The datura flower, a ‘poisonous vespertine’, is one of nature’s very deadliest. So toxic, in spite of its undulous, alluring odour, that it has been used since antiquity to poison one’s enemies; one’s lovers’ with the most fatal, agonizing death: a psychotic madness ensues; convulsions, heart seizures, oblivion.
I took these pictures of a datura tree on Saturday night in Tokyo, lost along the streets of Ikebukuro trying to find a friend’s house whose party we had been invited to, but the Japanese address system is so hopelessly convoluted and illogical, that after an hour ( our cell phone batteries had died), we just gave up.
Still, I was curious to see those Angel’s, or Devil’s, trumpets hanging there like that at this chilly time of the year (the datura in my neighborhood, which has a bedazzling number of flowers: an obscene amount of poison, I’m pretty sure flowers in the heat of late summer): though its scent was not discernible in the starry, December air.
I like to stand under datura bells, inhale their slow, balmy cream, their evil saturnalia – like suspended tropical umbrellas’ the skein of their big wide petals laced with scent:: : : and poison.
Just The idea that death could be so close, and wrapped so enticingly, in the form of a mesmerically fragrant, and silent flower.
It it is a smell that looms faintly. Part tuberosian jasmine: tiare, with a touch of the beach and of cyanide, there is a bitterness there that is offset by the voluptuous cool, sloe-eye of its delirium; its femininity.
Like many flowers in perfumery, datura, in fact, can only be created from memory, from observation – a reconstruction. And from a distance, Christopher Sheldrake’s strangely introverted approximation is woozily impressive: a touch of creamy, coconut- infused tuberose flowers and osmanthus; a heliotropic, lemon- scented lilac: vanilla: tonka bean: almond – the overriding note at the heart, probably, of this oozing pointillist portrait – and a note that I am always drawn to in any case ( see my review of Louve ).
Up close, and personal, though, the perfume, on me, is much more problematic. It is a shape shifter. Some days I think I love it. Some days I almost hate it. I received a bottle as a Christmas present last year, but have only recently starting wearing it, trying it out tentatively in the smallest of doses. And the perfume is weird………….it doesn’t quite come together. The lemon and the coconut. The quite odd addition of myrrh……………………….. At times there is a jarring, bungled plasticity; an effect, like the plant’s poison, that at times can smell almost nauseating.
At others, though, when its mood is right, the perfume sinks into my skin with a fabric softened comfort and delicate vanilla that makes it almost suitable as a winter work scent, nuzzled under my shirt cuffs, tamed and in stasis until my skin warms up in the heat of the moment and then one of those ill fitting notes raises its head, its voice, and I regret having worn it ( and common sense would surely tell you that a perfume called Datura Noir is hardly suitable for my profession).
And yet it is too bland, too sweet and falsely, gentle for me to wear as one of ‘mine’. Like Fiore Di Riso, which I wrote about yesterday, another citric, vanillic floral, it is ‘somewhere in between’. Not quite day, and not quite night. Not rude or intoxicating, but not quite respectable either. She is out of place, this Datura Noir. She watches on my shelf, and she waits.