Category Archives: Green

NEW YORK STORIES : : : AD LUMEN + CODA + FOREVER NOW + CHEF’S TABLE by SCENT STORIES MiN NEW YORK (2017)

 

 

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It’s outrageous that I have never been to New York. Both D and I adore exploring the cities of the world, and I sometimes just start involuntarily daydreaming about all the places we have been together over the years, from Paris to San Francisco, Jakarta to Mexico City, Hanoi and Bangkok through Kuala Lumpur and Copenhagen, Miami and Rome, Seoul and Barcelona. Kyoto and New Orleans. All over the place. Berlin (where we have an apartment). Amsterdam. Hong Kong. But never New York (he once stayed there for a whole summer, but that was before we met). How can it be that I have never been to the city of cities, the one we know better than any other, from all the countless movies that are set there, that make the city itself the main protagonist so many times, that bask in their very New Yorkness: all the Woody Allens and Cassavetes and the Scorceses; all those eighties, Bloomingdale romances from Splash to Moonstruck to Desperately Seeking Susan to the street sprinklers and hot summer tensions of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and Jungle Fever through to the tragic upscale beauty of the New York Ballet in my beloved Black Swan: I have lapped up it all, for decades, stashing the sensations thoroughly in my New York File; a lifelong mental treasure chest of aesthetics, clichés and imaginings that makes me certain that the city, when I finally get there one day, will never live up to the dream. Can the Brooklyn Bridge and the grand vistas of Manhattan, like Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever, ever reach their formidable promise?

 

Somehow, despite what I have just said, I know they will. Yes, I might find people pushy and materialistic, colder than I expect as they just keep their heads in the game and try to ‘make it’. Maybe it is more dangerous than I imagine. It might be far less glamorous, more banal, than I fantasise it will be. After all, it is just a city. But somehow, I feel that the monuments and streets’ deep visual familiarity will probably only make them more fantastic and strange.I think I will love it. The architecture. The energy. I can just imagine myself wandering around the brownstone streets just gawping at it all;  thinking of my friend Georgia and how her dream was to go to NYC and come across Woody Allen making a film there and how that actually happened; the sounds of early Madonna and the Kids From Fame (god I love that era!), but the current culture too – the brilliant house music of Hercules and Love Affair, the electro hip hop of Princess Nokia. I would go to the clubs, Lady Gaga’s dad’s Italian restaurant, Central Park. I would not go to the Natural History Museum, site of the ugliest film ever made, Night At The Museum, but I would go to Met and all the others, walk around, lost and anonymous, and I would excuse myself for days on end from my friends that live there and would hopefully let me stay in their apartments,  in order to sneak out by subway – again, scene to a million film scenes – to all the marvellous perfumeries.

 

 

When actually in New York City (it still seems unimaginable, somehow) I am quite sure I would find myself wincing and trying to suppress murderous thoughts at times (my idea of hell on earth is a self-important, bearded Brookyln hipster), and would certainly feel that slight intestinal tension of gun terror that always underlies everything in America  – sorry, it does – as well as all the sights that I would have to see – I have a strange desire to go to Coney Island for some reason, but I would still be inexorably drawn to spend entire afternoons just exploring the temples of perfume luxury like Aedes De Venustas, with all its expensive, cushy niche, and the CB I Hate Perfume shop, whose full line I would like to know much better; the department stores on Fifth Avenue, just, because, and also, naturally,  MiN, a perfumery that is filled to bursting with stockpiles of unfamiliar niche that I would like to become more acquainted with (are we all not unfamiliar with at least 90% of what is out there now? And despite our malaise and fatigue, are we not even now still slightly intrigued that somehow, somewhere, we might find a new scent that really does it?)

 

 

One of my friends in New York sometimes sends me samples from MiN store out of the blue (this review of tuberose perfumes, for instance, was based on one such package), but yesterday, in the thick rainy blue of my self-possessed doldrums there arrived a parcel from my perfume friend Bethan back in England who is my ultimate supplier of new samples, many of which I think I should write about on here, just because they are new and hip, but then often forget to (because the perfumes are just so very uninspiring and forgettable). We have quite similar taste though in most areas – regarding quality, in particular – so if she says that this or that line seems to be more intelligent and interesting than usual, then my ears usually prick up. And yesterday’s package really gave me a boost.

 

 

Like the aforementioned Aedes, who a while back started releasing perfumes under their own aegis and now offer eight titles, all pricey, all good quality – heavy, spicy, fresh, contemporary – MiN New York has now come out with its own line of perfumes called Scent Stories  – ‘hand-crafted visceral moments of limited production’  covering a wide variety of themes, in two volumes so far; sixteen scents in all, $240 per 75ml, that strike me as well made and thought out ( I only have Vol 2 to review, a series of five scents, four of which I will discuss here ).

 

 

Firstly, Chef’s Table. Right now, as you know, I am not exactly able to go out shopping for groceries with the state of my legs (bags that unbalance me are a big no-no), so the D is responsible for bringing back food each night even if he has been working all day and is knackered. Frazzled, actually. Last night it was pizza and salad (which suits me just fine – after eight weeks in the Japanese hospital I could just live on Italian and Indian for the rest of the entire year, or even my life,  quite happily); lots of fresh basil and tomatoes, and as that was exactly the smell of the first perfume I tried out of the bag, I suggested a scented synchronicity. He tried some on, liked it immediately, and will wear it, the kind of spiky, aromatic green that is nice after a shower when you are hot and sticky in July and August and want to wear something grounding but stimulating to the nostrils.  Basil and tomato leaf has of course been done before, in Eau De Campagne by Sisley (1974), a green and grassy vetiver scent I sometimes like to spray on in the summer time, as well as the salad-like Baime by Maitre Parfumeur; Feuilles De Tomates Poivrees by Lostmarch, and the basilique of basiliques, Virgilio by Diptqyue, from back when they still had some genuinely weird perfumes on their roster such as L’Autre and Vinaigre. Virgilio is a dastardly basil scent that is really quite hard to wear, but Chef’s Table is easier; effective as a green, herbal, minty basil concoction that keeps its leafiness throughout but remains abstract enough not to let the culinary angles become too much of a distraction. Mint, basil, a pungent clary sage and a subtle tomato leaf note form the main basis of the perfume but in very nice balance with an invisible underthrow of rose, iris, and tonka that broadens the herbaceousness and makes the scent appealing and wearable. I like it. With more stamina and wherewithall than say, Guerlain’s Herba Fresca, head-clearing and androgynous, I would definitely recommend this one for those who like a basil note in their perfume – this is like eating pesto on a picnic in the grass on a cool, summer’s evening.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ad Lumen, a soft, clear skin scent,  is an entirely different kind of fragrance: a simple, but rather haunting, aldehyde rose musk that I find to be like a more futuristic take on Brosseau’s classic Ombre Rose, just without all the powder. Bergamot, Egyptian jasmine, rose, and musks are the listed notes, and while this is certainly not complex,  it is extremely long lasting and somewhat memorable, while envincing an alluring – gentle, but obsessional – emotion. Last night, as I turned over in my bed and turned over my sheets and duvet, I could smell Ad Lumen, but not on my hand itself, almost as though it were somewhere beside me but not quite on me. Like Tom Ford’s excellent Jasmine Musk, this is one of those perfumes that while not fascinating or exacting from an artistic point of view, could, on a live person, elicit quite an adhesive reaction.

 

 

 

 

 

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Next. The go-to smell for current niche urban perfumery is, of course, the woody, the earthy, and the incensed, and it seems that about half of the Scent Stories collection comes into this category in one way or another. Whether I like it or not, this is what the people want now. As you know, I am about as likely to wear one of these harsh, bracing, Nasomatto or Byredo oudh guaiac perfumes as I am to run for office, but the two woody scents from Volume Two of this collection are quite nice, not as searing and acrid as some of these perfumes can be and are slightly more attenuated. Forever Now, a scent I quite enjoyed last night, for instance, at least in its opening and end stages – the middle I found a bit busy –  is basically a well crafted frankincense perfume that has a lovely, ethereal, aldehydic opening, and a fresh and ghostly olibanum note at heart that is pleasingly spooky and affecting. Where real frankincense oil dissipates quite quickly, the perfumer has found a way here to clad the ghost with cedarwood, ciste absolute and santalum album in a way that makes the incense more hefty but which is just a smidgen too sweet for me personally perhaps (in a similar manner to  Annick Goutal’s fine Encens Flamboyant), but which still retains the footprint of beautiful frankincense throughout, pedestalled on a gentle, animalic, base. Quite lovable.

 

 

Coda (‘rock star chic’) is a pepper/woody scent with more than a passing resemblance to Guerlain Heritage (and thus Tom Ford Noir, which was an unabashed copy of that perfume). Spicy (‘ceylan’, cinnamon bar oil and nutmeg), with a warm, ambery base and fresh top notes (cypress, eucalpytus and mint), this is one of those perfumes that quietly scream big business; a jawline for days; shoulders; dark suit. It’s actually really quite sexy, if a touch insistent and stubborn, like an ego at the bar. That does seem quite New Yorkish though to me, I must say, and thus in keeping with the brand.

 

 

 

So. New York Scent Stories. Nothing astonishing here, and at that price, not scents that I am rushing to order online. But these are perfumes that are certainly rather handsome and approachable; well made and subtly salient scents that I might go back to, which for me is saying quite a lot, as I get choosier and choosier, more olfactively pedantic, all the time. In any case, the brand strikes me as being interesting enough for me to want to at least try the rest of the line as well as the rest of the MiN store if and when I finally make it to New York one day.  With things the way that they are at the moment, I don’t think the time is especially opportune – there are other places we are planning to go to next, at Christmas and New Year, somewhere in Asia, somewhere hot and exotic, to continue our journey of human metropolises and hopefully celebrate my being able to walk about properly. New York, though, still remains at the top of the places that I know I must go to one day. I still don’t know exactly why I have never made it there yet. Timing. Other plans. Or perhaps it’s because I have been so immersed in the place, in my film and music memory and imagination for an entire lifetime, that I almost feel as though I have been there already.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On a side note:   What’s your favourite city? I’d love to know.

 

I think mine is probably Tokyo. I so MISS IT.

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Filed under Basil

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 last year, 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

VENT VERT by BALMAIN (1947)

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I was once in a cafe at a planetarium giving a private English lesson. As we sat, plants in various places obscuring corners and faces, I found myself trapped within a prism. Lime green. Yellow. Tangerine. Pouring into every moment of the building, and my head, my brain, behind my eyes; mind-plumbing, synaesthesic. Yet familiar. I knew this. Where am I?

As my student talked and I made the right eyes and gestures and noises, my conscious lolled back inwardly into this colour : paralyzed, stopped, as though I were confined inside the glowing, neon spectrum of a rainbow section.

Gradually, it began to dawn on me that this space I was now inhabiting, entirely different to the one I had entered, was due to perfume. Some really, really, really, strong perfume. Not so much ‘overpowering’, as Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Not ‘clouds of perfume’ that had overtaken the surrounding air, but as if the air itself had been stolen. An extrait. An extract, of almost nuclear strength, worn dab-handed in unthinking profusion by a lady who was probably lunching there with her large group of friends and who had gladly let the muguet, lemon, basil and mind-searing galbanum of the perfume’s dandelion-leaved brightness flood the room like a burgeoning, radiation of sunbeams.

It was Vent Vert. Eventually I realized. The knowledge finally swelled up through my body. The vaults of my mental perfume repository identified a positive. I suddenly had a flashback to white polka dots on spring green packaging – a laughing, Parisian, illustrated woman at the Balmain concession at Harrods, the Mecca of my late teens and early twenties where I would on occasion travel down to London by train, stand in awe and exhilaration at the vast range of beautiful perfumes on offer there, and try to muster up the confidence to look knowledgeable and classy enough to resist the hauteur of the assistants.

At that time I was very much in love with Ivoire, but I was still, in many ways, intrigued by the the slightly passé , behatted ladies of these bygone perfumes at the small, but important Pierre Balmain counter, which, even if reformulated – not that there was talk of such a thing at that time – had something vogueish and recherché.

Many years later, in Japan, I managed to acquire a miniature eau de toilette of the 1990 reformulation of Vent Vert for next to nothing and finally got to know the perfume properly. I have always rather enjoyed it – on some days I even have sudden cravings for it – even if I never truly understood quite what it was trying to say with its maximalist collection of flowers – hyacinth, neroli, freesia, jasmine and violet; its zesty combination of citrus fruit – lime, lemon, bergamot and chlorophyllized greenery, that come at you all at once with a whoosh of aldehydes like a photosynthesized burst of sunshine from the bottle.
But taking or adding ingredients to or from a meticulously inspired fragrance formula, in my view, is like removing words or lines from a poem; notes from an original score; and to me, this version of Vent Vert has never been the perfume, as others contend, that fully captures the greenness of the spring breeze carried over fields of grasses; shrubs and new leaves, the very essence of nature and the outdoors. To me, though lovely, Vent Vert feels about as nature-identical as a painted backdrop in a Hitchcock film.

This takes nothing away from Vent Vert’s April May vivacity, its brio and its chic. I find it to be an extremely carefree and happy composition in its 1990 Calice Becker reworking ( the aggression of the galbanum notes of Germaine Cellier’s notoriously green original – perhaps designed to scythe through the smoky environments of 1940’s interiors – one can imagine a tightly fitted suit, and a sharply conspicuous sillage slicing through a room and turning heads – were toned down (for commercial reasons, once green perfumes had essentially gone out of fashion by the end of the 1970’s), to a less tobacco-congested early nineties audience)), yet the pristine eau de toilette vaporisateur I now have in my possession is still intensely green and extremely effusive, with a sharp blast of galbanum at the beginning that does in fact still evoke for me some of the bitter cruelty of Germaine Cellier’s other contemporary shocker, Bandit: such throw: such great DNA – just a couple of sprays on tissue a few minutes ago on this beautiful sunny day have now completely filled up this room.
It is easy for me to imagine, therefore, how the 1990 parfum, used in even greater concentration on that mind bending day at the planetarium, could not only have spread through the air as I sat in that space trying, in vain, to concentrate on my lesson, but actually, actively tinted it.

One of my holy grails has always been to get my hands on the original vintage extrait of Vent Vert. In a very different structure and design, the classic flacon that was used for all the Balmain classics ( I also have much treasured extraits of Miss Balmain and Jolie Madame, upstairs in my cabinets, all in the same bottle), a bottle of vintage Vent Vert extrait or even eau de toilette is one of those ‘can only dream ofs’ that have never come up at the once bountiful fleamarkets in Japan, only the modern editions.

One day, though, standing outside the Studio Alta screen, a popular meeting place, in the busiest place in the world, Shinjuku ( over three million people pass through the train station every day) ; the height of modernity, technology and business in Japan, a maelstrom of people and skyscrapers and the quintessence of futuristic Tokyo urbanity – and a place I really love and feel at home in, quite strangely – my friend and fellow mad perfume cohort Zubeyde then came hurrying towards me excitedly along the street – we were meeting so she could show me some of the secret perfume bargain hideouts in her neighbourhood, later – and she presented me , quite unexpectedly, with a small box, wrapped in a simple paper bag. I had no idea what it was, but it turned out to be vintage Vent Vert extrait.

I was beside myself. She had not known I had long I had sought to own this long gone precious classic, but it was soon all I could think about…….how the human brain can blot out what is surrounding it and immediately hone in, in pure concentration, ignoring the visual and auditory noise all around; and, clasping the bottle, focus, voraciously, on the prize, in that moment, lost to everything.

Opening up the box, and extracting the stout little flacon from its firm indentation, I could not, of course, resist smelling it there, right there on the spot, at the crossroads with all the hubbub of the heart of Tokyo swirling all around me – but as I inhaled that bygone, coutured, oiled and fifties bitterness, I could tell right away that, unfortunately, the top notes had gone ( a situation I tried to foolishly remedy myself by later misguidedly adding expensive galbanum and violet leaf essential oils to somehow resurrect Cellier’s intentions, only making it so green in the process it was like ingesting poison)…..but before I had succumbed to this tragic and stupid temptation, I had at least had the opportunity to properly acquaint myself with the faded heart, and the base notes, of this brilliant, iconoclastic perfumer’s original ideas and execution.

What I did glean from this fascinating shadow of Vent Vert’s former self (I am hoping that some readers who know intact versions of the vintage will shed some light on the differences on the original construct and the later versions; how green the top notes really were), is that although the perfumes do share many similarities – the list of notes presented for both perfumes by Balmain is, of course, is almost identical- on a deeper level, they seem to differ almost completely in temperament: : two manic depressive sisters with very contrasting personalities.

Vintage Vert, even in semi-evaporized, softer, skeletal form, strikes me as far more melancholic, more serious than the reworked later version; austere; drier – as all Cellier perfumes are – more intent. While the almost chirpy second Vent Vert I know so well and enjoy and am wearing today, bright and fresh and mood-lifting, makes me think of a gleefully competent hostess at a country gathering or garden party, dressed up in crisp whites and greens and interacting happily with all those that surround her, the original perfume, more strange, more introverted (despite its reputedly hyper-aggressively green facade), seems more akin to the earth, foliage and undergrowth : the green, more mysterious shadows that can be glimpsed, and smelled, in the quieter, grassy beyond.

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Filed under Flowers, Green

THE FOREST

 

Forests, as David Lynch once said, are full of mystery.  They never fully reveal their depths. And some perfumes…..

 

Source: THE FOREST

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Filed under Coniferous, Green, Woods

AMERICAN SILLAGE : : : ESTEE LAUDER PRIVATE COLLECTION (1973) + PRIVATE COLLECTION TUBEROSE GARDENIA ( 2007 )

 

 

 

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Private Collection is an American classic. Extremely distinctive, there is nothing else quite like it. Green, lush, austere but yearningly romantic, melancholic yet somehow perennially optimistic, this powdery, vetiver-based, ravishingly and sharply green floral is a perfume that pierces the senses and remains lodged in the memory forever.

 

I should know. Not only did my mother go through a period of wearing this in the eighties, when I was about seventeen (she was never averse to trying new pastures when it came to fragrance, although with many selections, this was limited, like Private Collection, to only one bottle or two), but my high school French teacher would also wear this anomalous perfume in too high profusion in the lessons, creating an odd dichotomy between her dimininutive, dumpy presence, appalling French accent, and the plushly orchestrated delight of fresh flowers and grasses that would fill up the room like a crushed, vernal symphony.

 

 

I have talked before of what I see as the ‘rich divorcée’ accord in most Estee Lauder perfumes, a phrase that to me sums up virtually the entire early catalogue, from Youth Dew to Aromatics Elixir, through Cinnabar,  Knowing and Spellbound: that familiarly dense, compressedly aldehydic, ‘respectably perfumed’ aspect that forms the base of all this house’s creations (even the green dewiness of a perfume such as Pleasures, that nineties phenomenon, somehow withholds and extends this very ‘acceptable, take her to meet her future mother-in-law’ aspect that is at the heart of most American perfumery). No, it is undeniable. Madame Lauder’s perfumes have never been dirty, or daring (with the exception of Alliage), nor coquettish, licentious, nor filthy  – that would be the prerogative, surely, of the French, stereotypical though that last sentence surely is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I know, though, that real perfume connoisseurs reading this at this moment know exactly what I mean.  Lauder’s perfumes always kept you at arms’ length, even while inviting you to inhale their peculiar artistry, to sit admiringly in their undeniably impressive aura, and to feel that the person in question, is, undeniably, ‘all woman’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Private Collection, like Gabrielle Chanel’s own Nº19, was apparently created originally for Estee Lauder’s private use, and only later released to the public (“every woman should have this in her own private collection”), a canny marketing strategy that would feel glib and empty to me were it not for the fact that Private Collection really does smell, and quite intensely,  private.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps this is what made me feel so….not uncomfortable, exactly, but dislodged and quietly – at the back of my brain as I tried to learn the finer points of French grammar – mesmerized, offput, during the period leading up to the university entrance exams. Where I would have been there in my Chanel Pour Monsieur or Armani Pour Homme or Givenchy Gentleman, and the girls were all wearing Loulou, Poison, Anais Anais, or Lauder’s own new fluffy pink sweater-in-bosoms release, Beautiful, the elevated olfactory countenance of my French teacher’s perfume, which lawnmowered down all others in the room and filled it to every corner, was like watching a funeral casket from behind a privet hedge, your senses heightened, as you smelled the lilies, green roses, but most importantly, the most mournful flowers of them all, piled high on the gleen of the coffin, a glut of white chrysanthemum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It felt, almost, like intruding. And it is this bitter, doleful and more perspicacious aspect of Private Collection that raises the perfume above all possible banality and, by association, its more slatternly, easy-going peers. It is a classically American grand parfum that was created by Vincent Marcello (who I had never heard of before doing some research for this piece), but who apparently was a perfumer who is credited with only two other creations –  Halston Z14 and Caron’s legendary spiced leather, Yatagan.

 

 

 

 

This is revealing. Where a perfumer’s perfumography is often very extensive, their concoctions and signature style of scent creation lent out to all and sundry who want to use them (think Alberto Morillas or Bertrand Duchaufour), I often think that when a perfumer has only created a handful of perfumes (but classic and enduring ones), this shows us just how much time and effort, inspiration and execution must have gone into the process before the perfume was finally revealed to its eager public; I imagine him or her toiling fervidly behind confidential closed doors in their laboratory, adding and subtracting, sighing and elating, until the exact composition they had had in mind all along reveals itself to them like a slave in a piece of marble by Michaelangelo. The perfume was there, waiting to be exist; it just had to find the right moment to be released.

 

 

 

 

 

Like Yatagan and Halston Z14,  Private Collection is incredibly complex. Beginning with citric, and very incitingly chlorophylled top notes of leaves and grasses, bergamot and coriander, the mordant sting of chrysanthemum and reseda (a fragrant, herbaceous plant), along with Bulgarian rose, aldehydes, honeysuckle and linden, the perfume – immediately poetic, heart beating firmly beneath its worldly veneer – is on-point and extroverted, ready to show off the beautiful home and quintessential gardens; yet simultaneously, just under the surface, obviously, still, quite defensive and withdrawn. Mr. Marcello quite brilliantly counterpoints the pointed and imperious green notes of the grande facade entrance with a more wistful and emotive heart of powdery rose-kissed heliotrope, and a subtle, but lingering, endgame of vetiver, musk, sandalwood, and amber. With these deep psychological complexities, in the tensions between the dark green of the botanical shadows and the more urbane pleasures of the daylight, Private Collection is, thus, for me, one of the most paradoxical and contradictory perfumes that I know: and therein lies its brilliance.

 

 

 

 

In his seminal review of Private Collection, The Perfumed Dandy, who adores this perfume, it would seem, as he keeps returning to it, writes of it that is ‘a scent of solitary sorrow, a perfume of private grief and almost immeasurable melancholy, marrying nettles and lawn grass with oak moss and earth to achieve a cool, reserved opening of remarkable detached intensity.’

 

 

 

 

 

I think that this is a perfect way of describing the overall effect of Private Collection,  although unlike the Dandy, I could never wear this perfume on myself. Although I do have a few miniature bottles of the vintage parfum picked up at Tokyo fleamarkets that I treasure for memory’s sake, and which I am in fact wearing while writing this on a grey rainy day in Kamakura, much as I love it, ultimately this most arch of American perfumes is a little too recherché, polite, reserved and conservative for a person like me. Its inherent strictures would bring on irritation. Moreover, it made such an enduring impact on my psyche as an adolescent, that it is definitely too firmly rooted, now, in my past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Which brings us to Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. Fast forward almost a quarter of a century, and Lauder’s grand daughter Aerin, now at the helm of the formidable U.S cosmetics behemoth, revives the Private Collection name in 2007 with a brand new ‘niche’ perfume set aside from the main commercial lineup, Tuberose Gardenia. The fragrance community go wild at the prospect of a linear, American white floral containing these luscious, white flowers, and once again the canny institution has another commercial hit ….

 

 

 

 

Although I had smelled it once briefly in Harrods as the concept had piqued my curiosity (and I must say I quite liked the bottle), it wasn’t until recently, when I picked up a small, boxed miniature of this perfume at a recycle shop here in Japan that I got the chance to study this perfume in thorough detail. I was surprised, and not unpleasantly. Readers of The Black Narcissus will know by now that I have quite schizoid tastes, favouring either the grave, dark and unmistakably elegant, or else sweet, wild, flagrant tropicalia, with not very much in between. I love white flower perfumes of the jasmine, frangipani, tuberose and gardenia variety and find that I am wearing them more and more. Current work perfumes, usually worn (for me at least) discreetly at the wrist under white shirt cuff and under a suit jacket, include Dolce and Gabbana’s exquisite Velvet Desire (the perfect jasmine /gardenia – really, you must try it), Reva De Tahiti’s Eau de Tiare, and, perhaps amusingly, Elizabeth Taylor’s peachy delicious, and very Southern American Belle, Gardenia. I don’t quite know how these perfumes smell to other people, but to me, on me, they smell unclichéd, sensuous, and delightful, a drenched and floral riposte to the limitations of gender, nationality and boring limitations on freedom in general. I do feel liberated in flowers.

 

 

 

 

Given this, it would seem then that Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia would slot perfectly into my scent list for a surreptious scenting on a daily work basis, almost guaranteed in advance to be quite non-threatening, ‘clean’, yet pleasingly alluring, as is the case with most of the perfumes that comes from the ascetic land of the pilgrims and its hysterically deep-seated fear of nudity, dirt, and the flesh. That it is also based on two of my absolute favourite floral notes in existence thus means, surely, that this recent Estee Lauder was destined to be mine.

 

 

 

 

And it is, in many senses. I like it. But although I had been dreaming of an ideal marriage of white petals; creamy and clean and sun-riven with a delicately aquatic touch of sea breeze – the ideal, soothingly light sillage I would like to give off when passing by the students who are sitting near the blackboard –  in fact, Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia turns out to be much darker in essence and impact, more tenebrous and far reaching than I had presumed.

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, there are the aforementioned flowers at the fore: pristine and fresh, along with a rather overly insistent note of neroli; and in its crisp, state-of-the-art technology, developed by the fragrance giant Firmenich, this perfume also lasts far, far  longer than I would have anticipated, whether on skin or on clothes (despite its being a tiny 4ml vaporisateur, I am thankful that it is one of those spray bottles that allow you to use the fragrance in miniature, infinitesimal spurts that are no more than what you need). Wearing this composition, even if the tiniest doses, I do, I must admit, feel very polished, pleasantly scented, and intriguingly, ‘professionally’ fragranced, throughout my working day.

 

 

 

 

 

Yet despite the listing of notes on Fragrantica (lilac, rosewood, carnation and Bourbon vanilla as well as the anticipated florals, none of which were featured in the original creation from 1973), and the sun-filled, white petalled overture, which really does smell of laboratory-approximated tuberose flowers and gardenias done in the California manner, soon, on my skin, this perfume turns into……………………………Private Collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no denying it. Really. It is unmistakeable. The old, original perfume haunts the new one. And looking, just now, more closely at the various descriptions of Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, I see that the perfume was in fact created ‘to honor the memory of Aerin’s grandmother, by creating a new perfume which is based on the fragrance Private Collection created at the beginning of the 1970s especially for Estee Lauder’s use’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We are suddenly enlightened. Private Collection lies at the very heart of Tuberose Gardenia, subtle, and hidden;  cleverly concealed within the essential structure: the newer perfume, being, I have thus realized, a form of palimpsest, a piece of paper on which the original writing has been erased, at least superficially, with brand new words inscribed on it anew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I think this is a touch of genius. It fascinates me. The full-circle, unintended linkage with my own memories of that first, unforgettable, perfume and the life I am living right now. That having worn Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia in my own classroom, now as the teacher, rather than the student ( I wonder if any of the Japanese teenagers in my class are having their own private cerebral reactions to my smell the way I did with my own language teacher), I can now see the ineffable connections reaching all the way back to my own past history as well that original perfume’s sombre grandiosity; its orthodox traditionalism and inheritance: the dense, dark green of its secret gardens; its strange, American beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Flowers, Gardenia, Green, Tuberose

You could say I like it……..the man who wears vintage Chanel Nº19 extrait as an aftershave

 

 

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Filed under Flowers, Green, Leather, Vetiver

THE FLEETING EVANESCENCE……. NU GREEN by HONORE DES PRES (2009)

Much of the criticism aimed at this somewhat maligned creation, a green, restrained, but equ…

 

 

Source: THE FLEETING EVANESCENCE……. NU GREEN by HONORE DES PRES (2009)

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Filed under Flowers, Green