Category Archives: Orange Blossom
























I must admit that I am rather struggling at the moment, as I am sure a large majority of us are.  I simply don’t feel safe. And that is because I am not safe. None of us truly are, unless we lock ourselves away in confinement, and that brings troubles of its own. D is safer than I am – he walks to work and back home again in Kamakura – but his classrooms are full of girls whose parents work in Tokyo where the virus is becoming more rampant (or is at least being more revealed through increased testing). Yes, they wear masks, but the required social distancing in Japanese schools just simply isn’t happening.






My own situation is more precarious. Two days a week I can ventilate to my heart’s content and teach in what I would call sensible conditions; students spaced out; windows and doors open. Two days I cannot. Buildings packed with kids. Up close. On Wednesdays, I work in a school in Yokohama which has NO WINDOWS. And I am in a classroom  – just four walls, within that space, an epidemiological matyrushka doll. We have a fan, and an extractor. And we wear masks. But the students are too close to each other  –  it is Russian roulette.





Sometimes I wonder why I can’t just quit, or whether I have become brainwashed into servility;  some kind of samurai ‘valiance’. It literally does feel like that at times, a kind of ‘fuck it – it’s too late, I am working now, there are only eight days left until the summer holidays, just get on with it like everybody else’ mentality, as if I have no choice (and in many ways I don’t: the very last thing I want right now is to be unemployed and out there looking for work)  as the teachers huff and puff behind their masks and look drained and overheated and dehydrated and exhausted just like most of the students – really, none of us, neither the students nor the teachers should be there, but because as yet there have been no cases in our schools, at least not that I am aware of, we ‘soldier on’. Japan is a country of education. It is the national obsession. And naturally, though some of the people I am mingling with will be asymptomatic, many even – there can be no doubt of that – all I can do is keep breathing through my mask and get through the days. It is terrifying. But somehow I am weirdly resigned to my fate, almost as though I have lost agency and the autonomy I always pride myself on having no matter what.





These last two days I have been battling with extreme burn out – which in my case involves furious muttering to myself like a loon and extreme sociophobia – I just want to be left alone as much as possible, even in the classroom just  going through the motions overly aggressively unable to properly connect to anyone. I can barely look at the other staff, and retreat to other rooms as much as is humanly possible. I am courteous, hopefully, even if exquisite manners have never been my forte – that would be Duncan’s domain –   – –  I am just too shot through with intense emotion to ever not let that show in my eyes, which I am sure glower coldly and green above my surgical mask. I wear a beard, obstinately, because no one can see it and that is my real person, though it goes against the rules (something I always feels is like an infringement on human rights) : however,  the last thing I need right now is to be an emasculated eunuch when I already feel like an apoplectic and semi-broken sad sack. But no one would ever say anything to a foreigner in any case. In many ways we are strangely untouchable.





The world is insane right now, it can feel as if you are losing your marbles. Curiously, despite the strains of it all, though, I am finding that just manoeuvring the week to its conclusion – the marvellously mask free weekend at home, where I love, puts on blinkers of selectivism that let me enjoy all the small details, all the other pleasures,  and revel in the more restricted being-aliveness. Yes, I am constantly aware of what is happening in the global news; I never ‘lose touch’ in that regard, but it can get too much, the ‘doom-scrolling’ that is only beneficial to any individual in terms of awareness and cognisance up to a certain point. In the city, out doing my job I feel half alive; a drone. Condemned to a potentially fatal virus that is swimming in the hot air all around me. The same position that we all find ourselves in; dimmed; daunted. At the same time, though, I have always felt blessed in the sense that even when I have a bad day – and I have just had two; I came home last night like a cup full of poison full of hatred and annoyance, I could have punched a hole through a wall –  I have a natural joy of life that rises up like the dawn after sleeping, particularly in summer, which I adore (so boring to hear everyone complain about the sun – no no no no you fool, haven’t you just suffered six weeks of incredible doom and gloom in the longest rainy season ever; it is glorious ; a chorus of insects; a frenzy of birds; a feeling of energy and power and life surging up in spite of (alongside) this tedious microorganism that is self-replicating like a motherfucker but whose time is limited; there WILL be a vaccine, and it had better be soon……) In spite of myself, this morning, as I open the window on the balcony and hear life coming into the room; moreover feeling it coursing through my veins, I feel something bordering on elation. Yes, I return home at night like a sodden washcloth devoid of personality, trying to walk up the hill to save on taxi money (there is no way in hell I am getting the bus), covered in sweat, stuck on thoughts like a broken record, barely sensate;, thinking shower, shower, shower; D is usually already asleep ; futon on the tatami, fan whirring, often next to the cat; but then I take a long shower and feel immediately human again, on a smaller scale, in the house with no mask, listening to the night.






Orange blossom has been one of my refuges. It soothes me. Especially before bed on clean skin – it’s like reinventing yourself. Something sacred and calming; a child-like innocence of refuge in nature. There are a thousand and one takes on the neroli and orange blossom theme, of course, and everyone has their own preferences; some like it sensual, erotic; for me, on the whole,  I tend to prefer the note done more simply. Some orange blossoms are green, rasping; Annick Goutal’s Neroli is perfectly lifelike but too exhilarating (and it just reminds D immediately of my traumatic time spent learning to walk again three years ago when I wore that perfume all of the time along with Sana Jardin’s equally uplifting and luminescent neroli scent, Berber Blonde. D doesn’t want to remember that time and so I don’t wear those). Orange blossom can also be too muted; Etat Libre D’Orange’s Divin Enfant for example; I don’t need any marshmallow leather or too much vanilla; I like it subtle in the finish without too much babying or coochy coo;. I like it more refined and preferably delicate; and Penhaligons’ Castile gets it absolutely right. 




If you are more of a Serge Lutens Fleurs D’Oranger or a Houbigant Orangers En Fleurs wearer;  and I love both of those; they are fantastically yowzer off the shoulder evening exuberance kinds of fragrances, but I am not Halle Berry and cannot carry off such a schmooze myself – you might probably find Castile a little uninspiring- a fresh, but refined neroli and orange blossom scent with just the right amount of bergamot and rose, and a gentle denouement that I think fits the skin in a beautifully understated manner (there was an interesting mention of this perfume on Fragrantica which reimagines Daniel Craig as 007 in Casino Royale coming down to the hotel reception in a perfectly fitted crisp white shirt and hints of post-shower Castile as the hotel reception staff try to concentrate on what he is saying and keep a lid on their inner reactions). Indeed, the perfume is perfectly androgynous and elegant. Last night, I found it beautifully restorative.





Another night time orange blossom of very different stripes is Neroli Negro by Coqui Coqui, a Mexican brand based on the Yucatan peninsula. I love the packaging and design of these perfumes; such things make a great difference to my appreciation of a scent, the whole experience; an appealing aesthetic, and there is something about the Gatsby-ish gold-embossed lettering on the pristine white box that really appeals to all my senses. The perfumes are not complex; Neroli Negro is a husky, honeyed growl of orange blossom, musk, and, unusually, a strongly dominating note of depressurised myrrh, that comes across to me nevertheless as almost liquorice-like and edible. Self-contained, it could also be a real passion ignition key in the right circumstances, peculiarly moreish and sultry. At night, it helps me draw a velvet curtain on the day.




Menli, another perfume in the Coqui Coqui extensive range, is an almost absurdly simple, or simplistic, take on the Mojito –  just lime and mint. And yet for a minute or two, it is the best mint smell I have ever smelled; a variety of mint from Mexico that I have never personally encountered in real life but now want to. The mint smell is almost fiery in its coolness; pure as leaves  – so minty – and incredibly invigorating, before it cedes to a fainter mint-citrus synergy that while less exciting, is still quite pleasant on a t-shirt and as an all round pick-me-up. D has taken to this one like a duck to water  – he is also very fond of a well-made mojito, that delicious and perturbing swirl of ice and lime and mint and sugar and rum, the best one we ever had being down a back street in Barcelona several Augusts ago watching local kids skateboarding by the steps of a beautiful old cathedral.



Good times.







Filed under Flowers, Mint, Mojito, Neroli, Orange Blossom












Sometimes a perfumer reaches an alchemical perfection, in which all the elements within not only balance and harmonize each other but reach for something further: that intangible, effortless loveliness that we ultimately want from a scent ( I am rarely in search of difficulty:  I want ease, and immediacy, and pleasure ).




‘Eau Aimable’, or ‘Botanical Cologne Of Love’, achieves these criteria with flying colours. An inexpensive creation, it nevertheless has a bridling, emotional simplicity in which a warm and endearing note of orange blossom and neroli is combined with oranges (petitgrain, bergamot, orange essence and mandarin); some wild rose (or eglantine), some sugared almond vanilla, and – the stroke of inspired genius –  a bitter dash of capucine (tropaeolum magus), a form of nasturtium flower – pictured above – that cuts through the feathery softness of the blend like a Campari drunk at sunset.




There may be oranger scents available on the market, but this is the orangest.                  Soft, smile-inducing, and somewhat reminiscent of the quite similar By Kilian’s Love, Eau Aimable is nevertheless less rigidly confectioned than that delectable portion of vanilla meringue; more ephemeral, fleet of foot. The perfect pyjama-donned, bedside sleep scent, it is a lovely, gentle, cologne that just comes on; winks angelically; and, as you fall into dreams –  a mere halo of eiderdown now remaining on the skin –  has gone…










Filed under Flowers, Orange Blossom, Vanilla







A very Diptyque-ish orange blossom.


Filed under Flowers, Orange Blossom



One of the joys of the Tokyo and Yokohama thrift shops is that you just never know. While you can go into them week after week, month after month and there not be anything you really want – just the usual uninteresting suspects – suddenly there can be a windfall of perfumes; not just vintage beauties, but thrown-out niche: the kind of perfumes you might never consider buying at full price, but which presented to you as a cache of vastly reduced bargains in the glass cabinet of a thrift shop you think why not: go on then: they might help me to upgrade my repertoire.

And the other day, at ‘Crystal’, a very hit and miss place, I came across a cabinet of Goutals and Penhaligons and L’Artisans and Maison Kurkdjian (something I have never seen reduced before: all these expensive brands found exclusively in the snazzier Tokyo department stores at vastly inflated prices, so what the hell was going on?), snapping up Tea For Two and Opus I860 for Duncan, and APOM Homme and Néroli for me, also debating over Mandragore Pourpre (always intriguing – I now regret not buying that one as well), and Goutal’s peculiarly acrid Vanille Exquise.


I would probably never even have given either of these perfumes more than a cursory sniff at Isetan if I had come across them:  anything with ‘pour homme’ in the title immediately puts me off as I anticipate gender clichés that don’t fit the image I have of myself (I had definitely liked the feminine equivalent though and was very disappointed it wasn’t that one instead when I first saw the bottle), and in any case colognes, and neroli in particular, are not something I necessarily go for as I don’t think I can really carry off orange blossom.


Although I am drawn to the smell of these flowers in nature and am definitely an acolyte of the essential oil (for skin preservation purposes), in fragrance it doesn’t quite work for me. I was never a fan of the classic cologne formula (the petitgrain, rosemary and musk added to the neroli), and there are very few scents of this type I can imagine wearing on myself. I quite like Divin Enfant, Castile and Dilmun, – all padded, creamily softened nerolis – but they are a bit pampered and cotton woolish for my own tastes. The sharper, more vivid perfumes of the type, Lutens’ Fleurs D’Oranger, Fragile, or Atelier Cologne’s Grand Néroli, are glinting extravagances that I can appreciate but not wear persuasively, and until discovering this rendition by Goutal, I would never have seen myself leaving the house in this flower’s leafy, potent gaze.


But Annick Goutal’s Néroli has the green rasp of bitter orange leaves; the snap of a twig and the fresh floral white breath of natural orange blossoms. The full bower; a replenishingly brisk, yet deeply felt neroli that is refreshing in its simplicity yet impressive in its true to lifeness. More than a portrait of orange blossom flowers it is an enactment: a reappearance, almost, of the living flowers on each spray: it is more true than any other neroli I know, yet simultaneously more pleasing than the neural harshness of the pure essential oil. Although as with all colognes the zinginess inevitably fades, this is still quite lovely throughout its duration: cool, yet warm; removed, yet romantic; enveloping, yet subtle. It is excellent, and I am very glad I bought it.



The almost diametrically opposed APOM, a curious and original scent by Maison Kurkdijian, is woozy, sexed and direct, centred on the same smell of orange blossom as the Goutal – if less sharply defined – but where the Néroli is all concerned with nature and the sweet outdoors, APOM (‘A Piece Of Me’), is all about urbanity. ‘Lifestyle.’ Signatures. Where the Annick Goutal delights and uplifts, APOM disturbs; a prowlingly plasticky leather and cedared amber base (erotic); steam-ironed synthetics in the top accord that reek of freshly pressed, exclusive clothes in a penthouse city apartment.





APOM’s creator, Francis Kurkdjian, is in many ways a modern genius. Unlike the vast majority of niche perfumes I smell, his creations are indelibly created with character. Unlike Bertrand Duchaufour and his (often pointlessly) overegged puddings, brimming with details but for me at least difficult to digest, FK seems to pare down his formulae to the essentials, yet avoids the pale minimalism of an Ellena or a Giacobetti, rendering them full-cheeked; replete, and immediately memorable. It often seems to me in fact that the best new scents are still somehow instantly familiar and recognizable in some way that does not detract from their innovation. Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male, a Kurkdjiian creation, had echoes of earlier perfumes but still packed an immediate punch as a zeitgeisty fragrance that became a mass seller. APOM, a perfume I am not sure I entirely like (in fact in some ways I could even say that it repels me; I felt very strange indeed wearing it out in public on the day that I did as it was like being a different person; guised in a costume that was alien, unholy, yet fascinating: I was unable to stop constantly inhaling myself), is nevertheless hotly distinctive and commercial. This scent is pointed; and blunting. Sexy. As I came out of the cinema, alone (“The Tribe”, a brilliant, almost silent film acted entirely in sign language without subtitles), feeling stunned and quite dislocated by what was a very singular cinematic experience, the smell that was rising up from my clothes only added to the disorientating feeling of being suspended in dense, thick time; where the outside reality felt uncanny and heightened – a man cycling slowly by a canal; the mist covered waters, the memories of the beautiful but very violent film rising in splintered vivid  fragments in my scentless brain.


‘A Piece Of Me’ thus feels like a very apt name for the perfume. A tattoo; a memento of someone left on a trace of the air in a room. It is intensely modern, of the times, but fully realized, as though it had willed itself from ether into existence….






Later on in that evening, I met up with Duncan and a group of friends who had just done a ten hour marathon charity walk for Medicins Sans Frontières around the Yamanote Line in Tokyo ( I wasn’t able to take part because of my knee), but in any case, rather than feeling lonely or left out as I might have done at another time, on that particular day I was revelling in that particular kind of solitude when existence feels glassy, liquid, double distilled, when you have entered it and own it from the inside. And as the pungent, insistent base tones of APOM began to fade on my skin, I then found that the linking note – the orange blossom, the neroli – meant that despite their great differences in conception and execution, I could also spritz on some Goutal – revivifying, natural; fresh, more innocent – just before meeting everyone at the station


Filed under Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's The Tribe, Neroli, Orange Blossom

MARSHMALLOW GIT: Divin Enfant by Etat Libre d’Orange (2006)













The infant-baiting song ‘His majesty the baby’, by Scottish singer Momus, has a protagonist who ‘swallows breasts as big as mountains’ and commands the attention of a cooing clan of women, much to the singer’s disgust and jealousy. The ‘bald and dribbling little git’ has his audience rapt and can do no wrong.


This is also, incidentally,  the theme of Etat Libre d’Orange’s ‘Divin Enfant’: the story of a baby, a ‘polymorphic pervert’, who smells so beautiful and sweet that he can pull the cotton wool over your doting eyes and behave like the devil.


Or so they’d have you believe


(“ …..leather and cold tobacco, a shrilling symbol of our sleepless nights….” )




In fact, this is probably the softest, cutest and easiest to wear of all orange blossoms. The threatened leather (‘the faked innocence of a demon’) barely materializes; except as a duvet, over which the orange blossom, (rounded, tamed, baby-friendly) reigns.























Filed under Marsh Mallow, Orange Blossom, Perfume Reviews

BEAUTIFUL POISONS: FOUR PERFUMES FROM THE EARLY 90’s : Allure, Cabotine, Dolce & Gabbana Pour Femme + Tendre Poison







The perfumes of the nineties do not have the ‘loud’ reputation of many eighties blockbusters, though this was still a period when the big houses – Dior, Lancôme and so on, still invested a great deal of time and money on development before launching an ‘event’ perfume, and the results were usually equally characterful (which is why all four of the perfumes below are still worn today: will today’s mainstream releases (La Vie Est Belle, anyone?) have similar longevity?




I have never liked this perfume personally, while admitting that it is a perfect execution of its obvious ideal – to turn a pale-skinned girl into a flesh and blood (ginger) lily.

It is beautifully done; a host of fresh white florals with green overtures; in essence a ‘soliflore’ ginger lily achieved with other notes, but there is, to me, a false modesty here: this innocence just doesn’t compute (that might be just my distaste for the sandalwood/neroli/green accord, though, which I personally find gratingly ‘coquette’.)

This sly perfume achieved a lot of success, especially in Japan where almost every woman wants to be as girlish as she humanly can, and on whom this perfume did smell rather erotic when I arrived here in 1996.


A touch dated now, but if it works, it works.







I have always felt that Tendre Poison, though attractively poised, is a somewhat presumptuous perfume, making steamy claims on your attention that you may not be willing to give.

Unruffled, this sharp-eyed vamp just comes on loud and sticks her claws in anyway – venomous, stalk-green galbanum over orange blossom and sandalwood; the embittered older sister perhaps of Cabotine ( more demure), Red Door (lower IQ), and Fleur de Rocaille (pseudo-chic).


It is very slinky, and sexy, to be sure, and recommended, but absolutely not tender, as its name erroneously suggests.












A big hit for Chanel worldwide and still going strong –  a ‘multifaceted’, warm, floral-sheened scent with vanillic undertones that doesn’t obey the usual structure of perfume in that what you see is what you get: no top notes, dry down, no secrets (surely the key to true allure?), no real development. Department store perfume workers apparently often recommend this as a solution to those who have no clue about perfume, or those who are just dilly-dallying, as many consumers seem to acquiesce quickly to its simple lack of pretence and apparent modernity:






I loathe this fragrance, while fully seeing its easy appeal. It is a true ‘all-rounder’: ‘sultry’ yet mild mannered: womanly, smooth-edged; clean, suitable for ‘office wear’ and ‘special occasions’ one and the same. It is well blended, and can smell acceptable on the odd lucky person, but for me is simply extraordinarily vulgar and crass. Whoever thought such a thing could be written about Chanel?


I woke up one summer morning at my parents’ house, and on opening the bedroom door was shocked to see that the feeling in the house had mercurially transformed; thick with banality: some throat-coating, oyster-pink air sludge.


And it wasn’t until my mum cheerily called out ‘I’m just trying Allure today’ that I realized what had happened.


A woman who smells so beautiful in her chosen favourites (First, Joy, Jardins de Bagatelle) had been rendered into a marketing-led dotard.







When they came out, I overdosed on both the Dolces, and ‘Pour Homme’ is the only scent that I’ve ever had strongly derogatory comments on ( I was so into the novel tarragon top note I didn’t realize how harsh I was smelling to the world).  I could never wear it again.


The signature scent for women, in that red velvet box ( in its original incarnation – I haven’t smelled the tamed down reformulation which was launched recently), is similarly problematic. That top note, that rich, gorgeous mandarin and basil petitgrain melting powderfully into those piquant divine florals – it’s all extremely addictive, and I was quite frankly obsessed with it for while. But with the potent, skin-clinging vanilla-musk-santal finale, as things start to get very messy with Basil, it is as though an Italian opera singer were having a nervous breakdown live on stage; foundation and mascara merging in a sweaty, oily mass of face powder under the breakers.  It can all get a bit much; a big smudge of olfactory OTT.



So, one for special occasions only, and in moderation. Dolce & Gabbana is certainly a gorgeous perfume, but it is overwhelming. I personally prefer it on older women.





Filed under Basil, Flowers, Lily, Orange Blossom, Perfume Reviews, Powder

SCENTLESS IN JAPAN (or, why my life here is like a fragranced Jekyll and Hyde)+ THE COLOGNES OF GANDINI


I haven’t yet written about the strange double olfactory life I lead in Japan, and plan to do so more extensively at a later date. Suffice it to say that I learned the hard way that the scents I had been wearing to the series of preparatory schools I teach at were utterly incompatible with the delicate smell culture, and nasal apparatus, of all who studied and worked in them. Admittedly, I had not been subtle. In my job prior to this one I had taught doused in Kenzo L’Elephant and Héritage, among others, the orientals I am naturally drawn to, but the sophisticated Yokohama adults I was teaching never seemed to complain (not that Japanese people would….)

It was in teaching kids that I got into trouble. Of course, common sense would dictate that sweet, smothering scents are not suitable for the classroom (and, wait for it,  WE ARE ACTUALLY NOT ALLOWED, IN ANY CASE, IN THE COMPANY’S RULES, TO WEAR PERFUME!!!).

Thus you find a person who lives through his nose, obsessed with how he and others smell, who feels worse than naked without a scent (particularly given the tendency of people from minority ethnic groups, as I am, to slowly become paranoid about the fact that they might smell different to the locals, that they might stink – a term called bromidrophobia); unable to express himself the way he should. Initially, knowing that foreigners can get away with murder in Japan if they just feign not to have understood properly, I thought nah, the kids won’t mind if I smell like a cake, mistaking children’s natural like of all things sweet for an adult male dripping with musky, ambered vanilla.

I remember standing outside the classroom after the first ‘English conversation training’ class I did with the Japanese teachers, and eavesdropping on them talking about this ‘spicy’, ‘sweet’ smell I had left in the room (Obsession For Men and the body cream to boot) and I stupidly took it as a compliment. It was not until I was given Givenchy’s Pi, in the pleasing edp form as a birthday present (heavier, orangier, richer) that things got out of hand, and a class of eleven and twelve year olds were literally screaming at me, hands over mouths, to open the windows. Gagging. At this point, given that the manager of one school had essentially ordered me to stop wearing perfume, I had to change my tune.

Little by little I became more and more extraordinarily hypersensitive to any comment about my smell, particularly the word ‘kusai’, (‘he stinks!‘) or in its more slangy, rude version ‘kusei‘ , and if I heard a student say this under his or her breath it was mildly traumatic for me at best. Yet, wearing nothing just never seemed a possible option for me: (it just…..isn’t). Instead, I decided to try a different tack and smell as nice, as pleasant, as FAULTLESS,  as possible.

Cue endless experiments over the decade with washing powders, fabric conditioners, shampoos and soaps, and of course, scent, but in fact fragrances that were completely different to what I would wear at weekends or when going out. To explain further, I will give you a basic description of my fundamental tastes, how I smell in my free time (when I am unshaven, a bit shaggy in my dress, rather than the well-groomed, perfectly shaven, besuited Mr Chapman I become during the work week…).  I can appreciate many kind of perfumes, and as a writer about perfume I obviously try to be as objective as possible,  but the ones I love best on myself can probably be divided into these categories:

1. The Orientals, especially vanilla: Shalimar, Vaniglia del Madagascar, Un Bois de Vanille.

2. Patchouli: Borneo 1834, Lorenzo Villoresi, Micallef, and particularly Givenchy Gentleman.

3. Vetiver: Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Racine, Vétiver Tonka, and so on, plus my favourite vetiver/leather of all time, and one of my favourites in any category, vintage Chanel No 19 parfum.

4. Oud/Rose (though like many committed fumeheads I am going off it in the current climate of oud overload). I have many Montale scents, though, and I have to say I wear them somewhat magnificently, particularly while dancing with no deodorant.

5. Tropical: Strangely, I  carry off the tropics quite convincingly: any coconut, tiare, ylang ylang or tuberose/gardenia scent I can wear quite nicely. I smell particularly good in Cacharel’s Loulou!

6. Clove/Carnation: my favourite spice, and a flower which smells great on a man à la Oscar Wilde.

7. Citrus/ Blackberry : Occasionally I yearn for a great, simple citrus, particularly with that mûre et musc undertone, such as Bouquet Impériale by Roger et Gallet, and of course the original Mûre by L’Artisan.

The list could go on, but let me tell you that none of the above are remotely acceptable in my workplace. You occasionally sniff the odd rule-bender: I have noticed subtle drifts of the odd spray of Bulgari Pour Homme or masculine scented deodorant, and some of the female teachers’ cleaner-than-thou deep repairing masks and other hair products circumvent the rules pretty succinctly, but since I cannot and never would even consider wearing anything sporty or ‘male’ (ie. all the scents on the current market sold at duty free or on the high street, where the ‘fresh’ citrus and ozonic notes fade to aggressive woody ambers……… I would rather die; it would feel like an enforced transvesticism like the tragic character in Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In), I have had to resort to another kind of cross dressing: women’s soft, citric sheer florals. Subtlely sprayed on one shirt cuff or two, or on the inside of my suit jacket.

By far the most triumphant choice in this regard was Clinique’s Happy, which not only did I get away with, but which had  girls swooning and following me down the corridors saying ‘ii nioi, ii nioi!!!!’, you smell so good, like flowers Mr Chapman, you smell like flowers………even in small doses it left a trail around me that smelled so pure, clean, pleasant; American, in the best possible sense. A straight man from the US even said to me once at the gym…. ‘Man you smell so good’, so obviously this really worked for me: I knew I smelled immaculate; fresh; godly. That perfume is really clever, and I have followed women down the street wearing it who smelled like angels, the problem being in my case that it gave me such intense headaches – sharp, pain down the nerves of my skull akin to a migraine, that I unfortunately had to stop buying it (I must have got through four bottles at least). I don’t mind suffering for my art, but this was too much. Antonia’s Flowers’ Floret, which has a similar mood, had the same effect on my skull.  I have read about the possibility of Happy being toxic, that there are some ingredients in it that probably shouldn’t be, but all that belongs to another post…….

In short, for work I can only wear something fresh, long-lasting, laundry-ish, to put in my Jekyll and Hyde collection. I have two wardrobes: work clothes have to go in a different room so as not to become ‘contaminated’ with the stench of the weekend libertine. No, they must smell fresh as a daisy. Currently I am wearing Guerlain’s Champs Elysées, which has unfortunately been reformulated (my previous mini had a gorgeously glassy, green-buddleia note, more almondy – this new version has a gassy ‘grapefruit’ smell in the top accord, but they both dry down in the same way, which isn’t perfect, but feels acceptable). I have succeeded also in wearing tiny amounts of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Mimosa Pour Moi, Gwen Stefani’s Music (!) and best of all, Summer by Kenzo, which makes me feel like I have just emerged from the sea, opened armed, like the Christ on sugar-loaf mountain statue in Rio. That one also gets compliments, as I trail through the school in sunny, wave-fresh confidence…


It will now be understood that I am always on the lookout for suitable scents, because though perfume may be banned in my school, as far as I am concerned they can go fuck themselves. Gandini, ‘Maestri Profumieri’ from 1896 (though no one seems to have ever heard of these ‘master perfumers’ until their wares suddenly appeared on the shelves this year or last) have a selection of ‘colognes’, which in fact have the strength and quality of niche eau de toilettes, that seem like likely candidates for my work wear. I am very drawn to Italian artisan perfumery in any case, as there is a simplicity, a goodness, much like the country’s cuisine, that does away with pretentiousness and just tries to make the composition as pleasing to the nostrils as possible. The Gandini scents are far from being mind-blowing, but given how nice they smell, they are also extremely good value for money.


is the first one from the line that I have actually worn to school, and I quite enjoyed it. This is a glassy, pure and glinting peach and rose scent that has the quality of piercing, mid-morning summer light refracted through coloured marbles; children chasing after them as they roll off lazily into the grass. It is extremely clean-smelling, if perhaps a touch synthetic, but I enjoyed the sensation of feeling that butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth. The top notes of passion fruit and peach, combined with an osmanthus touch and ‘red rose’, have a clarity that was lovely on the way to work, although the vetiver and cedar dry down was a little insistent for my scent-free environment, almost a touch oudhish (and thus outrageous) in that context. Considering that it only cost thirty pounds for a bottle though, I can recommend this wholeheartedly as a peachy clean rose fragrance.


Heavenly cologne opening: citrusy, floral and fresh, with soft undertones. Like flinging open the shutters in an Italian palazzo after a night on cool sheets and a long, soapy shower and breathing in the new, sunny day. Shall we meet for espresso? Jasmine and orange blossom flowers are briefly hydrated in leaves of mandarin, lemon fruit and orange, before a more classical floral cologne heart appears over faint woody notes. At the centre is a great profusion of living, countryfied  orange blossom with just a hint of the mushroomy sensuality at the heart of the actual flowers.  There are hundreds of nerolis on the market,  but this  one is classically cheering, well constructed and airy. If you know you like orange blossom, and especially if you are in the mood for  a new scent to take with you on holiday,  I guarantee you will not be disappointed.


I personally always felt that Jo Malone’s Lime, Basil and Mandarin cologne was somewhat overrated. Yes, it is lovely at first, but to me, or at least on my skin, it becomes confused in its later stages, even unpleasant. All the freshness disappears and you are left with a sourish nothing. Can Gandini’s Lime and Basil improve on things?

It can. A vigorous opening of lime, mandarin and bergamot, with a vetiver, thyme and basil undertow is very appealing: simple, with no extraneous fuss, and very natural smelling, a kind of more rustic version of Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte.  A vaguely floral accord underlines this (supposedly orris and lily), while a dry patchouli eventually emerges, all very sensual in the scent’s later stages. I can imagine a handsome, jaunty Italian tipo, late for an appointment, spritzing some of this on before running his fingers absent-mindedly through his hair, then darting out across the piazza to meet his friends.


I am not a musk wearer, and certainly not to work, but I do like this blend that reminded me somewhat of  Gaultier Le Mâle, but purified: without that perfume’s rough, splayed, commercial quality. This musk is contained; sweet, light, with the colour and texture of blue Wedgewood china. The heart is of water lily, champaca flower and orris, giving the scent a powdery feel, while a faint top note of coconut and ‘noce’, which translates as walnut, adds a faintly gourmand edge. In truth, none of the notes given by Gandini are really perceptible, but the scent works as a gentle, enveloping, and innocent, modern musk. You would never object to sitting next to someone wearing this.


Perfect, almost clinical herbal lavender as the alcohol clears, with sharp notes of coriander and geranium leaf, while the decluttered amber and cedar in the base become quickly apparent. Less weighed down than other amber lavenders, this is very pleasant scent, with a certain saintly aspect.

Yes, I like this line. What smelling Gandini brings home to me is just what a rip-off a lot of niche perfumes are. These are all high quality, well-made , enjoyable perfumes sold at a fraction of the price of other niche brands, meaning you can spray with abandon as colognes are meant to be sprayed, use them as everyday products rather than as precious elixirs to be treasured (I think perfumistas need both.) As for the peculiar perfume climate I work in, I think a touch of the Rosa Rossa might work, but the others… They are made in a country where people are not afraid to smell good, where a scented aura around a person is not seen as offensive. Where perfume is truly appreciated, and loved.


Filed under Basil, Citrus, Flowers, Orange Blossom, Rose









When I hear the name of this Lebanese designer, like most people I can only think of a luminous Halle Berry in her Saab-designed dress as she went up to collect her Oscar for her brilliant performance in Monster’s Ball (the magic of the occasion snatched away by what I saw as the possibly tokenistic double-whammy of Denzel getting one too – this year’s theme: African Americans! Next year’s: Gays….!) Somehow to me this diminished the historic nature of her victory, but it was certainly a great platform for Elie Saab, who was caterpulted, at that moment, onto the world fashion stage.


The designer’s perfumed debut was also awarded the fragrance Oscars last year at the annual FIFI awards, for Best Feminine Fragrance, Best Feminine Bottle, and Best Feminine Media Campaign, and it came as no surprise – the scent is as slick, as glitzy, as unchallenging, as the cinematic fare that is routinely awarded Academy Awards at the ceremonies : easily digestible, expertly made and packaged/promoted – a scent, in other words, with a very instant, immediate appeal.


Which is to say that it smells quite lovely, one of those scents you spray on and say ah yes I see: one that is legible, familiar and so obviously destined to be a hit that you might even find yourself starting  to applaud Francis Kurkdijan for a  job well done.


Essentially an unctuous, honeyed, orange blossom/sweet jasmine scent, brightened with mandarin and spice, the perfume has a sun-kissed carnality, an easy glamour as smooth to the touch as you imagine Halle Berry herself to be. A scent that comes on like a gala: Adult-American, as sexy as the shimmering, gold-flecked body creams used to make starlets like Charlize Theron glow like the statuette: but also fixed as the flashbulbed smiles of the botoxed faithful who pack out the Kodak Theater yearly in the delicious parade of self-congratulation that I would never miss for the world.

This perfume is like a California tattoo, one that remains for hours, radiant, but unchanged, with little development, and none of those strange surprises in store that make great perfumes great.


The base notes of patchouli and cedar are perfectly paired with the top florals, but while ravishing, there is no grace. No time for the perfume to insinuate its way into your consciousness – we need ACTION! LIGHTS! – perfume as instant as the light streaming through the camera shutter.


Le Parfum is gorgeous and lifeless simultaneously, just like those larger-than-life goddesses imprisoned forever on celluloid.




Notes: orange blossom, mandarin, Grandiflorum jasmine, Sambac jasmine, rose honey, cedar, patchouli.


Filed under Flowers, Orange Blossom, Perfume Reviews