We have a French goth queen diva coming to our house for dinner tonight and I wanted incense and intrigue : the mysterious impenetrability of L’Artisan’s genius Eau Du Navigateur.
Instead I blindly grabbed and copiously sprayed a perfume in the same bottle : Jour De Fete.
So instead of balsams and coffee and repressed spices and a hierarchical mellow, I smell like blowsy sugared almonds drowning in sad musk.
Have you ever done this?
It is too late to shower and change.
She will soon be approaching the hill..
On Monday morning at Strawberry Fields in Kamakura I had a naughtyish splurge on a cache : for sixty pounds sterling, a vintage 30ml Opium parfum, a No 19, a Caron Fleurs De Rocaille extrait, but these were kind of thrown in, really, because the real purchase, and prize, was this vintage edition of Amouage Cristal for men ( or possibly Gold? Experts please weigh in ) that was roaring to me silently from the top of the glass shelf.
The bottom of the bottle says Cristal, apparently a rare perfume on eBay that sells for around 1,000 dollars – the Japanese internet has one for half that
but the notes do seem to match those of Gold, an intense ( though this word doesn’t do it justice, not remotely ; I have never known anything like it ), aldehydically animalic, musky soapy floral that smells just like a pristine extract of Madame Rochas parfum on United Arab Emirates steroids and cristillated to spectacularly nuclear strength.
The second I sprayed this oily, golden slick of perfume on the back of my hand I experienced a delirium tremens of being enveloped, head to toe, in regal downiness and flowers; rose, jasmine, but most specifically a powdery sandalwood and overall smell that reminded me very specifically of Imperial Leather soap – which I have always loved, and can use up a whole bar of in one long sitting…………….despite the swirl of richness gradually coalescing into one skin smell, the overall feeling is definitely that familiar scent; I use the talc and the deodorant spray, and having this too as the main event after all that initial background pampering will be orgiastically pleasurable for me. I was practically WRITHING on the train back home in olfactory arousal: tending and loosening like a cat in heat …… perhaps the sublimated civet, that I experience without consciously sensing it: some secret code of sensuality immersed in the blend that makes it just so horny yet so MAJESTIQUE.
To me, anyway.
D was having none of it.
“it smells……. pissy, or something” he said when we met in Ofuna : “I don’t like it”.
And on Basenotes :
“Musky, soapy floral, like taking a bath in the clawfoot tub of my gtandmother’s house in the seventies “
says one reviewer.
“I got through the initial blast of granny’s partially soiled bloomers, tiptoeing around the house trying to avoid my wife”,
Most other reviewers spin variations on this ‘old lady’ incontinence theme ( WHICH I DON’T GET AT ALL ::: I JUST SMELL SWOONWORTHY ARAB PRINCES IN WHITE ROBES )
– an (ageist, sexist ?), scaredy-cat reaction to a man’s scent that veers from the usual, ‘masculine’ brutality? Or maybe Duncan is right after all and I am just blind : though he does like the beginning, which is glorious: derailingly erotic for me personally, there is something in the base he can’t abide. A grimacing recoil. It almost makes me fearful, like some dreaded halitosis I am unaware of, that my olfactory apparatus has gone awry. Why does it smell like that to him ??????
As another reviewer of the perfume says, (as I mentioned I think this perfume must be Gold, (though please correct me if I am wrong) / could the ‘cristal’ on the glass be just referring to the material of which the bottle is made? It does feel ludicrously expensive]]
Yes. That was what I was wanting to say.
Wow is precisely the word I would use to describe this extravagant creation.
Which obviously I am only going to be able to wear indulgently alone, doors locked and bolted ,at home.
I have a hatred of powder. The touch of soft, dusty things: chalk (which makes it quite hard as a teacher); peaches, even velvet; icing sugar, dried concrete. The ashes of incense: : : : horror to the touch. Dried mud – I have an image of myself as a first year student at university, running in from a rainstorm with the mud starting to cake and dry on my hands and seeing myself – my face captured in a mirror in the hallway – as I ran desperately towards the sink to wash it off, and I saw in the reflection a madman, such was my instinctive repulsion to this particular texture that I cannot; cannot abide; the silky dry feeling of hands on an umbrella when the rain has evaporated, the shudder and panicked reaching for the vaseline, always stored on my person, scented, as you know; essential; but worst, by far the most unbearable; the feeling of flour, my bête noire of all bête noires which I cannot touch and could not touch even if you paid me and which is probably my Orwellian Room 101.
It is also my sister’s. She cannot abide it. Strange – I have never really come across another person with my particular neurosis. Many people find softness, and dryness, soothing: sand on the beach and the softening aspect between your toes as you sit on the promenade and swing your feet together in the summer air; something pleasant for them; something I can relate to intellectually but not in personal practice (inside, in my case, I am screaming at the clemency of the salt-gone moisture, the papery, strokey skin that makes me just want to plunge my feet back hysterically, immediately into the sea water, or smother my whole body with sun lotion – viscous, sticky, sheer relief).
We were there, somewhere on holiday together in the south of England as a teenager and a child, in the sun on the pier and one of us, I can’t remember which, suddenly said that they detested the feeling of the powdery sand, that it was intolerable, and the other was totally amazed that their sibling understood exactly the feeling that had never been spoken out aloud before (the almost hilarity when you discover that you are not alone in your foibles, that another person gets it, that you can laugh about it, detail the particulars, no matter how weird or unusual it may be to the rest of the world). She, also, cannot tolerate any form of powdered texture whatsoever, nor any other similarly feeling material, and in fact was as a teenager forced to even go into hypnotherapy when her horror of toilet paper – the dryness, the smoothness….I also really don’t like the really ‘high quality’ satiny, tissues that make me cringe and shiver slightly, the snail-like crunch of cotton wool (ugh!!!!!!!!!!!!!), but the rougher varieties of paper are okay for me, fortunately, and I never had to go this far. In my sister’s case, however, this phobia of certain textures was getting in the way of her living and at the time we happened to be living across the road from a doctor and hypnotherapist who got rid of her terror with a couple of sessions under suggested unconsciousness, enough to allow her to live normally, even if she still, like me, abhors, and will always abhor, the feeling of flour between the fingers. This is torture.
I have no real idea of the causes of this phobia. There was never any trauma related to powder as children, as far as I remember, save possibly the big Christmas family parties we used to have with our aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents when they were all alive, and we would have party games: a raucous, happy time that I remember quite fondly as Queen, everyone’s favourite, would rock on in the background: musical chairs – hilarious and thrilling, some strange game involving floppy hats; but then the flour cake game, a kind of jenga of the powder horror, where a cake made solely of tightly-packed flour granules would have a coin placed on it right in the middle, and you went round in turns taking slices out of the cake with a large knife, getting more and more precarious, the woahs and well-meaning terror increasing, the coin balancing periously on the precipice until the white cliffs of dover would come crumbling down in an avalanche of the finest, tooth-clutching powder, and the unlucky person who had caused the snowfall would have to thrust his or her face into the ‘hilarious’, knee-trembling powder cloud and retrieve the cold, metallic, flour-covered coin with their mouth. I could no more do this now than chew the head off a live snake, but I know that I did then, and just writing about it now is making me writhe on the sofa where I sit, daub my hands liberally with my three orange hand balm and rub them all over as a crucial, wettening, antidote.
My sister, to my knowledge, never participated in this game, so her own loathing of powdery textures is something of a mystery. I know for sure that we were both startled to learn of each other’s abnormality down on the beach: that was a revelation. I know that most people are directly the opposite; they loathe slime, or the stickiness of an apple, whereas I could delve my hands into a jar of honey and not give a damn; I would just lick it off. But talcy, chalky substances make my organs clinch – I could lose my mind. In the classroom I have learned to deal with the holding of a piece of chalk, as it scrapes on the board, even if the gradually amassing powder around me (and the brush of half blunt pencils on paper scratching all around me – revolting )– means I sometimes have to leave and wash my hands or else reach for my citrus scented goo to counter it. One time, though, on a school summer camp, probably about fifteen years ago, I was outed. Embarrassed. For the majority of the trip I think I had looked to the students more like a super hero: making boats with them, swimming and pulling them out in the lake, building fires, hiking for miles, singing in the moonlight, but it all came undone one day when we had to walk into a cave underground (I couldn’t – I am claustrophobic, but fortunately each team had two leaders), and then of course there was the afternoon team activity where we had to learn to make some kind of local noodles, instructed by locals who were known for their mastery of the regional speciality and were taking us through it all, step by doughy step. I tried to overcome my utter revulsion of the huge tub of beckoning flour, for the sake of the kids, feeling my innards contract at the thought of it, and did gamely actually dip a finger or two into the choking, moistureless, morass, but then felt so intuitely repulsed by its touch that I think I might have actually screamed. Everyone looked at me amazed. I simply couldn’t help the kids with making the soba for the competition; I was no longer a leader, it was an impossibility, and I had to just stand by helplessly as we came in last position for our undercooked strips of moingy, still dusty, inedible flour ribbons.
The irony of all this of course, this poudrephobie, is that, when it comes to perfume, I truly do love and adore powdery fragrances. Possibly more than any other type. What is simply suggested in perfume, the glow and the tactility of the pulverous, veil of powdered notes, a hint of the texture of the actualized, physical powder but without the literalness of its repugnant touch, for me creates an aura, almost a halo, of impenetrability, a snuggling comfort. There is a grandeur, a callow pompousness in dressing freshly washed skin with ambery, caressing poudres: in recent weeks I have felt like imperial lounge lizard at the perruqued court of Marie Antoinette as I go outside in my winter coats, deliciously swathed in a number of rich, granular indulgences worn together: Fragonard’s delectable Rêve Indien in parfum, a glowworm of Shalimar-like resonances without the Johnson’s baby’s bottom – more male; insistent; taut; and on my blood wine coloured cashmere red scarf, lashings and copious sprays of the original Hermès Rouge eau de toilette with its rose powder; naughty base unguents and lipstick smeared hyacinths: when I walk out into the cold I feel emboldened and outrageous, but also more serene: enwrapped, swaddled; cocooned.
Yesterday, I walked down the hill from where we live to the station for the first time in over a year and a half. Finally. A very steep incline at the top, enough to make people coming to our house huff and puff and complain about how uphill it is, and which was actually quite difficult, and painful, for me to navigate – I held onto Duncan for the first part and then managed when it gradually became more straight and easier to walk along and was, in truth, disappointed that it hadn’t been easier. But how wonderful to even have done it, and then to have walked about the whole day sans stick; how pleasing to inhale the cold, blood-stirring air and see the winter light glinting through the trees while simultaneously enjoying the hints of all my recently worn perfumes still lingering on my clothes: a new old bottle of Cartier Must that I found in an antique shop in Yokohama: vanillic, dense, and yes powdery, but cut through with galbanum; edible, like the vintage parfum of Vol De Nuit I also got yesterday and had set my heart on when I saw it in the window but couldn’t afford to buy until pay day, yesterday, when I also acquired a beautiful old bottle of Coty’s golden and spiced powder L’Origan in vintage eau de toilette, and to cap it all off a vintage eau de cologne bottle of Jean Charles Brosseau’s Ombre Rose, in my opinion the finest format of this perfume, all crepuscular, shadowed roses with an almost saline powderiness like the sweat of skin; so beautifully Japanese, like the sachets of incense that are tucked by ladies, still, into kimono in Kyoto, where clandestine pouches of pulverized incense are hidden in drawers and the folds of clothes and hair, and where a puff of invisible powder has all the suggestibility and eroticism of a hinted at love affair. Look. Inhale: but do not touch.
SOMETIMES YOU MUST FLOUNCE IT AND FLAUNT IT AND GLOAT IN THE NOSE CLOUDS OF FUMES
LOVE IT , BATHE IN IT, CHOKE ON IT
DROWN IN IT
HOOKER OR NO , YOU CAN WEAR IT LIKE A HO
A BABE COMING DOWN FROM HEAVEN
SOMETIMES, THE CELESTIAL CLOY OF FEATHERS AND PINK AND POWDER, OF SWEET, PUTRID UNGUENTS, OF THIGH SLAPPING GLEE
IS A GLORIOUSLY GIGGLING KNICKERBOCKERGLORY IN THE FACE OF STALE INDUSTRIAL DULLNESS
OF DANCING GIRLS AT THE FOLIES BERGERES
AND ALL THE FRILLS AND THE SPILLS AND THE BELLYACHE,
ALL THE TEARS AND THE FRUSTRATIONS AS
WISTERIAS TRUMPET THEIR ALMOND HYSTERIA
AND HELIOTROPES AND ORCHIDS SEETHE IN THROAT-SWIMMING HONEY
AND ORANGE BLOSSOMS AND CHEEK – PINCHING ROSES
AND VIOLETS AND TUBEROSES PILLOW FIGHT AT GLOWERING MADAME’S,
AND PRACTITIONERS SWOON
WITH THE SUGARING FROTH
I love a perfume with a good story line, and the powdery, illicit backdrop of Poudre De Riz is a good one. It is a tawdry tale with a double dose of sensorial voyeurism, inspired by the French novel Inferno (1908) by Henri Barbusse: a man spying on a frantic adulterous couple in the boarding room next door through a crack in the wall; witnessing, and smelling their aromas; her bath, the splashes of heavy, sweet perfumes to cover up the scent of heat-coupled flesh; and, then, her last-minute attempts to make up her face with lipstick and powders, a disgruntled varnish to mask her true feelings before the arrival of her husband….
But he does of course notice:
“The air in the room was filled with heavy scents….soap, face powder, and the pungent smell of an eau de cologne…..” and the perfume, proficiently blended by Pierre Guillaume, is thus an attempt to capture this coagulation of emotion: of sex, concealment, passion (guilt?) and of the perfected and more preened face that we must present to the world..
Though I sometimes bore myself to tears with my own predictability (tiare monoï oil; coconut; vanilla, benzoin…..surely I am bound to like this perfume?) I really do: it is quite gorgeous and I just can’t help myself, the ‘rice powder’ of the name a pearlescent dust of sheen wavering over a sensual, but controlled and delicate, effluvium of aphrodisia that has none of the stinginess or bitter, ‘avant-garde’ snarl of some niche scents.
Poudre De Riz in fact immediately reminded me of a number of sweet, oriental perfumes that I have worn over the years, while remaining individual enough to merit a full bottle. The beautiful note of Damascena roses shining through slews of animalic, almonded musks comes straight from Louve; the soft, linty, vellutinous white powder Teint De Neige; and the ambered, cinnamony goodness a throw-back to my beloved Obsession For Men before it got spayed by reformulation; (the tolu over cedar and sandalwood note in the base also strangely took me back to that ribald old tropico-classic, Nuits Indiennes by Louis Scherrer…)
Still, the perfume works on its own terms, and all the notes are blended in such a way that despite the story and gourmand overdose, the perfume is never claustrophobic: my own skin always brings out the heavier, vanillic angle of a scent, but I can imagine on certain women that this could smell almost angelic….
I have had two full vintage bottles of Balenciaga’s classic Le Dix, both of which I gave to people I knew would cherish and wear it more than I ever could (there is still one small, perfect bottle of the eau de toilette upstairs somewhere for reference, but I myself am simply not built for this pallor….)
I adore smelling it on a woman so much more – on alabaster skin; a wrist concealed beneath a coat…..
In vintage parfum especially, Le Dix is timeless and beautiful; an almost mournful scent of chalk-white powder, musk; and a cool, dust-laden quality like an old French library in November.
Haunting, sad violets (pale, thoughtful; quietly rapturous) are sorrowfully captured in the fading dusk, as light filters through thick, stained glass…
Such rarified feminine wistfulness was not destined to last in this world of ours, and one can see why Balenciaga would choose to freshen up and ‘purify’ Le Dix for the modern audience. In any case, the current version is quite captivating, a stunning violet aldehyde with sparkling citrus top notes that you should try if you like others of its type (as a cooler, more contemplative Nº5)…
The reformulation of Le Dix has a certain sparkling uplift, vivacious, elegant and great for the evening and grand events. But for pure poetry, the vintage – so fine, so knowing and wildly introverted – is inescapable.