Tag Archives: Bertrand Duchaufour

HIT ME WITH YOUR RHYTHM STICK : : : : PENHALIGONS TRALALA (2014)

 

 

 

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And, in the top we have : : :  Aldehydes, Ylang Ylang, Galbanum, Violets, Whiskey, Saffron

In the heart: : :  Tuberose,  Carnation, Heliotrope, Incense,  Leather

And In the base: : : : :    Musk, Vanilla, Opoponax, Patchouli, Vetiver…..

 

 

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I spray on the perfume and I can immediately smell Bertrand Duchaufour. Ah yes, unmistakeably his signature; that familiar, directional, semi-cacophonous dissonance that always, subsequently, coagulates into something more legible – out there – but usually quite  fun. That modern laboratory edginess that sometimes strikes me as being over-intellectualized, never instinctual; over-complicated, even, but still, on the whole, rather undeniably pleasing and bright.

 

 

Recently, I have come round to this perfumer more and more. His Traversée Du Bosphore is a luminous slice of cosmopolitan Turkish Delight I can’t help but enjoy; I was amused and somewhat swept away by his recent metallic pineapple-fest Déliria, and as for Sartorial, I think I am going to let Duncan tell his side of the story about that one. On him it is wonderful and straightforwardly gorgeous.

 

Tralala, a cute name, in a cute bottle (if you ask me; I am always somewhat drawn to the carnival; magic toyshops; puppetry and the grotesque) is not quite what you might expect from the waywardly bizarre list of ingredients. Reading those on paper, I would be expecting a heavy orient; brusque, thick, and dense, whereas in reality, as befits the name, the scent is more of a sweet, dangly legged thing that wants to bop about like an overexcited jack-in-the-box in a toy shop.

 

On my skin, Tralala opens on an effervescent, cherry-leather uplifting overture of red fruit, tuberose, and aldehydes with just a tiny touch of the pre-mentioned whiskey: this is not a ‘boozy’ type of perfume by any means, not liquourous, oozing or honey-thick. No: this is upbeat, fresh, and zany:  soon, the white musks and vanilla will hook up willingly with the ylang ylang and the violets to become, strangely, a perfume that was the star of the show at Duchaufour’s alma mater L’Artisan Parfumeur; to me, this perfume is essentially the classic Mûre Et Musc gone haywire. A snazzier, more marshmallowy, Mûre for sure (a scent I love and wear myself) but which can be a bit plodding, insistent and one-dimensional. Here, instead, as befits a perfume by Mr Duchaufour, there is always much more olfactorial detail going on; something zizzing, something pinging, then being narrowly pulled back into line so that the whole can then  shine; like his work in the recent rhubarb-tastic Aedes De Venustas, which manages the astonishing feat of turning that tangy, delicious fruit into something regal, plush and austere, this perfume, with its popping, silver-eyed aldehydes bringing all the ingredients up up up, begins stark and fresh and attention-grabbing, yet then attenuates, well-measuredly, into something else; the rhubarb, over there in the Aedes becomes a stately vetiver-incense; here, the bubblicious, almost heady opening of the perfume calms down nicely into a sweet, gentle, and rather sexy, skin scent I am quite happy to carry about with me for the rest of the day, thankye very much.  Whistling while I work.

 

Tralalala indeed.

 

 

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Thanks for the sample bottle, Bethan!

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LOVE ON A CAROUSEL: DELIRIA by L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR (2013)

 

 

 

 

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When I was fourteen I went on a French exchange to the town of Moulins in central France. It was my first time abroad, and you might say that I was almost delirious with excitement. After a whistle stop tour of the sights and sounds of Paris, my fellow classmates and I found ourselves plunged, directly and fully, into the culture of the country I had been dreaming about for so long.  We arrived by train, and were soon paired off (a bit scarily I felt, for ones so young); shacked up with our pen pals and their families for a week. Escargots, cooked in garlic and slimy butter for dinner (yuk! I can still feel them sliding around in my mouth); petits pois, “vinaigrette”, it all just seemed so weird, slightly terrifying, and wonderful to an over-excited, easily stimulated, and very Francophile ‘budding linguist’ such as myself. Cela m’a beaucoup plu.

 

One of the highlights of that holiday, I remember, was a trip to the fairground, where my crush, a cute girl with braces called Laetitia, was all eyes, and so was I, and the sweet aromas hanging on the air, different, but familiar (is the rush of the fairground not universal?) were such a thrill. I always loved such places in England as well; the sugared clash of the cold, Yuleish wintry air and the tantalizing, caramelized steam that hung in nimbulus streams on the zingy atmosphere of Saturday night; the mischievousness of the dodgem cars, when you would deliberately bump and crash some giggling, hapless victims into hilarious mercy; that sadness – always out there, waiting in bushes – coated in pink and yellow, sugar glazed delight. And upon smelling this mood-lifting oddity by L’Artisan Parfumeur the other day ( Bertrand Duchaufour at his most playful), I was lifted out of my moment and plunged back, dreamily, into that world of fun, love, and French sweets: those rule-rubbing days when afternoons bled into evenings and the fair came to town: the cold, deep-pocketed frissons you felt at the clown-terror lurking at the concreted edges of the park; the lure of strangers; the dangers in those wild, mechanized rides.

 

“Prepare to be thrilled”, says L’Artisan. “Your senses will be shaken into a delicious blur”. Well, I  wouldn’t perhaps go quite that far, but Déliria, part of a new set of three perfumes called ‘Explosions D’Emotions’, is certainly a bit of light-hearted fun in this often po-faced world of perfumery, and it did put a smile on my face. Composed, apparently, of ‘dizzying’ accords of candy floss; toffee apple; ‘metallic notes’ and rhum, the most memorable theme of this perfume is, I would say however, the fantastically vivid top note of pineapple that bursts out at you from first go from the bottle, like one of those sticky, sugary and creamy pineapple cakes from Braggs the Bakers that my auntie Val is so addicted to.

 

Pineappled, phantasm dodgem cars scrape and spark with laughing electricity; music speakers boom with the gullible, teenage sweetness of surging, pubescent enthusiasms: love blooms, and Kia Ora – Orange & Pineapple flavour – is slurped greedily through stripey, twisty, plastic straws. L’ananas, musing with artificial flavouring, a child-loving burst of taste; of yellowy, custardish vanilla swirling before your eyes as candy floss stings, sweetly, the late November air…

 

 

 

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Just like the clumsy, ardent first fumblings of youth though, the stamina and performance here, are, sadly however, not awe-inspiring. Soon, once the deliria have faded (and they always do…) we find a more prosaic, uglier, tail-end of steel and santaloids, rather than the soft and cheek-pinching vanilla that we were yearning for (…. were those kisses not meant to last?) We can’t help noticing, suddenly, the rust and rudders of those ageing dodgem cars scratching the ride’s dirty floors: for the first time in a good few hours we look at our watches.

 

 

Yes, it’s a shame that it couldn’t last. As they say, after love, omne animal triste est. But who can really complain, honestly, when those first spurts – of fruits, and rum, of fairground thrills, and sweet, vanillic things –  feel so spontaneous, so joyful?

 

 

 

 

 

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EMBALM ME NOW: I’M READY…. COMME DES GARCONS EAU DE PARFUM (2011) + LUXE: PATCHOULI (2007) + INCENSE SERIES 3: KYOTO (2002)

“A flower that couldn’t exist, in a bottle that shouldn’t exist….”

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It was a cold, clear day on Monday when I headed out to Tokyo to buy Kyoto. Junko and I have a tradition now of exchanging presents each year – I buy her a perfume, she gets me films – and though last year’s offering, the exotic and pungent Powder Flowers by Montale, had gone down quite well, I decided to try something different this time and go for incense,  something more contemplative and grounded. I love the challenge of trying to instinctively nose out what someone might like, to edge closer and closer towards their holy grail, and this time my inklings turned out to be right.

She loved it. We met last night at a bar in Fujisawa, where I presented birthday present 2012, and the look on her face as she kept on smelling it incessantly from her wrist was precious: she had obviously never smelled anything like this (at least not bottled). The cypress, cedar, teak wood, incense and patchouli scent was a very new departure for her fragrance-wise, and one that obviously hit the mark (‘think of it as the hinoki-avenued walk up to Toshogu temple in Nikko’ I said), and she seemed simultaneously emotionally enraptured and turned-on by the smouldering, auto-erotically charged smells of timber and spice emanating from her skin. It certainly suits her, especially sprayed onto the cuffs of her biker jacket.

The perverse thing is that I don’t really like ‘Kyoto’ myself. I love the city the perfume is named after, but personally don’t relate to its dry, simplistic olfactory rendering in Bertrand Duchaufour’s re-creation. To me it is just a typical, unmysterious blend of flat, modish, contemporary WOODs (direct, obvious) with no beauty or space between the rings of  bark. It is well made, yes, and effective as a basic beginner incense scent – but at most 10% successful in capturing the deeply austere spirituality of the real place, which is steeped in the indescribable.

No. Instead, take one incense stick from its paper box, purchased from the centuries old Kyukodo or Shoyeido incense emporia in the heart of the city, and light it in the entrance of your home. Soft smoke, exquisitely tendered and balanced – aloeswood, sandalwood, cloves, camphor, rose –  will rise, gradually, into the air, slowly changing your consciousness. This is Kyoto.

 

 

 

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I had taken the Shonan-Shinjuku line from Kamakura, getting off at Shibuya station around rush hour  (not recommended for the claustrophobic or agoraphobic), changed to the Yamanote and walked up from Harajuku station, down the twinkling illuminated boulevard of Omotesando, and then up to Aoyama, where the  Comme Des Garcons boutique nestles between a little temple and gleaming, futuristic architecture. While the requisitely hypertrended assistants fastidiously wrapped up my Kyoto I sampled and resampled the main CDG line, which is housed in one of many nooks of a giant white tardis.

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It was here that I came across a perfume I had somehow overlooked: the fascinating ‘Eau de Parfum’, a self-oxidising flower exhaling its last breaths somewhere in the stratosphere circa 2064. Given that the first CDG perfume, the one that launched Rei Kawakubo’s avant-garde perfumery into our consciousness (one of the spiciest clove scents ever made) is also called Eau de Parfum, it seemed strange that they would want us to confuse the two scents (which are completely different), by giving them the same title.  Nevertheless, there it lay, ruined in its tortured, self-imploded bottle that can’t even stand up, on one of the lower shelves, almost out of sight. Having no idea what to expect, I sprayed a couple of cards with copious amounts and to my surprise found that I liked it, though in theory I shouldn’t.

Comme Des Garcons is well know for its twisting and subverting of what is considered beautiful (or acceptable) in fragrance with wilfully abstruse concepts such as those found in the Synthetic Series and the industrialized abstractions of Odeur 53:  (notes of ‘flaming rock; nail polish; fire energy; washing drying in the wind; sand dunes; burnt rubber, the freshness of oxygen and pure air of the high mountains’); and Odeur 71 (xerox machine; washing fresh from the dryer; lettuce juice; electricity, dust on a hot lightbulb….)

I delight in the fact that such border-pushing exists in perfumery. And I don’t particularly mind if the person sitting next to me in the office smells of a pulsating photo-copier, an eraser, or a lightly-dusted lightbulb, but on me, on my own human skin, these mutated ozones and man-made chemical novelties simply make me feel sick. I would never.

Eau de Parfum is different. Here the human, the natural, and synthetic are fused in a blinding medley of white; a futuristic flower in bondage, wrapped in glue and masking tape and  sputnicked-off into ether. And it is strangely beautiful. Where with the Odeurs I have always found that the notes elbow and jostle with each other to outdo each other in weirdness (‘look, there’s an incinerated paper clip!), in Eau de Parfum they glide together, amassing whiteness; the more conventional hawthorn/lilac aromas a solidly pretty foundation upon which to layer the swathes of safraleine (a synthetic that mimicks the scent of saffron and suede simultaneously), ‘flower oxides’ and circumscribing it all, the familiarly toxic smell of freshly opened glue and packing tape.

The ‘flower in bondage’ idea has done before in Serge Lutens’ underrated Nuit de Cellophane, but that perfume was more a fetishized pneumatic tuberose/osmanthus babe à la Helmut Newton, wrapped in cling-film and emerging from her little Berlin S+ M photography session to a glass or two of champagne (and whatever else) with the fetishistic maestro of kink. Aside an acrylic top note like the cellophane that wraps a bouquet of midnight yellow roses, Serge Lutens’ creation was surprisingly conventional.

The Comme Des Garcons is different, more ferociously futurist. But although Eau de Parfum can shock with its plasticity, as with Cellophane, the natural components in the blend, such as the vanillic resin styrax lurking down in the base, do steady these tender flowers and make them relatable, as do the gentle laundry musks that while equally synthetic, we have come to equate with clean humanity.

Like the gleaming unperturbable blanc of the Comme Des Garcons store’s permaglass surfaces, Eau de Parfum is an essay in white.   A space-age lilac; its flower narcotized by the safraleine, as though these sussurating flowers, with gentle May hawthorn for company, were sent off into outerspace – lain down on suede and nudged into polystrene –  while equipment, pristine from the production line, awaits in boxes; adhesive-sealed and bubble-wrapped. The note of baby powder that lies like a memory within the liquid is like the gargantuan foetus suspended in its galactic amniotic sac in Kubrick’s 2001, a memory of something tender several centuries before….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Still in a trance from these science fictional musings I unthinkingly reached for another perfume in another outrageous bottle: Luxe: Patchouli, which I knew I didn’t like (on paper) but which I thought I would give another chance (a big, unctuously drippy spray) on the back of my hand.  Oh Lord I wish I hadn’t. If any perfume could make me puke it is this. And nowhere to wash it off…..

Any regular readers of The Black Narcissus will know that I am a big patchouli wearer, but this is only nominally a member of that illustriously earthy family that I love so much. No: this is is a troll. A foul, tepidly warm bowl of celery cream soup, steeped and fermenting in fenugreek, curry, lovage and simmering leaves of Javan patchouli.

I HATE this. Celery is one of my favourite foods, but this celeriac, salted celery-seed note in such a thick, creamy alliance (opoponax, vanilla, oak) gives me a powerful, nauseated, punch in the bowels.

I do try and remain objective as far as possible when reviewing perfumes, and the dry down (six hours later, when I woke up in the middle of the night, sweating)  has that warm, aromatic edginess that would go well on a studied, Comme Des Garcons freak. I mean this unfacetiously. The brand truly ‘pushes the envelope’ in fashion, and this perfume could match certain of the bizarre, origamied ensembles perfectly. It is original, I will give it that. But I honestly think that if for some reason I were forced to wear this monstrosity on a daily basis, I would contemplate suicide.

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Better, if need be, to wear Eau de Parfum, much as it would eventually pain me to constantly be in its clinical embrace. To be wrapped in acrylics; suffocated in industrial chemicals and leather, and sent out, supine, embalmed in lilac, into the forever…

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