judged positively, to be truly approved, and the truth is, the majority of us will do whatever it in fact takes, to get this condonement.

 

 

 

 

While nervously laughing and grimacing as I watched this world of blinding whiteness and lethally unforgiving hygiene, the ad-perfect, synthetic demeanours of the characters so desperately trying to impress each other, I was reminded, in my smell brain, in olfactory terms, of many of the (in truth, equally brilliant) creations of the popular house of Francis Kurkdijian – a precise, futuristic, and light-refracting perfumer whose fragrances – with such indefatigable equilibrium, impenetrable formulae and such absolute seamlessness, have an almost anti-natural quality (Kurkdijian, even when using the finest naturals, somehow alchemizes natural materials into something unrecognisably beyond); to me, his perfumes always have the mark of an ultra-perfectionist. No sloppy, indistinct easy nicheness for this elegant, imaginative perfumer. No. In many ways he is in a league of his own. I think that he is brilliant, actually. But the citruses, in particular, like Absolue Pour Le Matin, Aqua Vitae, do disturb me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of years ago or so, I was given a bottle of the former, and a small sample bottle of the latter, and while I was sufficiently impressed by both of them to try them out on my work wear – surreptitious spritzes on the cuffs of my white shirts – and I enjoyed, to a certain extent, the clean, laundry musked patina of FK’s constantly CK One-quoting infallibility that I was giving off like an annihilating angel (sometimes it feels that this perfumer’s mission is to be cleaner than cleaner than cleaner than Clean, to the point where all mush, and  ligament, and marrow and human imperfections are sucked off; bleached into eternity: and gleaming replicas are found scenting in their place; a pleasantness, an erasure, almost, to the power of fifteen), ultimately, something inside me rejected the strictures of such a philosophy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aqua Vitae is a perfect case in point. A bright lemon and balsam modern perfume shot through with invisible steel, the benzoin and tonka-lasered in from the future – all in obviously perfect ratio (Kurkdijian is a master mathematician)  – the result, in many ways, is rather lovely, if still somehow oddly alarming in its almost eugenically poised aura  – a daytime scent for a new spring day that I enjoy keeping in my collection but approach with some trepidation (am I totally overreacting here?!)……but in, it I feel that I am losing something of myself rather than projecting or augmenting or presenting myself in a certain idealised light that I can do with the best of my perfumes….in Aqua Vitae I feel that I must smell like one of the terrified, grinning, smartphone-brainwashed ciphers in that episode of Black Mirror, my natural humanity tenderwashed; neutered. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Absolue Pour Le Matin takes this forgiveless approach even further, with a sharpness cutting through its matinal rapture that very nearly severs the optic nerves: a note of ‘white thyme’ ( I love thyme in real life), but a cloned clone idea of what thyme was like three hundred years into the future, shimmering at the bottom of a lake, vitalizing the citric, metallic elements, but also rendering them too grimly clean and insistent (they grow, in stature, until I feel that the perfume is taking over my mind and I can hardly breathe, let alone even think straight anymore. This one I will not be wearing again (though Petit Matin, a more recent rendition of a similar theme, I do like better;  more lemony than thou, perhaps the most lemony perfume I have ever smelled, and I can somehow imagine myself walking into the teacher’s room one day in this on a bright day in June, and watching the now smiling heads turn in recognition, and pleasure)….

 

 

 

 

 

The recent Aqua Celestia, another example of the white masked ( I wrote white-musked initially, but Autocorrect changed it ‘for me’ – you have no idea how much I detest that invisible, always watching ‘intelligence’ –  and I kind of liked it) perfume takes this idea to hitherto unclimbed, truly stratospheric heights; perhaps Monsieur MK’s most spectacularly clean scent so far, it is an aldehydic soap and ice mountain of fresh mint, lime, blackcurrant and mimosa over stalacticial musks that positively shimmers in its crystallinity and which made me yesterday, when I reacquainted myself with the range in Yokohama Takashimaya, where the collection has pride of place, briefly transport myself, snow-like, to some kind of beauteous, synthetic heaven. As I stood there among the hordes of shoppers and the fluorescent lighting, I was temporarily mind-wiped – and not unpleasantly. This initial impression is sheer perfection, and if I were to obtain a bottle somehow (not likely, given the price of the thing), but let’s say hypothetically, I can imagine myself, when the weather in Japan gets so hot and muggy and you fear your own bodily stench so strongly that you will do almost anything you can to ‘impart freshness’, I can imagine myself breathing this happily from my maniacally double washed white, shirts, hoodwinking those gladly inhaling around me that I am some kind of hyper-secure, upstanding citizen: :: a saint, with a heart of glass –

 

 

– -like the airbrushed, whitewashed, depilated congregation at the wedding that Lacie is so frenetically attempting to get to despite every conceivable thing going wrong for her, her ratings continually (and quite comically) getting lower and lower and lower with each disastrous encounter she has : : :  a  disastrous conclusion to what was supposed to be the ultimate success in social climbing. Poised, perfected, with just the correctly, judiciously applied amount of sensuality, you can imagine the 4.5 and above congregation at her old ‘best friend’s’ wedding in the odd, pert spritz of Kurkdijian’s A La Rose (a quite beautiful and dewy modern rose that will achieve approval wherever you go); the more prissy, for masculin, and feminine, duos of Amyris and Pluriel, beautifully crafted, as always, but which I am not very fond of (even when FK gets more sensual – and he undeniably does; after all, this is the man who created Indult’s Vanilla legend Tihota and Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male, not to mention his own legendarily dirty Absolue Pour Le Soir; but even in these more carnal creations, such as the recent Grand Soir, an amber I rather like and would probably wear, even in these, they still have, somehow, those Kurkdijian parameters (and this is definitely a compliment as well as a criticism – something in me truly admires the deftness and civilising touches that the man’s perfumery brings), but yet.….even at their most ostentatiously sensual, they don’t ever, in my view, truly let go….. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike Lacie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As she staggers, one misfortune after another, towards the wedding ceremony, slapsticks in mud, shrieks hysterically, and loses every shred of her dignity and social standing, her ‘rating’ plummeting down precipitously through the threes and the twos to an eventual, inevitable, zero, Lacie (un)ironically does finally reclaim her real humanity, cursing and letting the truth out like a ‘madwoman’ and condemning her, in this cruel and mercilessly ‘perfect’ world at least, to a life of hopelessness and nothing. In keeping with the general tenets of Black Mirror – the ultimate message always seems to be that we are fated to be controlled (and eventually, destroyed) by the exigencies of the internet and the flawless surfaces of each persona- in terms of perfumery you might say also that in at least one urban sphere of the niche fragrance market that we are expected to inhabit –  the innovative world of Francis Kurkdijian – you must always put forward a clear, diamond cut luminescence, a shield, almost, that keeps the chaos of the real biological body, firmly shut within. Hidden from sight. Denied. And while never less than compositionally impressive, and always immaculately presented, pinpointed and quite aesthetically stimulating for me, with each new release, these perfumes, in some ways, do also,  bring the disturbing, inhuman future of Black Mirror just a little closer each time to reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 Comments

Filed under abstract moderns, Citrus, Lemon

OPTIMISM ::: POUR MONSIEUR by CHANEL (1955 )

 

 

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As a high school seventeen year old stripling, of a morning, before leaving my house, I would always raid my father’s after shave collection ( these were literally ‘after shaves’, the lighter, fresher, apres rasage format of men’s traditional fragrances that are often subtly different and more pleasing).

All of these were impeccable, scents I retain in my collection and wear even now : Eau Sauvage, Kouros, Paco Rabanne, Givenchy Gentleman, and  Chanel Pour Monsieur. All of them fresh with complexity and aromacy: none of them the chest-beating machos ( Jazz, Tsar, Drakkar, Safari) that make me want to take my life.

The above creations suited me quite nicely, ( alongside Armani Pour Homme and Givenchy Xeryus that I had also bought for myself), but it was Chanel Pour Monsieur alone that had, and still has, the unique capacity to not only transform my own mood, but the air itself.

Essentially an aromatic citrus chypre, this curiously uplifting, innovative yet traditional cologne is based on lemon, verbena, bergamot, cardamom and neroli with lightly spiced undertones of lavender, nutmeg and a gentle, almost vanillic oak moss. While the eau de toilette can sometimes veer into almost flyspray-like citronella briskness, the after shave, for me, as a teenager, splashed on my face and neck and wrists, was nothing short of heaven.

I would walk through Malvern Park on the way to Sixth Form College; Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare, Keats and Bronte in my rucksack along with my French and German textbooks, look at and smell the sky, the trees, the flowers all around me and they, and my life itself, would be truly ameliorated and intensified by the beautiful smell that was emanating from my skin, a blissful harmony of nature and man-made art that has not been replicated since. It would be no exaggeration to say that it was a sensation that made me ecstatically happy.

 

I believe that this beautiful, softly exhilarating effect comes from the brilliant contrast between the citric uplift of the top accord, experienced simultaneously with the pliant and softly sensual mosses of the base, like new April sunshine filtering down through young leaves onto the soft, mossy bed of a forest clearing- a facet  this perfume has in common with Guerlain’s Mitsouko ( after an hour or two these scents smell virtually indistinguishable on my skin).

But where there is something miserable and dour for me in Jacques Guerlain’s grimly beautiful masterwork, Pour Monsieur, while a touch old fashioned for me sometimes, nevertheless achieves a feat that cannot be dismissed lightly. Almost thirty years after I first started wearing this beautiful perfume, on this bright, sunny morning in January, Japan, in its understatedly joyous, lemon-leafed, contrapuntal elegance, I feel almost exactly the same as I did back in those days of future-forward, world-is-my-oyster oblivion: that Henri Robert’s most uninvasive of citrus masculines: refreshing to the senses and the spirit:  glassed, nuanced, liberating -really is optimism, bottled.

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Filed under Citrus

IN SHADOWS…………ALPONA EXTRAIT DE PARFUM by CARON (1939)

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Christ In the Sepulcher Guarded by Angels William Blake, c. 1805

 

 

 

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‘IN THE MIDDLE of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of: how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death: but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there….’

 

I always think of Dante’s Divine Comedy when I think of Alpona. Like the opening canto of the Inferno, in which Dante Alighieri finds himself awakening in the midst of a dark green canopy of trees, Alpona, though ostensibly a citrus chypre, has something inchoate, resinous; boscous, as though one were being transported through a temporal portal into a new, but vaguely terrifying, world.

 

 

The effect is achieved with a highly unusual combining of accords that are most inventive. Most present to the nose is the deep essential oil of the green bitter orange, its oil glands piqued and pressed and accentuated with furtherings of grapefruit rind and thyme, unsweetened and verdurous, leading down dark, umbrous paths of forested pine trees, dry myrrh; santal, cedarwood, earthen patchouli and rich, Ernst Daltroff murmurings of oakmoss.

 

 

Alpona is a most peculiar and fascinating perfume. And I can think of nothing else that remotely resembles it. Once the base notes come into play, with their, soft, poisonous caress of what almost smells like bitter almonds (a strange note of raisin also making its unusual presence known), the scent becomes more knowing, comforting: a tree shaded, fir-needling papousse. But Alpona, perhaps Caron’s most impenetrable and ambiguously androgynous perfume, never really lets its ultimate intentions be known.

 

 

 

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(c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

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Filed under Chypre, Citrus

DAY OF THE DEAD / CALACAS by LUSH (2013)

 

 

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I love Thursdays. I can secretly go off at lunchtime (see ‘The Evil Machinations Of The Black Narcissus‘ for a more breathless and heady account of these adventures), and hunt for perfumes.

 

 

One I found recently, for about six quid, and that I had never heard of before, was a scent by Lush (not Gorilla Perfumes, this time) mysteriously  entitled  Calacas. Previously called Day Of The Dead, in its former incarnation, this is a strange and striking concoction that once experienced, casts a strange, hypnotic – if kind of simplistically direct and harsh – spell. You know as soon as you smell the thing that you will never quite be able to ever get its sharp, sweet, taut insinuations out of your nose, or for that matter, your brain. 

 

 

 

 

Designed to smell like a Mexican festival, the key notes –  natural and pungent smelling, in the young, fresh, and sense-exciting top chords- are bright and sassed up oranges and limes doused, in a painted wall of sweet neroli. The perfume immediately  flowers; swells and fills up the whole room, like music from the mariachi

 

 

 

 

(interesting aside: when we went to Mexico, a decade or so ago, although I didn’t entirely take to the place for some reason – maybe its peculiarly dark energy, when I was expecting just the opposite – there was also the unfortunate but also rather hilarious fact that every time a mariachi band approached our table and started singing, in those rich, baritone timbres of sincerity and plangent romantica, I would find myself bursting into tears. I am not a person who cries, almost never, in fact, but I was a blubbering mess in Taxco and Guadalajara and Mexico City each time it happened and it was driving Duncan insane. “Just stop bloody crying will you, it’s embarrassing. What’s wrong with you? Go to the bathroom and dry your eyes for god’s sake ”

 

I don’t know. It just touched me in a way I couldn’t quite explain…).

 

 

 

 

 

 

But this. Superficially similar to other lime/orange blends such as Diptyque’s more benign little Oyedo –  if that is what is was called, I can’t be bothered to check at this very minute   – (and which I semi-like and have considered buying in the past, as I do have a real thing about all orange perfumes even though it always smells, to me,  like hardboiled sweets), Calacas nevertheless has a much darker, more ominous pall. Beneath all the sun-stripped citruses there lies a cool, almost scarily cold accord of frankincense olibanum, fused with a very persistent nitrile musk that remains forever as it worms its way into your subconscious. .

 

 

 

 

Duncan really took to it immediately. He adores lime. And this smells great on him. Really curious; like nothing I have ever smelled before. But somehow I feel that when this is the scent of the day – and I am now reluctant to allow it – I find that I am simultaneously in its thrall, perpetually intrigued, but also irked. Its personality is just so intense and unforgiving (and yet totally original and effortlessly compelling at the same time, the exact notes absolutely hit right by the perfumer – whoever created this is really clever), the perfume eating up the day, and the air all around it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Citrus, Flowers

THE RECENT HERMES RELEASES: : : EQUIPAGE GERANIUM (2015), EAU DE RHUBARBE ECARLATE (2016) + EAU DE NEROLI DORE (2016)

 

 

 

 

 

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You could do far worse than the contemporary line up of Hermès colognes. From the crisp, citric classicism of Eau d’Orange Verte (green, subdued and angular as it always smelled), the plush, more obvious pink grapefruit of Eau De Pamplemousse Rose; the calm, blue mysticism of Eau de Narcisse Bleu and the more sensual Eau de Mandarine Ambrée (the one I am closest to buying at the moment because it reminds me somewhat of vintage Calvin Klein Obsession and immediately makes me feel happy); and, now, Eau de Néroli Doré and Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate, these clear and relatively reasonably priced fragrances are clean, fresh, but effectively pleasing spring and summer scents that work well as taut, spritzy pick-me-ups.

 

 

 

As with the Hermessences, I like some more than others. Eau de Gentiane Blanche doesn’t really grab me (though I appreciate its pale and watery oddness), and though I enjoyed certain facets of Iris Ukiyoé,  Epice Marine, Santal Massoia, and Vanille Galante, ultimately, neither did they. The ‘new’ rhubarb, Rhubarbe Ecarlate  (which in fact smells almost embarrassingly familiar), also courts my ambivalence. It is quite nice, and should probably be a commercial success I would imagine with its faint vanilla custard note running through it (white musks), reminding me of particularly nostalgic boiled sweets you can still get from a confectioner’s shop in Hurst St. in Birmingham  ( Rhubarb and custard. I have always loved that combination). Over this soft and malleable skin scent base note is layed a fine, fruity, and indeed, truly red rhubarb accord that bursts forth from the flacon, appealingly rendered but a touch unimaginative, coming across rather like Rose Ikebana and Eau De Pamplemousse Rose’s sturdy, but perhaps less intelligent, younger cousin. That this is Christine Nagel’s first work in her new position alongside Jean Claude Ellena comes as something of a surprise, then, as it feels like a copy – albeit more rounded and smooth – of her co-worker’s own oeuvre, as though only just esconced in the Hermès studios she is as yet still afraid to really experiment.

 

 

 

Ellena’s own neroli (for which Tunisia and Morocco apparently had half of their annual neroli crop bough up by Hermès) is more successful in terms of creativity – a raspingly smooth, almost bitter, very natural orange blossom scent that is very neroli-centric and indeed smells clean and golden with an unusual underlay of saffron. I like it better than the recent Eau Des Sens by Diptyque, another orange blossom effusion (is this the latest ingredient du jour?)  because it smells less synthetic to me and more refined. Neroli lovers should definitely give this one a spin – it would make a very pleasing travel companion I would imagine, but my partner is a confirmed neroli-hater and I would never personally get away with it ( I sometimes secretly spritz on some Annick Goutal Neroli on sunny days when he is not looking, though, my personal favourite interpretation of these provocative and pungent, smell-me early summer flowers).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Surprisingly, given how awful most reformulations or ‘reimaginations’ of classic, discontinued scents tend to be on the whole, Jean Claude Ellenas’s remixes of the classic Hermès masculines are more successful than I would have imagined. I was happy to reacquaint myself with Bel Ami Vetiver again recently- a beautifully rich and elegant scent that seemed like a real Duncan contender to me when I smelled it the first time, and better than the current formulation of Bel Ami which feels a bit doctored. (The original was great -like a hairy, gay 70’s porn star having a quiet night in at home in his leather dungeon) but I personally find it, now, a bit other era – only someone really working the theme with confidence and with the appropriately hirsute physique  could properly carry it off, in my opinion. The vetiver remake – more held together and now –  is more up to date, modern and more easily worn.

 

 

 

Another classic by the house, Equipage, by Guy Robert (Calèche, Doblis, Madame Rochas) was already the epitome of male elegance for me – one of the most appealing of the traditional cigar-smoking, properly orchestrated masculines – I have a vintage bottle that I dip into from time to time on an autumnal Sunday, say, in a thick-knit woollen sweater as the golden light of yellow leaves filters through the garden. Complex, citric, aromatic, floral (lily) and delicately spicy, Equipage represents the thorough dignity of the thinking male without the bulging thongs of the chest-thumping 70’s ballbearers. There are few classical male scents this intricate, light, yet simultaneously trustworthy, full and self-assured.

 

 

 

The geranium variant of Equipage seem to me to be Ellena at his more experimental and playful, taking a fresh and powdery, yet still quite manly fougère accord, draining out some of the smudged old-school musky animalics that date this kind of perfume easily, and flushing it with a cool, Hermesian fraîcheur, the geranium flower note hale, uplifting and fresh from the bathroom (in fact the whole very much reminds me, in its overall projection, with its rose and sandalwood and cloves, of Imperial leather soap,  a creamy and soothing smell which I have always loved and sometimes ask people to bring me from England when they come to stay). Its appearance in Geranium Equipage makes the perfume very wearable, humorous and life-loving – cool, neo retro at its very best.

 

 

 

All housed in similar bottles, now, as you can see in these pictures, the Hermès full collection of perfumes may represent a certain clean, held-back conservatism, bound very firmly by the Parisian laws of chic, and now, packaged quite homogeneously as well. But there is plenty of poetry and playfulness within these scents too. They basically all smell good, imbued with a luxurious feeling of calm and glassy detachment. In these woefully crass and oversugared times, I have to say that I do admire the dignity that the house seems almost effortlessly to maintain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Citrus, Flowers

Ô DE LANCOME ( 1969 )

 

 

 

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I find wearing Ô de Lancome almost unbearably nostalgic.

This is one of those perfumes that is indivisible from my own life and my family; the walls of our old house in Olton, Solihull.  My mother used it, my sister had her own bottles kept proudly on a glass shelf as a pre-teen child, and I would wear it also, sometimes, the scent so appealing with its poignant optimism of late spring and summer; its cool sanctuary of lemon and lemon leaves, petitgrain and orange, and white shaded groves of honeysuckle and jasmine flowers that breathe tangibly – but just indistinct enough –  to pluck. Snoozing on the grass, lost in blissfully shallow summer dreams, dusk would gently then approach, and with it, late light sleep in cold white sheets, and that familiarly reassuring, softer, darker and more tenebrous, basil-vetiver finish.

I have referenced this perfume before, in relation to Lancome’s Trophée and another, quite similar citrus scent – the vanished Quiproquo by Grès (also by perfumer Robert Gonnon). They share the same refreshing lemon green leaf top notes and the effortless, balanced finesse. But only Ô de Lancome has that soft, panoramic serenity that seems to contain every aspect of summer, from the joy of intense sunlight as you run and tumble on the flower-edged garden lawns, to the moist, whispering secrets of the darkness of plants when you hide, oblivious and excited, among their leaves. The comfort of cotton blankets as the sun is going down; and the inherent, unavoidable dread that it is all, all of it, going to pass.

A few moments ago I went out to the local shops to get some things for a late breakfast. Unthinkingly I picked out something fresh from the cologne section of my perfume collection (kept downstairs for last-minute ease), sprayed it on the back of my hands, and went on my way out the door. The sensations that this vintage Ô de Lancome – which I have not worn for a very long time – then provoked in me were astonishing: pure emotion and a flood of memories, but not just photographic snapshots of particular parts of our old house and our old childhood bedrooms, but more like complete immersion in them. I could see my younger sister’s dresser and her incipient perfume collection; feel the light in the garden from my parents’ room at the back, the flickering shadows of the white on the walls like trespassing on my own past.

They live in a different house now, a much nicer one. Lighter, more spacious, more dreamy, more tranquil. And with a much, much bigger garden (my mother’s pride and joy). We all enjoy gathering there – it’s a place that you can sprawl, relax, and forget some of the darker times we had at Dovehouse Lane. But that old house from my childhood is still the place I dream about: in my subconscious it’s the place I always go back to, never the new place. And though in the physical, corporal sense I know that I can never return there – and wouldn’t necessarily even want to – I also realize that now, in a different, more profound and spiritual, almost metaphysical olfactory sense,  I can.

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Filed under Citrus, Flowers, Lemon