Category Archives: Lavender








It has been a languorous yet eventful summer and I am out of practice with writing so I will come back with a brief post on three perfumes we picked up on one of our recycle shop hauls : the simple, but timeless, Pour Un Homme, a perfume  I had always wanted in my collection for its soft ease but had never got round to buying, and a recent reiteration of the scent that I had never encountered before, the fantastic Pour Un Homme Sport, a welcome addition to the collection that has turned out a summer hit and D’s scent for most of August.





For those not familiar with Caron’s most famous masculine ( and probably the house’s bestselling scent) ,  this is essentially a potently subtle, fresh French lavender combined with a musky, civet-licked vanilla that will not suit everyone –  this was one of the perfumes I used at my book launch as an example of a good lavender scent : a lot of nodding all round, initially, then later, slight consternation as it ‘turned’ on some people’s skins and went sour or rangey.





On me it works. An intimate, soothing sensuality; manly, if you like ( James Dean wore this, apparently – an idea I find very erotic ), but really,  more androgynous, undefined; quietly self confident. Perfect for an afternoon tumble in the sheets.













Carnally  discreet.











Or not : depending what decade you find this classic being advertised in





















We had picked these Carons up in a great cache of fumes spree-d on one fun, sweltering day in Yokohama. I wanted more, and could have spent twice as much, but was trying desperately hard to act frugal and show some very necessary restraint  ( as we had unfortunately  haemorrraged quite a lot of money – more on that in the next post in the series ) and  I couldn’t afford it.







With me, though, things I want – records, perfumes – often linger in my mind like taunts of regret-  sometimes things I only HALF want, but am materialistically intrigued by. Thus, when D said he had to go back the next day to the same area to buy a bizarre garment he had spotted that was perfect for a performance piece,  but had hesitated over because of the price – I gathered some coins and said he could go by himself, as I would be preparing my toilette for that evening’s night out in Tokyo and couldn’t bear getting sweaty beforehand;  but that if he was going back, there was something he should buy: Caron Sport  ( a combination of words – that sounds like an oxymoron but in practice isn’t ) : the lingering after/effect of which had remained lodged in my mind.  It was only ¥1500 ( about fifteen dollars), and, more importantly, something I could definitely imagine him wearing : on first impressions, a musky, minty, balsamic yet astringent smell,  almost vaguely similar to  Jean Paul Gaultier’s bestselling and cheaply shouldering Le Male, a scent we had both sometimes shared back in the day when we first met and still on occasion recall with affection.








That evening, we were very excited indeed to have stage-side tickets to see the singer Neneh Cherry, someone I have always loved, but never seen in concert, at Billboard Live Tokyo in Roppongi. I got ready alone at home, taking my time,  dancing naked around the kitchen to her records, and we later hooked up on the train, me bathed and squeaky clean and happily sprayed head to toe for the occasion in another scent I had never heard of before but  picked up for five dollars on the same day:  Lohna by Harnn














– a crisp and refreshing, uncliched combination of lavender and lemongrass (funnily enough, a west-meets-east harmony I have sometimes chosen myself in homemade herbal tea blends: somehow they can synergize quite beautifully), with undertones of mid-laundered cotton shirts that felt ideal for the hot summer’s day, and a perfume which is now fixed forever in my memory as The Scent I Wore To Neneh Cherry.





















The Scent That Duncan Wore To Neneh Cherry was, and now always will be ( I love this self conscious STAMPING of a perfume on your memory like this : a deliberate etching in your heart and brain stem) : Caron Pour Un Homme Sport, a new version of the original that was released by the company in 2015.







The base of this fragrance is truly great on D : a tonka/ benzoin/ white musk accord, a skin tattoo laced with a (slightly salty) real ambergris that leaves a silky,  but tangible trail of sillage down Tokyo escalators,  or on bike rides around Kamakura ( “ I am loving your bicycle sillage !” I shout into the wind ); the top notes strange but compelling :  leaves and twigs of lavender flushed through an anti-intuitive, brash, even almost amusing –  dose of grapefruit and mandarin and an unimagined twist of ‘Madagascar blue ginger’ , nutmeg and verbena tautened with a bodily essence of Virginia cedar.






The effect : revitalizing and clean, a tad cocky, yet warm and dirty: optimistic, uncomplicated, sexy  – and absolutely ideal for dancing .







































Filed under Lavender

An unsurpassable elegance……….. Moment Suprême by Jean Patou (1929)

I do wish I hadn’t opened this though.

The Black Narcissus


Villa Trianon garden

I will confess that will power is not my strength. Chocolate; booze; tightly sealed bottles of vintage perfume. And coming home late last night after my first day back at work, and reading the exhortations to open and experience the beautiful bottle of Moment Suprême that I discovered the other day in an out of the way bric-a-brac shop in Yokohama, I had no choice: my pitifully low levels of resistance were destroyed.

Usually when I find a flacon of vintage preciousness I have some idea of how it will smell. Not so with Moment Suprême: I had vague remembrances from  somewhere, but had no concrete conception of the perfume that was locked within the bottle, and box, an undiscovered perfume that spoke to me, in its subdued presentation, of the twenties or thirties in the most elegant, and simple manner possible.

I was told that Moment Suprême was an…

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Filed under Lavender











Like any other perfume lover, the receiving of bottles of scent for Christmas, or a birthday, or any other special occasion, is reason for excitement. My in-laws are from Norfolk, home of the world’s finest lavender (I prefer it to the French or the Bulgarian, this very English, camphoraceous lavender with just the right balance of purpleness, herbs and fruit) and they generously brought over a bottle of Yardley English Lavender in my Christmas package when they came over in December. I was of course delighted to receive it, particularly as I totally associate where Duncan is from with the scent of this hallowed, ancient plant.  Daphne will always send me sachets of dried lavender flowers from her garden, which I love to put under my pillow, and we even once went on an fascinating lavender tour all together somewhere out in the countryside in Norfolk, being guided through the differing varietals and seeing the distillery plant where the essential oil is produced. I shed a tear as I saw the machine produce a pure drop of extracted lavender, and watched it drip slowly down into the receptacle beneath.



As for lavender perfumes, while I am not a massive fan of the note on myself, I do love it on the D, from Guerlain’s exquisite Lavande Velours, to Penhaligons’ suavely rendered Sartorial, to Serge Lutens Gris Clair. I have worn Caron Pour Un Homme on occasion, that sultry, musky vanilla fused masculine lavender that is still extremely successful among men back in its homeland (as is that other lavender classic, Eau Sauvage, another one of my youthful favourites when I was seventeen), but as a brilliantly health preserving essence (there is no other essential oil as useful as lavender), I only have the highest veneration for lavender anything in general.   I suppose in comparison to these other lavender kisses, Yardley’s English Lavender was always a very old fashioned scent – if you really want to look at it that way and adopt that tedious mindset-  but for me it was more like timeless.











Yardley English lavender, especially in the extrait form you see it above, the one I always bought for myself, was clear, removed from reality, refined, cold, and disdainful almost: unsweetened and unadorned, sharp yet soft; natural, very English, and utterly, utterly dignified. I would sometimes buy it to just wear at those moments where I just wanted quiet and repose, and even picked up a hair pomade once which I sometimes use even now by my bedside to relax me at night.




Sadly, Yardley seems to have gone down the trash-it-in-desperation route common to plenty of perfume manufacturers hoping to stay relevant and modern and in the process have utterly desecrated this once simple but beautiful scent beyond description. My relatives back in Norwich were not to know this of course, and I was still pleased to receive it (as I am virtually any perfume), and I know this is going to come across as me being ungrateful and petulant. Forgive me if that is the case. But the indignation I feel upon smelling this cheap common muck that is imposting in the place of the original perfume does need to be expressed. Where once there was a mauve, muslin clarity; thick glass pools that were dry and healthful, uplifting yet calming, now, once the brief and very incongruous top notes of real English lavender have dissipated, all you have on the back of your reeking hand is a vanillic, inexpensive ‘sexy’ bathroom spray chemical accord that has defiled and sacrileged what was once a pillar of perfumery for those who liked it quiet, dream inducing and classical in an attempt to make it pertinent and somehow ‘sensual’.






Absent mindedly picking up the new bottle today has suddenly and inexplicably set off this furious rampage, sorry








(no!!!! look at it!! Sheer toilet cleaner! Surely the whole point of keeping perfumes like this is actually for the very heritage they represent: surely the olde worlde Anglophilia of the original products were the reason that they were still very popular worldwide in the first place ( I actually picked up my tub of lavender brilliantine in Dubai airport, where there was a huge array of the originally packaged Yardleyy products on display, for people from that region probably appealing as total Anglo-Exotica). But in not only giving us an ugly and unattractive bottle, but also taking away the heart of the original fragrance, with its delicately strewn bouqet garni of rosemary, moss and eucalyptus and replacing it with this ‘puking party slag’ overall vibe, Yardley have created an irreconcilable monster that will be incompatible, I would imagine, with virtually anyone. Who the hell will want this shit? The ‘young’ will still find it boring and old fashioned, or just think that it smells like something that belongs in a toilet. Older devotees will simply mourn the passing of the scent they originally loved, and shun it like the grave. As for me, I am just looking forward to having access to the real thing when I come back to England in August. Those lavender fields still waiting for me, hopefully, if we have time for another visit (Daphne and Rod, can we?), and that perfect, perfect essential oil that I would like to stock up on and bring with me back to Japan, to sprinkle on my sheets or in my morning bath water;  the smell of raw lavender flowers and leaves, sunning themselves in the late evening English summer light…..




This new and ugly bastardisation, on the other hand, can just go and screw itself.




Filed under Flowers, Lavender










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


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


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


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



I inhale : no perfume has more soul.



But the citrus has now gone….




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





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



Jicky is a perfume for libertines.




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



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


Filed under Fougère, Lavender, Orientals, Perfume Reviews