Tag Archives: Serge Lutens

D E L I R I O U S (a celebration, and exploration, of all things jasmine, featuring: JASMIN DE NUIT by THE DIFFERENT COMPANY + ACASIOSA by CARON + JASMINE ATTAR by AMOUAGE + VENT DE JASMIN by IL PROFUMO + VELVET DESIRE by DOLCE & GABBANA + OPHELIA by HEELEY + A LA NUIT by SERGE LUTENS + IKAT JASMINE by ERIN LAUDER + JARDIN BLANC by MAITRE PARFUMEUR ET GANTIER + FLEURS D’OMBRE JASMIN LILAS by JEAN CHARLES BROSSEAU + VOILE DE JASMIN by BULGARI + IMPERIAL TEA by KILIAN + FIRST by VAN CLEEF & ARPELS + ECLAT DE JASMIN by ARMANI PRIVE + WHITE JASMINE & MINT by JO MALONE + JASMINE FULL by MONTALE + NIGHT BLOOMING JASMINE by FLORIS + GIANFRANCO FERRE + SARRASINS by SERGE LUTENS + LA REINE MARGOT by LES PARFUMS HISTORIQUES + LUST by GORILLA PERFUMES + LOVE AND TEARS by BY KILIAN + GELSOMINO by SANTA MARIA NOVELLA +PALAIS JAMAIS by ETRO + JASMIN ET CIGARETTE by ETAT LIBRE D’ORANGE + CAROLINA HERRERA + LE JASMIN by ANNICK GOUTAL + ORIO by MONA DI ORIO + SAMSARA by GUERLAIN + JASMIN ROUGE by TOM FORD + JAZMIN by LE JARDIN DE JIMMY BOYD + OLENE by DIPTYQUE + SONGES by ANNICK GOUTAL + EVA EVANTHIA’S INDIAN JASMINE )

 

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Jasmine taken outside just now by my Japanese piano teacher’s house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The previous night we had stayed in a stuffy, foul smelling hotel in Bandung, where you could practically see the fungal spores floating in the air. So lungeing and moist, we should really have gone somewhere else, but it was too late and we just decided that we had to put up with it. This was then followed by a blistering row on the streets, where we practically came to blows down one of its back-alleys; a bad night’s sleep; vile breakfast, and tense, infuriated silence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were soon on the train to Yogyakarta, though, a seven hour journey that passed like a dream, and let our souls ease back into a gently relaxed pace again as Javan scapes bled slowly past in a light green blur of elegantly shaped mountains, paddy fields, and the self-contained, feline elegance of the Indonesian people themselves, one of whom, coming down the train a few hours into the journey, was giving out fliers to the passengers offering a massage service.

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t resist, and was soon being led to a carriage down the ramshackle train (comfortable, spacious; cracked windows), where a guard was half sleeping but didn’t in the least bit seem to mind sharing the space with the masseur and his client.

 

 

 

A village, and young women in headscarves, traipsing through the rice fields near the station, passed by in smiles inaudibly. There was a smell of tea and coconut rice. I was seated; reclined back. Closed my eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a rough massage, painful at times, the bones of my hands forcibly pressed; my face kneaded and manipulated, but the man himself was beautifully gentle with the nicest smile you have ever seen, and the smell of the jasmine oil massage cream he was using – effluvious, inviting – was simultaneously easing me into a reverie. It was a pungent, rough jasmine, but one that nevertheless piqued my senses, and immediately cut off the line between logic and reality, allowing me to float, distendedly, into the realms of flower-drenched dreams, as the knotted tension in the musculature eased away – slowly – in smiling, downward, waves. You sank back into your seat, and the intriguing city of Yogyakarta began to come closer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took a taxi from Yogyakarta station to the hotel. It was hot outside: very.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The doors were opened.

 

 

 

 

And I was plunged, suddenly and sensorially, into a cool, air-conditioned atrium of sheer jasmineness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jasmine, jasmine, nothing but JASMINE; natural, looming; not floating on air so much as inhabiting the airstream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the check-in, as we approached with our suitcases, I had to know what this jasmine was and how I could get some, and so, the Yogyakarta Grand Aston being the classy joint that it is, they rang upstairs to the spa centre where the staff usually procured the jasmine oil from a local supplier, and promised to bring some shortly, decanted for a price, to my room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The source of the scentful haze: a jasmine essence that was heated in oil pots, placed on tables in the lobby and allowed to evaporate vehemently – but very seductively – into the hotel’s atmosphere. I had to dip my finger into its bubbling heat to get some on my wrist: and yes it was hot, and it burned, but it was great perfume, and I knew then, that we had come to exactly the right place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For me that smell in the lobby was heavenly: a triumphant, dramatic, floral entrance. Glorious : you can ask Duncan – I was ecstatic. I can imagine, however, that if you, like a fair number of people, have an aversion to strong-smelling jasmines, or to overly vivid natural white floral essences in general, you would have most certainly been in hell : sheer migraine central.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I myself of course, though, was excited, as we patted down the duvets of our fancy room that overlooked the city, and I doused myself in the oil that one of the staff had so kindly just brought directly to our door, thrilled by its quality; thrilled by its pungency, particularly after the malodorous atmosphere of the previous hotel where I thought I was going to be sick. A place you could barely breathe. So I was in heaven in this new clean, jasmine-avalanched environment – it felt like a multicoloured dream.

 

 

 

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Having said all this, however, strangely enough, I do, ironically, share the headache-averting worry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For as much as I love this ‘king of flowers’ (and wear it, in various guises, on a regular basis, more and more actually), jasmine in fact also sometimes give me headaches, in any of its guises: be it a modern American jasmine (particularly a modern American jasmine) or a florid, indolic Indian attar: in fact, any truly, blastworthy jasmine can actually send me reeling. The generosity of the scent, the pureness of the flower, sung and unsung; its ineluctable erotic energy, its death-sway, its power………jasmine has the power to fascinate. But to also, sometimes it would seem, malign the skull.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For me, jasmine is the most sense-altering of flowers. One could become deranged by jasmine: quite rendered, yet in perfume I still masochistically enjoy it in all its differing guises, from thick, unguenty, and animalic; to sheer, skin-scented and pure; to diabolically florid and jasminesque.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so, as the flowers are flowering everywhere where I live, in neighbourhood gardens and in ours, growing wild in hanging profusion from host trees on the side of the mountain (the beauty of the rainy season when the earth of Kitakamakura releases its loam: dark, dank, earthiness and vetiver grass – used to stave off flooding), the time when the wet air is living perfume; from moist, cavernous base, to sense-assailing top; jasmine, drifting……

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ladies and gentleman I present you with The Black Narcissus’ guide to Jasmine. Nothing but. In all its glory. Until it comes out of your ears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brace yourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is going to be a long and heady trip (too long, actually, probably impossible to sit through in one go – think of it more as a reference, apersonalized, gelsomino compendium: an attack.) It will not be completist or exhaustive, as jasmine is such a key component in so many perfumes, the effulgent, lip-drinking star of the soliflore, as well as the main diva in so many other perfumes, that I simply have not, in this brief and ridiculous life of mine, been able to smell them all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I am afraid to say, then, that there is no Nuda Nasomatto here, no Bruno Acampora, or Tawaf, which is supposed to be quite stunning; the indolic, swoonworthy jasmine to end all jasmines. There will be gaps, there will be lacks in the jasmine organization – I have yet to get my greeding hands on the new Jasmine Sambac by CB I Hate Perfume for example, or his other grand white floral, Cradle Of Light for that matter, so if you are a Jasmine-Head as well and sense some glaring omissions, feel very free to write and enlighten me. Let’s make this a monstrous, gorgeous, jasmine-free-for-all. Le Labo Jasmin 17 I quite like as a jasminish-orange blossom (though it struck me as an inessential inclusion); Keiko Mecheri’s well loved Jasmine should have really made an appearance as it is a full, belly-button-jigging adult jasmine, nicely proportioned in its summery, curvaceous siren call, but I couldn’t think of much else, really, to say about it. I tried to review Jo Malone’s odourless White Jasmine and Mint but bored myself silly in the process, as I did also with Bulgari Jasmin Noir, which makes absolutely no impression on me, although I do still have a bit of a tiny weak spot for their Voile De Jasmin simply because I enjoy the original Pour Femme so much (which this is simply a light, frosted, jasmine-inflected version of). I did do a review of Thé pour un été by L’Artisan Parfumeur, but then decided, nice as it is, that it wasn’t quite jasmine-oriented enough for inclusion. Likewise, I have already written about By Kilian’s Imperial Tea ( a jasmine tea scent that I really like), but for economy I decided that you could just instead read my original review of it here. As for Joy, by Jean Patou, in some ways the very ultimate jasmine, you can read about her and some of her many flatterers in my original, more expansive review; and for another classical take on jasmine that is very nicely done, please read my short review of Creed’s Jasmal.

 

 

 

 

 

Omissions aside, in compiling this piece, I realize that not only do I know a lot of jasmines, I own and wear a great number of them as well. Not always successfully, I might add : much as I love this floral note, my skin doesn’t carry it off perfectly every time. I misguidedly bought Serge Lutens Sarrasins at the Palais Royal boutique a few years ago, and on my skin it just does not convince for some reason (at the Jasmine Awards in London this March, incidentally, both Persolaise and The Candy Perfume Boy were both wearing this perfume and they smelled fabulous, as the scent of real French jasmine flowers –  which were everywhere –  intermingled in the air).

 

 

 

 

 

There are others that do most definitely suit me, though – before L’Occitane became dull and frustrating they used to do a nice, high-pitched sheer jasmine extrait that I would combine with Kouros and a touch of coconut to great effect on summer nights and dance parties (and then wait for the compliments to come flooding in); I have also almost drained my favourite ever jasmine, ‘Jazmin’ by ‘Le Jardin De Jimmy Boyd’, an obscure and seemingly discontinued perfume from Barcelona, with its divine, creamy-clear, banana-leaf like top note and dreamily pure scent of August contentment. Likewise, that bottle of jasmine oil I got from Yogyakarta that I treasure – viscous; lithe, a drop on the wrist just heavenly……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JASMIN DE NUIT by THE DIFFERENT COMPANY (2005)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jasmine.

 

 

 

 

There are few biological entities on earth that command the senses like these flowers.

 

 

 

 

On a warm summer evening, the smell of jasmine as it drifts on the air makes your heart soar – forget your troubles, if only for an instant. No wonder, then, that for thousands of years, on different continents, in different cultures, the jasmine blossoms have been gathered in the moonlight (when they smell best, as opposed to roses which are gathered at dawn), in pursuit of capturing their delectable odour. Jasmine can be distilled, or pressed in a pomade to extract its scent, but even then never fully yields its soul: it is up to the perfumer then to fill in the missing links and make his or her own version.

 

 

 

 

Thus, we find the jasmine repertoire to be wildy eclectic. To begin with, the different species have very characteristic bouquets: the Italian decadent, fruity; the Indian full bodied, lustful, the French from Grasse (the most prized species) a perfect balance of lushness and light. The type used, and the preferred vision of the perfumer, will lead to different conclusions.

 

 

 

 

 

Egyptian jasmine has a very hoarse, almost spicy, fruity langour that is very distinctive, arousing, and quite different from its more classically restrained French or trillingly bustful Italian counterparts ( I adore how it it used in vintage Eau Du Soir for that very reason where it is combined with spices and chypric patchouli). It is heady stuff. But rather than try to compromise this intensity, perfumer Céline Ellena mysteriously decides here to down the ante by combining this luscious, rapturous note with a sly, undergrowth-emerging mandarin, star anise, cardamon and cinnamon accord that initially masks the jasmine, like a jaguar, still and glowering in the bush. Only the eyes are shining meaningfully in that darkness as the jasmine slowly lets itself be known, in most intriguing manner; vanillic, oriental – a delicate, but proper perfume.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLENE by DIPTYQUE (1988)

 

 

 

There is something fabulously raspy about Diptyque’s Olène – a fearless white (or purple, or at least mauve-tinged) floral whose flower mouth escapes unscathed, puckered, fiercely florid from the spray hole, almost unpleasantly harsh and untamed.

 

 

 

 

Indolic jasmine combines with wisteria, narcissus and a white rush of honeysuckle for an extremely extroverted and well composed perfume that my good friend Claire, art historian and white floral lover in general, would always wear to parties. It was a scent that encircled and fitted her quite brilliantly. Too exuberant to meet the politer jasmine requirements, Olène announces something more tameless, far-reaching and giddy. I think of it as quite a hilarious perfume, actually, as you do have to have a sense of fun, and drama, to want to wear it in the first place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

VENT DE JASMIN by IL PROFUMO (2005)

 

 

 

 

Where some jasmines can be torridly overbearing, sambac jasmine, or mi lo as call it in parts of China, is far more lithe and spirituous and tends to reel me in more directly. I like the smell of it more, and have in fact made my own jasmine perfume oils with the (supremely expensive) sambac absolute, an essence you can get from certain specialist aromatherapy stores that rings with joy, less torpidly voluptuous and full of itself; more enchanting, refreshing; tea-like and ecstasizing.

 

 

 

 

Il Profumo’s Vent De Jasmin, or ‘jasmine breeze’, has a definite presence. A clear, fresh jasmine perfume with a fulfilling yet gentle sillage; clean – but with just the right dose of jetstream, lustful exoticism. It is lovely, but if I had one criticism, it would be of its linearity, its lack of an enamourating hook; this is more just a dependable, straightforward, well made jasmine perfume to comfortably waft around the city, trailing flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A NUIT/ SERGE LUTENS (2000)

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps in some ways the most perfectly realized modern evocation of jasmine, A La Nuit, Serge Lutens’ much favoured classic, is a triumph; heady, waivering moonbeams – air-drinking, slow-thinking floralcy, drifting straight, endlessly, into the night.

 

 

 

 

 

While it may lack the tenderness or transparency of some other fresher jasmine soliflores, as a conceptual piece – the capturing of that dense summer night air – A La Nuit is quite hard to beat, almost Lynchian in its tangible sense of lurid, night-breathing jasmine fuming the thick, dream-like evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SARRASINS by SERGE LUTENS (2007)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though A La Nuit is perhaps ultimately a more pleasing and wearable perfume, Sarrasins is probably, in some ways, more interesting. Lutens and his perfume maker Christopher Sheldrake must always have their little ‘in-jokes’: Tubéreuse Criminelle takes its wintergreen/petrol top note to an extreme you would believe impossible until you smell it; only after ten minutes or so does the delicately fleshly tuberose raise its head. Here the joke is a bizarre and unexpected top note of blackcurrant and mint over dirty leather hides – unsettling; strange.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shortly, the most divine floral notes come: delirious, jasmine smells that haunt the winds that blow, tauntingly, over endless moonlit battlefields, where dead and dying saracens lie bleeding after the slaughter (Lutens likes to tell a tale, and the perfume is dyed a stage-blood red just to prove it….)

 

 

 

 

 

And the smell on the skin, at this stage of the perfume’s development, is exquisite and thrilling, even if that weird, perceptible lick of leather never quite dissipates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OIRO by MONA DI ORIO (2006)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The absolutes of jasmine – condensed, psychological, potted – are all so different from the nonchalant, air swaying scent of the living flowers.

 

 

 

 

The absolute is more a material, like paint – a leadened, consolidated jasmine that is usually used in small touches for anchoring. In Oiro, it here forms the basis of the perfume.

 

 

 

Oiro, as you may expect from a line as non-conformant as Mona Di Orio, is an alternative take on the jasmine perfume: an intelligent, resinous scent that is dry, sculpted as a Picasso head.

 

 

 

 

 

A boozy, lemony, Egyptian jasmine first pulls you in: heavy, oilingly compelling, over sweet-pea flowers. Then : spices, immortelle, cedar, and musk, in a curiously beguiling perfume that undulates, not clamours, for your attention. It is a dignified, strangely self-contained jasmine perfume, almost masculine in its richness.

 

 

 

 

 

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ACASIOSA by CARON (1924)

 

 

I can still remember vividly the first time I smelled Acaciosa.

 

 

 

 

 

It was as though I had entered a fortune teller’s boudoir – all orange-coral velvet, mysteric exoticism; dangling, shining things, and warm, husky adultness. Old fashioned but fascinating, this dark and enticing perfume is a promiscuous intensity of jewelled, dressed up Indian jasmine for the individualist.

 

 

 

 

More an elixir of jasmine than a perfume – a concentrated, heavy, honeyed ointment of the flowers, blended with rose, ylang ylang, sandalwood and moss, Acaciosa is a jasmine to dab– sweet, exultant, and strange – with its rich, note of ambergris and syrupy, cake-shop ananas: a perfume to muse on the state of things; or else to head strategically out the door (in a turban) and seduce.

 

 

 

 

IKAT JASMINE by ERIN LAUDER (2013)

 

 

 

 

The thing about Ikat Jasmine is that it doesn’t really seem to contain any jasmine.

 

 

 

Not in the usual manner we expect, at any rate, with that familiar, white, fleshy, indolic lusciousness. Far more prominent is a light, imaginary air-soaring honeysuckle, which graces the fresh floral accord and soft, shadowy musk-sandalwood base quite beautifully in a blend that I personally can’t help but find rather seductive.

 

 

 

 

Like the jail-baiting Curious by Britney Spears and also Jean Charles Brosseau’s Violette Menthe, this perfume has that flirtatious insouciance of a devastingly sexy young thing, that moment when an inspired combination of ingredients somehow produces an entirely different kettle of fish; in this case, to me at any rate, a classroom scenario in which a dreamily beautiful girl is playing with her hair indolently, knowingly, and the scent that is moving deliberately, slowly, across that room is driving the teenage boys that secretly love her, but don’t dare to admit it, wild.

 

 

 

 

As I said, to me this is not a jasmine perfume, really, more a pleasingly dusky, abstract floral, but one that I just instinctively know on the right young thing could be the school’s best kept secret:::: What IS that perfume she is wearing? I need to know…..

 

 

 

 

LOVE AND TEARS BY KILIAN (2010)

 

 

 

 

‘Love And Tears (Surrender)’ part of By Kilian’s ‘Black Masterpiece or Oeuvre Noire series, is another fresh, more watery possibility for those who emphatically want a contemporary jasmine. And part of me quite likes this perfume. Its melody is pure, it captures a point, but for me, ultimately…… your tears, my dear, are rigid……..fake.

 

 

 

 

Bright to the point of blinding, its fresh, oil-stained, surgical brightness is pitched so high, so photoshopped, so bathroom fresh, that the perfume appears permanently fixed in a top-model, waterfall rictus of glass-piped aqueous: the futuristic, expensive rendition of a strictly first class only, jasmine-scented bathroom (there is definitely more than a hint of air-freshener in this perfume).

 

 

Though Love And Tears is certainly an impressively pretty scent, in many ways, as it nails a previously untapped jasmine impression, and is therefore certainly worth trying, it is also like its name, somehow also disconsolate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ECLAT DE JASMIN/ ARMANI PRIVE (2006)

 

 

 

 

 

The estimable perfumes in the Armani Privé collection, at four times the price of the regular Armanis, are obviously intended to denote a certain Made-In-Italy, designer luxury.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The box – heavy, solid, very ‘designed’ – is made of African Kotibe wood, an objet in itself, nestling perfectly in any expensive, metropolitan apartment.

 

 

 

 

 

The bottle – simple, oblong – is made of similar material, and each in the series has a lid made with a different coloured semi-precious stone, in the case of Eclat De Jasmin, a shimmered, opalescent, gyno-pink.

 

 

 

 

And the scent, along with the box, is certainly worlds apart from the rest of the sporty, high-street Armani line and their common, easily-digested modern themes. This Privé – which I own, strangely – is a florid, very woody, and dirty Egyptian jasmine, teamed with plum, patchouli, vetiver, and amber; surprisingly animalic and raw given the formulaic packaging.

 

 

 

In keeping with it though, this flower also exudes a tired, airless quality – resolutely shut and non-oxgyenated, behind heavy designer doors. Stylish, sexy, but serotonin-low.

 

 

 

 

 

This, ironically, is perhaps this perfume’s appeal; there are few ‘urban’ jasmines I can think of besides this one, those that undeniably embrace jasmine’s more morbid side. Wearing it is like being locked after hours inside a mahogany fashion dungeon with no natural light, and there being nothing really else to do but compulsively have sex, halfheartedly, with the other assistants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VELVET DESIRE by DOLCE & GABBANA (2011)

 

 

 

 

 

Ostensibly a tuberose/gardenia, a combination I always yearn for personally anyway, to me this fine white floral just smells of sweet and delicious jasmine sambac (and is my most recent full bottle purchase).

 

 

 

 

I love it and am wearing it all the time. One reader suggested the combination of jasmine and coconut and that is how I am using Velvet Desire, deliciously, though I say it myself. While it doesn’t have any truly singular facet – that uniquely identifying moment of originality that separates the wheat from the chaff and makes a perfume something really memorable – Velvet Desire (a very unfortunately named fragrance I must say, like some kind of soft-core straight-to-video starring Lindsay Lohan) is nevertheless to me quite gorgeous – a simple, well-made trio of singing white florals that is like a new day dawn of happiness: bottled. It saved my sanity a few weeks ago when I was stuck for eight hours in Dubai airport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JASMINE FULL by MONTALE

 

 

A typhoon of extreme, honeyish, Arabish jasmine over orange blossom, in the Montale shop at the Place Vendôme you could hear ‘Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah’ when people first smelled this luxuriant jasmine, as it captures, with a corpular exuberance, the head-filling rush of the concentrated flowers. Intense, and indeed ‘full’ as its name would suggest, this is an exciting jasmine scent that nevertheless doesn’t leave all too much room for maneuver .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JASMINE ATTAR by AMOUAGE

 

 

 

 

 

 

But THIS…………

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jasmine Attar….for jasmine lovers, it doesn’t get much better than this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Straight, but fleshed, romanticized, aestheticized, golden-yellow jasmine perfume in all its voluptuous glory – this is JASMINE.

 

 

 

Shining, luscious, and gorgeous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JARDIN BLANC by MAITRE PARFUMEUR ET GANTIER (1988)

 

 

 

 

 

 

I do think that there is a place for unruliness in perfumery, a touch of chaos, of excited exuberance, a sense of the perfumer letting things run away with them a bit, even though ‘precision, precision, PRECISION ‘ is said to be the mantra that is drummed into classical perfumers during training.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jardin Blanc is a sense-rising plethora of powdery, over-the-top white florals, a bit giddying, a bit suffocating, but also, it has to be said, a little bit thrilling as well. The allure of jasmine, of tuberose, and honeysuckle giving off scent in a warm, evening garden is allowed to entwine itself unselfconsciously around a tempering, more woody accord of tolu, sandalwood and vetiver, while in the top, the perfumer, the masterful Jean Laporte (and original creator of L’Artisan Parfumeur) feels it sensible to douse the whole concoction in a crisp, bloody blur of myrtle, mandarin and sharp, verdant, green leaves. For me, it works, and sometimes I wonder if in fact Monsieur Laporte simply left the original company that he had founded in order to let loose a little, as the perfumes in his second range for Maitre Parfumeur Et Gantier are in some ways more scatty, more creative – more lurid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAROLINA HERRERA by CAROLINA HERRERA (1988)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Released in 1988 but still going strong, the first, eponymous perfume by Carolina Herrera, doyenne of fifth avenue socialites and in some ways, First Lady of American Fashion, is a nod perhaps to her Venezuelan (pre-Chavez) roots.

 

 

 

 

Later scents in the Herrera canon all seem to be rehashes of her later, less interesting releases, but this was way before – a sugared, floral fiesta of four different jasmines, fully dressed from the 80’s, glittering, padded, and womanly, from the time when the release of a polka-dot collared perfume was still an event, exciting; good enough to get you through a star-studded gala.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GIANFRANCO FERRE by GIANFRANCO FERRE (1984)

 

 

 

 

Another old school, but very pleasing jasmine combustion, Gianfranco Ferre, master of the fitted, but artfully tweaked and fitted white shirt, released several interesting perfumes during his lifetime, and his original, eponymous perfume is a scent of nostalgic elegance – a champagne bubblebath of pure sweet sambac jasmine and summer white flowers; warm, aldehydic, complex and romantic, perfect for evening and parties, and for some reason apparently very popular with Russians.

 

 

 

 

This is a proper perfume with jasmine as its main header – an event scent, but one that is quite spirit-lifting in its sweet and feminine optimism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIRST by VAN CLEEF & ARPELS (1976)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Released in 1976, and therefore very neo-classically retro given the contemporary thirst for all things tiger-skinned, musky, or sporty, First, a throw-back, lady-like scent, takes the classic aldehydic floral mode in the manner of Calechè and Arpège, with a lushed out, green bouquet of flowers (rose, orris, muguet, and jasmine ( lots of jasmine: three different kinds in fact) taking cues from all the beloved grandes aldehydés, but then takes the whole thing even further; fresher, more jasmined.

 

 

 

 

Jean Claude Ellena, an entirely different individual, seemingly, in this phase of his early maximalism, then just adds moreof everything to the formula (orchid, carnation, hyacinth, tuberose, and a gorgeously vivid Turkish rose), making the jasmine triad sing as though at the top of an opera chorus.

 

A dazzling creation is the result of these held-back provocations, with lift, and vitality, provided with the addition in the top notes of blackcurrant bud (the first perfume to use this note, hence the name): peach, mandarin, and raspberry. It is a stunning scent, vivacious and extrovert, dying down to an understated yet sensual accord of vetiver, honey and musk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAMSARA by GUERLAIN (1989)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can a perfume as creamily, throat-drenchingly, heavy as vintage Samsara, – clad, weighed down with its huge percentage of natural Mysore sandalwood – be considered a jasmine?

 

 

 

 

 

Well, yes. Maybe. The genius of this perfume – and it is a form of genius in a way, despite the grotesque throw of its sillage (there is no perfume on the planet stronger, save possibly Giorgio of Beverly Hills: someone sprays Samsara on their wrist upstairs, you’ll soon smell it coming at you through the downstairs front door)….the genius is in that unique compounding of rich essences.

 

 

 

 

 

The vanilla, the amber, the ylang the narcisse; the juicy bergamots and lemons, but mostly, to top this glorious excess off, the slick of glittering, top notch jasmine oil that gives this controversial perfume its indelible signature. It is all, it must be said, verging on ridiculous: I have the vintage parfum and eau de parfum in my possession, and I sometimes wear them for sheer amusement, like a masked, horny reveller, carousing on a bridge demonically in the night of the Venetian Carnival.

 

 

 

 

JASMIN IMPERATRICE EUGENIE by CREED (1870)

 

 

 

Another jasmine scent of vaguely similar bearing to Samsara, and which smells as if it came out at around the same time (1870? Really?) Jasmin Impératrice Eugenie is a buxom, overtly sensual perfume composed mainly of jasmine, rose, sandalwood and vanilla with suggestive ambergris, whose salty, lascivious embrace makes the entire over-the-top creation rather doolally (and actually quite delicious).

 

 

 

 

Rather than royalty, dignity, and subtle, jasmine refinement, however, think : knickerbockers, boobs, and giggling, groping shenanigans down the furtive, boozy backstreets behind a pub. This is one lustful jasmine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JASMIN ET CIGARETTE by ETAT LIBRE D’ORANGE (2006)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another jasmine for good times and excess. Rather than a tobacco-leafed, adult, leatherette as its name might suggest – a scent to be worn while holding a cigarette holder in some popular saloon while drenched in jasmine essence – this skittish French perfume house decided, amusingly, and corruptively, to put the end result of this scenario (the morning after) actually in their perfume. It almost feels like some kind of Dada-esque joke, or a post-card by Magritte.

 

 

 

In Jasmin Et Cigarette, the top note of a beautifully fresh, almost holographically alive white jasmine flower – natural, breathing – is soon taken over, within minutes, by the familiarly stale aroma of cigarette butts stubbed out in a snooker club’s ashtray.

 

 

 

Its breath has suddenly become sheer ash.

 

 

 

 

And having on occasion at teenage parties mistakenly drunk from a glass in which someone’s stub had been extinguished, experiencing the consequent throes of heaving and disgust, I find this aspect on myself, hard to deal with.

 

 

 

On some skins, though, the resinous tobacco note does achieve the Dietrich pall the perfumer intended: a femme fatale lording it up in some smoky bar, and on these lucky individuals, this perfume smells fantastic. Others, I am afraid, will just smell spent, trashed, and a little bit dirty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Indian word for jasmine apparently translates rather beautifully as ‘moonlight in the grove’, and although jasmine perfumes often tend to eroticize the flowers’ already potent sun-kissed longings, as we have seen above, it is also entirely possible to find less fervent and fruited jasmines that are more ethereal, shadowed or verdant. Let’s look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OPHELIA by HEELEY (2009)

 

 

 

 

 

Not quite drowning in jasmine, exactly, but Ophelia is a dreamy, bucolic floral, with a lactic, nebulous quality coronetted with muguet: lunar, ethereal, ghostly (if a little artificial in some ways); a touch overtenacious à la Guerlain Idylle, but with its hopelessly romantic English edge, its tuberose and ylang, this unusual perfume has a green, noctural quality that is worth investigating if you fancy yourself floating riverward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PALAIS JAMAIS by ETRO (1989)

 

 

 

 

 

For another sylvan, sage-laced, mossy green scent, with a bergamot and jasmine strewn opening, look no further than Palais Jamais: created, rather poetically I think, as a green, floral ode to ‘Allah’s Garden’. A quiet, eveningtime eden of hushed, green spaces and light.

 

 

 

 

 

While it is stretching it a bit call this scent a jasmine perfume per se, it is alsonot a standard vetiver (ie. lemony, oudhy, plummy, spicy) with all of those overfamiliar calling cards. No. Palais Jamais is intriguing: androgynous, a touch bilgey and twilight-ish; fern-like, zephyred, with touches of birch; as though it were a beautiful lake that had not seen quite enough light, but derived a curiously sublime pleasure in any case, constantly, from the mere fact of its own existence.

 

 

 

 

 

FLEURS D’OMBRE JASMIN LILAS by JEAN CHARLES BROSSEAU (2006)

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have really rather enjoyed using my bottle of Jasmin Lilas over the years: a rain-forest, under-canopied and umbrous jasmine scent that makes me feel, in a similar vein to Annick Goutal’s Eau De Camille – as though I were huddling under a giant, oily leaf in some imaginary equatorial garden as the trees looming high above drop down their moisture, and the resinous sap in the hot, damp, vegetal flowers release stimulating, steamy fragrance.

 

 

 

 

 

An original take on jasmine, with its undertow of breathy lily-of-the-valley and succulent lilac, this rather artificial creation (notes of ‘leaves, melon, nectarine, and pineapple’) is quite enjoyable even if it does not ever deeply satisfy: I am never entirely sure whether I should be using Jasmin Lilas as a perfume, or as an air freshener – it definitely has that odour-flattening ‘aerosol’ quality that you get in your standard, floral deodorizers. Just that little tiny bit too cheap, perhaps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite these misgivings, strangely, however, I am pretty sure that I would buy this scent again if I came across it somewhere, simply for that pleasing, opening sensation: of jasmine flowers hiding from a monsoon: a rain-washed experience .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JASMINE VERT by MILLER HARRIS (2002)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another pleasingly green and cool jasmine, Jasmin Vert is a jungly, rough cut linked with boronia flowers, the murmurings of the forest floor and glistening lianas; a wet, green top note forming the sun-sodden rainforest roof over a sultry, revivifying jasmine that is quite left of centre; enlivening, and all the better for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SONGES by ANNICK GOUTAL (2005)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To me, this swoonworthy, delicious, perfume is more about the ylang ylang and vanilla absolutes that make me feel a delirium of pleasure every time I smell it (has a perfume ever been made that smells more romantic, more lusciously, dreamily, tropical?)

 

 

 

 

 

But for a more vanillic, South Island take on a high quality jasmine absolute, the ingredient that constitutes the crucial, synergistic ingredient in this trinity, you could never find a better perfume. Whatever the level of its jasmineness, this perfume (in eau de toilette, the edp is too musky, somehow leaden) demands to be experienced. It is heavenly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EVA EVANTHIA’S JASMINE

 

 

 

When Duncan’s Greek Cypriot grandmother, Eva Evanthia, passed away at the age of ninety three, she left behind an intriguing little brown ivory pot full of Indian jasmine.

 

 

 

 

A perfume solid, of set, thick, condensed paste, whose surface you have to rub hard with your finger to absorb its scent, like a very strongly scented animalic, indolic (almost faecal) plasticine or jasmine putty.

 

 

 

It is a secret, an heirloom ( I never met her), something concealed and shut within that perfectly fitted, heavy lid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where did it come from?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did she ever wear it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was there a culture, in Cyprus, of using rich, disturbing perfumes (unlikely, I would imagine) or was it – much more likely – a souvenir from an exotic adventure that her husband and she had had long before they set foot in the east of England?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eva Evanthia was an unhappy lady for much of her later life, by all accounts, following the premature death of Duncan’s grandfather and her inability to ever move beyond that. Never fully literate in English, though she had her own charming malapropisms (apricot was ‘odricot’, which I always think would be pleasing name to give to a cat), she never completely recovered from having her nerves shattered in the Blitz of World War II London. She didn’t entirely feel at one with her life in England, and yet she was way too accustomed to its lifestyle and idiosyncracies to ever go back to Nicosia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eva suffered from depression during most of these years, and I sometimes think that there is something so deep and even depressive in these dense Indian absolutes, despite their obvious eroticism: these iddish fonts of compressed emotions and sexuality that are so far from the girlish, wavering fruition of the actual, living jasmine petals (and idealized females, for that matter), as if intense, repressed emotions had been boiled down, like a deep, perfumed, bodied wine reduction; concentrated; cooled, and then sealed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NIGHT BLOOMING JASMINE by FLORIS (2006)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

India and England: you would be hard-pressed to find a more different jasmine to the one described above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although Eva Evanthia was originally from the island of Cyprus, in such close proximity to the potent perfume cultures of the Middle East, with Turkey and the Lebanon just a boat journey away across the water, and where strong rose perfumes, and jasmine, and ouds and attars hold sway, it was in England that the Christos family decided to migrate to, and Floris’ Night Blooming Jasmine, to be honest, couldn’t really be more English if it tried.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There seems to be a kind of coven of cougarish perfumistas who insist that every jasmine, that all white florals, should by rights be heavy; skanky, measuring the indoles on the indolometer to check that it is shitty enough to count as a real jasmine, that anything less has somehow copped out and is afraid to go all the way.

 

 

 

 

As a lover of strong and unapologetic fragrances I can certainly relate to this jasmine approach, but I also, in my Jekyll and Hyde existence in Japan, appreciate a more subtle, lighter, less-mallet like approach to perfuming oneself, and in fact I actually (when drunk and passing by the Hankyu department store in Yurakucho after a film one night) did buy a bottle of this pleasant, and unhaunting, perfume by Floris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is it exactly about English perfumery?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something that smells like the freshly washed, embroidered eiderdowns in the guest room of a country B+ B : clean, comforting, and cloistered, with the lawns and the oak trees stretching out beyond, the white lacy curtains draped just so, and the tea, in the finest china cups, waiting downstairs to be enjoyed with cream and scones.

 

 

 

 

Night Blooming Jasmine captures all this, somehow, an English idyll viewed through a lens of thick, bottom-bottled frosted glass, as if all the sex and the insects, and the indoles and the rot had just been sucked right out of the jasmine and instead, in its place, there were nothing other than privet hedges, trimmed summer grass and trails of gently breathing jasmine trellissing their way up the front of a cottage. Black currant buds, violet, and mimosa nuances embellish the jasmine, with pleasant powdered, woody traces of sandalwood and something sweet foundationing the base, but all in all it is as if the scent had been compressed into a bite size, sugar-frosted pastille of unthreateningness, and for this reason alone I have to say I like it.

 

 

 

 

 

While we are on the subject of clean hotel rooms, and water closets, and bathrooms, I happened to pick up a book the other day, that seventies erotic classic ‘Fear Of Flying’ by Erica Jong, which, intriguingly, has some interesting observations on the distinctions between international ‘powder rooms’:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

” British:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

British toilet paper. A way of life. Coated. Refusing to absorb, soften or bend (stiff upper lip). Often property of government. In the ultimate welfare state even the t.p is printed with propaganda.

 

 

 

The British toilet as the last refuge of colonialism. Water rushing overhead in Victoria Falls, and you an explorer. The spray in your face. For one brief moment (as you flush) Britannia rules the waves again.

 

 

 

 

 

The pull chain is elegant. A bell cord in a stately home (open to the public, for pennies, on Sundays). ”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JASMIN ROUGE (2011)+ JASMINE MUSK (2009) by TOM FORD

 

 

 

 

 

 

But to traverse the Atlantic again in pursuit of our perfect jasmine (do you think you might find one within these invisible pages?) we find two pleasing jasmine fragrances by Tom Ford: both of which I would happily own and wear myself.

 

 

 

 

Where Jasmine Musk is probably the cleanest of all the jasmines featured in this piece – deliciously so – like a lithe young woman in body-hugging white dress sucking on a lychee in some expensive hotel room, Jasmin Rouge, which I think smells a litte like the aforementioned Velvet Desire by Dolce & Gabbana, that rich, jasmine-tea, slightly oriental sambac smell with sultry, multifaceted underlay, is the more opulent of the two, although as with all Tom Ford creations, it has to be said that it takes no real chances. Both are city jasmines, perfectly put together – rich, light, sexy. And that is all.

 

 

 

 

 

LE JASMIN by ANNICK GOUTAL (2004)

 

 

 

 

 

In Haruki Murakami’s typically surreal 1980’s adventure ‘Dance Dance Dance’, the Culture Club-hating writer simply cannot find it within himself to imagine how anyone could think that Boy George, the humorous and beautiful iconoclast of that decade, can sing.

 

 

 

 

As an avid, lifelong fan of the group however, I find it equally unfathomable that a person could possibly imagine that The Boy, with his inimitable and mellifluous white-soul voice, could possibly have this defect.

 

 

 

 

And every time I smell Annick Goutal’s Le Jasmin (and I’ve tried it at least five times in different places), I’m take aback by a horror chemical blast, which I’m told (or have read somewhere) is the ‘ginger note’, but which prevents me from smelling anything else beyond it. And yet for some jasmine lovers, ‘Le Jasmin’ is their very highest jasmine holy grail – ‘pure femininity’, the essence of jasmine, and the like (please enlighten me if this describes you).

 

 

 

 

I have the highest respect for the Annick Goutal range, so perhaps it’s just me – a strange, innate inability to appreciate its savours or to smell the jasmine for the trees – like Murakami’s inexplicable blind spot for the bendy, pop culture beauty of Boy George.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GELSOMINO by SANTA MARIA NOVELLA

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I smelled it for possibly only the second time yesterday in Tokyo, in the midst of a great long day of jasmine ravaging – asking myself second opinions and smelling as much as I could just to get as wide as scope on jasmine as I could, as I went up to the eighth floor of Isetan, I sprayed on Gelsomino, though the assistant was frittering about me disturbed and fussingly in gloves and wanting to dab some on a tiny scent strip, I went ahead with my instincts and covered my hand in Gelsomino anyway, letting its jasmine virtuosity just splash and dribble down my hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I just broke out into a big, uninhibited smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gelsomino is all that I love about jasmine, and all that I love about Italy. A huge, operatic thing, unfettered, unchained – warm, natural, imbibed, the sensation of its unedited romanticism almost bringing tears to my eyes (it actually did, but I thought I should try and hide that from you).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is nothing in this perfume but jasmine, real; macerated; adored, of the sweet, typically Italian variety, and though it later turned quite sour on me and is completely unwearable, too big mama napoli, I still delighted in the mere fact of its existence. It felt like returning back to a grander, more natural world, and I came away with a gelsomino soap in any case, which I had a bath with earlier before starting on this heady jasmine odyssey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LA REINE MARGOT / LES PARFUMS HISTORIQUES (2007)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our penultimate jasmine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A savage jasmine, brilliantly animal, which conjures up well the bloodied queen of French history: a wild, spicy, and disgusting jasmine with a mesmerizing brutality created by an always interesting company, and a perfume apparently made using the original sixteenth century techniques, which would perhaps explain the lack of standard ‘finesse’, but also its integrity, its thickness, its sang froid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was one of those perfumes that dented my brain with its vivid, floral realism when I smelled it the first time, and I do wish, now, that I had bought it as I stood there at the Maitre Parfumeur Et Gantier boutique in Paris weighing up my options, actually – this is one of those creations – unhindered, real – that lingers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LUST by GORILLA PERFUMES (2010)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And: last, but definitely not least: Lust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God this scent is fascinating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had actually briefly sampled the solid perfume on previous occasions, with its carnal, but slightly dulled, rubbered edges, and knew then that I would have to come back to it, but had not, until the other evening in Shinjuku – the heart of commercial Tokyo; the busiest station in the world, the core of the yakuza crime syndicates, government, the ‘fuzoku‘, or sensual underground, and a place I feel strangely myself in – ever actually experienced the liquid.

 

 

 

 

After combing the available perfumeries for jasmines and taking notes (probably carelessly looking like a weirdo to the Tokyoite onlookers), I went to my favourite Thai restaurant to restore my energy, and then decided that I would go and see a film, the current internet sensation and apparently ‘scandalously erotic’ Ai No Uzu, or ‘Vortex Of Love’, a semi-comic drama centered around a group of Roppongi swingers who meet (several of whom have never done this ‘sort of thing’ before and are consequently embarrassed when they first arrive, sitting around in bathtowels, exchanging pleasantries with people they are expected to f***).

 

 

 

 

Not since Ai No Corrida (‘In the realm of senses’) has there been a commercially successful, semi-pornographic film that has had the prurient masses furtively sneaking in to have a look to this extent (the office ladies in front of me were giggling nervously when the ‘action’ began, and there was quite a lot of action), and, as it was the last day that it was showing, I decided that I would have to see it. I was the only foreigner in there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lush store was just around the corner from the Musashinokan cinema, and I just couldn’t resist the humour (and the obviousness): why not go and see this minor cause celèbre, a work that deals with promiscuity, desire, boredom, and sex addiction, drenched in possibly the most shocking jasmine ever made? Add another dimension to the film, and perhaps conversely, to the perfume?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so I went into the shop, and to the bemusement of the shop assistants, I gave myself a hefty dose of Lust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I came out onto the street – and yes, I know I am prone to ‘overheightening’ things with my prose- I did, though, literally feel disoriented: transported in a pinkish, flesh-cushioned, cloud-cradle of sandalwood and vanilla-touched jasmine absolutes, a bit delirish; thoughts deliciously addled and momentarily incoherent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The world was a rainbow; floral, irreal: this jasmine, surely, in short, was a drug.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But less than a minute or so into its development on my skin (this perfume is inexpressibly wrong on me, hysterically so), the soft, light beauty of pale pink jasmine petals was taken over by a scent so fabulously indolic it was though I was being assailed and suffocated by moths: giant, powder-heavy moths battling moth balls battling me and discomposing my senses: a riveting journey from boudoir to corpse in a matter of seconds as though I were ageing, rapidly, like David Bowie in ‘The Hunger’: you could almost feel the cobwebs creeping around my decaying flesh, my vociferously grannyish tendencies, as I went to the convenience store, pre-film, feeling amusedly self-conscious and reeking of a jasminoid, eros/thanatos death stench.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The brilliant Eva Vosnaki of Perfume Shrine does a thorough analysis of indoles, one of the components of natural jasmine essence: their origins, chemical make-up, and psychological effects in perfumery – the fine line that can be drawn between a bodily, faecal element in a tuberose or jasmine scent (a natural oil can contain up to 2.5% pure indoles); the very evidently sexual note that can be extremely arousing in white florals, with its hint of the naughty underpinning the butterfly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is the natural combining of the other constituents of the flower, with this one note in very small proportions, that gives this effect : the dying decay of a weighed down, bobbing head of rain-drenched lilac that is simultaneously heartrending, erotic and perturbing – but in isolation apure indole has a very strong intimation of death, of decomposition, not merely of shit, but of napthalene.

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know if you know this word (I didn’t myself for a very long time), but it is precisely the smell of clothe-protecting mothballs, or even urinal cakes – those chernobyl balls of disinfectant that can render even the most urinous juice, and its stenching after-effects, antisepticized.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had no idea what napthalane was, which for almost everyone is simply the obvious smell of mothballs, until I went to Italy at the age of twenty (do we even use the stuff in England?) I’m pretty sure that my parents didn’t, nor even my grandparents – are the moths so especially ravenous for cloth in most countries that all vestments – never washed in a washing machine for decades, for centuries, but which must never face neglect, only dry cleaning, be then preserved in this highly odorous substance? The fibres morbidly, slowly delineating themselves in toxic solitude, then, to be breached and packed for the winter in boxes and paper-lined boxes with the zombie bride of cold, ice-ditch, napthalene?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am quite certain I had not smelled the stuff until I lived in Rome, when one weekend in the midst of my falling in love with all of my friends, one of the sweeter, ‘rougher’ but more introverted of them, Pietro, invited me out of the blue to go and stay at his mother’s house located just outside the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pietro had always made himself out to be very ‘rustic’ and ‘simple’ (though his passion was never remotely in any doubt: when jilted by his Swedish girlfriend, who had treated him most cruelly, to show how he felt about her, despite my horrified protestations, he sent her, in a carefully sealed tupperware box, wrapped, carefully and posted, a most clearly voiced token of his deep disgust, which he had produced, that morning, from his own body….)

 

 

 

 

 

He was obsessed with The Pogues, and poetry, and all things Irish for some reason, and he was the sweetest of all the friends I had in Rome, if not the closest, but I was delighted, in any case, that weekend, to have the chance to stay in a real Italian house with a real Italian family in the countryside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And it was a palazzo. Freezing, in stone, but beautiful as something from a Pasolini or Visconti film, a hunkered down block of familial stone that was carved, and embellished, and turned into a casa, with every room as simple and exquisite as you would naturally expect it to be, and me, wondering if my natural lack of manners and insufficiently decent command of polite Italian expression would allow me to suffice the weekend stay (if the cold itself didn’t kill me…..I have an image, real or dreamed I am not sure, of myself and Pietro shivering in nightshirts in his room, not daring to dip a toe from the sheets it was so spectrally icy breath outside the letto), but most of all, the overpowering, and overwhelming, napthalene. I felt as though I were being choked on this bracing, chemical smell that muted itself glacially down the corridors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though, like Terence Stamp in Teorema, I was an English fish out of water, I adored that experience, that weekend – its smell of packed-together moth balls that, crucially, imprinted itself forever as a romantic smell in my head, despite its medicinality – and it is the intensity of such memories that makes me feel, now, that Italy will always remain in some ways the apex of what I consider beauty (though Japan could most definitely give her a run for her money….).

 

 

 

 

 

But what is it about jasmine, the surge of life in its florality, yet also the disturbing undertones in its natural makeup, its indoles, its napthalene, that has this discombulating effect on the senses?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you examine the flower further – as I have been these last days – explore its history, the fact that this precarious dialectic of life/ death vs the continuous flow or ‘circle of life’, known as samsãra, or sangsãra in Sanskrit, should exist, ready formed, inside a flower, is not that surprising. All flowers fade, their flesh gradually falling from fresh and alive to foul. As it is for humans, putresence is a fact of life. However, it is hard to think of another flower that possesses these opposing facets simultaneously and in such exquisite balance. A rose smells fresh, lemonish, dewy, exhilarating, but then it turn it goes musty: all sour and mildewy. Though the ylang ylang and tuberose flowers I smelled in Indonesia, despite the obvious presence of some white, indolic facets in the latter, smelled pure as the driven snow when they were in full bloom, they simply then became unpleasant, rank and and mucoid in the cusp of the descent towards dying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, other flowers do display their beautiful allure at the peak of their powers while equally emanating the death urge: bluebells, narcissis, hyacinths, lilac blossoms, and lilies (not to mention the fungal white doom of Japanese gardenias): all these flowers (and I love the smell of all of them ) are nevertheless noxious, almost putrid from the outset when you loom in close, all nauseating in excess : not scents to have in a windowless closed room of too much profusion – the olfactory volume set too high – it is never truly balanced – which adds, dramatically, of course, to these flowers’ excess, their undeniably addictable qualities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yet I could never think of the lily, be it Casablanca, or Stargazer, as being vital.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a woozy, blowsy decadence, a sense of overblown, of limp melodrama, the flowers, as soon as they bloom, like unselfaware, tragicomic divas. The scent seduces, yet it also repels: we sense a flawed excess, a toxicity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jasmine, on the other hand, achieves a perfect balance. It tantalizes from a distance, it is almost edible up close.

 

 

 

 

 

Intoxicating and seductive, but also revitalizing to the nerves – rejuvenating. A fertile smell, radiant and happy, its indolic animalic presence noted, but never suffocating, and even when the flowers are limp they still retain a pleasant scent, which is why, when dried, they can simply be drunk.

 

 

 

 

 

Aromatherapeutically, unlike the essential oils of tuberose, hyacinth, gardenia, narcissus, all produced in minute quantities and used, only rarely for ‘high class perfumery’ (and which possess almost no physiological, or medicinal benefits for the body), jasmine oil (along with rose, neroli and lavender), is the floral oil par excellence, used as a curative remedy for a large number of physical and psychological conditions as varied as bronchitis, nervous coughs and hoarse throats; as a treatment for skin disorders, depression, septicaemia; but especially for sex-related issues, including prostatitis, gonorrhoea, frigidity, and as an aid in child-birth (as it strengthens the uterus).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Robert Tisserand, one of the founding fathers of modern aromatherapy, the chemical constituents of jasmine oil are almost hardwired to produce feelings of ‘optimism, confidence, and euphoria’ in human beings, which explains its pronounced effect on our nervous system. We are not just imagining it: jasmine literally is an arousing life-force to be reckoned with.

 

 

 

 

 

And it is for this reason that it has been used for millennia by different cultures in rituals and religious ceremonies, in legends, as peoples from widely differing traditions gravitated naturally to jasmine intuitively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interestingly, it is the national flower of Indonesia, and the flower has a particularly strong presence in the myths and culture of Java, precisely the place where I had my astonishing ‘jasmine attack’ at the Grand Aston, Yogyakarta. Known as melathi puti, jasmine is, as in many cultures, used in great proliferation at wedding ceremonies. In the Javanese case, jasmine flower buds that have not yet fully opened are picked to create strings of jasmine garlands called roncen melati, which are used as garlands to decorate the hair of the bride, intricately intertwined strings of jasmine garlands left to hang loose from her head.

 

 

 

Interestingly, though, the groom’s kris, or ceremonial sword, is also adorned with five jasmine garlands called roncen usus-usus, which refer to its intestine-like form, linked to the legend of Arya Penangsang, a rather gory tale in which the warrior Penangsang, feisty, intrepid, afraid of nothing, but rather too prone to impetuousness, was speared by one of his foes, Sutawijayain, a man who so thoroughly pierced his stomach that his intestines were hanging from his open wounded gut. Possessing ‘extreme spiritual power’, the wounded warrior soldiered on however, in that fashion, encircling his hanging entrails on his kris, or sword as he continued to fight, succumbing to death only when, in a fit of impatience, he unsheathed his sabre, unwittingly severing his stomach and finally dying. The jasmine flowers that decorate the groom’s stomach, therefore, at an Indonesian wedding, apparently symbolize strength, but also symbolize sacredness, grace, humility, kindness and benevolence, the precise qualities lacking in Penangsang. In its associations with life, birth, and death, we thus see in Javanese culture an appropriation of the jasmine flower as a symbol of all life’s rites of passage (in Bali jasmine is used for funerals as well as weddings), while equally embracing the feminine and the masculine, the area of the male body decorated also directly linking to jasmine’s more animalic undertone, even as it celebrates the beauty and purity of the bride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These back stories, these timeless uses of jasmine go some way, then, to explain the reactions that people have had since time immemorial to this flower. As we have seen from many of the perfumes I have described above, the effect of most jasmine perfumes is of something spellbinding, magnetizing, occasionally even mysterious. Simon Constantine, the brilliant and iconoclastic founder of Gorilla perfumes, has provocatively destroyed the precious equilibrium of the natural flowers in Lust, and has instead let them intoxicate themselves from within, the combination with vanilla and sandalwood and the particular, concentrated essence that is located in the depths of the perfume producing this startlingly morbid/erotic effect in me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I walk along the streets of Shinjuku to the cinema with my aura of napthalene. To see a film about sex. An unbelievably strong smell of mothballs, of heirlooms wrapped in trunks, in lace: cobwebbish, spindly, lace: old lace, such a feature still, of ageing Japan as it greys and crinkles in windows and dreary coffee shops, of eldery ladies as they get onto the bus to Ofuna in their winter coats that they have just brought wearily out of from their closets. Napthalene, that smell that I see now is also an element of Eva Evanthia’s Indian unguent: heavily indolic with the matured souls of jasmine flowers still intact within its paste: a life half lived, somehow symbolizing a truth that I still don’t know the identity of. She hadn’t touched it when we opened it: it was just a memento, a scented (sacred) souvenir, but still, somehow, smelling so vital, and yes, although it felt inappropriate, lustful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It turns out that the tickets for Ai No Uzu, which has almost sold out, are numbered, so I have to wait for my turn to be called until I can take my seat. Aware of my odour (of other jasmines as well that I am covered in from the day’s explorations, but mostly of the rotting napthalene) I am eager to try and find a seat on the edges that is not too close to other people, and, fortunately, I am able to sit in the second row, on the aisle, which is where I would have probably decided to sit anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The film is good from a number of perspectives, especially anthropologically ( I love anything that allows me to go deeper in Japan), although I find the embarrassed interactions between the characters excruciating. I sit with clenched feet and hands for much of the first twenty minutes, amazed at the inability of the characters to communicate with each other, two of them with heads bowed in silent shame until one of them finally manages to make a move (this while the other three couples are screaming in orgiastic ecstacy in the downstairs room). Ultimately, though, the scent I am surrounded in, with all its jasmine contradictions, is so apt. The women are flushed after their carnal couplings, flowering from their embarrassments and work frustrations and finally admitting, after the characters graduate from polite niceties (after a couple of ‘sessions’ with different partners) that they are ‘sukebe’ (perverts, nymphomaniacs, have sex on the brain) much to the shared, mutual laughter.

 

 

 

 

 

Ultimately and inevitably perhaps though, there are also complications, dramatic realizations, and in the cold light of day, a sense of emptiness and sorrow: and here the napthalene rising up from my hands and wrists makes just as much sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something dead, wilted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so Lust, while not the most subtle of jasmine scents, nor necessarily the most beautiful, is in many ways probably the most compelling. Even with the napthalenic punge that underlies the other notes, the jasmine grandiflorum absolute oil used in abundance in this all-natural scent still glows beautifully, hypnotically.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It embraces all of jasmine’s inherent paradoxes, its shimmering, contradictory play of sex and death, of longing in the moment and the inexorable decay that must also come. It smells shocking on me and is therefore all the more appealing, like embracing, after pushing away for too long, your dark side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most extreme perfumes I have ever encountered, when the film ends and I walk towards the station I see that the Lush store, to my surprise, is still open, just about to close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cannot resist. I go in and buy a bottle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LIKE CAT NIP TO A TOM CAT : : : : : : CEDRE by SERGE LUTENS ( 2005 )

 

 

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Although you are probably used to my perfumed hyperbole by now, I think I may be about to exceed my own limits of slick lusciousness when I recall and recount how I reacted to buying a bottle of Serge Lutens Cèdre.

 

 

 

It was strange. I had had a sample, one of those black Lutens’ mini sample sprays that perfumistas all know so well, and felt, at the time, that Cèdre was perhaps just another sweet, spiced boisé like all the rest . Which I love. I adore Féminité Du Bois, particularly in vintage parfum – it is like being lost in a dark-corridored, plum-teaked labyrinth, and I enjoy the whole ‘Bois’ series in fact – Violette, Musc, Et Fruits – Chergui, Daim Blond, Rousse; all the classic Lutensian perfumes of that style: I enjoy their stylized, urban richness.

 

 

 

Then, one day, though, when told by James Craven of Les Senteurs that I should try it again, that he really loved this perfume, I sat down and properly concentrated on this lesser-loved Lutens and there it was: suddenly there was something in that animalic, Abyssinian tuberose, spices, and sweet, dripping mess of Atlas cedar from Morocco that made me go a bit, suddenly go ga ga.

 

 

 

The combination locked.

 

 

 

I UNDERSTOOD.

 

 

 

The attractive/repulsive, almost cow-pat like richesse (glistening! too sweet! too carnal!): the ambered, cinnamon notes burring like columns of treacle beneath the masculinized African tuberoses and their flicks of clove, almost sublimated and disappeared by the sun-drenched wood sap, yet there, wide-lipped and smouldering underneath…… I knew for sure, at that moment, that I would have to go right out and buy myself a bottle.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

There is something about buying a Serge Lutens in Japan. You have to go to Isetan in Shinjuku, the only place he is sold, the most prestigious department store in Tokyo, where your purchase is checked for contents and spray function; packaged up; wrapped, and where the rigorously polite sales assistant will insist on accompanying you to the door, not letting you hold on to your property until she has handed it over to you, graciously, with a stately, appreciative bow.

 

 

 

Somehow, therefore, you feel that you just can’t get the bottle out of the box on the street or the train for a quick sniff and peruse, though of course I have (yes, sacrilegiously, I do love Nuit De Cellphane, and Louve! My god, Louve, my baby – and then Un Bois Vanille and of course, my favourite of them all, Borneo 1834…….all of which have been whipped out on the train and inhaled, furtively and surreptiously)…..For some reason, though, Cèdre, an anti-intuitive purchase for me in some ways, remained in the box emballaged; untapped; until I got her home.

 

 

 

Duncan was in bed. I was in my raspberry-red hospital pyjamas that I had kept as a souvenir after my stay at the Royal Free in London for pneumonia all those years ago ( I lived ! I fully recovered! Against the doctors’ miserable, pessimistic advice (…you will never be the same again….)!!

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

There. In my hands. Ready. Flowing from side to ambered side against the meniscus. The plenitude of a full bottle of perfume, a plenteousness that can can tip me into a crazed, disinhibiting mania of just wanting to just pour the entire thing over my body, even as the fierce desire to preserve as much as possible of the liquid acts simultaneously as a puritanical, checking brake mechanism.

 

 

This tension: sheer, wanton avidity versus measured practicality and pragmatism, the desire to just fling the stuff about in wild abandon even though, or because you know, it is expensive and you should thus be trying to preserve every last, precious, drop to make it last and prolong the pleasure.

 

 

 

I love these contradictory impulses.

 

 

 

And over the years I have almost lost it with certain perfumes, especially sweet, vanillic orientals, and used them up in practically no time at all through my sheer unbrokered excitement. But that night with Cèdre was probably one of the most ridiculous. The initial top accord   ( which the base never quite lives up to in all honesty, becoming merely a pleasant spiced amber note that could probably have done with being amped up a bit, yes but) that initial stage, on that first night, just sent me into a frenzy. Not just spraying on my arm, my neck, my hand, all over, and gnawing, inhaling myself like a prisoner gulping at fresh air on his first day of release, but also dipping the strings of my pyjama trousers right into the bottle, right down to the depths, watching the perfume rising up, absorbing up the tuberosian nectar (it’s the honey; yes the honey in the scent that binds the sweet cedar essential oil with those tenored flowers, and that ambery, lascivious feel-up that malingers underneath it all, that had me splashing the perfume all over the room with my trouser strings, sighing and flapping about consciouslessly with fierce, perfumed pleasure, overheated; lost in some strange, mannish, catnip ecstacy.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

And when I came to, after however long it was ( I have no idea), I would say that at least a quarter of the bottle had gone. In one sitting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then: nothing. Since that single, fickle orgy I have used the scent only on a number of occasions, always enjoying that beginning, as my synapses have probably been seared with that one mad evening and my smell brain immediately thus rises to the occasion upon smelling it. But on the few times I have worn the perfume out in the daytime or evening somewhere, a few hours into its development, I start to feel almost bored of its tempered, generic amber smell, and it never feels quite right.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

No, it is that initial rush I love in Cèdre. The tantalizing foreplay; the sun-drenched, dulcet liquid and its wooden, oozing possibilities.

 

 

 

 

The blind lust.

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L’ENIGME DE L’ENCENS JAPONAIS…….SERGE NOIRE de SERGE LUTENS (2008)

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I wrote the other day about the strange, dark beauty of the best Japanese incense. And for those who may have not had access to this experience, I was thinking about what perfumes closest approximate what I like best about o-koh: the shadowy, mothballed aspect that puts me in mind of an old temple priest’s kimono hung on the door of some wintery corner; that exquisitely poetic Japanese austerity which takes the severe to its profoundest, most otherworldly extreme and leaves you agoraphobically facing the void; dreaming; looking at the precepts of your own culture more deeply and wondering what life in fact really is.

While a lot of the incense I have tried is stress-appeasing in its woodful, powdered mellowness; heart-opening and sensual, like Horikawa by the house of Korin – a spicy warm oriental that fills up every nook of a room with its cinnamon and ambered goodness – much of the other incense you can try at the Buddhist shops is compellingly odd, especially when smelled in its full intensity from the box; almost alien and offputting in its black, moist camphoraceousness that teases out some lingering ancient Japanese spirit, entirely unwestern in its grave, self-disciplined, zen-master sternfulness. I have bought boxes of this incense nevertheless over the years, enjoyed its almost sour, pickled amalgamations of oudh/agar/kyara/jinko and other blended naturals such as cloves, cinnamon, patchouli and camphor. But particularly camphor. That cold coolness, that medicinal fire that separates us from the daily reality and leads us into the religious; the purifying, hairshirt, doubled down ecstacies of ascetism and meditation.

I have only really smelled two perfumes that put me in mind of this quality. One is a scent I smelled in London two years ago with a specific Japanese theme (but whose name I can’t come up with right now), that combined some very camphoraceous incense with ume plum as well as other quite original combinations of ingredients to odd but quite mesmerizing effect: I remember standing transfixed in Liberty, feeling a strange kind of reverse homesickness as I was successfully transported back to Japan by that perfume. The other overtly Japanese (to me at least, though it is not directly expressed in the publicity released around one of Serge Lutens’ most difficult scents), is Serge Noire, apparently created to express the rather arch and fantastical concept of a phoenix arising from the ashes (‘an ode to everlasting beauty under cover of night’s rich plumage’). This perfume: rich, disconcerting, deep and dark, based on notes of ‘black wood’, ‘crystallized ash’, incense, cinnamon, clove, amber and camphor, has a similar quality to quite a lot of the Japanese incense I have smelled over the years. Though Parisian, and recognizably so, with its correct gradations from wood and powder to herbaceous and upper spice, the effect is similar. The stunning opening of the vintage version (I have just emptied the one sample I have from ‘back in the day’) has a napthalene-like bite, the smell of mothballs woven into a spiced, burnt, incense clay of woven woods and cloves that is intensely enigmatic at first, quite hypnotic,  though it sadly dries down to a much more familiar, musky sandalwood accord that does not match the curious magic of the opening, and which I do have to say I have always found slightly disappointing. I smelled the newer version the other day in Tokyo from the bottle also, and it didn’t seem to have quite the kick of the original version, but I would like to try it again just to make sure.  Despite its flaws, Serge Noire is quite a fascinating scent, and it is worth trying if any of the above descriptions do appeal to you. There are not many scents out there that are quite this severe, this difficult and recondite; that access the particular emotion and aura of some the most unusual, even sombre boxes of Japanese incense.

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Some roses for winter.

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Nitobe Inazo, author of the classic (if highly supercilious) tome on Japan, Bushido, may consider the Japanese quite superior with their love for the evanescent fleetingness of the cherry blossom flower, a sweet but sorrowful bloom that symbolizes the ‘stoic’ samurai warriors’  desire to sacrifice their lives at the drop of a hat; while the gaijin, or westerner, ‘selfishly’ favours the rose that clings, with every last drop of its life, to the putrifying, stinking stem even when dead ….but I’m sorry, the rose is one of my very favourite flowers, and I imagine that I also will be clinging at my last; thorny and desperate, rather than plunging a sword into my gut and ripping out my innards, all for the sake of appearances and some dull and pointless idea of ‘honour’ (the code of the samurai is much more nuanced and spiritual than this, I realize, but you get my drift: I have never quite forgiven Nitobe for the disdain he shows the non-Japanese in that book, and the rose is an emblem I therefore adhere to even more passionately as a result.)

 

 

 

 

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(idiot!!!!!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, the rose is a tricky one.

 

 

Rose oil, or its synthetic reconstitution, is a component of the vast majority of perfumes, and there are  wildly different interpretations of this flower, meaning that although you may think you hate the rose if you have been brought up on granny talcs, or else Stella, and Paul Smith, and all those uptight, irritating contemporary roses, there still might be a perfume out there that might sway you if you deign to explore the rosaceous galaxy further.

 

Though none in my opinion has ever truly captured the exquisite beauty of a living, breathing flower (surely one of the most enthralling scents in the universe), a few come close, or take the theme to newer, unexpected places.

 

 

Rose is also, my view, a floral that is perfect for winter, not clashing with that touch of patchouli oil that is still hanging on to your jacket, remaining poised and stoic……an aroma of both piercing sorrow and hope; with a dignity, poeticism, and romantic attachment that make it far superior in my (not even remotely) humble view, to the puny, and nothingy, frou -frou cherry blossom.

 

 

ROSE ABSOLUE/ ANNICK GOUTAL (1984)

Supremely expensive for an eau de toilette, Rose Absolue is a diaphanous, sense-delighting spray of real rose oils, with several of the most prized species in perfumery. The crisp, exuberant top notes are truly delightful, and come very close to smelling like a garden of roses on a summer morning. The middle and base notes lose something as the essential oils evaporate (making it a costly habit to maintain), but for a delicious rose spritz, this cannot be beaten.

 

 

NAHEMA / GUERLAIN  (1979)

The top note of the Nahéma vintage extrait is breathtaking: perhaps the most ravishingly gorgeous and complete rose absolute in perfume; a scent to make your heart swell, your diaphragm tremble. Whether you will fall for Nahéma or not though, (and it has its very faithful adherents), will depend on your liking roses romantic, full on, and sweet. Nahéma folds this stunning rose note in peach, hyacinth, aldehydes; ylang, vanilla and musk, and is deliriously rich, romantic – very Guerlain. If it is right for you, you will smell resplendent. If not, overdone.

 

 

ROSE/ CARON (1949)

If the roses in Goutal’s Rose Absolue are freshly picked, and the scent their breath, Caron’s is their blood; the enshrinement of a beauteous Bulgarian absolute (more regal, melancholy than Moroccan rose – the more ‘classic’ rose note) over a gentle bed of vanilla and musk. The extrait is beautiful; potent, emotive; a scent to be cherished. Almost painfully pure and beautiful.

For a similar, but somewhat chicer rose, try the other Caron rose perfume, Or et Noir: for sexual mystery, the house’s woody, musky incense rose, Parfum Sacré.

 

 

FLEURS DE BULGARIE / CREED (1880/1980)

A centenary reformation of an aristocratic, very strange scent from Creed, this peculiar, haunting rose perfume evokes another time and place, leagues away from brash current trends. It is at once tender, reserved, unabashedly tasteful, yet with an undeniable whiff of madness: generations of interbreeding among the loopy upper classes. A dry, high pitched, almost saline bunch of Bulgarian roses over an insinuating natural ambergris: the smell of stately homes, the fragile, yellowing pages of old books.

 

A difficult, but rather brilliant perfume, to be placed on a dresser by a window over the lawns, on which to do ‘one’s toilette.’

Beyond, the reedy river, in which perhaps to drown…

 

 

 

SA MAJESTE LA ROSE / SERGE LUTENS (2000)

 

A scornful rose. Dark swishes of crimson rose fragrance: grand, extravagant, a perfume of strength and beauty, but with ironic, opaque bitterness. Serge Luten’s rose is not romantic: his perfumer, Christopher Sheldrake, was presumably ordered to do away with such nonsense. Instead there is a stark regality here, just as the name suggests (a tart note of geranium, lychee and guaic wood sees to that), but also an elaborate heart of white roses, vanilla and honeyed Moroccan rose.  It is an effective, gorgeous perfume that will leave you feeling splendidly detached.

 

 

 

CE SOIR OU JAMAIS / ANNICK GOUTAL (1999)

 

Perhaps the most vulnerable of rose perfumes, Ce Soir Ou Jamais (‘Tonight Or Never’) is a rich, breathy Turkish rose, unfolding in a tearful desperate embrace. It is natural, supremely feminine, and one of the most romantic perfumes you could ever wear.

 

 

ROSE OPULENTE/ MAITRE PARFUMEUR ET GANTIER

 

As it says, opulent, gorgeous, red-silk Bulgarian roses, for high camp and rose adorers. Quite beautiful, with leafy green top notes gracing a subtly spiced, ambergris rose.

 

 

ROSE EN NOIR/ MILLER HARRIS (2006)

Exclusive to Barney’s New York stores, this is a mildly repugnant, dark  animalic rose with woody musk facets and top notes of jammy rhubarb.

Interesting, like someone unravelling at the seams.

 

 

 

ROSE DE NUIT / SERGE LUTENS (1994)

Paris. Had I had any money left by the time I got to the Lutens boutique at the Palais Royal (having already ‘done’ Caron, Guerlain, and Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier), this is what I would have bought from the astonishing selection of perfumes curated by the mysterious ladies hovering behind them. On myself I like darker, more menacing rose perfumes, preferably underscored by patchouli, and this really did the trick for me. Rich, effusive, and very outgoing, with a touch of jasmine, apricot, beeswax, and chypre. A rose for nighttime and adventure, to be worn with leather.

 

 

SOIR DE LUNE  / SISLEY (2006)

A gorgeous, dark, honey-drenched rose enveloped by rich notes of chypre, mimosa, and powerful patchouli, Soire De Lune is almost tailor-made to my personal olfactory tastes. It is diffusive, warm, sexy and of high quality; not dissimilar to the company’s fantastic Eau Du Soir, but in my opinion even better. A rounded, accomplished scent with presence, and a new alternative to such night time illuminaries as Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum and Voleur De Roses. I doubt I will ever be without a bottle of this.

 

 

VOLEUR DE ROSES   L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR (1993)

The rose thief is a dark figure dressed in black, moving with stealth through the undergrowth, night soil underfoot; rose bushes standing erect and waiting in the moonlight, sensing they are about to be picked. A sensous, woody patchouli is entwined with a deep, rich rose and an unusual note of black plum, resulting in a very gourmand, intriguing scent worthy of its wonderful name.

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SIX TUBEROSES

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It is cold, it is icy, and like many perfume lovers, I cannot only limit myself to the cosy and the spicy in winter: I find myself dreaming of summer, fast forwarding in my mind to that moment in May here (can’t wait) when everything goes ballistically pink and green; an explosion of lush life after the cherry blossom petals get blown and washed away from the trees by the last ferocious squalls of Spring and everything heats up; jungle like; humid, moist and fragrant. Sometimes I just want to branch out, rip myself out of the January mindset and let hot flowers bloom; I find myself dousing my skin in the ylangs and noix de coco that make up a sizeable part of my daily collection; the tuberoses, gardenias, the vanilla and the frangipani. I can’t just remain dormant and docile and huddled and feasting on gingerbread.

So today, though the subject has been done to death by every perfumista under the sun, let’s revel in the alabastrine lust of these floral beauties, let their noxious transulence asphyxiate us with their lone, sensuous purpose…..

 

THE TUBEROSE.

 

 

 

EAU DE TUBEREUSE by LE JARDIN RETROUVE

 

The tuberose is no rose. It is a voluptuary: a night-blooming flower from India and Mexico with white, fleshy petals and a sweet, unavoidably carnal aroma of hot skin and stamens. Victorian girls were forbidden to adorn themselves with tuberose toilet waters for fear they would swoon with certain discomforting thoughts (so difficult to avoid with a scent of such delirious candour), and the classic tuberoses,  such as this gorgeous creation by French house Le Jardin Retrouvé ( a perfume I found at the flea market) up the ante of this luscious facet to glorious effect. I am very partial to the billowy soft insinuations of perfumes like the dreamy original Chloë by Karl Lagerfeld, and Tubéreuse is of the same template, only stronger, more lush, more medicinal, more…..tuberose.

 

 

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CARNAL FLOWER / EDITIONS DE PARFUMS FREDERIC MALLE (2005)

 

A friend of mine, Yuta, lives down the hill from me in Kamakura with his wife Mikako. She has the most beautiful skin I’ve ever seen: as translucently smooth as white porcelain. One Sunday in spring they came round to the house, and naturally, like all dinner party guests, they had to be found a perfume from the collection. This is usually fairly easy, as I have an idea what people will like and what will suit them. But Mikako wasn’t having any of it. My instincts towards grey-blue iris scents were rebuffed, as were all perfumes over five years old.

Determined, I kept thinking. And then, as I was looking into the living room, my eyes rested on the amaryllis flower that had just bloomed: giant, translucent pale-pink on a milky green-white stem.

‘I think I have found it’, I said.

‘What does it smell like?’ she replied.

‘Like that’, I said, pointing to the plant.

 

Carnal Flower is very original. Its creators wanted to make a classic perfume that actually resembled the living tuberose but which would be the antithesis to the standard, butter-saturated model set up by Fracas. The project was two years in the making while perfumer Dominique Ropion perfected the formula: a green, petal-centred perfume with florist-fresh top notes – the least sweet of the genre. It is a very unusual fragrance, like watching a plant growing in a sealed-off white laboratory. Crushed stems and eucalyptus leaves begin the scent, over light floral essences (jasmine, ylang), cradling the highest percentage of natural tuberose absolute used in any perfume (hence its rather extravagant price.) On me it smells wrong, but on Mikako, with her cool white skin, incredible. The coconut-milk/white musk finish, the tuberose stems, the green leaves, turned her quite simply into a cold, living flower.

 

 

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FRACAS / ROBERT PIGUET (1948)

 

Mention tuberose and most perfume lovers immediately think of Fracas, the benchmark to which all others of the type must match. A dense and potent woody floral with blasts of the most flamboyant white flowers, this is a perfume for women who like to make an entrance.

The bottle in my own collection was given to me by a friend, who in turn was given it by the late Isabella Blow, doyenne of fashion and extravagant headwear, muse of Philip Treacy, and stolid socialite of the art and fashion world. She wore so much Fracas, and carried so many little bottles about with her, that she could just hand out the perfume like sweets. Wherever Isabella Blow went, so did Fracas; to the extent that for her friends, the smell was her (isn’t that what we all secretly want from a scent?). At her funeral in September 2007, the air was ‘redolent with the scent of Fracas’, according to the Guardian, Alexander Mcqueen having decided to scent the air with her presence.

Though Ms Blow’s signature, Fracas is the preferred scent of many a diva and always has been. It is gorgeous, headstrong and sexy, which is perhaps why it is also loved by Madonna. In the Reinvention Tour documentary ‘I’m going to tell you a secret’, the singer is seen backstage, flustered and sweaty, liberally spraying her Rococo pink corset with what she refers to as her ‘Italian whore’s bath’. A huge bottle of Fracas stands in pride of place in front of her dressing room mirror.

 

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TUBEREUSE / CARON (2003)

While some tuberose perfumes verge on sickly sweet (Versace Blonde I am talking to you….) Caron judiciously allows the full sensual bloom of this flower to open without letting it cloy, tempering the florality with a delicious, creamy base; just a hint of truffle-like darkness. The result is a supremely wearable tuberose; delicate, beguiling, with an underlying texture of cool, white leather, and one I would wholeheartedly recommend for the true tuberose lover who wants to keep it close. Possibly my favourite.

 

TUBEREUSE CRIMINELLE / SERGE LUTENS (1998)

 

Until Carnal Flower came along, it was this cult creation by Serge Lutens and his wildly talented perfumer Christopher Sheldrake that had taken the crown of ‘most original tuberose’, principally due to a medicinal note of wintergreen that braced the florid top note with a shocking sensation of gasoline, rubber and Vicks Vapour rub. This highly unconventional (‘criminal’) beginning you either endure patiently because you love the beautifully petalled, fresh tuberose flowers that await beneath, or it is the principle reason you are obsessed with the perfume. I personally love it in all its perverse, ugly-beautiful glory, but understandably there are many who don’t.

 

 

 

 

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MICHAEL KORS / MICHAEL KORS (2000)

Sharpness of metal: a glinting blade slices clean through ripe, lustrous tuberose flowers to a backdrop of blue lagoon. The sky is brilliant. A fresh, watery accord of flowers cuts the air, leaving a sensuous trail in its wake. A vivid, widescreen floral: notes of fresh tuberose, ‘dewy freesia’, and ‘white wings peony’, with an interesting twist of tamarind for piquancy. It is this more androgynous note, contrasting with the sweet wetness of the tuberose, that gives the perfume its character.

A future flower is on the screen, sharp focus: near enough, almost, to make you wince. A new tuberose: shot; cut; frozen in time. And there the image stays, on pause; for this perfume is unchanging. What you see is what you get with Michael Kors. It is modern, sexy, but not up too close: I prefer the outer limits of its aura, meant to draw you up in as it tingles the air. Though not devoid of tenderness, there is perhaps too much harshness, as though the tuberose were revealing truer, chillier colours.

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Filed under Flowers, Perfume Reviews, Tuberose

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) +..

 

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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…….

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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).

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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!

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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.

 

Hot, delicious, an ancient root of suffusive goodness and fiery health, ginger (zingiber officinale) has long been very popular here in Asia for various ailments and health conditions – it is practically a medicine. You might even say that there has been an actual ‘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 –  and it is my kind of panacea.

 

 

 

In terms of perfume, 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, which has a gorgeously gingery top accord. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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People after a very literal-minded ginger fix should perhaps turn, as their first port of call, 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). There is an aspect of Scratch N’ Sniff.

 

 

For a more interpreted, fresher form of the root, Ginger Essence by Origins is a pleasantly convincing fragrance (citric, floral, very clean and American) that features 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 undoubtedly more the balmy, floral sandalwood that lies beneath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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But on with the ginger…

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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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, tauntingly, at karaoke in Japan……)

 

 

They all became millionaires. I wasn’t allowed to stay with them (university- I had wanted a year out to just see how it went), but for a while it was fun anyway, and I got to go to all the parties and meet some famous pop stars. At one, a post-gig thing, I was in quiet 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 was emanating, discreetly, the classic Versace L’Homme from his skin.

 

 

In fact we were in the middle of talking about this scent, him passionately trying to convince me it was the greatest men’s scent 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, because 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 actually use do some nice fragrances: does anyone remember the sultry Milanese jasmine that was V’è? )

 

 

There really is nothing Pour L’Homme, in its original incarnation, it was 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. Seductive, yes, but classy – just about – and irresistible.

 

 

I wish there were 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 this perfume 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, very ‘trustworthy male in adorable woollen sweater’, but definitely worth seeking if you are searching for a well judged, temperate, but big-hearted, ginger.

 

 

GINGER MUSK / MONTALE (2006)

 

I love many a Montale perfume and could wear practically everything in their lineup, 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)

 

La piece de resistance. It is obvious that the creator of this perfume (Pierre Guillaume) was having a lot of fun with dabbling in his wintery concoctions when the results are as startling as this.

 

The ‘exotic crime’ in question is perhaps 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.

 

 

 

 

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

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Filed under Ginger, Perfume Reviews