Category Archives: Ginger








We drink our beverages hot, even in summer. Piping hot tea and coffee – always ; the only exception being iced Vietnamese lotus tea – which is extraordinarily light and refreshing on a sweltering, humid day.



In Indian restaurants I also like my chai freshly off the boil – so hot it burns the mouth and I know I have to wait. Rare that it has that perfect balance, though : of cardamom, ginger, masala, cloves, cinnamon – I think in a lot of popular places they don’t always have the time to blend all the spices in, and it can occasionally be too milky and bland.


No such problems with Amsterdam based luxury niche brand Baruti, who present a fresh, potent, perfectly balanced photorealistic chai to your skin with notes of steamed milk, ginger –  cardamom – all the spices to the fore;  cocoa, roses, vanilla and a base note of leather. It is a delicious summation, even if at extrait strength, this is probably a gourmandish hologram you probably want to keep between you and your wrist. Too much and you might cause contextual confusion in your anticipated audience ( ‘where am I again?) – a synaptic gamechanger.


I don’t really tend to wear full on gourmands myself, though  I love the dry, moisture sucking nuttiness of the coumarin note in Hermessence Vetiver Tonka, a perfume that smells great on me – not too sweet or too asphyxiating, an ‘overpresence’ I associate with the decadence of the more luxuriant current gourmands. Baruti keeps a judicious hand  – just – with the sugar jar in both Chai and the house’s latest release, Perverso, which like its fitting name, IS quite headstrong and uncompromising with its caramellized whisky of tobacco, chocolate and an extreme overdose of hazelnut : an accord that whirls about you, as though you were smoking a pipe through a face smeared lovingly in Nutella.


I happen to be very susceptible to nuts in chocolate : gianduja, noisette; pralines: the taste drives me………  nuts. In perfume terms I would probably rather smell this on someone else: on my own skin I would feel somewhat scandalized. Still, combined with darker woody and amber notes, in the base, used in moderation – one spritz, say, on a chestnut or russet coloured turtleneck as you walk into your local espresso bar I can imagine a subtle sillage of Perverso being quite chic; effective. Those with severe nut allergies, however, need definitely not apply.*





*figuratively speaking





Filed under Ginger, Gourmand

















I reek of ginger these days.




Diluting and blending an entire bottle of the essential oil in a tub of extra virgin coconut oil (melted and resolidified in the refrigerator), this has made a glad salve and excellent treatment for all of my recent ailments, and with palpable results: there is no better natural remedy for damaged or sensitive stomachs or for rallying up the joints when they are inflamed.




Give me ginger!!






GINGER!!!!! Five O’Clock Au Gingembre by Serge Lutens (2008) + Un Crime Exotique by Parfumerie Generale (2007) + Ginger Ale by Demeter (1997) + Ginger Musk by Montale (2006)+ Versace Pour L’Homme (1984) + Ricci Club by Nina Ricci (1989)


Filed under Ginger, Spice



We have been convulsed. A ranting playboy demagogue is soon to become the most powerful man in the world at the head of a political party that believes that climate change is a ‘hoax’, and is intent on de-ratifying the historic Paris Accord – possibly the only chance left there is to still make a difference to the planet. Vice President Pence believes in conversion therapies for homosexuals, something akin to psychological torture and which is known to be very damaging spiritually to the individual concerned; entire geopolitical tectonics have been shifted overnight: in Japan, there is a terrified scramble for Prime Minister Abe, himself a nationalist hawk, to try to work out what D.T. is all about and whether the threatened phasing out of America’s military support for Japan and South Korea will leave us at the mercy of the insane nuclear fantasies of another dictator, the ridiculous Kim Jong Un, just across the pond and who could obliterate us in an instant if he so desired, not to mention the renewed aggressiveness of China…….

I could go on, but like the name of this latest perfume by Serge Lutens, it goes without saying that this week has certainly been something of a ‘Baptism Of Fire’. I don’t actually think that I am exaggerating. Yes, I am known to be melodramatic, overemphatic, even way over the top; I do exult in extremes of emotion and the explosive power of language, but that is more to simply try and nail the essence of a feeling than to overembellish it into a lie or a soundbite: this last week, for instance – well I can’t really even say ‘for instance’, can I, because it is all completely unprecedented: there has never been an event like it in my lifetime, and although I expected it deep in my heart and gut (last Tuesday night, when the world still seemed kind of sane, I was talking about the next day’s election with two very bright students of mine and they asked me who I thought was going to win and I honestly told them: my instincts tell me definitely Donald Trump, but the optimist in me is intellectually trying to say Clinton, but I knew (incidentally, I don’t understand why many of you actually didn’t…I do think that the dreamy idealism of many liberal people is intensely problematic…….just because you might have that extra dose of empathy and compassion running naturally in your bloodstream doesn’t mean that half the rest of the world does…..get real)…..anyway, blah, blah,blah it seems to have become impossible to write about anything else whatsoever, let alone try and write on here a new perfume review.

But I shall endeavour to do so nonetheless (and please forgive this rather supercilious tone of mine today – I think I am still trying to contain the fury of my furnace…don’t forget that my stage alter ego is Burning Bush – and never has that name felt more right nor suited to the times).

While many people across America, perhaps understandably, rejoice in the mere fact of tumultuous change (because let’s face it, the prospect of four years or more of Hillary Clinton were rather uninspiring), the rest of us, and most of the world, are full of fear. It has been an extraordinary week, exhausting emotionally and psychically when you are trying to get on with your job and your life and these cataclysmic events are going on all around you. It feels as if life as we know it is coming to an end. And perhaps it is.

At the same time, for mental wellness’ sake, a person cannot let That Man invade his or her consciousness for too many hours of the day (it struck me a couple of days after the election just how much psychological space the Orange One must have been occupying in the Mind of Humanity these last few days (and weeks, and months..)….like a great Satanic scourge coursing through the brain cells and soul systems of much of the planet: it is a face and voice that one cannot abide yet it fills up your brain all the same against your will, like a rapist…when I saw the photos of him gloating in the paper the next day I literally felt my chest compressing in a kind of asphyxiating panic at the prospect of my mind being dominated by such a shallow, opportunistic dick for the next four years, at the thought of what he could do with and to the world, and my absolute rage and disgust towards the crude, foolish suckers who voted for him….god, I could go on and on and on but the whole point of this post was to try and move on to the next stage, to get back to perfume, or something not related to this unholy gaggle.)



(sorry, just vomiting up some fire…..)

In any case. The only reason for my choosing this particular perfume today in order to try and move on (in vain), is obviously because of its name, in keeping with the recent more exclamatory and Biblical sounding perfumes being released from the Serge Lutens range (suited to the haranguingly apocalyptic times we are living in), as if the labels he puts on the bottles will detract our attention from their more lacklustre, attenuated nature. They are still nice, and almost always smell-worthy, but La Religieuse, L’Haleine Des Dieux, Cannibale, Cracheuse de Flammes and their ilk are not the thunderbolt revelations their names might suggest. It is as if, like a certain person we were talking about before, their bark is predictably harsher than their bite (which is what I am really hoping will be the case). Still, Baptême Du Feu is pleasing to the senses, and quite original, in relation to the vast majority of either mainstream or even niche perfumes that very usually smell along quite similar lines. This latest release (part of the middle-tier black labelled line, not the ‘cheapie’ originals nor the recent, extravagantly priced Section D’Or gamut), I would describe as a spiced, balsamic-aromatic, a curious creation that is ostensibly a gingerbread perfume (fresh, taut notes of ginger, cinnamon and mouth-smacking mandarin) over an imaginative contradiction of powdery osmanthus, benzoin, ambrette and castoreum that unexpectedly tilts the perfume, despite its semi-gourmand oriental overtures, into the realm of the eighties’ masculine: a mid-level Lutens that I can’t quite get a handle on myself  – though I am very pleased by its uncategorizability in this fervidly labellous times- yet one that I would certainly gladly be sat next to on a person, male or female, for a couple of hours, in order get to know this fragrance more intimately. It does have something that slightly draws me in. Even, vaguely, a touch of mystery.

But though the grand doyen of Parisian perfume is still going strong after all these sleek, luxuriant years (“ My emotions are fluid. Like liquid wax poured into a mould, they determine what seduces me—like this gingerbread heart”), we, the perfume cognoscenti, are perhaps now less likely to take each of his pronouncements as seriously as we did in the days when Serge Lutens first crashed down beautifully onto the perfumed planet like Bowie in the Man Who Fell To Earth over a quarter of a century ago and each (pseudo?) poetic enunciation we took, almost, to be like  the words of a saviour. We are wiser now, and can see through the bluster. And I am hoping that this also holds true in other realms of the world right now as well, that grand intonements that can terrify or thrill the soul, just on the surface level, be they aesthetic, or political, can instead turn out, like this pleasing but ultimately somewhat disappointing perfume, to be more gentle, hollow, innocuous banalities.


Filed under Ginger

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











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.



** *

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.





*   *     *

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.


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

GINGER!!!!! Five O’Clock Au Gingembre by Serge Lutens (2008) + Un Crime Exotique by Parfumerie Generale (2007) + Ginger Ale by Demeter (1997) + Ginger Musk by Montale (2006)+ Versace Pour L’Homme (1984) + Ricci Club by Nina Ricci (1989)


The first real cold has hit and I am putting ginger in my tea for that extra wall-tightening glow in the stomach.


Grated fresh ginger, brewed with some ceylon leaves and milk: a lovely way to warm up a morning, or a wintery mood-dip in the afternoon.


Hot, delicious, an ancient root of suffusive goodness and fiery health, ginger (zingiber officinale) has long been very popular here in Asia for various ailments and health conditions – it is practically a medicine. You might even say that there has been an actual ‘shoga boom’ in Japan recently: while pickled red ginger has always been a condiment for sushi, and fresh ginger often served with grilled pork, currently, a lot of shoga sweets, beverages and various other powders and medicines have been hitting the market here: the rhizome is seen as something of a cure-all –  and it is my kind of panacea.




In terms of perfume, the essential oil of ginger is usually deemed a masculine colour in the perfumer’s palette, and thus occasionally crops up in the top notes of spicy men’s fragrances such as Gucci’s brooding, loaded (and now discontinued) Envy for men, which has a gorgeously gingery top accord. It does not feature in its own leading role as often as it might, but there are exceptions, and if you love the smell and sensation of ginger, please read on.












People after a very literal-minded ginger fix should perhaps turn, as their first port of call, to Demeter, masters of gratifying one-note cravings. They will sort you out temporarily with their Gingerbread, Fresh Ginger, and even Ginger Sushi ‘feel-good fragrances’, but like Ginger Ale (see below), the impression usually only lasts a short while before you have nothing on your wrist (this is, after all, the idea with Demeter – they are only meant as ‘pick me up’ scents). There is an aspect of Scratch N’ Sniff.



For a more interpreted, fresher form of the root, Ginger Essence by Origins is a pleasantly convincing fragrance (citric, floral, very clean and American) that features ginger in a more gentle and feminine role, while other more lasting, gourmand spice scents have very pleasing prominent gingerbread notes, such as the 1926 winter classic Bois des Isles (Chanel) and its male offshoot Egoïste, although the main player in these two is undoubtedly more the balmy, floral sandalwood that lies beneath.
















But on with the ginger…








Serge Lutens finally left the caravanserai of the orient for English tea at the Ritz with this fragrance; an imaginary afternoon of cakes, tea,  and crystallized ginger among the cafe clatter and bonhomie of those reposing and catching up away from the cold. The result is very pleasing – some orange peel here, some Earl Grey there – and a very cosy perfume that is nice to dab on in winter. As six o clock approaches though, it gets a touch less interesting, with a generic spicy warmth in the nineties manner, and focuses more on the drabness of the washers-up out in the darkening kitchens.













The smell of ginger ale always reminds me of my grandparents coming round on a Sunday evening and the standard request for a ‘whisky and dry’ – the dry rasping bubbles of ginger ale carbons popping from the glass. This smells identical to that first pouring in of Schweppes; then fades away to a nondescript  note as though you had spilled some ginger ale on your skin while fixing that second or third whisky.









A brief tale of ginger and ‘missed opportunity’ from my youth……….


In the summer of 1989, I was playing keyboards for The Fanatics, a local Solihull band who later changed their name to Ocean Colour Scene and achieved great success in the early nineties in the UK and elsewhere ( I even find their songs, tauntingly, at karaoke in Japan……)



They all became millionaires. I wasn’t allowed to stay with them (university- I had wanted a year out to just see how it went), but for a while it was fun anyway, and I got to go to all the parties and meet some famous pop stars. At one, a post-gig thing, I was in quiet conversation with Ruben, boyfriend of the bassist’s-girlfriend’s-sister, a long-haired youth who was gentle, and handsome as a drawing by his namesake, and who was emanating, discreetly, the classic Versace L’Homme from his skin.



In fact we were in the middle of talking about this scent, him passionately trying to convince me it was the greatest men’s scent ever made, when my head was suddenly punched against the wall from behind, cutting me just above the eye. I had no idea what had hit me, but in fact it was Duncan in an uncharacteristically jealous rage (perhaps I had been more entranced than I realized). Seconds later he had been thrown onto the pounding dancefloor and was being kicked by me as the blood flowed. The group’s bouncers immediately came to break up the lovers’ scrap and we were thrown out in disgrace, me crying in the taxi all the way back home.



Ruben wasn’t my type anyway, beautiful though he was, and I wouldn’t have worn his scent myself, but I have to admit that he did smell wonderful, because the original Versace, in my view, is something of a masterpiece (this may seem like a contradiction in terms given how crass the house’s perfumes are now, but in the eighties Versace did actually use do some nice fragrances: does anyone remember the sultry Milanese jasmine that was V’è? )



There really is nothing Pour L’Homme, in its original incarnation, it was smooth, complex, spicy, citric, creamy, fresh and sexy, with a beautiful and vivid top note of ginger that shone right through the formula to become its focus. Seductive, yes, but classy – just about – and irresistible.



I wish there were more masculines in this vein; forthright, yet elegant, complex enhancements of male beauty.






Long disappeared from Ricci counters, this very special scent can still easily be found online.



My friend Owen and I used to call this perfume Love instead because in fact to us that’s what it smelled like. We both had bottles, possibly as Christmas presents from our parents I think, but he wore it better than me, living in it for a year or two and smelling excellent: a warm, citrusy, very huggable cologne with a gorgeously fresh ray of ginger shining through the whole like a sunny day in October. It is a masculine of its era, very ‘trustworthy male in adorable woollen sweater’, but definitely worth seeking if you are searching for a well judged, temperate, but big-hearted, ginger.





I love many a Montale perfume and could wear practically everything in their lineup, but a lot of the scents, while beautifully crafted, perhaps lack innovation.


Ginger Musk is different. It has that shock of the new, a smell that you didn’t know you wanted to exist until you actually smelled it: an adorably feminine and sexy combination of aerial musks, dreamy fruit and a fresh-floral ginger that scintillates beckoningly with an abundance of freshly washed, long-flowing hair.


Hard to find but worth seeking out.





La piece de resistance. It is obvious that the creator of this perfume (Pierre Guillaume) was having a lot of fun with dabbling in his wintery concoctions when the results are as startling as this.


The ‘exotic crime’ in question is perhaps the ultimate spiced ginger: a pungent globe of medicinal spices, cinnamon sticks and baked apple sweetbreads like some heart-lulling medieval Christmas wine. It is quite wonderful – there is nothing richer, and you may laugh each time with the audacity of it all each time you apply.



A wonderful choice for the coming holiday season.















If you know of any other great ginger scents I am missing here, please let me know!


Filed under Ginger, Perfume Reviews