Tag Archives: 2010s scents

PRECIOUS ONE by ANGELA FLANDERS (2012)

Image

Image

The talk is all of tuberose, and jasmine, and fleurs de nuit, flowers floating ethereally above vetiver and oakmoss; a velvety, new, but classically-leaning chypre that won Angela Flanders the award for best independent fragrance at the 2012 FIFI awards.

The first thing I can say about this fragrance is that I can really see why it won this award: it has depth, richness, and integrity, and is one of the earthiest women’s perfumes to have been released in decades.

Which brings me to the second point: there is some serious gender subversion going on here, as the perfume, to me, smells emphatically masculine, almost brutishly so. I love the idea of delicate, spindly, fashion creatures honing in on the Precious boutique in Spitalfields, London, on a  cold Monday morning, being seduced by the immediacy of the store’s in-house fragrance, and emerging, clad in moss and peat, ready to overturn perfumed clichés in a ‘back to Bandit!’, balaclava-wearing revolution.

While the name of the perfume seems to allude to a beloved – only one in my life – for me, no matter how many times I smell Precious One, this is nothing but a vivid, bisexual, menage à trois.

She may be wearing white flowers, procuring a slight sense of vague floral sweetness to the proceedings, but her two men, young, sinewy and virile, vy for her attentions and each other, almost completely drowning her out with their male aromas, which compete in the air like a dance of the dryads, their bodies and aromas concurring and wreathing aromatically: the spice and fougèrish warmth of vintage Paco Rabanne Pour Homme; the classic, dark green auras of the oakmoss and pine-drenched vintage Lauren Polo: mouthing up the flowers, kissing, and merging with the trees.

Sparring together, the three lovers eventually settle on an arid, mousse de chêne-covered rock to catch their collective breath which they exhale together, sighing: a bark and foliage layered vetiver, tarry in the early evening light, somewhere in the heart of the forest.

 

 

 PRECIOUSONE_3068

 

9 Comments

Filed under Chypre, Vetiver

Straight to the heart: PARFUM DE MAROC by AFTELIER PERFUMES (2010)

Image

ImageImage

Yesterday we looked at the bizarre, if highly memorable, Arabie by Mr Lutens and his magician/alchemist/sidekick Christopher Sheldrake, an innovative blend in which the desserts and spices of the Middle East were whipped up into an impossibly smooth and sultry, if for me indigestible, perfume.

I love spices: they reel me in, especially now that we are living in the days of the anodyne and the measured in perfume, where to smell merely pleasant, clean or worst of all, unthreateningly conformist, is the order of the day. (How often do you trail behind a person on the street wearing a gorgeously spicy scent? That sensation in your brain and stomach when your limbic system is momentarily thrown off course and the instinctual drives kick in and, like a blinkered horse, you forget your surroundings and all you can think about is that scent and its associations…..?)

The perfumes of Mandy Aftel, which I have only recently had the chance to smell for the first time, are composed entirely of natural essences, and they deliver a kick to me physically; involuntarily, somewhere between the groin and the heart (though I felt something in my upper legs for some reason upon sampling the new Oud Luban extrait recently; it literally had my muscles twitching….) Intellectually I wasn’t entirely sure about its curious blending of blood orange oils and the extraordinarily dirty and suggestive essential oil of oud and the Indian essence Choya Ral, but at the same time it was so feral that while my mental protective mechanisms went pitifully into place, my body rebelled as I sat there in the dark watching a film, and it got me quite frankly aroused……)

I have not yet written much about aromatherapy on this site as I am concentrating more on perfume, but for me the two go hand in hand in daily life, and I have been intimately involved with aromatherapeutic oils for at least twenty years (and seen a miracle or two in that time as well). Let’s just say I am a believer.

Where essential oils are like medicines for me, indispensable for my sense of well-being and feeling of a therapeutic connection with nature (the souls of plants!) perfumes are my hedonistic side; aesthetic and sensual pleasure, shameless artefacts of beauty that are ephemeral, invisible, to be consumed in a way that makes them unique and enjoyably guilt-ridden.

Having these two separate sides of myself fused – the medicinal and the purely fragrant and luxuriant – is an odd sensation for me, because on the whole I do view them quite differently. I realize, obviously, that most perfumes contain natural oils and so will also have some physiological effect on the organism, but this is very different from the way a bath of rosemary, geranium and peppermint makes my heart beat like a drum, or the way marjoram oil at night soothes my spirits like the anaesthetic waters of Lethe; or how a candlelit bath of vetiver sends me to a slow-breathing netherworld of the deepest, most earth-centred tranquillity.

Can natural perfumes find a pleasing in-between? Be subtle and complex enough to please the senses aesthetically while delivering the physiological goods? I have already written some favourable reviews of the all-natural, and very delicate, scents by Frazer Parfums (which see), and judging from Oud Luban and Parfum de Maroc, which is a very excellent rose/spice fragrance, Ms Aftel really does manage to stride the bridge between the two worlds extremely effectively.

Going back for a moment to what I was saying about encountering people that are doused attractively in spice, aside Duncan’s mother Daphne and her clouds of Opium and Jacomo’s Parfum Rare, and my friend Georgia who wears Caron’s Poivre exquisitely with its fiery, moody, blend of pepper and cloves, the spice scent that springs to mind the most in this conversation is the original perfume by Comme De Garçons, that groundbreaking spice blend based on perfumer Mark Buxton’s memories of the Moroccan souk. It is a great scent, but too many fashionistas and art people were wearing it at the time of its launch (1994) whether it suited them or not, and when a person chooses a perfume for ‘the wrong reasons’, especially with something as distinctive as this clovey, cinnamon balsam-laden thing, in my opinion the perfume can just sit on the skin unwantedly and smell wrong.

Comme des Garçons was a very dense perfume that contained every spice under the sun over incense: it smelled mainly natural and was originally made for CDG founder Rei Kawakubo as an mood-enhancing elixir to steel the nerves, yet allow you to relax in its warm aura, all the while in the full realisation that you were wearing something emphatically cool. It was the perfume that brought spices, and the edible, back into the fold when the trends in perfumery were going in the opposite, more anorexic,  directions of Eau D’Issey and CK One, and for that we must be grateful.

I mention this perfume because it was what Aftelier’s Parfum De Maroc vaguely reminded me of the first time I tried it on (after all, both scents are based on the same specific geographic location, the Moroccan spice market). But where in the CDG souk-fest the spices and other elements feel pressed together and fused in the laboratory, Parfum De Maroc allows for no such artificially induced compression and bursts from its bottle unsuppressed, natural essences of a very sensual Turkish rose absolute layered over a prominent base accord of cardamom and myrrh essential oil ( an essence I have used in face creams and whose odour I know intimately), all swirling, diffusively and suggestively, while a captivatingly spicy accord of galangal ( a more fiery relative of ginger ), black pepper, saffron and nutmeg lower your defences as they choreograph themselves around the soaring red rose – surely the star of the show. It is a scent that needs red, orange, gold, rich fabrics, and a person with a warmer heart than mine to wear effectively: it is gorgeous, but on me I find the perfume almost torrid, the untamed nature of the pure essential oils used, particularly the myrrh, almost intimidatingly rich and heart-filling (Parfum De Maroc would work amazingly as a grief or shock-absorber….it is the perfect antidote to cold of all kinds….)

Still, if I wasn’t quite comfortable wearing this heady perfume on myself I still had an urge to keep smelling it for some reason, and so I then committed what might be seen as something of a perfumista sin …

Like other essential oils, which I sometimes evaporate in oil burners placed in different parts of the house, I decided to try ‘burning’ Parfum De Maroc, just to see, letting its Arab vapours fill the entire house with its florid coils of quietly pulsating heat, and I must tell you that the smell, as it slowly made its way around corners and into each room as I caught its poignant, exotic warmth, practically made me swoon.

24 Comments

Filed under Flowers, Rose, Spice

a flash of fruit and the night was mine………….BLACK ANGEL, DEVIL IN DISGUISE and SLEEPING WITH GHOSTS by MARK BUXTON (2012)

Image

 

 

Image

 

 

Image

 

 

 

Perfumer Mark Buxton, famous for his iconic creations for Comme Des Garçons and other houses, released an eponymous collection of scents last year comprising five striking, idiosyncratic creations that, surprisingly, despite their innovations, don’t seem to have been much written about.

I quite like them. Each perfume in this collection is pared down, simple, but plush and striking, and although the names of the perfumes might put us in mind of horror films, the morbid, and the ridiculous creations of Black Phoenix Lab, with their constant allusions to the satanic, the scents themselves are anything but.  Rather, I find the perfumes to be more like stark, modern, scented novelties: a blast of rhubarb here, of ginger or elderberry there, or of quince, Buxton choosing to overdose on one or two ingredients in each fragrance, an effect that draws and locks you in or leaves you cold depending on your reaction to that particular facet.

Although I tend to prefer more nuanced, extended perfumed stories on the whole, where head notes and heart lead slowly and inexorably to base in a constant play of shifting back scenery and fragments of emotion,  sometimes you want something fresh and arresting, and these unfussed creations fit that bill nicely, scents to spray on nonchantly (as you know they are going to work  out on the town);  quickly check your hair and face, and go out that door to your appointment in the city.

 

 

Sleeping With Ghosts (” a fantasy of extreme tenderness”), my own favourite in the collection, may sound daunting and gothic but like all the Mark Buxtons, the name is misleading (or at least playfully titillating): what you might imagine to be an incensey, ghoulish scent in fact a very fruity and vanillic thing that while linear and monothematic, is touching. It is a composition dominated by a sweet, spectral vanilla suggesting poigant memories; a lover’s body that has graced your sheets but has now gone, leaving nothing but the sensation that they are still there… just traces. These are the ghosts that the perfumer seems to be alluding to; those feelings of infatuation, happiness and spontaneity that love and reminiscence evoke, and a sense of yearning for those feelings again come springtime.

If vanilla is custard yellow, this is pink ivory white: pitched higher on the musical scale, creamily fruit-tinged; an insidious, addictive smell that dominates the scent, fused with barely perceptible touches of vetiver leather. The beginning of the perfume is the stage I like the best though, as it is all about the vivacious smells of tagetes, peony flowers and, notably, a very bright and deliciously juicy quince, an unusual note in a perfume and one that works perfectly over the softer notes in the base (which I find less compelling). I keep wanting to rewind back to that salivated  beginning.

 

 

** *

Rhubarb is another delectable fruit, with its tart, summery tang, and though it is gradually becoming more popular as an ingredient in perfume (especially as used by Jean Claude Ellena in perfumes such as Rose Ikebana, and by Duchaufour in the latest Aedes de Venustas) it has never been used as extravagantly as it has in the curious Devil In Disguise (“the divine wind of danger”).

A gorgeously flamboyant note of rhubarb leaves and neroli is used in this upfront scent, which was apparently inspired by the experience of sitting at a café in Italy and being tantalized, and turned on, by the smell of a woman sitting somewhere out of sight, as Buxton sat with his coffee and dreamed of recreating this feeling in a perfume. The frisson of fruit and carnality works beautifully,  though the contrast (some might say the friction) between that mouthwatering opening and the splayed realities of the musky, sandalwood base are something of an acquired taste.

I can imagine this perfume being extraordinarily erotic on the person that can pull it off, actually (go on….) but for me personally the scent’s bridge between head and base could have been fleshed out more. Having said that, the directness and brisk transparence of this formula are a large part of its appeal.

 

 

 

 

*   *     *

Once in a while you smell a scent that gives you an unexpected boost of serotonin; a bottled mood-enhancer. Many of the best perfumes are melancholic; you sigh wistfully as vistas and memories open up in your soul and you indulge your inner self;  or else they are occasionally pure seduction and you swoon and loll your eyes like a loon. There aren’t that many scents, however, that just make you happy.

Black Angel, which tells the story of the moment when a stunningly beautiful woman suddenly appeared through the dry iced smoke to Mark Buxton in a nightclub, has one of the most immediately uplifting and optimistic top accords I have smelled in years (a racy jasmine and mandarin-infused ginger), capturing, perfectly, the feeling of a night to come; cuba libre in hand – that intoxicating sense of summery anticipation.

Duncan took to it immediately, with its limey disco pulse and internal good-time engines, and has worn it several times out to great effect. The base of the scent is perhaps more generic (a styrax/patchouli/amber accord), merely pleasant where the top is so captivating, but on the whole this perfume works beautifully (I am not sure whether my reaction to that gingery goodness in the head notes is some subjective memory that it re-evokes – possibly a deodorant I loved when I was seventeen?), but it is certainly somehow familiar.

Duncan’s reaction to it, however, shows that ultimately it is the perfume itself (which feels intrinsically heartfelt with its fun, upfront integrity) that is objectively good, much like the other scents in this collection (Wood & Absinthe, a good quality, quite haunting vetiver, and Sexual Healing, an osmanthus/elderberry leather (yes you read that correctly) that I am less keen on but which is certainly interesting).

For a change of scene, and an immediate, and easy blast of the positive, these nice little perfumes work a treat.

20 Comments

Filed under Ginger, Mojito, Perfume Reviews, Quince, Rhubarb, Vanilla

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire: CASTANA by ATELIER CLOON KEEN (2012)

Image

 

Image

 

 

Chestnuts, or ‘kuri’ in Japanese, are a winter staple in Japan. In Tokyo, and in most cities and towns in fact, there are chestnut vendors who trawl the streets at night with their tinny transistors wailing the traditional Edo period ‘chestnut song’ among the cold, steaming red neon: the nuts, in their shells, fragrant, unpeeled, and roasting hot as you grab a quick late night snack before the last train home.

 

 

Marrons glacés, Mont-Blancs (with which I now have something of an obsession, when combined with a piping hot cup of caffe latte on a cold rainy day in winter) and anything chestnutty in fact, are very popular here( they are also traditionally eaten pickled): the tiny, shrivelled, squirrel brains both nutritious and unique in texture, and aroma, and flavour.

 

But although I was always familiar with the famous Christmas time song by Nat King Cole, as a person who grew up in England,  I am almost embarrassed to say that I had never tasted one before I came to this country. In my family at least, they were never part of our lives. I think the only chestnuts I ever knew were those we used for playing ‘conkers’ at school; the gorgeous, friendly plonk as those spiky green bonnets fell to the grass with their moist, white, inner encasings…. I used to love collecting them, and shining them, and in fact probably just kept them more as treasures on my bedside table than I did smashing other kids’, but I am sure I never ate one (though I did have a strange thing for acorns, but I’ll save that for another time..)

 

 

 

Castaña (Spanish for chestnut), is one of the few perfumes that have a distinctly nutty aroma, and the first I know of to feature the chestnut. Cloon Keen is a perfumer and candlemaker based in Galway, and though it is rather clichéd of me to say so, to me there is, undeniably, a distinctly ‘Irish eyes are smiling’ aspect to the scent. It is warm, benevolent; optimistic in-woolly jumper (and generous figure): a person you trust and like, flitting and fussing about the kitchen, taking care of you with a loving smile and a twinkle.

 

Beginning with a creamy, rich and edible chestnut over sweetened, cherished vetiver, the perfume progresses to milkier, more sandalwoody tones. While the top accord features a lemon-floral note (cassia and jasmine), the scent remains buttery (yet clean and appealing) throughout its duration on the skin. I find it quite a simple scent, probably too much so in some ways ( and I have never been a fan of the ambroxan-like note embedded in the white musk base), but despite these slight misgivings that is only a question of personal taste: I know many people enjoy those warm, musky strokes and I would very happily smell it on another person, as Castaña is just one of those scents that is uncomplicated and lovely, very easy to wear on a daily basis without even noticing it until it becomes your smell. It is also quite inexpensive, which is a boon in the niche market of today where buying a scent really can really put you out of pocket.

 

 

Castaña is slightly reminiscent of another scent, actually, another vetiver/nut combination,  almost as though Hermès Vetiver Tonka (with its gorgeous heart note of hazelnut – see my review), had, in his second year at Cambridge, come back for the Christmas and New Year holiday; all geared up, flighty and full of literary pretensions, to  then be brought gently back down to earth by his loving; less educated; but more more emotionally open, mother.

 

 

 

30 Comments

Filed under Chestnut, Perfume Reviews, Woods

HOT BANANAS!!!! LADYBOY by GORILLA PERFUMES

belovedladyboysImage

Image

Image

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.

Image

Image

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…

Image

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.

29 Comments

Filed under Banana, Fruit, Jasmine, Perfume Reviews

DAYBREAK …..ARTILLERY No 4 by ANGELA FLANDERS (2012)

Image

 

 

 

Vetiver is my antidote.

 

 

Sometimes, after all the coconut-vanilla baccanalia of the night before, the lunging sweetness, I need a pointed clarity; a virile freshness. The length of a leaf; a clarified root….nature, in other words – a walk in the trees to refresh the lungs and head.

 

 

A good vetiver is a point of dignity. A no-nonsense striation of elegance in the plant world; less golden and voluptuous than sandalwood; more reserved and discreet than its fuzzy, soil libating sister patchouli.

 

 

For me it is also one of the few aromatic materials that almost do not necessitate a perfumer. Where rose or jasmine essential oils smell woozy and unfettered in their raw state and require dilution and embellishment before their setting in the jeweller’s ring, a good vetiver oil I can dab on neat. Once the initial cursory roughness dissipates, the complex, depthening, head-grounding oil resonates beautifully, and uninterruptedly, for hours.

 

 

At the same time, pure vetiver essential oil is not something I want to wear every time – sometimes you want a slice of citrus and some tonic in your gin, and vetiver oil combines so naturally with delicate florals and citrus notes that when watered down and freshened, it can have a regular, beautiful simplicity of early morning ablutions.

 

 

This is exactly what Angela Flanders has done with her Artillery Series; simple and inexpensive colognes formed around one key aromatic material: contemporary but pleasingly classical throwbacks to unfussy transparence and briskness.

 

 

 

The most fêted vetivers tend to be the sculpted and perfected citrus/woody/resinous interpretations, such as Grey Vetiver, Encre Noire, Sycomore, and Vétiver Extraordinaire, all of which are very fine perfumes, ‘urban vetivers’, if you like, for the impeccably-dressed and the chic. I can wear these scents for a short time as they buoy me up and make me feel as though I have rejoined the world, but, ultimately there is something quite passive aggressively proscribed about these scents for me. There is no room to move: I feel constricted within these never-ending, synthetic spines that give me headaches: so-called ‘masterpieces of vetiver’ that quite honestly leave me cold.

 

 

By contrast, Artillery N° 4 is grace and simplicity itself: an early morning, vitreous vetiver with the lightness of a cologne that to some may lack  panache, but which speaks to me directly.  The official notes for the scent say it begins with bergamot and lavender, but to my nose it is all about rosewood and lime and perhaps just a hint of clary sage; a glassy patina of linalool like the surface of a Canadian lake where imaginary reeds of vetiver sway, cool and thriving, down below in deep waters; an agile, herbaceous beginning that brings to mind the flinty diffidence of Penhaligons’ regretted Eau Sans Pareil – not a hint of sweetness or overemphasized lemoned counterpoint – only a call to the outside; to that walk in cold air that your body is telling you need –  before finally progressing in a very natural fashion to a light, airy, mineralic vetiver that lacks any pomp or ‘perfumer’s extravagance’  – and the very reason why I like it.

 

 

 

15 Comments

Filed under Perfume Reviews, Vetiver

POUDRE DE RIZ by HUITIEME ART (2012)

Image

Image

Image

 

 

I love a perfume with a good story line, and the powdery, illicit backdrop of Poudre De Riz is a good one. It is a tawdry tale with a double dose of sensorial voyeurism, inspired by the French novel Inferno (1908) by Henri Barbusse: a man spying on a frantic adulterous couple in the boarding room next door through a crack in the wall; witnessing, and smelling their aromas; her bath, the splashes of heavy, sweet perfumes to cover up the scent of heat-coupled flesh; and, then, her last-minute attempts to make up her face with lipstick and powders, a disgruntled varnish to mask her true feelings before the arrival of her husband….

But he does of course notice:

“The air in the room was filled with heavy scents….soap, face powder, and the pungent smell of an eau de cologne…..” and the perfume, proficiently blended by Pierre Guillaume, is thus an attempt to capture this coagulation of emotion: of sex, concealment, passion (guilt?) and of the perfected and more preened face that we must present to the world..

Though I sometimes bore myself to tears with my own predictability (tiare monoï oil; coconut; vanilla, benzoin…..surely I am bound to like this perfume?) I really do: it is quite gorgeous and I just can’t help myself, the ‘rice powder’ of the name a pearlescent dust of sheen wavering over a sensual, but controlled and delicate, effluvium of aphrodisia that has none of the stinginess or bitter, ‘avant-garde’ snarl of some niche scents.

Poudre De Riz in fact immediately reminded me of a number of sweet, oriental perfumes that I have worn over the years, while remaining individual enough to merit a full bottle. The beautiful note of Damascena roses shining through slews of animalic, almonded musks comes straight from Louve; the soft, linty, vellutinous white powder Teint De Neige; and the ambered, cinnamony goodness a throw-back to my beloved Obsession For Men before it got spayed by reformulation; (the tolu over cedar and sandalwood note in the base also strangely took me back to that ribald old tropico-classic, Nuits Indiennes by Louis Scherrer…)

Still, the perfume works on its own terms, and all the notes are blended in such a way that despite the story and gourmand overdose, the perfume is never claustrophobic: my own skin always brings out the heavier, vanillic angle of a scent, but I can imagine on certain women that this could smell almost angelic….

 

 

Image

29 Comments

Filed under Orientals, Perfume Reviews, Powder, Rice, Rose, Voyeur