In his first atmospheric piece for Basenotes, Walker Minton parts the falling leaves of November to allow us a peek back towards a wet and fragrant summer, in which he rediscovers old loves and finds new delights in unexpected quarters.
It has been a busy time for me over the last few months. At the end of July, I had to finish off my term of teaching. Tying up all the loose ends always involves a lot of running around, trying to get signatures from elusive people and other challenges. At the end of that hectic week, I had to organise and play two complicated gigs on the Friday and Saturday then leave for the airport to travel to Vancouver at 6.30am on Sunday morning. In the early part of the week, I wore Trumper's Spanish Leather and grazed on my citruses. Oranges and lemons, limes and bergamots, mix and match. The gigs were easy, always Tabarome Millesime for a suit job. Of course, I also had to spend a disproportionate amount of time choosing which scents I would take with me to travel. To this end I played with various combinations until painfully and as if through quagmire, I eventually chose my newly acquired Trumper's Wild Fern and my old favourites Habit Rouge and Guerlain Imperiale. I then bought Rive Gauche at the airport. These are just the bottles, I took decants and samples too.
I know I could have had the Rive Gauche cheaper online, but I feel almost obliged to buy fragrances at airports and I enjoy browsing the wares and observing the other people doing the same. At the airport I can watch the well spoken self confident businessman step up easily to buy his Chanel Pour Monsieur Concentrée in one queue and the loud and distinctly less articulate group of young women in T shirts buying their celebrity fragrance in another. Not often seen so close together.
The eleven-hour flight seemed longer, almost infinite in length. It was as if time decided to redress the balance after passing so quickly for the preceding week. After brief consideration (though not for others) I had chosen to ignore the advice of Luca Turin and more socially skilled people and travel fragranced. On the way out to Vancouver, I decided to wear Jean-Claude Ellena's Cologne Bigarade by Malle. While I like it slightly less than Creed Bigarrade this is a fine perfume and sneaking off to the toilet to refresh helped carve a few chips off the monolith of solid hours of transatlantic bucket shop. It has a clear, very fresh accord with a modern hay note and just a little rose which is particularly pleasing. This is just about the only Ellena scent I actually like. It seems much better than the concentrée version to me and the longevity seems excellent for this type of fragrance. Ultimately it is the modernity in this scent that causes me to place it just below Citrus Bigarrade in my world where classic and natural smelling rule supreme.
I was travelling to Vancouver to visit my friend of twenty-five years who has emigrated there recently. He picked me up at the airport (after the obligatory quizzing by immigration, much of which centred around why I had so many bottles of cologne) smelling good. In my tired haze, I wondered what he was wearing. Was it Creed Imperial? No..... not quite right. A little similar but not quite as.... expensive and no marine note.... I soon lost interest as I took in the stunning setting in which this great and beautiful city sits.
On arrival at his apartment, I did manage to sneak into his bathroom and establish that he was wearing.... Stetson Black! That smells quite good, especially for the price.
My friend turned out to be busy for several days while I was there so I had plenty of time wandering downtown. From my European perspective, downtown Vancouver is a very appealing place. Nobody is angry. Nobody has a chip on their shoulder, very unusual for a city in my experience. There is an homogeneity here; everyone does seem to be equal in the eyes of others, to outward appearances anyhow. It makes for a very alluring atmosphere, especially downtown where the physical environment is so attractive. Pleasant is a word which kept coming to mind. Vancouver at night is fantastic, a beautiful city, just how you want them to be. It is buzzing in a civilised kind of way but very safe feeling and non-threatening. There is a fair amount of homelessness but even the tramps seem polite and relatively well dressed and clean. The skytrain is fast and efficient. The city is busy with building work; development is going on everywhere in preparation for the Winter Olympics.
I wandered the fragrance counters for hours, wondering where the really good stuff was hiding. I was wearing Rive Gauche and this fragrance will forever conjure these easy times. I tested and enjoyed Gucci Envy for the first time. I drank a lot of coffee. I walked all the way down Haro looking for Ayala [Moriel]. I remembered the street but not the number of her perfumery, particularly interested to try her rainforest scent, always searching for great greens. Unfortunately, I couldn't find her (I had forgotten she doesn't currently have a store-front but runs her perfumery by
appointments which can be made through her website) but ended up smelling the real green of Stanley Park instead. This is a huge urban park, essentially a piece of original rainforest maintained and managed for public recreation. Just driving through it towards Lions Gate Bridge with open windows brings a wonderful pine-green smell. This surely deserves recognition in the form of a scent? Someone? Please?
Eventually on my third day, I hit the jackpot. The Perfume Shoppe. I swallowed my irritation at the faux history implied by the extra "p" and "e" and walked in. This was the real thing, shelves of Montales, Lutens, Parfumerie Generale and many more. The Lady serving was very helpful and patient helping me test dozens and sending me away happy and stinking with a Bottle of Montale Aoud Roses Petals, a clutch of samples and a noseful of coffee. I recommend this establishment.
I flew home after a week wearing my preferred Creed Bigarrade from a sample. I felt somewhat silly going though security with a huge ziplock bag containing one creed sample, but not quite silly enough to stop me from doing it. Bitter oranges seem strangely appropriate in the cooped-up metal and plastic environment of an aircraft.
When home in London I had twenty-four jet-lagged hours to organise myself and my family for our annual camping trip to Wales. Here in a field overlooking to the sea, with forested hillsides and a castle perched on a ridge, I rediscovered my love for Guerlain's Vetiver. It works so well in the outdoors; glassy, classy and grassy. The Earth without the dirt. Fantastic. I wore it for five days straight. No other scent has had that honour for many years now. I finally broke with it to wear my Aoud Roses Petals, a fine green rose oud scent. This strikes me as a rose for men, perhaps with the exception of the first sixty seconds, which I may think to be a little feminine, if I cared.
Back to the smoke of the city, I was craving Urban Sophistication. I sprayed on too much Guerlain Heritage and pondered how I may scent myself for the remainder of this late, wet summer. Roses......?
Image Ken Kan / iStockphoto