Category Archives: Mint

SUMMER OF (DIS)CONTENT : CASTILE by PENHALIGONS (1998) + NEROLI NEGRO (2015) + MENLI by COQUI COQUI (2012)

 

 

 

 

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I must admit that I am rather struggling at the moment, as I am sure a large majority of us are.  I simply don’t feel safe. And that is because I am not safe. None of us truly are, unless we lock ourselves away in confinement, and that brings troubles of its own. D is safer than I am – he walks to work and back home again in Kamakura – but his classrooms are full of girls whose parents work in Tokyo where the virus is becoming more rampant (or is at least being more revealed through increased testing). Yes, they wear masks, but the required social distancing in Japanese schools just simply isn’t happening.

 

 

 

 

 

My own situation is more precarious. Two days a week I can ventilate to my heart’s content and teach in what I would call sensible conditions; students spaced out; windows and doors open. Two days I cannot. Buildings packed with kids. Up close. On Wednesdays, I work in a school in Yokohama which has NO WINDOWS. And I am in a classroom  – just four walls, within that space, an epidemiological matyrushka doll. We have a fan, and an extractor. And we wear masks. But the students are too close to each other  –  it is Russian roulette.

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I wonder why I can’t just quit, or whether I have become brainwashed into servility;  some kind of samurai ‘valiance’. It literally does feel like that at times, a kind of ‘fuck it – it’s too late, I am working now, there are only eight days left until the summer holidays, just get on with it like everybody else’ mentality, as if I have no choice (and in many ways I don’t: the very last thing I want right now is to be unemployed and out there looking for work)  as the teachers huff and puff behind their masks and look drained and overheated and dehydrated and exhausted just like most of the students – really, none of us, neither the students nor the teachers should be there, but because as yet there have been no cases in our schools, at least not that I am aware of, we ‘soldier on’. Japan is a country of education. It is the national obsession. And naturally, though some of the people I am mingling with will be asymptomatic, many even – there can be no doubt of that – all I can do is keep breathing through my mask and get through the days. It is terrifying. But somehow I am weirdly resigned to my fate, almost as though I have lost agency and the autonomy I always pride myself on having no matter what.

 

 

 

 

These last two days I have been battling with extreme burn out – which in my case involves furious muttering to myself like a loon and extreme sociophobia – I just want to be left alone as much as possible, even in the classroom just  going through the motions overly aggressively unable to properly connect to anyone. I can barely look at the other staff, and retreat to other rooms as much as is humanly possible. I am courteous, hopefully, even if exquisite manners have never been my forte – that would be Duncan’s domain –   – –  I am just too shot through with intense emotion to ever not let that show in my eyes, which I am sure glower coldly and green above my surgical mask. I wear a beard, obstinately, because no one can see it and that is my real person, though it goes against the rules (something I always feels is like an infringement on human rights) : however,  the last thing I need right now is to be an emasculated eunuch when I already feel like an apoplectic and semi-broken sad sack. But no one would ever say anything to a foreigner in any case. In many ways we are strangely untouchable.

 

 

 

 

The world is insane right now, it can feel as if you are losing your marbles. Curiously, despite the strains of it all, though, I am finding that just manoeuvring the week to its conclusion – the marvellously mask free weekend at home, where I love, puts on blinkers of selectivism that let me enjoy all the small details, all the other pleasures,  and revel in the more restricted being-aliveness. Yes, I am constantly aware of what is happening in the global news; I never ‘lose touch’ in that regard, but it can get too much, the ‘doom-scrolling’ that is only beneficial to any individual in terms of awareness and cognisance up to a certain point. In the city, out doing my job I feel half alive; a drone. Condemned to a potentially fatal virus that is swimming in the hot air all around me. The same position that we all find ourselves in; dimmed; daunted. At the same time, though, I have always felt blessed in the sense that even when I have a bad day – and I have just had two; I came home last night like a cup full of poison full of hatred and annoyance, I could have punched a hole through a wall –  I have a natural joy of life that rises up like the dawn after sleeping, particularly in summer, which I adore (so boring to hear everyone complain about the sun – no no no no you fool, haven’t you just suffered six weeks of incredible doom and gloom in the longest rainy season ever; it is glorious ; a chorus of insects; a frenzy of birds; a feeling of energy and power and life surging up in spite of (alongside) this tedious microorganism that is self-replicating like a motherfucker but whose time is limited; there WILL be a vaccine, and it had better be soon……) In spite of myself, this morning, as I open the window on the balcony and hear life coming into the room; moreover feeling it coursing through my veins, I feel something bordering on elation. Yes, I return home at night like a sodden washcloth devoid of personality, trying to walk up the hill to save on taxi money (there is no way in hell I am getting the bus), covered in sweat, stuck on thoughts like a broken record, barely sensate;, thinking shower, shower, shower; D is usually already asleep ; futon on the tatami, fan whirring, often next to the cat; but then I take a long shower and feel immediately human again, on a smaller scale, in the house with no mask, listening to the night.

 

 

 

 

 

Orange blossom has been one of my refuges. It soothes me. Especially before bed on clean skin – it’s like reinventing yourself. Something sacred and calming; a child-like innocence of refuge in nature. There are a thousand and one takes on the neroli and orange blossom theme, of course, and everyone has their own preferences; some like it sensual, erotic; for me, on the whole,  I tend to prefer the note done more simply. Some orange blossoms are green, rasping; Annick Goutal’s Neroli is perfectly lifelike but too exhilarating (and it just reminds D immediately of my traumatic time spent learning to walk again three years ago when I wore that perfume all of the time along with Sana Jardin’s equally uplifting and luminescent neroli scent, Berber Blonde. D doesn’t want to remember that time and so I don’t wear those). Orange blossom can also be too muted; Etat Libre D’Orange’s Divin Enfant for example; I don’t need any marshmallow leather or too much vanilla; I like it subtle in the finish without too much babying or coochy coo;. I like it more refined and preferably delicate; and Penhaligons’ Castile gets it absolutely right. 

 

 

 

If you are more of a Serge Lutens Fleurs D’Oranger or a Houbigant Orangers En Fleurs wearer;  and I love both of those; they are fantastically yowzer off the shoulder evening exuberance kinds of fragrances, but I am not Halle Berry and cannot carry off such a schmooze myself – you might probably find Castile a little uninspiring- a fresh, but refined neroli and orange blossom scent with just the right amount of bergamot and rose, and a gentle denouement that I think fits the skin in a beautifully understated manner (there was an interesting mention of this perfume on Fragrantica which reimagines Daniel Craig as 007 in Casino Royale coming down to the hotel reception in a perfectly fitted crisp white shirt and hints of post-shower Castile as the hotel reception staff try to concentrate on what he is saying and keep a lid on their inner reactions). Indeed, the perfume is perfectly androgynous and elegant. Last night, I found it beautifully restorative.

 

 

 

 

Another night time orange blossom of very different stripes is Neroli Negro by Coqui Coqui, a Mexican brand based on the Yucatan peninsula. I love the packaging and design of these perfumes; such things make a great difference to my appreciation of a scent, the whole experience; an appealing aesthetic, and there is something about the Gatsby-ish gold-embossed lettering on the pristine white box that really appeals to all my senses. The perfumes are not complex; Neroli Negro is a husky, honeyed growl of orange blossom, musk, and, unusually, a strongly dominating note of depressurised myrrh, that comes across to me nevertheless as almost liquorice-like and edible. Self-contained, it could also be a real passion ignition key in the right circumstances, peculiarly moreish and sultry. At night, it helps me draw a velvet curtain on the day.

 

 

 

Menli, another perfume in the Coqui Coqui extensive range, is an almost absurdly simple, or simplistic, take on the Mojito –  just lime and mint. And yet for a minute or two, it is the best mint smell I have ever smelled; a variety of mint from Mexico that I have never personally encountered in real life but now want to. The mint smell is almost fiery in its coolness; pure as leaves  – so minty – and incredibly invigorating, before it cedes to a fainter mint-citrus synergy that while less exciting, is still quite pleasant on a t-shirt and as an all round pick-me-up. D has taken to this one like a duck to water  – he is also very fond of a well-made mojito, that delicious and perturbing swirl of ice and lime and mint and sugar and rum, the best one we ever had being down a back street in Barcelona several Augusts ago watching local kids skateboarding by the steps of a beautiful old cathedral.

 

 

Good times.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Flowers, Mint, Mojito, Neroli, Orange Blossom

AFTER EIGHT

 

 

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I am a great one for natural remedies. I have been for decades. The strange thing is, I often intuit something first, check it afterwards, and then find my instincts about my imagined effects of certain botanicals to be corroborated by other sources. And lo and behold, today, after I had bought a big jar of extra virgin coconut oil and suffused it with a whole bottle of peppermint essential to be used as a pain reliever/massage oil/ muscle stimulant/general tonic, it turns out that this is supposedly one of the best home made therapies that exist for people with aching limbs such as mine (kind of obvious in this case, I know). The mixture tingles. It soothes. But most hilariously, when lathered all over my legs, and combined with Palmer’s Cocoa Butter, which I had forgotten that I had put on in other places, I smell just like a gigantic, chocolate laden box of After Eight Mints. A whole warehouse full of them.

 

THE AIR IS LUDICROUSLY EDIBLE.

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Filed under Mint

NUIT ETOILEE by ANNICK GOUTAL (2012)

 

 

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Guest post by Robin

 

 

 

I’d written off Annick Goutal’s Nuit Étoilée about thirty seconds after I tipped a few drops of the 1ml sample onto my wrist, let it dry, and sniffed it. Quickly. Dismissively. Happily.

 

I’ve been trying to do that lately. I have too many perfumes. I’ve already spent too much. I will die with probably two or three hundred bottles, good ones, expensive ones, that are all still mostly full. (I have already written the note. It is in a drawer. When I die, please give my perfumes to my niece Nadia . . . Otherwise, I haven’t even thought of writing a will.) I can’t bear the thought of whoever empties my house of worldly possessions throwing out those venerable old beauties. I do not need another love, another Must Have. If anything, I should start saving my twenties for a bottle of Superstitious, the new Dominique Ropion creation from Malle slated to be released early next year. I’m pretty sure I’m going to want that one. But I do get curious, and I do receive samples. And if it’s not love at first sniff, out it goes.

 

So it was with considerable relief that I gave Nuit Etoilée the quick thumbs down. It wasn’t much of a stretch. A toothpaste-y mint note up front, a discordant immortelle behind it, some weird tonka-bean-like sweetness and a murky forest-floor/pine-fresh-cleaning-solvent undercurrent that instantly made me queasy. I wasn’t looking for ways to adore it, but Annick Goutal had made it easy to dump the rest of the vial on my neck (I’m Irish; I don’t like waste) and toss the glass into the recycling.

 

So off I went to my dear Ric’s for a morning coffee. He’s used to me by now. I grab the steaming cup from his hand, offer up my neck. “What do you think of THIS stuff?” It’s a routine he’s endured every day since we fell in love, two and a half years ago now, with responses that are predictably and endearingly short and sweet; Ric was quite happy with the scent of soap and water before he met me, and he’d be fine with soap and water now. There are four standard verdicts ranging from a tepid yea to an adamant nay: “That’s quite nice”; “It’ll work”; “Room for improvement”; and “NO,” with a snap back of the head. (To his credit – Ric really does have an excellent nose, although he’d deny it – the latter is saved for the vilest mainstream dreck loaded with ethyl maltol and throat-closing white patchoulis. He is surprisingly tolerant of aldehydes, nitro-musks, civet and castoreum.) Of all the fragrances I’ve thrust under his semi-willing nose, he’s liked maybe a handful. Most have been Guerlains, frequently from the Jean-Paul era: Champs-Elysées (actually Olivier Cresp’s), Jardins de Bagatelle, et al. Good taste, he has. This particular “What do you think of THIS stuff?” was said with a hint of I know already you’re not going to like it, but please humour me anyway, my long-suffering Love.

“Mmm,” exhaled that dear man. “That’s actually really nice.”

Reader, I bought a bottle.

Ric is a man of few words, and though I pressed him, he wasn’t willing to provide a flowery review. He liked it, he liked it a great deal in fact, and that was that. When my bottle of Nuit Etoilée arrived in the mail last week – the eau de toilette, by the way; I hear the eau de parfum is a little less green, a little more ambery – I was able to give it a second chance. I see what he sees in it. It has that same breezy, Jean-Paul Guerlain femininity. It’s fresh. It’s . . . pretty. There’s a fair bit going on. There’s a sharp orange note that works well against the oily greens. I wore it, and it lasted nicely. Projection was above average. I still could, if I tried, find that same initial reaction to it; the toothpaste-y mint was there, and the pine-scented cleaning solution, and the immortelle in all its odd-ball glory and the clunky tonka. But you know, it didn’t really matter. And it doesn’t matter. Ric likes it, and I love Ric. He is amazingly tolerant of all the perfumes I foist on him that make his nostril hairs burn and his stomach clench. It feels good to set aside my own prejudices and predilections and opinions – God knows I have enough for a dozen strong-willed women – and bring a sweet man a little happiness and pleasure. And sometimes, a fragrance doesn’t get any better than that.

 

 

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Filed under Coniferous, Mint, Woods

THE GRASS IS NOT ALWAYS GREENER : Trophée by Lancome (1982), Central Park by Bond Nº 9 (2004), & Herba Fresca by Guerlain (1999)

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Central Park occupies a very important place in the mental scape of New Yorkers (and cinemagoers); it is the heart and lungs of the city. Bond No 9, a brand I have not had much success with, apparently wished to pay homage to this island of chlorophyll with a fragrance inviting us to ‘commemorate New York’s grand oasis of greenery; a lush sensory landscape that simulates a walk in the park’; a park, as we have seen in countless movies and soaps celebrating the metropolis, with joggers in visors and white shorts running every which way but loose; tennis courts, basketball, dogs a-larking, you name it – this is a place for the lovers of the outdoors.

 

 

Lancôme’s Trophée, another celebrator of green (discontinued but easily found online) has a similar, pastime on the lawns  theme; with a golfer on the bottle, and a golf ball as a stopper, its sporty, green-grass message couldn’t be more explicit.

 

 

 

 

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Trophée, while not desperately original (a slightly more masculine version of the seminal lemon-leaf eau fraîche, Ô de Lancôme) is a great fragrance you just can’t go wrong with; citrussy, natural, minty notes of lawns, verbena, and a gentle, chypre finish; bright, clean, refreshing. It is liberating: you can imagine a man in newly laundered polo shirt, up bright and early, splashing it on before a day out with his friends on the greens. The citrus notes don’t last so long, but the base is lovely too; a soothing note reminiscent of cold cream that makes me think of the aforementioned tired golfer in bed, later, with his wife; clean white sheets, late afternoon, the hot sun outside kept at bay with breezing white curtains.

 

 

Bond No 9’s scent begins with a vivid technicolour panorama of Central Park; vibrant green, grassy notes of verbena and basil, and a neroli note similar to Thierry Mugler’s cologne. Impressive. A  momentary, dazzling vista. And worn with Trophée on the other hand you might say it beats it, initially, in the lushness stakes. But Lancôme’s little known trophy has great subtlety. Bond No 9’s creation gets gradually worse, and worse, then even worse, as time passes.

 

 

Bond No9’s website informs us that

 

the park has its very own lawn bowling area. Here the terribly civilised pastimes of lawn bowling and croquet can be indulged without fear of colonial intervention.

 

 

Translated into perfume terms, that would mean, then, eschewing the classic (European) template for perfumery which dictates that a perfume, like a person, should fade and die gracefully, yet be anchored with earthy base notes to let it stay as long as possible; not botoxed and plumped to eternity.  The final accord in Central Park of ‘water jasmine’, ‘muguet’ and ‘cashmere musk’ sticks to the skin, irremovably, like a tattoo and is vile. If it is Central Park, then it is some obscure, forgotten corner; an oil-covered pigeon, stiff and festering, near some frayed, yellowing astroturf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GUERLAIN’S HERBA FRESCA : a ball of just discarded spearmint chewing gum; still fresh and ever so minty, left lying, alone, among the long, tall grass.

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Filed under Chypre, Grass, Green, Mint, Perfume Reviews, Verbena