Category Archives: Vetiver

BLANK SLATE ::::::::::: SESAME CHAN by ANIMA VINCI (2018) + MUGLER COLOGNE : LOVE YOU ALL (2018) + ALL ABOUT THE BOOK LAUNCH AND MY STRANGE, INTENSE, TRIPLE LIFE

 

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Sometimes it is difficult to distill experiences into words. Especially when they have been  among the most intense and memorable of your life (this post might take several chapters; or alternatively, realistically, as time gets swallowed up in the living of the regular week, not even amount to much at all – yesterday I went back to work, shaved my beard off, and became someone I am not again, with all the damage that entails to the body and the soul). The flight home was exhausting, memories gestating in my head, the bifurcation of cultures, the rabbit hole of my existence.

 

 

 

England was fantastic. It was great to have our own pad in Pimlico to slink back to this time, rather than carting suitcases on the underground and half-sleeping on other people’s sofas (those days are gone: I am too old). It meant we could retreat and conserve energy. And wake up on white, Georgian streets, and see England with new eyes. Night taxis past the Houses Of Parliament and the London Eye; gliding silently past midnight clad in new perfumes to demarcate new experience: I had been given a bottle of a perfume by Anima Vinci, and also something entirely not me (and yet me: I wore it in great profusion……after meeting Monsieur and Madame Persolaise for a catch up at an Indian restaurant, though exhausted from the night before – the launch and the gathering afterwards – there was one more assignation to Dalston to go to the house of one Lyall Hakaraia : a fascinating creature from New Zealand who lives in  permanently flower drenched air, on this occasion an almost suffocating pleasure of lilies, hyacinths and tuberoses, his own club in the basement – Femmetopia – but it was too cold for me to dance; my heating needs are now beyond reptilian – Garrick, the host of the party where I played with Anne Pigalle (did I really?) there, resplendent in what looked like black Issey Miyake……it felt like a stage set, I was in The Matrix, Lyall in silk Japanese dressing gown, classical music coming from Radio 3 as they waited for JT Leroy, who was staying there and drinking at a pub around the corner………(surreal).

 

 

I had been unable to bear the smell of all the fried onions on my clothes, to the extent that I couldn’t even wear my coat (death for me): instead I had had an emergency shower and different, boring clothes, and sick of bloody No 19, which I have been signaturing all over the shop, felt like a new skin: : :: Mugler’s Love You All sprayed all over me like a waterfall: all steamed, laundry fresh ultramodern neroli and probably lime and the most innocuous, almost angelic, white musks, for that moment it felt strange but absolutely right, and our host made motions of pleasure as he inhaled me brushing past, climbing the stairs away from the revellers in the basement to the unbelievable florality of the reeking fleurs du mal of the living room and kitchen where we sipped neat Zubrowka vodka and rambled coherently about all kinds of nonsense until it was suddenly 3am and we had to leave in order not to miss our morning trains.

 

 

 

Back home at my parents’, I was completely drawn to wearing Anima Vinci’s delicious Sesame Chan, a perfume of extreme, soothing comfort that fits me like a glove and is my new favourite scent. Those that like Hermes’ Vetiver Tonka will in all likelihood also like this warm gourmand based on vetiver with delicately balanced notes of ginger, hazelnut, cereals, sesame and an eventual base note of pure, soft vanilla……I was LOVING myself on the train ride home, past fields of green, lost in thought and a novel, constantly aware of the aura around me: sweet, but not too much so, fresh, light, yet long lasting and completely pleasurable ; for me this is a perfectly blended comfort blanket and I am going to wear it today in Tokyo as well (tonight, in a sharp reverse from yesterday’s dungeon of condensed office culture I am attending the launch party of a Canadian poet, Joy Waller, and her first published book of poetry, Pause: Heartbeat, at which a range of foreign Tokyoites are going to interpret some of her works, including Duncan, who will be Icarus, and myself and Lola his Grecian tormentors (Burning Bush in a sack and a rake….I am getting whiplash just thinking about it: sometimes I feel that my own life is happening beyond my authorisation and I just watch it salaciously).

 

 

 

It was somewhat similar at the Launch party. The day before, I had been on BBC Radio London, live, which was a terrifying experience (have I already talked about this? probably), but it was so heightened and heartbeaty arriving at Broadcasting House, getting through all the levels of security, going up to Jo Good’s floor, where she was doing her show, talking about all kinds of things: Brexit, the price of tuna steaks, Neil Chapman’s perfume book – and feel free to call in and ask him any questions about fragrance! I am also going to ask him to guess what I am wearing…….as I sat in the lobby, knowing that I would be on after the news and a song::: holding my bag o ‘ perfumes close to me, knowing I would be talking live and having absolutely no idea how it would turn out…Neil you are on in five; Neil you can come in now, as the new single by Bananarama was playing –  who were being interviewed after me – I now wished I could have hung around a bit longer and met them as I used to love their early stuff, but I was already being ushered out at that point, the fifteen minutes having gone by so quickly. Ms Good was a lovely woman; really enthusiastic, and she loved the fact that I had taken so many scents in for her to try. I found myself quite enjoying myself by the end, getting into my stride.

 

 

 

It all took its nerve toll, though, and although D and his parents came round in the evening, fresh from the Norwich bus and staying at the Windermere Hotel next door to hear me on the radio – like families gathering around the wireless in the 1940’s there was something very special and beautiful about this, my mum having also called up having just got back from the hairdresser’s, hearing something about tuna steaks and then not being able to believe her son was on the radio, she and dad gathered around the computer back home……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day though I had to be alone to get my act together for the evening. The Launch. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are times in your life that you know are going to be defining moments. And this was definitely one of them (hopefully not the apex, but who knows? Perhaps this was my small moment). Whatever it was, it involved people from my life coming together – ‘characters’ from my book : girls, women from the past -(and present, we are still in contact) Rebecca, Natasha, Julianne, Julia, of course Helen, but in the flesh – friends from university I hadn’t seen for twenty five years (Lesley! Artemis, it was divine to see you, seriously), my family, and Duncan’s – plus The Perfume Society, hosted by Jo Fairley, who had just rushed across London fresh from winning a Jasmine Award, and though I have realised that in truth I am not entirely comfortable with eyes and attention on me (hence not wanting to teach any more – at times I feel violated by it: : :I get more and more sensitive as I get older, not less – I thought it was meant to be the opposite); this was different: in essence a celebration. The book, with its gold-embossed pages, was piled up on a table near the entrance. The handsome duo of my cousin Dominic and his husband Scott arrived (both architects/ designers) and seemed quite taken with it; there was Mrs Dalloway from The Black Narcissus too, and Catherine, standing shyly in a corner (very nice to meet you!), Samantha from I Scent You A day, with a friend (so sorry we didn’t get to properly talk: it was like that with everyone though: I was jealous of people being able to just relax and have conversations): Emma we hardly spoke at all, which I regret: Rachel and Sally, hardly at all either (sorry!): a lovely Japanese lady who has given me some introductions to perfume people in Tokyo (I am trying to get a Japanese co-edition put out for the small but passionate fragrance lovers of this city), all kinds of people, but in truth within the swirl of the champagne and the food – which I didn’t touch, weird for me I didn’t even get a chance to relieve my bladder- and with everything going on I had to be interviewed in front of everyone and read from the book, and I was not entirely present. At the time, or immediately afterwards, I couldn’t even remember anything I said: : afterwards I realised that despite feeling like the heaviest person in the world, heavier than lead, an animated corpse jolted by electric batteries to come alive and say something, as though I was rallying myself and battening down to the primal basics, eventually I started flowing; Jo was down to earth, relaxed and saying very nice things about the book, and I let my eccentricities out – I do remember quite a few times that people were laughing.

 

 

 

 

 

I signed books – by the end of the event there were none left, or maybe one (Georgia, I can’t believe you bought four, or was it five?) and we all piled next door to a cocktail bar, where everyone met and talked and the time went in no time in a blur of booze and love, and we found ourself in yet another taxi going home.

 

 

 

 

So: the book is out. It came out in America on April 2nd. There have been some extremely glowing reviews from The Perfume Society, Persolaise, I Scent You A Day, Australian Perfume Junkies, The Fragrant Wanderer, and Old Herbaceous (thanks very much), all of which I am so delighted with, – you never know how things will be received,) so it does seem that my crazed and pressurised labours of last year were not in vain. I expect the intense and touching memories will eventually decompact themselves and I may write more on all of this again, but for now I have to get ready for Duncan’s piece tonight, again on stage: : what has happened to me! Am I an extroverted introvert or the other way round: (how about you?). His piece, based on another’s poem, on the intense desire to escape life, or at the very least reality. Which, ultimately, in many ways, is what my book is basically about. The desire for beauty, and the transcendental.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reviews:

 

 

 

 

 

https://thefragrantwanderer.wordpress.com

 

https://perfumesociety.org/delve-into-the-best-perfume-book-weve-read-in-years/

 

https://iscentyouaday.com/2019/03/22/perfume-in-search-of-your-signature-scent-by-neil-chapman/

http://persolaise.blogspot.com/2019/03/persolaise-review-perfume-in-search-of.html

 

https://scentsandsensibilities.co/category/books-i-like/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Citrus, Gourmand, Neroli, PERFUME: IN SEARCH OF YOUR SIGNATURE SCEN, PERFUME: IN SEARCH OF YOUR SIGNATURE SCENT reviews, Vetiver

EAU DE VERVEINE, SAIGON

 

 

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Greetings from Saigon; Good Morning Vietnam, etc; Tao Dan Park, where I inaugurated my remixed Verveine Naturelle by Cadentia – a full, if unvarying inexpensive verbena cologne that comes in huge 500 ml bottles – but which I have freshened and diversified with essential oils of bergamot, lemon and vetiver for extra development and interest.

 

It works a treat in this weather – hot and humid but nothing like Japan in August; this just feels lush and tropical. I have chosen a vetiver theme for the holiday : emptied/ sprayed virtually a whole bottle of a Florame eau biologique into my unusually early packed suitcase last week : the organic, dry, earthy vetiver with a slightly bitter adjunct of lavender mellowed down beautifully and has suffused all my clothes. Thus, for day, this cologne which I have decanted into varying sized spray bottles to secrete on my person works perfectly for day wear; at night I can shower and use something aldehydic with vetiver in the base (Calandre, Caleche), or a more ‘gentlemanly’ vetiver – last night I wore Vetyver by Roger Et Gallet which worked nicely during our first foray into the city, which, far to the south of Hanoi, where we went three and a half years ago, feels more expansive, languorous and less furrow browed : there is an openness.

 

 

For nightlife – who can resist a disco called Apocalypse Now ?  – I have Guerlain Lys Soleia, vanilla tropical lily that goes better with the vetiver than you might imagine and Unum Opus  1144 – a lemon opoponax amber: D is rocking his Comme Des Garçons Black Pepper, which is gravely seductive but a bit full on : I might try to find him something else while we are here. Mind you, it might be suitable for the Revolutionary Museum, which we are about to head off to, having come back for a quick sojourn at our hotel

 

 

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It’s so nice to be away !

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Citrus, postcards from the edge, Vetiver

IN SEARCH OF : : : GOLD by AMOUAGE (1983) + PIRATES’ GOLD by HOVE PARFUMEUR (?) + HABANITA by MOLINARD (1921)

 

 

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Although most of our physical and emotional energy has recently been sucked up by the demands of the school new term on top of the exhausting (but marvellous) complications of making a sumptuous and ridiculous comedy horror movie up in Tokyo, there are still times when a relaxed and quieter weekend here in Kamakura are what the doctor ordered. The other weekend was just that: a Saturday spent just pottering about at home, and the Sunday a walk down into the small but ancient capital of which we are so fortunate to be residents.

 

I had noticed a small bottle of scent that I had somehow become oblivious to. I suppose there are so many perfumes just lying around in various nooks and corners of the house that I sometimes just overlook them. This one, though, I didn’t even realize I had: an extrait sample bottle of Hové Parfumeur’s Pirates’ Gold, that I had received, along with Spanish Moss (now where has that one got to?) when I bought the delightful Vetiver and Plage d’été from that glorious shop in New Orleans back on New Years Eve, 2015.

 

That city still haunts us and we want to return.  This time, in summer perhaps, to drench up the heat and the atmosphere even more – I don’t mind how sweltering it gets; it couldn’t be any hotter or more humid than Japan is in August and we can both handle it fine – there was just something about that place; so spirit-filled and weird, that I think we both have ‘Southern Gothic’ now permanently infiltrated as part of our psychic bloodstream.

 

I had just been reading Daphne DuMaurier’s page turner Jamaica Inn (1936), a surprisingly violent but very exciting thriller set in Cornwall about pirates and all manner of plundering, murdering and generally fiendish devil-doing, and so the sudden sighting of Pirates’ Gold, a small bottle standing on some furniture in the piano room, seemed opportune. Prising open the lid (I don’t think I had ever smelled it, even though it had been there for over a year) I was greeted with a warm, dense, rich and golden smell of aldehydes and spice; of leather and old-fashioned hunk papa and thought to myself yes, this refulgent specimen might make a very nice Sunday afternoon scent for the D – I’ll get him to try it when we go out.

 

And he did. It was glorious on him, (he now keeps the little bottle tucked inside the change pocket of his wallet, which was scented by me with pure patchouli oil and gets people swooning when it is opened; you can see pupils slightly dilating when he gets his money out to pay), especially when then pared, later, with a dose of vintage Amouage Gold Man, a bottle of which is available at a Kamakura antiques shop I frequent for 20,000 yen (about 200 dollars, but she says that it would have originally cost about 100,000; this is a boxed set with soap in the almost ridicuously adorned gold Arabic bottle) and which she allowed us to spray on Duncan even though I wasn’t planning to actually buy it. I think I have bought enough things from her now that she knows that I can be trusted and that when it comes to perfume, I am the real deal.

 

 

We went to a Turkish restaurant. The food in Japan, whatever you eat, is always high quality. Whether you are an aficionado of washoku traditional Japanese cuisine or not ( and I am not, on the whole, I like about half of it), whatever you eat is delicious, fresh and aeons better than anything you can get back home or in the majority of other countries. The French bread is as good as that in Paris, the Chinese food unbelievable, even cheap, basic Japanese eateries incredibly well made and good value, and this is why eating out here in this country is always such a pleasure. The simple fact is that a mediocre establishment just won’t get any customers (as food is basically life here in this culture, to an extent that annoys me if I am truthful), and so to survive, you have to be good and incontrovertibly oishii (delicious).

 

 

And so it was. But what was stimulating my senses far more than the delectable beef in yoghurt and tomato sauce that I was eating along with some very fresh and piquant meze was the smell, from across the table, of Duncan’s combined gold. Amouage is an aldehydic, floral, and very animalic sandalwood, resplendent and regal, that wasn’t quite his actual cup of tea for its rosy, almost ruinous sourness, but which I can tell you from my end where I was sitting, smelled very erotic (was it the civet, the rock rose, the glorious dryness of the blend, whose tenacity was getting on his nerves, particularly when mingling with the male repleteness of the Pirate?) I don’t know. But what I do know was that it made me realize quite profoundly how little perfume is consciously and intelligently used these days as a purposeful object of desire: that a well chosen scent selection can be a genuinely seductive swirl of odours that discombulate the senses and scythe effortlessly through the resistance of the rational; that the inhalation of a beautifully made perfume emanating from the body of a human being can root you in a moment of sensory perception that has nothing to do with politics or logic or the everyday and for a few seconds at least can plunge you into something that feels like eternity.

 

 

The texture and the heft, the dense thickness of these scents with their varying layers of wood and ambered perception then got me dreaming back to Mexico City. We went there about ten years ago before attending a friend’s wedding down south in Guadalajara, and I still remember the joy, after the endless journey from Japan, of waking up in such an unfamiliar – and for a British person living in Japan – very exotic location, in our hotel room, and the pleasure of unpacking and taking out the new perfumes I had brought with me. All perfume lovers know this  feeling. Yes, you have your essential fragrances with you in your suitcase that you know you will wear sooner or later, once you are a few days into your vacation. But what a thrill to arrive in a brand new place and after your first shower of that day to apply something you have never even tried before, a heady collaboration of sense and temporality as the perfume fuses with the sensations you are experiencing as you head out the door and let the new environment just wash over you. I remember on that sun-filled August  morning I was wearing Yerabate by Lorenzo Villoresi, a lovely hay-like green aromatic citrus that was perfect with my morning coffee, but then as the evening wore on I  took out from my pocket the vial of Habanita parfum that I had got from Les Senteurs on Elizabeth Street, London, and which I had saved until this sunset moment, and wore like a cloak.

 

 

The experience of both Golds on Duncan somehow suddenly caterpulted me back to this first wearing of Habanita as we recklessly explored all neighbourhoods of Mexico City, later that evening and night, heedless as to which parts might be more dangerous than others ( if this was even true)  my tobacco-fused vetiver vanilla, dark and a little bit dastardly,  the perfect accompaniment. And on that Sunday in Kamakura, as we sat in the Turkish restaurant by a window overlooking the main town square, my smell brain had strangely brought it back to life so completely I found that I was craving it (anyone else out there love Habanita?): that elegant fusion of smoky, sinewy richness that was so ripe, and alluring, in that new and thrilling Latin context.

 

 

In my view, perfume does not need to be just this tame, thoughtless afterthought that it is for the majority of people who just wear any old cheap commercial rubbish that has no spirit or tangible greatness. It can flood the sky and the air all around you, be the colour that cradles your brain and your day as you three dimensionalize what you are living with sight, and sound, and the memory of smell. With perfumes this sensual and rich, created by knowing perfumers who have perfected their art and filled their languid liquids with intelligence, sensuality and poetry, it can be an anchor.

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Filed under Floral Aldehydes, Flowers, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Vetiver

SAVAGERY & CIVILIZATION: : SYCOMORE by CHANEL (2008)

 

 

 

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Sycomore is one of my very, nearly, almost perfumes. In that, if I were to somehow receive a bottle as a present I would be quite thrilled, but I am simultaneously not ever quite thrilled enough to buy one (in Japan you can only get the three hundred dollar 200ml bottle, so that is simply never going to happen). I do want it though, someday. Definitely. And when I do I will probably get through it in no time as I did with my Tom Ford Grey Vetiver  and my Maître Parfumeur et Gantier’s  Racine (exquisite), and all vetiver perfumes generally.  I love them. I feel natural in them.

 

 

 

 

A refined, dense but very sinewy perfume that is all about vetiver from the start to the finish with its typically Jacques Polge excellence and long-lastingly quality Chanel architecture, Sycomore comes on to the skin fully realized, the vine-like vetiver central note encased in a subtle aldehyde and sandalwood papousse, a fine hint of violets, and the mulched, cool earth of the forest floor – with delicate undertone touches provided by myrtle and tobacco. If you have never smelled this lesser known perfume from the Chanel Exclusifs, however, it is possible that I am perhaps, as usual, poeticizing it (or trying to) a touch too much, because despite the perfume’s very wearable and dependable artistry, I do always feel, every time I smell it, that something is missing within the structure, that it is overly monothematic and needed some iris or some other flowers  à la Nº19, or else another note of more left-field eccentricity just to elevate it more imaginatively above the merely chic and ‘beautifully done’. The perfume is very nice, certainly, and one of the very best vetiver fragrances that you can buy, but for me it definitely does lack poetry.

 

 

 

Still, I was happy to reacquaint myself again with Sycomore the other night at the Chanel counter in Yokohama’s grand Takashimaya store, spraying myself liberally and wishing in fact at that moment that I had enough money to just plump for a bottle on the spot  (I do, also, I have to say,  incidentally, that love that name – Sycomore; so evocative for me, as those trees and the little helicopter seeds that come whirling down gently from above to the autumnal ground were something I was always fascinated by as a child, at my lovely little primary school back home  – Oak Cottage, a halcyon time in my education at that school surrounded by fields and trees and the perfect place for a boy like me to indulge in his fertile, strange imagination). Like oak trees and poplars, beech trees and all the beautiful deciduous trees in the parks and the countryside back in Ol’Blighty, sycamores having a very magical quality for me, the England in my DNA, the seasons.

 

 

 

Sycomore the perfume, however, has none of this youthful delicacy. For me, it is an impeccable, elegant, but also very urban perfume –  if still a tenuously pertinent scent, in theme and partially in execution, in its green and woody evocations of forest depths, for the film we were about to go and watch at the cinema, the Oscar-winning (and oh, how it went for those Oscars!) ‘The Revenant’ , starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hardy and directed by the Mexican master of miserabilism, Alejandro Iñnáritu. I am not usually a fan of this director’s work with the exceptions of Birdman and Amores Perros  (nihilism and despair are two things I am not really interested in), but I had heard good things about this latest film from some friends of mine, particularly about the innovative cinematography, and was precisely in the mood for being immersed in nature, in the iced landscapes of American and Argentina, in the uncontaminated purity of lakes and rivers and snow, and, after all the pink and camp effrontery of the recent shenanigans in Tokyo with our own  film making, just some air, some space, and some good old murderous revenge served ice cold.

 

 

 

 

You couldn’t really have a more malodorous film than The Revenant. You can see quite clearly that all the characters, from our shuttered, modernised viewpoint, stink. What is fascinating about watching it, beside the intrigue of the story, with its raw desperation and gruelling arduousness, the dazzling photography (the film was made entirely using natural light and it shows), and the piercingly beautiful soundtrack, is the visceral truth  that ultimately we really are just animals; beasts fighting for survival, dirty and stench-ridden to the point where we blend right back in with nature and where it doesn’t matter any more; and when the cover up and the lie – perfume, for instance – that intricate olfactory mask with which we adorn ourselves – is exposed as a strange kind of deluded frippery. Yes, we might smell beautiful in our chosen beloved perfumes on a daily basis, but how feral and rancid we would all start to smell in different circumstances, toiling rabidly in rank, soiled bear skins just to stay alive, feeding on raw bison liver and whatever scraps of meat we could get our hands on, as our foul, festering wounds from the bite of the bear reveal the organic rot of our own fragile flesh.

 

 

 

 

 

For me, as a man who is totally led by his senses, this fear of the wild pungence that we subconsciously know lurks always there within us was one thing that was intimately exposed in watching this quite masterfully rendered film (with Sycomore, as a contrast, always providing a mesmerisingly oppositional accompaniment). Based on the true story of a fur trapper who was savaged by a bear, betrayed by his fellow hunters and left for dead in the wilderness after witnessing his son being cruelly murdered, we watch a mauled, sick and bewildered individual crawl 200 miles through unchartered pristine terrain in vast, primal landscapes of iced rivers, mountains and wind-whipped dark green pine forests, drenched in freezing waters, always on the verge of shivering to death (as the actors and crew were in real life, apparently, always at the whim of their quixotic and  sadistic director), compelling and far-reaching to the eyes and the brain in its clear and awe-filled capturing of nature……..but the stench. The putridity. The clinging, great unwashedness. I could feel it. Like the bear that bites through his flesh and drools incapably over his face (a viscerally impactful scene that is nevertheless quite hard to watch as you quake in your cinema seat), the bear is just protecting its young, reacting on instinct, just as the character, Hugh Glass, is trying to protect his. Both creatures are ensconced in their condensed, unwashed odours, the smells that chemically come naturally from their heat producing bodies, as the trappers come across Glass –  helpless, bleeding and broken, almost crushed beneath the hulk of the huge wild bear that, stabbed and shot, has fallen down now into a crevasse on top of him, the man on the verge of death and oblivion. Against the back drop of all the ice, and the snow, and the howling, ferocious winds, and the constant unrelentingness of nature, you realize quite profoundly, then, that his crude, foul smells, his blood mingling with the bear’s, would just in fact, in these circumstances, be irrelevant, that they might even be a source of comfort: the warm moisture of self, of still breathing, of still being alive.

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Filed under Flowers, Vetiver

You could say I like it……..the man who wears vintage Chanel Nº19 extrait as an aftershave

 

 

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Filed under Flowers, Green, Leather, Vetiver

MIND OVER MATTER: : : : : : : :: MEMOIRE DU FUTUR, PARTICULES IMPREVISIBLES, ABSTRACTION RAISONEE, IRIS PALLADIUM, CHAMP D’INFLUENCE & MOMENT PERPETUEL by LES EAUX PRIMORDIALES ( 2015 )

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‘Les Eaux Primordiales’ is a series of new perfumes created by 28 year-old perfumer Arnaud Poulin. Intellectual in inspiration, with a very French emphasis on philosophy, culture and the abstract, the key concept behind the brand is apparently ‘atemporality in movement’, the Cinquième Sens-trained perfumer basing his creations on the foundations of the traditional ‘Great Perfumery’ while seeking to ‘redefine contemporary classics with the use and reinvention of sometimes forgotten olfactory families.’ In essence, all six scents are well made and attractive, with enough personality to perhaps achieve Monsieur Poulin’s goal of creating emotions ‘able to make body and soul come closer to each other, to be an imaginary addition to one’s persona, to create a world of one’s own’.

 

IRIS PALLADIUM

Notes: Italian Orris, bergamot, carrot seed, sage, ‘solar jasmine’, violet, sandalwood, cedar, tonka bean, labdanum, patchouli, white musk.

 

‘Duality between two materials: a flower and a precious-metal. The smell of a time when ladies would use perfume and powder. Our iris comes from Italy and diffuses smells of makeup powder, violet, and also, dust’.

 

From the above description you might imagine that Iris Palladium is a feminine, maquillaged iris along the lines of Frederic Malle’s Iris Poudre or even Chanel’s girlish, lipstick-smeared Misia, but nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, I find this staid and savoury iris to be more akin to Armani Privé’s La Femme Bleue (though without that perfume’s inherent mystery).

I do love iris, particularly when it is on the more melancholy tip: Hermès Hiris, Iris Silver Mist, Le Labo Iris 39 and N0 19 immediately spring to mind, but I can also enjoy a more sawdusty, mellow, almost salty orris number like Iris Palladium. Androgynous, subtle but diffusive, this makes an intriguing skin scent that would draw people to you even if it is perhaps lacking the wow factor that would make me want to buy it. For the fiercest iris aficionados, though, those who want to have an orris for every shade along the irisian PH spectrum, this new take on the powdery, dusty classic is certainly worth sampling.

 

MOMENT PERPETUEL

Notes: lavender, violet, blackcurrant, blackberry, fir balsam, hedione, musk

 

‘The name comes from the mechanical universe, perpetual movement. By definition, a moment has a beginning and an end, therefore Moment Perpétuel is the idea of an infinite moment, infinite joy, and why not, infinite love’.

 

Ahem. That is quite the spiel to introduce what is essentially a fruity lavender, but fortunately, the opening of this perfume is rather joyous: a very beautiful, and original, high quality, French lavender top note tinted with violet, and aureoled quite inspirationally with a beautifully optimistic, fresh, and bucolic  note of blackcurrant and blackberry – a purple fusion of happiness that really works. Both I and my other half immediately took to this one, and I insisted that he go out into town later to do some shopping wearing it to see how it progressed. It smelled lovely. An hour or two after he had come back home though I kept wondering where the smell of Gucci Envy was coming from, or if he had sprayed something similiar in the bathroom. It was a smell I was quite enjoying – fresh, clean, green, soapy – as I do like Envy, that stilettoed green classic from the nineties that was inexplicably, along with Rush, discontinued (coincidentally, we had just got a miniature Envy For Men the other day from a recycle shop – lord that stuff is sexy, a virile ginger swooner, I had forgotten) and I was actually planning to do a review, soon, of both. Nice though that scent might be, however, it was a strange ending – and one that he smells quite strongly of this morning – for a scent that began with a totally unconnected, and very natural smelling, burst of provencal lavender. A curious scent, then, this ‘perpetual moment’ and something of a schizo, but one I can imagine one of us, if the right multiple-personality mood should suddenly take hold,  probably wearing again.

 

PARTICULES IMPREVISIBLES

NOTES: pink pepper, rose berries, cumin, elemi resin, cypriol, guaiac wood, ginger, thyme, rosemary, smoked woods, incense, labdanum, vanilla and amber

 

Unfortunately, I detest the synthetically enhanced wood trend in current perfumery to the extent that I can’t be rational or objective. I can’t even test this sort of fragrance on my skin, nor even stand to have the room I am in smelling of it either if I were to spray some on a card (seriously), but fortunately, for the sake of perfume fairness, my best friend in Japan, Junko, can. She is the opposite of me, and thus the recipient of any and all boisés I might receive in the post. Perfumes that I would immediately simply want to throw out of the window usually without getting to know how they actually develop on the skin because I really just can’t stand that rasping, harsh dessication for even a moment, I get to experience (and even quite enjoy, bizarrely) on her. She is my ‘wood model’, if you like, and in this way I have been able to get different perspectives on such intense unalloyed woodies as Sacred Woods By Kilian and Bois d’Hiver by Ex Nihilo, a scent she has become so obsessed with she is now in London, as we speak, trying to  find it. She would probably also like Particules Imprévisibles (and I will of course give my sample bottle to her), so named because it is ‘absolutely unpredictable, the numerous spicy and woody raw materials giving it the peculiar property to react to every skin in a unique manner’. I like how Junko’s skin reacts with these more traditionally masculine accords – such smells make her fierce and stubborn independence in such a simultaneously girly and sexist place as Japan even more manifest – and this dry, warm, spicy, almost YSL M7-like blend (not at all original; we have all smelled this kind of thing many, many times before) would probably smell great on her brown leather jacket when we meet up for our occasional, tête à tête conversations over wine and Japanese food, and I smell her subtle, but noticeable, incense- like dryness (dignified, magnetic) – from where I sit across the table.

 

CHAMP D’INFLUENCE

 

NOTES:  Lemon, lavender, evernyl, geranium, Aldehyde C12 MNA, vetiver, oud, patchouli, white musk, amber woods

 

Speaking of gender and masculinity, Champ d’Influence, a classically butch kind of perfume if ever there was one, is a ‘homage to my grandfather, a childhood olfactory memory. Each morning before school, my parents would drop me to my grandparents’ house. There, my grandfather, while being a farmer, still took the time each morning to soap his face, then to apply a traditional shaving cream with a vintage shaving brush, finishing that routine with an aftershave balm. I’ve always wanted to recreate this precise and peculiar fresh smell: this fougère base with lemon notes, lavender, geranium and vetiver, so typical of the odours emanating from a barbershop. A very manly fragrance that still appeals to a lot of women’.

I would agree. I do know women who still like the smell of Brut, the suave, hunk-chested, smooth-cheeked precursor of this kind of fragrance. It’s a classical formula that works very well if you like that sort of thing (and I sort of do: on the right man – one with a good sense of humour who doesn’t take himself too seriously, it can be quite sexy), even if Mr Poulain tries too hard, perhaps, to bridge the gap between the past and the present with a harsh note in the base accord that brings to mind more metallic, aggressive fougères such as Diesel Life Fuel. With similarities, also, to YSL Rive Gauche Pour Homme (the best of this type of new skool/ old school fougere, in my view) Champ D’Influence is a very effective scent – generously replete and full (though some might say a bit too full of itself) that will probably have a certain type of woman or man who is genetically programmed to go for the big bulge kind of guy champing at the bit; getting all riled up and horny and bothered and ready to ransack him thoroughly, though personally, I think I would much rather be chatted up in a bar by someone wearing Iris Palladium.You could probably expect better conversation.

 

ABSTRACTION RAISONNE

NOTES: Grapefruit, bergamot, rhubarb, hedione, violet, tobacco, nutmeg, benzoin, amber woods, vetiver.

‘The paradox between abstract and reason. This perfume is the definition of it. Vetiver is usually heavily used for masculine fragrances. Here, this material is twisted with an acidulous rhubarb note which reminds me of the delicious rhubarb pies my mother used to make. Also, some greener and more fruity notes evoking passion fruits and a hint of mangoes. Finally, a benzoin and tobacco base to infuse leather and amber tones’.

 

I must admit that I don’t quite get what the perfumer is going on about here: ‘the paradox between abstract and reason’ nor, his assertion that this fairly typical contemporary vetiver is the ‘very definition’ (quite an immodest claim to make, actually) of anything whatsoever. The perfume is quite nice though: fresh, sharp, almost sour, the citrus and rhubarb mingling nicely with the rounded vetiver note that works in harmony with the other softer and more balsamic ingredients, although in truth this accord is already very familiar to me in perfumes such as Aedes De Venustas  – which is also based around rhubarb and vetiver, and fresh, fruity vetivers such as Atelier Cologne’s Vetiver Fatal. If I were going for a vetiver of this type ( I occasionally do when I feel like hiding myself), I would probably plump instead for Vetiver Moloko by Ex Nihilo (another recent Parisian start up), which includes a Bulgarian rose and cypress note in the heart and takes this overdone fragrance type to slightly more restrained and rarified tenure.

 

 

MEMOIRE DU FUTUR

NOTES: Italian bergamot, aldehydes, rose, jasmine, carnation, violet, tonka, violet, hyraceum

 

Arnaud Poulain’s ethos for his brand  – a blend of the brand new and the classical – is probably best encapsulated in the ideas around this curiously unfashionable blend:

 

‘In order to invent the future, a prerequisite is to master the past. For this perfume, I wanted to recreate and do justice to the great fragrances created between 1920 and 1940. A floral perfume revolving around a chypre base. A perfume with some of the most noble and traditional perfumery elements while still being completely contemporary, by combining them with modern ingredients’.

 

Possibly the least successful of this sextet, I would have to say that Mémoire Du Future, for me personally, fails in its mission. This scaled down skeletal attempt to bring le grand parfum back to life is far too dominated by simplistic and overpowering aldehydes that drown out any other naturals that might be in the blend and remind me of the dirt cheap, roll-on oil perfumes you find at Arab and Indian markets masquerading as Chanel No 5. Granted, the base is quite sexy and animalic (because of the hyraceum, or African Stone, a potent animalic ingredient blended possibly with some vanilla), reminding me of the original, eponymous perfume by Moschino – that naughty, buttery oriental that had no class really, despite its Milanese credentials, yet sure smelled big-thighed down n’ dirty when it ripped off its fur coat later on in the evening – but it’s hard to realistically compare this with the more orchestral, deep and fully rendered classiques of the Golden Age, alluring and curvaceous though it may be.

 

 

 

LES EAUX PRIMORDIALES: VERDICT

 

 

Quite nice. All six of these are competently made with a solid savoir faire, and you would probably be quite happy to work with people wearing these perfumes at the office. Admittedly, worn at high dosage, Champ D’Influence, Mémoire Du Futur and Particules Imprévisibles might occasionally be discovered groping and shagging frenetically in a three-way session behind the photocopier, unable, by 3pm to resist their surging impulses, bored at their desks and turned on hopelessly by their ruggedly pre-ordained sexual tropes; while Iris Palladium – assured, warm, enigmatic; Abstraction Raisonnée – fashionable but unforthcoming, and Moment Perpetuel – clean, soapy, ‘lovely’, if smiling a bit too incessantly, you wouldn’t mind at all sharing some desk space with and having a late morning meeting over coffee.  You would get used to them. Their perfumes would blend with their personalities. Their scents most definitely become them and they would not offend. At least not most of the time. Still, as you daydreamed from the window, thinking of your perfume collection back home, you would still sometimes find yourself, as the working day progressed , smiling to yourself knowingly, eyes closed as you smelled your wrists- defiantly, surreptitiously – when no one else was looking.

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Filed under Floral Aldehydes, Flowers, Iris perfumes, Vetiver, Woods

SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING NEW…….. VETIVER ROYAL BOURBON by ORIZA L. LEGRAND ( 2014 )

 

 

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The perfumes of Oriza L. Legrand, originally from 1720, but recently revived and in new hands, are very classique. From the labels and packaging to the liquid inside, the wide range of fin de siecle-style eaux de toilette smell grand and very Parisien, yet unlike, say, the similar project by Grossmith perfumes London – another resurrected defunct perfumery of yore –  not quite so ossified that you feel your skull chattering beneath your lace. While some of the scents from the line I have sampled are a touch too old-fashioned for me ( I know I am know as the ‘vintage man’ but I am not, in actual fact, into ‘zombie’perfumes, where disinterred, powdery, oak-mossed chambers of the past choke with dust), they are nevertheless impressive in their well-builtness and powdery heft, yet still with whiffs of relic (there is even actually a musty crypt scent called Relique D’Amour, which sums it all up rather perfectly). Some of the perfumes,  though, are for me, are just really too grande dame, like the ‘new’ Royal Oeillet – a very old-school, musked carnation –  or Marions Nous, which brings to mind Catherine Deneuve’s collection of bridal attic skeletons in Tony Scott’s The Hunger, crumbling like sand in their coffins yet still crying out, pitifully, to be loved.

 

 

Despite this, I think I will still probably go back and explore these scents further – rather a touch of anachronicity than be bored to death by Jo Malone. And yesterday at Isetan Shinjuku, as I surveyed all the pristine and polished department shelves loaded with niche, I did take quite a liking to the Oriza L. Legrand’s most recent release –  Vetiver Royal Bourbon, though the sheer concentration of nothing-to-do sales assistants hovering about my every move (I literally counted twenty three of them to about six customers in that relatively small perfume hall  – a space say twice as big as Liberty London and no more – a ratio that makes me start to contract inwardly with irritation when I am there to explore) dissuaded me from lingering there too long. I stayed long enough to know that this is my kind of scent though – my kind of vetiver, and I have not got any such creations in my collection at the moment. My New Orleans vetiver from last year I used up in no time; my reformulated Guerlain just doesn’t cut it (how I long to find a vintage bottle somewhere of Guerlain’s original Vetiver, god it was great – so deep, and smoky and endless and the new version just doesn’t deliver the pleasure), and as I have written before, I am not into these ‘refined’, purified, sinew- synthetic vetivers of the Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire model: they are too clean, and perfect, and overly persistent. Royal Bourbon was clearly a classical vetivert:  natural, earthy, grassy and green, citric and bracingly herbaceous, but also with some curious twists up top like additions of thyme, mint, orris and juniper to give the blend a touch of audacity. Although I don’t wear vetiver in winter ( I have shocked myself recently at quite how traditionally, seasonally-inclined I am when it comes to perfumery – in August, smelling my vanillas and orientals I swore that I could never wear such perfumes again they seemed so sickly yet now they are all that I want), but I can definitely imagine getting this come May or June. For me, this strikes me as having just the right balance. Classic, and based on a certain tradition of quality, yet not at all fusty or mired in the past.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Flowers, Vetiver