The D is something of a dandy, and recently we re-discovered that we even had a perfume of that name in the collection that we had totally forgotten about : “Arsene Lupin – Le Dandy” (a bit of a mouthful ), but which is also a dark leather glove of a violet patchouli fougere that he wears most suavely and insinuatingly – the perfume he was donning at the museum in Tokyo on Saturday (my own aroma being Roger Et Gallet’s The Vert combined with Brossas’ Jasmin Lilas); a scent that was not out of place in that self-consciously chic 1930’s environment, the period when the famous French detective novels were still being written by Maurice Leblanc.
I remember the first time I smelled this final creation by Jean Paul Guerlain (for his former house) at the boutique in Hibiya I was a bit nonplussed: as this, and especially the Voyou (or ‘hooligan’) part of the then newly released Arsene Lupin duo, just seemed too traditional and obviously of an overly familiar ‘certain ilk’ that traces back decades; immediately recognisable as just ‘one of those’: however, I must admit that meeting up after work the other day, all I could smell, from particular distances, was a luxuriantly held back incense, and dense slightly powdery patchouli with a provocative warmth to it (I wasn’t sure at first if it wasn’t just the regular incense sticks I burn all the time at home: often, the balsamic powder and aromatic elements, and particularly the patchouli, in that blend fuse with the clothes in his wardrobe and it is hard to sometimes tell where the incense or the perfume begins or ends). However, once my nose sharpened its focus and I honed into the realities I realized that what I was detecting was definitely a perfume. The warmth, the manly depth, in this effortlessly put together blend by a master perfumer comes from sandalwood, cardamom and leather – – smooth, unfetishistic – while the piercing green top accord, which is what makes Arsene Lupin so distinctive (within its genre) – a bracing violet leaf and artemisia coupled with coriander and pepper and bitter orange, gives the perfume its undeniable gravitas. Although a little on the potentially ‘gravely self serious and self important ‘ tip on the wrong person, on D, the aura of the perfume is rather elegant: all velvet breeches, brogues, a monocle, and a fine library to match – and very seductive.
Also founded on a study of striking contrasts is the recently released Aurora by Charles Wong, a fresh, green tea-like aromatic scent that would make a nice signature for a young, uncomplicated fop. It seems to me sometimes that men’s fragrances – although this is billed as unisex- rely on the olfactory prototype of gradually reconciling clashes more than feminines, which go more for harmony and ‘general attractiveness’ : a sharp grasp and assertive space staking at the top, followed by a sturdier, more cosy-uppable base that instils confidence and makes you move in closer and, one imagines, eventually ‘relent’. Like Le Dandy, this is a perfume with undeniable charisma: Charles Wong is an author, fragrance enthusiast, and France adoring bon viveur from Hong Kong who travelled to Grasse to create this, his first perfume – a fresh, modern clothes horse for the new age (Arsene is definitely a few decades his senior): a juxtaposition of oak moss, amber and sea moss in the base (quite potent), with greener, more limpid and sparkling top and heart notes of water lotus, bamboo, fig leaves, blackcurrant bud as well as aquatic notes of ‘rain’, ‘fresh water’, and ‘sea’ throughout the heart and top – all tenacious, if never entirely aggressive. As you can imagine from the note description, this fragrance is quite reminiscent of the nineties’ style of perfuming men in blueprints such as Giorgio Armani’s bestselling Aqua Di Gio ( which I almost miss, now in comparison to the newer Neanderthals) although Aurora is more subtle, and less ‘everything all at once’ than the aforementioned aquamarine juggernaut.
Like Guerlain’s Le Dandy, which is a tad smudged and too intense when bunched all together on the skin up close, the concentrate of fresh intensity in Aurora is, for me, too much to lean in and kiss. From a distance, however – used judiciously in beknownst-to-you-only locations on the body, in tandem with a crisp white shirt, nice grooming, and dandyish vestments, this is a scent that I know I would be drawn to if the right person was wearing it, as the central olfactory conceit – a constantly evolving play between the lower and higher octaves that hints at intimacy (from the space left in between), as well as the optimism of the clean, lotus-fresh top accords – is insistent, youthful – and, in its own way, curiously passionate.