Tag Archives: 1920s scents

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.

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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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Filed under Djedi, Vetiver

BOOBS………………….Le N° 9 by CADOLLE (1925)

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According to Les Senteurs in London (the only place you used to be able to buy this now obscure treat except for the original Belle Epoque lingerie store on the Rue Cambon, Paris), this effortlessly dreamy blend was created, back in the day, as a ‘riposte’ to N° 5  – the founder, Hermione Cadolle,  a less uptight Gabrielle Chanel (her main rival on her street) – dreaming up brassières – she invented the bra – and courting clients such as Mata Hari and Marilyn Monroe for her dusky, silken wares like the fabled soutien gorge. She had to have a perfume for the store, and as N° 5 was all the rage, this was her retort: the woodier, more lissom seductress.

 

Of all the perfumes I have smelled in my life, this is possibly the most seamless: unlike N° 5, with its very obvious ylang ylang/ rose/ iris/ musk gradations, Le N°9 is so smooth, creamy, soft and melting it is almost impossible to distinguish any of its components. With its lilting, balsamic conclusions of cedarwood, Siamese benzoin and Penang patchouli; its breathy,  equable memory of flowers, the resulting bedroom aldehyde lorelei is luminous, powdery – and impossibly soft and erotic.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Floral Aldehydes, Perfume Reviews

THE DANDY

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Charles Baudelaire categorized the dandy as a man who has ‘no profession other than elegance….no other status but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own person. The dandy must aspire to be sublime without interruption…. he must live and sleep before a mirror….’

Yet the true dandy was no mere clothes horse. In cultivating a skeptical reserve with his direct opposition to the unthinking bourgeoisie, these beautifully coddled individualists were following a code which ‘in certain respects comes close to spirituality and stoicism’.

 

Dandyism was also not limited to the male of the species. There was, of course, Beau Brummel, but there was also Marlene Dietrich. And then Cora Pearl, the ‘quaintrelle’ (woman-dandy) courtesan, whose extravagant income was apparently sufficient to allow her to dance nude on carpets of orchids, bathe before her dinner guests in silver tubs of champagne, probably mildly bored as she did so.

 

Naturally then, the true perfumed dandy wears perfume for the beauty of the perfume alone; trends and petty concerns over seduction are of no concern. He might therefore wear any perfume in the pantheon; the flowers, the musks, the powders; she might pick a scent from the roaring masculines, a brisk citrus aftershave, and carry it off beautifully. This notwithstanding, the more established image of the powdered, exquisite gentle man or woman and her peacock consorts is served pretty well by some of the following scents and their decadent, nonchalant, graceful ambiguity.

 

“I wish to be a living work of art.’

 

(Marchesa Luisa Casati, renowned quaintrelle).

 

 

ACIER ALUMINIUM / CREED (1973)

James Craven at Les Senteurs told me that there’s a small but steady band of ‘epicureans’ who come to his shop for this obscurity from Creed, a most eccentric seventies’ concoction that is the perfumed equivalent of the decadent’s unlaundered nightshirt. A curious, metallic-noted orange blossom begins; then, ochred-acacia leaves of Autumn; musky, yellowing powders: leather: and a corrupt (but subtlely: this creature has taste) end of civet-hinged musks.

 

POIS DE SENTEURS DE CHEZ MOI / CARON (1927)

 

A collection of old-fashioned flowers for the modern dandizette; she or he who wants to spoil themselves in musky, forlorn sweet-peas, those fragrant flowers scaling trellises in summertime. ‘The sweet peas from my garden’ are powdery, rosy, infused with heavy, trembling lilacs.

 

 

EAU DE QUININE / GEO F TRUMPER (1898)

Trumper is the ultimate emporium for the London gent (really, you have to go), and this, to me, is one of their crowning glories. Echoes of the Empire and tropical malaria cures are conjured up by the curative sounding name, and the scent – a gorgeous, luminous and powdery thing laced with rosemary – is odd and beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SIRA DES INDES / JEAN PATOU (2006)

A warm, overripe breeze. A foetid satiety, and a perfume perfect for the bronzed, sybaritic woman who wants nothing more than to lie down flat on her sunlounger with her gin. One can’t help but think of Sylvia Miles in Morrisey & Warhol’s Heat.

 

A pronounced banana-leaf top note conveys the sense of the tropics: full bananas, unswaying in the dead, still air: champaca flowers with their drowsy torpor, and an apricot-hued osmanthus over a salivated sandalwood/civet, these listless ingredients adding up to the most ennui-imbued scent I have ever smelled. Sira des Indes is smooth yet enticing, almost angry; and devastating on a woman over forty who just doesn’t give a shit.

 

 

 

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PARFUM D’HERMES / HERMES (1984)

Recast as Rouge (which see), Parfum d’Hermès, which has the same basic structure, just dirtier, can still be found in various corners of the world, and I know an antiques shop near my school that has a 400ml bottle that no Japanese person would ever touch (I will, eventually). I know they wouldn’t buy it because the rude animalics here are so blatant that all the flowers, spices in the world just can’t hide its intent. It smells of a dirty mouth covering yours; a Sadeian perfume that would work shockingly well on one of his followers, female or male.

 

CARNATION / MONA DI ORIO (2006)

Mona di Orio, the perfumer behind Carnation (pronunciation: in the French manner – meaning ‘complexion’ not the flower) seemed to be seeking here the smell of a virgin’s face after a day in the sun – easy prey, perhaps, for the creatures above from Parfum d’Hermès (or Pasolini’s Salò). It is a weird smell at first, something paint-like and sour in among the dirty blooms (wallflower, geranium, jasmine, tinted with musks and styrax), but progresses to a heavenly maiden’s cheek, white; the thick, healthy skin just ready to pinch.

 

HAMMAM BOUQUET / PENHALIGONS (1872)

The maiden’s male counterpart is Hammam Bouquet; fresh from the Turkish baths with a blush on his face.

Hammam is musky, powdery and pink, with rose otto, orris and lavender over the more manly exhalations of civet and musk. Once the boy gets his breath back, he dons his white powdered wig, his cape, and rushes back earnestly to the Old Bailey.

 

 

FRENCH CAN CAN / CARON (1936)

One of the lesser known perfumes from the illustrious stable of Caron (surely one of the Dandy’s favourite parfumeurs…)is French Can Can, made especially for the post-war American Market for a bit of imported ooh la la: a strange, naughty, and now rather anachronistic perfume that treads the line between coquettish and coarse without descending to banality. Can Can is of very similar construction to En Avion (a cool, spicy, violet leather) but overlaid with more garish, extravagant bloom: rose, jasmine and orange blossom kick out from under the tulle. Behind faded, musty curtains lies a decadent heart of lilac, patchouli, iris, musk and amber.

Thinking of a candidate for this perfume (who wears tiers of fluffy petticoats that I know?) I hit upon my friend Laurie, who is never afraid to dress up in extravagant numbers – I can even see her actually doing the can-can – and with the slogan ‘Dancers: powder, dusty lace’ presented her with the scent. She came back to me later (after I had sprayed her bag with the stuff) ‘No: greying crinoline’.

 

 

 

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POT POURRI / SANTA MARIA NOVELLA (1828)

Only the dandy would wear a perfume called Pot Pourri. Bizarrely, this has recently become a massive hit with the art crowd in Tokyo (the brand’s reputed naturalness is popular with the refined eco-conscious). It is unusual, androgynous and beautiful: spiced roses, herbs, berries and grasses from the fields of Florence, fermented in Tuscan terracotta urns with darker, interior notes of resins and balsam. The result (medicinal, meditative, aromatic) is very individual; very…..dandy.

 

 

 

What else should be placed in the Dandy’s wardrobe?

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Filed under Flowers, Herbal, Musk, Orientals, Perfume Reviews, Powder

Sandringham rose : ROYAL ARMS (DIAMOND EDITION) by Floris (1920/2012)

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The house of Floris has released this re-edited eau especially for the queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and as children across the nation dig into  Victoria sponge beneath miles of bunting and fluttering Union Jacks, their mothers, nans, and aunts might fancy a few spritzes of Diamond Edition to get into the regal spirit: an appealing, and very British scent that captures this moment, and the monarch, rather perfectly.

More Lloyd Webber than Britten, the queen’s tastes have always veered more towards the bourgeois than the aristocracy, and this polished scent, of cosseted roses, trellises and perfected bedspreads, is to me like a paen to middle England: a plump, stocky rose that rises above. The pinkest, shiniest, satin cushions rest on freshly embroidered sheets. Pot pourri, in porcelain, lightly scents the air on the dresser, while back notes of ylang ylang, jasmine and tuberose address the floral coronet above (this is very much an interior fragrance; those rose gardens and flower beds viewed from far off, through thick panes of glass). The perfume is so seamlessly blended however that listing notes seems superfluous. Feminine and slight initially with its touches of bergamot and lemon, it becomes more imposing as it blooms, pink and full-figured like the character played by Imelda Staunton in Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix.

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Royal Arms is  the kind of scent I would put in the ‘comfort zone’ section of my perfume collection if I were to get a full bottle (which I would happily do): post-bath, pampered with talc, the dry down of patchouli and lightly ambered musks over vanilla, finishes a nostalic and clean English guesthouse rose that soothes and pleases, so much so that I almost wish I were back in the UK to join in the celebrations.

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Filed under Flowers, Perfume Reviews, Rose