Category Archives: Flowers







Oh my god.
















The holy Grail.











A pristine, 30ml original parfum of Lancome’s mythical Magie Noire, with its legendarily sinuous sultriness of pantheresque witchery; the finest chypric sillages in history, a trail like a taunt, sitting unknowingly on a table in my kitchen.











just LOOK AT IT.










i have always so wanted to experience the extrait in the flesh.












And here it is.




































But it is not mine.










The precious elixir is on loan from a friend: like The Hermitage to The Prado, and I can only gaze at it, and try a drop on my wrist: its mellow force and soaped depth, smooth substance, the very heart of the luminous sorcery






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It is hard for me to believe that almost forty years ago to the day, my sister was about to be born.




I remember it so clearly. I was crazily excited, jumping up and down on the bed. I couldn’t wait. Nor conceive of it. How could a new person just join the family like this ? Where was she coming from ?It seemed impossible.




Our parents had told us the life changing news ( I don’t think she was planned), during Sunday dinner, and my brother and I burst out laughing. Although we had adventures together, we also fought a lot. Pummeling each other on the garage floor. Deborah would be my protégée : forced to listen to my records and watch all my films ( our favourites were Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Disney’s Alice In Wonderland, Thelma & Louise; Desperately Seeking Susan).



Naturally I was also buying her perfume from when she was but an infant. She wore Montana Parfum D’Elle, which I bought for her from a boutique down the road ;O De Lancome; Poison, Anais Anais,until she discovered her lifetime signature, Roma by Laura Biagiotti, a vanillic femme fatale perfume she still wears to this day.



But she did also have that most lugubrious of 70’s tuberoses, Chloe by Karl Lagerfeld (which I also wore secretly);  and in recent years,  and since finding love again, she has been dousing herself in tuberoses : L’Artisan’s Nuit De Tubereuse sprayed lavishly in the hair, and her new perfume coup de foudre, Fracas by Robert Piguet, which she discovered last year and which apparently smells quite incredible  on her ( I am yet to smell this glamour queen Classic in person, but will in the summer – she told me that he loves it so much he sleeps with a sample every night on his pillow when they are apart..)



I LOVE the idea of my sister wearing tuberose. I wear and love this flower note too, as you know – I had a bottle of Flos Mortis as a Christmas present from my parents; I wear the Roger Et Gallet sometimes for work. But deep down I know that these gorgeous, mesmerizing lune flowers smell so much better on her ; both my brother and sister smell so nice, naturally, ; different skin types, with cleaner canvases ( Greg smells exquisite in jasmine ; I do not ).



She is a fierce creature, Deborah:  passionate, ‘bolshy’ – we are often at loggerheads, aggression our common denominator. But she is also quite hilarious,  and the best mimic I have ever met ( she should have been an actress). She NEEDS the right flower to reflect this. And as a perfume otaku, I now  get to blossom  vicariously;  wear it through her.



So with my mum and dad and Duncan in cahoots, on Wednesday, the Big Day itself ,we are giving her a whole armory of tuberoses : Santa Maria Novella Tuberosa; Speziali Fiorentini Tuberosa D’Autunno, Jeroboam Hauto, and Histoires De Parfums Tubereuse Animale, which I imagine will possibly be as lethal to her lover as Sharon Stone with her icepick in Basic Instinct. I don’t think I am giving away any spoilers here : to my knowledge she doesn’t read the Narcissus ( even if Perfume, in its black and gold Art Deco Splendour, is displayed proudly on a specially constructed ‘plinth’ in her North London living room).




If she does read this beforehand, though, Deborah just think of this as an early 40th birthday present :  you have always been a force to be reckoned with, you don’t accept bullshit, you are clever, loyal; streetwise; will not compromise on the person your were supposed to be –  –  – –  and I love you.









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Going home from work at Yokohama station last night I entered the free user multifunctional private ‘restroom’ and was once again surprised to be (relatively) pleased by the aroma.

I thought I would thus repost these old musings on the sad proximity to functional perfumery and the sweet cheap smells at Duty Free

The Black Narcissus


A very long while ago – in the blog scheme of things at least –  I wrote, half-jokingly, about my grave disappointment over Fame, Lady Gaga’s woeful entry into the arena of fragranced celebrity. My instincts were borne out by the reactions of other reviewers and also personal experience when I took Fame, and Madonna’s Truth or Dare, to an excited Japanese friend’s house and got her to guess, eyes shut, which one was which. And, naturally, tell me which one she preferred.

Madonna’s plastic tuberose won out – just – but Aiko was really shocked by the banality of the Gaga (“really? really?”) reminding her as it did of Shibuya teenage trash in the mid-nineties. Its cheapness truly astounded her.  My observation that Fame was not much above the level of Toilet Duck also bore interesting fruit during my summer travels: even on my first morning at Tokyo’s…

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HYPAER, by AETHER (2018)






We all have domestic chores we like or despise above others. I will never bend down to scrub a floor, but I don’t mind a bit of ironing. The steam : the clean suspended moment. The crackle of droplets and static.


If you also like the smell of slow, hot-pressed drudgery ( I go back to work tomorrow, it is raining heavily, and I am about to embark on a lot of this myself) – and want to prolong the olfactory heart of the experience,  Hypaer, by Aether, a French perfume house specializing purely in synthetics, brings you the plugged-in ironing board/ electrical appliance situation all day long : continuously, in a magnetic, and for me curiously erotic;  antiperfume















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Miller Harris describes its new floral fruitstravaganza as ‘a delicious and wistful flirtation in a fabulously cinematic perfume of rose swirling with strawberry liqueur.’ I would describe it as more like drinking cassis liqueur neat through a silver straw while doing the rodeo on a gigantesque disco peach melba.




Whichever way you look at it, this is a busy perfume.




From Fragrantica:


Head Notes: Pink Pepper CO2, Coriander seed, Davana, Cinnamon, Green Mandarin

Heart Notes: Iris Concrete, Violet, Rose absolute Morocco, Rose oil Turkey, Carnation, Hawthorn, Strawberry Liqueur

Lasting Impressions: Tonka Bean, Sandalwood, Oakmoss, Vanilla

If I was taken a little aback by this perfume for its in-your-faceness, I also thought it was quite unobvious with its sweet frictions of unexpected ingredients (oil of davana segueing into hawthorn and strawberries etc ); fun and out there; a  bit different. I can imagine a dressed up young diva of various persuasions rocking it quite happily until the early hours.
I often wear perfume in the dark watching cinema. And last night while we indulged in the grotesque decadence of Federico Fellini’s colourful Casanova (1976) I randomly reached out for the the bottle of Violet Ida I was given last year.
(It was also strange, in the opening scene of the film, seeing Dr Whom and Burning Bush in the crowd at the Venice carnival  – I had no idea that we were so old)
While the name of this scent might evoke a scene from the Bloomsbury set, rather Virginia Woolf writes a postcard to her second cousin on the coast of Hove, and the ‘iris beurre’ melts like suede into a vanilla ambered cushion on skin with a delicate carrot’s breath at the gentle opening, on me at least, this perfume, though pleasing (and very wearable: I will certainly get through the whole bottle ; the orris note has a pleasantly grey mauve temperate fullness, the end note very me in its ambered, hot simplicity) somehow it still doesn’t quite capture my image of what the Miller Harris brand used to embody: a subtle Englishness  – pared down, clear; nature-inspired; a tad severe – that has ceded to a more technicolour frivolity. Yes, there were Noix Tubereuse and Figue Amere in the original MH range, which embraced the nightlife and the occasional feather boa, but since the perfumer and founder Lyn Harris left the perfumery in different hands, the company seems to have veered in an entirely different direction – which can be enjoyable ( I know that brands under different artistic direction must evolve with the times ): but also a little jarring.


Filed under cinema + perfume, Flowers, Fruity Floral, Iris

















Yesterday upstairs on the men’s floors at Isetan Shinjuku was a scramble of male fashionables rummaging through lithe haute mode, a fascinating sight to behold as futuristically garmented assistants clad in hot fashion (and cold attitude) looked on blankly as the equally well put-together, handsome and moneyed men of Tokyo took advantage of the January bargain sales; discounts on Balenciaga, Yohji Yamamoto, Saint Laurent et al, all piled up in quickly discarded decisions or else bagged up and contentedly paraded out in swinging retail bliss from the overheated black interiors through the automatic doors and out to the chilly city air.





Leaving Duncan to scout out a choice item  ( I myself was very quickly overcome with claustrophobia ) I instead made my way down to the Perfume Halls downstairs to have a quick look at what was what, immediately finding myself drawn towards the new Guerlain Concession, wherein virtually all of the house’s perfumes have been put in identical bottles and given numbers in bingo or assembly line fashion; a factory line up of identically packaged scents, but with complicatedly different prices I personally find a little discombobulating: a lesser Guerlain Aqua Allegoria such as Limon Verde, for example, will be placed next to a classic such as Vetiver, and you make your selection based on your instinctive reaction to the smell, helped by the new Mindscent system, as explained below from the LVMH website:








Always seeking exciting innovations, Guerlain has developed Mindscent, a fragrance finder powered by emotion sensors. Thanks to cutting-edge technologies – neuronal headset and visual interfaces – customers in Guerlain boutiques are invited to discover a unique experience to find out which of the Maison’s 110 fragrances is their favorite, the perfume that brings them the most positive emotional reaction and best matches their personality. 


After inventing Olfaplay, a digital radio app and website for people who are passionate about perfume, Guerlain continues to tap into the latest digital technologies with Mindscent, a new perfume experience proposed at the Maison’s boutiques. Created by Guerlain’s Digital Innovation team and fragrance experts, this groundbreaking experience is based on an innovative concept developed by researchers from Nantes University called “Keurokiff” that is able to detect feelings directly from the brain.





Visitors to Guerlain boutiques simply ask a sales associate to fit them with a neuronal headset and are then invited to blind test four distinct fragrance families – fresh, floral, oriental and woody – before answering a few questions while looking at aspirational images. The neuronal sensor analyzes the customer’s feelings to guide them. After testing several recommendations from among the 110 Guerlain fragrances available in the boutiques, their perfect perfume match is displayed on the screen in just a few seconds.

The Mindscent app was officially unveiled at Guerlain’s emblematic 68 Champs-Elysées store on October 11. It will initially be available at the Guerlain Place Vendôme and rue des Francs-Bourgeois boutiques in Paris before being rolled out internationally, supported by the “My Emotion, My Fragrance” campaign.

(Me again):
I was too hot and consumer-bothered on this occasion to try out this new system in such hectic surroundings  – as I have written before, Isetan must have the highest ratio of staff to consumer in the world; the makeup counters are insane in particular; there is no space to move; it is a milling of gently pushing luxe that nevertheless has a certain pull as it is the centre of all such things in Tokyo………….yet to truly test out my brain waves as a newbie I would need more elegant silence and space. It might be interesting to see my emotions displayed in gigabytes instantaneously on a touch screen, though, and to know what images I may aspire to (and D and I have a thing about ‘aspirational living’ but I won’t go in to that right now).
The truth is I know virtually all of the perfumes already, of course, so yesterday it was just a question of sniffing from one to the other in order to check out the quality, refamiliarizing myself with them all (so strange though to have an extrait of Mon Precieux Nectar, say, which I rather fancied with his almondy crisp warmth, placed in a pea in the pod bottle next to it of something like Mandarine Basilic and then Tonka Imperiale, all the ranges declassified and reclassified into One. There is an unsettling clone/robot/factorized utilitarianism to it all, a, homogenisation of the line that while useful for the person unaccustomed to the glory of Guerlain, deprives them of the sheer beauty of each perfume’s original presentation and incarnation. Where they stand alone. Though I love the bee bottle itself and have several, such as Parure and Chant D’Aromes in that format (the chunkiness in the hand, the lovely apian glass insects giving you a heft of pleasure in its tactility before you get to the spray within), to have all of the line reduced to this presentation feels almost like the end of an era. I want Chamade to be in its heart shaped bottle, Jardins De Bagatelle to be in its own, awkwardly 80’s angular flacon, Insolence to be in its own violetty little twisty; all of them individualistic, distinct.
What are your own thoughts on the matter?


Filed under Flowers

the junkiest junk shop




(vintage Guerlain Mitsouko cologne for ¥300-  about two pounds – to which I have added three drops of highest quality bergamot oil ( perfect )  – temporarily placed on a bookshelf )





We cycled along the coast yesterday afternoon to one of D’s favourite junk/ recycle/ jumbledens in Zushi called Kurukuru, which translates both as round and round or over and over or bat crazy: and in fact this place is in such a state of shambolic disarray it is almost disgusting; hilarious; despite all the furniture, dolls, records, bric a brac, curious paraphernalia and used detritus that has an undeniable appeal, at times as you try to navigate this place it looks like the most slovenly place on earth ; batteries rotting in acid, a teddy bear left to rot in leaves






The photos don’t capture the chaos here ( D took them and couldn’t help aestheticizing everything : I wanted to show you the unbelievable MESS); a place you can rummage to your heart’s content if you like such things ( the only downside for me being they play The Beatles on loop which is never for me but you can’t have everything ).






a broken, stringless shamisen








We needed a new clock and got one, along with an antique wooden Japanese case filled with coral I liked; an armadillo (sprayed gold the moment we got home); some Pet Shop Boys 12”s; some almost indescribable items that D will use for a performance in January, and, naturally, some perfumes.




The woman there I have never seen before made things more expensive than they would be usually ( all prices are made on spec ); I could have had some No 19 eaux de toilette but decided they were past their best ); I was excited to see a big of Caleche parfum but there was no perfume inside (typically); instead for ¥200 I got a beautiful extrait of something I don’t know the identity of, but it smells like honey covered coral roses grown in a bottle of Malibu; a sexy cousin of Tresor or Poison in the Kenzo Kashaya mode; a glamorous perfume for a harem. I left the L’Air Du Temps but wondered if I should have got the Madame Rochas soap. Gabrielle, I didn’t get the Molyneux Vivre spray parfum but I will if you want ( any excuse to go back there) – I find the Aladdin’s cave aspect of Kurukuru very relaxing; the oddity of it – the humanity.











Filed under Flowers