One of the greatest pleasures in fragrance is the holiday perfume.
To arrive, finally. Tired, excited, stimulated by the unknown, senses taking in every last detail, but grubby and sullied from all those hours on the plane, itching to get in the hotel shower.
The brand new smell of clean sheets; linen; towels, unfamiliar toiletries you are dying to try. To get out there and explore the area, let it inundate you.
To unpack. A long, long shower. Clothes laid out on the bed, the smell of where you have just come from recognizable, mingling comfortably with this unaccustomed environment. Your new scent, still in its brand new box, placed beckoningly on top.
To then emerge, dripping; fluffy toweling yourself, inhaling this new air, your brain awakened to it. Breathing in, happily, the disorienting, nervous thrill of travel.
It is hot outside, scorching.
To lock your senses in the the perfect photograph; a snapshot of scent within the memory of water: orange groves, lemon groves; mint. Revivifying freshness: minute, precious wet droplets of scent to rehydrate your nervous system; wake you ; feed your body and the mind with olfactory pleasure. To immortalize the moment : stop time.
To spray these scents all over myself with happy abandon, lapping them up, especially citruses and colognes in hot countries and a scent that hits the spot. Caron’s Eau Fraîche, prior to reformulation, was one such fragrance: so elating: a softened, rounded rush of grapefruit, mandarin, lemon, artemis, bergamot and galbanum over flowers, and subtle, sensual base notes, sheer sunshine in a bottle, and there could never have been a bottle big enough: I would have got through gallons of that scent quite happily each summer if I could have done as it was my ideal summer perfume. Recently reformulated, it is now a pale nothing, a ghostly lemon of its former joys.
The first time that Helen came to Japan, in anticipation of her also wanting this ‘olfactive commemoration of newness’, I left a brand new bottle of Creed’s Zeste Mandarine Pamplemousse on her pillow. It is a scent which to this day she says still gives her a sense of excitement and poignant optimism, of the remembrance of the bleary culture shock of arriving in such a different country as Japan, of the Autumn sun beyond the window, the happiness inherent in that lovely scent itself, and the adventures that were about to occur. The Creed mandarin – like the Caron – is more an abstract combination of beautifully combined ingredients than an overt representation of a recognizable citrus fruit; a glassed orchestration of bergamot, white flowers, ambergris. A protectant veil of goodness.
Of all the mandarin perfumes I like, though, including Il Profumo’s Mandarin, Diptyque’s Oyedo and L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Mandarine, I think that the new perfume from Tom Ford, Mandarino D’Amalfi, is perhaps the best I have smelled yet. It is delightful, a scent I yearn to take on holiday with me. To look out breezily from a terrace somewhere: renewed, sipping on prosecco…
Opening with the most delectably fresh, zinging pow! of strongly scented mandarin peels complemented with mint, basil, blackcurrant, lemon, tarragon and grapefruit, a heart of familiar, cologne-ish orange blossom, coriander, shiso and jasmine, the perfumer – the amazing Calice Becker, whose work I love for its beautifully simple aim – to smell good – even when that end result lacks the edge and avant garde weirdness of much recent niche perfumery, creates here a perfectly realized, beautifully simple mandarin scent that feels like an immediate hit.
Mandarino D’Amalfi, a new addition to the lighter, cologne-based Neroli Portofino range in the Tom Ford lineup of oudhs, woods, and thick, languid flowers, is mandarin, mandarin, mandarin: a mandarin-themed scent with great tenacity (practically a miracle in citrus perfumes), while managing, throughout, to maintain its essential citric integrity. Think of it as the mandarin equivalent of Thierry Mugler Cologne if you like (a scent that achieved the unachievable in its vast lengthening of the natural cologne timespan while remaining recognizably a cologne). Yes, there may be subtle anchorings of vetiver, labdanum, musk, even civet in the base notes of the scent, but this base accord does nothing to distract your attention from the fact that this perfume is all about the mandarin; piqued and elaborated by the green notes and other citruses, expanded and given true ‘perfume’ credentials by the delicious floral marriage of jasmine and neroli in the heart.
Essentially, though frightentingly expensive for a citrus perfume, I think that this might be the mandarin to end all mandarins. We are going away in December, and this is what I will be taking with me.