Category Archives: Flowers

PERFORMANCE : : : CASANOVA by TIZIANA TERENZI (2014) + SYMPHONIE PASSION by UNUM (2015) + EXPERIMENTUM CRUCIS by ETAT LIBRE D’ORANGE + VELVET TONKA BY PARFUMS BDK (2021)

There is always a great deal of talk about performance and projection on perfume-nut websites, as though one were test driving a Maserati. At the current niche prices, however, it is perfectly understandable that purchasers of high-end cult perfumes value mileage per millimetre. You want your scent to smell good from start to finish, and you want it to last. Hence the prevalence of nuclearized wood amber oud bombs that never end and coil the intestines in disgust; or else the ululating, fake vanillic cyberflorals that singe off one’s eyelashes. With olfactory tenacity, there needs to be some midway level for me of pleasuring the senses while not dominating my vision, but, conversely, not just dissipating into nothing.

Currently, I am in quite a niche-appreciating mode of olfactory being, having, to my surprise, not just tolerated, but actively enjoyed wearing several recent releases. For whole days at a time. As I come back into a much more balanced and cheerful state of mind after all the mayhem of this last year and a half, I find myself more curious about samples I may not properly have taken time to analyze sul serio : I have some Symphonie Passion, for instance, by Unum – a house I tend to be quite drawn to – but this had laid forlorn and ignored in my bedroom for a few years until I randomly tried it again yesterday and found myself liking its delicate architecture and understatedness. It is very nice; a soft yet initially sharp aromatic vetiver/cedar with an unusual top note of peony alongside a press release of sheer gobbledygook (the alarming levels of utterly incomprehensible drivel from perfume houses that are pumped out by automatic translation apps – though I often doubt whether the original copy for these hyperbolized spreadsheets of machine-like purple prose was much better in the first place – is almost, now, an ironic and quite hilarious art form in itself: many a night has seen me and D laughing in the kitchen reading through the latest risible blurb that often doesn’t even approach basic grammatical competency. Passion is infectious, but it does need some lexical constraints). I enjoyed the Comme Des Garcons 2-like edges in this scent, though, the contrasting sharpness and softness, even if overall, it is not especially longlasting. At $210 dollars for 100ml, however, and with a bottle (above) that I find quite covetable and stylish, I would definitely consider getting this one – I like to have weekend scents that I just feel comfortable in; to just tune out to.

Another perfume with soft vetiver in its heart is the peculiarly waxen, powdery; slightly putrid, but still charming Casanova by Tiziana Terenzi ; a perfume that I was surprised to find myself craving last weekend when watching a ridiculous genre serial killer film called Solace on Netflix. This is one of those perfumes whose ultimate structure and blend of accords I instinctively felt from the offset just somehow didn’t quite work, and yet the sum of the whole adds up to something that eventually crawls its way into your bedsheets; or at least under your skin. I would be quite unable to tease apart the notes of this perfume by myself – looking at the brand’s website, it turns out that the ambered/boisé base accord that I find rather troubling is composed of leather, myrrh, guaiac wood – never a favourite note of mine – cardamom, and the usual musk, sandalwood, ambroxan and vetiver; while the top notes feature fig leaf, pink pepper, jasmine and orchid: no wonder these weird, antituitive combination of notes – which smell of makeup, perhaps Casanova’s own, as well as his conquests as he climbs up into Venetian bedchambers to notch up yet another love conquest – feel uncannily unamalgamated. And yet something really works about it; something bodily and pleasantly intrusive, even if, it has to be said, at the end of the day, the stamina of the scent is a little weak. With a name like this, you could be forgiven for expecting a perfume with a lot more skin-clinging manpower.

Immensely enjoying record shopping and perfume hunting on a bright sunny day in Yokohama this last Monday prior to Duncan’s birthday (honestly, I feel like a completely different person since vaccination, and yes, don’t worry, I am aware of the persistent dangers and am not being stupid, or overly risktaking, but still, the change inside me right now is dramatic, feels revolutionary; unified in mind and body; not fractured and constantly in a state of bare suppressed fury and fear :: I can think clearly, and not about that) —- and so was blissfully able to concentrate on what I was perusing in each shop I went to, as though this were the only thing in the world that I would ever have to think about ever again; the amoeba level joys that sometimes exist in proper Shopping Therapy. Although I had wanted to possibly get UNUM LAVS for D, as the pope of my affections, only Nose Shop Shinjuku stocks this particular brand and I am still not comfortable heading right into the heart of the metropolis; instead I chose the not dissimilar Liquides Imaginaires’ Sancti, a beautifully balanced nutmeg/ ginger aldehydic frankincense that smells perfect. For myself, I lingered over several perfumes in the store, including the new Velvet Tonka by Parfums BDK, a house that has gained some fame for its rather gorgeously cherry coke amber, Rouge Smoking. Initially seduced by the gorgeously lilting sweet almond oil of Velvet Tonka melting into a vanilla, rose and powerfully coumarinic heart of tonka bean essence, as the day went on, on me, it started to teeter into nausea; far too strong, even withstanding several sessions of automatic train station foam soap and water. The persistently woody note of amyris and ‘amberwood’ – a chimera of a monster note that always gets my inner alarm bells ringing – were like hidden pillars of stubbornness erected through the entirety of the scent from top to bottom in a way that detracted, for me, from the ‘velvet tonka’ hidden in the heart, but which still might nonetheless prove quite sensual – this reminded me somewhat of the buttery sensuality of the original Moschino, or even the strange dissonances inherent in Paloma Picasso Minotaure – – – – quite the sex monster on particular individuals – – just not on me.

The final perfume on Monday that immediately prickled my fancy on first impressions, and which I had a couple of sprays on skin, was Experimentum Crucis by Etat Libre D’Orange, an aromatic chypre that is perhaps the closest I have ever come to finding a substitute for my beloved L’Occitane Patchouli. Complex, expensive, an undeniably well-structured creation by star perfumer Quentin Bisch, the main accord of this intriguing scent is a flinty patchouli-rose aromatica laced with honey, jasmine and akigalawood, with an unusual top accord of cumin, apple and litchi. Though not mentioned as a note used in the perfume, the overall effect of the perfume is very fresh peppery, with a dry, essential patchouli note that gathered and gathered in strength as the day went on to a point I eventually found oppressive. Though D said he quite liked it on me when we met up much later in the evening, there was something too spiny about the note – pointy as a black pencil lead, that was piercing through into my back brain as the day went on, and that made me realize, at the inner instinctive level, that this is not something I could or would want to carry off. Perhaps, as with La Traversée Du Bosphore, Bertrand Duchaufour’s poison-apple-laced perfume for L’Artisan Parfumeur, there is something about the artificial syntheticity of certain fruit notes, particularly ‘apple’, that always put an undesirable, secretly unwanted venom in my chalice. I do like my perfumes to be present, and there, but also somewhat in the background of my consciousness, not vying for my attentions, like a nemesis.

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THE OSMANTHUS OF KAMAKURA FLOWERS THREE WEEKS EARLIER THAN USUAL + + PURE DISTANCE Nº12 (2021)

I always report on the osmanthus. Whether it is one or two days early or late (by and large, it usually comes out predictably on October the 1st): this year it is in full flower three weeks early. A strange but gorgeous sensation: fuming the air with its persistent floral apricot like a tangential dream from another universe, the scent as dense as a petit fromage à l’abricot, creamy and benign; clear; yet almost eerie in its insistence. It floats on the air, and fuses with your thoughts, a floral accompaniment to each inhalation of mid-September air.

We decided to keep it local again this Sunday, going no further than down the hill, finding another undiscovered coffee shop with delectable cakes, before deciding, then, to go and have a look around Tokei-ji, a temple we haven’t been in for a while. Founded in 1285 (and it really feels it; I sensed something viscerally ancient while slowly making my way through the grounds in the mosquito-heavy humidity, osmanthus in every breath;) a wetness that could prove oppressive if it didn’t so perfectly go with the surroundings. Mossed trees and thatched rooves; wooden houses; this sanctuary was once the only temple where battered and abused women of the period could seek refuge from their tormentors; after three years on site, they were granted divorce.

D was wearing Nº12, the new perfume by Puredistance. And it smelled heavenly. Also containing osmanthus absolute, along with orange blossom and a touch of vanilla, the powdery, chypric sillage of the base note trailed him in a way that, given the visual and spiritual beauty of the Buddhist precinct, alongside the deep wet green of the lush, almost hopelessly serene gardens, added a dry, melancholic pathway back to him as he took these photographs; the osmanthus trees leaking their perfume silently into the air as the complex patchouli and oakmoss floral chypre androgynously insinuated itself into the droplets of air and my brain. I was completely entranced, and haven’t had an olfactory experience of this blissful intensity for quite a while.

Granted, there is a lot going on. After all, this scent is intended to be the jewel in the crown of the set of twelve perfumes that will now form the permanent collection by Puredistance: thus perfumer Natalie Feisthauer was commissioned with the responsibility of creating a perfume that would leave an absolute and unmistakeable impression. And it does. On my skin, there is, admittedly, a slight, almost saline rinseishness that comes from the initial tang of oudh-like ambroxan flashed with bright mandarin, bergamot, coriander and cardamom – a fresh opening that is rather dazzling (‘quite grapefruity!’ D exclaimed) with a Montale-like gleam and immediacy, with probable nods to the Middle Eastern markets. Soon veering off course from typical expectations, though, this attention-grabbing opening accord cedes to a rather intriguing contrast between a Faberge-fougère-like accord of powdery heliotrope, orris, geranium, hedione, tonka, oakmoss and ambrette, set against a more classical, Aromatics Elixirish rose, ylang ylang, vetiver, sandalwood, and crucially, patchouli – the key ingredient in the perfume, beautifully used – to form a characterful, long-lasting modern chypre; it is an emotively rich cushioning that is distinctive and frankly gorgeous – particularly when smelled from afar. The Amsterdam niche house, now this fragrance is complete, will be henceforth referring to its full collection as ‘The Magnificent 12’, and in this instance, I certainly cannot say that I disagree. On Sunday, in all the perfumed air, I was in heaven.

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THE SLEEPOVER

I was reading an article this morning by a journalist rhapsodizing about the summer, all the things he had done; all the places he had been, cross-country; feeling so liberated; how people he knew everywhere went crazy for travel, to catch up on everything they had been missing, to go places, see friends, socialize, hang out in bars, restaurants, attend concerts and the theatre pre-Delta and then during, despite the headlines about fatalities and hospitals filling up in the UK and in America and elsewhere: an explosion of need after being curtailed and unable to live as we do usually.

D and I were, though oppressed as everyone has been, quite the opposite. We didn’t want to go anywhere. Not realistically being able to go back to England: Japan is a ‘red country’, meaning hotel quarantines (at your own expense) in London; returning here would be the same, all under strict guard and control – it all feel at the instinctive level like some nightamareish ‘tourist’ equivalent of Guantanamo Bay. All travel thus held zero appeal: even the idea of physically getting on a plane, of sitting in an airport, seems inconceivable. Likewise long train journeys. We simply had no desire to go anywhere except in the near vicinity, and this despite double vaccination. Is this to be expected? Is it abnormal? Have you felt similarly? Is this reticence and caution a form of cowardice, collective PTSD, or is it just a normal reaction after a year and a half of having to travel on cramped trains and buses and in confined classrooms constantly under threat of potentially catching the virus? Have we been overreacting? Are we turning into hermits?

The first ten days at home after the end of term, I do think I went into some kind of summer hibernation or withdrawal, as I described previously in another post. I think I really needed it. After that, though, we started to venture out on walks nearby, discovering temples we had never known existed before, places I had seen on the bus route and always had some curiosity about but never actually made the effort to go and look; backlots and side streets; deserted spaces.

We even had a sleepover at our own house. Moved one futon into the small guest room with its narrow bed; one on the floor, like kids, and stayed there for about ten days watching films or reading books with the cat (who seemed to enjoy the ‘new stimulations’ as well). It was funny how it was actually like having a holiday within your own house: waking up each day not in your usual environment – a ‘home away from home’. Like staying at your friend’s; waking up to the unfamiliar. After coffee and breakfast we would then just play it by ear; either just wander down another unexplored path, or stay in.

One evening we were invited to go to the house of some old friends’ for dinner. What would be a usual turn of events – socializing, drinking, talking and eating together – seemed initially strangely daunting. D didn’t even want to go at first – I had to persuade him. Having been in his own funk for a month or longer from July, during which time he turned off all notifications and closed down his emotions, I didn’t know how it was going to turn out. Was it going to be awkward? And when we arrived at their house in south Yokohama, overlooking the sea, at first things, just momentarily, did feel a little stilted, as though none of us quite knew what to do. I even felt that our hosts were a little neurologically odd in their movements, initially; a bit jerky, dusty, as if they had been taken out of storage: our eye contact was off at first: I felt a bit heartbeaty.

After some wine, and just the pleasure in each other’s company though, (plus an absurdly delicious homemade chicken pie), and the fact that we had after all just recently had our second vaccinations, we all calmed down a lot and the time went very quickly and enjoyably. The conversation was great. I felt less contained. It was like being unsutured. We just caught the last train, hugging Justin goodbye – having said goodbye to Setsuko back at their apartment with her new rescue cat; D had a very big spontaneous constant grin on the way home, physically looser – I felt the same. It was lovely. For a long time, aside a couple of times going out with some of my Japanese colleagues after work for cans on the park bench, and one or two quick lunches with people, again outside, this was, I think, the first proper socializing we had done in a year and a half, and it felt oddly momentous. You do forget that you are a social creature, that humans are social beings; I suppose when the possibilities of interaction are reduced, as they of course have been, you just adapt. But sometimes you don’t even realize yourself what is happening to you; there can be a normalization within yourself of new states of being that are ultimately perhaps not in your best psychological interest.

Sometimes you also realize that you have been living in a place for many years and not noticed things you should have. You have just walked past them. Like this exquisite cafe, for example. A former villa turned restaurant (it was apparently very famous for its beef stew of forty years until last year), the current corona restricted cafe was still a place of utter serenity and calm; the lemon cheese cake and crème caramel we had completely out of this world.

How could we have missed this place? It has been waiting for us, all this time. Just off the main road to the temple of Kenchoji. Next time someone comes to visit, or I need a private, quiet tete a tete with a friend, this retreat is where we will be headed. We both felt deeply tranquil there – it was a a beautiful oasis of peace.

Another discovery we made by chance just from walking around was a 1930’s cafe, hidden behind a building in Ofuna – next to Kamakura – famous for its pickled mackerel bento boxes and boiled ham. Although it was a bit odd having sushi for breakfast with coffee – D was more adventurous, going for the full chirashizushi; I could only (barely) bear the much easier to eat roll version- with the out of place Hawaiian music going on in the background, and the giggling not-used-to-foreigners adult waitresses, it was quite a novel, and amusing, experience.

It was nice not having an agenda this summer; no fixed itinerary, as you sometimes ironically do when you are on vacation : stumbling upon these new old places. Probably if we had gone away somewhere, to another country, they would have remained undiscovered. It is good to go deeper into the local topography – climb some stairs, here, go down this lane : I felt we had penetrated further into our own living space.

The weeks went past. Then, having spent most of the summer holiday close to home, just in Kamakura, one day we woke up and decided on having a proper day out.

Going north up to the centre of Yokohama has little appeal right now – it is one of the current delta epicentres – and we have both agreed that for the time being, Tokyo is completely out of the question : it is simply impossible to avoid being in close contact with large numbers of people there and the medical situation is getting out of control. Instead, and I don’t for the life of me know why we haven’t done this more often, seeing that they are pretty much equidistant, we decided to take a train just 20 minutes south, to the curiously old fashioned but less densely crowded US naval base city of Yokosuka.

I must say, that having been spending so much time in the zen capital we call home, Yokosuka truly did feel like going on an exotic vacation. We went there once, many years ago, and I remember being in some trap club thinking where am I? The streets were full of Americans in uniform and the dressed up locals sometimes giving them the eye; every other premises a burger place or tacos bar or pool club – it is so different in terms of energy I don’t know how it had possibly faded from our minds.

Yokosuka is a very intriguing place. Run down, as you can see; old fashioned in a way, but very vibrant. Ethnically diverse – you see soldiers in full uniform about three times as big as the regular population walking around, kids on skateboards, old Japanese grannies – fascinating eateries – we had an excellent Peruvian lunch and want to go back for the Colombian and Vietnamese, difficult to get in Kamakura or Yokohama. Not to mention the burgers. I need to try one.

It was fascinating. A very hot day, I almost felt eventually overwhelmed by it and all the sensory stimulation, so we sat in the seaside park,looking out at the shipyard, at sunset, the sound of the military trumpet calls as evening fell; navy personel out for their evening jogs; old men sat looking out over the water: Japanese sailors doing manoueuvres aboard a submarine that was docked in the bay. Though only a short distance away, it felt as if we had entered another world. I had assumed it was miles and miles away down the coast, an hour or so- but no; just an easy twenty minute train ride. We loved it. So we have decided we are going to go back there again, the weekend after next, to celebrate Duncan’s 50th birthday. There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from; the alcohol laws (which currently can’t be served in public spaces as a precaution against the spread of Covid because customers let down their guard too much) are being repealed this week as no one can stand it any longer and all the bar owners and restauranteurs are going crazy; there are so many beckoning alleyways to look down – so many compelling neon corners: coffee houses, import shops; it is a a whole new playground. I can’t wait. Let’s just hope that in the process of having fun, we don’t overdo things and wake up with tattoos.

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THE OLDEST AND NEWEST LUTENS: NOMBRE NOIRE (1982) AND LA PROIE POUR L’OMBRE (2021) : : + VANILLA DIORAMA by CHRISTIAN DIOR (2021)

It has probably long been obvious to everyone else, but it only struck me for the first time the other day placing them side by side, that there is a perfect design cohesion and style continuity between the first and the most recent Serge Lutens. My bottle of the ultra rare and ultra coveted Nombre Noir, the legend that the maestro of maquillage created for Shiseido in 1982, is probably my most ridiculous bargain of all time (as in ridiculous: please read the story here). There isn’t much left now, as I used it all in one Christmas frenzy, but still enough for me to enjoy, once in a while, the plummy, damascene apricot glamour of its churlish, preening osmanthus.

The latest by Lutens, La Proie Pour L’Ombre, is of course from the Gratte Ciel, or skyscraper, collection, and the bottles look perfect together, though almost forty years apart. A vanilla amber, with incense/licorice and a hint of leather (this is not a leather, ultimately, no matter what you read, but an immortelle-laced, ambery, warm and sweet, luscious scent that brings to mind so many of the old Lutens like Ambre Sultan, the incense of Serge Noire, a hint of Arabie (the celery note is problematic here; D doesn’t like the beginning but likes how it evolves on my skin), the warmth of Cèdre; it went perfectly this weekend with a dot or two of the new Christian Dior Vanilla Diorama – another glinty vanilla amber that begins with a fresh spritzy opening that reminds me of a delicious dessert I once had at a French restaurant in Nagasaki that was infused with citruses and star anise, leading to a cacao-touched, sugar-crusted texture of marrons glacés and a light woody amber basis that prevents the scent from becoming too sweet or flayed open. I haven’t worn vanilla in a while; it has become a note I save for special occasions in case I feel it is eating me alive; but this one is not a vanilla bean monster: I would say it is more along the sleeker, less ice creamy lines of vertically structured cents such as Pure Distance Gold or Guerlain Tonka Impériale. While the name of the scent may raise a few eyebrows among perfume purists (what next? Chocolate Dioressence? – actually, that’s not a bad idea) – playing with classics from the Dior Heritage Archives and giving them a contemporary remix, the perfume itself is is a warm, lingering, and at first, slightly unassuming perfume that gets better as the day goes on, eventually lasting for a good twenty four hours on the skin. It was very enjoyable with the Lutens on Sunday, which I wore on my clothes and on my beard – some Dior on my wrists; the cooler weather a perfect backdrop for being wrapped up in rich, but strangely subtle, dreamy, autumnal amber.

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JAPANESE GINGER LILY

I have often admired and envied the ginger lilies that grown in the garden of our neighbour from Paraguay. Cycling past her expertly tended gardens, when her tall, hedychium coranarium plants flower at the end of August and the beginning of September, I always greedily inhale the scent of the flowers and wish I could pick them. I probably sometimes have.

This year, just beyond the kitchen window, a big ginger lily – which D says came from a cutting from a friend of ours who moved back to Scotland nine years ago, and which has always been there, getting bigger each year, but has definitely never blossomed before (because you can be sure I would have noticed )- opened up out of the blue in the garden one day, just as we were about to go out. By the time we had returned home, it was open more fully, intensely fragrant – like a delicate gardenia infused with freshly cut ginger stems – and proceeded to keep flowering, and wilting, flowering and wilting as new buds kept opening up.

We were both really excited. I have never had a plant fragrant enough to disturb the senses from outside the window before – (if you discount our big osmanthus tree, which makes you almost too delirious come October)- but never a white flower, with that erotically petalled, lunescent trail of perfume trailing up at the moments when you least expect it. My mother has an incredible trellised jasmine back home that smells breathtaking in early summer; there were lilies here everywhere in July, wisteria in June; but this is the first time that I have ever had such a seductively scented flower of my own.

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VINTAGE MADAME ROCHAS (1960) PARFUM DE TOILETTE vs COLOGNE vs PARFUM……… EXQUISITE HAUL OF TREASURE AT ‘KURUKURU’ ZUSHI RECYCLE SHOP FOR £6.60

Once I had semi-extracted myself from my morass, one of the goals of this holiday was to go to Kurukuru. This antique/ ‘recycle’ shop is a (for us, but probably not for most people) beautiful, chaotic garbage heap next to a supposedly haunted tunnel / busy thoroughfare at the intersection of Kamakura and Zushi full of treasure that I am always more than delighted to cycle along the coast to, when in the mood – D’s bike is broken, so I walk and do figure eights and go down alleys and circle and come back- he has always been a brisk mover ; this time we walked in : : and I immediately saw, among the junk – the Jane Austen-esque familiarity – I have always loved the original presentation – of an entire unused Madame Rochas collection.

Look at this shit. Admittedly, I love Mystère more. But there is something, something sweaty and powdery and Mysore-ish and talcum rose about the Madame Rochas that really suits me. It is, in some ways, my ultimate sandalwood. And although the parfum, as I expected, was defunct and turned: mon dieu – seriously, the parfum de toilette is I think by far the best iteration of this perfume I have ever experienced. Firstly, the label on the box is to be fetishized. Like the most delicous, cold, creamy walnut cake from the 1960’s. Secondly, the perfume within – the flacon, as you can see, is full and in absolute, optimum, pristine condition. Oh mama, you better believe.

The eau de cologne will certainly be used. I am actually quite transfixed by it. More masculine. More Kamakura taxi driver. But it was so pleasurable, having bought all of this for less than ten dollars; along with various, aesthetically delightful household contraptions, to then cycle along the coastline and dreamily watch the sun go down with Mt Fuji at Kotsubo; carefully (well not really), taking out the treasure from the bag to try the varying Rochas configurations on my skin and enjoy its timeless confabulations. Who left this collection? Who was it that owned all the bottles in these different strengths, and incomparisons of beauty?

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THREE VERY DIFFERENT LEATHERS: : : : EMPREINTE by COURRÈGES (1970) + FALCON LEATHER by MATIERE PREMIERE (2019) + LA PROIE POUR L’OMBRE by SERGE LUTENS (2021)

In the middle of August I crashed. I am coming back to myself now, and will get back to all that perhaps later. Throughout, though, I have certainly been very heavily perfumed. There is too much to handle: I need to intoxicate.

One of things I very much love about wearing scent is the sense of demarcation: of separating and deliberately contrasting different pointers in time into retrievable, memorable chunks of consciousness. On the last day of term, jubilant I had got through the year and that the last month or two – post second vaccination and all the relief that had ensued = had gone well I finally put away my Penhaligons Gardenia, which in very hot weather I had been wearing for three or more weeks continuously, along with Floris Gardenia talc (after taking a bath each day before heading out in Floris Gardenia foaming shower gel……….as though an English Cleopatra ( ‘do I smell like an Edwardian Lady?’ I asked Duncan with semi-concern, in my white shirt and suit trousers, feeling instinctively that I did in fact smell beautifully fragrant and floral in a way that was perhaps unusual but still seemly (“No: you smell clean and sherbety: I like it” ); feeling already as I put all of these white flowers back into their boxes for another year how potent the temporal stamp is in the mind with smell – they were already past tense; already filed away; already reminding me, almost nostalgically, of this July and August, even though time was still progressing. But of a particular time, gone forever. But now stored. Ready for recapture.

It had been gloriously sunny. Then, as my holiday began, bad and disturbing news from home and an approaching typhoon suddenly made the temperatures plunge and all the light go into total retreat. it was a week of literal, and figurative ,darkness in which I found myself regressing back decades into depressing remembrances to the soundtrack of Tori Amos; inescapably. Drinking wine, zombie-like, I hardly even remember what I did for about eight days, except slowly rearrange my perfume cabinets; bottle by bottle; therapeutic in a way, and meaning that when the sun did come back again – with glorious revenge – I was fully ready to drench myself thoroughly to societally objectionable levels of intensity. Frankincense oil. Patchouli oil on the body. An unquenchable thirst for the leather chypre or aromatic combined with marine: Kenzo Pour Homme under the arms, and then lashings of the rose-mimosa leather patchouli masterpiece that is Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum eau de parfum (completely essential in my life – I need some more ); the original Sisley Eau Du Soir, which in vintage (the black bottle), a perfume I adore at the right moment and which I only have a few drops left of now but which I have found a suitable substitute for in Montale’s Aromatic Lime – also indispensable when I get into this mood; the final accord lingering on everything you touch broodingly, dramatically.

One morning, cloudy but not dark grey and pouring as it had been for days on end, it could only be Courrèges Empreinte: a curious hybrid of light floral-fruit facets (jasmine; melon, peach, a bitter twist of artemisia and coriander over what smells like a chic white leather French trench coat) that on me settles into the most elegant and enigmatic final accord, something like the younger sister of Miss Balmain parfum, but paler, and distinctive in its own right. Robert Gonnon, the perfumer behind this creation, has quite a slim resumé, but if I tell you that he created Paco Rabanne Métal; Cacharel Anais Anais, Grès Quiproquo, and Ô De Lancôme (all of which I own and wear), this should give you some idea of Empreinte’s sleek and ambiguous credentials. It is a very interesting scent indeed that gradually unfolds over time, unlike the great majority of contemporary perfumery, (the perfume’s original ad tag line reads: “Many women leave an impression. But few leave an actual imprint.…”)

If Empreinte is the swish of that white coat, as it is removed and hung up in a Parisian bistro, Falcon Leather, by Matiere Premiere, is a much darker, directer leather made liquid: centered on birch tar and oud, labdanum and benzoin and a touch of saffron – smelled from the bottle this is heady, aggressively masculine stuff with a strong-beating heart. It smelled good on Duncan, but would smell even better on some of the leather-jacketed body guards and for-hire high end killers in some of the adrenalizing Netflix action films I have found myself absorbed in these last few days (anything but the real world outside, please – the news everyday has just been too overwhelming. I read it but have to hold back) Black bomber jackets are de rigeur for these professionals, no matter the location – and a spray or two of Falcon Leather on their ubiquitous garments could only increase the sense of grounded, guarded propulsion.

In great contrast, Serge Lutens’ latest addition to the Gratte Ciel collection, another Christopher Sheldrake collaboration, La Proie Pour L’Ombre, is warm and nuzzly; a familiarly Lutensian, strangely gorgeous and mysterious scent ostensibly centred around leather (and licorice and vanilla), a powerfully immortelle, almost celery-like note cedared with spice in the top that at first is disconcerting but then begins to pull you into its own unusual sense of unique gravity. D thinks it smells like butterscotch: the ambered texture is certainly odd; almost chocolatey; with tones redolent also of coffee absolute; but also medicinally enveloping and pungent like some of the more extreme and esoteric Japanese incense towards which I quite often find myself gravitating. Unlike the flamboyance of the two other perfumes I have been describing to you today, I feel that La Proie Pour L’Ombre is more private; a dark, shadowy-like-its-name fragrance that suits these particular times: less a leather for a publicly viewed sillage than a quiet, personal cove of introspective luxuriance.

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take it easy

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August 11, 2021 · 11:59 pm

BRINGING BACK THE DEAD: ::::::L’OCCITANE PATCHOULI

I gain comfort from violet. And the best violet I have ever owned is undoubtedly L’Occitane’s Patchouli, a disappeared extrait from the 1990’s (also gorgeous in the more radiant edp which I would kill to have a bottle of again), that is now virtually impossible to find anywhere.

An immediately poignant blend, one that somehow imbued whatever you were feeling at the time with sad longing, this was a violet/rose/clove/patchouli heartrending syrup that I saw a miniature bottle of on ebay the other day for ¥33,000 – eleven others were watching closely.

Friday night, after the conversation on here with Gabrielle and Catherine about how much we missed the old, pre-everywhere mainstream iteration of L’Occitane (when there were little bottles of extrait like Mûre

-which I picked out from the collection to try again the other night, marvelling at how alive it is; ‘just’ a blackberry little number, but something lovely about it; as though it were telling a story. Simple. A very short formula. But scintillating), I found myself wanting to attempt to recreate Patchouli. Impossible. Because I am not a perfumer, and don’t know all of the notes. But I began with a rich patchouli essential oil, blended in some rose, and some Klito by Marko Buffini, a very violety scent; added some of my strange clove/rose/hinoki/patchouli desolate Autumn perfume, which I made many years ago while watching John Cassavetes’ Opening Night in my old house’s tatami room, and still keep in the original L’Occitane Patchouli bottle, in the top picture; now so intense; based on the dregs of what was left of the patchouli; some Ungaro Diva extrait, and then years of added essential oils; I am not even entirely sure which other ones I have added over the decades; I sometimes wear a little on cold winter days, as it lingers. The addition of this private perfume started to veer the blend away from what I was looking for – a little too smoky – but then I remembered a dessicated bottle of L’Erbario Toscano’s Violetta Nobile that was somewhere in the kitchen; mainly dried up for some unknown reason but now very concentrated in the nozzle and spray tube. Pouring my blend into this bottle, the initial exhalations from the re-awoken bottle were very nice; super violetty, as the scent from beneath joined the powdered upper notes and created an enjoyable, rich, even potentially noble patchouli violet. Nice. But not Patchouli L’Occitane.

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front garden photographs sent by parents inducing homesickness

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August 9, 2021 · 12:03 am