Category Archives: Mojito

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

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

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

HOT!!! : CUBA by Czech & Speake (2002)

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Decaying, plant-straggled Spanish houses falling into dereliction;  old  banged up cadillacs roaming the streets; rum, cigars; geckos; the music –  I have never been to Havana but would love to, as I imagine I would be in my element…..

 

Sometimes perfumers are given briefs in which they are asked to try to conjure up specific places (YSL’s Paris; Biagiotti’s Roma; Kenzo’s Tokyo, the entire Bond No 9 range, geared to capturing every nook and cranny of New York), and any scent attempting to convey a sense of Cuba will have to incorporate the torrid generalities that the popular imagination associates with the place. For most, Havana is surely all about smoky dance halls and sultry locals; that curious contradiction of control, extroversion and unrepressed repression, that energy  (which, incidentally, dazzled my parents when they went there a few years ago to celebrate my father’s successful operation to have both knees replaced;  the fantastic thing being that despite his recent convalescence, he managed to come second in a dance contest, twirling and sashaying about on metal joints with a Cuban lady in habañera dress, my mother clapping and cheering with great enthusiasm as the crowd voted them for the runner up, all revved  up into wild and generous hilarity…)

 

Cuba, the perfume, captures this sense of Caribbean ease succinctly. It is an intriguing scent from London-based Czech & Speake’s ‘aromatics’ range that is perhaps unfashionable in its sly referencing of 50’s hunk-papa aftershaves, while nevertheless avoiding being overly retro. The blend attains a very sensual, defence-lowering aura that is perfect for an unbuttoned, flamboyant shirt on the dance floor where it really blooms with sweat and heat.

 

A smooth blast of bay, tobacco and some distinctly rude animalics is overlayed in Cuba with a mojito – themed top accord of rum, lime and mint – like sipping an ice-cold cocktail in some tucked-in corner of a Havana bar. This then dries down to a heart of clove, vetiver, cedarwood and frankincense; quite hairy-chested and self-assured, but in a warm, benevolent mode that is charming and irresistible: a million miles away from the priapic abrasion of most men’s contemporary scents (which this is, I suppose; though it is not stated directly on the bottle or box, and I can imagine some offbeat girls smelling pretty dapper in it as well).

 

We were staying in a hotel in Tokyo in September and Duncan sprayed on a few good doses of Cuba before we left for the night. The perfume filled up all the space around us with a full, balmy orchestration that you could smell from top to bottom in its full range of timbres and aromas, from the tingling lime and bergamot-mint head to the overtly sexual base that quite frankly interferes with the rational thought process. It hung in the air before me, fully fledged as a tapestry, and was startling, though I must say  that this bottle, which I bought for him recently,  seems diluted compared to the samples we had when it was first released ten years ago. Perhaps the startling intensity of that first edition – which seemed to have more  humidor clout – was just too off-putting for some people. Even in this version the initial smell is  intoxicating.

 

Cuba is a night scent. It is not something you would (or even could) wear to work unless you want your colleagues panting in the elevator (Duncan was once literally physically accosted – much to my amusement – on the streets of Shinjuku one roasting summer evening by two guys walking past who were shouting out WOW WHAT IS THAT INCREDIBLE SMELL), but to be honest I think a half of that half would be panting from revulsion as well; this is one of those perfumes that probably goes too far for the contemporary nose, and I have read some very disparaging comments on it (to put in mildly) on several blogs and websites, so tread carefully if you are being reeled in by this review.

 

 

To me though, Cuba is simply a natural and very free-smelling composition: uninhibited, lithe, and while subtle in its own surreptitious way (only the initial spray makes a big noise), it lets you stand out from the madding crowd. It works best on weekends, best kept perhaps for dancing and celebrations, when its soft but emphatic tones – savoury, spiced, and  full of self-confidence – will rise up from the body; convince, and melt you.

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Filed under Masculines, Mojito, Perfume Reviews, Spice, Tobacco