Like any other perfume lover, the getting 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.