Category Archives: Fruit

Here comes the sun, little darlin….. SOLEIL LIQUIDE by MEMOIRE LIQUIDE (2009)

Today was the first day of proper, unbridled sunshine we have had this year : blue skies, cold breeze, but in the sunshine directly it was hot enough to not need a jacket; proper soul-warming sun up to the the mid-sixties, the kind of day in London where people strip off their shirts in the parks and soak up some rays on the grass with beers and the first picnics, as multilayered foreign tourists from much hotter countries look bemusedly on, and we pretend to ourselves that this is going to be what the weather will be like for the foreseeable future.

A day, then, for mood-enhancing, summery scents (even though it is only the beginning of March and I am totally jumping the gun…) I have been lucky, though, to receive a lot of perfume samples in the post in recent weeks, and livened by the light, and having just finished my post on piquant greens from this morning, I felt like trying something new and refreshing.

Scrabbling through the vials (all over the house, anywhere, everywhere, total lack of organization I am afraid) I came across one that had ‘Soleil Liquide’ written on it (no name of the perfume house on the vial, inviting me in, cryptically, as a ‘drink me’ bottle might do Alice) as I was ironing my shirt,  with my coffee; music on; the window wide open and the sounds of my  neighbourhood flooding in; my cat, Mori, fighting with the ginger tom across the street (there is some territorial battle going on);  kids on their way to school, birds beginning to ‘twitter’ (I have had the windows shut for so long!)…a quick sniff before applying: ah yes, that will do, one of those nice, unthreatening,  contemporary florals I like in measured doses;  those jasmines and tuberoses like  Beyond Love, Marc Jacobs,  and the new Oscar De La Renta Mi Corazon; sheer, but not too sheer; fresh, clear, but with enough exotic suggestion for me to acquiesce (just on one wrist and one cuff, my guilty, bucking-the-rules pleasure for school, as ‘gender-bending’, nectarous, fleurs emanate from my tutorious person….)

In any case, Liquide Soleil has been my school scent of the day, and I have to say that have enjoyed it. A modern, citrus white floral that is easy on the nose and spirits for its cheering, American summer goodness,  its barely  whispered memories of France (Tendre Poison, even the eighties incarnation of Vent Vert, or am I just imagining it?), its simple, immediate, pamplemousse-gorged uplift.

Neroli, tangerine and lightly candied grapefruit; a pleasingly blended triumvirate of yellows that coalesces very nicely together over the standard, familiarized accords of subtle sandalwood and white musks, yet mixed together knowingly and judiciously to cleverly bring the ‘liquid sunshine’ to the whole.  Conventional if you really have to nit-pick, but something that really does to me smell good, and those were today’s quite simple criteria. Make me smell nice. Make me smell clean and laundered but also nice; handsome; comely.

You may have smelled this type of fragrance many times before, these citrus-boosted nerolis like Fleurs D’Oranger and Cologne Grand Neroli that abound quite frequently in the perfume world;  but a perfectly blended, dependable bottle of summertime happiness is nothing to be sniffed at ( I find most perfumes these days go wrong at some point: there is always some vile woody addition that ruins it; some sweet, banal chemical that turns me off, but I didn’t really get any of that with Liquide Soleil, apart, perhaps, from a sense that by the end of the day, when the sun had actually gone, it was slightly beginning to outstay its welcome (probably because it was clinging, still zinging with orangey, persistent neroli to my chalk-flecked shirt…)

No. The carefree, citrus florality of this perfume is really  appealing, and it is something I would happily wear quite regularly, particularly on warm sunny days like today. If it is nice tomorrow as well, I think it might be getting another outing…

 

 

 

 

 

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Today, 5.36 pm, Hiratsuka station, as I made my way to my evening classes…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Grapefruit, Neroli

SCREAMING JELLY BABIES: TUSCAN BLOOD ORANGE by PACIFICA

 

 

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When the package came, the first thing I tried was Tuscan Blood Orange.

 

I love orange: I love it in chocolate, in cakes, in perfumes, and am a huge consumer of the fruit, especially Japanese mikan, iyokan, and ponkan: I think my colleagues find me slightly bizarre. While I ultimately think I prefer lemon, there is nothing more uplifting and easy than a good orange, though it is not often successfully carried off in perfume for some reason (see my other post on oranges for some exceptions to this rule).

 

This particular perfumed version of the fruit, ‘Tuscan Blood Orange’, is not an orange, per se, as much as a jelly baby, or rather a fistful of jelly babies, those classic British gummis that kids of my generation grew up with, and which my grandparents always brought round to the house on a Sunday night, along with Twixes, Bounties, and Mars Bars.

 

And I loved them.

 

Boxes of Bassetts jelly babies in their bright friendly colours of green, red, black, orange……mild, delicious, as you bit of their heads with a tinge of guilt and kept dipping your hands in for more.

 

 

The marketing teams at Bassetts also decided, a few years ago,  to give a name to each flavour (making the dental decapitation all the more savage, don’t you think?) and this cute little perfume by American brand Pacifica seems to feature almost the entire posse (though Bigheart, blackcurrant, is conspicuously absent)…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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While an appley, melon top note makes you question whether the perfume has been labelled incorrectly for a few seconds, soon Baby Bonny (raspberry); Brilliant (strawberry), and even brief flashes of Boofuls and Bubbles (lime and lemon respectively) make appearances in Blood Orange before Bumper – that lovely, sweet orange jelly baby – smiles, winks, and immediately tap dances its way into your affections.

 

 

Wearing this perfume, then, is a total confectionery blast from the past for me and puts me in an excellent mood – it is so cheap as well that I might have to order myself a bottle from Amazon. Sometimes I like such pleasing uncomplication.

 

 

 

 

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The title of this post comes from a science experiment that I wish my school had done, in which jelly babies are thrown into tubes of potassium chlorate as they  fizz away instantaneously in fits of oxidisation, squealing, apparently, as they do so, and leaving the science labs reeking of candy floss. I think that if chemistry lessons at my school had involved such olfactory pleasures, perhaps I might now have been making perfume, rather than merely writing about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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16 Comments

Filed under Confectionery, Orange, Perfume Reviews

a flash of fruit and the night was mine………….BLACK ANGEL, DEVIL IN DISGUISE and SLEEPING WITH GHOSTS by MARK BUXTON (2012)

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Perfumer Mark Buxton, famous for his iconic creations for Comme Des Garçons and other houses, released an eponymous collection of scents last year comprising five striking, idiosyncratic creations that, surprisingly, despite their innovations, don’t seem to have been much written about.

I quite like them. Each perfume in this collection is pared down, simple, but plush and striking, and although the names of the perfumes might put us in mind of horror films, the morbid, and the ridiculous creations of Black Phoenix Lab, with their constant allusions to the satanic, the scents themselves are anything but.  Rather, I find the perfumes to be more like stark, modern, scented novelties: a blast of rhubarb here, of ginger or elderberry there, or of quince, Buxton choosing to overdose on one or two ingredients in each fragrance, an effect that draws and locks you in or leaves you cold depending on your reaction to that particular facet.

Although I tend to prefer more nuanced, extended perfumed stories on the whole, where head notes and heart lead slowly and inexorably to base in a constant play of shifting back scenery and fragments of emotion,  sometimes you want something fresh and arresting, and these unfussed creations fit that bill nicely, scents to spray on nonchantly (as you know they are going to work  out on the town);  quickly check your hair and face, and go out that door to your appointment in the city.

 

 

Sleeping With Ghosts (” a fantasy of extreme tenderness”), my own favourite in the collection, may sound daunting and gothic but like all the Mark Buxtons, the name is misleading (or at least playfully titillating): what you might imagine to be an incensey, ghoulish scent in fact a very fruity and vanillic thing that while linear and monothematic, is touching. It is a composition dominated by a sweet, spectral vanilla suggesting poigant memories; a lover’s body that has graced your sheets but has now gone, leaving nothing but the sensation that they are still there… just traces. These are the ghosts that the perfumer seems to be alluding to; those feelings of infatuation, happiness and spontaneity that love and reminiscence evoke, and a sense of yearning for those feelings again come springtime.

If vanilla is custard yellow, this is pink ivory white: pitched higher on the musical scale, creamily fruit-tinged; an insidious, addictive smell that dominates the scent, fused with barely perceptible touches of vetiver leather. The beginning of the perfume is the stage I like the best though, as it is all about the vivacious smells of tagetes, peony flowers and, notably, a very bright and deliciously juicy quince, an unusual note in a perfume and one that works perfectly over the softer notes in the base (which I find less compelling). I keep wanting to rewind back to that salivated  beginning.

 

 

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Rhubarb is another delectable fruit, with its tart, summery tang, and though it is gradually becoming more popular as an ingredient in perfume (especially as used by Jean Claude Ellena in perfumes such as Rose Ikebana, and by Duchaufour in the latest Aedes de Venustas) it has never been used as extravagantly as it has in the curious Devil In Disguise (“the divine wind of danger”).

A gorgeously flamboyant note of rhubarb leaves and neroli is used in this upfront scent, which was apparently inspired by the experience of sitting at a café in Italy and being tantalized, and turned on, by the smell of a woman sitting somewhere out of sight, as Buxton sat with his coffee and dreamed of recreating this feeling in a perfume. The frisson of fruit and carnality works beautifully,  though the contrast (some might say the friction) between that mouthwatering opening and the splayed realities of the musky, sandalwood base are something of an acquired taste.

I can imagine this perfume being extraordinarily erotic on the person that can pull it off, actually (go on….) but for me personally the scent’s bridge between head and base could have been fleshed out more. Having said that, the directness and brisk transparence of this formula are a large part of its appeal.

 

 

 

 

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Once in a while you smell a scent that gives you an unexpected boost of serotonin; a bottled mood-enhancer. Many of the best perfumes are melancholic; you sigh wistfully as vistas and memories open up in your soul and you indulge your inner self;  or else they are occasionally pure seduction and you swoon and loll your eyes like a loon. There aren’t that many scents, however, that just make you happy.

Black Angel, which tells the story of the moment when a stunningly beautiful woman suddenly appeared through the dry iced smoke to Mark Buxton in a nightclub, has one of the most immediately uplifting and optimistic top accords I have smelled in years (a racy jasmine and mandarin-infused ginger), capturing, perfectly, the feeling of a night to come; cuba libre in hand – that intoxicating sense of summery anticipation.

Duncan took to it immediately, with its limey disco pulse and internal good-time engines, and has worn it several times out to great effect. The base of the scent is perhaps more generic (a styrax/patchouli/amber accord), merely pleasant where the top is so captivating, but on the whole this perfume works beautifully (I am not sure whether my reaction to that gingery goodness in the head notes is some subjective memory that it re-evokes – possibly a deodorant I loved when I was seventeen?), but it is certainly somehow familiar.

Duncan’s reaction to it, however, shows that ultimately it is the perfume itself (which feels intrinsically heartfelt with its fun, upfront integrity) that is objectively good, much like the other scents in this collection (Wood & Absinthe, a good quality, quite haunting vetiver, and Sexual Healing, an osmanthus/elderberry leather (yes you read that correctly) that I am less keen on but which is certainly interesting).

For a change of scene, and an immediate, and easy blast of the positive, these nice little perfumes work a treat.

20 Comments

Filed under Ginger, Mojito, Perfume Reviews, Quince, Rhubarb, Vanilla

BLOWING RASPBERRIES: HOT COUTURE (eau de parfum) by GIVENCHY (2000)

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‘Who’s smoking a pipe? I could swear someone’s smoking a pipe’ said my Japanese colleagues as I sat, silent and embarrassed (but amused) at their reaction to my wearing Hot Couture to the teacher’s room one cold winter morning.

 

Trying to decide what I thought about this perfume (given to me by a friend who had found it just that bit too much), aromatic, flavoured (raspberry) tobacco was actually the first thing that had come to mind, so it was hilarious to have my initial instincts confirmed. Hot Couture, which came in a fantastically passé and non-ergonomic sculptured bottle – so eighties, so c h i c  – is a peppery, aromatic and vanillic framboise: an unusual main note for a big house perfume, and perhaps the reason why, like all the best perfumes, it has disappeared (the eau de toilette is a fresher, floriental raspberry scent). From a distance, though, the eau de parfum really did smell exactly like pipe smoke; curls of thick, woody, vaporous raspberry.

 

Hot Couture is a pretty good scent I would say, worth picking up if you find it cheaply somewhere: nice on either sex, cosy and distinct, but with its atmosphere of smoke-infused nightclub cloakrooms – and swathes of thick, rising, dry ice on the dancefloor – I have to say it doesn’t leave much room to breathe.

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Filed under Floriental, Perfume Reviews, Raspberry, Tobacco

HOT BANANAS!!!! LADYBOY by GORILLA PERFUMES

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Greetings everyone and a very happy 2013 to you. Thanks for being part of The Black Narcissus: I am meeting some lovely, really interesting people on here and am very much looking forward to some more exchanges over the next twelve months and beyond. Don’t be shy! Let’s rant, wane and wax together…

I hope you had a lovely Christmas/holiday period and are rested and ready for the new year. Myself, I emerged, reluctantly, from my cocoon yesterday and went off into Tokyo to research vanilla perfumes for my latest Sweet Little Thing guest post over at Olfactoria’s Travels (it will come out on Friday, so please have a look if you are interested in the various discoveries of my bean odyssey). Stopping at Lush in Shinjuku, which was SO packed with people bargain hunting at the sales it almost precipitated a claustrophobic panic attack, I tested their sandalwood-heavy Vanillary, which is an effective little perfume in its heavy-hitting, jasmine absolute, coconut-incense-stick kind of way, very erotic and in-your-face, but then came across a small perfumed sensation and forgot all else: LADYBOY.

That name!!  The pungent, rotting bananas of the top notes!
The bubblegum, nail polish and eyelash-heavy violets! I simply had to get a bottle – and it just so happened, on that day, to be 50% off as well (only the Shinjuku branch stock this perfume, which shows its oddness): I suppose it was never likely that a large chunk of the populace would go for a perfume that smells of melting hot bananas and amyl nitrate.

Now, the banana is not a note we often find in perfumery, and my Ladyboy has the most overt banana as its main note I have ever smelled…..

But what other bananas are there?

Probably my first exposure to the note of the genus musa was in J Del Pozo’s Quasar, a blue-sporty fragrance from 1994 that nevertheless had a very innovative top note of fresh green banana leaf that I always thought should have been the mainstay of the fragrance (it wasn’t – what came later was always a disappointment). It imprinted itself on my brain nevertheless. A brilliant banana did come, later, in the form of Vanille Banane by Comptoir Sud Pacifique, a scent I discovered while staying in Paris: fresh, delightful banana, halfway between the clean, unripened fruit, and those chewy, artificial, 2p banana sweets you grew up with from the local shops – dry, fresh, a touch acidic- but it then folded, unfortunately, into the ‘classic’ Comptoir vanilla, which always errs on the side of the sickly and plastickly sweet. You would have to be a really cute party bopper to pull that one off effectively, and I unfortunately couldn’t, on my skin.

A very unusual banana tree note was later to be found in Jean Patou’s Sira Des Indes, a very languid, almost sardonic, tropical perfume that features a top note of banana leaves before turning to a more voluptuous, if beautifully blasé, animalic floral: I wish this perfume had had more success because the combination was very interesting, though clearly ultimately too decadent to ever find mainstream success.

One perfume I own that combines flowers and banana delightfully is a rare scent I found at the flea market one Sunday – Jazmin by Le Jardin De Jimmy Boyd, a Barcelona-based perfumer whose jasmine flowers morph effortlessly into banana leaves and then morph back again….an effect that is either simply the quality of the jasmine flowers used (which might have a fruity-tropical facet) or is a trick by the perfumer….either way this is by far my favourite jasmine and the watery, luscious banana green of the top notes only makes it better.

Aside these, I know of few banana perfumes, so please let me know if you are aware of others.

So….Ladyboy. But before we get to Ladyboy, let’s talk some more about bananas.

For me, I am not sure if the banana would necessarily feature in my Fruit Top Ten (would it yours?), but I do love the taste and smell of the fruit and am also somewhat obsessed with the banana tree growing in our back garden (which has grown to unexpectedly monstrous proportions), as well as the smaller ones growing in pots on my balcony and in the hallway upstairs. Kamakura is strange in that it has winters not much warmer than England but fully tropical summers, as hot as Borneo and equatorial Africa, which means you see snow on palm trees in February, and frost on the poor banana trees which tower back up again in August, never to fully bear fruit as they die on the vine at the beginning of November; a sterile frustration I always feel as the baby bananas start to cluster in June…..

But to that fruit top ten:

(I would love to hear yours as well by the way, as I am a fruit freak. I basically love all of it, though I am somewhat less partial to kiwi and melon than other fruit (which is why I never go for those appallingly melona melona scents like Eau Emotionelle and Après La Mousson….and why I wasn’t overstruck on the kiwi perversions of Amouage Interlude…)

Off the top of my head:

1. pineapple

2. papaya

3. grapefruit

4.  lemon

5. strawberry

6. apple (not Japanese: English, or the like)

7. plum

8. cherry

9. orange/satsuma/Japanese iyokan

10. rhubarb?

Basically I go for the tart, and the fluffy dessert flesh of the banana doesn’t even seem like fruit to me, somehow, more a species all of its own: a beautiful alien: creamy, pulpy, feathery (goodness writing this is really making me crave a banana….!), and yet Duncan and I, despite this, did have a whole party one summer based around the fruit.

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Before your minds turn toward filth and assumptions, let me say that we also had a beautiful wintery party in Tokyo called Kirsch, but I can see that I am digging myself into ever deeper holes by talking about cherries and bananas, oh dear.

Kirsch was held at a 1950’s café-diner in Ebisu called Kissa Ginza, and all was red, and all was cherry, and it was sublime, if chaotic… Delicious Banana, meanwhile, came from a postcard we found one day. As is well known, Japanese English is often hilariously, atrociously bad on a daily basis, or else almost surrealistically strange and simple, like the innocent declaration ‘delicious banana’ which is so saturated with itself and its nothingness we quickly picked it up and turned it into a party, which I must tell you about here if you have nothing better to do.

Delicious Banana was one of our strangest festas (and we have had many), for a number of reasons. Firstly, the venue: a curious, three-storied art café called Mogura (mole), which was as tight a fit as a fairy-tale, and had very poor air conditioning, which brings us to the second point: it was, or seemed like, the hottest day of the year, seriously, seriously boiling: sweltering like you couldn’t imagine (around 36 degrees, though hotter in my memory, with about 80% humidity). I remember us carting records, cds, decorations and white Casablanca lilies all the way from Kamakura (at least 90 minutes away), and arriving covered in lily powder, our clothes ruined; we bought heaps and heaps and heaps of bananas and hung them everywhere……the guests came all in yellow, and we had little kids running around in banana hats, plus the menu, all devised beforehand of course, was exclusively banana (it’s a wonder I ate a banana ever again…)

There was banana salad; banana tacos, banana desserts… bananas were coming out of our ears and we were wilting from the heat along with the bananas that were stringing the stairwells…

The music, which I spent a lot of time on, was all tropicalia-tastic, and I remember almost swooning with pleasure dancing to ‘One Day In Your Life’ by MJ with my beautiful friend Takako in temperatures that were not fit for human beings upstairs….the heat, the sun pouring through the skylights…we almost became our very own banana flambée of human melée; the climax being when I ended up trussed and decorated by five or six women ( the other strange thing about that party: for some reason it was exclusively female apart from Duncan and myself, hilarious given the name of the event) and, in some kind of fertility ritual, all of which happened spontaneously, I was dressed up and made up by the women in some Wicker-Man-like sacrifice (though in honesty the end result was more like Carmen Miranda….)

The party is imprinted in my memory as fun and banana bliss, and as the place it was held no longer exists, just writing about it here feels like some sad, beautiful tropical resurrection…

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So there I was in thick makeup, anyway, covered in fruit, and here I am now wearing Ladyboy. And like the Delicious Banana party with the women congregating around,  and showered with the fruit, is there an internal joke to the perfume?: the lack, or the covered-up fruit of the Thai transsexual or ‘transvestite’ an implicit feature of the creation?

Who is to say? Simon Constantine, the perfumer at Gorilla Perfumes, strikes me as a very nice kind of person and I can’t imagine any gender or homophobic malice; strangely, the rich banana of the top note segues beautiful with a powdery, thickly scented violet that might recall makeup, but also those delectable, hot, coconut, banana and tapioca desserts that Thai cooks make so exquisitely, and the ‘invisible banana’ is an interesting sexual motif dangling enigmatically in the mental void of this ladyboy in any case; it is possible that I put too much stock in the name of perfumes sometimes but then I think that the names of scents, like the names of paintings and mixtapes, are crucial, making linkages in the mind that  involve the participant and open vistas and connections in the soul that when truly inspired…

I have also been to Bangkok and it was dizzying; being driven at night in a tuk-tuk bicycle taxi to a restaurant where the delicious smelling lime-chilli fish had me drooling and weeping hot involuntary tears it was so spiced as the lights on the water bobbed and the mysteries I could never understand lay mercilessly on the other side of the bay….

While we were there I don’t know if we actually ever met any real ‘ladyboys’, but I have met my fair share of Asian crossdressers or whatever term you find most suitable, and I am happy to wear a scent in their honour; the humour, the true beauty, the confusing gorgeousness; all of this is served well in this perfume…

The smell of nail varnish, of hair spray, of the little cabaret’s dressing room and its fairy lights on mirrors conjured up by the acetatey sheen of the initial, artificial banana smell; the bizarre addition of seaweed added to the mix, which I can’t thankfully detect ( I HATE seaweed, the smell and the taste of it, which is a problem living in Japan! ) but which I imagine adds some leathery temperance and wearability under the banana banners; the perfume becoming, eventually, an eminently wearable perfume of oakmoss, patchouli, and labdanum, the scent definitively no longer a joke if, in fact, it ever was one.

29 Comments

Filed under Banana, Fruit, Jasmine, Perfume Reviews

CLEFT OLD KIWI AND A KNEEFUL FULL OF LEATHER……..INTERLUDE by AMOUAGE (2012)

 

 

 

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When high school boys in Japan gather after school in ‘family restaurants’ such as Gusto and Jonathan’s,  inexpensive eateries with one main attraction – limitless soft-drinks and beverages of all kinds available at the ‘drink bar’ – one familiar pubescent rite is to egg each other on to create the most bizarre and unpalatable mixes possible by chucking, in one big plastic glass, some orange juice, some milk; a healthy dose of tabasco; some coke, some cocoa, some miso soup, some apple and mint tea, some salt and pepper and ketchup for good measure….then of course getting some poor designated sod to try and down it in one…

 

Interlude, a perfume for women by those seasoned purveyors of Franco-Arabic good taste Amouage, is a similarly baffling experiment in chaos, seemingly a case of bunging everything in the blender, pressing play, and seeing what happens.

This is, in fact, the stated theme of the scent, by the way, the ‘interlude’ in question being the moment when the fragmentary moments of madness surrounding you coalesce and you suddenly find yourself; rise up like a pillar of calm selfness from the swirling, anchovy mixed-pizza of worldy mobocracy : fragrant, smooth and serene.

My first initially astonished impressions of Interlude Woman were of peculiar, dusty old sweet figs and a rather prominent (and somewhat nauseating) kermit-green kiwi, whizzing about sherbetly on a melon-leather carousel…………….bizarre and with a very distinctive air of quease…..

 

 

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One commentator on the Fragrantica website  nailed it more succinctly:

 

“Sometimes a scent comes along that can be summed up with three letters, and Interlude is one of them………

 

 

 

 

W T F

 

 

 

 

 

She then amusingly goes on to describe it as smelling of ‘moldy basement, over-ripe cheese and bad air freshener’, while another person smells ‘roach motels’, and yet another that she could ‘vomit from this smell of deep choking smoke…..

What were Amouage thinking?  Perhaps we should let creative director Christopher Chong elucidate:

 

 ” The Interlude moment is a reflection of all the trials and tribulations one overcomes to attain personal satisfaction and achievement….”

                           mmmmmm…. but must perfume be so masochistic?

 

 

 

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Interlude is certainly not an easy ride. The perfume is in fact so complex that it emerges almost as a Rorschach test of individual interpretation: there are so many notes in this ‘air of disorder’ that everyone will smell different things. I myself got no cockroaches or cheese: for me it was all about this unhinged oudh-wood depth straddled disgracefully by Queen Kiwi, but if this review is leaving you confused perhaps the perfume would be more readily imagined olfactively if we ogle the notes…..

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kiwi (by far the most prominent note in this scent)

 

 

‘nut’

 

 

 

 

coffee

grapefruit

 

honey

 

immortelle (maple syrup, burnished copper,  burnt licorice………)

 

marigold

ginger                   &

bergamot

 

  (in the top…….)

 

and then, in the heart and base, swarthier, more Amouagey bloops of

 

 

oudh                (this is, ultimately a ‘fruit oudh’)

sandalwood

                    leather (quite prominent)

vanilla

 

benzoin

 

musk

 

jasmine (bleurrgh! jasmine and kiwi!)

 

orange blossom, rose

and

oakmoss….(a chypre?!)

 

……in other words, notes that do not form a naturally harmonious posse; more a team of unknowns who must club together to make this thing work like an episode of Survivor.

 

 

Thankfully though, the notes do actually begin to elide and collaborate with each other, and after the intial mess (and it is a mess) subsides, and you begin to transcend your ‘chaos’, a vision of a suave and contained, rich, stylish person gradually materializes: enigmatic and attractive – the kiwi-agar-chypre concept finally coalsceing into a well-dressed, mysterious and tasteful red-blooded woman.

 

This lingering end accord in Interlude is quite beautiful actually ( I stupidly put some on just before going to bed, regretting it immensely at first, but found myself gradually snuzzling up to my wrist as it settled into its curious, intelligent, oudhy night-flight groove, a veil of middle-eastern intrigue that was pulling me in to its story….)

 

It is undoubtedly very original, and if someone walked past you of an evening wafting Interlude you would certainly prick up your ears (having sat with a nose peg in her basement squinting and puffing for an hour before leaving the house..) and, having eventually understood where all the woody, fruited vom of the beginning was leading to, I started to rewind the scent gradually in my mind, comprehending more what the perfumer must have been intending all along. Ah. I see. It is leading to this…

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In some ways, for this reason alone, Interlude can be seen as a very brave attempt at breaking new ground, as it is a well known fact that top accords are the key factor in most people’s purchases of a perfume: for the average attention-deficited consumer it all hangs on those first few minutes, and this perhaps accounts for the fact that the lovely people at Harrods’ Amouage counter looked so sheepish and oh- no- here- we- go- again when I first sprayed this perfume on in August – then mimed a polite, thin-slipped smile in response. They knew that first impressions, in this perfume’s case especially, can be disastrous….

37 Comments

Filed under Kiwi, Leather, Oud, Perfume Reviews

O sweet fig : FLAGRANT DELICE by TERRY DE GUNZBURG (2012) (+ miniature figathon for Nina: L’Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier; Diptyque Philosokos; Miller Harris Figue Amere; Angela Flanders Figue Noire; Sonoma Scent Studio Fig Tree; Carthusia Io Capri )

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The pantheon of figs is dominated by two classic creations by Olivia Giacobetti –  lover of the ficus carica and of transparent, fresh fragrances in general – and the very talented perfumer who did Premier Figuier (‘the first fig tree’) for L’Artisan Parfumeur in 1991 and Philosokos ( ‘fig lover’ inGreek) for Diptyque in 1996. Both of these scents capture the cool, lactic, dark-green essence of the tree’s lobed rough leaves.

The Diptyque creation is the stricter fig of the two; more spartan and verdant, the leaves of the tree forming the centre of the composition. A tiny hint of coconut adds a hint of sweetness, although this is soon undercut by a fresh (almost harsh), woody note of white cedar that lasts for hours on the skin. Philosokos is refreshing and headclearing, a ‘calm in the storm’ kind of fragrance that allows you to re-equilibrate yourself in hot situations. I have the parfum solide, which is probably the most discreet and gentle scent I own in my collection.

Premier Figuier is a milkier, more pregnant fig. I  fell for this around 1993 as it seemed to represent a new beginning in my post-university life and was probably my first ever niche purchase. I remember excitedly stepping out onto the King’s Road from the L’Artisan boutique (which felt so secret back then, tucked somewhere behind a little side street, veiled in black, a real showroom of unusual treasures for those in the know) where I had been instantly seduced by the gorgeously leafy beginning of this perfume (parasol lime, galbanum, fig leaf), but even more by the entwining, in the heart, of fig and woozy coconut  (one of my very favourite notes in perfumery), a fusion that seemed to hover from my skin in a dream-like aura. It was addicting and compelling to me, and it now occupies a special position in the taxonomy of my mental fragranced library  – me at twenty two. But the perfume also has another dimension- a persistent, almost sweat-like aspect, which comes from the addition of sandalwood and a note of dried fruit. This stage of the fragrance was always a bit precarious on me ( I don’t wear sandalwood well) – and probably what caused this fig, for me eventually, to lose its lustre.

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Following these very original olfactive innovations by Giacobetti there was a time for a while in the nineties when fig was the note du jour, much as iris, rose, and oudh have been recently, and notes of the fruit or its leaves were injected into various small perfumeries’ new creations, as well as in mainstream releases such as Dior Dune Pour Homme (1997) and Marc Jacobs For Men (2002), both of which are quite nice, if less poetic. Most figsimiles kept that insistent green note in the foreground, though, and the genre was at one point in danger of becoming tired.

Miller Harris’ Figue Amère was a very different affair. I am an admirer of this English perfumer’s work in general : there is a real integrity and quality to it, a lack of cheap sweetness and the whole curdling sexual package – her scents unfurl and go off in skillful and self assured new directions. While most Harris compositions tend towards the tastefully floral, incense, or citric, Harris does let her hair down (the hilariously pink disco Noix de Tubéreuse comes immediately to mind, as well as the literally unwashed hair smell of the Jane Birkin collaboration L’Air de Rien), and Figue Amère belongs to this more strongly colour-blocked territory. To me, this perfume is all purple; flamboyantly dressed fairground people, big wheels, and Black Love joss sticks. The scent is so lush in its heart and base (narcissus; angelica; sweet moss, cedar and amber) that the violet/fig/bergamot top notes soon get swallowed up in all this velvet crush : it is a rich blend that is warm and charismatic. For me, Figue Amère occupies its own special tassled turf of fig territory.

To move further along from the leaves of the tree – along its branches, its stems, and up to the curving inflorescence of those pulpy, seed-lined fruit and their heady pink flesh, we come to Figue Noir (2006) by Angela Flanders, a perfumer with a lovely little boutique just by the Columbia Road flower market in London. I spent a whole afternoon with Ms Flanders a couple of years ago, interviewing her over tea and cake as she told me the story of her life and perfumes. What I liked especially about her is her passion for her craft but also her nonchalance – she has a mischievous side to her as well – which is inspiring to see in someone who has been around so long. She is not jaded in the least, and her fig – nominated for a FIFI award – is a rebellious shocker: it smells like swelling, overripe figs falling apart in your hands; a hilarious, sticky mess. No, that is not it: Figue Noir isn’t as natural as that. It is more like a tongue-searing mouthful of glinting, hardboiled sweets: if you could buy them at the confectioners they would be pear drops. Great big fig drops.

The scent is almost mind-bendingly headachey in its synthetic overdoses but also actually somehow brilliant, its psychotropic examination of this fruit from within opening brand new and exciting figgy vistas in our giddy heads.

A warmer, more expansive and suffusive fig scent is the natural- smelling, tranquillizing, yet engrossing Fig Tree by Sonoma Scent Studio; an inspiriting, woody fig with rich balsamic undertones that draws you into its allaying, shaded spaces and allows you to stop what you are doing and breathe. While the beginning stages of extraordinarily verdant, harsh green fig leaves are almost unsettling, quite soon, richer, denser notes of cedar, tonka, patchouli and vanilla begin to be sucked up, drop by drop, up through the bark of this confidently imperious fig tree, and the scent, imbued with nutritioning sunlight, comes fully into its own.  A love-filled perfume to collect your thoughts; coalesce; regroup.

Completely on the opposite end of the ficus spectrum is the fascinating Io Capri by Italian perfumery Carthusia, a transfixing scent that I only discovered recently at a shop in Tokyo, but which transported me anywhere but: I was in Rome, in the cold, marbled atrium of an otherworldly, ancient palazzo on some hot September afternoon. I could smell the fresh, cool sheets of a hotel room; of a huge, beautiful, shining white bath and inviolable, hard, triple-milled soaps waiting, timelessly, on its sides. Strange, aqueous depths. Blue caves; Roman dolphins; the underworld. Weird. In fact, though I couldn’t stop myself from sniffing this odd creation, I had no ability mentally to break down this scent into its olfactory constituents; it remained a scented conundrum, incredibly fresh and clean in a way that made me just want to lie down and sleep. Deeply. In those sheets: the Foro Romano, the place I used to walk on cold days alone in the rain, out there somewhere – dogged, discordant – in the distance. It was only when I looked up the notes in the scent did it start to jigsaw into sense: a green, herbaceous fig with wildly discordant notes of mint, eucalyptus and tea fused with fig leaves that takes you to watery grottoes of Botticelli, of clifftop villas and lagoons. Gorgeously strange, Io Capri doesn’t suit me in the least but I might buy it nonetheless as it touches me in a way I can’t quite understand.

Which brings us to the present day, and Ms Gunzburg’s latest addition to this world of figs. This new perfume is called Flagrant Délice, obviously a play on in flagrante delicto, or being caught in the act – a criminal caught with his hand in the caramellized fig jar?  – or more simply a pun on the sense of flagrant, blatant deliciousness. Fortunately the scent does pretty much live up to its name, and I am enjoying this perfume at the moment as we get into the Christmas season.

This is a sparkly, gourmand fig, with a delicious base of tonka bean, almond milk and white musk, the fig main theme complemented with bergamot, mandarin, and surprisingly, a scintillating note of red currant that dances above it all like a sweet Yuletide posy. The warm richness of the scent – which in its entirety smells a little like licorice – is vaguely reminiscent of Hermès Vétiver Tonka, while the overall feeling is of a fig, fully realized, and happy. This is not something I could wear every day –  it is quite ‘thick’ – but if you think of it as Premier Figuier and Philosokos’ older, fruitier cousin, dressed up and festive in a Santa costume under the Christmas tree, it is a very attractive and welcome new addition to the fig club.

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