Category Archives: Flowers








Japan has a deep love of green tea.


While it might be as coffee and cake obsessed as any other nation – there are western style cafes wherever you look – and loves its Earl Grey and Darjeeling and ‘Royal Milk Tea’ (usually Ceylon and Assam boiled with hot milk), ‘O-Cha’  drunk for centuries, is at the very pinnacle.

The most popular drink from the ubiquitous vending machines is definitely cold green tea; my colleagues drink bottles and bottles of it. Matcha ice cream is as popular as vanilla; you can buy green tea cakes, sweets, chocolate, lattes; grades of the tea leaves ranked and filed according to quality and prefecture; catechin content; strength, cholesterol reduction, competing brands honing their products to tailor-fit the notoriously picky Japanese consumer.



One of the nicest experiences you can have as a tourist in Kamakura is to go to Kokedera, or The Bamboo Temple, on a rainy week day afternoon and sit at the tea shop down by the cave through the grove of rustling, towering bamboo, beside a waterfall, stirring your frothed, bitter matcha tea in a bowl and listening to the water and the green in the trees. Yesterday, suffering from Friday fatigue, but needing to pay the rent, I went round to my neighbour and landlord and Japanese mother’s house; humid and raining, quiet except for the sultry but balmy cool breeze.


She was alone, Mr Mitomi now retired in his eighties, gone to pay his respects at an ancestor’s grave. Mrs Mitomi herself looked well, better than she has recently, though I was quite shocked to hear that she had been hospitalized for two weeks for a gall bladder operation that we had known nothing about (these days, clad in our masks, all busy and interiorized, rushing around not quite hearing or noticing things properly you sometimes don’t see the wood for the trees…..)


She asked me in and whether I would like green tea or coffee; Over caffeinated already I felt more like cha, which was there in the pot, boiling water at the ready to add to the tea leaves to drink very hot – probably not orthodox in some green tea establishments, but how we both personally like to drink it.


It was a very pleasant and funny half an hour there before I had to head off for work; occasional comfortable silences as we reminisced ( I have known her for almost a quarter of a century now), the taste of the green tea clear and fresh; purifying- both relaxing and energizing at the same time.



I think I feel similarly about green tea in fragrances : they are somehow ‘off the grid’; quiet and elegant; removed from the vulgarity, and this time of year as the temperatures rise  they strike me as perfect as a contrast to the humidity : a coolness.





I remember Olivia Giacobbetti’s green tea for L’Artisan Parfumeur, inspired obviously by the classic Bulgari but with a more prominent jasmine facet, being more luscious and citrus. This current version I own is somewhat flatter; more soapy, lackadaisically indolic. Curiously, I have found that by layering it with Roger & Gallet’s take on green tea ( very sharp, bright, fizzing yuzu, ginger, ceding to a lovely clean and lingering green tea note ) which gives me odour confidence on the hottest of days the two compliment each other very nicely, filling in for each other’s mutual deficits.  I might wear this combination to work next week, even tweak it perhaps with some Hyouge ( formerly known as Oribe), a perfume that smells of freshly cut grass and newly whisked matcha bubbles – a very unusual scent  that takes you out of yourself.



It was strange in a way that I was drinking green tea in the afternoon with Mrs Mitomi, as I don’t really have it so often: a bottle of Tea Tonique by Miller Harris had also arrived in the post in the morning. Earmarking this as a possible perfume for Duncan, though I was quite taken with it myself – the clever thwarting of a gloriously fresh green floral Earl Grey/ Mate tea accord with a rash note of nutmeg and birch tar citrus at the core of the scent creates stark and beautiful contrasts within itself – On me it is a little smoky, refined but still fresh ; on D it smells nothing short of truly SPLENDID -floral, very tea – like;  a delicate revelation.

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after school




July 3, 2020 · 10:49 pm






I don’t go all that often for lime, even if I have always loved the Sicilian citric thrill of the mandarin and lime opening accord of the classic Armani Pour Homme. I have never entirely taken to the ‘Gentleman’s Limes’ of the colonial tropics a la Penhaligons or Geo F Trumper for various reasons, one of them being that I don’t care for the darkgreenness of lime being combined with neroli, sandalwood or musk.


Lime on food is definitely blissful – with coriander on grilled swordfish, squeezed on Tom Yum Kun. It is also perfect in a cocktail. A slice of lemon is of course lovely in an iced gin and tonic but lime has the edge : cooler, more vitalizing.






On Monday night I met D after work outside The Bank in Kamakura, which we sometimes use as a rendezvous point : an old bank from the early twentieth century converted into a bar that is never open.


On this occasion it was, so we decided to go in for a quick G + T before dinner; the only ones in there, the shaded stone and the marble of the interior naturally cooling and quiet.










I actually happened to be wearing two lime perfumes, coincidentally, having one of those wonderful days where you are enjoying life tremendously and your perfume choices are just right; rocking the sillage as you walk along in the gorgeous afternoon sunlight counting your blessings and loving how you have decided to scent your person ( as I write this I am miserable on the train in the heavy rain on my way to the school in Yokohama, but let’s go back just two days).


Montale’s Aromatic Lime has become such an annual staple for me that I recently acquired another bottle, just as a reserve. Although the opening couple of minutes are a little on the ‘perhaps too much’ tip – almost chocolatey, like a lime infused ganache; soon this deep, multilayered perfume of effective performance becomes the most perfect chypric patchouli base that is enjoyable by itself, sprayed on clothes,  or on one or two wrists but even better layered with other, lighter fragrances. For those who love Sisley Eau Du Soir and the like, this dry, highly long lasting faithful accomplice is essential; on Monday I layered it with my home-doctored 500 ml bottle of L’Occitane’s Eau Captivante, a fresh, slightly ozonic citrus/mint/basil to which I added copious doses of vetiver, grapefruit and lime essential oils, creating a refreshing, very lime-centred cologne that I have been wearing on a daily basis and loving ( and look at the colour of it! You KNOW I have been messing  with it, greening it ; sometimes you have to, if you want a perfume to capture its name)











I am actually wearing Eau Captivante today as well, in my suit. Where I ordinarily would never have considered wearing anything sharp and zinging to the work place, one of the small advantages of this new Covid-19 pandemic era for the perfumist is that firstly, everyone is wearing masks, all the time (extraordinarily exhausting while teaching – at the weekends I am so depleted I can hardly move; all the exertion from trying to animate a sea of masked zombies with less oxygen than you actually need; I overcompensate by going overboard and arrive home a limp rag), but at least, with the windows open as well – even with the air conditioning on, not good for the environment I know but I vastly prefer it as air conditioning just truly doesn’t go with my physiognomy – I consider it the enemy; on the trains the breeze travels down the train so much better and comfortable than being openly refrigerated. As a result, I feel more free and easy about scent: whereas before I was always hyper aware of every last trace of base note or middle note left hanging in the air, now I am indifferent – and obviously it is the last thing that anyone is worrying about in the first place.






Here in Japan, people are still wary: you have to be. There has been a rise in cases in Tokyo and Yokohama with the full reopening of the country, though it is nothing like the situation in Europe and North and South America (David if you are reading this in São Paulo, I hope you and your loved ones are safe; I love a crushed ice, lime drenched Brazilian caipirinha too, while we are on the subject..,,,,,,would love to make it out there one day).






Compared to our long, dark but safe sequestration in Kamakura for three months, I must admit that I myself have generally been enjoying the return to the ‘real world’ over the last month, overall ; both exhausted and energized simultaneously. Yet obviously, a greater pall still hangs over much of the earth for so many geopolitical and social reasons, not even taking into account the damage wrought by what is increasingly being seen as a truly dangerous virus that ravages the human body in so many ways and will leave millions of people with compromised bodies and health systems, probably for many years to come. It is genuinely scary,  and we are still in the tunnel.





Which is why it is so lovely, if you can, and are lucky enough to live in a place where the situation is relatively under control, to just saunter along, and try to forget about all of this for just one selfish evening ( having just purchased a vintage eau de parfum of Rochas’s beautiful Mystere from an an antique shop with your last money before pay day), on the way to a date with your other half, easing contentedly into the aura you have created with your scent choice lingering gorgeously on the summer air, lightly spiced, aromatic,vetiver, grapefruit and lime, to cut through the grime and the misery temporarily :  fill the air around you with a moment of lung-fuelling freshness.










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There were two incidents at the Piramide Del Sol.


The first happened when I had a severe attack of vertigo attempting to climb one of the lesser lunar pyramids.


The second was more painful. I had stupidly crawled into the grass in order to get the best photographic angles of Teotihuacan, Mexico’s largest pyramid, in awe of the Aztec majesty  in the blazing hot afternoon sun.


Suddenly I felt hot shooting pains in my legs, an immediate, infernal itching on my thighs and calves. Without hesitating,  and in full view of other tourists I tore down my jeans to find my legs crawling with red fire ants. Batting myself hysterically not realizing how ridiculous I must have looked – man in cowboy hat in his underwear, arms flailing wildly and screeching, once I had prized off the incendiary critters from my leg hair I shook down my jeans with vigor in order to restore some dignity to myself before running, clothed,  up to a random Japanese tour group that was standing near by. Skin throbbing and smarting as I shielded my eyes from the sky, I asked the unperturbed lady in charge if she knew what was going to happen to me next.




’Taihen desu yo.


Sugoi netsu ni naru yo’




– said the woman, seeming to almost slightly enjoy the conveyance of this  news that it was going to all be very ‘tough’ ; that I was going to have a terrible fever and be bedridden for days…,.




Toxic ants  !




Fuck !




Making our way towards agitatedly towards the exits (“It’ll probably be okay”) said Duncan semi-reassuringly, imagining me writhing and sweatridden like a dirt covered extra in Apocalypse Now, burning up and hallucinating and generally ruining our holiday by perishing in the middle of it before we even got to our friend’s nuptials in Guadalajara, we encountered a laconic, muscular female Mexican security guard in mirrored sunglasses patrolling the perimeter as bored as death and cool as a watermelon. I decided to go  up to her for a second opinion in my rudimentary Spanish learned from Almodovar movies – although unfortunately I had never encountered the word ‘ant’ ; She peered down slowly at my pathetic self through her shades, gun in silver holster, as I jabbered on excitedly about poison and delirium and weddings – but was far more sympathetic and calming than the tour guide had been ::…….just go and lie down and drink lots of water, you will be alright, they are not so bad (I also happened – gracias a los dios – to have had a very effective Aesop lemon hand cream with me in my jeans pocket that I applied to the bitten areas liberally as soon as I had whipped off my Wranglers :  I swear it worked brilliantly as an antidote). The Officer seemed to know what she was talking about, in any case,  so I decided to take her word for it, calming down a couple of notches and deciding instead to just drink daytime beers to either forget about the whole thing, or else hasten my death as the insectoid venom coursed through my veins with the bubbles in the big windowed cafe near the entrance, dulling and sharpening  our senses beautifully with ice cold Coronas and staring out quietly at ancient magnificence. The bites were very itchy, and I felt a bit odd  (though that could have been incipient sunstroke) but other than that I was fine.











I don’t quite know what led me to start thinking about this ridiculously typical anecdote yesterday evening, but sprawled out blissfully in front of my projector watching Takashi Miike’s ‘Desd Or Alive’ I was unconsciously plunged into memories of hot fire and inflammation on spraying Abel’s perfume Red Santal onto the back of my hand: a flinty aridity of fleshless spice and desert sands that took me a few moments to recognize, until my memory found the link I was looking for : D’Humeur Massacrante – a long disappeared perfume I used to love  by L’Artisan Parfumeur. A dryness of furious nutmeg and paprika alongside sulphur like the flash of a match catching light, this was one of my favourites in the legendary ‘Mood Swings’ box from 1994 that Duncan would wear a quarter of a century ago as part of his sly artillery alongside other dry and spiced elegantly masculine perfumes such as Cacharel Pour L’Homme and Comme Des Garçons’ Incense Series Jalsaimer.



Red Santal, an all natural perfume from Amsterdam based house Abel, fits neatly into this category of sparse woody hotness, with a bone-dry moisture-sucked base of two kinds of sandalwood plus a hot tempered intro of cloves and black and pink pepper over ginger and thyme. I rather like it : longevity on the skin is not as powerful as a synthetic hybrid might be but there is a lucidity to the natural essences that works. Rather than the usual, lugubrious butter of the more typical, creamy sandalwoods, this is a brisk and energizing flame of controlled heat, moderately livid. : and inflamed.


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As part of PerformIstanbul’s Stay at Home series, D Whom is offering ‘Three Rooms : Kitchen’ tonight at 9pm Japan Standard Time.


Our house is in absurd chaos, insanely messy, but I can assure you the stolen magnolias and lilies smell divine.



For last week’s inaugural episode, Bathroom, see here





For Kitchen ;




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The first time I ever purchased this clear, subtle beauty was around twenty years ago (she will agree that it almost seems like another lifetime), when Helen came to stay here for the first time. All in Japan was still new to me and to her; bewilderingly beautiful and revelatory; the light, the tranquillity of Kamakura, the sharp intake of breath when a Noh-masked performer entered the theatre stage left.  Slow and deliberate as a phantom, in awe-filling layers of fine-broidered, trailing kimono.



I left a bottle of Mandarine Pamplemousse under her pillow in the tatami room, light filtering through the afternoon so that when she woke up from the long jet lag the next day, this citrus would be the first scent of association she would have with a new day in Japan.



It was an anti-intuitive choice of scent in a way  – for someone whose favourite perfume is Après L’Ondée; this was more glassy and citric. If less rueful and melancholic than the Guerlain, there was still somehow a similar quality of homeostasis; a balancing, and calming, of the emotions.




Creed is often criticized by the cognoscenti (for various reasons I don’t entirely understand), and many people find this scent lacklustre, not close enough to its name. It is true that this cologne smells neither especially of mandarin, nor of grapefruit, but more of a fusion of clear, cleaning notes like a hair preparation for Aphrodite:  an Apollonian, fruited flower grove of the imagination (white flowers…clover? gentle wild jasmine? honeysuckle?) scenting the sunbleached clean stones of a gentle, natural ambergris. It is refreshing to the spirit: A perfume made explicitly for afternoon sleeps on cool white sheets. Unlike the more utilitarian citruses that I use on a daily basis for work, Mandarine Pamplemousse occupies its own special space now in the pantheon for me and is not a perfume that I will spray with abandon. Discontinued, instead, this bottle will be conserved in my cabinet as something precious.











Filed under Citrus, Flowers






An interview with the delightful John Biebel.


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Either I am suffering from the onset of Covid 19 anosmia, or this is just a new nadir at Guerlain, but this thin, wan chemicalia makes absolutely no impression on me whatsoever. The pomegranate is sharp and ‘fruity,’ : the orange I can’t even smell.


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We never made it to Halong Bay – or the Perfumed Pagoda  : instead we had one of the best days of our life in Haiphong. Still, it is easy to understand how a Spanish perfumer could fall in love with this mystical Vietnamese legend with its ocean -reflected mountains and write a perfume formula as an ode to a place he felt at home.

Dulcet sweet, airy and light, this translucent oriental white floral is a fresh gardenia/ magnolia / lily interwoven with a semi-aquatic top note of lotus flower exuding a watery facet delicately tinged with eucalyptus, dill seed, lemongrass; a gentle white musk accord laced with benzoin and amber that shines through the vulnerable flowers like a bead of sweat on a lover’s skin.













Halong Heaven – a naive,  romantically unhindered jeune fille of a perfume – exists in a very high key of unreality. Some might find it hysterical ; I find it pretty. True prettiness is underrated in perfumery these days; there are so many dreadful,  supposedly ‘pretty’ perfumes out there in the commercial world and beyond that actually have unnaturally vicious teeth.  Halong Heaven is slight – it does not dazzle – but it also does linger quite persistently in an opalescent dream-like state of white sheets and skin shadows, replete –  as the fan on the ceiling whirs slowly above; torpid in the stillness of afternoon.



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A gloom has descended as the rainy season begins; we are energyless; listless, this weekend, after the return to work. It has been more positive and energising than I anticipated, if fraught and suffocating in all the headgear -but  on Friday I was so zoned out, blasé :  I felt almost as if I no longer existed.



















Just been to the local shops for provisions.








Cakes.  Condensation, like rain, on the refrigerator.







I love custard, and could not resist.























Had to stop to take a picture of these roses.






But can you believe that I forgot to smell them?





















Even the cat has picked up the melancholy.



























We were supposed to be going to the Black Lives Matter march in Tokyo this afternoon, which a lot of our Tokyoite friends are attending; but have decided to donate instead. I feel guilty, but after all this quarantining and caution, the thought of crowds shouting and mingling when the coronavirus is still circulating up there  – right in the centre of the city, especially Shinjuku, the area we go to the most – is just too daunting. Call me a coward.































These are the magnolias I mentioned the other day.










I took these pictures on Thursday – I got there just in time. Now most of them are decomposing on the branch.













Filed under autobiography, Flowers, JAPAN PHOTOGRAPHY, this is not a perfume review