Category Archives: Fougère

TUSCANY by ARAMIS (1985)

 

 

 

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It is strange to think that there was once a time when you could pretty much recognize what perfume someone was wearing because there was only a limited number of perfumes that they could wear. If they weren’t wearing one of the Lynx anti-perspirant sprays (now Axe), a Superdrug cheapie like Hai Karate or Brut, an Adidas number, or a Sure deodorant stick  – actually quite a beautiful smell like a tribute to Shalimar – then the boys at school would definitely have on something you knew by heart –  it could be Jazz, Kouros, or Paco Rabanne. There simply weren’t that many fragrances around: at the local department store (there was no ‘online’), each couture house  –  there were no visible independent  brands, nor heritage Gentleman’s apothecaries in my town either – had a limited number of creations on their roster that you came to either love or reject. At Chanel you had Monsieur (a favourite) and Antaeus  – too hard-bodied and intent for me for the time; at Givenchy, Gentleman  – a perfume I fell in love with – and Monsieur, which was just too civet-lemon and ‘elderly’ for me at the time, and which nobody else at school would ever have considered wearing for a moment either for fear of smelling like a nonce. Each stand at Beatties, the department store that my mum worked for in Jaeger upstairs – had one or two fragrances for men only; at Rabanne you had the signature fragrance that everybody loved (including me), and the wonderful Sport – which I reviewed the other day. Armani had one – Pour Homme, my first fragrance love; Dior had none that I was aware of initially until Fahrenheit came along and rocked the masculine universe ( I went crazy for that one too). There was Quorum; Polo (my brother’s). Aramis had its legendary eponymous scent of wannabe oligarch – which some boys said the girls loved on them and which I tried once or twice but found too sour; and then, around 1986 or so in the UK the company brought out the far more preferable Tuscany.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1986 was also the year that Merchant Ivory released their masterpiece, multiple Academy Award winning picture A Room With A View: a beautiful, romantic adaption of E.M Forster’s novel that showed Florence and the surrounding landscape in Tuscany at its very finest –   although secretly, all I cared about really was Maurice

 

 

 

 

 

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–  the author’s posthumously published novel on homosexual love that Merchant Ivory also adapted and which in truth was one of my main impetuses for wanting to go to Cambridge ( I had to believe that love was possible for me, and this looked like an impossibly romantic place that I would find it. The importance of this film in my own personal life story can never be overstated).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Whereas a lot of period pictures these days featuring British stately homes and the calcified upper classes often fall into ersatz Costume Department replication and whitewashed colonial nostalgia, there is something very different about Merchant Ivory films that put them in a league of their own (the incisive dialogue; the perfect but not overly laboured-over visuals and exquisitely perfect details in every frame; the brilliant acting, the sweep of their productions)    –   that makes their films incomparable to any other literary adaptations of their ilk. A Room With A View, with its panoramic Florentine vistas; its gentle humour and soaring operatic arias, was certainly enough to make any fifteen year old boy’s heart swoon alongside Helena Bonham Carter over Julian Sands in a field of swaying poppies. It also made me start thinking about going to Italy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As a gaunt, vegetarian eighteen year old with literary pretensions  –  waxing very lyrically over Wuthering Heights, Keats and Tennessee Williams plays during my English literature classes (pictured, above left), after years of increasingly unbearable tension, I finally came out one evening to my friend Sarah – who took this picture of me and her brother and his girlfriend of the time  – while washing the dishes on a Friday night at an Italian restaurant in Solihull (where we had part time student jobs making  starters and desserts and cleaning and were insulted and shouted at by stereotypical mobster-like Italians back in the kitchen). It was one of those situations. She had had a crush on me, and was also going out with Darren, who I liked,  (and who, it turned out, miraculously also had a crush on me, to my rapturous astonishment when she told me as we were constructing a shrimp salad or overpriced vinaigrette avocado). Realizing it was impossible for her, she had the generosity to introduce us to each other and thus I had my first proper falling in love and appalling heartbreak, all in secret, all during my entrance exams, with the exception of my few loyal confidantes.

 

 

 

 

That summer, she and I also went to Rome, Tuscany and Umbria, arguing quite a bit and irritating each other  (in later years we have failed to meet up, one of the reasons being that she once chose to say to me ‘I prefer to remember you as you were’, something I will never forgive her for), but I do still have good memories; I see us in my mind’s eye rushing into the flocks of pigeons in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican like lovers in a Robert Doisneau photograph;  passionately alive; seeing the cypresses and hills at San Gimignano;  and deciding that if I did get into Cambridge, which was all I could think about at that point,  I would soon be dropping German with its impossible grammatical rules and noun endings and study Italian instead, eventually studying in Florence; and then living a truly magical year in Rome.

 

 

 

 

Tuscany the perfume, was an obvious fit. At that time I was into wearing loose linen white or cream-coloured shirts (as was D, up in Norwich, although of course I didn’t know him then; but he would also spend his Saturday afternoons cycling around the antique shops and second hand clothing stores, reading poetry in church graveyards and buying collarless grandad shirts). Around the release of Tuscany, there was a definite bifurcation of culture in the UK in terms of music, taste: everything, and he was definitely in my tribe. The charts had been a smorgasbord for many years prior to 1985; Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Cure, The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen could all have top ten hits, happily coexisting with the poppier fare; around the middle of the decade, however, it became something like an English version of the movie Heathers; kids divided into ‘casuals’ or ‘alternatives”, everyone with their immature and adolescent (and ultimately insecure) disdain for the other side. The ‘Kevins’ and the ‘Traceys’ liked the top 5 hits, they liked Whitney Houston and Starship; Phil Collins. Rick Astley. They wore pastel clothes and had mullets; highlights; white shoes. Scent-wise, it was all about Jazz and Dunhill; torrid bitter machos that the girls lapped up like no tomorrow in their sweet-lipped Exclamation! Impulse body sprays, and Red Door. I shuddered. I was far more into The Associates and David Sylvian, the elegance of Christian Dior Eau Sauvage, which was one of the first fragrances I sampled that I felt didn’t define me as photo-granite-jawed like all the bonehead action heroes of the time such as Mel Gibson and the dreaded Arnold Schwarzenegger ( I just wanted floppy haired male beauties). Tuscany, therefore, was ideal. It had grace and style, was aspirational (a house in Siena); felt organic and fresh. Most importantly,  everybody loved it on me – and several other friends then started wearing it as well, because, as I say, there really weren’t that many fragrances around to choose from; if it was good, it got around. Pre-Obsession, which, as I have written about before, was a definite turning point for me, the time when I reclaimed what was mine and would no brook no more ambiguity about my sexual identity or the person I was (i.e.. not a total knucklehead), it was Tuscany, that for a few summers, had the crown. I can see myself on August nights, getting ready to go out, looking in the mirror and splashing Tuscany onto my shoulders and neck before getting dressed. Satisfied. Immersing myself in its herbal pleasures. Its gleaming citrus. At that time, no one spoke of notes or what was in a perfume (adding to its mystery, actually  – you simply smelled it and liked it or you didn’t), marvelling at the unknowability therein, getting to know it in all of its stages throughout the day and which parts you liked best.  Perfumes were also a lot more complex and layered then as well; they had taken years to come to fruition; they were deliberately built to be monuments meant to last……….)

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is the lemon and bergamot I loved in Tuscany, I think, that crisp top accord glinting on lavender and lime and a subtle underlay of tarragon and anise, basil, and orange blossom;  clean, but with depth; a gently aromatic wood base of patchouli, tonka bean, sandalwood and cinnamon, though to me it just smelled of sun and skin and (semi)-oblivious youthful happiness.  I haven’t smelled the reformulation recently (this perfume is still sold everywhere, attesting to the quality of its construction ), but I do know that the original had an effortlessness to it that felt very natural; it was a perfume that flowed. 

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Filed under Fougère, Lavender, Masculines

EIDERANTLER by JANUARY SCENT PROJECT (2017)

 

 

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Hello again, and welcome to Winter.

 

 

 

 

Apologies for the absence: I have been up to all kinds of things, both good and bad, but can’t write about them right now for various reasons (this unforthcomingness is not in my nature but has been thrust upon me).

 

 

 

 

 

I have succumbed to my natural biorhythms. Every year, I go in familiar waves, and now the student evaluations are over – them rating us, not the other way round, I can lay my performing monkey aside and drift back into reveries of Christmas and New Year. It has been a good term, actually, but although my colleagues will be gearing up heavily for the final push before exams, I will be hiding away in Kamakura, nesting and writing, and finally having a breather after what has easily been the most eventful and memorable year of my life.

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway. To Perfume. I have backlog of scent I would like to write about, and will take my time with them. But today is a lovely crisp, sunny day after what feels like weeks of cold damp relentless rain ( I hate, hate rain unless it comes at precisely the right moment) and a green, forested perfume seems like a good way to inch my way back into Narcissus conscious again.

 

 

 

 

I recently received a sample set of perfumes by January Scent Project, an East Coast independent perfumery outfit by artist John Biebel, who creates the perfumes and designs the artwork (I really love the presentation of this brand) for a set of fragrances that are unusual, at times even freakish, but which have a certain plaintive, medicinal man-o’-the-woods sanctity running through their veins : you can feel that nature and space are very important for this person; alongside a certain goth sensitivity, heartfulness, and rebellious originality.

 

 

 

 

Eiderantler, which sounds rather like a Cocteau Twins b-side, is curiously described as an ‘ivy fougere’. It has not an ounce of sweetness, at least not initially, but has a frank delicacy to it of woodland branches and fresh air : green leaves, ivy, moss and balsam fir wreathing through  an oak, lavender and fine hayed vetiver scent that creates a discreet aura of stepping through undergrowth and inhaling cold, clean air. It would be too ‘deliberate’ and self-serious for me, perhaps, but it was the perfect match for our friend Skyler who stayed the other night with their partner: androgyny was a requisite in the perfumes I chose for them and this one rung all the bells : for the fact that it was ‘bold yet quiet’, and seemed to have ‘revelations waiting to happen’. Living in Hawaii (the sound of which, all those tropical flowers on the air, makes me really want to go to Honolulu – if I can only put up with the music, which I think would drive me bananas), they were shivering in the cold of Japan on Wednesday morning as we tried to heat up the place with kerosene, but determined to go hiking nevertheless; stopping off at temples, whose solemness and ancient gravity is only augmented by cold raindrops on tall trees;  unnerving, at the marrow level, in its judgmental austerity ; the dark-leaved ivy of the Eiderantler – on the skin – a numinous allegory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Fougère, Green

THE DANDIES : : : ARSENE LUPIN LE DANDY by GUERLAIN (2010) + AURORA by CHARLES WONG (2018)

 

 

 

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The D is something of a dandy, and recently we re-discovered that we even had a perfume of that name in the collection that we had totally forgotten about :  “Arsene Lupin – Le Dandy” (a bit of a mouthful ), but which is also a dark leather glove of a violet patchouli fougere that he wears most suavely and insinuatingly – the perfume he was donning at the museum in Tokyo on Saturday (my own aroma being Roger Et Gallet’s The Vert combined  with Brossas’ Jasmin Lilas); a scent that was not out of place in that self-consciously chic 1930’s environment, the period when the famous French detective novels were still being written by  Maurice Leblanc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I  remember the first time I smelled this final creation by Jean Paul Guerlain (for his former house) at the  boutique in Hibiya I was a bit nonplussed: as this, and especially the Voyou (or ‘hooligan’) part of the then newly released Arsene Lupin  duo, just seemed too traditional and obviously of an overly familiar ‘certain ilk’ that traces back decades; immediately recognisable as just ‘one of those’: however, I must admit that meeting up after work the other day, all I could smell, from particular distances, was a luxuriantly held back incense, and dense slightly powdery patchouli with a provocative warmth to it (I wasn’t sure at first if it wasn’t just the regular incense sticks I burn all the time at home: often, the balsamic powder and aromatic elements, and particularly the patchouli,  in that blend fuse with the clothes in his wardrobe and it is hard to sometimes tell where the incense or the perfume begins or ends).  However, once my nose sharpened its focus and I honed into the realities I realized that what I was detecting was definitely a perfume. The warmth, the manly depth, in this effortlessly put together blend by a master perfumer comes from sandalwood, cardamom and leather – – smooth, unfetishistic – while the piercing green top accord, which is what makes Arsene Lupin so distinctive (within its genre) – a  bracing violet leaf and artemisia coupled with coriander and pepper and bitter orange, gives the perfume its undeniable gravitas. Although a little on the potentially ‘gravely self serious and self important ‘ tip on the wrong person, on D, the aura of the perfume is rather elegant:  all velvet breeches, brogues, a monocle, and a fine library to match  –  and very seductive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Also founded on a study of striking contrasts is the recently released Aurora by Charles Wong, a fresh, green tea-like aromatic scent that would make a nice signature for a young, uncomplicated fop. It seems to me sometimes that men’s fragrances – although this is billed as unisex- rely on the olfactory prototype of gradually reconciling clashes more than feminines, which go more for harmony and ‘general attractiveness’ : a sharp grasp and assertive space staking at the top, followed by a sturdier, more cosy-uppable base that instils confidence and makes you move in closer and, one imagines, eventually  ‘relent’. Like Le Dandy, this is a perfume with undeniable charisma: Charles Wong is an author, fragrance enthusiast, and France adoring bon viveur from Hong Kong who travelled to Grasse to create this, his first perfume  – a fresh, modern clothes horse for the new age (Arsene is definitely a few decades his senior): a juxtaposition of  oak moss, amber and sea moss in the base (quite potent), with greener, more limpid and sparkling top and heart notes of water lotus, bamboo, fig leaves, blackcurrant bud as well as aquatic notes of ‘rain’, ‘fresh water’, and ‘sea’ throughout the heart and top – all tenacious, if never entirely  aggressive. As you can imagine from the note description, this fragrance is quite reminiscent of the nineties’ style of perfuming men in blueprints such as Giorgio Armani’s bestselling Aqua Di Gio ( which I almost miss, now in comparison to the newer Neanderthals) although Aurora is more subtle, and less ‘everything all at once’ than the aforementioned aquamarine juggernaut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like Guerlain’s Le Dandy, which is a tad smudged and too intense when bunched all together on the skin up close, the concentrate of fresh intensity in Aurora is, for me, too much to lean in and kiss. From a distance, however – used judiciously in beknownst-to-you-only locations on the body, in tandem with a crisp white shirt, nice grooming, and dandyish vestments, this is a scent that I know I would be drawn to if the right person was wearing it, as the central olfactory conceit –  a constantly evolving play between the lower and higher octaves that hints at intimacy (from the space left in between), as well as the optimism of the clean, lotus-fresh top accords –  is insistent,  youthful –  and, in its own way, curiously passionate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Fougère, Masculines

THE SECOND (AND THIRD AND FOURTH) TIME AROUND : : CORIOLAN by GUERLAIN (1998) + EAU DE MINTHE by DIPTYQUE (2019) +AENOTUS by PUREDISTANCE (2019)

 

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Masculinity, like any socially enforced identity, can be exhausting. Rupaul’s popular assertion that  ‘we are all born naked, and the rest is drag‘, holds quite a lot of truth for me : I am quite happy to wear my suit and tie for work, have always enjoyed, to a certain extent, how this conventional costume (and it is a costume) looks; but at the same time I am still always very aware that it is certainly only one possible, culturally arbitrary form of dressing my male body: other ways might include my jeans and flower t shirts and colourful hoodies and sweatshirts for the weekends, my more ‘gentlemanly’ jumpers and straight coats and lavish scarves that I like to offset plain colours with, or the occasional extravagant nocturnal performance rags (all furs, silk, animal prints and Robert Smith goth hair) of my spirit animal, Burning Bush –  most definitely another form of costume, yes, but also strangely liberating, like manning a submarine – closed off; immune, the people like fish in the aquarium of the  deep wide ocean.  Clothes, for me, are both a burden and, it goes without saying, a cover, a way to hide; an expression of the self, yes, the external manifestation thereof that we must all be judged by on a daily basis – as we cannot walk around naked; yet in my own personal case, deep down I am not entirely sure how much, if at all, these outer layers of garments ever truly really represent my inner spirit.  Only that I feel heavier, more imposing, stricter, definitely older, and much more world-weary in my daily formal wear, while simultaneously ‘appreciating’, to some degree, the difference in the superficial quality of social transactions this ‘smartening up’  incurs in the people I encounter all around me: ladies and gentlemen pay me more attention at the check out counter of the supermarket; the expressions of anodynely quiet approval as I get on the bus, given by respectable Japanese older figures (the western import of this form of clothing long universally accepted as a worldwide, homogenizing conformism for the masculine body; a way of fading into the crowd as a work slave). These clothes are effortlessly normalizing.  I fit in. My shoulders, broad already, are even broader. I can sink into this role quite easily. You might even say it becomes me. It is limiting, goading, oblivious, though  – and I can only imagine, with all the extra polish and facepaint and varnishing  and accessorising that society demands, how time consuming, and often quite simply extremely tedious, all of the garnishing and smoothing and prettifying, must all be for expectation-conforming women.

 

 

 

 

I feel exactly the same way about perfume. Fragrance. Scent. Most of the current ‘feminines’ on the market, like many of the women I saw in the UK recently with their extraordinarily heavy make up, false eyelashes, facial contouring, sculpted eyebrows, and plumped up glossy lips and hair, have the extravagance, and exaggeration, of the classic ‘female impersonating’ drag queen (the line between the two has very definitely blurred in the last decade or so as Drag Race becomes mainstream and becomes absorbed by the heterosexual majority); these are sweet, oversaturated, almost comical, perfumes, foreshadowing only one attribute of the female persona and coming across as almost clownish; and yet men have famously long had it even worse with their testosterone boosting potions, even if the thick, woody, oudhy sweet chocolate of the everything-but-the -kitchen-sink trend of some recent men’s fragrances has steered things in a slightly more ‘abundant’, and femininely peacockish, direction.

 

 

 

 

 

Some fragrance tropes seemingly Die Hard, though, particularly the classic fougere, a winning formula that never entirely goes out of style (or at least commercial relevance). I can occasionally quite enjoy this type of perfume when it is done well – say Rive Gauche Pour Homme by Yves Saint Laurent, or a similar apres rasage called Eau De Berlin by Harry Lehmann that we once bought in Charlottenburg and which D smells quite nice in every once in a while, as there is a crisp, unfussiness to this type of accord that can aura the body with a certain nonchalant elegance ( I have always loved the original Sure Deodorant For Men for this reason – cheap, simple;  a fougere crossed with a touch of Guerlain Shalimar – I wore this yesterday (but oddly, would never consider it for even a moment when I go to work, where in perfume terms I strictly cross dress – with a suit, anything too manly scent-wise and I would start to feel like a Marvel character -). Yes, despite the recent trends of sweet and sickly for both sexes, it seems that a certain pendulum has swung back in a more traditionalist manner – unsurprising, given the current political climates – and a perfume such as Diptyque’s ‘new’ Eau De Minthe, which is a real throwback to the classic eighties perfumes such as Drakkar Noir, all granite-jawed nutmeg and mint, patchouli and a fresh fougere-ish base founded on geranium and rose, might, in the wrong hands just come across as a tired old rubbernecking cliche. What is interesting about this scent though, from my perspective, is the context – Tokyo – in which it is being sold as a regular part of the popular Diptyque collection, neither marketed specifically at men or at women; Japan, despite its entrenched sexism and lack of real gender equality in the workplace, is, at the same time, far more adventurous  – particularly the younger generation – when it comes to experimentation and simply wearing what you want to, especially before university students join companies (when, depressingly, each April, you see them all, like drones, all wearing exactly the same thing, the dreaded ‘recruit suits‘ ; university boys turned into office men, all in virtually identical suits, white shirts, brief cases, shiny shoes; previously fashionable university girls, now in regulation knee length skirts, suit jackets, white blouses, and hair in regulation pony tails as they join the predetermined conveyor belt that will lead them from their twenties, into retirement, and the old people’s home…..)

 

 

 

 

 

All of this notwithstanding, though, as I say, I do feel that Japan is more open-minded in many ways when it comes to trying different kind of fragrances, and although I can imagine young men naturally gravitating towards this one – because the fougere formula has always been sexy, let’s face it- I can almost even more easily imagine women of  all ages, tired of pinky and perky and ‘peony’ roses and peaches, finding a certain relief in donning a more toned down yet vigorous perfume such as this one; a subtle spray under the collar or shirt sleeve here and there a calming refuge from all the expected girliness, which in this country is a monstrous albatross around each female born here from birth. That such a traditionally ‘male’ smelling perfume is presented without gender directives, in quite attractive visual presentation as well (I have always had a soft spot for Diptyque) strikes me as some kind of progress, actually. Where Maison Francis Kurkdjian over emphasised the point with their recent, disappointing, ‘Gender Fluidity’, here, although some female consumers will definitely read Eau De Minthe as being male, in terms of marketing, it is determinedly not even an issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puredistance’s new Aenotus, a ‘master perfume’ by Antoine Lie, is far more typically masculine in its approach than anything else in this house’s line of perfumes – M  (a rich, powerful yet indolent old-fashioned leather that could be worn very well by a dandy of any gender) included. According to the company, while M has a perfume oil strength of 25%, which is high enough as it is  – the newest perfume has one of 48% – a fact that, in my view, does something of a disservice to the ingredients in the blend : a fresh extravaganza of orange, mandarin, lemon, yuzu, mint, blackcurrant bud and petitgrain that you experience in the initial blast as being quite potent to say the least, but which is overtaken, quickly but surely, by the bulk of the perfume, which is a long lasting, eventual ‘skin scent’ of oakmoss, patchouli, and musks that you have smelled too many times in your local locker room (well, you probably have – I can’t say that I have). . When Duncan wore it, at first we both found it simply too strong and too ‘typical’, somehow; too much of a throwback to every other perfume aimed at men that you know already, although admittedly, when I came back into the room every now and again, he most definitely had a mellow and very ‘manly presence’ to him that you can imagine some people taking to, if such conservatism and paternalism were a desirable and projectable part of their signature. Personally, in terms of Puredistance, I am much happier, on occasion, wearing Antonia or Warszawa (also by Antoine Lie), which I wore at the weekend and found intriguingly ambiguous, calming, reserved, and sensual in its blend of velveted base notes and high quality flowers. It is quite beautiful. I just need a little more mystery or non-obviousness to my perfumes, something beyond, no matter how high quality the ingredients therein.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday was the penultimate day of Golden Week : today, the country goes back to work. Entrenched as a cultural phenomenon, and probably ‘infecting’ tens of millions of people across the land as we speak, is the illness known as gogatsubyo, or ‘May sickness’ – feelings of depression, physical unwellness, fatigue, listlessness, due to the ‘warmer weather’ (I love it! and I have always preferred this profusion of green and floral abandon to the prim festivities of the cherry blossom) and the fact that the quotidian reality has to sink in after the uncharacteristic freedom of having ten days off in celebration of the new emperor and empress  (while many of my colleagues were visibly delighted at the thought of having so much time to do as they wanted, as we approached this ‘magical time’, some others felt quite dismayed at the idea that they somehow had to fill up the days with something  – almost as though, without being told what to do and having a ready made exhausting work structure, their whole set up and get up would just collapse). What was interesting was that this dread of going back to work, with the symptoms already set by society, was already affecting people’s potential enjoyment of the holiday before it even started; a curious negativity wrapped up in the ingrained guilt at not constantly working that I am, at the cellular level, completely immune to. I just wanted it to continue.

 

 

 

 

 

Acutely aware of all this, but trying to put it to the back of our minds on our last day out of the holiday (yesterday we just holed up at home, hardly even getting out of bed) ,h eading into the poorer, more working class area of Bandobashi in Yokohama and to explore an old shopping arcade there, for some reason I had decided that morning to wear the aforementioned roll on Sure Deodorant and some vintage Paco Rabanne Pour Homme, wanting something, soapy,  easy and reassuring; I was not in the mood for all the tropical florals and coconut I had been wearing all week as though I were a walking olfactory advertisement for a holiday in Polynesia; and as it happened, going down an unfamiliar street, we made an impulsive and spontaneous stop at a bicycle shop, seeing a sleek and funky bright yellow bike on sale out the front that would be perfect for Duncan to start accompanying me on the  frequent circuits of our neighbourhood and beyond I now do on a regular basis – good for the continuing rehabilitation of my leg muscles and for general health as well – plus I just love the smells of the flowers and the greenery, and the feeling of physical strength growing as the neighbourhood goes from spring, through cherry blossom to early summer and I feel just generally more vital from doing so and remember the rush of my childhood when we were always cycling around one place or another.

 

 

 

 

 

You can’t really get more manly than a bike shop (well you probably can, but I wouldn’t know), and part of me was glad, at that moment, that I happened not to be drenched in vintage Loulou parfum – Olivia, the bottle is almost empty! what a glorious piece of perfumery this thing is ! I LOVE it – as I have been the majority of the week ; it might have seemed slightly awkward and out of place (Paco Rabanne was working quite nicely, thank you). As the D filled in the details for the delivery and made the payment, I kept catching unspoken drifts of the Guerlain Coriolan he was wearing that day – another recycling  of the ‘classic masculinity’ that Guerlain tried to press upon the public in the late nineties even though it was very off trend at the time and therefore sunk without trace; yet this is one of those very complex, refined, delicate, yet sensual masculine perfumes that could hardly be more French if it tried; far more poetic than either of the above reviewed perfumes. This is a soft, linen shirt of a Parisian gentleman; soft chamois leather, gorse and benzoin, with ylang ylang nutmeg and ginger (just sprinkles; nothing intense), herbal accents and fine citruses, drying down to what I realized might possibly have been the inspiration for Jean Claude Ellena’s Terre D’Hermes, a bone dry, mastered and reawakened vetiver.

 

 

 

 

 

While I was definitely rather enjoying the subtle and erotic scent that the D was giving off as we sat down at a traditional Japanese restaurant down the arcade (in a part of Yokohama that s really like the land that time forgot – absolutely stuck in a time warp, which is sometimes exactly how we like it), to me, there was also something quite irritatingly perfect about the vibe that it was giving off, something almost fauxintellectual; while soulful, attractive, and genuinely blended, there is a faultlessness to Coriolan that makes me glad that we only have a miniature bottle in our collection; a full one, used too copiously, might begin to get on my nerves. Ultimately, I prefer, I think, perfumes that are less self-serious (or much more); lighthearted, flamboyant, like the 1899 Hemingway by Histoires De Parfum that D picked up in London, which has the most gorgeous sillage I have smelled in a tobacco and coumarin perfume; or the Nutmeg and Ginger cologne I picked up on Sunday after lunch in one of the recycle shops near the arcade that I am sure he will wear more pointedly and effectively than any babe magnets made precisely for that very obvious purpose: extraordinarily simple, based mainly only on nutmeg oil, there is a sense of not pussyfooting it around when you are talking only about arid spices with a touch of underlying woods. He smells really hot in it. Rather than a grand orchestration of accords that are ‘known’ to represent masculinity in an immediately recognisable, almost embarrassingly obvious, manner, here, a more spritely virility that doesn’t even recognize itself as such, will be the much more pleasing, and to me, sexually arousing, olfactory result.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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he also smells amazing in ungaro pour homme 1 deodorant

 

 

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I CAN’T BELIEVE MY SCENT OF THE DAY IS GUCCI NOBILE (1988)

 

 

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I NEVER wear scents like this. Never. But stinking, pre-shower, on a hot sultry afternoon here just before taking a bike ride to exercise the old legs,I decided to spritz myself with something, anything, so as not to offend any passersby I might encounter on the street with my stench. Something strong. And somehow, there was a quarter full bottle of vintage Gucci Nobile there by the bathroom sink, an unwanted throwaway that D had picked up for nothing at some recycle shop or other, and before I had even finished sniffing it I had sprayed it on my sweating T-shirt and was quite impressed by the pong. Real manly stuff.  Full of tight herbs and lavender; granite hard. And off we went.

 

 

 

 

Returning after my masculine bike ride and after my shower, strangely, I felt like wearing this again. God knows why. So I have sprayed it all over and it is suiting my mood. I feel kind of

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quite sexy in a way. Nostalgically macho. But clearly well made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This might not be the last time that I wear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

$_57

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you ever go off on odd, irrational and unexpected scent tangents like this?

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Filed under Fougère, Hairy Masculines, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE

BRACKEN by AMOUAGE (2016)

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I was never an ‘outdoors man’ even if I have always been something of a nature boy. Yet it was still strange that as a young child I somehow ended up being a cub scout. I don’t remember how or why I would have been enrolled in such an unsuitable organisation, with its toggles and songs and uniforms and ‘manly pursuits’, but I do know that I detested every moment of it except for our time in the woods and the forests when we went camping, and were forced- sorry, encouraged – to make bivouacs out of ferns and bracken and branches and twigs; tents made purely from the forest’s provision that you could hide in, close yourself off and inhale; a smell I will never forget.

It is said that the ‘fougere’ is an imaginary accord, as ferns have no smell, but this is not true. If you crush these filigreed, ornate and primeval plants between your fingers there is in fact a most distinctive, fresh, ancient, milk sap that I have always loved, the very essence of woodland and a window to another world. While I may not appreciate the beauty of mountains and grand vistas and rocks and great valleys, I have always adored the sylvan; the magic of the forest clearing and the trickling, hidden stream.

Amouage’s inquisitive and eccentric, ‘neo-hippie’ perfume from 2016, ‘Bracken’, taps into this alternative, paisley green world of the great outdoors with a very original – if difficult – scent that was created to evoke memories, or at the very least, the stylings and ideals, of the flower power era: meadows of daisies, swaying pampas grasses, and love in the undergrowth – and I must say that I have never experienced anything else quite like it.

I will admit that our first impressions were poor. In fact Duncan recoiled in horror when he sprayed some on (he tried it first for me….”Oh my god…….it’s Toilet Duck!!!!”, and passing his hand over for me to peruse, before scrubbing it off at the sink, I will admit I did burst out laughing as he had nailed it completely in two simple words: suddenly, I had a flashback to the green toilet cleanser of my parent’s house when I was a boy; the urinous, central tang of chamomile and narcissus working with the citrus green, herbal notes of the top accord enough to provoke that remembrance exactly).

Trying the perfume again today, I see a more panoramic view. This is a very full, outspreading, complex, citric, green (fern accord) sharp, fruity (wild berries), floral (lily) and gently mossy composition that although quite odd, is also in another way quite beautifully harmonious. It definitely does have soul and spirit. Like Penelope Tree, the offbeat sixties model pictured here and the ‘alternative Twiggy’, it is the kind of scent that one in a hundred will fall for, but when they do, they will smell fantastic.

The evernew green of my childhood adventures – away from the tedious and moronic bondage of the cub scouts, I would spend my summer holidays playing in the woods all day long with my friends on our bikes, ‘our place’, where we made a secret cabin on an island in the middle of a bog where we could hide out from the adults; it was illegal to be there, we had cut our own hole in the wire fence of the private golf course the woods backed onto, but the heart pounding terror when someone was coming only added to the excitement and the sense of being trapped within a story; great lungfuls of searing fresh air, panting in mud and grasses, bluebells, great ferns….. none of that is really represented here (the closest I have ever come to a true ‘bracken’ like accord is perhaps English Fern by Penhaligons, a gentle, powdery scent from an entirely other era I find soothing and quite dreamy and evocative of the beautiful nature of England). But what is good about Bracken – such a risk-taking name for a perfume I think – is that for once I am smelling something bold and new, not that common these days in perfumery, whether it be niche, or otherwise, on every level from the concept and realization of the fragrance to the execution. An adventure.

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Filed under Fougère, Fruit, Green, Narcissus, New Beginnings

SUCCESSFUL FAILURES VOL. III : : : TENERE by PACO RABANNE (1988 )

 

 

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Now this really was a flop. Nobody quite knew what to make of it: a red, red (it really smelled red), highly complex and cultured aromatic fougere that was, from a certain perspective, a very distant relative of Kouros:  all Mediterranean and hairy-chested, sexed up and ready, with its brutish, yet seductive and convincing fullness of man-juice: spice (carnation and cinnamon), a flush, honeyed, anisic rose heart poisoned with artemisia and jasmine, and a musky, leathery, ambered patchouli and cedarish base.

 

Despite the rabid sensuality at the heart of this peculiar ‘floral’, however, there was also a very appealing, fresh, and regenerating contrast in the opening accords of grapefruit, cassis, bergamot, rosemary, lavender and a delightfully uplifting green note that made the scent (I own two bottles, as you can see) strangely affecting, even touching, on a crisp, Autumn morning. One of those smells that contrasted perfectly with the piercing, exterior, sunlight of optimism, when you simultataneously breathe in the lung-icing air around you and the scent on your body and just feel happy.

 

Yet despite its appeal (to me, at any rate), the scent is undeniably difficult. Illegible. Original and daring. But really quite hard to pin down – Duncan, just smelling it on my hand as I write this said : “Wow, interesting. Really interesting. Penetrating”. It was. But, despite its very masculine credentials at base, it was a floral. And a weird, green, spiced, herbaceous one at that, with a big dollop of animalic honey lurking somewhere at the centre. And men didn’t know what to do with such a scent. Not with all their insecurities. Especially in 1988, when Thatcher and Reagan were in power;  things were simplistic and crass, and men walked about in their ‘colognes’ smelled like open-chested gorillas. Top that with the fact that on the wrong day and in the wrong weather – on a hot day, the rich red hint of Tenere would boil down on me to a sweaty tomato ketchup – and it was obvious that Rabanne had a commercial failure on their hands. It was quickly withdrawn –  almost as soon as it was released:  just another concoction consigned to the sad, perfumed graveyard. Like the similarly discontinued La Nuit, though – by far Paco’s most exciting and audacious scent – it remains, to me at least, one of their most interesting.

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JICKY by GUERLAIN (1889)

 

 

 

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Sometimes I just take my giant green velvet box of parfum, open the lid, just look at Jicky undisturbed, and let its exquisite emanations reach my nostrils.

 

The flacon lies benelovent, secure in its felt indentation; safe in the knowledge of its beauty; and what I smell, in these moments, is a work of stunning, fleeting sensations: the living bergamot and lemon essences; a flourishing lavender; a garland of herbs from an English garden: verbena, sweet marjoram, and the tiniest nuance of mint. I am entranced.

 

But like Narcissus, leaning in at the edge, there lies trouble in these depths……what are the rude aphrodisia lurking down below in those  murky waters…..?

 

I take the bottle and apply the stopper to my skin, and at first, in essence, all is an excelsis deo of perfect harmony.

 

 

I inhale : no perfume has more soul.

 

 

But the citrus has now gone….

 

 

 

Smiling, warmer notes now appear with the lavender in counterpoint; wisps of sandalwood, and that suave, and – let’s not beat about the bush – faecal undertone (an unembarrassed, frank anality of musk, ambergris and civet, sewn together by les petits mains in the ateliers Guerlain with a more civilized accord of incense, benzoin and coumarin)..and it is here where Jicky, suddenly, becomes more difficult.

 

 

 

 

In a modern context, this scent is almost scandalous in its animality (and very, very  French – you can almost hear them laughing at us paling, moralistic Anglo Saxons running from its carnal openness): and so to really wear Jicky, therefore, to have what it takes, you have to be able to carry off this aspect of the perfume – which is never crude, more a deliciously francophile embellishment of the human ;  but if you can, if you can, it can be magical: an ambisexual, historied and haunting skin scent that is simply beautiful –  suited to people, not gender.

 

 

Jicky is a perfume for libertines.

 

 

 

I can’t wear it, but on Duncan, especially when he is in velvet-jacketed dandy mode, it smells wonderful.

 

 

Knowing, adult, and cultivated, a drop here and there is the perfect scented accoutrement.

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Filed under Fougère, Lavender, Orientals, Perfume Reviews

THE DEEP, HAIRY ARMPIT OF LOVE : UNGARO POUR HOMME by UNGARO (1991)

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The first time I encountered it I was twenty and not quite ready. And neither was the public apparently, as Ungaro came and went very quickly, becoming just another discontinued, but highly sought after, cult scent. Yet even back then I knew. Something murky, and sweatily, dangerously seductive smouldered on that department store counter. It was almost too obviously manly, an attempt to combine a seventies barechested medallion aesthetic with the new decade. So macho.  So not of the times, yet also not quite like anything I had ever smelled before, with its dark-pitched, absinthe, underarm intensity. I remember shrinking back – but then returning – to this rich stew of scent that touched some primal sex nerve yet also seemed so hopelessly outdated when the world of CK-depilated sport-skinniness was just around the corner.

There was never anything androgynous – or slender for that matter – about Ungaro.

This is a middle-aged, well-built businessman, after a long day at work; his smell beneath his suit; coiled, taut – waiting to emerge. He has neglected to apply his deodorant, many hours earlier, (out of forgetfulness or fetish we don’t know), but the blend is emphatically not fresh:  it is a scent that harnesses a certain brute and rough, even dirty, masculinity.Yet it also fuses this frank eroticism with style and an attractive elegance in a manner only the French could master: we are not talking here about a clichéd, covertly aggressive chat-up line by Hugo Boss.

Essentially based on brooding patchouli; dark, bitter wormwood, and lavender, this trio of ingredients is freshened with greener notes of geranium, pine and bergamot, drying down to honey-tinged, musky animalics.  Rough, and very Italo-French in its womanizing, boozy, and measured self-confidence, it may seem to skirt with parody to the contemporary nose, but to me the perfume feels lovingly drawn by its creator, not just a throwaway commission, as it exhibits a sense of laid-back intelligence and humour beyond its core message of overt sexual prowess.

For me, Ungaro I is perhaps the ultimate masculine fougère.

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A Japanese dressmaker friend, Rumi, came to my house one evening. We drank red wine, watched Almodovar, had dinner, and then got to the perfume collection.

Once I had realized her tastes, I went in a patchouli direction (Givenchy Gentleman, Paloma Picasso, Magie Noire), all of which had her coiled like a cat with pleasure.

The pièce de resistance, however, was Ungaro Pour Homme, which I saved til last, but which she said was like sexual torture.

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