Tag Archives: Demeter

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) +..

 

6005-3-large

 

 

 

 

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…….

 

 

1

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.

 

 

 

2

 

 

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.

 

 

 

3

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.

 

 

4

 

 

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.

 

 

 

5

 

 

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).

 

 

 

6

 

 

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.

 

 

7

 

 

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!

36 Comments

Filed under Cinnamon, Perfume Reviews, Spice

GINGER!!!!! Five O’Clock Au Gingembre by Serge Lutens (2008) + Un Crime Exotique by Parfumerie Generale (2007) + Ginger Ale by Demeter (1997) + Ginger Musk by Montale (2006)+ Versace Pour L’Homme (1984) + Ricci Club by Nina Ricci (1989)

The first real cold has hit and I am putting ginger in my tea for that extra wall-tightening glow in the stomach. Grated fresh ginger, brewed with some ceylon leaves and milk: a lovely way to warm up a morning, or a wintery mood-dip in the afternoon.

An ancient root of suffusive goodness and fiery health, ginger (zingiber officinale) has long been popular here in Asia for various ailments and health conditions. You might even say that there has been a ‘shoga boom’ in Japan recently. While pickled red ginger has always been a condiment for sushi, and fresh ginger often served with grilled pork, currently, a lot of shoga sweets, beverages and various other powders and medicines have been hitting the market here: the rhizome is seen as something of a cure-all.

In terms of scent, the essential oil of ginger is usually deemed a masculine colour in the perfumer’s palette, and thus occasionally crops up in the top notes of spicy men’s fragrances such as Gucci’s brooding, loaded (and now discontinued) Envy for men. It does not feature in its own leading role as often as it might, but there are exceptions, and if you love the smell and sensation of ginger, please read on.

 

 

 

Image

 

 

 

 

Those who are really after a literal-minded ginger fix should turn to Demeter, masters of gratifying one-note cravings. They will sort you out temporarily with their Gingerbread, Fresh Ginger, and even Ginger Sushi ‘feel-good fragrances’, but like Ginger Ale (see below), the impression usually only lasts a short while before you have nothing on your wrist (this is, after all, the idea with Demeter – they are only meant as ‘pick me up’ scents.)

Ginger Essence by Origins is a pleasantly convincing fragrance (citric, floral, very clean and American) featuring ginger in a more gentle and feminine role, while other more lasting, gourmand spice scents have very pleasing prominent gingerbread notes, such as the 1926 winter classic Bois des Isles (Chanel) and its male offshoot Egoïste, although the main player in these two is more the balmy, floral sandalwood that lies beneath.

 

 

 

 

Image

 

 

 

 

Below are some scents that do really allow the natural effulgence of ginger to shine.

 

 

 

FIVE O CLOCK AU GINGEMBRE / SERGE LUTENS (2008)

 

Serge Lutens finally left the caravanserai of the orient for English tea at the Ritz with this fragrance; an imaginary afternoon of cakes, tea,  and crystallized ginger among the cafe clatter and bonhomie of those reposing and catching up away from the cold. The result is very pleasing – some orange peel here, some Earl Grey there – and a very cosy perfume that is nice to dab on in winter. As six o clock approaches though, it gets a touch less interesting, with a generic spicy warmth in the nineties manner, and focuses more on the drabness of the washers-up out in the darkening kitchens.

 

 

Image

 

 

 

GINGER ALE / DEMETER (1997)

 

 

The smell of ginger ale always reminds me of my grandparents coming round on a Sunday evening and the standard request for a ‘whisky and dry’ – the dry rasping bubbles of ginger ale carbons popping from the glass. This smells identical to that first pouring in of Schweppes; then fades away to a nondescript  note as though you had spilled some ginger ale on your skin while fixing that second or third whisky.

 

 

POUR HOMME/ VERSACE (1984)

 

 

A brief tale of ginger and missed opportunity from my youth……….

 

In the summer of 1989 I was playing keyboards for The Fanatics, a local Solihull band who later changed their name to Ocean Colour Scene and achieved great success in the early nineties in the UK and elsewhere ( I even find their songs at karaoke in Japan……)

They all became millionaires. I wasn’t allowed to stay with them (university), but for a while it was fun and I got to go to all the parties. At one, a post-gig thing, I was in conversation with Ruben, boyfriend of the bassist’s-girlfriend’s-sister, a long-haired youth who was gentle and handsome as a drawing by his namesake, and who wore the classic Versace L’Homme really quite beautifully.

In fact we were in the middle of talking about this scent, him passionately trying to convince me it was the greatest men’s aftershave ever made, when my head was suddenly punched against the wall from behind, cutting me just above the eye. I had no idea what had hit me, but in fact it was Duncan in an uncharacteristically jealous rage (perhaps I had been more entranced than I realized). Seconds later he had been thrown onto the pounding dancefloor and was being kicked by me as the blood flowed. The group’s bouncers immediately came to break up the lovers’ scrap and we were thrown out in disgrace, me crying in the taxi all the way back home.

 

Ruben wasn’t my type anyway, beautiful though he was, and I wouldn’t have worn his scent myself, but I have to admit that he did smell wonderful.  The original Versace, in my view, is something of a masterpiece (this may seem like a contradiction in terms given how crass the house’s perfumes are now, but in the eighties Versace did do some nice fragrances: remember the sultry jasmine that was V’è? )

 

There really is nothing else like this: Pour L’Homme, in its original incarnation, is smooth, complex, spicy, citric, creamy, fresh and sexy, with a beautiful and vivid top note of ginger that shone right through the formula to become its focus.

 

There should be far more masculines in this vein; forthright, yet elegant, complex enhancements of male beauty.

 

RICCI CLUB/ NINA RICCI (1989)

Long disappeared from Ricci counters, this very special scent can still easily be found online.

My friend Owen and I used to call it Love instead because in fact to us that’s what it smelled like. We both had bottles, possibly as Christmas presents from our parents I think, but he wore it better than me, living in it for a year or two and smelling excellent: a warm, citrusy, very huggable cologne with a gorgeously fresh ray of ginger shining through the whole like a sunny day in October. It is a masculine of its era but definitely worth seeking if you are searching for a well judged, temperate, but big-hearted, ginger.

 

GINGER MUSK / MONTALE (2006)

I love Montale and could wear everything in their shop, but a lot of the scents, while beautifully crafted, perhaps lack innovation.

Ginger Musk is different. It has that shock of the new, a smell that you didn’t know you wanted to exist until you actually smelled it: an adorably feminine and sexy combination of aerial musks, dreamy fruit and a fresh-floral ginger that scintillates beckoningly with an abundance of freshly washed, long-flowing hair. Hard to find but worth seeking out.

 

UN CRIME EXOTIQUE / PARFUMERIE GENERALE (2007)

 

It is obvious that the creator of this perfume (Pierre Guillaume) was having a lot of fun when the results are as startling as this. The ‘exotic crime’ in question is the ultimate spiced ginger: a pungent globe of medicinal spices, cinnamon sticks and baked apple sweetbreads like some heart-lulling medieval Christmas wine. It is quite wonderful – there is nothing richer and you may laugh each time with the audacity of it all each time you apply. A wonderful choice for the coming holiday season.

 

 

 

Image

 

 

Image

 

 

Image

 

 

 

If you know of any other great ginger scents I am missing here, please let me know!

19 Comments

Filed under Ginger, Perfume Reviews

Antiperfume – An Introduction

“ I hate perfume. Perfume is too often an ethereal corset trapping everyone in the same unnatural shape…an opaque shell concealing everything – revealing nothing. People who smell like everyone else disgust me.”

– From the CB I Hate Perfume manifesto, 1992.

I love perfume. But I can readily understand why there are many who don’t. Leaving aside issues of environmentalism, chemical sensitivity, and the invasion of private space – how dare you force me to smell what I might not want to? – there is the nature of the scents themselves, which, since the beginning of commercial perfumery, have taken a target demographic, forged a concept, and, through consumer testing, moulded easily digestible, recognizable (and irritating) accords for the masses. As such, what you’ve had essentially is invisible designer branding – olfactory Louis Vuitton (or Topshop) handbags that you smell wherever you go.

In this age of blogo-Facebook individualism, it was clear that the revolution would eventually have to happen even in the invisible world of scent. And it has. Two central figures have featured in this: Christopher Brosius, who started the legendary Demeter Fragrance Library, and then went on to create the cult favourite CB I Hate Perfume line; and Rei Kawakubo of Comme Des Garcons, a brand with some of the most iconoclastic contemporary perfumes on its roster. Others have since followed in their wake, and there is now a whole subculture of underground perfumers making scents with no limits to the imagination. It is an exciting time.

But what is ‘antiperfume?’ If the ideal of perfume is to make you smell good, is antiperfume’s to smell bad? Sometimes it would seem so. But they can also be freeing, funny, and refreshing. There is an almost punk-like anarchism at work here, with such deliberately provocative names as Earthworm, Crayon, Pruning Shears and Dust (the list goes on) by Demeter: Wild Hunt and In The Library by I Hate Perfume; and Dry Cleaning, Tar, and Garage by Comme Des Garcons (which even has a Guerilla Series, suggesting an actual attack on perfume.)

The war cry of Paris outfit Etat Libre D’Orange, who supposedly give their perfumers complete creative freedom, and also published a manifesto, is ‘Perfume is dead! Long live perfume!’ and the results of their labours can be found scattered throughout the perfumed universe. Among them are Charogne (carcass), Secrétions Magnifiques, and Putain des Palaces (Hotel Slut). But are they good smells? It is all a matter of taste. Comme Des Garcons’ Odeur 53, the first widely released antiperfume with its notes of photocopiers, burnt rubber and ‘freshness of oxygen’, is a popular example of this type. I personally think it is vile. It did, however, smell completely new when it was released and that was the whole point.

If you have never found a perfume to your liking, are drawn to the idea of a kind of scented dada, or just see yourself as something of an olfacto-warrior, you might find something distinctive here. You do, however, sometimes have to see beyond the futuristic bravura and hype: the concepts may excite, but more often than not, the scents themselves are more bourgeois, aromatically speaking, than the blurb would have you believe.

Ultimately, the new perfumers are simply trying to expand the parameters of what perfume is: no perfumer will release something he thinks doesn’t smell good. Christopher B, in the second, deliberately contradictory stanza of his manifesto, writes:

“I love perfume. Perfume is a signpost to our true selves: a different journey for the brave to travel. Perfume is an art that shows us who we can be if we dare – an invisible portrait of who we are.’

1 Comment

Filed under Antiperfume