Category Archives: Oceanic

ROSE ATLANTIC by D. S & DURGA (2016)

 

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When you live in the perfumed world I do, it can come as a sudden jolt to the senses to smell something so patently synthesized to smell ozonic, oceanic: searingly ultra-modern and fresh.

 

Rose Atlantic, a name that piques my aesthetics, is just that: roses awash in sea spray and sunlight. Lunging, zesting rose notes, doused in citrus provide an enlivening beginning, while underneath, a perturbing array of notes ( ‘salt spray rose accord’, ‘dune grass’, muscone and ‘salt grass’) provide the plausibly oceanographic backdrop.

 

Clean, oblivious  (an obvious paen to the Great Outdoors and the yachting life), this brisk, well-made perfume is not something I could ever wear myself – it made me feel like an alien when I had it on my skin, reptilian, cold, moist – but I can definitely imagine quite pleasurably encountering it on some hale, North American optimist – all perfect white teeth and smiling clean new sports clothes – as he or she hits the water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Flowers, Oceanic, Ozone

SHE SELLS SEA SHELLS…… DUNE by CHRISTIAN DIOR ( 1991)

 

 

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Apricot dunes; the glow from a studio-lit, ochre trompe l’oeil sunset; seagulls on the soundtrack; the glistening ‘ocean’ beyond. A seasoned French actress, distractedly reaches down into the pillowing sands and scrutinizes, with her smooth cream hands, carefully placed pebbles, starfish and seaweed.

 

 

 

On the beach, pensive, to a backdrop of golden, solar rays…

 

 

 

 

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It is probably quite hard for the perfume youth of today to imagine how exciting – and rare an occurrence – it once was when one of the great ‘houses’ – Guerlain, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Givenchy, Christian Dior – released a new scent. They were like monuments, fortresses, designed to be aesthetically pleasing but also infallible, made to last. Perfumes that, naturally, were not designed for everyone, but once, if they did catch your senses and made you hers, would then become your perfume, to buy again and again, your signature: huge money-making engines for their parent companies, who relied desperately on these gleaming olfactory colossi to line their coffers for couture.

 

 

 

Rather than the constant floods and inundations of scent that we are treated/subjected to now, ever intrigued but over and underwhelmed, we were almost starved of new perfume back in those days. What you saw was all there was, and if you were bored by what you were smelling you just had to wait. A long time. Many years would pass between the launch of one major scent and the next, and to budding young perfume obsessives, always on the look out for new perfume adverts in fashion magazines like Vogue, the arrival of a long gestated new perfume always felt like a real, magnificent, event.

 

 

 

The concept for Dune had apparently already been thought out and worked on behind the scenes at Dior back in the 1980’s, but it was presciently decided that the next project, the purple hearted, bullet shocker Poison, was more scandalously fitting to the Joan Collins times (and their instincts were most certainly right in that regard), with the result that the project was somewhat put on a back burner for a while until the radical explosion of all things ‘natural’, pared down, marine and ozonic occurred in the following decade, when Dune then suddenly emerged as if out of nowhere: a heavily, but immaculately, made-up Venus, transpiring from the foaming waves of luxeful Perfumia to claim her crown.

 

 

 

 

At the time, I myself was a second year university student, back home for the summer, working, believe it or not, on a golf course. Although I am the last person on earth to play golf (those pastel colours; checked trousers, all that ‘gear’…….) it was, in many ways, the ideal job for me at the time: entirely solitary, surrounded by trees and nature in my wooden hut, just listening to music, looking at the sky, and finally having definitively enough time to properly read the long novels I had always wanted to read as the hours of green and blue stretched on before me ( I have great memories of losing myself entirely for days on end in great big nineteenth century tomes such as Anna Karenina). There, with the kettle boiling quietly, the birds in the trees, the occasional customers coming for a round of mini golf – I merely had to collect the money and hand out the tickets, and then take the flags down at the end of the day – passing the summer quite nicely, saving enough money to set myself up in Rome that November: I was immersed in aloneness, literature, music and perfume, and, more importantly, the great and exhilarating unknowingness of an upcoming Italian future.

 

 

 

 

Dune was released during that summer. It was a period in which samples were given out more freely at the department stores, and, as usual, I managed to get a lot of them, vials and vials of the scent which I would try on my hand while sitting outside, or even soak the cassette liner notes of the tapes that I had in the hut with their contents, to make the scent last longer, to be opened and experienced at will, so that in this way Dune formed an almost permanent scented backdrop to that carefree period and is seared in my memory as such (maybe that’s why my Prokofiev Violin Concertos I+II tape went all funny – the very reels of music themselves were drenched in sea broom and soft burnished powder of mollusc).

 

 

 

 

Although I was never entirely sure if I actually liked this scent – and certainly never wore it beyond the confines of my golf cabin – despite the fact that there was something too full, opulent and strangely off-putting about it, I knew that I was extremely fascinated by it: that weird combination of ambery, salty warmth, and floral, quite definitely duney seaness that all felt so peculiar and uneasy, yet new; compelling. It had a certain thrall. I had simply never smelled anything like it before.

 

 

 

 

Yes, this rather groundbreaking perfume, which felt, almost, as if it had come from another planet, had been proudly announced by Mothership Dior to be the very first ever‘floriental oceanic’, a very unusual concept at the time, when anything that reeked of the sea simply didn’t seem suitable, somehow, for a fragrance. It was a forceful, clinging floral amber scent with top notes of sea broom and lichen, peony and lily, immersed in a smooth marine compound, edged with rich and salty flowers, benzoin, ambers, and musks. Desperately original and popular when released, I later soon got sick of smelling it in Rome, where, together with the ultra-swimmingly sweet Trésor, it blotted the air all around it with its comeliness, the women of Rome taking it to their commendable, tailored bosoms (these women were always just so deeply perfumed ; profumatissime) with an overly great abundance of maquillaged enthusiasm.

 

 

 

To me, Dune always felt self-satisfied and overplenished somehow, more a performance than a perfume, with several acts, all perfectly balanced (the original formula was extremely complex): warm, emboldening and luminescent, but still, always that unsettling contrast between those sandy, decaying seashells whitening in the sun, and the more demure and feminine flowers and balsamics lurking beneath, an aesthetic tension which, when all is said and done, makes Dune the enduring creation that it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In a old and crowded box, dusty and thrown in together like trash, I recently retrieved a vintage parfum of Dune – the one you see in the picture – for a dollar at a fleamarket as you know I always do, and for that price I thought; well, why not. I was quite intrigued to smell this perfume again, to be able to reappraise its flaws, and its charms. And besides, I had never smelled it in extrait.

 

 

 

As you might expect, the current formula still on sale worldwide at Christian Dior counters is said to be a rather unsatisfying reformulation of the original perfume that was released, which was bolder; more detailed; a more extreme and delicate arc between the marine notes, the florals, and the sandalwoody ambers (these new versions of the Diors seem more like snapshots, somehow). This little bottle I got in Tokyo, a considerable amount of which proceeded to spill all over me when I eventually got the stopper off coming home on the train, was unboxed, the label worn off as well, but the perfume inside, dense and full, rich,was still fresh, intense, and rather pleasing. This smell is at once entirely familiar to me: stamped in my brain, nostalgic, comforting, even, yet still retains that inherent strangeness that the original formula always had and that made it distinctive: that insistent, almost sickly amber that also inhabits the base of Cartier Must parfum (a scent I adore); the emotional component coming I suppose from that sense, beyond the immediate, concentrated perfume essences in the heart of the perfume, of an enlivened, agoraphobic dream vista; a beach stretching off for miles and miles, and miles and miles, into the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under amber floral musks, Oceanic, operatic

SHOCK WAVES: : KENZO POUR HOMME (I99I) + + TIRRENICO by PROFUMI DEL FORTE (2008)

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Some perfumes arrive and totally change the air.

Kenzo Pour Homme was such a scent: iconoclastic, groundbreaking, with its olfactory shock of the new. Distorting the air in Rome, where I was living at the time, like a giant, salty, turtle-shaped watermelon: head-turning, inescapable (so many of the young Romani seeming having cottoned onto it all at once at their local profumeria ); so at odds with the classical surroundings that I walked among at night and where I kept on smelling this…..smell.

Drifting, unexpectedly, about the city.

Surfing the midnight air.

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People HATED it – my flat-mate referred to it as ‘that….. sea-piss’; my mother loathed it  (“What IS that FOUL smell?!!”……..)

It amused me. It intrigued me: I bought a bottle.

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Though Aramis New West had been the first scent to introduce the aquatic note of calone three years prior to this perfume’s release, Kenzo was the first to do it to such a fearless extreme as to make it essential: almost offensive in its oceanic, salted weirdness, yet so utterly of the moment and futuristic that it felt addictive. Unfortunately, in recent times, as is so often the case, the formula seems to have been tempered with over the years to make it more conformist (in that ubiquitous sea of dull aquatics) – watered down, its stingray zest somehow blunted –  yet to me it still remains one of the best of this type and remains quite popular, especially in France. It is a shame, however, that it no longer has quite the eye-opening surprise it once had. Which was this:

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a revivifying sea spray of salty green marine notes; an oceanic top note like the crash of waves (when you get dragged under helplessly joyfully swirling dragged up, sand and seaweed and splinters of sea shells as the sun tilts erratically through the refracted gluts in the surface and the solar blue peers through…) ….that delicious, electrolyte blue of the sea. An iodine rush that had never been done before in perfumery and that was startling.

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What it didn’t do next was also praiseworthy.

What it didn’t do was dry down to a gay-club sport cliché, like the dreadfully efficient Acqua di Giò (Armani), or the now standard jeune homme progression of calone, citrus, ‘spice’, and ‘woods’ a la Miyake that could bore a man to tears as it fills the international airports like a slow, deathly tsunami, instead being strange, interesting, confounding, and exciting.

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Kenzo’s heart is pleasing.

The top, filtered through with bergamot, some green notes, geranium, and a strange dose of anisic fennel, has an aqueous freshness, but it is undercut beautifully with quite prominent spice – particularly nutmeg and clove – on a musty, cool seabed of vetiver, sandalwood, light musks, and patchouli. And while I was always slaking more for the top notes, I also remember a beautiful walk in the Tuscan countryside Helen and I took that summer in Italy, Kenzo under our constant analyses under the burning sun (we really had smelled nothing like it, and we had smelled a lot of perfumes together over the years….) Helen particularly transfixed, I remember, by the closing patchouli/aromatic accord that I think set the stage for my later attraction to dry patchouli chypres along the lines of Parure, Aromatics Elixir, and Eau du Soir. Such an imprint lies at the sea-bed of Kenzo – you might even call it a chypre oceanic – because while refreshing and beach-bound, it also verges on mystery.

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The only other scent I have come across of similar bearing to Kenzo Pour Homme is perhaps Profumi Del Forte’s Tirrenico (2008), which I discovered a couple of summers ago while staying in Berlin. This beautifully constructed composition has the sea-green sodium feel of Kenzo but has a more torrid, even livid aspect (fennel again, plus dried fruits, elemi, and a very intense basil over ozone), that I found mesmerizing, but also almost depressing in its algae-filled darkness. Where with Kenzo the play-drowning and underwater torpedo-ing feel like fun, with Tirrenico I felt as if I might never actually re-surface. I have toyed with the idea of buying a bottle of this (supremely expensive) scent: but the company’s  tiaré-banana-noix de coco fantasy Apuana Vittoria (delectable!) has first priority, if I ever raise the cash..

For the time being Kenzo remains my only sea perfume. It is unique, and brings back wonderful sun and water-filled memories of sun-christened skin. Only to be worn in summer, the the breezy, saline atmosphere it creates is indispensable.

As the Japanese summer heats up and the coast begins to beckon, I will be taking my bottles out of seasonal rest-mode very soon.

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Filed under Masculines, Oceanic, Perfume Reviews