Category Archives: Flowers

THE DEEP GREEN PLEASURES OF FRANCOISE CARON : : HERMÈS EAU DE COLOGNE (1979) + R de CAPUCCI (1985)

There is no doubt, obvious thought it may sound, that it is the perfumer who puts his or her stamp on a fragrance in the way an auteur film director infuses a movie with their distinct personality and vision. All perfumistas have their preferred olfactory auteurs : there are some I personally feel are vastly overrated, or at the very least who make perfumes that I can’t relate to (scent equivalents of directors like Christopher Nolan, Guillermo Del Toro, and dare I say it, even Martin Scorcese), while others that are lesser known perhaps but who who have their own particular pedigree.

The other day I found myself unexpectedly craving R de Capucci, created by Takasago’s Francoise Caron for Italian couturier Roberto Capucci in 1985. Although any research into an 80’s men’s fougère basically brings up almost exactly the same complex set of notes, the enjoyment for me all depends on the particular concentration of certain ingredients and thematic emphases. The same perfumer, for example, was responsible for Caron’s Le Troisième Homme, a darkly magnetizing masculine which debuted the same year (I hesitated over a bottle of the current version of that ‘dastardly bastard’ aromatic fougère not long ago for Duncan but then decided it might just be too hairy smooth guy – albeit mysterious and somewhat undefinable – the cloying animalics in the base for me too much, if certainly intriguing).

R de Capucci is much more refined and restrained; green, with a distinctive patchouli facet laid beautifully with mosses, petitgrain and green notes that are more like the reminiscences of a forest that the actual coniferous reality. All the usual suspects are present: vetiver, leather, clary sage, some floral underfootings, but the sillage has an excellent gravitas to it, different from some of the more leathery sleazebags and their unwanted spice-breath feeling you up at the bar; you would feel this one coming and look round voluntarily.

Strangely, I had been recently having urgings for some more Hermès Eau D’Orange Verte (also a Francoise Caron creation, and of similar mood to the Capucci) , despite the fact that it is winter. At work, though, I basically wear citrus all year round, usually in the form of bergamot essential oil held upside down in my pockets (the evaporating volatiles emanate subtly from your person in this way), as well as my citrus infused hand rubs, but sometimes I will also wear some scent – Racine, or Eau Captivante , or a little of the classic Hermès bitter green orange (now down to its last dregs). I have been looking to get some more. Fortuitously, the other day at one of my usual lunch time hang outs I saw a cheap vintage bottle of Hermès Eau De Cologne, which I had never heard of before, but assumed might be an earlier form of Orange Verte – or more mysteriously, something else. Either outcome was fine with me. But one whiff from the splash-on bottle (‘yes! I can adulterate it ! immediately think I) – and I knew it was obviously the former, slightly tired in the top notes of green bitter orange, mint and the always unusual hint of papaya, but still beautiful in the delicate, chypric patchouli finish (which lovers of the original cologne prefer to the later ‘green orange’ version – there are apparently subtle differences).

Before you could say Adam, I had been and gone to one of the many aromatherapy shops that abound in Fujisawa and got myself a special bergamot oil and yuzu blend, which on first inhalation, though risky, I knew would be perfect to revitalize this slightly fatigued cologne. With blood orange, bitter orange, lemon, bergamot and yuzu: somehow it already smelled a little bit like the Hermès and the thing is: although I do love those secretive drier chypre endings à la Diorella or the exquisite Ô de Lancome, that emotionally tense, shadowy duplicity between life and death that is also found in perfumes like Eau de Rochas and Caron’s Alpona, it is ultimately the freshness and joy of the citrus top notes that I go for in these scents: and now having added a little patchouli as well, this newly birthed Eau D’Orange Verte is smelling delightful. The only question is whether to start using it now, or let it macerate until early summer.

As for Francoise Caron, I wasn’t aware of the link between these two dark green delights of mine until I looked up on Fragrantica who had made them, even though this perfumer’s name has certainly come up occasionally before in relation to other stylish perfumes that I like. It is nice to make the connection though. Ms Caron is obviously very versatile and very thorough ( her perfumes feel properly ‘finished’) : from a cult modern leather such as Helmut Lang’s beloved Cuiron, to the impressive mimosa soliflore that is Astier Villatte’s recent Grand Chalet, Ms Caron is also a dab hand at creating very deep and affecting powdery, inchoate floral canvases, from the melancholically powdered classic Ombre Rose by Brousseau to the ghostly death of disco coconut tuberose that is Balenziaga’s Michelle, via more warm bodied tuberoses such as Kenzo de Kenzo, the original Giò by Armani (yes, it was loud and proud, but I always rather liked that nineties powerhouse myself – it never descended into vulgarity), or the sunbeams on neroli perfume that is the more unadorned Fleur d’Oranger by Le Labo.

Quite an impressive olfactory résumé.

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SUSPENDED IN TIME

My parents’ garden, taken one hour or so ago on FaceTime.

To me it is a marvel that you can be so far apart, and yet capture the snow as it is falling.

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LE LION de CHANEL (2020)

There are very few Leos in my flesh and blood life.

While I may have worshipped at the altar of pop icons under the sign – Madonna; and Lionheart herself, Kate Bush – I have only half a handful of friends who are astrological lions. Powerful, expansive, fiercely intelligent, demanding, and with a need for attention and an addiction to exhilaration, sometimes, too many divas spoil the broth : it can get explosive.

It’s always exciting to review a Chanel, though. And I quite like this new release – the sense of optimism, a fuller flavour – even just the lettering on the bottle. Le Lion de Chanel – Gabrielle/ Coco’s own horoscope, of course – is the latest in the Exclusifs collection – Boy; Misia, etc, all based on the autobiographical elements of the couturier’s life and adventures, and it makes an enjoyable addendum.

As for the smell of the perfume itself, it is a fine, lucent, patchouli amber labdanum with a perceivable citrus note – nothing particularly out of the ordinary (the frequent comparisons to Mitzah, Coromandel and Shalimar by the fashion hordes foaming at the lion’s mouth on social media are entirely apt) – but of very fine quality – and I should hope so at this price. Undoubtedly destined for success – it is just out in the shops here in Japan, and piqued my interest yesterday when I saw it in the window of Lumine Department store in Yokohama – I also wouldn’t mind if it spurred a fashion for the immaculate, pedicured amber. Some warmth for all the misery.

Sometimes, the glint of an luxuriant patchoulambra, can be just the ticket to beat away the winter blues (and the consciousness of the plague outside your window). Le Lion has precisely such facets. It has that powdered and pressed, exquisitely controlled Polge behaviour : immediately familiar, but with a 4D tintillation of pristine, Chanel fashion newness, enamelled underneath. Thumbs up from me overall, even if I don’t think I would personally ever wear Le Lion on my own skin. I prefer something wilder.

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80’s Coty Chypre


the 1980’s edition of Coty’s legendary Chypre


It is very nice to have the bath back. And to try new perfumes on clean skin. Having received a sumptuous set of spray vials from the lovely Tora I am working my way through them : the encouraging apricot peach shampoo honey of Sonoma Scent Studio’s Bee’s Bliss – an original take on miel; some Caron extrait of Muguet De Bonheur – so different in the parfum version, so much greener and more multifaceted, among others, and most intriguingly, some 1980’s re-edition Coty Chypre decanted from the above pictured bottle.

It is lovely. Involving. Difficult to de-chypre ( a pun on decipher ). Like golden light witnessed through yellow green leaves, despite the fact that my skin keeps snagging mid-section on a slightly uriny white musk (which might just be the age of the perfume, I don’t know), and that the whole is slightly more bouffant and blue jeans than I would have expected, there is still something here that makes me yearn again for that bottle I once saw in a antique shop in Shinjuku.

https://theblacknarcissus.com/2018/03/04/chypre-by-coty/

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the cure


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January 19, 2021 · 12:01 pm

PLUM & PLUMBING

It has been an appallingly stressful week for me. I do hope yours was better. I can’t go into it all now, but I may tomorrow – so either tune out, or prepare for the biggest rant you have ever read.

Suffice it to say that it was nice to meet Duncan after the six days of purgatory were over, and go to the Ofuna Flower Center for the first time; a modest, municipal park that had the first flowering and densely perfumed white and pink plum blossom trees that I have smelled this year.

Arriving home, I went upstairs to get changed and then (eventually) heard extremely agitated shouting from downstairs – Duncan in a panic.

Rushing down, my eyes were met with a scene of chaos and dismay: great gushes of freezing cold water blasting out from a tap that Duncan had tried to change – the pipe spraying huge swathes of water all over the room as he tried in vain to stem the great flow with various towels; screaming. The Niagara that was pulsating forth from the open pipe had pushed off his glasses which had fallen down his face, so he was stanching the river blindly; shouting Neil Neil, help me (neither of us had any clue how to turn it off from the mains); instead I just ran out of the house in my thermal underwear and rushed to our landlords, who as I barged into their house unannounced were just sitting down to have dinner – my eyes saw Mr Mitomi take a delicious looking pork chop and place it on a plate of salad, but I was already out the door exclaiming EMERGENCY, EMERGENCY – getting back to find things unchanged but the room about to flood, water all over the floor, the computer, (my incense~); poor D, who hates water to begin with – can barely swim, and must wash his hair separately in the shower rather than have water streaming down his face – this was HELL for him, I can tell you; beyond drenched, being beaten in the face with water as we used up every towel in the house until our eighty year old Japanese father with common sense managed to turn off the water from outside and we commenced the tedious, cold, sodden clean up operation.

It is interesting how people deal differently psychologically with stressful situations. With me, the hysteria spirals up into a cyclone, feeding into itself, my taut nerve endings strung like tight violins until I burst (and this actually happened several times during the fuckfest of mind-busting stress clusterfucks that happened last week). D on the other hand, once the place had been mopped, sank into a sleep, or at least an eye-closed withdrawal, on the sofa for a few hours, covered in blanket, immobile, like a cat that plunges into the deepest of slumbers, dead to the world, after a trauma, until it regains some equanimity and can bear to go again about its feline daily doings. We barely spoke again until this morning, when they came back again (in truth, there have been several domestic problems, including a blocked bath, which is one of the reasons I damaged my arm, lifting potfuls of skank hair and soap water from the disgusting mildewy tub every time a shower caused the undertile hellpool to gurgle back up greyly through the plug hole).

So not even one’s haven is safe from the deluge now. Workmen will be coming in whenever, also to fix the dangerous holes in the floorboards upstairs (we are becoming like the characters in Grey Gardens, but without the coloured silk headscarves). Out there, Civil War seems to be about to break out in America, inspired by that person who I hate more than words can express, and whose every utterance and the crimes he has committed against the world I detest with every fibre in my body; my homeland is in the grip of a terrifying disease that is spreading like wildfire, and the place where I live, while safer, is so exasperatingly ostrich-like in many regards – the hospitals are also filling up here – that it is getting increasingly hard to keep it together.

Anyway, fuck this week.

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COME HEALING: ANCIENT RESINS (for Leonard Cohen), by AFTELIER PERFUMES (2012)

https://theblacknarcissus.com/2016/11/12/come-healing-ancient-resins-for-leonard-cohen-by-aftelier-perfumes-2012-3/

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DAVID BOWIE: : : : : : TRUE ARTIST

It seems both recently and another age entirely that David Bowie died.

I really enjoyed this article in the New York Times I got here today.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/09/opinion/what-would-david-bowie-do.html

The Black Narcissus

can it really have been three years ?

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DAVID BOWIE: : : : : : TRUE ARTIST

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January 12, 2021 · 11:06 am

PARFUM 1 by GUCCI (1975)

I once had the pleasure of attending an event at Les Senteurs in London hosted by Francois Robert, creator of the Roses De Rosines originally reincarnated fragrances and there to promote his latest work for Londoner BEX : a range of perfumes aiming to capturing the essence of various districts of the capital. He was witty, passionate and approachable, and it was great fun talking to him in person (we both share an appreciation of Paco Rabanne’s legendary La Nuit).

I was also somewhat in awe (to put it mildly), to think of this perfumer’s lineage, to imagine that through just a few degrees of separation, I was standing next to the son and the great nephew two of the greatest perfumers of all time – Mr Robert’s father was Guy Robert, creator of Doblis, Calèche, and Equipage for Hermès, as well as Madame Rochas, Dioressence, and Amouage Gold; Francois Robert’s great uncle was of course none other than Henri Robert, the nose behind three adored Chanels: Pour Monsieur, Cristalle, and Nº 19, as well as the cold and diaphanous primaverile beauty that is Coty Muguet Des Bois. Aside from Jacques and Jean Paul Guerlain, in honesty it is difficult for me to imagine two more highly esteemed perfume creators, and I felt almost faint with excitement, standing there (almost) in their presence.

It is interesting, sometimes, to delve, if you get the chance, into the back catalogues of great perfumers and sample the perfumes they have created that are no longer with us; the more obscure and less famed productions from their oeuvres that yet must contain a fingerprint of their basic modus operandi (looking at the perfumes of Henri and Guy Robert, for example, we see that the former had an exquisite predilection for the cold, the elegant, and the green, while the latter, while equally prepossessing and chic, tended towards a slightly fuller and a fondness for rose jasmine and sandalwood).

Henri Robert – an absolute genius of elegance – first made Ramage (‘tree branches’) for Bourjois in 1950 – a green chypre I have not smelled personally (has anyone else on here?), but would love to.

In Guy Robert’s formidable osmography there are also some outliers (not every album you release can be a Greatest Hit): Mérefame by Menard, neither the perfume house nor the name of which I have ever heard of before until just this moment,

– and also on his curriculum vitae, a lesser known perfume by Jean Patou: Lasso from 1950 (which has also never crossed my path – and please do let us know if you know anything this one: Gabrielle I imagine you have them both! ).

Lasso is apparently a musky chypre floral from 1956, long disappeared.

One of Guy Robert’s less famous perfumes that I happen to be familiar with and do know well though is the lovely No. 1, atypical for the house, and in a globe of its own.

As a brand, for me Gucci has a less consistent image than other perfume houses (if you consider Chanel, for example); there is little consistency in terms of packaging, bottles, scent: now it is all Guilty and Flora; a great commercial behemoth; in the late nineties/early 2000s it was all the sleek, plastic Tom Ford Rushes et al, while the 80’s saw the hirsute hypervirile perfumes such as Gucci Nobile when Gucci was still all about those old fashioned Italian clasped bags, before the then still family owned business had regained its worldwide cool.

In terms of the Gucci perfumed ancestry, I have always rather liked Eau Parfumée Concentrée

– an Anaïs Anaïs on steroids from 1982 that I wear blithely on occasions when I feel like an easy eighties breeze reminding me of spoiled French or Italian exchange students in straw boaters and white blouses rowing on rivers in England in the summertime; one of those ‘private perfumes’, just for you, if you know what I mean, that you wear for the heck of it once in a while for the sensation that it gives you (but only at home).

I also like Gucci N⁰ 3 : more my thing, more chypric and taloned,

– more generic mid eighties megalith (but still quite fresh and understated in some ways – great for an evening sat knowingly at the bar in sophisticated expectation of your prey.)

Guy Robert’s N⁰1 for Gucci, on the other hand, is quite different.

A tender beauty; demure yet (somewhat( self assured.

Fresh, floral green and aldehydic, with notable carnation floral tones and the familiar woody musk undertones typical of this classic kind of perfume, to me No 1 smells like the lovechild of Guy Laroche Fidji and Ricci L’Air Du Temps, with some DNA from Paco Rabanne’s celebration-of- a-bubblebath masterpiece, Métal. Delicately peached, leafed and garlanded with florals, this perfume is far too ‘untouchably feminine’ for me to wear on my skin personally. It simply wouldn’t work. And while lovely, N⁰1 doesn’t, I would say, have quite the uniquely recognisable heft of perfumes in Mr Robert’s revered gallery such as Calèche, Doblis, or Madame Rochas. And yet it is its own creature. Nothing else is quite the same. And I sometimes take the small parfum that I own and smell it from the box. I like having it there.

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A QUIET PLACE : : NOIR BLUSH by ESSEN MINIMAL (2020)

Sometimes the reaction to a perfume entirely depends on the weather. When I first received this scent, by Liverpool-based brand Essen Minimal, in the boiling Japanese summer, it just seemed faint and prickly, defeated by the dense humidity. In winter, it feels entirely different. Black pepper and pink pepper blended with Calabrian bergamot smell fresh like new neroli, while the stringent, frankincense undertones give a curiously contradictory effect almost like a memory of Narcisse Noir. In the cold weather now, this simple and minimalist scent – clean and resuscitating – feels psychologically appropriate.

In terms of the news, and discussions of Certain People, my brain filament burnt out completely last November in that regard, so I am literally now unable to further discuss it. Watching the footage yesterday, I was wide-eyed, but wordless. Unsurprised. In some ways, to me it feels like a perfect ending (if it even is the end – Lord help us). Horrendous, yes. But a fitting denouement.

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