Category Archives: osmanthus





































Atami, aside its natural geographical beauty, is something of a trash town. And that is exactly why we love it. Faded chintz, decaying net curtains, and broken neon signs, it is a ghost town of the past that believes the future is 1982.




On my birthday we strayed after dinner into what we had believed was a saucy burlesque show. To spare your virtue, I will gently euphemise the details of what it was in reality, save to say that the lady in question, ‘Fire Yoko’, had particular abilities pertaining to her Venus; could bend spoons within like Yuri Geller, and indeed, spray flames of fire without, all while getting the eager, if strangely castrated, all male audience to shout along with her the word “FIRE!”  in what eventually (a)mounted to a most hilarious –  if genuinely –  truly, shocking – and properly educational, ‘divertimento’. We stumbled out onto the street afterwards, speechless, and were still laughing about it (while earnestly discussing its myriad of implications), yet chuckling to ourselves, intermittently, throughout the rest of the next ambling, sun-filled, lazy seaside day.




At the almost tragically old fashioned, dusty, doll-infested ‘shopping arcade’ on the Sunday, also, Duncan, miraculously, among the sequin-affixed dreck and shiny, frilled, becheapery, patiently rummaging through, to my surprised delight, found me a bottle of Serge Lutens Nuit De Cellophane, seven eighths or so full, for a mere 1000 yen (or six pounds fifty): a scent I haven’t had for quite a while (as I drained two bottles of the stuff when it first came out) and a smell I am quite in the mood for exactly right now, in this brilliant December Japanese sunshine, despite, or even because of, its negative reputation among the perfumistas.





For me, despite the flatness in the latter notes which I do concede are a tad unexciting (a beige coloured sandalwood/almond/musk accord that is pleasantish but at best unobtrusive), I was always wild, myself, for the gorgeous, plasticky sheen of those untouchable, glimmering top notes – a mandarin-shone, apricot-fused elixir of shampoo fresh osmanthus and jasmine that went perfectly with the provocative name of a perfume that in itself reminds me of the aesthetic perfectionism, but also the sadistic, ultra mannequined artifice, of the very best Helmut Newton photographs: feminine but too objectified; archly fashionista, on point, cool, yet dead-eyed, coked-up; manipulated; a duality of perfume that is very pleasing and beautiful up to a point, but like the very apex of fashion itself, has a shallow, nihilistic nothing at its heart































Filed under Flowers, osmanthus













Japanese suburbs like their houses and front yards largely trimmed, and neat, but we don’t and want it green and overgrown, so have asked our landlords to not cut our garden. The result: the biggest osmanthus tree outside this window where I am writing, stretching right up to the telephone wires – and it has just bloomed.




Right now the scent is like the colour: an ethereal apricot cream. Soon though,  as I have written before in my paen to osmanthus and its inimitable glories, the perfume will become thick; and rotten peachy, and unwanted.














Right now though it smells beautiful: fresh, delightful and new,  a light haze of florally cottoning apricots. It doth beguile. Interestingly, today, I will also be able to smell again the osmanthus absolute, in its natural state, when I go, once again, up to the ear clinic in Tokyo, a four hour round trip (the reason I have been absent from this blog: a horrendous, and debilitating, ear infection which I have still not recovered from), where I will be able to then, once I have been violated once again with sharp metallic instruments and received the next dose of antibiotics, go to the Seikatsunoki, or Tree Of Life aromatherapy store, just down the road in Omotesando, which has the biggest selection of essential oils you can possibly imagine, from everything you have read about in your guide to aromatherapy, all the lavenders and citruses, patchoulis, oranges and hyssops, to Japan-only available extractions such as hiba, shiso and hakka Japanese mint (among many, many, others), and then to the most exciting: a selection of very expensive, but also very tantalising, floral absolutes,CO2 extractions, and ottos. The jasmine sambac, by far my favourite, I have bought on more than one occasion to make perfume – it smells gorgeous, just as it is, actually –  but then the other, distillated, absoluted essences can almost, even to the perfume-familiar, come on like strangely disguised impostors but nevertheless still quite fascinate. Tuberose is stern, and forbiddingly unsweet. Iris has no powder: it is peculiar, green, unadorned. Violet leaf is harsh, and almost unconscionably bitter. Frangipani is….I don’t know. It continues to elude me. Carnation is densely spiced and fruit-carnal, and darkly enigmatic.





But osmanthus? It stinks. Like animals in the barnyard. Shocking, when you know how sweetly innocent the flowers’ perfume begins. True, there is a hint of that apricot breeze I am getting right now from my front garden window which I am breathing in deeply like an early autumnal dose of happiness. Yet that floral fantasma, just distinguishable in the gunk, is drowned out almost completely in a foetid musk-funk of hooves, soiled farmyard hay, and beasts’ furred, slovenly behinds………………..animalic, thick; almost rotten, and very overpowering.  Perfumers, when they use this ultra-expensive material, must surely use very, very, little. In infinitesimal doses, I would imagine. Because in the raw, and in concentration, osmanthus absolute really is kind of disgusting. Like the slow, reeking ooze that has been issuing forth from my left ear, a putrid, sweet-smelling custard, it just shows you what we all boil down to: ultimately, in the end.

















Filed under Flowers, osmanthus