Category Archives: Frangipani
















IMG_1363 (1)







There were three tiares at the fleamarket and elsewhere on the same day (and one of them was Loulou in miniature) –  like premonitory visions of the ocean in some warm, far-flung summer. Strange that I should gather them all up in one go, though, in the middle of winter;  particularly as two were from Tahiti – souvenirs bought, I imagine, on some holiday at the airport and brought back in suitcases to Japan, never to be touched by anyone until me, unwanted keepsake flora with the conch shell exhalations of waves and that smooth, encompassing, pink white scent of the tiare, or its synonyms frangipani and plumeria:  a smell I quite simply adore.




Softer and less animalic or pungent than gardenia or jasmine, more relaxed than tuberose or ylang (flowers that luxuriate hysterically in their own self-seduction), tiare flowers have something eternal to them – a cool, coconut breath and a smooth, lactonic serenity that lets the flowers just be: on their branches, emanating scent and unmoving in the breeze –  but entrancing the blue sky that surrounds them.



















The best frangipanis I have smelled by far were in Laos last year, in Luang Prabang – the entire ancient gilded city perfumed with them delicately at dusk.



But even the annually flowering plumeria on my balcony have a creamy, luscious scent, if more subdued in their Japanese environment: indigenous to Polynesia, the tree not as prolific as its cousins by the sea, but still containing their essence, their memory, and their ancestry.




The flowers take a long time to bloom (we keep the tree inside during the cold Japanese winters and put it back outside again come April: sometimes they don’t even come out until October or finish flowering until mid-November), but when they do, and they drop from the bough, I place the flowers in water and they subtly unfold their scent within the room.




Because of this, I am very familiar with the natural smell of the tiare/plumeria in all its facets. The party girl tiares like Loulou or Montale Intense Tiare are all embellished and embodied fantasies bolstered with coconut, vanilla, and all the delectable notes tropicales, while conversely Ormonde Jayne’s interesting Tiare goes the other way in producing something very delicate, elegant – and very English. Parfums Sachet, on the other hand  (which I know nothing whatsoever about, but loved the Rousseau-like leaves on the box at the flea market and just snatched it up without thinking (I once did the same with a vanilla perfume I came across there from Tahiti, incidentally : very unusual, quite brown-sugar, molasses island winds – I don’t wear it much but when I do find it very rousing and distinctive) just tiare: the flowers gathered, macerated, strained and bottled, grown and captured beautifully in their place of origin. Natural and quite dense in scent, it has a slightly medicinal edge that tells you that the flowers are real. I have another Hawaiian plumeria perfume that smells very similar: a quiet yet richly petalled stasis. There is no throw as such, but it works as a kind of skin scent, or as a moment of tranquillised and dreamy, armchair travelling.




















Far more exciting to me is Reva De Tahiti, which I am currently quite obsessed with and wearing on a daily basis to work. I love this, and in fact, quite presciently had been looking at my empty bottle the other day that a friend of mind had given me after staying in Tahiti on her honeymoon a few years ago (could there be a more romantic destination?) and sighing at the fact that I would never again get another bottle. You couldn’t have presented me with a more perfect souvenir, and I couldn’t quite believe how much I was liking it (considering the mediocre packaging): I drained the entire bottle over a couple of months that summer.




Whereas Sachet’s Eau de Tiare smells natural but a little flat after a while (the perils of just saturating alcohol with petals), Reva de Tahiti presents a similar fantasia on distilled tiare flowers but it is as if they had been rinsed in the essence of blue ocean: a fresh, almost ozonic element that is perfectly realized: fresh enough to give the flowers a burst of life (and very much bringing the aforementioned medicinal note to the fore  – which I do enjoy, actually: you could almost call this Plumeria Criminelle  – the tiare equivalent of Serge Lutens’ mentholated tuberose), but not so much as to make it smell overly oceanic.





What I like so much about this scent – which I found, to my astonishment in a recycle shop in Asagaya –  is that while it evokes the ‘clean’ type of fragrance to an extent – Beyond Paradise, Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, Pacifica Star Rock Jasmine et al – and I like such scents in small doses when I am working, particularly in summer –  it is far less synthetic: the flowers in the simple but exuberant and very clear concoction floating down from their seaspray gently; settling on the skin in the most delightful manner : light; lei-fresh, and perfectly tiare.











Filed under Flowers, Frangipani




Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 18.47.06






                          Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 18.49.48  






Guest post by Olivia 





I have a confession.. I could never really get there with summer. Instead, falling squarely if not neatly into the misfit camp, there’s a prominent facet of my character that really gets off on the disenfranchised gloom, the ennui-flecked hinterlands of colder weather: I go about willing, even buoyantly braced for climatic underwhelmisms. Genuinely, for the most part, the long looping requiem that is the starker side of the year here speaks much more to me, in the ugly-beautiful vistas it creates, in that electric zing of foggy morning air and the almost abrasive clear headedness it breathes in. A paean to winter isn’t remotely the way you’d want to start a review of a paint-by-numbers summer perfume, but while all the above is true (almost heretically so) – I do love the scents of summer, and year round; the densely creamy florality of sun cream; the thick unction of monoi; the gorgeously over ripe slimy-banana scent of ylang; robustly sexy jasmine; the lactonic, pillowy quality of coconut.


Perversely, summer sits easiest with me in concept: I like the idea, the colours, of painfully blue sky and fierce midsummer sun, everything exaggerated by a heat that seems to balloon the senses and add a crazed hyper real touch to life. In an ambient light that is beamish and bursting, there is an intense veil of something pure and life affirming that somehow connects everything up: the phosphorescent sunsets, flamboyant flowers fanned out like Day-Glo dancers and the rocking whoosh of salt water as your feet lift, weightless as shadows off the seabed. Crucially too, it always makes me think of giddy teenage holiday flings and falling in love: that lickety-split, glittered adrenal rush that leaves you tingle toed and cherry cheeked and your heart weeping round the edges like a tub of Soft Scoop. Things feel exciting, reanimated, and pregnant with possibility. Perhaps it’s these qualities that cast a particular kind of romance over the idea of a summer perfume: at the same time as being necessarily utilitarian (cooling, airy) it should embody these fantastical moments in some way, transporting us like a talisman to some removed technicolour daydream, a strict and lovely inversion of the diurnal tumult and tedium.


The French do summer well. Each August as Paris drains itself toward the coasts, everything seems to take on a universal open-shirted bon vivre: work can do one. The focus now is on late and long lunches, on family and wine, on protracted indulgence and a gorgeously relaxed sense of hedonism. All preferably slathered and slipped in the buxom butteriness of Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (a divine tiare scented body oil) and buckets of Sancerre. Guerlain, alongside their signature, beautifully moody wink ‘n’ smoulder orientals (Shalimar, Vol du Nuit..) have several perfumes that reflect this sentiment. Olfactory explorations of that summery, particularly franco-bacchanalian lilt focused somewhere between the Croisette and the Comoros: the honeyed, heady imperialist fantasy Mahora, with its piquant and petroleum undertones; Metallica, that gorgeous over-ripe slick of ylang, gnashing carnation and smooth as Chartreuse vanilla overridden with a bizarre and lovely brassy bite; the lazy, late morning yielding sand between the toes insouciance of Lys Soleia. This year, Terracotta Le Parfum – an accessory to the summer make-up line of the same name, joined the gang.


To spray it on is to be caught up in a sudden solar squeeze, a near perfect Polaroid of warm air and sunshine. From a little, light bite of bergamot things tumble through a fairly prominent green jasmine and into a salicylate rich lei with ylang, orange blossom and tuberose all twirling around reasonably indistinctly from each other. The lactonic element of this composition binds the florals together, lickably, sinking into a balmy (characteristically nouveau Guerlain/Wasser-esque) base of slightly vanillic musk reminiscent of tanned, touchable skin. Its final, lilting resting point is a radiant, peaceful kind of sensuality – an evocation of that intuitive and irresistible sexiness that you sometimes catch in someone when they are totally unaware of themselves, languid within their own skin. In essence then, this perfume is in perfect alignment with the (gorgeous) Terracotta make-up range, which it joined this year as a limited edition: the aim is just that allusive healthful, sun-ripened and happy glow – la bonne mine – that seems to glint and gleam innately from the inside (..pretty much an entirely alien notion to me to be honest, but these products are great at faking it.)


Terracotta actually feels quite classical to me. At least it bows quite low to those bigger boned French floral perfumes of the ‘70s, but removed by several degrees as if quoted in Chinese whispers. There is, actually, something of that Biba (or possibly more accurately, Bardot) era about it perhaps: a carefree, salt-tousled hair and beads quality that makes me think of long late summer grass the colour of freckles, of face paints and daisy chains, of listlessness, acoustic accords and beatific wooze. That said, it isn’t nearly sullied enough to tip over into full bohemia. Rather it comes across with clean lines and desaturated, block colours (it is ultimately quite a simple perfume) – shades even, reminiscent of sun-bleached photos: pale orange, rinsed indigo, foggy duck egg set against a pale sepia background curling lazily at the edges. It’s brimful of that particular sort of mid-century optimism, all technicolour and tans, but seen through the refracted lens of a modern (more reticent?) touch.


Just maybe, predictably, I’d like a bit more coconut in there (I have been, and would recommend layering it with a coconut lotion – probably the Yves Rocher one, just because.) But then again that might detract from its essential feathery, prêt-à-porter quality; because despite the archetypal heavyweight heft of these florals, Terracotta wears like a billowed veil on me – it’s a sotto voce accessory: an adornment rather than an armour, blended as smoothly as the bronzer of the same line is delicate. Imagine the thick impasto and lush, steamy tones of a Gauguin seen on acetate: the texture and weight of a daydream, designed to be caught on the air almost as an idea rather than a laboured study in exoticism. Besides, the extra dollop of fatty-luscious coconut would likely anchor this perfume into a wobblesome monoi pudding (akin possibly to Montales’ fantastically loudmouth, coconut drenched, maraca-clacking carnival Intense Tiare – a one spray event, and trust me.) The best features, and utility actually, of this fragrance – to be splashed on, on your way out to have some fun would be lost if it were heavier.


While ultimately it probably lacks that certain indirect, strange quality – like olfactory Escher drawings – that personally renders perfumes close to my heart (the weird and moodily diaphanous Dune is probably my de facto beach scent: which given its windswept gloom and wonderful despondency probably isn’t so surprising.) But I think I’ll probably enjoy Terracotta’s contrarian ebbing from my skin in the husk of winter, when its simple light will sharpen up and become more abstracted. Then, the clash of its inherent positivity with an onyx, ink washed afternoon will be a nicely disarming colour separation: uncomplicated, bright blooms huddling under heavy jumpers like a portable warmth, as outside monastic skies play their shadow show behind bell-black, bony fingered trees and anti-freeze air.










                               Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 20.12.05


Filed under Frangipani










My friend Helen and I have a thing about contrived experiences, in the sense that we sometimes deliberately contrive the power of recollection with scent:  self-consciously create our memories.



Where the Proustian recollection was instant, uncontrived – a Madeleine, dipped in linden tea that brought back a surge of powerful, beautiful experience unravaged by the years – you can also get this effect quite intentionally; stamp a scent on an experience, fix it temporally. We can take photographs in an often vain attempt to freeze and capture time, but even the most spontaneous shots often feel flat, dead. Scent, for me at least, is effortlessly more effective.





Helen has also perfected the Art Of The Right Moment.




I am of the rip-all-the-Easter-eggs-open-and-eat-them-before-lunch school – get: open : use. Helen knows that it is sometimes best to wait until the most perfect point in time to maximize your enjoyment. This is certainly true of a much anticipated new album by your favourite artist; your first listen and what you see and feel at the time produce mental pictures for many future listens. And it is the same with perfume (especially if you have enough to be this selective); not unleashing that Pandora’s box until the moment is ripe, then flooding that moment with scent: clasp it: suspend it forever.


















One time I followed this credo and it really paid off.




















It was April, and to my astonishment, I had just won a free holiday to Okinawa, the only time such a thing has ever happened to me  (bizarrely, I had recently bought a pair of glasses from a shop in Fujisawa and, unbeknownst to me, had been entered into the shop’s ‘lottery’? next thing I knew I had two tickets to a tropical island, much to our astonished delight). I was really excited, and thus wanted a scent to encapsulate it. I had to think,  but not for too long, as I had just received a sample of Annick Goutal’s Songes (‘Dreams‘), and having had a very brief inhale, I sensed it would be just the thing. And I was right; Okinawa is a haven of flowers and lush gardens; the sub-tropical, most Asian, and most relaxed part of Japan, with its own indigenous culture and language and ways of living (and the biggest life expectancy on the entire planet) and I thought it would be perfect for our stay at Moon Beach, a wonderfully dated, very seventies hotel – Joni Mitchell’s Hissing of Summer Lawns comes to mind – replete with dangling lianas, tropical fish, fountains, and hibiscus.





At one end of the hotel-complex, on a hill overlooking the aquamarine sea, was ‘Sirena Garden’, (complete with ‘chapel’), which though meant for the post-modern Japanese ‘Christian’ Wedding – which has to be experienced to be believed – was actually, despite the weirdness,  really beautiful. The lilies – pure white lilies, were in their full blooming, smelling quiveringly pure; pristine – delicate, yet with a beauteous perfume you could just drink and drink. Bowers of entwining stephanotis crowned the trellises: we sat on the grass, cracked open beer, and looked out to sea.








And then I sampled Songes.





















It is a rare perfume indeed that smells as good as breathing, true flower, but Songes was perhaps the closest I have come to feeling I am in the living, hypnotic presence of some unknown tropical bloom. This is a beautiful scent – lush, dreamy, yet vital – and the ultimate perfume for summer nights.







A composition that begins with a soft tropical breeze transporting you instantly to some paradise of the Southern Seas – fresh, sense-exciting notes from the leaves of the frangipani tree, and an slightly fungal tinge of white petals that is reminiscent of living gardenia –  a floral note that lingers throughout the scent, whose main theme, according to the company, is a ‘spellbinding trio of rare natural absolutes’: ylang ylang (rare because the essence usually used is the ylang ylang ‘extra’, a different distillate), jasmine, and vanilla ‘sur-absolu’. Over this ultra-luscious main accord, frangipani, tiare flower, incense, vetiver and sandalwood are all layered in a way that is controlled, yet simultaneously somehow breathless.  All is heady, intensely floral, but fresh and inhaleable (you can feel the spongey texture of the white flowers’ petals throughout), drying down to a willowingly soft vanilla and musk accord of perfection.













Whenever I smell this perfume now, it makes me sigh (…just thinking about it elicits almost the same reaction).





I am on an island in the Pacific.









I am back at Moon Beach.


Filed under Flowers, Frangipani, Perfume Reviews