Tag Archives: 1990s scents

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

 

prayer

 

 

 

 

Toddler

Thai Todlers

 

 

Isezakicho

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Filed under Citrus, Vetiver

ANGELS AND INSECTS: LA CHASSE AUX PAPILLONS by L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR (1999)

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This uplifting, flowery delight by L’Artisan Parfumeur was recently being pushed by Yokohama Barney’s New York as a wedding scent: the window dressings, fancy as ever all swirling linden petals; pink blooms, tuberose princesses; and lepidoptera brides. I don’t know if it is especially nuptial – though that idea certainly does make sense, for the butterflies, fluttering in your stomach – but I do know that La Chasse Aux Papillons is lovely;  heady, joyous, light-winged and summery.

 

A whirl of leaves as you rush gaily past shrubs; a dizzying flourish of petals : tuberose, linden, orange blossom – the linden blossom crucial here, steering the perfume in a different direction from the majority of feverish hot house flowers and giving the perfume a slightly cooler, more mysterious edge, the whole an exuberant delight that I really like and have on occasion even considered buying – but for some, all the giddying, whirling about with the butterfly nets may leave you dizzy, s ick……..

 

 

A fragrance, then for the extovert I would say; for someone not afraid of display his or her colours, of reeling in admirers.

 

 

 

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8 Comments

Filed under Flowers, Linden, Tuberose

Mon serpent, mon cygne…………… D’HUMEUR JALOUSE by L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR (1994) + L’OMBRE DANS L’EAU by DIPTYQUE (1983) + EAU DE CAMPAGNE by SISLEY (1974)

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I find myself in a green temperament;  aggressive almost, for fresh, sharp, verdant scents that match the shooting growth and push away the winter, the comforting sloth of my recent smothering orientals and let me feel like a snake shedding its skin.

 

And D’Humeur Jalouse is the snake: possibly the greenest scent ever made (please tell me if you know of one that is greener);:  almost painfully so at first – a serpent in the grass, the eyes of jealousy; spiked, strident tones of malicious stinging nettles and grasses, softened, only barely, with a sinuous touch of barely detectable almond milk to temper a rather curious,  olfactory sketch that is bitter, unusual, and solitary: green to the point of catharsis.

 

 

 

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A movement from the river bank under the shades of weeping willows- a swan glides slowly by…..

 

Evoking a green riverside garden, the shadows of plants rippling the waters, L’Ombre Dans L’Eau (Diptyque’s most iconic perfume?) is at first intensely green  – a sharp, rush of galbanum resins entwined quite cleverly with the lush, tanging tartness of blackcurrant leaves, but from this compacted flourish there then emerges, unhurriedly, the quiet, more melancholic dignity of the Bulgarian rose: calm, romantic, yet austere,  rather supercilious and snobbish even, and thus, the main theme of L’Ombre Dans L’Eau (‘the shadow in the water’) is set.

 

As light fades, and the murmurs of evening approach, a soft base note of pot pourri-like rose, with the slightest hint of something like peachstone, finishes off a singular, enduring composition that breathes an air of familiar timelessness.

 

 

 

Eau De Campagne

 

 

The perfect green?

 

 

This classic scent from 1974 is the summer; the exhilaration of meadows; of stalks crushed underfoot, swords of sunlight infiltrating blades of grass.

 

 

Chlorophyll at dusk; ladybirds….

 

 

 

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13 Comments

Filed under Basil, Blackcurrant leaf, Green, Perfume Reviews, Stinging Nettles, Tomato Leaf

THE WITCHY CHYPRES : Mon Parfum by Paloma Picasso (1984) + Magie Noire by Lancôme (1978) + Eau du Soir by Sisley (1990) + Sinan by Jean-Marc Sinan (1984)

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I was, in some ways, quite a weird child.The boys would be playing football, play-punching, or moronically shooting each other with invisible karashnikovs. The girls would be playing with dolls and each others’ hair, skipping daintily, bitching, and doing whatever else little girls do.

I was always off somewhere with my posse, imagining I was a warlock doing magic with my petalled potions;  reading my secret collection of Flower Fairy books, or else pretending to be a black panther (which was my ultimate dream at the time…)I would lie in bed at night and see myself morphing, slowly, into that beast, feeling the power of the claws start to surge as I leapt off into the undergrowth…

Might these childhood urges be one of the reasons why I am so drawn to the sleek, pantheresque perfumes that follow; the rose/patchouli/ leather chypres, those taloned, ruminating creatures that come nearer to approximating that black cat in perfume than any other type? Those perfumes that have been replaced in the contemporary canon by industrial effluent and the drabbest of candyflosses, but which, when worn correctly (and knowingly), can be quite delectably pointed and erotic?

 

In Annick Le Guerer’s academic treatise ‘Scent’, the panther, long venerated by various cultures for the beautiful perfume of its breath, is said to have been historically viewed as ‘prudent, intelligent, and cunning…’, emitting an odour that is ‘agreeable to all other animals’, a blessing/curse of nature that allows it to hunt, furtively, by ‘remaining in hiding and attracting animals to it by its smell…’

 

And, like a beautifully-attired woman sat in some late night bar wearing Paloma Picasso, esconced patientlyin her corner with her trailing cigarette, ‘…. it conceals itself in a dense thicket, or in deep foliage, and is invisible; it only breathes. And so fawns and gazelles and wild goats and suchlike animals are drawn by the spell, as it were, of its fragrance and come close up…….

 

Whereat, the leopard springs out and seizes its prey…..”

 

 

MON PARFUM  by PALOMA PICASSO (1984)

 

Probably the most successful of perfumes in the chypric rose genre, by contemporary standards Paloma smells hopelessly out of fashion and animalic:  just smell the beaver. Less pronounced in the eau de toilette form, which is essentially a different fragrance and less impressive, in the eau de parfum, the oily, leathery note of castoreum, extracted from the sweat glands of the Canadian beaver  – troubling, aphrodisiac –  is very apparent in this perfume and verges on shocking. It is, nevertheless, with a flourish of Iberian magic, extravagantly cloaked in woods; lashes of patchouli; a spiced Spaniard heart of the deepest rose, jasmine and mimosa; and a sharp, sassy green top note like the click of glinting heels on a Barcelona sidewalk.

 

The perfume has been around for quite a while now, and despite the fact that the world’s tastes in scent have since changed irrevocably since its release, in a survey done by various global beauty editors and perfume people (and not so long ago, either), Mon Parfum by Paloma Picasso was voted the sexiest perfume on earth. While I am not sure if the perfume can definitively claim this title, it certainly is damn good on the right person who can carry it off, and it is very hopelessly difficult to resist.

Mon Parfum is just so…….cocksure of itself: an adult woman with experience,  sexual confidence and power coursing through her blood. It needs a glammed up, lipsticked predator with attitude to do it full justice, to unleash its torrid potential –  a woman, or man, who doesn’t mind, in fact loves, its eighties femme fatale clichés.

 

 

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MAGIE NOIRE  by LANCOME  (1978)

 

Paloma’s darker, occultist, more serious elder cousin, Magie Noire has a similarly ensorcelling theme of sharp green notes contrasting with a rich Bulgarian rose heart, patchouli and provocative, animalic/woody finish. But in Lancôme’s finest scent there is very little sweetness (there is a touch in the heart of Paloma) and the sharp green/earth divide (a mesmerizing accord of galbanum, bergamot, raspberry and hyacinth, contrasting with a mossy patchouli note tempered with honey) only grows more potent and disturbing with time, stronger and more scary as the day, or night, progresses.

 

It is witchy, truly, but also tender, mysterious, elegant, erotic, and a touch sinister, as you are gradually drawn into the depths of a midnight forest. Or at the very least to a very edgy seventies dinner party hostess in a busy black dress.

 

EAU DU SOIR  by SISLEY (1990)

Eau Du Soir, especially in vintage, is more dormant, and quietly explosive, than either of the above scents, a tasteful and intoxicating brew that, as its name suggests, is the evening perfume par excellence, absolutely made for black and grand occasions.

What I love about the Sisley perfumes is their lack of the saccharine ; where their first perfume, the classic Eau de Campagne (created by Jean Claude Ellena in 1974) is astonishingly green, almost unbearably so, as if you were trapped inside a giant basil or tomato leaf, Eau Du Soir is Campagne’s night counterpart, similarly dry and unsentimental: a ravishing patchouli, rose d’orient, seringa, juniper, and Moroccan rose absolute accord with a centerpiece of the perfume’s star ingredient, Egyptian jasmine absolute (less civilized, rougher, more animalic than its French counterpart), which purrs and insinuates itself beautifully within the radiant, effortless chic of the spicy chypre base. Eau Du Soir is a difficult scent, almost formidable.

 

You would never mess with someone wearing this.

 

 

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SINAN by JEAN-MARC SINAN (1984)

Sinan, an obscure fragrance not so easy to find these days, is another taut, chypre animalic with a full-bodied, sweetly lingering rose twined with woods and patchouli: one more fur-clad siren leading her black-widow victims to their (always willing) fate….

 

The perfume bears some similarities with Paloma, and also Lauder’s fabulous Knowing (which took this essentially European idea and Americanized it), but where that perfume has a certain seamless infallibility (present in all Lauder’s creations) prone to exaggerations with its honeyed electric rose, Sinan presents a similarly perfumed face but less emphatically; not a white-gated mansion in the centre of Florida, but a house, near the woods, somewhere in the depths of France…

 

 

 

 

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44 Comments

Filed under Chypre, Perfume Reviews, Witchy

Some roses for winter.

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Nitobe Inazo, author of the classic (if highly supercilious) tome on Japan, Bushido, may consider the Japanese quite superior with their love for the evanescent fleetingness of the cherry blossom flower, a sweet but sorrowful bloom that symbolizes the ‘stoic’ samurai warriors’  desire to sacrifice their lives at the drop of a hat; while the gaijin, or westerner, ‘selfishly’ favours the rose that clings, with every last drop of its life, to the putrifying, stinking stem even when dead ….but I’m sorry, the rose is one of my very favourite flowers, and I imagine that I also will be clinging at my last; thorny and desperate, rather than plunging a sword into my gut and ripping out my innards, all for the sake of appearances and some dull and pointless idea of ‘honour’ (the code of the samurai is much more nuanced and spiritual than this, I realize, but you get my drift: I have never quite forgiven Nitobe for the disdain he shows the non-Japanese in that book, and the rose is an emblem I therefore adhere to even more passionately as a result.)

 

 

 

 

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(idiot!!!!!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, the rose is a tricky one.

 

 

Rose oil, or its synthetic reconstitution, is a component of the vast majority of perfumes, and there are  wildly different interpretations of this flower, meaning that although you may think you hate the rose if you have been brought up on granny talcs, or else Stella, and Paul Smith, and all those uptight, irritating contemporary roses, there still might be a perfume out there that might sway you if you deign to explore the rosaceous galaxy further.

 

Though none in my opinion has ever truly captured the exquisite beauty of a living, breathing flower (surely one of the most enthralling scents in the universe), a few come close, or take the theme to newer, unexpected places.

 

 

Rose is also, my view, a floral that is perfect for winter, not clashing with that touch of patchouli oil that is still hanging on to your jacket, remaining poised and stoic……an aroma of both piercing sorrow and hope; with a dignity, poeticism, and romantic attachment that make it far superior in my (not even remotely) humble view, to the puny, and nothingy, frou -frou cherry blossom.

 

 

ROSE ABSOLUE/ ANNICK GOUTAL (1984)

Supremely expensive for an eau de toilette, Rose Absolue is a diaphanous, sense-delighting spray of real rose oils, with several of the most prized species in perfumery. The crisp, exuberant top notes are truly delightful, and come very close to smelling like a garden of roses on a summer morning. The middle and base notes lose something as the essential oils evaporate (making it a costly habit to maintain), but for a delicious rose spritz, this cannot be beaten.

 

 

NAHEMA / GUERLAIN  (1979)

The top note of the Nahéma vintage extrait is breathtaking: perhaps the most ravishingly gorgeous and complete rose absolute in perfume; a scent to make your heart swell, your diaphragm tremble. Whether you will fall for Nahéma or not though, (and it has its very faithful adherents), will depend on your liking roses romantic, full on, and sweet. Nahéma folds this stunning rose note in peach, hyacinth, aldehydes; ylang, vanilla and musk, and is deliriously rich, romantic – very Guerlain. If it is right for you, you will smell resplendent. If not, overdone.

 

 

ROSE/ CARON (1949)

If the roses in Goutal’s Rose Absolue are freshly picked, and the scent their breath, Caron’s is their blood; the enshrinement of a beauteous Bulgarian absolute (more regal, melancholy than Moroccan rose – the more ‘classic’ rose note) over a gentle bed of vanilla and musk. The extrait is beautiful; potent, emotive; a scent to be cherished. Almost painfully pure and beautiful.

For a similar, but somewhat chicer rose, try the other Caron rose perfume, Or et Noir: for sexual mystery, the house’s woody, musky incense rose, Parfum Sacré.

 

 

FLEURS DE BULGARIE / CREED (1880/1980)

A centenary reformation of an aristocratic, very strange scent from Creed, this peculiar, haunting rose perfume evokes another time and place, leagues away from brash current trends. It is at once tender, reserved, unabashedly tasteful, yet with an undeniable whiff of madness: generations of interbreeding among the loopy upper classes. A dry, high pitched, almost saline bunch of Bulgarian roses over an insinuating natural ambergris: the smell of stately homes, the fragile, yellowing pages of old books.

 

A difficult, but rather brilliant perfume, to be placed on a dresser by a window over the lawns, on which to do ‘one’s toilette.’

Beyond, the reedy river, in which perhaps to drown…

 

 

 

SA MAJESTE LA ROSE / SERGE LUTENS (2000)

 

A scornful rose. Dark swishes of crimson rose fragrance: grand, extravagant, a perfume of strength and beauty, but with ironic, opaque bitterness. Serge Luten’s rose is not romantic: his perfumer, Christopher Sheldrake, was presumably ordered to do away with such nonsense. Instead there is a stark regality here, just as the name suggests (a tart note of geranium, lychee and guaic wood sees to that), but also an elaborate heart of white roses, vanilla and honeyed Moroccan rose.  It is an effective, gorgeous perfume that will leave you feeling splendidly detached.

 

 

 

CE SOIR OU JAMAIS / ANNICK GOUTAL (1999)

 

Perhaps the most vulnerable of rose perfumes, Ce Soir Ou Jamais (‘Tonight Or Never’) is a rich, breathy Turkish rose, unfolding in a tearful desperate embrace. It is natural, supremely feminine, and one of the most romantic perfumes you could ever wear.

 

 

ROSE OPULENTE/ MAITRE PARFUMEUR ET GANTIER

 

As it says, opulent, gorgeous, red-silk Bulgarian roses, for high camp and rose adorers. Quite beautiful, with leafy green top notes gracing a subtly spiced, ambergris rose.

 

 

ROSE EN NOIR/ MILLER HARRIS (2006)

Exclusive to Barney’s New York stores, this is a mildly repugnant, dark  animalic rose with woody musk facets and top notes of jammy rhubarb.

Interesting, like someone unravelling at the seams.

 

 

 

ROSE DE NUIT / SERGE LUTENS (1994)

Paris. Had I had any money left by the time I got to the Lutens boutique at the Palais Royal (having already ‘done’ Caron, Guerlain, and Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier), this is what I would have bought from the astonishing selection of perfumes curated by the mysterious ladies hovering behind them. On myself I like darker, more menacing rose perfumes, preferably underscored by patchouli, and this really did the trick for me. Rich, effusive, and very outgoing, with a touch of jasmine, apricot, beeswax, and chypre. A rose for nighttime and adventure, to be worn with leather.

 

 

SOIR DE LUNE  / SISLEY (2006)

A gorgeous, dark, honey-drenched rose enveloped by rich notes of chypre, mimosa, and powerful patchouli, Soire De Lune is almost tailor-made to my personal olfactory tastes. It is diffusive, warm, sexy and of high quality; not dissimilar to the company’s fantastic Eau Du Soir, but in my opinion even better. A rounded, accomplished scent with presence, and a new alternative to such night time illuminaries as Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum and Voleur De Roses. I doubt I will ever be without a bottle of this.

 

 

VOLEUR DE ROSES   L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR (1993)

The rose thief is a dark figure dressed in black, moving with stealth through the undergrowth, night soil underfoot; rose bushes standing erect and waiting in the moonlight, sensing they are about to be picked. A sensous, woody patchouli is entwined with a deep, rich rose and an unusual note of black plum, resulting in a very gourmand, intriguing scent worthy of its wonderful name.

42 Comments

Filed under Flowers, Rose

RUSH: GUCCI (1999)

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Yesterday we looked at gardenias; those gorgeous, perturbing flowers I am somewhat obsessed with (though I don’t know quite why I am writing about them at the moment when their blooming is so far off…outside the snow is still melting from the huge snowfall of Monday….)

While the Chanel Gardenia template is one direction that perfumers can go in; nipping it in the bud and giving it propriety, taming a flower which is something of an animal when all is said and done as it stands there, immobile, feverish and lurid under cold moonlight, other perfumers embrace this disconcerting angle of gardenias and fill their scents with it ( the carnal flower by Santa Maria Novella comes to mind in particular). A certain Madonna/whore dichotomy exists then with this flower: few perfumers take the gardenia out of these traditional moulds and inject it with modern verve.

Whether or not I can convincingly talk of Rush by Gucci as a gardenia I am not sure, but the flower is certainly there in the fore and back ground of this scent, sucked out violently from its clandestine lunar hedgerows and thrust, almost uncomfortably, into the twenty first century sass of the urban mall where teenagers strut, chew gum, and toss back their hair, to the easy, friendly bitchiness of this fragrance’s jeans-and-t-shirt vibe. I am not sure if Rush is still popular, as 1999 is quite a long time ago in modern perfumery terms, though my guess is that it still would be. Although the majority of recent mainstream releases lack a hook, a chorus you can sing along to and remember, certain perfumes do succeed in locking into their DNA a refrain, a simple accord that rings true. Perfumes like Beautiful, which I am fond of, still sell by the bucketload for this very reason……you can remember them.

So once in a while a product arrives in the vastly overcrowded fragrance market that is new yet somehow familiar, striking a nerve like a characterful person you’ve not met before, yet immediately take to: Gucci’s Rush, in its iconoclastic plastic red oblong bottle, was one such perfume. It was the Obsession of the early 2000’s – a legible perfume with a message – a sexy,  unpretentious, direct hit. As soon as Tom Ford was given the scent strip by his perfumer he apparently said yes, immediately, without second thought, not even bothering to sample the other applications for the brief. He knew a money-winner when he smelled one.

The perfume is simple and streamlined with four main features: a fresh, leaf-green note with hints of coriander; a lactonic apricot with the touch of white chocolate; a lingering skin-musk patchouli that lasts all day: and draped over this, with its holographic petals, a sexy modern gardenia (a concept of the flower rather than a botanical reconstruction), with Bulgarian rose and a hint of vanilla.

This accord in Rush is both immediate and effective; odd, with its mix of cream and green, and it certainly doesn’t smell expensive. Yet it is very memorable, and smelling it again recently brought back vivid memories of a trip to Taiwan, where my friend, a Ms Katherine Ng, used to drench herself in the stuff. Fourteen years later it is still very appealing.

18 Comments

Filed under Flowers, Gardenia, Patchouli

AMERICAN GIRLS, or, THE DAY I WAS ASSAULTED AT A YOKOHAMA WEDDING BECAUSE OF MY TASTE IN PERFUME: (HAPPY……by CLINIQUE) (1997)

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I was once slapped, really hard, across the face, because a girl’s taste in perfume differed from my own.

 

As my cheek smarted, and her boyfriend and mine, and other onlookers (at a mutual friend’s wedding) sat gobsmacked in anxious silence wondering about what would happen next, it struck me quite forcefully how the conservative U.S sense of perfume can be so wildly-  WILDLY! – different to the European.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But to rewind…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The girl (whose name I am not allowed to use; I can still hear her drunk, screaming at the top of her lungs, “I will sue you! I will fuck you! I will fucking take you down if you print my name!”) was sitting across from me, and being the quintessential sassy American blonde I knew I would have to interview her on her perfume tastes, as, all irony aside, I do genuinely love how most American girls smell: so peachy clean, soft, so apple-fresh ( I remember almost swooning with pleasure when my friend Theresa wore the original Tiffany at a bar one night…………somehow we Europeans can never quite catch that strawberried, faultlessly clean yet strangely sexy halo of shower-gelled hygiene and fresh-pressed laundry…)

 

 

 

 

As this girl and I downed beers at the marriage after-party in a Yokohama Mexican restaurant, we quickly grew a fun and flirtatious rapport. And I remember us standing in the steaming cold outside, laughing and joking, as she smoked a cigarette, talked perfume and Texas; and her boyfriend started to wonder what she was getting up to.

 

 

 

Excited about a project on perfume I was hoping to start, she was going to be the U.S correspondent: we would expand, we were going worldwide, baby.

 

Back inside, over enchiladas,my Nº 19 was quickly, quite rudely, immediately dissed as too ‘woodsie and girly’ (she was a firm believer in men smelling like men) and, anyway, perhaps, on that occasion,  she was right. The Chanel doesn’t work every time on me for whatever reason – temperature, that day’s body chemistry, and I am always waiting for the leather and citric vetiver to make itself known, not the powdery iris and neroli which can sometimes predominate instead, and even I knew that on that particular evening I had made the wrong choice (a familiar agony for true perfumists, when you know you have selected the wrong scent on a particular occasion and you can’t relax for the rest of the evening….)

 

 

 

 

 

However, her own choices also made me laugh out loud : such thoroughly dreadful . Every ‘clean’, ‘fresh’ ‘sexy’ perfume in the book that she thought were god’s gift to perfume and humanity but which I ferociously, but good humouredly (or so I thought) dissed back as they basically proclaimed her to be an olfactory moron. Ralph Lauren Romance? Give me a break. Vera Wang? Oh, don’t make me laugh…

 

 

It was a body lotion she was carrying in her bag, though, something she thought was exotic and alluring and pretty, that caused the actual assault.  It was so bad, so truly and utterly vile ( Bath And Body Works ‘Japanese Cherry Blossom’ I think, so pink, so chemical and not even remotely related to the smell of the sakura) that I just had to tell her my truth, not expecting for one moment that her exquisitely manicured hand would then coming smashing down, hard, across my face…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In all of this controversy the only perfume we had managed to agree on at any point and to any extent was Happy, still one of the most popular perfumes in America and something of an institution in the ‘clean and perfect’ type of fragrance that renders a person so radiantly scrubbed their sexual organs are smoothed out into flesh-pink Action Man Barbie mounds; skin marbellized, made acrylic; immaculate wash machine halations that mask the flesh beneath and create idealized, perfected, desexed holograms in their place.

 

 

 

 

For this girl, Happy was all about summer, and girls in short white dresses heading out on the town; clean, confident, sexy, radiating wholesomeness.

 

For me, it is the same, really (though I find it more asexual) ; a very cleverly blended citrus floral of grapefruit and orange and a whole bouquet of imaginary flowers (mainly ‘living headspace’ flowers, that apparently include  (!!!!!!) morning dew orchid, West Indian mandarin tree blossom; melati blossom; high altitude laurel; Chinese golden magnolia and  ‘Hawaiian wedding blossom’… ) ha!

 

– and it all just smells lovely, especially in small doses from a distance. Really. Under the complex beginning of the scent there are no woods, or musks, or any other bother, and once the initial, rather heady (and very Lauder) top accord dissipates, you are left with nothing more than a beautiful, very chemical trail of flowers and skin scent that screams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I AM HAPPY!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I HAVE NO PSYCHOLOGICAL GLITCHES!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I AM BALANCED, FOCUSED AND HAVE NO INTESTINES!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I can imagine that there are people reading this who have direct experience of this fragrance, either from wearing it themselves or smelling it on colleagues at work, and I would love to know your thoughts on the subject. Admittedly, the scent is extraordinarily conservative, safe, almost monstrously synthetic, and easy to hate if you prefer the more inner-thigh fragrances. But for me, after a long hot shower, and worn with a clean white shirt, there is, it pains me to admit, nothing better for work. It suits my Japanese olfactory double life perfectly and would probably be in my own top ten of day scents, if it didn’t, unfortunately, cause me such excruciating migraines. As in, full, back of the head pulsating agony. Pierced cranium shootings. I got through at least five bottles of the stuff in my time before I finally realized that it was poisoning me, perhaps literally (I saw an internet article about Happy which was very alarming, but it is not my aim to be libellous, so I might save that for another time……)

 

 

 

 

Despite its hazardous nature though, Happy is, in my view, when all is said and done, a small work of quite original genius from certain standpoints – few perfumes have gained as many compliments from Japanese people on me (honestly: can you believe I am even writing this?):  girls at school literally following me down the corridor crooning about how beautiful I smelled (“flower! Flower!”). I have to say then, that ultimately, this toxic, insidious beauty is something of a classic, if a dangerous one.

 

 

 

 

 

I wonder if Lisa or whatever her name was, somewhere across the Pacific ocean, still wears it when she goes out at night: strutting the Dallas boulevards in her shorts, blouses and clean-pressed whites, trailing Happy, punching strangers in the face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For more on Happy, see my post on my strange, schizoid perfumed life here: ‘Jekyll and Hyde and the colognes of Gandini…’

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Filed under Bitch, Citrus, Perfume Reviews

SIX TUBEROSES

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It is cold, it is icy, and like many perfume lovers, I cannot only limit myself to the cosy and the spicy in winter: I find myself dreaming of summer, fast forwarding in my mind to that moment in May here (can’t wait) when everything goes ballistically pink and green; an explosion of lush life after the cherry blossom petals get blown and washed away from the trees by the last ferocious squalls of Spring and everything heats up; jungle like; humid, moist and fragrant. Sometimes I just want to branch out, rip myself out of the January mindset and let hot flowers bloom; I find myself dousing my skin in the ylangs and noix de coco that make up a sizeable part of my daily collection; the tuberoses, gardenias, the vanilla and the frangipani. I can’t just remain dormant and docile and huddled and feasting on gingerbread.

So today, though the subject has been done to death by every perfumista under the sun, let’s revel in the alabastrine lust of these floral beauties, let their noxious transulence asphyxiate us with their lone, sensuous purpose…..

 

THE TUBEROSE.

 

 

 

EAU DE TUBEREUSE by LE JARDIN RETROUVE

 

The tuberose is no rose. It is a voluptuary: a night-blooming flower from India and Mexico with white, fleshy petals and a sweet, unavoidably carnal aroma of hot skin and stamens. Victorian girls were forbidden to adorn themselves with tuberose toilet waters for fear they would swoon with certain discomforting thoughts (so difficult to avoid with a scent of such delirious candour), and the classic tuberoses,  such as this gorgeous creation by French house Le Jardin Retrouvé ( a perfume I found at the flea market) up the ante of this luscious facet to glorious effect. I am very partial to the billowy soft insinuations of perfumes like the dreamy original Chloë by Karl Lagerfeld, and Tubéreuse is of the same template, only stronger, more lush, more medicinal, more…..tuberose.

 

 

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CARNAL FLOWER / EDITIONS DE PARFUMS FREDERIC MALLE (2005)

 

A friend of mine, Yuta, lives down the hill from me in Kamakura with his wife Mikako. She has the most beautiful skin I’ve ever seen: as translucently smooth as white porcelain. One Sunday in spring they came round to the house, and naturally, like all dinner party guests, they had to be found a perfume from the collection. This is usually fairly easy, as I have an idea what people will like and what will suit them. But Mikako wasn’t having any of it. My instincts towards grey-blue iris scents were rebuffed, as were all perfumes over five years old.

Determined, I kept thinking. And then, as I was looking into the living room, my eyes rested on the amaryllis flower that had just bloomed: giant, translucent pale-pink on a milky green-white stem.

‘I think I have found it’, I said.

‘What does it smell like?’ she replied.

‘Like that’, I said, pointing to the plant.

 

Carnal Flower is very original. Its creators wanted to make a classic perfume that actually resembled the living tuberose but which would be the antithesis to the standard, butter-saturated model set up by Fracas. The project was two years in the making while perfumer Dominique Ropion perfected the formula: a green, petal-centred perfume with florist-fresh top notes – the least sweet of the genre. It is a very unusual fragrance, like watching a plant growing in a sealed-off white laboratory. Crushed stems and eucalyptus leaves begin the scent, over light floral essences (jasmine, ylang), cradling the highest percentage of natural tuberose absolute used in any perfume (hence its rather extravagant price.) On me it smells wrong, but on Mikako, with her cool white skin, incredible. The coconut-milk/white musk finish, the tuberose stems, the green leaves, turned her quite simply into a cold, living flower.

 

 

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FRACAS / ROBERT PIGUET (1948)

 

Mention tuberose and most perfume lovers immediately think of Fracas, the benchmark to which all others of the type must match. A dense and potent woody floral with blasts of the most flamboyant white flowers, this is a perfume for women who like to make an entrance.

The bottle in my own collection was given to me by a friend, who in turn was given it by the late Isabella Blow, doyenne of fashion and extravagant headwear, muse of Philip Treacy, and stolid socialite of the art and fashion world. She wore so much Fracas, and carried so many little bottles about with her, that she could just hand out the perfume like sweets. Wherever Isabella Blow went, so did Fracas; to the extent that for her friends, the smell was her (isn’t that what we all secretly want from a scent?). At her funeral in September 2007, the air was ‘redolent with the scent of Fracas’, according to the Guardian, Alexander Mcqueen having decided to scent the air with her presence.

Though Ms Blow’s signature, Fracas is the preferred scent of many a diva and always has been. It is gorgeous, headstrong and sexy, which is perhaps why it is also loved by Madonna. In the Reinvention Tour documentary ‘I’m going to tell you a secret’, the singer is seen backstage, flustered and sweaty, liberally spraying her Rococo pink corset with what she refers to as her ‘Italian whore’s bath’. A huge bottle of Fracas stands in pride of place in front of her dressing room mirror.

 

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TUBEREUSE / CARON (2003)

While some tuberose perfumes verge on sickly sweet (Versace Blonde I am talking to you….) Caron judiciously allows the full sensual bloom of this flower to open without letting it cloy, tempering the florality with a delicious, creamy base; just a hint of truffle-like darkness. The result is a supremely wearable tuberose; delicate, beguiling, with an underlying texture of cool, white leather, and one I would wholeheartedly recommend for the true tuberose lover who wants to keep it close. Possibly my favourite.

 

TUBEREUSE CRIMINELLE / SERGE LUTENS (1998)

 

Until Carnal Flower came along, it was this cult creation by Serge Lutens and his wildly talented perfumer Christopher Sheldrake that had taken the crown of ‘most original tuberose’, principally due to a medicinal note of wintergreen that braced the florid top note with a shocking sensation of gasoline, rubber and Vicks Vapour rub. This highly unconventional (‘criminal’) beginning you either endure patiently because you love the beautifully petalled, fresh tuberose flowers that await beneath, or it is the principle reason you are obsessed with the perfume. I personally love it in all its perverse, ugly-beautiful glory, but understandably there are many who don’t.

 

 

 

 

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MICHAEL KORS / MICHAEL KORS (2000)

Sharpness of metal: a glinting blade slices clean through ripe, lustrous tuberose flowers to a backdrop of blue lagoon. The sky is brilliant. A fresh, watery accord of flowers cuts the air, leaving a sensuous trail in its wake. A vivid, widescreen floral: notes of fresh tuberose, ‘dewy freesia’, and ‘white wings peony’, with an interesting twist of tamarind for piquancy. It is this more androgynous note, contrasting with the sweet wetness of the tuberose, that gives the perfume its character.

A future flower is on the screen, sharp focus: near enough, almost, to make you wince. A new tuberose: shot; cut; frozen in time. And there the image stays, on pause; for this perfume is unchanging. What you see is what you get with Michael Kors. It is modern, sexy, but not up too close: I prefer the outer limits of its aura, meant to draw you up in as it tingles the air. Though not devoid of tenderness, there is perhaps too much harshness, as though the tuberose were revealing truer, chillier colours.

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Filed under Flowers, Perfume Reviews, Tuberose

HEAT ME UP WITH CINNAMON : Ambre Narguilé by Hermès (2004) + Vanille Cannelle by E. Coudray (1935) + Rousse by Serge Lutens (2007) + Incensi by Lorenzo Villoresi (1997) + Ambre Cannelle by Creed (1945) + Noir Epices by Editions de Parfum (2000) + Cinnamon sherbet by Comme des Garcons (2003) +..

 

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It is  absolutely freezing here in Kamakura today. Grey, icy, miserable, with the possibility of sleet or cold rains tumbling down this afternoon as I have to head out into the sticks to do my evening classes.

 

Ugh. While the temperatures this week, hovering just above or below zero, might seem positively balmy to some of you reading this, especially those suffering under the current deep freeze in North America, the particular problem here is the heating systems, or lack thereof. With a country as hot and humid as Japan is for much of the year, the traditional houses here are not insulated at all, and there is no central heating as Europeans know it, with the hellish result that any heat generated by the detested ‘air conditioners’, those nasty machines that make you sweat yet always seem to have a top layer of cold wind circulating to make you shiver unpleasantly at the same time, or the throat-drying, and dangerous, kerosene heaters we are compelled to use in our house to keep warm, seems to immediately dissipate the minute you switch them off, disappearing like a bastard through the draughty cracks in the doors and windows. I HATE it, and am really yearning for the stolid, stable heat of English hot water radiators, for the suburban living rooms where it is so warm you can just lounge about in a t-shirt and not even think about being cold, or else for spring to just hurry up and arrive.

 

January, a time of overwork, tons of pre-exam classes, and basic lack of physical well-being, is thus usually somewhat miserable for me, an overextended period of gloom and grey, with no possibility of any warm sunshine for at least another three or four months, and of nothing but neurotically obsessing about how many layers to wear the whole time (the misery of a sweat soaked t-shirt beneath those hot layers, as you deliberate between the dilemma of keeping on the wet t-shirt and hoping it will dry, or having to head into a public convenience and contort yourself into ludicrous positions as you renegotiate your clothing).

 

HELL!!

 

 

Moaning aside, though, to generate some warmth right now, both physical and psychological, one of my pleasing and simple comforts is herb tea, especially just before bed. I have experimented with many kinds of tisanes over the years (lemongrass, chamomile, lavender, lemon balm) and know now which ones have the strongest physiological effects on me personally. Whereas in the morning I need hot, steaming coffee and lots of it, at night my tea of choice is rooibos, a South African plant that is incredibly soothing and sends me to sleep even when I am overtired and agitated. This winter I have been experimenting quite a lot with my night brew,  adding different combinations of spices for an added boost, in particular ginger, my vanilla pods from the Javan plantation, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and it has really struck me recently quite how carnal, almost animalic in fact, cinnamon can be, particularly when combined with natural vanilla pods. Where spices like cardamom and nutmeg have a fresh, bracing quality; ginger Chinese verve and fire, and cloves an almost uptight, dark elegance in comparison to cinnamon, my night teas, especially if left brewing for a long time, sometimes take on the slightly naughty aspect of the filthiest orientals: a trace of civet; a very human, bodily aspect that can be almost disconcerting but also deeply mollifying, in a childlike way, when the cold air is surrounding you, and your senses concentrate instead solely on this mothering,  sensual taste. The thick, body-hugging glug of mulled wine that has been steeped in cinnamon sticks;  cinnamon hots; the smell of cinnamon-sprinkled buns and cakes drifting out from a city bakery as you walk along that dark path with hands tucked in coat pockets as if the world couldn’t really be as bad as you thought ( your senses perking up without your even noticing and you find you have plumped for that Starbucks hot cinnamon roll and latte instinctively,  realizing to your horror that you have just consumed 800 calories in one indolent go). Oh well: cinnamon is a palliative: a remedy. Though it is not my favourite spice (that would be clove, or cardamon, or even perhaps saffron), I do think that there is nothing more balancing and heart-repairing in the world of spice. It is the great balancer.

The effect of cinnamon in perfumery is similar to its culinary use –  surely the most trustworthy and unthreatening of the spices; easy, familiar, emotionally warm, and although it does not usually feature as the main theme of many fragrances – probably because it is seen as precisely too foody –  blended, usually, with orange, mandarin, balsams, exotic florals and other spices for the oriental cargo effect (Cinnabar, Opium); or with animalic ambers and vanilla (Obsession, Obsession Men, Cuir Mauresque) – all of which feature a prominent note of the spice that lends their blends a touch of  patisserie snugness and repose, the perfumes we are looking at today are more overtly cinnamonic: tailor-made, surely, for these darker months of winter…….

 

 

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Sunday: 6pm. It has been raining; dark, freezing cold.

 

You have just done something really bad – been shouted at and belted: and after bawling out your eyes in your bedroom upstairs, and are lying prostrate, aimless, and self-pitying, on top of the bed covers; the taste of hot, angry tears still swirling in your head.

Then – suddenly, after who knows how long, the warm, delicious smell of your mother’s baking apple pie finds its way up the reproachful bannisters, and, gradually, life is again alright.

Warm apples, slow-burning cinnamon; mouth-watering aromas of rich buttered pastry; the lilting promises of melting vanilla ice cream.

 

This is Ambre Narguilé: an exalting perfume that seems to provoke obsessive reactions in some people (an olfactory method of regression therapy? ‘Remember the pain. But also remember the good times….’), a scent that is truly designed for cuddling up.

 

An hour after spraying it on, after the sweet shock of the apple strudel opening, Ambre Narguilé is an edible and addictive patisserie classic; gorgeously moreish and emotive with a vivid cinnamon underlay. To get to this point, though, you do have to go through stages of ambery, sugary bulimia; and to be honest, I’m not always sure I am going to make it each time as for me it is just that little bit too sweet. Still, I seem to have got through most of my bottle in one way or another, and I do feel that this scent has really stood the test of time. It is is worth seeking out if you are having a crap week; it is freezing with rain; and you need a sweet, sensory escape.

 

The perfection of the perfume’s  ending, as it hugs to your skin in the softest, dessert-like caress, is the sheerest wintry succour.

 

 

 

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Discontinued, so probably hard to find now, but I once had the pleasure of using the E Coudray Vanille Cannelle bath oil on a cold winter’s night when staying at a friend’s house, and with the ambery vanilla-orange thickness tumbling from the lip of the bottle I just melted into the steaming hot water in total bliss. That bottle, of the very old Parisian type, standing beside to me on the side of the bath like an old friend, just added to the sensation of romance and escape: a perfectly judged dose of cinnamon, and sweetly clinging vanilla, in the manner of the best, most delicious, French cakes.

 

 

 

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Rousse (‘the red head’), one of Serge Luten’s less talked about orientals, is a very different, but equally appealing, scent possessed of red-raw spices that jump out and devour you; the fiery taste (and 3D texture) of real cinnamon sticks and cloves in an ambered, woody, and resinous Lutensian setting. It is direct, pungent, and somewhat simple-minded (in the manner of Louve, Lutens’ cherry-almond), but if you like to wear your spice on your sleeve, as I most certainly do, this rough, flushed, russet perfume is perfect: a chic cinnamon bomb to take on the night.

 

 

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A serious cinnamon. As you’d expect from Mr Lorenzo, Incensi is a languorously layered, complicated scent with a certain integrity, the incense of the name not prominent until the drydown where the main feature in this curious blend is more a ginger-bolstered cinnamon emerging from a blast of strange greenness (elemi, leaf notes, galbanum) than the more liturgical scent you might be expecting: the preferred, cooler incensed notes of antiquity lying calm and serious beneath like a cellar  (frankincense, benzoin, myrrh, styrax), while the note of cinnamon –  unsweetened, potent,  and vaguely ecclesiastical, remains curiously prominent throughout.

 

A cinnamon scent, perhaps, for Pope Francis.

 

 

 

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If you are male and have always secretly wished you had worn Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium – that brilliant and unforgettable classic for women from the 70’s –balsamic, spicy and orange-laden – but were just too embarrassed to buy a ‘women’s’ perfume, for whatever reason, then here’s your chance. Ambre Cannelle is apparently a part of Creed’s men’s range; and admittedly there are fewer flowers;  its physiognomy has more sinew, it’s formula perhaps more refinement, but this scent was obviously the inspiration (along with Estée Lauder’s Youth Dew) for the whole swooning-Jerry Hall-Roxy-Music-addict phenomenon that was Opium – just thirty years before. It is quite a nice scent, actually, with a sexed, ambergris/ musk base that clings to the cinnamon-amber-flecked accord with air of tightened, bodily mystique.

 

It IS somewhat old fashioned, though; check it out for yourself first before committing (in a floor length fur coat).

 

 

 

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A very well respected and original cinnamon spice that many cite as their favourite from the Frederic Malle line, for the tightly woven structure; the dense, spiced treatment of orange and geranium over arid, woody finish, and I can certainly see the Noir Epices’ fan club members’ point, but on this occasion, I am afraid, I must beg to differ.

 

While I can certainly see the appeal of this perfume’s  fat-free structure (no musk: no fluffiness: no soft, vanillic contours), its stark angularity,  like Campari and orange, which I like in theory for its bitter sunset red but in reality can’t drink, the vile bitterness of this perfume’s orange makes me shudder. I find it quite unendurable on my own skin, though I have to say that I was astonished to find that the perfume I was complimenting on my friend Justin one night at karaoke – warm, sensual, compelling and sexy – was in fact Noir Epices.

 

Yet another argument for the fact that some perfumes really do smell utterly distinctive on different people.

 

 

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Of the three jaunty little perfumes in the Comme Des Garcons sherbet series, to me, Cinnamon is possibly the least successful. The Rhubarb is surely a delight: the Mint the greenest, mintiest thing you’ve ever smelled, but the cinnamon, with its contrasting (jarring?) notes of hot and cold, is less loveable.

 

 

On the other hand, the freshness of the scent and its resemblance to more spicy, ozonic scents like Issey Miyake Pour Homme make it the most commercial of the three, and rather an original take on the note of cinnamon. Like all the sherbets, it is quite fun.

 

 

 

 

 

Other cinnamons:

VANILLE CANELLE/ COMPTOIR SUD PACIFIQUE Just what you’d expect from Comptoir– a warm, sexpot aroma of cinnamon in a sweet, ready to wear (for evening) setting.

CINNAMON SPICE/ BODY SHOP Serviceable perfume oil that does the trick in a mumsy, down-at-the-shops kind of way.

CINNAMON BUN / DEMETER &

CINNAMON TOAST/ DEMETER  Olfactory holograms for cinnaphiles with bulimic appetites.

 

 

Do let me know if there are any other good cinnamon perfumes you can recommend that I am not aware of: I imagine there must be quite a few good ones out there that I haven’t mentioned and I am really in the mood for this smell and taste.

 

 

 

Let’s cinnamon!

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Filed under Cinnamon, Perfume Reviews, Spice

HOT BANANAS!!!! LADYBOY by GORILLA PERFUMES

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Greetings everyone and a very happy 2013 to you. Thanks for being part of The Black Narcissus: I am meeting some lovely, really interesting people on here and am very much looking forward to some more exchanges over the next twelve months and beyond. Don’t be shy! Let’s rant, wane and wax together…

I hope you had a lovely Christmas/holiday period and are rested and ready for the new year. Myself, I emerged, reluctantly, from my cocoon yesterday and went off into Tokyo to research vanilla perfumes for my latest Sweet Little Thing guest post over at Olfactoria’s Travels (it will come out on Friday, so please have a look if you are interested in the various discoveries of my bean odyssey). Stopping at Lush in Shinjuku, which was SO packed with people bargain hunting at the sales it almost precipitated a claustrophobic panic attack, I tested their sandalwood-heavy Vanillary, which is an effective little perfume in its heavy-hitting, jasmine absolute, coconut-incense-stick kind of way, very erotic and in-your-face, but then came across a small perfumed sensation and forgot all else: LADYBOY.

That name!!  The pungent, rotting bananas of the top notes!
The bubblegum, nail polish and eyelash-heavy violets! I simply had to get a bottle – and it just so happened, on that day, to be 50% off as well (only the Shinjuku branch stock this perfume, which shows its oddness): I suppose it was never likely that a large chunk of the populace would go for a perfume that smells of melting hot bananas and amyl nitrate.

Now, the banana is not a note we often find in perfumery, and my Ladyboy has the most overt banana as its main note I have ever smelled…..

But what other bananas are there?

Probably my first exposure to the note of the genus musa was in J Del Pozo’s Quasar, a blue-sporty fragrance from 1994 that nevertheless had a very innovative top note of fresh green banana leaf that I always thought should have been the mainstay of the fragrance (it wasn’t – what came later was always a disappointment). It imprinted itself on my brain nevertheless. A brilliant banana did come, later, in the form of Vanille Banane by Comptoir Sud Pacifique, a scent I discovered while staying in Paris: fresh, delightful banana, halfway between the clean, unripened fruit, and those chewy, artificial, 2p banana sweets you grew up with from the local shops – dry, fresh, a touch acidic- but it then folded, unfortunately, into the ‘classic’ Comptoir vanilla, which always errs on the side of the sickly and plastickly sweet. You would have to be a really cute party bopper to pull that one off effectively, and I unfortunately couldn’t, on my skin.

A very unusual banana tree note was later to be found in Jean Patou’s Sira Des Indes, a very languid, almost sardonic, tropical perfume that features a top note of banana leaves before turning to a more voluptuous, if beautifully blasé, animalic floral: I wish this perfume had had more success because the combination was very interesting, though clearly ultimately too decadent to ever find mainstream success.

One perfume I own that combines flowers and banana delightfully is a rare scent I found at the flea market one Sunday – Jazmin by Le Jardin De Jimmy Boyd, a Barcelona-based perfumer whose jasmine flowers morph effortlessly into banana leaves and then morph back again….an effect that is either simply the quality of the jasmine flowers used (which might have a fruity-tropical facet) or is a trick by the perfumer….either way this is by far my favourite jasmine and the watery, luscious banana green of the top notes only makes it better.

Aside these, I know of few banana perfumes, so please let me know if you are aware of others.

So….Ladyboy. But before we get to Ladyboy, let’s talk some more about bananas.

For me, I am not sure if the banana would necessarily feature in my Fruit Top Ten (would it yours?), but I do love the taste and smell of the fruit and am also somewhat obsessed with the banana tree growing in our back garden (which has grown to unexpectedly monstrous proportions), as well as the smaller ones growing in pots on my balcony and in the hallway upstairs. Kamakura is strange in that it has winters not much warmer than England but fully tropical summers, as hot as Borneo and equatorial Africa, which means you see snow on palm trees in February, and frost on the poor banana trees which tower back up again in August, never to fully bear fruit as they die on the vine at the beginning of November; a sterile frustration I always feel as the baby bananas start to cluster in June…..

But to that fruit top ten:

(I would love to hear yours as well by the way, as I am a fruit freak. I basically love all of it, though I am somewhat less partial to kiwi and melon than other fruit (which is why I never go for those appallingly melona melona scents like Eau Emotionelle and Après La Mousson….and why I wasn’t overstruck on the kiwi perversions of Amouage Interlude…)

Off the top of my head:

1. pineapple

2. papaya

3. grapefruit

4.  lemon

5. strawberry

6. apple (not Japanese: English, or the like)

7. plum

8. cherry

9. orange/satsuma/Japanese iyokan

10. rhubarb?

Basically I go for the tart, and the fluffy dessert flesh of the banana doesn’t even seem like fruit to me, somehow, more a species all of its own: a beautiful alien: creamy, pulpy, feathery (goodness writing this is really making me crave a banana….!), and yet Duncan and I, despite this, did have a whole party one summer based around the fruit.

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Before your minds turn toward filth and assumptions, let me say that we also had a beautiful wintery party in Tokyo called Kirsch, but I can see that I am digging myself into ever deeper holes by talking about cherries and bananas, oh dear.

Kirsch was held at a 1950’s café-diner in Ebisu called Kissa Ginza, and all was red, and all was cherry, and it was sublime, if chaotic… Delicious Banana, meanwhile, came from a postcard we found one day. As is well known, Japanese English is often hilariously, atrociously bad on a daily basis, or else almost surrealistically strange and simple, like the innocent declaration ‘delicious banana’ which is so saturated with itself and its nothingness we quickly picked it up and turned it into a party, which I must tell you about here if you have nothing better to do.

Delicious Banana was one of our strangest festas (and we have had many), for a number of reasons. Firstly, the venue: a curious, three-storied art café called Mogura (mole), which was as tight a fit as a fairy-tale, and had very poor air conditioning, which brings us to the second point: it was, or seemed like, the hottest day of the year, seriously, seriously boiling: sweltering like you couldn’t imagine (around 36 degrees, though hotter in my memory, with about 80% humidity). I remember us carting records, cds, decorations and white Casablanca lilies all the way from Kamakura (at least 90 minutes away), and arriving covered in lily powder, our clothes ruined; we bought heaps and heaps and heaps of bananas and hung them everywhere……the guests came all in yellow, and we had little kids running around in banana hats, plus the menu, all devised beforehand of course, was exclusively banana (it’s a wonder I ate a banana ever again…)

There was banana salad; banana tacos, banana desserts… bananas were coming out of our ears and we were wilting from the heat along with the bananas that were stringing the stairwells…

The music, which I spent a lot of time on, was all tropicalia-tastic, and I remember almost swooning with pleasure dancing to ‘One Day In Your Life’ by MJ with my beautiful friend Takako in temperatures that were not fit for human beings upstairs….the heat, the sun pouring through the skylights…we almost became our very own banana flambée of human melée; the climax being when I ended up trussed and decorated by five or six women ( the other strange thing about that party: for some reason it was exclusively female apart from Duncan and myself, hilarious given the name of the event) and, in some kind of fertility ritual, all of which happened spontaneously, I was dressed up and made up by the women in some Wicker-Man-like sacrifice (though in honesty the end result was more like Carmen Miranda….)

The party is imprinted in my memory as fun and banana bliss, and as the place it was held no longer exists, just writing about it here feels like some sad, beautiful tropical resurrection…

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So there I was in thick makeup, anyway, covered in fruit, and here I am now wearing Ladyboy. And like the Delicious Banana party with the women congregating around,  and showered with the fruit, is there an internal joke to the perfume?: the lack, or the covered-up fruit of the Thai transsexual or ‘transvestite’ an implicit feature of the creation?

Who is to say? Simon Constantine, the perfumer at Gorilla Perfumes, strikes me as a very nice kind of person and I can’t imagine any gender or homophobic malice; strangely, the rich banana of the top note segues beautiful with a powdery, thickly scented violet that might recall makeup, but also those delectable, hot, coconut, banana and tapioca desserts that Thai cooks make so exquisitely, and the ‘invisible banana’ is an interesting sexual motif dangling enigmatically in the mental void of this ladyboy in any case; it is possible that I put too much stock in the name of perfumes sometimes but then I think that the names of scents, like the names of paintings and mixtapes, are crucial, making linkages in the mind that  involve the participant and open vistas and connections in the soul that when truly inspired…

I have also been to Bangkok and it was dizzying; being driven at night in a tuk-tuk bicycle taxi to a restaurant where the delicious smelling lime-chilli fish had me drooling and weeping hot involuntary tears it was so spiced as the lights on the water bobbed and the mysteries I could never understand lay mercilessly on the other side of the bay….

While we were there I don’t know if we actually ever met any real ‘ladyboys’, but I have met my fair share of Asian crossdressers or whatever term you find most suitable, and I am happy to wear a scent in their honour; the humour, the true beauty, the confusing gorgeousness; all of this is served well in this perfume…

The smell of nail varnish, of hair spray, of the little cabaret’s dressing room and its fairy lights on mirrors conjured up by the acetatey sheen of the initial, artificial banana smell; the bizarre addition of seaweed added to the mix, which I can’t thankfully detect ( I HATE seaweed, the smell and the taste of it, which is a problem living in Japan! ) but which I imagine adds some leathery temperance and wearability under the banana banners; the perfume becoming, eventually, an eminently wearable perfume of oakmoss, patchouli, and labdanum, the scent definitively no longer a joke if, in fact, it ever was one.

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Filed under Banana, Fruit, Jasmine, Perfume Reviews