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

 

 

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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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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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DJEDI ON THE BEACH: : GUERLAIN’S MYTHICAL, MUTABLE VETIVER, DJEDI (1927)

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Duncan and family on the beach on Christmas Day

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Duncan and little Ruby:

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Edward’s beautiful shell shrine:

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I must admit to being disappointed upon first smelling Djedi. If there was any scent that I was intensely curious to smell, it was this: Guerlain’s mystical, almost mythical, long-gone vetiver from 1927 that was said to be one of the strangest, driest and earthiest perfumes ever made – a pungent, leathery, and boscous forest of vetiver, rose, civet, musk and patchouli that dragged you down into gloom, dessication, and the entombed ambience of a twilighted, Egyptian mummy.

From a brief and excited sniff of the sample vial, I knew immediately that this could not be the much fêted and unobtainable vintage, as it smells so niche and contemporary: a taut and light animalic vetiver that in its initial stages reminded me for a moment of a chest-bulging eighties masculine ( beautifully impossible to imagine that this could have been created for women in the 1920’s), the civet and leather rising to the surface and almost drowning out the green and woodier notes with something verging on disturbing but never overstepping the boundaries. It was nice, but not mind-boggling.

*

On the island of Anna Marie, near Sarasota in Florida, where we have just spent Christmas and the following days with Duncan’s family, his parents, brother, his wife and their kids, the dry white sands of the beach, the grass, and the brooding sky and its lung-freshing smell seemed like an ideal place to try out Djedi in the flesh, its forest doom not withstanding, as on Christmas day it was curiously cold and windy and a strange phenomenon had just occurred: as far as the eye could see on Christmas morning, fish had been strewn on the sands, stranded, perhaps washed onto the shore in a freak wave, a perturbing sight, but given the Christian symbolism and Djedi’s themes of immortality, almost beautiful

Duncan wore Djedi. On him it smelled very masculine, sweet, sexed, almost too much so – although some of the perfumes characteristics appealed to him, ultimately he said that there was something too sour in there, bitter and dry (the very qualities I had been hoping for), but to me in honesty those aspects were almost imperceptible. To me it smelled quite nice in the salty, beachy air as the waves crashed on the shore, corporal, commanding, but admittedly a little faint: for a parfum it was a little on the pale side, fading quite quickly on his skin as we headed back to the house for Christmas dinner and a very fun afternoon of eating, drinking, and dancing.

On me, though: Duncan may still not like it but over the last few days I have come to find this scent quite compelling and would love (in my dreams) to somehow find a bottle. As I write this, I am trying to overcome my fury at having lost a rather long and epic piece I had been writing on Miami, our experiences there and on the way to America, but which at the touch of the wrong button, somehow, has been deleted as I sit here in Tampa airport with D and his parents on our way to New Orleans.

I have immediately embarked on this brief review instead to quell my burning irritation ( I can’t rewrite things from scratch: they either exist as they are or not at all). Better if I just do another one instead: writing as therapy.  I am again wearing Djedi, as I sit here, and three hours in, the vetiver note is really quite sublime on me, sufficiently rooty and dark, yet also with those mineralic, citric facets I love in a good vetiver (but with none of the scratchy artificiality of many niche vetivers). It is a scent that is drawing me in, hooking me. I am beginning to understand its reputation. The remaining drops are precious.

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THE REVERSE SIDE HAS ITS REVERSE SIDE: CORRUPTIBLES AND INCORRUPTIBLES IN ISEZAKICHO with MUST DE CARTIER II EAU FRAICHE (PARFUMS CARTIER, 1993)

 

(Guest post by Duncan)

 

 

Our meanderings around the lively entertainment district of Isezakicho in Yokohama – a long pedestrianised shopping street which leads from the historical portside town of Kannai south-westerly to the seamy Bandobashi and Koganecho neighbourhoods – often yield fabulous scent bargains, and yesterday was no exception, with Ginza bagging a rare bottle of Must de Cartier II Eau Fraiche!

 

In the summer, we often wait until mid afternoon to head out and we have a regular route in Isezakicho, which takes in a motley medley of junk shops, recycle boutiques, secondhand bookstores, bygone kissaten (old fashioned cafes serving industrial-strength German roast kohi), an art cinema (called Jack and Betty), and restaurants (Isezakicho is Yokohama’s Asian quarter and the best place to eat Thai and Vietnamese nosh). It’s a fascinating mishmash of trashy (bling hip hop gear, knockoff perfumes, hostess heels and lurid flounciness), highstreet bargain basements (Uniqlo, Bookoff), sex (massage parlour soapland, host/ess bars), and throwback exotica (for example, the bizarre ‘hebiya’ or snake shop, which has pythons suspended in jars of formaldehyde and stuffed scaly things in the window).

 

snakes

 

 

It’s without doubt one of the most unaffected and racially mixed disticts in the whole of culturally homogenous and manically regulated Japan – a bit of an outlaw zone actually, a Yokohama ghetto, though it actually feels very safe from a British perspective. Some find it too cheap and close to the bone (let’s not deny the dark exploitative side of the sex trade, which is here in abundance and pretty much impossible to ignore) – but we have come to love this Little Asia, this rather chilled and disreputable entertainment zone. There’s a lot in it if you look carefully. As the Japanese proverb goes: ‘The reverse side has its reverse side’; or to mangle Wilde, even stars are reflected in the gutter!

 

 

Fan

 

Yesterday, we started off with a glass of Freixenet on a grass verge in the ‘old man park’ in an adjacent street because Ginza wanted to bask in the sun before hitting our haunts. I’m not good at staying still for long but it was good to quaff some sparkly with the old stick who had been taken up with ‘summer seminar’ onerousness for eight days on the trot. About two hours of rummaging threw up some good reads (best of all being: ‘The Incorruptibles – A Study of the Incorruption of the Bodies of Various Catholic Saints and Beati’ by Joan Carroll Cruz – a New Orleans homemaker who writes of inexplicably preserved corpses at night because she ‘simply cannot tolerate writing if there is housework left undone’!), cheapy T-shirts and ties (elegant blue green silk CK stripes for 100 yen), and a clutch of perfumes (aforementioned Cartier, plus Vol de Nuit spray parfum, and KL Parfum: the folding fan bottle perched in/on an 80s grey and pink semicular prism case).

 

Incorruptibles

 

Vonnegut

 

KL Parfum

 

As Ginza can’t resist opening up his olfactory treasures on the street even as we are in transit, and then testing them out on available limb space, I was lucky to be doused with Must de Cartier II Eau Fraiche, which I had never heard of but which I immediately took to, as it fits well with the effect I prize when mixing light citrus colognes and simple vetiver scents to bring zing to wood and add heft to zest; indeed, a more elegantly and sensually rounded citric vetiver swathe could hardly be imagined. Cartier nailed it. Too bad this scent was discontinued. Boo.

 

So I have bagsy-ed this delicious accord and am planning to make it my summer signature scent. The opening is zesty but soapy, even a little proper in a luxuriant way (top notes: mandarin orange, hyacinth, peach, and lemon) and yet as the scent settles a jasmine/daffodil tang emerges sensually melding the citrus on top with the mossy vetiver beneath.

 

It’s a bit like the love child of Christian Dior’s Jules and Armani Eau Pour Homme – these were two scents that sprung to mind – but whereas as Jules always felt heavy-handed and smelt a tad urinous on me – especially in Japanese summer (yuck) – and Armani is perhaps a touch too reserved and dry/citric-cerebral (much as I admire it, it fades a little too enigmatically on my skin), Eau Fraiche is finely made and fully realised, refreshingly and sexily elegant. (Ginza pointed out that there is a resemblance to vintage Diorella as well – some muscularity under the citrus top notes.)

 

And so we ended our day admiring the Cartier and ogling Mrs Cruz’s incorruptible ancients and pickled nuns propped up in alcoves, prostrate in glass cases (St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart in Florence is below) – all over a fine Thai meal in a plush newish restaurant we hadn’t clocked before with white leather, purple, gold and silver decor, a disco ball, toddlers tumbling about on the banquettes, Siam karaoke on loop, interspersed with Gaga, Madonna, and Soft Cell (by us), and plentiful Chang beer to lubricate the colourful corruptions of summer.

 

Pickled Saint

 

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Toddler

Thai Todlers

 

 

Isezakicho

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Filed under Citrus, Vetiver