In the middle of August I crashed. I am coming back to myself now, and will get back to all that perhaps later. Throughout, though, I have certainly been very heavily perfumed. There is too much to handle: I need to intoxicate.

One of things I very much love about wearing scent is the sense of demarcation: of separating and deliberately contrasting different pointers in time into retrievable, memorable chunks of consciousness. On the last day of term, jubilant I had got through the year and that the last month or two – post second vaccination and all the relief that had ensued = had gone well I finally put away my Penhaligons Gardenia, which in very hot weather I had been wearing for three or more weeks continuously, along with Floris Gardenia talc (after taking a bath each day before heading out in Floris Gardenia foaming shower gel……….as though an English Cleopatra ( ‘do I smell like an Edwardian Lady?’ I asked Duncan with semi-concern, in my white shirt and suit trousers, feeling instinctively that I did in fact smell beautifully fragrant and floral in a way that was perhaps unusual but still seemly (“No: you smell clean and sherbety: I like it” ); feeling already as I put all of these white flowers back into their boxes for another year how potent the temporal stamp is in the mind with smell – they were already past tense; already filed away; already reminding me, almost nostalgically, of this July and August, even though time was still progressing. But of a particular time, gone forever. But now stored. Ready for recapture.

It had been gloriously sunny. Then, as my holiday began, bad and disturbing news from home and an approaching typhoon suddenly made the temperatures plunge and all the light go into total retreat. it was a week of literal, and figurative ,darkness in which I found myself regressing back decades into depressing remembrances to the soundtrack of Tori Amos; inescapably. Drinking wine, zombie-like, I hardly even remember what I did for about eight days, except slowly rearrange my perfume cabinets; bottle by bottle; therapeutic in a way, and meaning that when the sun did come back again – with glorious revenge – I was fully ready to drench myself thoroughly to societally objectionable levels of intensity. Frankincense oil. Patchouli oil on the body. An unquenchable thirst for the leather chypre or aromatic combined with marine: Kenzo Pour Homme under the arms, and then lashings of the rose-mimosa leather patchouli masterpiece that is Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum eau de parfum (completely essential in my life – I need some more ); the original Sisley Eau Du Soir, which in vintage (the black bottle), a perfume I adore at the right moment and which I only have a few drops left of now but which I have found a suitable substitute for in Montale’s Aromatic Lime – also indispensable when I get into this mood; the final accord lingering on everything you touch broodingly, dramatically.

One morning, cloudy but not dark grey and pouring as it had been for days on end, it could only be Courrèges Empreinte: a curious hybrid of light floral-fruit facets (jasmine; melon, peach, a bitter twist of artemisia and coriander over what smells like a chic white leather French trench coat) that on me settles into the most elegant and enigmatic final accord, something like the younger sister of Miss Balmain parfum, but paler, and distinctive in its own right. Robert Gonnon, the perfumer behind this creation, has quite a slim resumé, but if I tell you that he created Paco Rabanne Métal; Cacharel Anais Anais, Grès Quiproquo, and Ô De Lancôme (all of which I own and wear), this should give you some idea of Empreinte’s sleek and ambiguous credentials. It is a very interesting scent indeed that gradually unfolds over time, unlike the great majority of contemporary perfumery, (the perfume’s original ad tag line reads: “Many women leave an impression. But few leave an actual imprint.…”)

If Empreinte is the swish of that white coat, as it is removed and hung up in a Parisian bistro, Falcon Leather, by Matiere Premiere, is a much darker, directer leather made liquid: centered on birch tar and oud, labdanum and benzoin and a touch of saffron – smelled from the bottle this is heady, aggressively masculine stuff with a strong-beating heart. It smelled good on Duncan, but would smell even better on some of the leather-jacketed body guards and for-hire high end killers in some of the adrenalizing Netflix action films I have found myself absorbed in these last few days (anything but the real world outside, please – the news everyday has just been too overwhelming. I read it but have to hold back) Black bomber jackets are de rigeur for these professionals, no matter the location – and a spray or two of Falcon Leather on their ubiquitous garments could only increase the sense of grounded, guarded propulsion.

In great contrast, Serge Lutens’ latest addition to the Gratte Ciel collection, another Christopher Sheldrake collaboration, La Proie Pour L’Ombre, is warm and nuzzly; a familiarly Lutensian, strangely gorgeous and mysterious scent ostensibly centred around leather (and licorice and vanilla), a powerfully immortelle, almost celery-like note cedared with spice in the top that at first is disconcerting but then begins to pull you into its own unusual sense of unique gravity. D thinks it smells like butterscotch: the ambered texture is certainly odd; almost chocolatey; with tones redolent also of coffee absolute; but also medicinally enveloping and pungent like some of the more extreme and esoteric Japanese incense towards which I quite often find myself gravitating. Unlike the flamboyance of the two other perfumes I have been describing to you today, I feel that La Proie Pour L’Ombre is more private; a dark, shadowy-like-its-name fragrance that suits these particular times: less a leather for a publicly viewed sillage than a quiet, personal cove of introspective luxuriance.


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