Category Archives: Rose perfumes










Impermanence, up for an artisan category nomination at the upcoming 2020 Art & Olfaction awards, is a perfume with a name for the times. Like everyone around the world, I have been thinking a lot about how much the coronavirus situation has changed, and will continue to change, people’s lives; shaping their choice of career (how lucky D and I are to be in education, relatively unscathed compared to so many other industries), how they travel, interact, have relationships… much has been upended. We started 2020 wishing each other good luck for the new decade, and within weeks were plunged into profound anxiety and uncertainty. Who could have predicted it all (except the epidemiologists?) The impermanent nature of everything  – the insecurity, the swift severing of ‘now’ from ‘before’, in a moment, was profoundly revealed – or highlighted, depending on your own previous philosophy of life: we feel more mortal, vulnerable, but at the same time , if we are lucky, happy to be alive.



Christele Jacquemin is a French photographer/ visual artist who makes natural perfumes based on her experiences of travel; Impermanence was apparently inspired by the artist’s residence in the village of Jin Ze, a suburb of Shanghai, where she spent a month walking around contentedly, along the canals, photographing an unfamiliar ancient place, preserved from tourism, where everything was new and stimulating to the senses; that sense of ‘harmony and tranquillity’ I also yearn for again when you forget yourself for a while; visit a new place with a totally different culture that lets you see things through a momentarily ‘enlightening’ prism; I had very similar feelings when we spent a day on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in Cambodia in 2018 visiting some ancient ruins, and then spent the afternoon wandering around a vast deserted temple complex by the river, smelling strange looking tropical flowers and the hot, dry air – the soft swaying reeds by the water. I don’t think I could have been happier.



Such happiness is always transitory, of course – and is based on your own projections onto a place, not its reality. You always go back home (if you even can at this time….) to face what is ‘real’, and so Ms Jacquemin set about recreating the sensations of positivity and tranquillity she had felt while at the village in a perfume that is uplifting, gentle, and pensive. I quite like it: rosemary, a note that is underused in my opinion, is here distilled cleanly to be very green and pure, without the rough,harsh ‘milkiness’ it can sometimes exhibit, combined with blue ginger, hinoki leaves and citric freshness of bergamot (which, linked to the vetiver in the base, briefly reminded me of my beloved Caron Eau Fraiche, a perfume that always makes me smile in summer) before ceding to a very pure rose absolute enveloped in the geranium/lemongrass related note of palmarosa – also a material not often featured in perfumes (I have made great skin preparations with this essential oil; it has an incredibly positive energy to it that lifts the spirits, and rejuvenates the skin)  – over a light touch of vetiver and maté tea.



As with many natural perfumes, when I smell this, I feel that sense sharpening relaxation of the autonomic system I have when I walk into my favourite aromatherapy shop in Tokyo, Tree Of Life – a place with a wonderful selection of essential oils of every description; some obscure and ultra expensive: distilled flower oils like broom and osmanthus, natural tuberose, violet, varieties of Japanese tree wood oils I have never heard of, whole ranges of lavenders from across the globe, with diffusers and mists of mint and geranium and rose hissing quietly into the surrounding air (rose otto, rose absolute, always at the heart of it all, as it is in this perfume; always rose, for some reason……………   is the rose the centre of the universe?) It is an unusual combination of notes that is perhaps too cheerful, ultimately, to capture the more wistful and sad concept of impermanence, at least as I see it; the Japanese fatalistic attitude of ‘oh well, it’s my time’, the cherry blossoms being blown from the boughs by the rain and the winds when they have only just bloomed, short lived, like the young samurai ready to die at any moment with the sword, while the stubborn Englishman clings to life like the dying rose with its thorns on the stem  –  a metaphor that can be seen in reality through my own attitude in categorically refusing to go in to work during the worst part of this crisis while my compatriots went into the headquarters unquestioningly everyday, prepared for sacrifice, come what may  –  but I think that this subtle composition will still definitely find its own unique place in my collection. I can imagine picking this up at certain moments; when at home, in a simpler, more serene mood; mind uncluttered, ready to get on with my day.






Filed under Rose perfumes














I have received a very pleasing influx of new scent samples this last week and feel quite reinvigorated for perfume. It is nice to just come home from work of an evening and reach out for something new to try; just laze on the sofa, read a book, and haphazardly spray on a fragrance from the padded envelope.





Randomly testing one scent the other evening without looking at what it was, I immediately sensed a Japanese quality to the composition. A watery, paired down aspect, but elegant, with tea and orange, light rose, and incense undertones. Squinting to see the name on the phial I saw it was a perfume called Memoire De Daisen-In, by Ella K, a brand that debuted in Shinjuku Isetan a couple of years ago and which I immediately recognized as being quite good. Very ‘curated’, cool, seamless perfumes, pleasing to wear.





















Light, reminiscent of subdued, fresh scents such as Hermes’ Rose Ikebana and Osmanthe Yunnan, the Ella K  website describes a scent of Kyoto reflection and calm :






































I myself only get attenuated hints of that city’s unique atmosphere, so austere, that ghostly gravitas that cannot be rendered in what to me is more of a Tokyo, urban perfume








From Fragrantica:

















( the woody, nutmeg aspects on my skin reminded of another perfume I once wore on occasion, Equus by Lalique)






















– these photos, incidentally, are not from Kyoto, but taken when we strolled into a random graveyard, at a shrine in the middle of the city on Saturday  : Tokyo has many such places :  drab, and grey, on a rainy October afternoon, but with a stillness, in the green, that clarified the mind.



















Appreciating the perfume’s qualities – a certain enigmatic crispness, and having out of the blue received an email from an old student of mine requesting a private lesson to brush up her English for a potential job that is coming up soon with LVMH (she was always very well presented even as a young teenager; always had a yen for the ‘finer things in life’, so I haven’t been at all surprised that she has been working with luxury brands since graduation ) I thought this would be the ideal interview scent for her – ambivalently unsweetened enough not to seem too obviously ‘feminine’ ( she dresses in black and sober colours, always with perfect cut ) but still with a certain chic and ‘young woman’s allure’ from the rose and the tea, and sharper, woodier notes that lie beneath. While we were discussing, at a cafe yesterday, the minutiae of the luxury industry in great detail, I presented her with the little boxed sample of Memoire De Daisen-In.








Yes. Perfect, she said – and now does indeed intend to wear a discreet spritz or two of the scent when she meets the acquisitions director for an interview in a couple of weeks (also : a new trench coat: accessories from Celine), and to round it all off, this unassuming – but sufficiently stylish and pleasingly fresh, elegant fragrance, clearly suited to Japanese tastes – that I feel sure will add a subtle, invisible deftness to her presentation.
















Filed under Flowers, Rose perfumes














I woke up through a tunnel of nightmares on Saturday morning and opened my eyes. Duncan had gone in to work for the opening ceremony of the school year; I had to get myself together for the evening’s performance.





Meeting Lona in a park to practice our moves, described with great precision by D in his notes (almost impossible for a person like me, who possibly has dyspraxia – a horrific clumsiness, as any of my friends or family members would vouch: a virtual lack of coordination and spatial awareness (which is why I would never drive – it would lead to death))     ……….I can’t even remember one part of dance choreography, nor get left and right correctly)) We nevertheless went through the instructions, like Japanese junior high school students doing their hip hop routines unselfconsciously in municipal areas for hours, to get them right







D then eventually turned up, reeking of, and drenched in, Rose Jam by Lush, a perfume I know he hates, passionately (when he hates a perfume there is always a visceral revulsion and rejection which begs the question why on earth he was wearing this sticky, Turkish rose, geranium and honey perfume that is like plunging your tongue into dollops of sickly sweet Russian rose jam in rice pudding smeared on somebody’s body)………………….well, the piece, based on an inscrutable poem called The  Promenade Of The Damned, had we, the handmaidens – though I felt somewhat more Anglo-Saxon than ancient Greek, more like a disrobed courtier from Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite – burning candle wax onto his laurelled head, and rose petals (drenched in Nahema); blowing glitter (he is still sparkling this morning); we came on bearing a pictorial representation of the sun, and a hand (Icarus), and rakes on either side, a bit grim reaper::  you could feel a slight hush and murmur in the audience as the first bit of visual stimulation of the night changed the sphere; ;;;;D coming in in a chameleon’s head and doing a slow motion flight towards being burned (and he had wanted a literal rose scent to augment the feeling in the room, seen a perfume with rose in the name back home as he panickedly tried to get his things together in the suitcase and come up to Tokyo, having forgotten, somehow (I never would have) that this was a perfume, that for him (and me, actually – just too potent and cloying), is very, very wrong. 






In England I had secretly scented his coat with two perfumes: on the collar, too much 1899 by Histoires De Parfums, an aromatic spice very redolent of fresh tobacco (in homage to Ernest Hemingway), one of a few perfumes I bought there, for D, as he loves tobacco perfumes, the other being a lavender for my mother, and a full bottle of Fragonard’s delectably lascivious amber, Reve Indien, which out shalimars Shalimar in its civety richness (gorgeous); I had also borrowed Daphne’s Santa Maria Novella Patchouli for radio interviews and surreptitiously lined his coat with it, at the base, at the back.  Now this is a classic patchouli, brilliant, tightly made, but it did, on this woollen coat, smell pungent as hell, and still continues to do so; right now, the earthy, musky scent of the entrails of patchouli in its driest death throes trails him like a long unwashed hippie, the balsams of the 1899 still lingering like sex on dirty sheets; the cloying erotica of his detested rose jam almost making me quite embarrassed last night, post performance, as we tried to find somewhere to eat : nowhere would have been suitable, I knew this: people in restaurants would have been repelled by how strong we smelled – – – – I had also rather overdone the Nahema – we smelled like an orgy of roses and dirt musk, most definitely enigmatic and troubling; but also, quite possibly, quite disgusting.


















Filed under occasionally sickening scents, postcards from the edge, Rose perfumes














We usually go to Isezakicho, the seedier, more ragtaggle side of Kannai station in Yokohama where all the thrift shops and vintage perfume and Thai karaoke bars are, but the beauty of essentially being out of the world for a while, but ready to plunge back in it, is that you suddenly wake up one day with a place you want to go seething in your conscious like a pre-ordained destiny, a place you haven’t been to for a very long time – but you know you have to go to;  there and only there; particularly on a cold, crisp but beautifully sunny Sunday stretching out before you when you just want to see and be and explore in wider, open spaces. And so we decided to go for a long stroll from Motomachi to Yamashita Park and through to the other side of the port of Kannai, the more stately and elegant side of the city with its European inspired stone buildings, maritime flavour, and melancholic, almost haunting, aura.





Through the Christmas music of the quaint and chichi Motomachi shopping street we passed by the ocean and Marine Tower; Barney’s New York; and through to Yamashita Park : families strolling, dogs frenetic, magicians doing tricks, ships at port of call, and, to our delight, an unexpected rose garden that was almost magical in its prettiness.





As chance would have it, being rather rose-oriented myself of late, I happened to be also wearing Rosarium Shiseido (the shampoo and the conditioner, which, though disastrously wrong for my hair type – it looked like pitiable strands of seaweed clinging to a rock, the worst hair day ever, the only negative point in what was otherwise a delightful day and evening out..) still does smell very pleasing; simple; a tea rose, rose hip and ‘living rose’ classical, accessible rose fragrance that provided a realistically perfumed backdrop to the stunning preponderance of flowers :  the roses themselves, beautiful, fluttering in the cold breeze in their rows – inexplicably, unscented.
















Filed under Flowers, Rose perfumes





I haven’t had a shower in three days. Duncan has Type A influenza, and I am feeling weird myself as well. Like a man suffering from rabies, I am hating the thought of water touching my body. Instead, I am dousing myself in cloves; in all the Italian perfumes I was writing about the other day, and, to go to the shops, in my pyjamas and a hoodie (because I can’t be bothered to get dressed), I am steeped in the exquisitely rare parfum of Shiseido’s Nombre Noir.



In my initial, stunned review (because I couldn’t believe that I had found it for the equivalent of ten dollars, or whatever it was) I admitted to you that I was overwhelmed and a tad dry-eyed; I suspect at that point I had been reading all the ecstatic reviews with perfume lovers prostrating themselves purple-prosedly before the altar of Serge Lutens and Mr. Turin, and the cynical, devil’s advocate in me could only smell a variant of Knowing, Rose De Nuit, and Jean-Marc Sinan, and had to churlishly beg to differ.



I still think that Rose De Nuit is probably the closest I have smelled to this delicious, damasceneous perfume (YES, it is all about the damascones, the volatile, neon prune roses) and they leap out from my hoodlum, crumpled clothes and fill up the room, as does all my SPICE from my skin that lies beneath – and also the stench, I suppose, of my lingering, unwashed filth.




And yet as I walk out into the cold cold night surrounded by this dramatic, incandescent, and decadent perfume I feel like the French aristocracy; like an iconic marquis, like the sybaritic, indulgent royal scumbag that I possibly once was, in another life long ago





(and yes, the photo above is of me, taken just after that monster got into power…….I wonder… all of this deep perfume mania, this pungent incantation, some kind of livid, pointless revenge; some kind of talismanic attempt to frustratedly de-poison him, and it all, from my system? I don’t know; I know that I am still, as many of you are, traumatised……………..)








Filed under Antidotes to the banality of modern times, Psychodrama, Rose perfumes

A rose, by my mate Keith








I am very conscious of the fact that you will be conscious of the fact that I am not writing. My well has run dry. I have nothing to say. I am exhausted and work has taken over (please forgive me), but I suppose that it was inevitable. I had four weeks off for spring, which was sheer bliss, and before that, right back until November, I had no morning classes and a much lighter schedule, and so so much more time to wake up and plough my instincts, when words rise up and I cannot stop them there are so many things that I am bursting out to say.  Right now there are NO WORDS. I am severed.  I wake up and I can’t write. All the teaching has just cut off my cortex and inspiration.



Lo siento.



Anyway, my friend put up this divine looking rose on Facebook tonight and I stole it immediately. It looks so wet, and so dewy, and so fragrant, that I just want to plunge my parched face and mind into its petals and inhale its sweet fragrance. I may not wear rose perfumes any more, but I still don’t think that there is anything quite like a natural, breathing, magnificent rose such as this.


Filed under Flowers, Psychodrama, Rose perfumes





Wall Art: Spring Rain And Roses










The fifth Goutal rose after Rose Absolue, Quel Amour, Ce Soir Ou Jamais and Rose Splendide, Rose Pompon, the latest release from the Parisian house of fairy tale charms, is clearly targeted at a younger, more fresh-faced clientele.


Fusing very natural smelling essences of Rose de Bulgarie and Rose Taif with tart, fresh upnotes of blackcurrant/cassis and summertime raspberries, Rose Pompon follows the house’s more commercial and easily comprehended (some might say faceless) releases such as the light-headed Vent De Folie (2014), and the neroli-green tastic L’Isle Au The (2015 – and please forgive me – I still haven’t worked out where the French accents are on this new computer keyboard).


The blackcurrant/rose idea has been done several times before, of course, most notably in perhaps the originator of this idea – Diptyque’s seminal L’Ombre Dans L’Eau, a perfume I own and enjoy on occasion for the greennees of its English smelling snobbery and the riverbank imagery it evokes; and also Yves Saint Laurent’s big nineties hit Baby Doll, which was also cassissy and grapefruit-kissed, if a bit sharp and sassy about its Lolita-ish, phoney eyelash frills.


The hallmark of an Annick Goutal creation though is always a sensation of effortlessness and of symmetry – a seamlessness that comes from all the notes working in carefully calibrated harmony, and Rose Pompon is no exception to this rule of beautifully balanced clarity. While the central idea feels familiar, it is nevertheless done to perfection: optimistic and happy (just what Parisians probably need at this time), the tart fruit notes blended nicely with the dew-freshed roses, a safe and unthreatening scent that would be perfect as a jolie young teenage girl’s debut.


I just hope that the house is not going to get too soft around the edges and ‘sell out’. While the classics in the stable (which dates back to the early eighties) such as Grand Amour, Passion, and  Heure Exquise were all very ‘proper’ but full-bodied, classical bouquets, in recent years, the house has also come up with some quite unusual curiosities: Mandragore Pourpre, Nuit Etoilee, Eau Du Fier and Un Matin d’Orage – all quite daring perfumes in their way, as were the Orientalist sequence of scents from ten years ago or so – Myrrhe Ardente, Encens Flamboyant and Musc Nomade: all distinctive enough to remain in my scent memory (and of course I could never forget their exquisite Songes – possibly the best tropical floral ever created). While I am yet to smell the new Les Absolus D’Annick Goutal, comprising 1001 Ouds (really? Did you have to?), Ambre Sauvage and Vanille Charnelle – because obviously, nobody in Japan would ever buy them even though they sound right up my street – my feeling is that in the last few releases by the company, there has most definitely been less bite and brain, more kiss.


But that’s OK. And the Japanese girls eagerly smelling Rose Pompon at the Takashimaya counter in Yokohama the other day certainly didn’t seem to be complaining. Annick Goutal here was dishing up exactly what these customers were wanting: something pretty, something pink –  something happy.






The Dancing Rose


Filed under Flowers, Rose perfumes





Misia is surprising. There is a new and optimistic heedlessness to this scent that sets it apart not only from the dignified and beautiful classics from this house – as well as its big commercial blockbusters – but also from the more preened and ‘luxurious’ stablemates from the house of ‘Les Exclusifs’ – 28 La Pausa, Bel Respiro  – with their glimmering – if sometimes strained and diluted – facades of Parisian and New York chic.

A new perfumer is at work.  Olivier Polge, son of Jacques, in-house perfumer since I978 and soon to become the chief Chanel scent creator himself, has authored his first creation for the house, and judging from this exuberant and outgoing perfume it seems that he may well be about to take the company’s fragrances in a different, more uninhibited direction. I had heard of course that Misia was a ‘retro’-influenced perfume, based on the smell of lipstick and powder, of violets and roses (but then I had also heard that I932 was a ‘jasmine vetiver’ and my expectations couldn’t have possibly been more deflated by a perfume than that pitiable creation), meaning that I was expecting something watered down; ‘just so’; revised, clear – finding instead upon smelling it yesterday at Takashimaya department store in Yokohama that this was a blast: a fun-loving, hedonistic, thickly made-up creation that didn’t strike me as being particularly Chanel-ish but which reminded me immediately instead of the lovely Teint De Neige by Lorenzo Villoresi and also the delectable La Rose De Rosine, a scent I sometimes wear come this time of year because it is just so carefree, full, and sense-fillingly nonchalant that it makes you almost want to get down and can-can.

On further inspection, as you get into the drydown and the heart of Misia, you realize that despite its apparent ardor and simplicity this is in fact a Chanel: the perfume is no way near as poignant or touching as the Villoresi, nor as loose at the seams and louche as the Rosine; there is still that porcelain Chanel backbone somewhere at the centre – that Rue Cambon throw. Nevertheless, the initial violet-drenched rose (there is a lot of violet in this perfume) is a gorgeously sweet and heady blend of the typical rose de mai with a more voluptuous and throaty Turkish rose essence that took me quite aback for its full-throttle, powdered ambush: less a prim, ladylike portrait of a slim, mirrored compact, this was more pierrot to me: costumed, exuberant…… and in fact the perfumer has said that he was influenced by Diaghlev’s Ballets Russes and the clamour backstage as the dancers foist themselves into their costumes before heading for the performance; the feminine scent of skin, bodies and thick pancake commingling in the high octane excitement of the dressing room throng (an idea also interestingly explored in Pierre Guillaume’s Poudre Riz). Misia Sert herself, the perfume’s direct inspiration, was Gabrielle Chanel’s best friend and confidante, muse to many artists of the period – featuring in paintings by Toulouse Lautrec and Renoir – and a decadent bohemian and sensualist who was involved in scandaous ménages a troix and drug use while simultaneously maintaining a successful career as a concert pianist.

But though certainly a supremely confident scent, I don’t really think that any of the subtleties or complexities of this woman, as I read of her, can be said to be present in her twenty first century perfumed incarnation. The Chanel scent inspired by her name is in some ways rather thick and simplistic (though it is certainly no mean feat to make something that eludes to the past but still smells new and contemporary in this way): Misia is a barrage, almost a cloy, of violets roses and smooth, sexual benzoin resin and tonka beans that I can imagine becoming a little overinsistent were you to be in constant daily contact. But while it might lack that Chanel, standoffish finesse, there is also a new brightness here, an uplifting, posey punch of confidence and vitality – unbounded and unfettered, comfortable in its own skin – that suggests that Olivier Polge might be able to give Chanel, whose perfumes in truth I have not been very excited by of late, a much needed new lease of life.


Filed under Rose perfumes, Violet perfumes