Category Archives: Woods

FROM A DISTANCE : COLONIA SANDALO by ACQUA DI PARMA (2016)

 

 

 

 

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Most current perfumes featuring ‘sandalwood’ have what is to me a rather sharp, metallic, ‘endocrinic’ edge, or twang; that synthetic santal preparation that is a boon to the bank accounts of niche perfumery as everybody else seems to love it except me – I still yearn for the real thing, the more mystical resonance of bark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most men’s fragrances these days (and they are almost always ‘woody’) have a poreless intensity to them – a ballast of bludgeoning opacity that you, or at least I, contrary to their intended purpose, find myself wanting to flee rather than go up close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I like a proper sillage, a trail of scent that you occasionally catch on the air,  a brain and nasal dialogue with yourself on how much you are enjoying another person’s smell, what it is, what it conveys, the aesthetics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some perfumes have a ‘disappearing act’ built into their olfactory DNA. A-now-you-see- me-now-you-don’t, a hide and seek. A guessing game. Not being a perfumer, nor knowing anything whatsoever about chemistry, I have no idea how this is technically achieved, but I do know that possibly the best example of this curious phenomenon was when the D once wore Hermes’ Poivre Samarcande in Berlin; most of the time I couldn’t smell it when I was standing next to him, but could occasionally smell it powerfully across the street: strangers would come up to him in a bar, turned on and intrigued by the almost villainous aroma invisibly circulating around him and wanting to know what it was, and yet it would sometimes disappear, and then reappear, at unpredictable intervals. Up close, though, you would hardly know it was there.

 

 

 

 

 

Dariush gave me a bottle, in London, of Acqua Di Parma’s Colonia Sandalo Concentree, a sturdy, almost grave, unsweetened, very dignified, and yet somehow quite mysterious sandalwood scent that is very different from your standard niche contemporary fragrance of this type (all creamy, buttery, sweaty, and ‘sexy’). No – sometimes I really enjoy a more controlled scent that keeps you at a distance, yet draws you in, and I decided on this occasion (redistributing the pleasure), to give this one to D’s father- who wears the original Acqua Di Parma Colonia Intensa very well, as I had an instinctive feeling that with his pale skin type, it would work well on him.

 

 

 

 

 

It works marvellously. At the end of our trip, when the family picked us up at Norwich station, I kept catching, even before we got in the car, an orthodox, precise, yet softly sensual, powdered, straight, dark aroma on the air (the sandalwood is mixed with lavender, cardamom, tonka bean and citruses – there is nothing sweet or floral, the overall feeling  very English rather than Italian). Up close, from the bottle, I had found the perfume too condensed and powerful – there is an ‘amber’ note in the base that I would never personally take to – but back at the house, too, in the living room as we drank tea and ate cake on the sofa,the scent trail of this perfume was great : every time Rod would go out of or come back into the room, I would catch a drift of a presciently constructed wood perfume that took me back in some ways to my beloved original Crabtree & Evelyn Sandalwood – one of the only sandalwood scents of this genre that I have ever worn convincingly. Di Parma’s Sandalo is very dry, anhydrous – but in a good way. Clean. Blameless. Wholesome, but not aseptic (when I went back into the living room a few minutes after we had gone into the kitchen to have dinner, I even thought that Daphne had possibly lit some Indian sandalwood incense -in the space …….. the scent was floating in the room, in the air, like invisible smoke). Though some may find its formula too conservative, not obviously, nor sufficiently sandalwood, to me, this perfume is a shapeshifting presence, with a quiet, deeply santalian essence at the base that pulls me in : an understated, yet curiously penetrating, exemplar of gentlemanly refinement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GENTLE FLUIDITY by MAISON FRANCIS KURKDIJIAN (2019)

 

 

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On Thursday night we went to a Vietnamese dance and acrobatics show at the Opera House Saigon. Climbing the red carpet behind behind a European couple, I caught their joint sillage. It was exactly like all the duty free perfumes I had lacklusterly sampled at the various airports to and from; the slab of grey blue woody ‘amber’ for him; pink:orange, unthinking ‘floral’ vanilla for her.

 

 

While not overtly unpleasant, what struck me the most about their fused scent trail was the absolute absence of nuance or complexity. There was no sense of the perfume beckoning you to find out more; nothing elusive, mysterious, sensuous or daring. Sexual, perhaps, in a hammer and tongs kind of way. But nothing that made you wonder, feel captivated, or aesthetically switched on. With their block-like opacity without light, everything you needed to know was there in an extraordinarily simplistic manner: :

 

 

 

 

I am man. And I am woman.

 

 

 

 

The new duo of fragrances by Maison FK, both called Gentle Fluidity ( geddit?) aims to get past this dichotomy of his and her by presenting two different perfumes based on exactly the same 49 ingredients, but blended in different proportions. By not spelling out for you which is ‘for men’ and which is ‘for women’, you yourself make the choice.  Prominent notes include nutmeg, coriander, musk, juniper berries, ‘amber woods’ and vanilla (spotlighted more obviously in the more feminine scent) ; you are presumably supposed to gravitate towards whichever of the two (in actual fact quite contrasting perfumes) you feel more ‘comfortable’ with.

 

 

 

 

Although Francis Kurkdijian is a brilliant perfumer, with quite a few scents in the range I find impressive (though don’t actually wear), I have to say that for me, the concept and execution of these two new fragrances is a dud. Firstly, there is nothing remotely ‘gentle’ about either of them. The men’s one (because let’s be honest, these perfumes are just as strictly gendered as the ones that I smelled on the theatre staircase, they just aren’t physically labelled as such ) is abrasive and very forthright, with the juniper note at the front, and a familiar, Sauvage-ish  base (absolutely the order of the day: I noticed that Hermès had gone this route with their ‘vetiver’ remix of Terre D’Hermes, as had Kenzo in variants of their classic Pour Homme- everyone is getting in on the ‘liquid testosterone’ act).

 

 

 

 

The women’s one is equally unadventurous: the usual, thick and oversweetened woody vanilla. I didn’t try either of the sample bottles I received on my own skin ( because I  couldn’t bear to: if there is a real, gentle, or gender, fluidity when it comes to perfumes I already have it and I love the individualistic ambiguity that is the result).

 

 

 

Having said that, one thing I have realized recently is that in perfume criticism you can’t fully know what you are talking about until you have smelled the fragrance on different people and in real life situations. You make your pronouncements and then later have to (somewhat) change your tune. When we were checking in at Vietnam Airlines, as the woman at the counter walked past us to return to her post she left a delicious, modern vanilla with delicately fruited overtones behind her: as she checked our passports and issued our tickets, though slightly embarrassing, I was enjoying smelling her scented aura so much I felt compelled to ask her what she was wearing. ‘Gabrielle,  by Chanel’ she replied, a perfume I savaged upon its release for I am sure quite valid reasons but which, in an everyday encounter, smelled highly pleasant indeed.

 

 

 

Another of those ‘vanilla’ ( because is there anything else now for the modern woman, in truth ?) perfumes that I had to ask about was worn by a gorgeous singer in a club we went to: again, it was a perfume I had dismissed as not worth the time of day – Black Opium by Yves Saint Laurent – but on her it was  a cafe au lait type affair that she smelled really  lovely in. Neither of these perfumes smelled INTERESTING or alluring as such though, if you know what I mean – just cute; embraceable.

 

 

 

Which I cannot do to the two new fragrances by FK. Yes, as the man is a technical wizard, I don’t doubt ( well I do, actually) that both of the perfumes will reveal more as they meld with different skins – presumably, some people, uncowed by the lack of gender specification, will ‘dare’ to try the scent more akin to their real nature and some curious results may occur in the wearing, but for me, this release is ultimately a cynical, and unadventurous attempt to jump on the ‘gender’ wagon ; in giving us merely his n hers but just erasing the name, this isn’t gender fluidity. Gender fluidity to me means just being free to do whatever you want unshackled by predecided cultural cliche. Something that is most definitely not the case with these two, very unfluid and ‘revolutionary’ new fragrances.

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SANDALWOOD TEMPLE + TIGER BY HER SIDE ( SANA JARDIN PARIS, 2017 )

 

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In the cold it’s difficult to get away from the cliches of heat, but it can’t be helped : as the temperatures drop we are as instinctively drawn to rich, heavy fragrances as we are warm, fuzzy blankets.

 

 

Both Sandalwood Temple and Tiger By Her Side, new releases this Autumn, feel well suited to these winter criteria; thick, chewy, scents to block the draughts both literal and figural; sweet, textured ( if somewhat simplistic ) perfumes to seal out the blues.

 

 

 

Sandalwood Temple is all about the santal, even if it is lamentably the ‘East Indian’ variety, not the liquid, buttery rose gold that is the essence of Mysore: meaning that it is slightly flatter, less voluptuous, than the worshipped, essential variety. Still, buttressed with cedar, vetiver, and Madagascar vanilla, there is a nutty, palpable heft to this perfume that is appealing; just the right sweetness, an illusion of coconut, and a fortifying aura of calm, soul-thickening contentment.

 

 

 

 

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Tiger By Her Side, ‘inspired by ancient myths of Egyptian priestesses, whose perfume adorned powers enabled them to walk with the tiger by their side, and connect to their true power, unleash their innate wildness’ is an amber patchouli rose incense theoretically, but in practice a sweet, spicy gourmand not unlike Hermessence Ambre Narguile: undaunted, glistening streaks of cinnamon in amber: oily, potent and playfully strengthening. While not quite a tiger ( more a puffed up pussycat, really ), I would still recommend this one as an early winter booster and furred, stretched out playscent.

 

 

 

 

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THE OLD AND THE NEW SANDALWOOD: : : MOLECULE 04 + ESCENTRIC 04 by ESCENTRIC MOLECULES (2017)

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To reacquaint myself with the authentic Indian Mysore sandalwood extract in order to write this piece just an hour or two ago I gave myself one tiny spray of vintage Guerlain Samsara parfum. Just a small dot or two on the top of my left hand, by far the most natural sandalwood-based perfume in my collection (the original formula contained a massive 20% pure essential oil when it debuted) and a smell that you just don’t really get to smell firsthand in perfumery anymore. Head to head with some eau de parfum on my right, at first the pure perfume seems verging on odourless – compact and demure, without all the hairspray fuss and glamour of the other concentrations, no throw. But this is a sandalwood perfume that really, really enjoys to takes its time: where the eau de parfum concentration is now a delicately balanced, if still very strong, blend of jasmine, iris and sandalwood, the parfum, on me, in its full, later stages, is just the latter. Sandalwood as I like it: creamy, dense, sun-filled, languourous – slow, like liquid gold.

The original Mysore sandalwood essential oil, extracted from trees that were overharvested to the virtual point of extinction and therefore placed under protection by the Indian government, is unlike any other perfume component, in its sheer richness and glint; its anchoring, full-bodied self-confidence, and its laconic, sexual grounding. And while this is not my favourite perfume heart or base note by any stretch – I much prefer vetiver, patchouli, even cedarwood – there is something very ‘splayed open’ and courtesanish, to me, about sandalwood (it doesn’t leave much to the imagination) – it is also very easy to imagine how the trees, the wood and its inimitable aroma could have played such an important role in South Asian culture across millennia, in the form of wooden carvings, temple structures, in euphorical aphrodisia, and as an essential and founding component of Oriental incense.

Although I am not a person who likes ‘woody’ perfumes in general – to me they can feel like being trapped in my own funeral casket, too moisture sucking and weighty, enclosing and solidifying rather than languid and free (like flowers, which are always opening and reaching out towards the light), there are, on occasion, days when I do find myself more in the mood for the more form-fitting strength of this kind of perfume, particularly in winter, when I might use a Bois De Santal body cream that Brie sent me (probably the best sandalwood I have ever smelled; so sweet and spiced and eternally lasting), layered with vintage Shiseido Feminité Du Bois parfum, a divinely beautiful perfume that to me smells as though there must be some natural sandalwood extract buried beneath all that beguiling Moroccan Atlas Cedar, the plum and the spices and niggling base notes of vanilla that linger in the most dignified and elegant manner on the skin for hours.

Other sandalwood perfumes I quite enjoy the smell of are the quite classicist Santal Noble by Maitre Parfumeur Et Gantier, Sandalo by Santa Maria Novella – which has an inspired note of thyme that cuts through the length of its duration – Narcisse Noir by Caron, which I ultimately consider a sandalwood perfume, and Serge Lutens’ collection of sandalwood perfumes, Santal Mysore, Bois De Santal and the last of his sandalwood creations, Santal Majuscule, with its calmly stupefying rose and cacao (although if I am absolutely honest I never entirely really believed in the quality of the sandalwood in that perfume; for me, the Australian or ‘East Indian sandalwood’ just never quite cuts the mustard; too thin and flat and unmysterious. Even if I do find true Mysore sandalwood to be a little too forceful and straight in its blatantly carnal message, I nevertheless still do feel that there is always, underneath, also something timeless and soulful about it that appeals to the heart muscle and soul).

When I was in my early twenties I got through several bottles of the exquisitely pleasing Sandalwood by Crabtree & Evelyn – my ultimate sandalwood and favourite of this genre for all time. If you could still buy this light, rosy, powdery, sunlit composition that was as dreamy and clean as a sunset on a beach then I most definitely would: in fact just writing about it here makes me crave the stuff quite badly – but they discontinued it a very long time ago. Does anyone reading this remember it as fondly as I do? I know I used to find that perfume so calming and soothing – soapy and talcy but also quite enveloping and sensuous… I think this is how I basically enjoy sandalwood best, in the desert-wind lightness of say, L’Artisan Parfumeur’s L’Eau du Navigateur, or else full on oriental and packed with exotica, like Lorenzo Villoresi’s Alamut, a 1001 Arabian-inspired sandalwood that is the holy grail perfume of a Japanese friend of mine and which she smells perfectly gorgeous in (she is also the person who I give all my boisé sample bottles I receive to: as a fan of as-woody-as-you-can-get perfumes like Diptyque’s very literal Asian wooden temple Tam Dao or Comme Des Garçons Kyoto as well as Ex Nihilo’s Bois d’Hiver (2015), a very woody sandalwoody/cypriol scent that she adored so much she brought herself a full bottle from Harrods that summer when the small sample bottle ran out); as the most fiercely independent person I have ever known, Junko smells brilliantly contained in this style of perfumery; a mode of fragrance I personally just can’t get with on my own skin, but which I like to experience closehand as long as I am on the other side of the table).

There is something about Javanol, the synthetic molecule now regularly used in contemporary cutting edge perfumery as a substitute (or, to be honest, now actually preferred by the majority of people to the original, natural, sandalwood oil), that is addictive, sexy and in your face. Many of the scents that Junko has in her collection – aside the aforementioned Alamut, which I do think smells best on her – do contain Javanol (or Polysantol, the creamier variant) and if I hadn’t already found immediate recipients for the two new Escentric Molecules perfume based entirely around this note that I am writing about now here and that I received in the post from a friend, I would most definitely have given them to her as well.

Javanol smells fashionable, current. Sexy, in an urban vacuum kind of way; endocrinic, a bit pheremonal; ‘woody’, but in no way connected to nature or the outdoors. There is a no-nonsense, ‘get to it’ aura around this odour molecule – which is extremely potent and which I am really very sensitive to (if I even imagine I can detect an even hint of the stuff in the base of a perfume, it is what the Americans refer to as a ‘deal breaker’ – this happened with Guerlain’s expensive Spiriteuse Double Vanille and Tonka Impériale, both of which I had full bottle of but became detached from when I realized there might be something there , just hiding in the very base tones, though in truth it could quite easily just been a tiny smidgen of my even greater bête noire, ambroxan).

What Javanol does have, though, to its credit, is a certain dryness; a ‘stripped’ quality, and a strange, oxygenated freshness that is a million miles from the sweaty, almost indecently kama sutraness of the original, and natural, odour material; a Tindr or Grindr social media network hook up down the back alley behind a club instead of an elaborately staged, contortionist’s nightmare on an ancient bed of bleeding roses leading to procreation and a dancing Bollywood finale. It is the smell of the present, of what the new sex smells like, the new genders, the sloughing off of labels and traditions, and Geza Schoen, the perfumer of the very popular Molecule line, does an interesting job here of dressing and disguising the essential element at the heart of both of these fragrances – the Javanol, here, there, always waiting to take pronouncement – and presenting two very contrasting perfumes that go very different routes until they reach similar, inevitable conclusions.

Molecule 04 is very simple and futuristic; airy, almost invisible, citrus-like, with the familiar, fat-free glimpse of ‘woodsy’ featured from beneath, like a lemon-pip trapped inside an ice cube. I immediately thought of my neighbour’s daughter Aiko, who is never averse to a gender-subverting scent or two, and sure enough, she took to it straight away. ‘Nice’, she said, as she surveyed the scent on her wrists. It smells clean, fresh, laundered but wordlessly flirtatious and aura-constructing; a masculine/feminine conglomeration that smells quite hip but understated. Intelligent, quite fashionista.

Escentric 04, a very different beast entirely, was snapped up upon smelling it, somewhat to my surprise, by my other half. He always loves the pepper notes, especially a rambunctiously bracing, nose-tingly top note of pink pepper (he is always shoving whole poivres roses into salads as well, so you crunch down on their dried, crunchy stimulation when you are expecting the smoothness of avocado), and this perfume has a very pleasing initial pepper profusion that grabbed him, when he sampled the bottle, right from the get go. The D also has an inclination for anything rhubarby; berry -like; non-banal fruity that isn’t too sweet, and the fruit-salad accord of this perfume (very, very far from the candy cane syrup of the ethymaltol ‘gourmands’; there is something quite stark and Teutonic about the way that the barbed fruit notes are handled) is a heftier, more fun-packed Javanol perfume that forms a fetching complement to the far more transparent and subtle Molecule: a big boost to the senses of hedione and floral notes (rose, osmanthus, orris) that smell as red and pink and indomitable as its packaging.

Boxy, uncluttered, and of the moment, later – quite a lot later, Escentric 04 dies down to the much more predictable, more instinctual basenotes of pure Javanol, musk, and Ambroxan. Just that smell. Potently. Essentially, therefore, what you put on, is not what you end up with here. D goes out for the evening: spruced, and sprayed happily all over with a new burst of hedgerow, colour-blocked charm. He comes home, hours later, and the whole room is quickly fit to bursting – obliviously on his part – completely, with the inglorious, but involuntarily riveting – and for me, quite conflictingly sexual – smell of pounding, synthetic woods on human flesh.

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THE FOREST

 

Forests, as David Lynch once said, are full of mystery.  They never fully reveal their depths. And some perfumes…..

 

Source: THE FOREST

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Filed under Coniferous, Green, Woods

NUIT ETOILEE by ANNICK GOUTAL (2012)

 

 

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Guest post by Robin

 

 

 

I’d written off Annick Goutal’s Nuit Étoilée about thirty seconds after I tipped a few drops of the 1ml sample onto my wrist, let it dry, and sniffed it. Quickly. Dismissively. Happily.

 

I’ve been trying to do that lately. I have too many perfumes. I’ve already spent too much. I will die with probably two or three hundred bottles, good ones, expensive ones, that are all still mostly full. (I have already written the note. It is in a drawer. When I die, please give my perfumes to my niece Nadia . . . Otherwise, I haven’t even thought of writing a will.) I can’t bear the thought of whoever empties my house of worldly possessions throwing out those venerable old beauties. I do not need another love, another Must Have. If anything, I should start saving my twenties for a bottle of Superstitious, the new Dominique Ropion creation from Malle slated to be released early next year. I’m pretty sure I’m going to want that one. But I do get curious, and I do receive samples. And if it’s not love at first sniff, out it goes.

 

So it was with considerable relief that I gave Nuit Etoilée the quick thumbs down. It wasn’t much of a stretch. A toothpaste-y mint note up front, a discordant immortelle behind it, some weird tonka-bean-like sweetness and a murky forest-floor/pine-fresh-cleaning-solvent undercurrent that instantly made me queasy. I wasn’t looking for ways to adore it, but Annick Goutal had made it easy to dump the rest of the vial on my neck (I’m Irish; I don’t like waste) and toss the glass into the recycling.

 

So off I went to my dear Ric’s for a morning coffee. He’s used to me by now. I grab the steaming cup from his hand, offer up my neck. “What do you think of THIS stuff?” It’s a routine he’s endured every day since we fell in love, two and a half years ago now, with responses that are predictably and endearingly short and sweet; Ric was quite happy with the scent of soap and water before he met me, and he’d be fine with soap and water now. There are four standard verdicts ranging from a tepid yea to an adamant nay: “That’s quite nice”; “It’ll work”; “Room for improvement”; and “NO,” with a snap back of the head. (To his credit – Ric really does have an excellent nose, although he’d deny it – the latter is saved for the vilest mainstream dreck loaded with ethyl maltol and throat-closing white patchoulis. He is surprisingly tolerant of aldehydes, nitro-musks, civet and castoreum.) Of all the fragrances I’ve thrust under his semi-willing nose, he’s liked maybe a handful. Most have been Guerlains, frequently from the Jean-Paul era: Champs-Elysées (actually Olivier Cresp’s), Jardins de Bagatelle, et al. Good taste, he has. This particular “What do you think of THIS stuff?” was said with a hint of I know already you’re not going to like it, but please humour me anyway, my long-suffering Love.

“Mmm,” exhaled that dear man. “That’s actually really nice.”

Reader, I bought a bottle.

Ric is a man of few words, and though I pressed him, he wasn’t willing to provide a flowery review. He liked it, he liked it a great deal in fact, and that was that. When my bottle of Nuit Etoilée arrived in the mail last week – the eau de toilette, by the way; I hear the eau de parfum is a little less green, a little more ambery – I was able to give it a second chance. I see what he sees in it. It has that same breezy, Jean-Paul Guerlain femininity. It’s fresh. It’s . . . pretty. There’s a fair bit going on. There’s a sharp orange note that works well against the oily greens. I wore it, and it lasted nicely. Projection was above average. I still could, if I tried, find that same initial reaction to it; the toothpaste-y mint was there, and the pine-scented cleaning solution, and the immortelle in all its odd-ball glory and the clunky tonka. But you know, it didn’t really matter. And it doesn’t matter. Ric likes it, and I love Ric. He is amazingly tolerant of all the perfumes I foist on him that make his nostril hairs burn and his stomach clench. It feels good to set aside my own prejudices and predilections and opinions – God knows I have enough for a dozen strong-willed women – and bring a sweet man a little happiness and pleasure. And sometimes, a fragrance doesn’t get any better than that.

 

 

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Filed under Coniferous, Mint, Woods

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