Category Archives: Perfume Reviews

BLOOMS A ROSE IN THE DEEPS OF MY HEART…… Rose Volupté by Sonoma Scent Studio (2012)

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I like a big rose. A rose that is generous and of itself; a lovely rose: not a mean, thin-lipped rose; nor a methane-dipped rose, a high street rose or a sneering, clipped, high-octane rose; a fashion rose or a bridal rose; a cheap, leering acid rose, nor some dusty old, crabby rose, no: I like a full, joyous pronouncement of a rose, a rose that knows who she is.

 

The world, though, it seems, loves scents like L’Eau Chloé, a mingily pertinent fragrance formed of rose water and green things and reduced-fat patchouli, but I most certainly don’t: we smell far too many of these perfumes around us in cities, especially in Japan, where immaculately turned-out young women walk the streets of Tokyo, untouchably beautiful, a red-blooded, heterosexual male’s idea of paradise; girls with the flawless patina of a Shiseido commercial but in the flesh, slender young things in the all latest fashions and just a touch of rose to finish: nothing too thick, now, and a touch acidulous if you please – I maintain you, sir, at arm’s length with my thorns, my scent a barrier not a come-on, my artificial rose with its just-so projection perfected in the laboratory for this very purpose to offer that strange, iced chasteness, that modern-girl impenetrable whim of here-and-now Ginza sexy: this, this hideous perfectionism we smell in all the roses of the day such as Stella, Paul Smith Rose, and, especially, here, the vile Eau Des Quatres Reines by L’Occitane, which from personal exposure I would say is by far the most popular female scent in the country: you smell it all the time, as though, like everything else in Japan, it were accepted by the group and thus sanctioned, even by young mothers!

 

Young mothers, yes, those saintly, desexualized mama-san as they are called, poor creatures in my view, who, unless they rebel and refuse to conform, will often be co-erced into fascistic, nasty, Lord Of The Flies groups they cannot escape from even as they smile and present their iron-haired, A-line skirted, guilt-racked personas to the playground. The Occitane perfume, with its hints of salted, musks under penetratingly sharp, artificial rosey top notes, fixed, unchanging as it hangs in the air around train stations and department stores is the rose du jour, accepted, sucked into the mainstream, worn constantly, and I can tell you quite passionately that I loathe it.

 

No: give me an unfettered, uninhibited rose any day, a rose of love, not of conformity, a rose which springs directly from the heart: give me Nahéma, Montale Aoud Rose Petals with its blackness of the desert and Turkish Delight, give me Caron Rose, with its cherished poetical heart of Damask, or, if we need pearlescent dew drop roses, Fleurs de Thé Bulgare by Creed: just don’t dilute it with ‘market trends’ , fear of trying, or with ‘what women want‘: give it to me straight and liberated and heartfelt. Or don’t give it to me at all.

 

 

Rose Volupté, a huge, blowsy thing, belongs in this latter category of mine; roses with heart and soul, a big Valentine’s Day rose that is as rounded, enveloping as imaginable; powdery, effusive, diffusive: a tampy, musky pink rose of thick material: balanced – an undeceiving, happily direct perfume.

An oriental rose, with ambered base notes of labdanum absolute, vetiver and sandalwood, and a heart of heliotrope and cinnamony plum, all leading the perfume somewhat into the ‘old fashioned’ category, but neverly over so in my view, more pleasingly, just slightly, retro: top notes fruity and full, flowered like sugared raspberries on a summer trifle, and as multitiered, the geographical strata of the perfume leading down to pillowy, benzoiny, classic oriental skin scents, generous and feminine, soft:  Teint De Neige’s rosier, more bosomy country cousin.

 

While the perfume might lack a certain psychological complexity ( I find it rather ‘straight’ and ‘thick’ in some ways) this is simultaneously very much part of its appeal. Rose Volupté is simple, lovely, and it wears like an honest statement of love for the flower, and for perfume come to think of it, not some anorexic urban cipher and her puny, half-hearted, haughtily prettily ‘rosy’ emanations.

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Filed under Flowers, Perfume Reviews, Rose

SCREAMING JELLY BABIES: TUSCAN BLOOD ORANGE by PACIFICA

 

 

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When the package came, the first thing I tried was Tuscan Blood Orange.

 

I love orange: I love it in chocolate, in cakes, in perfumes, and am a huge consumer of the fruit, especially Japanese mikan, iyokan, and ponkan: I think my colleagues find me slightly bizarre. While I ultimately think I prefer lemon, there is nothing more uplifting and easy than a good orange, though it is not often successfully carried off in perfume for some reason (see my other post on oranges for some exceptions to this rule).

 

This particular perfumed version of the fruit, ‘Tuscan Blood Orange’, is not an orange, per se, as much as a jelly baby, or rather a fistful of jelly babies, those classic British gummis that kids of my generation grew up with, and which my grandparents always brought round to the house on a Sunday night, along with Twixes, Bounties, and Mars Bars.

 

And I loved them.

 

Boxes of Bassetts jelly babies in their bright friendly colours of green, red, black, orange……mild, delicious, as you bit of their heads with a tinge of guilt and kept dipping your hands in for more.

 

 

The marketing teams at Bassetts also decided, a few years ago,  to give a name to each flavour (making the dental decapitation all the more savage, don’t you think?) and this cute little perfume by American brand Pacifica seems to feature almost the entire posse (though Bigheart, blackcurrant, is conspicuously absent)…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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While an appley, melon top note makes you question whether the perfume has been labelled incorrectly for a few seconds, soon Baby Bonny (raspberry); Brilliant (strawberry), and even brief flashes of Boofuls and Bubbles (lime and lemon respectively) make appearances in Blood Orange before Bumper – that lovely, sweet orange jelly baby – smiles, winks, and immediately tap dances its way into your affections.

 

 

Wearing this perfume, then, is a total confectionery blast from the past for me and puts me in an excellent mood – it is so cheap as well that I might have to order myself a bottle from Amazon. Sometimes I like such pleasing uncomplication.

 

 

 

 

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The title of this post comes from a science experiment that I wish my school had done, in which jelly babies are thrown into tubes of potassium chlorate as they  fizz away instantaneously in fits of oxidisation, squealing, apparently, as they do so, and leaving the science labs reeking of candy floss. I think that if chemistry lessons at my school had involved such olfactory pleasures, perhaps I might now have been making perfume, rather than merely writing about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Confectionery, Orange, Perfume Reviews

QUIPROQUO by Grès (1975)

 

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Cabochard, Bernard Chant’s classic patchouli chypre from 1959, looms large and elegantly in the Parisian canon as an archetype, and it is not surprising therefore that the house of Madame Grès should have wanted to capitalize on its success with a perfume that was the same, essentially, but different: a Cabochard re-made for a new generation.

 

 

Quiproquo, one of the rarest of my vintage finds in Tokyo antique shops, is a reworking of the powdery patchouli of its exquisitely tailored predecessor, in the sportier, eau fraîche style of Ô de Lancome (an in-house restitching in those more seventies, tennis-white contours), and a quick internet search has  confirmed my instincts: both were created by the same perfumer, Robert Gonnon (who was obviously something of a genius – he also made Métal, Anaïs Anaïs, and Empreinte among others; all delicate, yet shadowed, creatures that I adore…)

 

 

Less floral and vetivered than Ô, whose pre-reformulation was one of the greatest, cold-creamy citruses ever made, Quiproquo has the imprint of her older sister but with smoother brow, a more relaxed, upbeat scent overlaid with the brightest, most perfect lemon-leaf head-notes: like pinching the leaves from the trees, ripping them apart and letting their essence ravish your hands as you raise them up to smell on a cool, summer’s day. This gorgeous opening then subdues to a more refined, citrus-powdery chypre note as QPQ, having made her point on this dramatic family reunion, settles down for a game of scrabble with flinty Cabochard: :  French windows open, siblings easing into familiarity (their strikingly similar younger brother, Monsieur Grès (1982) has also made it up to the house for the weekend), mineral water sparkling in glasses, breeze from the gardens and tennis lawns, this Saturday late in May, drifting in gently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Citrus, Lemon, Patchouli, Perfume Reviews

BOOBS………………….Le N° 9 by CADOLLE (1925)

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According to Les Senteurs in London (the only place you used to be able to buy this now obscure treat except for the original Belle Epoque lingerie store on the Rue Cambon, Paris), this effortlessly dreamy blend was created, back in the day, as a ‘riposte’ to N° 5  – the founder, Hermione Cadolle,  a less uptight Gabrielle Chanel (her main rival on her street) – dreaming up brassières – she invented the bra – and courting clients such as Mata Hari and Marilyn Monroe for her dusky, silken wares like the fabled soutien gorge. She had to have a perfume for the store, and as N° 5 was all the rage, this was her retort: the woodier, more lissom seductress.

 

Of all the perfumes I have smelled in my life, this is possibly the most seamless: unlike N° 5, with its very obvious ylang ylang/ rose/ iris/ musk gradations, Le N°9 is so smooth, creamy, soft and melting it is almost impossible to distinguish any of its components. With its lilting, balsamic conclusions of cedarwood, Siamese benzoin and Penang patchouli; its breathy,  equable memory of flowers, the resulting bedroom aldehyde lorelei is luminous, powdery – and impossibly soft and erotic.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Floral Aldehydes, Perfume Reviews

THE TREE THAT SOOTHES…………………….. COCOA SANDALWOOD by SONOMA SCENT STUDIO (2013)

 

It is exam season in Japan, or as the locals call it, ‘exam hell’: students and teachers cramming and exhausting themselves into high schools and universities; an impressive, if sadomasochistic, demonstration  of Japanese will power and conformity. Some of my colleagues have been working straight since the beginning of November and yes I mean straight: with the exception of January 1st, some of them have been coming into school every day, for at least twelve hours, for about six weeks. This is illegal, but the pressure is so high to get the results that they can really not do otherwise.

 

 

And there I am, with my three week holiday at Christmas and New Year, waltzing in to do my bit come the first week of January, but even a month of it has left this indolent foreigner feeling frazzled and debilitated: I came home on Friday night feeling teary and depleted; a husk with his juice sucked out, porous sensitivies over-flooded with tense, heightened Japanese voices. Knowing I would have to be going in on Saturday morning  as well for a whole day of examination interviews, I decided just to collapse in to bed…

 

 

But perhaps just a touch of perfume beforehand, something new, before I turn out the lights to let my mind veer…….?..something from those little boxes of samples I had not yet tried that might subdue my humming synapses..?

 

 

Yes.

 

 

I semi-randomly alight on something called Cocoa Sandalwood, apply it wearily to the back of my hand.

 

 

 

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suddenly a towering forest of sequoia trees flashes up before my eyes. I can feel them, smell the cool of them, the bark, the dappling light between their trunks, as they soar up into the sky that is blue, and the air that is clear, miles and miles of them out in the Californian country – a synaesthestic mirage that makes my soul briefly snap into place again on a disconnected plane and I find myself wanting to go back down into it all again, back down from the shimmering skyline treetops and back into the forested depths, this time to Hitchcock’s Vertigo and the mysterious redwoods behind which you disappear, somewhere in the heart of deep green………….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All of which I realize might sound rather exaggerated and forced, but which I did actually experience on Friday night, lying on my futon as something loosened its grip on my psyche and a gentle, alternative universe released me….

 

 

 

 

 

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I have been finding this recently with natural perfumes. There is something in the essences themselves, the plants’ ‘life force’ if you like, that speaks, that stimulates my nervous system in a very different way to other perfume ( which is perhaps more purely aesthetic). Where I was expecting to just find the usual sandalwood (one of my least favourite notes in perfume as I have always found it so fatty, unmysterious, and splayed somehow), the perfumer (Laurie Erickson) surprised me with a creation that temporarily took me beyond myself.

 

 

 

 

The sequoias I ‘saw’ originated, I imagine,  in the significant dose of Cedar Virginia that opens the perfume, giving the richer, more oozy New Caledonian sandalwood a solid backbone through which a slow, warm sap of cocoa absolute, cinnamon bark, coffee, rose, clove, vanilla and ginger rises slowly, the sandalwood gradually thickening in generosity, expanding and revealing its wise, sagacious  depths. Soothing, comforting, with an excellent equilibrium between savoury and sweet, the perfume helped me, finally, to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Cocoa, Perfume Reviews, Sandalwood

THE SARACEN AND THE COSSACK: TWO CHEST-BEATING LEATHERS – YATAGAN by CARON (1976) & CUIR DE RUSSIE by PIVER (1939)

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According to the house of Caron, the yatagan was a Turkish saber once used by the fierce, proud horsemen of the Ottoman empire, with a ‘curved and finely sharpened blade’, its very name hinting unambiguously at the unmerciful, sheath-laden phallus and its inexorable, compulsory conquests.

A virile journey: a battle in the sour-thighed, chest-rugged stakes with a similarly resolute fragrance, Piver’s classic Cuir de Russie. Both flowerless, dry, rugged creatures, expertly constructed to throw up jaw-clenched, fist ready accents as the accords develop within their worn, leathery hearts and they prepare to slay their (knee-buckling, pliant, and often extraordinarily willing), victims.

Yatagan is severe: dry, spicy, with precious woods, artemisia, styrax, and a good, healthy dose of sweaty leather. It is a pine forest: our frowning Saracen alone, in battle garb, listening to the trees and the smell of the soil.

In the distance are snow-capped mountains.

The Turk, growling, quite sure of himself, is a more ferocious stalwart than his Russian counterpart, and we watch him prowl his terrain; alert, ever-ready to wield his not inconsiderable weapon.

Later, when finally reaching home, exhausted, there is a lingering of smoke and incense as his wife pulls off his damp clothes by the fiery light of the hearth and she administers, lovingly, a sweet and sincere kiss to his rough and weathered cheeks.

Cuir de Russie is the smell of a proud cossack’s boots: animalic, manly, and polished, as he rides out across the steppes in his attempt to slay the Turk. While similar in theme, the cossack is more swarthy, rugged and sour, has more tobacco, a wide, salacious splendour of dry leather. More convivial too: there is humour in this vodka-swigging man: refinement even, though never ostentation….

 

 

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Filed under Leather, Masculines, Perfume Reviews

Lady In Red: Pour Une Femme by Caron (2001)

Lady in Red, is dancing with me.

I’ve never seen you looking so lovely as you did tonight.

Never seen you shine so bright….

A made-up, quintessentially vermillion ‘date perfume’ for night time and silk, this beauty by my side has the hairdo of Jennifer Rush and smells indelible, typical; I move my head slightly back.

However, as the candles flicker, our wrists flick glinting champagne glasses, and we sway and smooch to Luther Vandross, the intensity of her opening gambits fades, and the heart of her fragrance is slowly and gradually revealed – an intense, seductress sweet rose and spiced frankincense/benzoin accord that goes quite beautifully with her gown.

Image Image Image Image     I will never forget the way you looked tonight.

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Filed under Flowers, Perfume Reviews, Rose, Slinky