Category Archives: Coniferous

TACTICS by SHISEIDO (1978)

 

 

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There is a very big generational divide in Japan when it comes to men’s fragrances, known here as ‘kolon’, or cologne – there being no real concept of an ‘aftershave’, particularly when half the Nihonjin males of the nation are heading towards electrolysis and the beardless pretty K-Pop androgyne becomes the culturally favoured norm. While boys in their twenties smell fruity and hair-gelled; of increasingly strong smelling fabric softeners, or of nothing, older men usually stick to their favoured aldehydic woodies like Auslese, Eroica, Bravas, and other, similar musky spiced much of a muchnesses that you sometimes smell lingering in the interior of Tokyo taxis and which younger people generally despise, at the gut level, as the smell of the jiji ; the old git, the antiquated, thin-stranded pate greased just that little bit too much and drenched in the wide range of auxiliary products available at every local Shiseido drug store – shaving cream, facial lotions, stick deodorants, and especially the popular ‘hair tonics’ which men in their sixties and over often wear (sometimes to very pleasing effect, you can feel your heart melting slightly), sometimes not  – (just trying too hard, slightly sad). Whenever men of a certain age gather for reunions and annual get togethers you are guaranteed to smell a whole conglomeration: unlike the UK, where you can pretty much share your dad’s aftershave, whatever that might be, on a Saturday night and get away with it  – I think a young man or adolescent here would rather die than wear his dad’s bygone-be-bygone smell of an earlier era: the Bubble they never experienced and never will, when Japan was in a hysteria of revisionist capitalist mayhem as it boisterously worked and drank its way into a frenzy of world confidence and consumer dominance, and the proud breadwinners reeked of these perfumes; their pomades and brilliantined thick black hair broached by the smell of yakiniku and cigarettes, in neon blinking after-office izakayas, and sultry hostess bars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This last Saturday night I couldn’t quite make up my mind, coming alone from the cinema in Shibuya, whether I wanted to transform myself into another being. As something of a middle-aged salariman myself (I dress pretty much identically to all the other workers here; black suit, shirt and tie, smelling usually of lemon and caucasian); on my way to Uguisudani to meet Duncan at midnight to see him perform on a huge stage in a stairwelled, ruched former cinema now host to all manner of creatures of the night all dressed up for dancing  – he was due on stage at 1:40am – I thought fuck it – I might as well just go for it and freakify myself into another entity (after all, D had provided me with a bag full of robes and accoutrements, including some former orange velvet curtains that he had stitched into a beautiful hooded garment, and which had been used, the week before, strategically, to mop up a tragically spilled, perfect, pristine 29.5ml parfum bottle of Bal A Versailles – I am sure my screams as it hit the kitchen floor disconcerted people in the neighbourhood: it tumbled from its badly designed box and eviscerated itself – but which at least been put to good use (and which, seriously, on this material, soaked and put in a suitcase for a week beforehand for maturation purposes smelled incredible).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wondering where I could whip off my gear, and costume myself up, I was praying that the multi-use disabled toilet in Uguisudani station  – everyone uses them here, there is no social disgrace involved  – would somehow be free, and miraculously, it was. Someone else had also had the same idea just before me – you could feel a certain haste there still in the air; a man I will never know the identity of, who had obviously checked into the same restroom and abandoned all his spruced up little helpers for a night of seduction somewhere out there in the megalopolis; a bottle of mouthwash, a comb, and a full bottle of Shiseido Tactics that I didn’t even hesitate to put into my bag before emerging a few minutes later as an unrecognizable white-faced being drenched in the aforementioned Jean Desprez amber; on the wrists and the neck Antica Casablanca, and on the huge, freshly washed hair, reams of the original Guerlain Metallica, all of which just made me smell so decadent and swoonsome I glided along on a cloud of oblivious, carnation-kissed vanilla spice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is Monday and I am at home trying to tidy, being gratefully subdued;  calming down. I have just found the bottle of Shiseido Tactics left out in the genkan, the Japanese entrance  –  among the other detritus; these weekends of performances and filming require such heavy baggage – clothes for the actors and for D’s stage wear, so many bits and pieces that the way we are going I sometimes feel that I will need another leg operation; we seem to be constantly going between Kamakura and Tokyo weighed down like a travelling circus (I love it); but at this particular moment, to be able to just sit in the silence of this house, and smell this old Shiseido perfume, is precisely what the doctors in white coats ordered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tactics is, it goes without saying, of the Old School. A classical, classic men’s aftershave.  When you look at all the notes, a whole orchestra of them from juniper, pine, galbanum and sage and thyme and mint and citruses through the usual flowers and mosses and tonka bean (and in this new version clearly some quite loveable white musk), you know what you are going to be smelling, but unlike the blousier, more obvious men’s colognes that I mentioned earlier – which sometimes just read as testosteroned Chanel No 5s; such hair, such throw,  this more subtle Japanese variable on a standard French theme is much more forested; seemly; and low key. Slightly reminiscent of other green masculine classics such as Christian Dior’s Jules, or Loewe’s Esencia, but without the bullfighting domination of those pituitary-charged men’s seduction pieces, Tactics also has the limed freshness of Sport De Paco Rabanne, a scent I still wear on occasion when I feel like recreating my own former lithehood; a leaf-freshed, subtle viridity that is actually very pleasing. I am glad that we have it. This Saturday was allegedly the last, or perhaps penultimate weekend of Josephine Baker for 2019;after this we are supposed (he always keeps it quiet until he reveals that er, actually, there is this other thing that we might have to go to next week….) to be calming it down a bit; having some normal weekends at home in the more conventional manner: cooking, reading the newspaper, going for walks, sleeping in. Talking. Tactics will be amenable and snuggedly sexy in this imagined environment (perhaps while he is wearing this, I should go for my ultimate autumnal cardigan fragrance, Hermes Equipage?); behaving, while the leaves turn to brown, as though we are ageing in any way that could be considered, by the majority of the world’s population, as graceful.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Coniferous, Flowers

SHISEIDO INOUI, GIVENCHY INSENSE, & BUNKAMURA’S FANTASTIC ART IN BELGIUM

 

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Wednesday afternoon, the day before the D had to go back to work, we decided to have one last stab at Tokyo and the summer holiday before some relative seriousness takes over, and went up to Shibuya to see Bunkamura’s current Fantastic Art In Belgium exhibition.

It is always strange being thrust from the overwhelming youth fashion hub that is Shibuya  – the site of the famous Hachiko crossing, the panoramic, overhead rash of neon screens all flashing together noisily and disorientatingly, insanity inflicting, in town; hordes, throngs of people all moving in all directions, the real Lost In Translation Tokyo that visitors want to lose themselves in and marvel, as they recombine themselves, at the energizing, oriental futuristic – –  and then suddenly finding yourself in the dark, air-conditioned tomb of a respectable gallery, five hundred years past, underground, in the brain of Hieronymous Bosch, Reubens, Rops, Magritte, and other, morbid and otherworldly,  Belgiana.

 

It was so cold in there that a small majority of the skinny Japanese women moving about respectfully, wide-eyed, were making use of the gallery’s brown blankets offered at the entrance of the gallery to stave off the chill. D and I were also quite cold, but I was also pleased, from the olfactory point of view, that the canvas preserving temperature had allowed me to properly enjoy my scent of the day – Shiseido’s mythical InouÏ, from 1976 –  to perfection.

 

Leaving the house that afternoon, the air roiling and humid before a downpour, I had wondered. The civet and ambered sweet myrrh in the base of the perfume was troubling me. I have made that error a couple of times this summer, thinking that a scent choice would work because it felt right at home, forgetting that once the heat and the sweat took over it could all go disastrously wrong (animalics and my skin just don’t work very well if I get hot);  but it turned out that my intuitions on that day-  Inoui immediately came to my mind when I woke up that morning – I have two bottles – precious; very hard to get now – in the doleful, dolorous world of the Belgian exhibition,  there was a very dark and melancholy aspect to all of the paintings running through it all despite the disparate nature of the artists in question; black swans at twilight, sad, caverous forests; Flemish landscapes silenced in hushed snow; vulnerable souls prey to satanic attentions;  that my perfume, so soft, and enveloping, and mysterious – Inouï is a foresty, androgynous chypre, unusual yet familiar: with cypress fruits, pine needles, thyme and galbanum/oakmoss creating a quiet, woodland canopy to hide yourself in, reflect; while a warmer, jasmine /peach cedarwood heart make you less lonely – it felt like a soundtrack, a being.

 

An intriguing and perceptible presence in my own backdrop, the perfume worked quite perfectly against the sad pall of the paintings, in which demons and angels grappled with the virtues and the seven deadly sins; decadence wore masks of death, and you wondered what made Belgian, and Flemish, culture in particular, gravitate so strongly towards this crepuscular and life-snuffing melancholia. But this is what art does: it changes you, even if only momentarily, even if you don’t like it (but I did, I felt myself dropping, inexorably, into this world), so that you emerge back into the blinking sunlight of the outside, Orpheus-like, different than you were before, in a differing, darker, synapse-tweaked headspace.

 

Completing the long forested dreamline, Duncan was wearing Penhaligon’s beautiful Blenheim Bouquet, a perfect suffusion of lemon and coniferous notes that I love on him every time I smell it – so crisp and understated, gentlemanly, yet still up there in the peppery confines of the fir cones, when you scratch them and they exude those primeval nubs of power; of sap; of nature and life. At particular times I do love this genre of perfumery:  sylvan yet urbane, the pine needle and the sweat flower; Christian Dior’s Jules has some of this quality, as does Loewe’s beautiful Esencia; perfumes that can be erotic, but that still keep something back. I was very much an admirer, back in the day, of Givenchy’s lamented original Insensé Pour Homme, which I would like to have again, and which I finally realized, after a long bout of brain inquiry, was the perfume that Inouï somewhat kept reminding me of, at least on my skin. A feminine masculine (where Inouï is a masculine feminine), Insensé, a very original composition that was just too ahead of its time, and soon failed, infused a sharp, but slightly sweet, fruity, fir-laden main heart accord with florals – jasmine being prominent – with an aromatic, solar, love-inducing dry down. Though softer, more withdrawn, and more shadowy, Inouï offers a very similar ultimate accord; somewhere in between the male and the female: a perfume of  intelligence; not drowning in obviousness, gender clichés or vulgarity, but untenable, pensive: unreached.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under chypres, Coniferous

THE FOREST

 

Forests, as David Lynch once said, are full of mystery.  They never fully reveal their depths. And some perfumes…..

 

Source: THE FOREST

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Filed under Coniferous, Green, Woods

NUIT ETOILEE by ANNICK GOUTAL (2012)

 

 

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Guest post by Robin

 

 

 

I’d written off Annick Goutal’s Nuit Étoilée about thirty seconds after I tipped a few drops of the 1ml sample onto my wrist, let it dry, and sniffed it. Quickly. Dismissively. Happily.

 

I’ve been trying to do that lately. I have too many perfumes. I’ve already spent too much. I will die with probably two or three hundred bottles, good ones, expensive ones, that are all still mostly full. (I have already written the note. It is in a drawer. When I die, please give my perfumes to my niece Nadia . . . Otherwise, I haven’t even thought of writing a will.) I can’t bear the thought of whoever empties my house of worldly possessions throwing out those venerable old beauties. I do not need another love, another Must Have. If anything, I should start saving my twenties for a bottle of Superstitious, the new Dominique Ropion creation from Malle slated to be released early next year. I’m pretty sure I’m going to want that one. But I do get curious, and I do receive samples. And if it’s not love at first sniff, out it goes.

 

So it was with considerable relief that I gave Nuit Etoilée the quick thumbs down. It wasn’t much of a stretch. A toothpaste-y mint note up front, a discordant immortelle behind it, some weird tonka-bean-like sweetness and a murky forest-floor/pine-fresh-cleaning-solvent undercurrent that instantly made me queasy. I wasn’t looking for ways to adore it, but Annick Goutal had made it easy to dump the rest of the vial on my neck (I’m Irish; I don’t like waste) and toss the glass into the recycling.

 

So off I went to my dear Ric’s for a morning coffee. He’s used to me by now. I grab the steaming cup from his hand, offer up my neck. “What do you think of THIS stuff?” It’s a routine he’s endured every day since we fell in love, two and a half years ago now, with responses that are predictably and endearingly short and sweet; Ric was quite happy with the scent of soap and water before he met me, and he’d be fine with soap and water now. There are four standard verdicts ranging from a tepid yea to an adamant nay: “That’s quite nice”; “It’ll work”; “Room for improvement”; and “NO,” with a snap back of the head. (To his credit – Ric really does have an excellent nose, although he’d deny it – the latter is saved for the vilest mainstream dreck loaded with ethyl maltol and throat-closing white patchoulis. He is surprisingly tolerant of aldehydes, nitro-musks, civet and castoreum.) Of all the fragrances I’ve thrust under his semi-willing nose, he’s liked maybe a handful. Most have been Guerlains, frequently from the Jean-Paul era: Champs-Elysées (actually Olivier Cresp’s), Jardins de Bagatelle, et al. Good taste, he has. This particular “What do you think of THIS stuff?” was said with a hint of I know already you’re not going to like it, but please humour me anyway, my long-suffering Love.

“Mmm,” exhaled that dear man. “That’s actually really nice.”

Reader, I bought a bottle.

Ric is a man of few words, and though I pressed him, he wasn’t willing to provide a flowery review. He liked it, he liked it a great deal in fact, and that was that. When my bottle of Nuit Etoilée arrived in the mail last week – the eau de toilette, by the way; I hear the eau de parfum is a little less green, a little more ambery – I was able to give it a second chance. I see what he sees in it. It has that same breezy, Jean-Paul Guerlain femininity. It’s fresh. It’s . . . pretty. There’s a fair bit going on. There’s a sharp orange note that works well against the oily greens. I wore it, and it lasted nicely. Projection was above average. I still could, if I tried, find that same initial reaction to it; the toothpaste-y mint was there, and the pine-scented cleaning solution, and the immortelle in all its odd-ball glory and the clunky tonka. But you know, it didn’t really matter. And it doesn’t matter. Ric likes it, and I love Ric. He is amazingly tolerant of all the perfumes I foist on him that make his nostril hairs burn and his stomach clench. It feels good to set aside my own prejudices and predilections and opinions – God knows I have enough for a dozen strong-willed women – and bring a sweet man a little happiness and pleasure. And sometimes, a fragrance doesn’t get any better than that.

 

 

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Filed under Coniferous, Mint, Woods