Perfume Reviews

Reviews by le mouchoir de monsieur

Total Reviews: 25

Normandie by Jean Patou

back in the days of yore, so many eccentric things happened when an imprtant perfume was launched: Mademoiselle Carven, a tiny, wee bird-like woman who spoke quietly, orchestrated that the entire city of paris should be rained upon with tiny vials of "Ma Griffe" when finally she was ready to unveil her first foray into scent, each with a small parachute attached to it made out of the signature green and white striped crepe de chine 100% silk lining she used in her famous suits: All clothes "Carven" were tailored for "petite women," as Mademoiselle Carven herself stood barely 5 feet tall. In 1972 when Patou S.A. launched 1000, an army of dapper looking young men in 18th Century livery costume stormed paris and its posh environs of Neuilly/Auteuil/Passy in horse drawn carriages to hand deliver the first batch of 100 30ml parfum flacons, all individually numbered by hand as they were through the late 80's, nestled in curry coloured velvet jewell boxes lined in satin, as gifts to the 100 most elegant women of paris. At the time, only 100 ounces of parfum could be produced yearly. Before it was available to actually buy, at any price, by anyone, anywhere, including in the Patou Salons, anyone who was of note in Paris high society was already wearing it. For the maiden voyage of the now legendary "Paquebot Normandie" of 1935, Jean Patou himself, in the last year of his life, commissioned a famous metal worker to create a miniature of the ship, which contained in its main smoke-stack a screw-off cap, under which was snugly held captive an emery-galss stoppered capsule containing 15ml of a perfume blended specifically by Henri Almeras in honour of this voyage: The interiors of the boat, which were spectacular on all fronts, were designed by the same team that did all of the patou interiors, bottles, and boxes, the legendary design duo Louis Sue & Andre Mare. As a gift of welcome, each lady present on the inaugural voyage from France to the Port of New York received one. These heavy, solid nickel bottles are so rare that originals have broken all records at auction: I have one, but it is in very bad shape, seems to have lived ironically underwater most of its life, and the inner glass vial is shattered. In the early 80's Normandie was re-blended by Jean Kerleo: It had only been bfriefly marketed after the initial cruise, then disappeared all together somewhere around the early sixties. Jean kerleo's version is a very polite symphony of warmth on an underpinning of pulsating, pearlized and incandescent green: Carnations, cinnamon, orange blossom, clove, the most suave jasmine accord, one hardly ever seen in these times, and a lilt of deep, peppery rose that wafts over the entire comp without making itself particularly known: Normandie, in its last, final incarnation, is the epitome of elegance and refinement as only the last living "Great" Perfumer could see it: Very "Patou" in spirit, it whispers in a noticeably subtle way of privilege and wealth, yet it is never, ever wan: In fact it is bold and borders on thrilling, very much in the way a transatlantic crossing on a floating palace of riches must have been in those last days before the horrors of war blew everything down, leaving behind a ravaged, broken society, untold death and carnage and crushed spirits. Normandie is a waspy scent. One imagines Norma Schearer in "The Women" smelling like this, (While the common-as-mud Joan Crawford reeks of Tabu, or Chanel No5, or something equally repulsive and in your face) It is soft, and delicate, and has impeccable manners. I would say of all the "Ma Collection" series, it would be the most likely candidate for a re-launch, though there is scant hope for this, as Proctor & Gamble, after having bought, murdered in cold blood, then sold Jean Patou, as a final gesture of humiliation, or to kick the last nail into its coffin, then sold it to a company with even lower standards if that can be imagined: The same firm that now owns Worth. I imagine very soon we will be left with a watered down, synthetic dime-store "Joy" that will end up in discount shops and bargain basements just the way "Je Reviens" did. If you can obtain a sealed bottle of Normandie, online or elsewhere, do it: It would be impossible to find this scent unattractive. It's just that suave: Perfectly inoffensive without being remotely boring or predictable: A soft, warm, comforting composition of riches forgotten from another time: A powdered woman, elegantly draped in bias cut pastel silk charmeuse, with a pure white sable or swansdown cloak, and satin covered jeweled salome slippers, sitting legs elegantly crossed, nonchalantly smoking from a long cigarette holder, dripping in diamonds, hair perfectly coiffed, eyes and lips impeccably painted, amidst the soaring Art Deco interior of the most elegantly fitted out transatlantic ocean liner the world had ever known, yet barely noticing any of it, because she is sipping daintily on some cocktail, and, having fallen prey to its haze, seems lost in the revery of her life: We only get to see that gentle, barely their smile on her dark rose bud lacquered lips, and her pearlized, smoky eyelids which are softly shut, and wonder: Just how splendid could life once have been for the Happy Few? That is Normandie, by Jean Patou.
29th May, 2012

Sécrétions Magnifiques by Etat Libre d'Orange

"Secretions Magnifiques." I say: It's not quite as vile as "Muscs Kublai-Kahn," (I think i mentioned I vomited in the loo at B's when I tried this--i sniffed it on a mouillette and thought: "hmmmm---not so bad" (I love musk) then sprayed some on my wrist. By the time i made it up to the 5th floor I was getting nausea--and hadn't even the chance to get a fitting room full before I was nervously rushing off to the gents to try to scrub--scrubbing made it bloom--I then actually vomitted and had to get a taxi home!) The "Secretions," which is meant to smell like sperm, actually does: It's the strangest, bleachy-est oddest most bizarre thing I think I've ever smelled that is called perfume. It smells exactly like this: Lone Saturday morning you stayed in bed until noon and knocked out at least four, and, each time, just let your t-shirt soak up the results. Then, you got up without changing and went out to get buttermilk, got home, then, in attempting to open the carton, spilled it all over you. This is EXACTLY what "Secretions Magnifiques" smells like--(layer in a set of pent up blue balls--and you're there.) My question: Why ever would anyone want to smell like that? On the other end of the spectrum, "Rien," from ELO, actually has many merits which are remarkable, and worthy of the investment. It would be the perfect scent to wear were you going somewhere you knew any scent would be....frowned upon. (Where ever that is: I'm imagining perhaps an heavy metal concert: I don't know where I'll wear it--but I know I will--eventually.) Usually, I wear Molinard's "Patchouli" or CdG Zagorsk if I'm going somewhere like this--but sometimes I know I can't wear anything: That's where "rien" comes in. Carries its name beautifully. Actually, I quite like it--I'm certain it would be a good one in bed--this time not alone--applied very sparingly: However....I am imagining in this bed a somewhat sordid situation: Not in bed with your wife or girlfriend. In bed with...someone else. At any rate it would be difficult to find it unappealing. It hasn't the faintest "perfume" quality to it-- It truly smells like a very expensive, brand new leather jacket, that's never been worn, but at a level that is much, much higher than, say, a $1500.00 one. I once tried on a $128,000.00 alligator biker jacket at Hermes. Naturally, it fit perfectly. It was a dun colour--a greenish taupe. Of course, I wanted it desperately: So much I wanted to try it on bare chested--it was....that feeling: The wicked sensation that overcomes you, making you want it so badly you want to sleep in it....the memory of this immediately came to mind when I tried "Rien," and it only got more "natural." Daim Blond and all of the leather nonsense hocked by Tom Ford tries desperately to capture this fleeting desire--and it's precisely a noticeable lack of this marked effort that differentiates Rien. Don't hesitate to actually put it on skin. Concerning the matter at hand, "Secretions Magnifiques," enter here at your own risks and perils. Fearless sniffer that I am, I dove in. The results allowed me to offer the scabrous description above. I suppose........there is an audience for this......Where it lurks and of whom it might be composed, I can not intuit. Wank Booth Cinema? I'm at a loss......
03rd May, 2012 (last edited: 17th August, 2012)

Givenchy Gentleman by Givenchy

Monsieur Hubert de Givenchy. In all of Paris there was no more elegant man, one more breathtakingly stunning: In his time, perhaps Jean Marais was his only rival. Standing a ridiculous 6'7, Hubert de Givenchy was a killer in his epoch the likes of whom to this day France has not seen the equivalent: Even at 70 years old, a more delicious looking man, there was not. It is said that Hubert orchestrated the creation of the first masculine scent to bare his name, the lavender laden "Monsieur de Givenchy," beguiling in its mock simplicity, for himself, while the now utterly legendary "Givenchy Gentleman" was conducted for his brother James Taffin who lived in London. I grew up in France, and had the good fortune of actually being presented to Monsieur Hubert de Givenchy as a child by my mother who knew him. Later in life, as an adult, I met with him several times. The natural elegance of this man is a very hard thing to conjure today, for it is of a subtlety that is no longer of this world. In the late 70's and early 80's, in France, it was a known fact, much discussed, that "Givenchy Gentleman" was the sexiest perfume a man could wear were he desirous of attracting women. At this very time, with great trepidation i would approach my first year at Uni, and this scabrous detail was the only one for which I gave any thought when it came to the choice of perfume that would become my signature for about four years: I used the soap, the bubble bath, the shave cream, the shampoo, the after shave balm in my hair, and of course, the number of huge 500ml screw-cap flacons of splash eau de toilette that came and went I can not fathom, for I would douse myself in it with an abandon only France will allow. Now, I am old, and withered: Distinctly "middle aged." I grew out of "Givenchy Gentleman," and moved on to more subtle things. Recently, a generous e-bay seller who was liquidating his great aunt's unending collection of perfumes sent me a gratis 1.7oz spray: All black and white and chrome. I used to travel with these. I smirked when I saw it in the box. Ladies who worked in Parfumeries in Frnace would refer to this size as "La Baise en Ville" ("The F*ck in Town"). When I sprayed it, smelling it for the first time in well over 30 years, I almost fell into a swoon: "No wonder I wore this." Shaken to the core, that was my only immediate reaction. People today speak of "panty droppers," well, as it panned out, and the fragrance developed, I found myself struggling with some dark inclinations, very nearly dropping my own to quench them. Thirty minutes in and in order that I not succumb I was online sending the seller this S.O.S. message: "If it's GG, I want it. Whatever you got. I'll take it: name your price." I now can say that I have enough vintage GG everything to last for the rest of my days. Soap on a robe. After shave balm. After shave lotion. Bubble bath....and, of course, liters and liters of the august Eau de Toilette, again: All encased in interlocking black and white G's with chrome. The first day I walked onto the set of my life wearing it, (knowing the edt was the equivalent of a modern "perfume concentrate," I went VERY easy on the application) FOUR unknown women stopped me and said: "You smell good!" I was astonished because, having grown used to dainty Guerlains and the like this has not happened to me for so long I can't remember the last time it did. The vintage Eau de Toilette is about thrice, maybe even twenty times as tenacious as a current Guerlain "Parfum," say, "Jicky," which i wear fluently, and It lasts....forever. The thing that's the most titillating about it is that It goes on like a kiss: When you put it on, it feels as though you are being made love to by a massive thing covered in fur and you are loving the vibration it's sending through you. In other words: It's HOT. The strange inclination to "Lick it up" overcomes you. It's so sexy that its power can be felt in the loins, auto-eroticism shows its horny head. No wonder it was the quintessential "panty dropper" in France in the years of its glory. Yes, it's masculine: But it's masculine in a way that I dare say only Hubert de Givenchy could conjure: It has sillage., but not just any sillage. No "Cologne" vibe whatsoever. People notice it. Looking distinctly annoyed, with raised brow, men say: "Are you wearing Patchouli?" Women, eye lids a-flutter say very frankly: "OK, can I just tell you, you smell so good, I want to eat you." -And they mean it. My assistant, who is a lovely woman in her early twenties, told me with a noticeable amount of care and self control that seemed to be pent up and finally came forth on the third day that I wore it to work that, as she cautiously put it, the scent was "Makin my head go all kinds'a places." Before the week was over, I thought: "Maybe, I'm just not ready to do this" so I began spraying it on my pocket square, which had for effect that my own head began to play tricks on me, going "All kinds'a places" in the act. All day long, I could smell its effluvia circling around me, like voodoo daemons doing a danse macabre . I kept getting whiffs and wafts of it, and each time, I would marvel: That can't be me, i would think. There's no way. Finally, I came to remove my pocket square and shove it in my back pocket. The thing about this scent that truly sets it apart is this: In order to "pull this off," especially in this Brave New World of nothing scents, where even the Guerlains smell like linen spray, the wearer had best be advised to truly "be" a Gentleman. This perfume wears its name very well. If not, things could get very much out of control very fast. As for the new version that is to be found in stores today, I haven't the faintest clue what it's like. The vintage, that to which I speak, must be one of the most "Attractive" male scents ever made: I have worn many, many different kinds of perfume: For women, for men, unspecified. Never, never once, has any of them brought people close to me the way this one has. Recently, after much debate with my assistant, who, having become a fan, insisted I wear it to a Black Tie Ball, (me: "What if my date doesn't like it? What if it explodes on the dance floor?") finally I succumbed. I found out very quickly that I could not for the life of me keep people off of me: 80% women, 20% men. After dinner I went to the Gent's & saw that my face was covered in lipstick. When the After Party was in full swing and everyone was drunk, in frot of everyone I got force-kissed full blown on the mouth by a random young thing: Very pretty. My date, who saw it, was furious. "I didn't do it! She just grabbed me!" I pleaded. She exhaled in disgust. "What do you mean 'you didn't do it?' You smell like an orgy." Then she stopped, and looked pensive: "Yeah. You smell like a f*in orgy. The weirdest part is that it's like there are velvet ropes around it, and nobody's getting in." That--I thought--was the best summation: One I would never invent. It's so easy to blend a perfume that smells like an orgy. Many "Niche" frags have them in their ranges. Hubert de Givenchy himeslf, and only Hubert de Givenchy, himself, would be capable of orchestrating a fragrance that "smells like an orgy," with the very distinctive detail that it just happens to be one where very few get in, and, all around it, keeping the common folk and pay-to-play crowd at bay, there are "velvet ropes."

01st May, 2012 (last edited: 18th August, 2012)
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L'Air de Rien by Miller Harris

This is very distinctly weird. As they do for everything, the French have a word for it: It's "Crad," worse still, "Crado," even more advanced: "Cradinque." In a moldy nutshell, here's how it reads: It smells as if Jane's got a "pot-au-feu" going, and she forgot to check the shaker on the fines herbes jar, there by dumping the whole "Carrefour" sized bottle in, after which frustration a gitane was lit, alternating puffs on it blown out of her nostrils with bong hits, being then reasonably stoned, she forgot the botched "pot-au-feu" was on the fire, left to go for a walk in the park, met up with a friend, and they decided they would go to the cinema. When she returned, the pot-au-feu had boiled down to nothing, and was now a red hot "Le Creuset" Cocotier covered and burning a mass of charred bones and cremated vegetables: Somewhere in the middle of the film they saw, which had to be some disturbing psycho drama such as "We Need To Talk About Kevin," or "Melancholia," a plastic stiring spoon caught fire, and melted all over the range. Upon emerging from the theatre, Jane & Co. have a coffee at some neighbourhood bistro, and each smoke an half a pack of gitanes, while discussing Tilda Swinton, or daughter Charlotte. When Jane gets home, upon opening the door, she screams "Merde!" and runs to the kitchen, where promptly she burns herself on the cocotier, lending an aura of burnt human flesh to the mix. Though I find it difficult to imagine that Jane Birkin smells like this, I can easily imagine that her house does. For being a perfume, meant to evoke visions of beauty and incite physical longings, this scent smells ironically like somebody's unkempt living quarters where much cooking is done, dishes are hardly ever washed, dirty laundry piles up, shoes and socks are everywhere on the floor, and the windows are scarcely, if ever opened: You would imagine that Jane would at least light a joss stick, but no. This perfumes deserves a very blunt summation of "the allure" it provides. It is disgusting. How anybody could suggest this resembles Bal a Versailles, one of the most intricate and exquisite perfumes of the 20th Century, may only be explained by damaged nasal passages. I can not imagine getting intimate with anyone that smells like this. Sex in a bottle this is not. Funky living environment with animals and shuttered windows is a much more accurate description. This "Air" needs "Fabreze" post haste: failing that, an humble stick of incense could at leat make it bearable. As it stands, it's quite repulsive: Totally alien, not pleasant, and not even interesting: It just stinks.
16th April, 2012

Fougère Royale by Houbigant

Anybody who may be interested in experiencing a sketch of the original "Fougere Royal" by Houbigant should most definitely avoid buying the recent re-issue of this by Houbigant: It is so far removed from the original in every aspect that it defies logic that they would dare to slap this legendary name on a very expensive bottle, beautifully packaged, that contains a perfume so common, that, barring Serge Lutens "Muscs Kublai-Kahn, which made me vomit in the loo at Barney's, it is the only perfume I have ever had on my skin that, not only caused me embarrassment during the day I tried it, but eventually made me quite ill, and would not come off of me: I have a very high tolerance of fragrance, and have tested thousands of perfumes: Very seldom do I find myself trying everything imaginable to get one off: This was the case with the re-issue: Nothing would kill it, including, after soaping, scrubbing, alcohol rubbing, blasting with the strongest scents I own. It is so vile that it truly reaches "joke" territory, so common that I would sooner dump a plastic bottle of Brut "cologne" all over me in a drugstore than allow a single drop of this onto my dermis. I found a 500ml bottle of the original Fougere Royale perfectly preserved in it's box in the Clignancourt Flea Market in Paris in the late Eighties, and used it to the last molecule: Even setting the bottle upside down once empty then swabbing the screw-on cap with a Q-tip. Penhaligon's "English Fern" was a near perfect copy of this in the days prior to re-formulation. Today, it still is the closest I can suggest. The second closest would have to be Geo Trumper's "Wild Fern." Interestingly, if you can get hold of an original bottle of Dana's Canoe, which may only be "Made Bottled and Sealed in France," especially in its long ago disappeared "Extra Rich" formulation, while this has much more carnation in it than Fougere Royale did, somehow, I am reminded very specifically of this flea market bottle i picked up for a song that I so voraciously wore, that, when it was done, I found myself in a panic. For years I looked for another, and never found one. The fragrance "H Pour Homme," which regularly is passed off as "Fougere Royale" in ebay searches, is not the original, as I very sadly found out after buying an entire stock of it (18 bottles!). I can only marvel at the house of Houbigant, and, under my breath whisper "Shame!" that they could ever begin to think this re-launch could so much as suggest the original, which, buyers beware, it most definitely does not. Fougere Royale, R.I.P.
08th April, 2012

Chaldée (original) by Jean Patou

Here is a correction: Chaldee, the perfume, was not created by Henri Almeras. Chaldee was a cosmetic oil, a deep, dark red oil that had the particularity, as did most cosmetics in the 1920's, of being quite fragrant. The pigment it contained was so red that when rubbed into fair skin, a kind of glow was obtained. Up until the late 60's, when it was discontinued, certain types of breezy women used the original Chaldee as foundation on their faces. It was sold in a bottle that Serge Lutens would later have copied point for point, and give it a name: That which is now known as the "Bell Jar." This bottle was designed by Louis Sue in 1926 and made by Verreries Brosse. It was Jean Kerleo who in 1985 created the perfume "Chaldee," based on this oil. Though it became known as "the first suntan oil," it was in fact purely a cosmetic: During the war French ladies used it on their legs, then carefully drew a line up the back of them to imitate hosiery. It was re-launched as a perfume in the "Ma Collection" series, then, a few years later, a newly packaged, modernized "Chaldee" suntan range was developed. The original oil, called "Huile de Chaldee" came in two shades. The scent that we know today is lovely and intoxicating as would be expected from Patou, who made arguably the finest perfumes in the world. Smelling the fragrance this oil inspired harkens a kind of "Bal a versailles" vibe, though not nearly as epic: It is a dryer, softer, more feminine scent. In its flight, Amouage Gold Man also comes to mind. It is true that of all of the Patou scents this is the one that seems ironically closest to something made by the Guerlains, whom Patou considered chemists, as it does have a bit of a Shalimar lilt, though it is noticeably brighter, and has a citrus quality to it that is vastly different than that found in Shalimar. An absolutely gorgeous scent: Chaldee is named after a Sun Goddess: In it, one can perceive hints of light and warmth. As with all Patou's, its' sillage is the most exquisite part. The relaunched "Chaldee" sun product line enjoyed some success, but, ironically, the best selling product in the range was the original dark, indian red oil that permanently stained the skin, imparting a fragrant, satiny glow. Chaldee the fragrance, as conceived by the Poet Jean Kerleo, is a delicious thing, suitable mostly for brunettes. Interestingly, the oil of its origin was very popular with blondes. I would imagine anyone who likes Tabu, Bal a Versailles, Shalimar, Habanita, and these kinds of comps would cherish Chaldee, though it could only be defined as a very soft, very sexy hymn to this "kind" of scent. Absent: All the tawdry elements inherent in the previous ones named: Chaldee is, after all, a Patou, and no Patou could ever be perceived as overly libidinous: With Jean Patou, unfailingly, there is always a kind of distance. Translating this into the olfactory was the hallmark that set this house on a plane that was so far removed from the rest that, during its lifetime, before Proctor & gamble destroyed it, Jean Patou was considered "Hors Concours."
03rd April, 2012 (last edited: 04th April, 2012)

Tabu by Dana

Here's an interesting story, and an important detail, both of which seem to make Tabu somehow still more bewitching. While it is not at all probable Jean Carles was in reality asked to create a perfume for Ladies of the Evening, as goes the fable, according to all and sundry, he most definitely did not fail to achieve something remarkable, and lasting: "Un Parfum Eternel." My experience with Tabu is limited to the following story: My mother took a young girl under her wing when this poor orphan had lost her own mother in a very sudden and tragic accident. This young girl had not had an easy life, having been sexually abused by her older brother since she was 6, and on top of all this misfortune was not exactly "Spoiled by Nature" as the French would say. (She was not, externally, a Beautiful Girl.) This girl, who by happenstance came to be a kind of zany, unpredictable sister to me, ever the buttoned up scholar, grew into the fiercest of rebels, and not at all in the usual manner popular at the time. She was very much her own creation, and followed no form of eccentricity previously known. She was, and deserved to be, an Individualist: A whilwind force to be reckoned with. For all the years I knew her, which were many, she only ever wore Tabu, and professed an undying love for it: I would buy her huge, screw-cap bottles of it for Christmas. My memories of the scent have the universal theme of: Incense. Everything about this girl smelled like incense. After my mother passed away, we remained staunch friends and allies. Naturally, my true blood sister detested her, and many in my family found her odd, to say the least. True only unto herself, she continued to have a strange life. For 22 years, I lived in Paris, and she lived in California. We would write each other letters, as people did back then, and I would always know I had one in my post box from her before even opening it because I could smell it through the grate of the metallic compartment. She visited me several times in Paris. The first time, she made a sweaty, trembling entrance into my apartment, which is a kind of penthouse on the 8th floor (7th per French standards) and declared herself to have been so traumatized by the journey that she barely left the apartment for her entire sojourn, which, if I recall, was a lengthy one, over the course of which she would sit for hours, entire days, on my rooftop terrace, entertain my dogs, let my canaries out of their cages, scour and clean every inch of the interior, and read. All kinds of strange things happened to her. Another time she visited, we got locked into Pere Lachaise Cemetery and had to spend the night hiding in one of the vandalized crypts for fear of being attacked by the vicious guard dogs who roam the vast terrain after hours, ready to kill. She only enjoyed things that were tainted with tragedy or sadness. She was blessed with the analytical mind of a true intellectual. At one point, near the end of our relationship, she had been living in a ramshackle shanty town type clapboard house in the hills outside of Los Angeles, not far from where the Manson Family famously converged. Upon moving in to this house, which was a weekly rental, she found in the kitchen cupboard on an uppermost shelf a box of ziplock bags left behind by the previous tenant, which she left undisturbed and had been using off and on for quite some time, straining each time to reach it and swipe out a bag as It was one of those heavy and enormous "supersized" 1000 count ones that you can find in the US, until one fateful day, she reached up to grab a plastic bag, and found that there were none, yet the box was still heavy. Removing it from the shelf she found it to be tightly packed full of bank stacks of $100.00 bills, totaling close to $50,000.00. Very diligently she made inquiries to find the previous tenant, who had been evicted, and never succeeded. After two years, with this money, she bought a small plot of land in the desolate, dry hills outside of Los Angeles, and built a kind of tree house on it, where, to my knowledge, she still lives, unless she finally drank herself to death, or committed suicide; two gestures that had been veritable plots over the course of her life. When I think of Tabu, I think of her, and how, wherever she went, or whatever she touched, would afterwards smell of incense. The interesting detail about Tabu that nobody here has thus far pointed out is the French play on words inherent in it's title. Jean Carles, Dana, and the entire context of this perfume is French, so we must assume that the choice of this piquant, cheeky title, now legendary for all the wrong reasons, was then lost on no one, as it appears to be today, which surprises me. The word "Tabu" in French is spelled "Tabou." The pronunciation of this word is very distinctly different and not at all subtle when compared with the French pronunciation of the written title of this perfume, which, in the spirit of Emile Zola, has become so tainted by phantasms of drunken, smoky debauchery. When spoken in French, the title "Tabu" sounds perfectly identical to an accusation, equally salacious and befitting of it's dark reputation: It means, very simply, "You've been drinking!"
05th March, 2012

Jardanel by Jean Desprez

The logo of "Jardanel" is a strange, multi-coloured mandala-like masque: It's not quite clear if this design is channeling a retro-beginning of the century vibe, a la 1910, a 20's vibe, or a neo-deco seventies groove: As Bal a Versailles was distinctly colour coded in sunflower yellow, Jardanel is saturated inside and out in a vibrant leaf green. On premier application, Bal a versailles is referenced only in the seemingly endless depth of construction that made the perfumes of Jean Desprez some of the most expensive in the world. Bal a Versailles was the very first perfume in history to out-price Joy. Upon smelling Jardanel, it becomes obvious rather quickly that Monsieur Desprez had a taste for strong willed scents: This is nothing like Bal a Versailles, but is equally assertive. Unmistakably a green scent, it is neither daffodil chypre nor a fizzy neon green symphony like "Vacances" or "Vent Vert." Where these two evoke civilized strolls along "La Piste" in Deauville or on the Cap d'Antibes, Jardanel will summonse visions of roaming around naked in the Black Forest. A Jean Desprez hallmark becomes apparent as soon as this extract is applied, which would be detectable in its explosive, persistent personality from 0:001 seconds forward: The flight is magnificent. Where Bal is sexy in a satin lined boudoir kind of way, Jardanel is eroticism laying in the grass, ravished, and begging for more: All muddied up and sweat stained, gasping, and beckoning for a second, or third lover to take his turn. One wonders which precise sort of girl Jean Desprez had in mind when he baptized his signature scent with the slogan "For a Certain Kind of Woman."
-A slogan that would fit Jardanel beautifully, with its strange, raw earth scent, and its powerful, musk laden sillage. Though I have never smelled it, I imagine Jovan's "Grass Oil" must have smelled somewhat like this: Jardanel could sit barefoot in a caftan in the middle of the woods strumming a lute with a garland of juniper around her head. Were perfumes to be equated with music, where Bal a Versailles blares a classical, grandiose waltz, Jardanel seems to harken T-Rex's album "A Beard Full of Stars." Jardanel would be Bal a Versailles' renegade, hippie sister, who barely shows her face at court and prefers to live in the woods and cavort with the pig-suede clad pied pipers and long haired poets who would rob from her rich family, and spend the bootie on drugs. In spite of this, one is never reminded of dirty, penniless street hippies: For here, we are in the realms of the rich, decadent jet setters and rock stars who had themselves dropped off at ashrams in Silver Phantom Rolls Royces painted deep, British Racing Stripe green. If I had to tack on a family to this singular comp, I would place it squarely in the "Fougere" category: A family very seldom populated by comps designed for women. A green chypre it is not. If Bal a Versailles would be the perfect scent to wear to the grandest, most royal reception, Jardanel would be the one to wear to a deep forest camping trip, or a an outside music festival. An unusual scent with a narrow focus group in mind: The rich, wayward youths of the 70's....the ones who left the family chateau in Province and high-tailed it to Carnaby Street to drop LSD as soon as they were old enough to board the ferry at Calais. A perfume perfectly suited to bare the French adjective of "Baba Cool," but with a 100% silk edge, and a posse of bare chested male servants in open royal purple velvet waistcoats embroidered in gold, striped bell bottoms , and strappy brown leather sandals, on their way in a caravan of British towncars toward the forests of Flanders, en route for Amsterdam. An enchanting fragrance, that will have women leaving their armpits unshaven, and men keeping a vaporizer of "Binaca" tucked into their skin-tight brown leather jeans, lest, hidden among the ferns and brush, the opportunity for a tryst, or a mere stolen kiss, presents itself.
31st January, 2012

Fille d'Eve by Nina Ricci

(A review of perfectly preserved, temperature and light controlled vintage extract from the mid Seventies)The thing about "Fille d'Ever," and all of the Great Nina Ricci comps, the thing never to forget, is that they are all perfect illustrations of what the French would call "Parfums de Seduction." Outside of the realms of fantasy, and in the real world as we know it today, if you were out to actually captivate and then ultimately seduce someone to fall wantonly into the sheets of your bed, you'd be well served to wear something like "Fille d'Eve." In the language of fashion that is specific to the XXe Century, the very word "Romance" is synonymous with the very crisp, sing song sound of "Nina Ricci," and everything about this House and all of its manifestations has been about the dreamy, real life haze of love, and how it is always a gentle, somewhat secretive thing, not necessarily understood by anyone but the two parties involved. Thus, no Nina Ricci ever screams, knowing only secretive whisperings. "Fille d'Ever" is never wan or so delicate it's not detectible. It just happens to be breathing "Bite Me!" very suggestively from start to finish. What a logical gesture on the part of Marc Lakique himself to chose to encase this comp in an apple, perfectly fitted out with a cunning glass ground stopper in the form of a leaf, and this prior to the advent of Apple Records, and, obviously, Apple. The colour code defines it very specifically as one of those rosy brown ones, often called "Bitter Apples." Further irony: The name implies it to be rich, dark and blood red, which colour code, ironically was later used for "Farouche," a name which only the French would invent, that means "Terribly Shy yet Utterly Ferocious." Fille d'Eve, though, simply means Girl of Eve. Girl, or perhaps more concisely, Daughter. Upon first whiff on litmus, this extract breathes a rush of Spring: The kind of "First Hint" that can be detected as early as mid March, when it is clear that the worst part of the grisly, dark days of Winter are finally slinking away to mercifully hide for another six months. There is, by all outward appearances, no "perfumey" quality to Fille d'Eve, a Germaine Cellier comp: One of two masterworks orchestrated for Nina Ricci, the other being Coeur-Joie. In spite of the fact that Germaine's "patte" was always somewhat strange, often groundbreaking, this one does not announce itself by a blasting fanfare of presence, as do some of her others, Bandit, Vent Vert....Clearly, Germaine Cellier had in mind to channel the inimitable quiet hush that is the Hallmark of Nina Ricci, who in the XXe Century produced some of the worlds greatest, and finest, perfumes, with a standard rivaled only by Jean Patou. On litmus, this extract begins slowly, all daffodils in bud, paperwhites, cool, chilling wind, but within ten to fifteen minutes begins to heat up: The Birth of an Early Spring Day, which promises to bring a thaw. References are difficult to summon. At first whiff I was reminded of Chamade, but only for an instant, as this has nothing of a Guerlain. As it warms, Patou's "Caline" is harkened, though very distinctly lacking the boozy depth that every Patou, save for Joy, seems to have in spades. The warmth that announces the unfolding of delicate spring blossoms and pale, linden yellow leaves quickly becomes stable, and no dark, resinous base can be intuited, save for a slight pepperiness that does emerge, though no more harsh than that which emanates from a perfect, full blown carnation.
The singular qualities found only in the great Nina Ricci comps are intrinsic to this scent: Very obvious, in fact: One of these, perhaps the most remarkable, is the capacity to forever maintain softness, and never become heavy or overbearing. For a perfume destined to be held captive in a masterful work of crystal, in spite of being powerfully equipped with an abstract apple note, Fille d'Eve seems unwilling to be called "Fruity." The small amount of obvious fruit that could be found here would smack of the pineapple accord that is so obvious in Patou's "Colony," yet, again, remains so expertly woven within the context of a scent that it is, very clearly a fragrance distinct unto itself, which as I can thus far surmise has no peers: Fille d'Eve is Green, but it is not. It is a Green Floral, but it is not. It is a Green Chypre but it is not. It seems to refuse to behave within the context of perfumery, and instead maneuvers more in the realm of Nature itself. A built in aroma of skin that develops ever so discretely, for instance, could scarcely be called "Leather," or "Musk," and quietly blooms somewhere within the heart. Nothing about this scent can be analyzed or mapped out by any means typical to the art of perfumery: A phenomenon at which Germaine Cellier excelled, and in fact, owned. Though now settled in to the rich, luxurious middle notes, Fille d'Eve still blows as gently as a soft breeze through the delicate, budding leaves of naissant Spring, when flowers and fruits are budding, but have not, as of yet, become full blown, all the while carrying upon it a very faint lyric: Nina Ricci. Nina Ricci. But, as with all classic Nina Ricci comps, Fille d'Eve never speaks in any tone other than than a lilting whisper. The only obvious thing about Fille d'Eve is that it poses no questions as to the gender of its creator: This is a chic woman's decent, designed by a tall, beautiful, quirky and impeccably chic woman: Germaine Cellier had legendary style: Signature? Among many, her cigarettes misted with Bandit extract, a scent she was known to devise exclusively to this end, and a maid attendant to her at all times, including in public.
30th January, 2012 (last edited: 20th February, 2012)

Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez

Ah! Father! This intrigue of nonsense! In myself I believed to see an omnipotent, all-knowing Alpha-Male, impervious and invincible to any and all confusions of the heart; troubles of unrequited love, emotive manipulations: Always, I walked a straight line into the lives of any and all I desired, to then leave them breathless, enflamed, slaves to my every whim. Coolly, with deft calculations, shamelessly I would captivate them with my looks, ensnare them with wit, to then hold them hostage until the moment would come, always inevitable, when the intrigue would wane, their allure grew tiresome, or simply, without warning, I would unexpectedly crave isolation: So it happened, Father, that, with age, I did come to approach and finally to guiltlessly accept my peripatetic love life; self centered, preoccupied with my own pleasures, feigning interest, yet principally engaged only in the glorification of my own ego to the detriment of many: To find me, follow the trail of shattered, weeping hearts, for I have broken so very many. The long, winding trail that crosses the globe, over and over: The trail of corpses. At the end of it, my own now lays gasping for air: Flummoxed, disturbed, distraught and in shock: Halfway through my life it would appear that I have been served a bit of my own Machiavellian, wanton ways, and just this tiny wee dose has left me senseless in despair, finally enlightened as to the bleak gravity of my transgressions. So here I am. I have come to confess this most hideous of sins: A lifetime of demonic lusts that culminated and erupted in a tryst so shamelessly brazen, so vile, that I feel as though by it I have been branded in fire. Somehow, now that I have tasted the foul savour of my own, pitiless and self-serving lust, I can no longer live with myself, for I feel as though I have been transformed into a kind of devil: Possessed and invaded by a daemon. I met her. I met her in flesh and in the blood. In retrospect, I feel as though I have met my own self in the guise of a woman. Her reputation, quite legendary in certain circles, had preceded our meeting. I knew well and proper that with her, I would be playing with fire, but nothing, nothing at all, would stop me: From the moment of introduction, to my integral surprise, in me she would show no interest whatsoever: She was aloof. Unimpressed. When questioned, flippantly she claimed never to have heard of me, as if I were some nameless back room bookkeeper in a shoe shop, or a common civil servant. That assertion I am near convinced was a ruse, though presently I am sure of nothing, save for the searing pain in my heart, and an unusual taste of isolation, formerly sweet, reassuring, restful, full of relief; now bitter. The nonsense of it! My own cherished, beautiful solitude now turned to loneliness, common as gutter sludge. I have come to confess a lifetime of sins of the flesh, of gluttony and of shameless, guileless indulgences, never repented, never regretted.
It was at a Fancy Dress Ball when, finally, we met, when finally, as it appeared, I came face to face with my own withered, dying soul. All around was confusion and movement. The finest ladies in sparkling attire. Hoards of gentlemen fitted out in black masques. From afar, I saw her dancing, whirling about on the marble, seemingly passed about like a party favour: Taking gloved hands into hers, twirling and pirouetting, then gliding off to the arm of her next partner. Every time our eyes would meet she would turn her gaze: No masque had she, only a fan of ostrich plumes, and a black spray of aigrettes tucked cunningly into her coiffure, which she wore pin-tucked and curled high atop her head. Waltzing and whirling my way through the chaotic merriment, I purposely and repeatedly veered to approach her, in hopes that she would accept my outstretched hand, yet each time I would draw near, she would only spin round, to whip me across the face with the feathers of her headdress, black as tar, that contrasted sharply with her voluminous, multi-layered gown of sunflower yellow taffetas, chantilly laces and diaphanous organza. Each time I drew near I could smell an intoxicating perfume of warmth: Fields of dryed out, rotting roses, baking and sweltering in the heat, laced with a kind of heady incense that left me in a muddle heretofore unknown. Finally, with my white-gloved hand, I reached to grasp her, forcefully from behind, at which point, with the deft snap-twirl of a ballerina, her face was flush against mine, and our eyes locked. Keeping my gaze, with nonchalance she handed me her fan, with long spidery fingers captive in tulle mittens she reached up to remove my masque, without a word, without an apology, to then tie it around her own face, now batting her eyes through it. Lifting up her fan to offer it back I could feel a kind of rush emanate from it: The sweetest, most erotic scent of sweat that took up residence in my nostrils. Like a creeping, invading virus, I could feel it enter my blood, which pumped furiously as we danced off key, strangely isolated in our own separate universe. This dance, which saw me bewitched and under spell, led us, both equally drunken and stupid, to a long corridor that stretched so far into the distance that it seemed as if it went on into eternity, all paneled and gilded, with sparkling crystal chandeliers and sconces flanking yawning doors, all closed. First peering down into the depth of it, she looked up at me, her aigrette feathers quivering as she removed my black masque from her face, and tossed it on the floor as she took my hand, and, in a rustle of taffetas, led me away, so far that the music faded to silence, and we were alone: As it now appeared, there was no end to this hall: Just an eternal suite of scintillating crystal, glistening wood, and doors….still more doors. She threw herself seductively against one of these, and, her face now bare, looked up at me. The fire, it was not only in her eyes, but seemed to erupt from beneath her skirts, through her bustier, with licking flames that crept up between her bosom. With her right hand, she reached high up to take a firm, pinching hold of my ear. With her left, she opened the door, and both of us fell, tumbling into an opulent chamber of damask silk draperies, lyre shaped lounges and cabriole legged chairs, all gold and vibrant, canary yellow. Intoxicated on the vapours that enshrouded her, now so heavy as to fairly blind me with their dank, rosy musk, I began laughing, until I was summarily shut up by her mouth, and her tongue, which seemed to move into my head the way her scent flushed its way into my blood, turning it to liquid amber: I felt as if the whites of my eyes had grown yellow, and, were a pair of horns to burst forth through my skull, I would not have puzzled. Tearing at each other like wild beasts we rolled about the floor, until her massive sunflower ball gown became a kind of mattress, my black cloak a cover: I felt as if she had wiggled her way into my body, and from the inside was tickling it and tantalizing it in the most delicious ways. Our silent waltz on the floor became increasingly intense. Her mouth, her hands, her hair, every part of her body seemed to seer its way into mine. She was in control. Every time I tried to speak, or groan, my mouth would be filled with some part of her. Finally I resigned to close my eyes and let her take charge as she mounted me and rode my body like a horse: Slapping and whipping it, scratching and spitting, all the while filling me with her amber liquids that smelled and tasted like the heat and fires of seething passions of bestiality. Of these I drank willingly, never knowing from whence they came, or what they were, knowing only that I craved them, hungered for them: Each time I would reach to return her caress I would be whipped, spanked or pinned down. Each time I opened my mouth it would be fed with her body, and all the while I could hear her gasping, moaning, in turn cackling and laughing. When finally I tried to open my eyes they would be blinded: She spat in them. Licked them. Held her fingers spread open in my mouth, to fill it again with a rush of nectar, all sweet, yet dry and suffocating, burning my throat. Finally, as I began to feel the convulsions of my own innards threaten to erupt, I felt her fingers leave my mouth and encircle their way around my throat. It seemed as though she were strangling me: Tighter and tighter until I gasped for air as my body released its passion, and I fell into a swoon that first seemed made of blinding yellow light then dimmed to a murky black haze, and, ultimately, to oblivion. Shivering and naked I next found myself sprawled out beneath my silk-lined cloak with the light of dawn creeping through the soaring windows, all draped and swathed with bouillon fringe and gossamer lace…and still…this scent in my nostrils…this taste in my mouth: All over my body an oily sweat of wilting roses and amber, yet in the room, I was alone. No trace of her. No evidence that she had even existed, though every item of garment I sought out as I redressed reeked of this perfume. My socks. My shirt. It was as if they had all been laundered in this liquid then pressed in its steam. Now, I carry it with me, everywhere I go: Nothing will get it off, so I bring it here, to this Holy Place, with head bowed, and misery in my heart. I bring it along with the audacity to beg forgiveness, though I know I deserve it not: For how many times have I myself brought such punishment unto others, desirous only of my own pleasures? And how many times have I left some poor soul naked and weeping, covered in my own stench, equally indelible? How many times have I remorselessly done unto others what she, this woman did unto me, I who was willing, who drank of her nectar as if it were the very wine of Heaven, and laid there, spattered in her eruptions, delighting in them, lapping them up like a crazed animal in heat? Is it not said that there is no sin so black that it cannot be forgiven? Even these? Even these that went on at that Ball… At That Bal a Versailles?
25th December, 2011

Je Reviens by Worth

I have hesitated and pondered over the daunting task of trying to do any amount of justice to "Je Reviens" with mere words: I was asked outright by a BN cohort to submit a review, to which I responded that it would take a novel to render all of its facets, all of the elements that make this one of the most unforgettable perfumes in the world. "Je Reviens" has few peers. It is one of those singular scents that nobody ever succeeded in imitating: It has its place among the greats--Joy, Shalimar, L'air du temps, one of those rare scents that can be conjured to perfection by memory. To begin, it is indeed a confusing assignment to even try to describe what "happened" to it. In it's day, it was a wildly luxurious fragrance, extremely expensive, and made only with the finest ingredients. Many reviews compare it to the chanel woman's 5. In 1932, the 5 would be considered sassy and common, even vulgar next to "Je Reviens." Charles Frederic Worth was the very founder of Parisian Haute Couture: In its day, his house was the grandest, and the greatest of them all. Though later created and launched by his two sons, its perfume division maintained a standard that was unrivaled in its time, untouchable even by Jean Patou himself, the Great Innovator. Witness how everything about "Je Reviens" goes against the vogues of the time: Here is the very essence of elegance, not remotely, not even faintly concerned with fashion. In 70 years it has known countless "incarnations," making its name all the more ironic. Translated by Worth in English as "I Will Return," "Je Reviens" means more specifically "I'll be right back:" It's a present tense, difficult to understand in other languages, least of which English. Perhaps "I am returning" would be the closest, though somewhat awkward, translation, and "return" it did: In steps, it disintegrated all the way down to its current incarnation as a two penny "sent bon" made in England. Somehow, though, its spirit has survived: When you smell it, even today, it's still "Je Reviens," and could be no other: The brightest, most resplendent thing. Even if the current eau de toilette lasts but an hour, there is an "air de famille" in it that is unmistakeable. It blows on like glitter, and brings a smile, a caress, an aura of cool, comfortable richness. It's an heavily organic scent, very much in the way a field of overblown casa blanca lilies would be: One is perplexed that it wouldn't attract bees to the wearer. What it does attract? Men. "Je Reviens" must be the sexiest perfume ever to be put on the face of the earth. We understand why Viagra is that shade of blue once we have inhaled "Je Reviens" on the nape of a pulsating neck, in the crux of a bosom: It's a fragrance that heats up and gets all moist and sweaty in the most delightful way. Among the fields and fields of flowers, there is dark, erotic resin in the earth from which they bloom. The sweat stained and breathless afterglow is so sumptuous that finally we understand why a dumb insect will just keep poking its sucker in over and over and over, even when the flower is spent. Those who truly wish to experience "Je Reviens" in all of its promise of unimaginable splendour must procure a vintage extract: The year does not matter as much as the provenance. It must be made in France. The real deal clearly states: "Made, bottled and sealed in France by Parfums Worth, 128 rue Saint Honore, Paris, France," and even comes equipped with a tricolour French flag. Ladies: Any of you lucky enough to be in possession of one of these blue lalique bottles, use it wisely. The spell it casts will see you keeping hairy beasts at bay with a whip and a chair. Gentlemen, slap some of this nectar of eden on the veins of your prey and witness the effect down under. Who would argue? If something has refused to disappear for this long, even barely breathing in the bottom of the bargain barrel, surely, there must be something magic in it, and there is. The positively lyrical "Je Reviens" could be as close to perfection as perfumery has ever come. A grand statement, yes, but very frankly, there is nothing in it, nothing at all, that is not absolutely, mouth-wateringly delicious.
23rd October, 2011

En Avion by Caron

All things that truly are sublime contain a suggestion of ugliness. There is no painting, no poem, no song that does not somehow break through to the heights of earthly perfection through some unexpected, discordant detail. The green face of a garishly painted woman half cut off by the frame in a Toulouse-Lautrec painting. The bizarre colour of the sun in a Monet landscape: One stands before it, perplexed, and wonders: However did mere paint capture that, the very essence of illumination? Thus, En Avion. Naturally, as the French say, "les avis sont partages." Personally, I have never been a fan of Caron. When Henri Almeras created "Que Sais-je?" for Jean Patou in 1923, (readers, take note, the Chanel woman was very most certainly not the first to offer perfumes to her couture clients, though she takes credit today for that innovation, along with so very many others, such as the invention of jersey) he explained that in his heart he wished to render the "trouble" of love. Keep in mind, "trouble," in french, translates as a kind of confusion. This specific thing Is what I find perplexing in most all of Ernest Daltroff's compositions. Recently, I found a photo of him: He very obviously would have been sitting at "the Good Russian table" in Thomas Mann's "the Magic Mountain," and quite possibly, he was: To study his facial features, one is struck by a depth of intelligence and the unmistakeable mark of an overactive mind. To me, this neurosis and intellectual over activity are his hallmarks very clearly rendered in each of his fragrant masterpieces. No bottle baring the name "Caron" will ever be insipid or unremarkable. Even the simpler scents, Bellogia or Pour un Homme, are somehow intricate; as intricate as the human mind. En Avion is the textbook illustration of this artistry in molecular structure inhaled through the nose: It evokes so very many things, yet nothing at all that is obvious. It may smell "leathery," but never simply of leather. Other reviewers wax on about cloves and carnation; certainly present here, but somehow only suggested. En Avion is, along with Jicky, perhaps one of the most beguiling scents the world has ever known: At once feminine and masculine, stunningly beautiful and repulsively ugly, of highest born royal blood and secretly born in a barn then left forgotten, En Avion seems to reflect in infinite facets all the highs and lows of life itself. Like it, hate it. Love it, loathe it. Guaranteed you will feel something if you dab some of this on, and live with it for the day. You will feel. You will not just smell. All of us, numb to the transcendent beauty of Heaven that secretly enfolds us wherever we go, we need En Avion....truly, though for some they will be steely and of cutting blades and for others they will be of swan's down and brilliantly coloured plumes, here is a perfume that quite literally will give you wings. Where you go on your flight is for you to decide.
11th October, 2011

Blenheim Bouquet by Penhaligon's

No one had any idea the beautiful morning of September 11th, 2001 would turn to soot and misery before noon. I remember crossing 5th avenue at around 8:30am, and thinking that a more glorious morning could not be conceived: It was crisp, clear....the temperature was perfect. I wore a brown suit, a white shirt, and a solid red neck tie: I've never been one for novelties and prints. I could smell the lavender wafting up from my linen, as I sped up the lift to the 34th floor. By 9:30 all was mayhem. People were screaming. Then the second plane hit and the phones went dead. We were captive on East 49th street: Building security would not let us leave. Finally, by four in the afternoon, if we signed a waiver, we could go--and so I did. For three days Manhattan shut down, and most everyone stayed in their apartments. There was hardly any traffic on the streets, and very little noise. Many had unexpected guests who lived below Canal Street. Myself, I was alone, and sat in the quiet without television nor radio, internet access or phone service. It took me hours of concentrated effort to tape up the windows, as was suggested, along with air-ducts and door cracks. From that day on, all of New York City smelled like a backyard barbecue. "Ground Zero" smoked and gushed for months and months. A full year later it still smoked. Life just smelled of smoke, and loss: Every day for eight months I walked through funerals on Fifth Avenue: Huge ones--for all of the servicemen who lost their lives. They tend to put on quite a huge pageant in these instances. People didn't speak much at first. The clubs were full: Everyone kept drinking...but there just wasn't a great deal of talking. I, for the first time in my life, found that I couldn't wear perfume. Not only was I convinced my unwavering habit was unfit for such a gloomy time, nothing at all about it seemed alluring or necessary. Three weeks in to the New Era of Austerity and I gave in to a sudden urge to splash myself in signature brew, only to burst into tears as soon as I smelled it swirling around me. I would have to find a new one. In those days, there was a beautiful replica, all in wood paneling, of the Penhaligon's shop in London on the ground floor of Saks Fifth Avenue. I had fond memories of "English Fern," so I went there to ask which of their fragrances could be considered the driest, least frivolous, and, more importantly, which would accommodate this stench of smoke that would not go away. The host of the Penhaligon's boutique was an Englishman, as is fitting. I remember he looked me straight in the eye across his spectacles, and through them I could see his eyes becoming glassy. "This might do," he said. And with that remark I was handed a mouillete sprayed in Blenheim Bouquet. The numbness that lingered all over New York for months did not encourage any sort of enthusiasm, so I just gave it a brief whiff: It smelled of wood smoke, like everything else, with a bit of pine and lemon. "Perfect. The largest size you have please, in an eau de toilette." "We have a 500ml" -"That will be fine. I'm sure I'll enjoy it. Thank you." Though I can't say I did in fact enjoy it, I used the entire 500ml decanter to the last drop. Its severity and seriousness was very precisely suited to the broken spirits of all and sundry: Encouraging to those who "kept calm, and carried on." It took me a year to empty the bottle: When that year was past, New York still smelled like smoke, and so did everything and everyone, except none of us noticed it any longer: We'd all grown accustomed to it. Faced with an empty bottle of Blenheim Bouquet, I again tried my own signature scent, which had lain forgotten in drawers and cabinets, and still, it wasn't right: Too French. Too romantic. I can't smell like this, I thought, and that's when I knew: Sitting at my dressing table with an enormous empty bottle looking in the mirror I saw it in my eyes. Something was just over. One month later, I left. I left New York. I moved away. I still have the empty bottle of Blenheim Bouquet, and every year, on September 11th, I uncork it and give it a whiff. Every year, my thoughts vary...I remember odd things: How people who had lost love ones would burn candles in their windows...all of the "Missing" photocopy signs pasted all over every surface that nobody ever had the courage to remove, so they just disintegrated over time, while we walked by them, day in, day out, and watched. This year, I thought of how beautiful the morning was, and marveled at how that September would be the very last one like it: The beauty of innocence and the thrill and promise of early Fall in New York City, where everything was possible. None of that ever came back the way it was. But Blenheim Bouquet hasn't changed: A kind of therapy. Some days I would get out of bed only because I knew I would have my moment with it. I would look forward to rubbing it all over my chest, because when I did, invariably I would think that at least something was beautiful...and unchanged...and just that little bit of courage, a hint of hope that certain things endure, very often got me through the day. September 11th, 2011
12th September, 2011 (last edited: 22nd September, 2011)
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Le Dix by Balenciaga

(non-re-issue)In the 50's, Cristobal Balenciaga was considered to be the greatest Couturier who ever lived. Christian Dior himself called him "Father to us all." The tag line for "le dix," when it was launched, merely read: "His Creation." Many today have a difficult time imagining the grandeur of Balenciaga. Diana Vreeland wrote: "If you were at a party, and a woman walked in wearing Balenciaga, no other woman existed." As fascinating as his clothes, "His Creation," le dix, is equally compelling. Balenciaga was the first couturier in history to sublimate ugly women, whose allure he preferred to the merely beautiful, whom he considered common: His salons were regarded with the reverence of a church, and quite simply were not open to the public: One had to be presented, put up for admittance, as it were, and references were required. Once invited, if the severe, gatekeeping "directrice" didn't like the look of any new potential client, access was denied, and she was summarily dismissed. Balenciaga had a fondness for a slightly hunched back, and so he cut all the collars of his jackets several centimeters away from the neck in order to make the feminine silhouette appear as if it were bent: He instructed his models to hold their head forward, their hips out, and to never smile or make eye contact with anyone. Fittingly, "le dix" is a study in perplexed notions of beauty. Its opening is frankly bizarre. It was said at the time that it smelled like vomit, and indeed there is a strange bodily excretion aura to its flight that lingers long enough to be well examined. With le dix, we witness what very possibly could have been the world's first "Indie" scent. Naturally, by the mid 50's, there had been many fragrances that could be considered eccentric: Ernest Daltroff's entire range, for example, or Guerlain's Djedi. Patou's "Que sais-je?" Yet all of these were strange in a very specific manner, exhibiting a purposeful rejection of accepted social codes, where le dix explores the outter reaches of sensibility in a secretive, furtive way: One is never sure if the scent is perfectly lovely, or outright foul.
A cunning composition of violet stems, woods and musks, it has only Jean Kerleo's magnificent "1000" as a peer: It can be inferred that Monsieur Kerleo was a fan of le dix. It may also be inferred that Monsieur Balenciaga was a fan of "Je Reviens," as le dix shares a certain high pitched and lofty distance with this masterpiece of structure from the 1930's, but hasn't a hint of its comforting and very singular loveliness. Le dix can not be compared to any fragrance in a literal sense: It stands alone, and never allows itself to be read clearly. Much like everything else associated with Balenciaga himself, there is an austerity about it that approaches the Biblical: It speaks a language of Heaven and Hell simultaneously, and never teeters off to either side: walking the split straight down the middle of it the whole way down from flight to base. Comparisons others have made to Chanel No5 are lost on me, as I would equate these to comparing the scent of a street-walking two penny harlot to that of a sovereign. Cristobal Balenciaga and Gabrielle Chanel should theoretically not exist in the same discussion, though it is a fact that the two of them were close friends. In the realm of fashion and fragrance, Comparing his taste to hers would be like comparing chalk to cheese. Le dix is a grand perfume. It stands up to any guerlain, any caron, or any patou. What's interesting about it, is that it staunchly refuses comparisons, loudly declaring itself "hors concours." Just as did Monsieur Cristobal Balenciaga himself, it is in a league of its own, isolated, away from the crowd, and silently observes, never smiling, never making eye contact. An intellectual composition perfectly suited to any woman or any man who considers that no perfume on earth could possibly express their personality, requiring one that merely poses questions, without ever hinting at answers. Balenciaga never gave an interview to the press, and fashion journalists were unwelcome in his salons. Following the violent student uprisings in France during the Sping and Summer of 1968, Cristobal Balenciaga shuttered his house, with only this explanation: "The world is no longer a place for my creation."
04th September, 2011 (last edited: 27th September, 2011)

Tabac Original by Mäurer & Wirtz

Well, it is the Opera ball--and I must say that as far as glamour goes, a white-tie affair such as this does rival anything the world has to offer. But what fragrance to wear? There's the confinement of a box to consider, and lots of dancing. The choice of fragrance is as important as the choice of attire, no doubt about that. Here is a secret you readers shall swear to me that will never be repeated, on basenotes or off, as it's terribly embarrassing. I would NEVER "tell." Since you've read this far, you should know that I welcome openly (and encourage!) any daring man's penchant for smelling like a make-up drawer, any independent woman wishing to waft a scent of motor oil. I'm a fair, and democratic sort, so I will divulge something to you. It goes this way. When I was leaving Europe last time, I flew in and out of Amsterdam Schipol. If you don't know already, this must be the most pleasant airport in Europe: It's gorgeous, fun, impeccably clean, and so well thought out that it's amazing more airports aren't built on this paradigm: It was my first time at Schipol. Previously, I had always avoided it, convinced as I was that the security would be mayhem due to drug-related complexities. Well, none of that: the security was flawless, and one kept one's sense of self-worth throughout--a miracle. Ah! The Pragmatic Dutch. They do have a winning way about them. Regardless, I got there four hours before my take off, and, Lo! came to find that I had precisely four hours to kill. Because everything went so smoothly, I barely noticed any of it. Instead, I had a scrumptious Dutch breakfast, and, full of calf's liver pate and cheese, went shopping. Later, I indulged in an amazingly fresh and delicious plate of smoked and raw fish along with some vodka, and shopped some more (result: I now have a beautiful Hermes watch that I love) Since I was quite drunk by my second shopping spree, and happy as a clam, I went into the spectacular Schipol perfumery, where, starry eyed, it became very quickly apparent that they would stock everything anyone could ever want, my prime motivation being that I had not bathed for four straight days--and knew I needed a good dousing of something in order that I not be thrown off the plane for olfactive security reasons! (The apartment in Amsterdam is a very rustic affair: about the size of my dressing room at home, with a "bathroom" consisting of a closet equipped with a Turkish toilet on the floor, and a shower head in the low ceiling above it--only in Amsterdam would this ingenious melting of bodily functions occur. Needless to say, when in Amsterdam, being a bath tub junkie, I do quite a bit of sponge bathing in the kitchen!!!!!) I hate showers--and only have big claw footed tubs at home--Personally, I think showers should be illegal At any rate--I was fully overwhelmed by choice --so It came to light that I was stumped: "What would be good to spray on liberally, without ending up smelling like a back-packing German tourist?" (that "eau de cologne" smell they always seem to have.) Everything I considered seemed too one way, or too the other. Knowing I was going to be on a plane for hours and hours, it was a delicate choice: As delicate as that which concerns the Opera Ball. I noticed already that all over Amsterdam, in all of the perfumeries, something I hadn't seen in years, nor was remotely familiar with, was everywhere--something typically I wouldn't even consider testing--in France it had largely disappeared and that I only remembered from my youth, thinking: "why would anyone want to smell like a "Tabac?" But here it was again in this perfumery, in all its glory--the hideously cheap "Tabac Original" with its white bottle and 70's brown box. I thought: Interesting. They're selling this, which, from my ultra snob French point of view, would be the choice of some beret-wearing "Papi" in a cafe standing at the zinc bar at 8:00am smoking a cigarette and drinking a glass of cheap red wine before going to work as a janitor. Out of sheer perversion, I had to give it a whiff. I stood there looking at the etalage thinking: do I even want to be seen smelling this??? (no joke) There I was, frozen at length--going: "I'm not sure I even want my fingers touching that bottle!" Finally, in a convulsion, I dared, and, looking both ways, furtively sprayed a mouillette...and then...Surprise! I was perfectly enchanted. Walking around the perfumery waving it under my nose, it just kept smelling better and better--Finally--emboldened by the experience, bravely, I walked over, picked up the bottle, and sprayed my wrists, to then turn immediately away and fairly run out of the store, lest someone were to have seen me do it, just as if I had stolen something. All I could think of was the very real prospect that I would be sick and scrubbing away at the basins of the loo in minutes, perhaps even throwing up: At best, breaking out in a scratchy, itchy red rash...Asked by a stewardess to sponge bathe before boarding; all manner of scenarios were whirling in my overly active imagination.
With 90 minutes left to kill, I went back to the bar and ordered another vodka. I had to drink half of it before bringing my wrist to my nose: "I can't believe I have this on my skin!" I thought. Granted, I was pretty drunk by the time I got around to muster the nerve to actually smell it on me, but when I did, I was immediately in love, and knew I had to go and buy it. It took me another vodka to summon the courage return to the shop on a mission, pick up a box, and walk to the check out lane, thinking: "Pray God they wrap it well so that nobody sees that I have bought "Tabac Original." For 16E, I got a 10oz bottle of "eau de cologne." Before leaving the perfumery, figuring at this point I had no dignity left to lose, I passed by the etalage again and sprayed it all over me: In my hair, in the lining of my jacket, on my jeans: With the abandon of a homeless, dirty wanton I covered myself in it, and ran out of the store. Then, the compliments started rolling in. At the very well thought out gate-specific security check, where the guards get somewhat "up close and personal," I was lucky enough to fall upon a very handsome one who, while patting me down, said: "You smell good!" I caught myself turning beat red, and could only manage a wan "Dankuwell." Two hours later air-borne and on the plane, an American lady, seated behind me, flagged me down as I returned to my seat. She looked at me and smiled, then said, in her twang, "Can I just tell you? You smell delicious!" (there was a twinkle in her eye when the word "delicious" sprang forth) Again, I could only turn red and say "Why, Thank you!" But this wasn't all. Being American, the lady was leaving no stone unturned. "What are you wearing?" To this somewhat invasive question--a delicate one considering I was wearing four days worth of skank and about 30ml of cheap-ass eau de cologne--I began to stammer. "Um....Well....You see I....Oh, now, what was it I put on this morning? You know....I think it was "Mouchoir de Monsieur." "Mooosh-war duh Mon-sheur? I've never heard of that!" "Oh, well, it's very hard to get. Only in Paris, you know!" "That figures! It smells great!" "Ehm......(more redness)....Thank you!" So, there you have it, my filthy secret never to be repeated: I think, for the Opera Ball this year, I shall wear "Tabac Original." This little weapons-grade concoction, the identity of which I would never admit publicly, has people regularly stopping me on the street. In social situations, women go crazy, bat their eyes, sniff my neck. Men, with eyes full of hatred, look enviously at me. Very simply put, It's magic. Surprised?
22nd August, 2011

Oxford & Cambridge by Czech & Speake

OK: I'm finally going to do this. Yes, basenoteurs, I'm a renegade. You all knew that, didn't you? My finger has been itching for months now and I am finally breaking down and spilling on OC: I don't like it. Now, this is huge coming from me, the quintessential and ultimate lavender maniac. Anybody interested in starting a lavender boxing match? I'm your man: I know them all by heart--at least the ones that matter. Here's how it pans out: Effectively, OC screams holy grail for about three seconds when first applied: It's dry, tart and minty with a hint of the very english geranium floating about in it--but then...oh, but then.... it falls flat on it's aristocratic sunburnt nose. Knocks the tea tray clean off the table. Any lavender lover will tell you that lavender does not translate well to incense, and this is precisely what OC harkens--to wit--lavender incense. What truly does set it apart is its longevity and the sincerity with which it is presented. Clearly, this is very fine. Obviously, this is expensive. This is nothing like any other lavender soliflore out there. Serge Lutens "Gris Clair" comes to mind, but that's about as far as it goes. Here's my reasoning. A lavender fancier does not want a gong show of epic proportion in sillage and effect. A lavender fancier does not wish to deodorize a room upon entering it. This would lead one to infer that OC is a kind of nuclear age lavender created for the younger set with damaged noses. It's purple! It's loud! It's glamorous! It's remarkable! It turns heads! This gets sickening after awhile, and it simply won't stop being spectacular. It tries so very painfully hard to be The Best Lavender In The World, and ends up simply being the most potent. If you want indelible lavender that won't go away and explodes in every direction, in everyone's face, screaming relentlessly away at the top of it's lungs that it's rich, privileged and better than you, you got it. If you are a true lavender fancier, you will toss this in the bin: It doesn't even do for scenting linens. The absolute antithesis of what a lavender soliflore should be. A more fitting and clever name for it would be "Eau de Rah," but I'm afraid that would be too subtle: True to itself, it must spell out its status in ultra-violet and screeching white....OXFORD....and....and CAMVRIDGE!!!!!...."By appointment to lovers of the obvious."
14th July, 2011 (last edited: 22nd August, 2011)

English Fern by Penhaligon's

there's nothing quite like this. It's unfortunate that the modern version has been altered as, having grown up with the original, and used it for decades, I remember it so very well: A scent that turned heads in Paris, a secret I kept for years and years. Essentially, this is a classic fern in all of its glory: Geo Trumper's matches it only in conceptual flight and construction. This one has longevity and sillage that are peerless. Not at all for lovers of modern scents, this none the less is so perfectly timeless it still gets men and women blushing and confused after one hundred years. A great choice for a young man of 16, equally fantastic on an elderly fellow, this, along with "Jicky," truly is one of the last historic scents made today that breathe the aura of a more elegant time. Very singular in the Penhaligon's Library, it has nothing of the frank oddities of "Blenheim Bouquet" or "Hammam Bouquet." It's reassuring, perfect; very difficult to find offensive: A kind of "Shalimar for men," as women typically adore it, regardless of whether they admit or are aware of its secretive qualities of attraction. Simply put, there's nothing at all not to like. Never to be confused with what we have come to know as a "fern," or a "fougere," this is "the" fern..."the" fougere. Others merely use its construction as a springboard. One of my favourite fragrances of all time, one I hope never to be without.
07th June, 2011 (last edited: 08th August, 2011)

H.O.T. Always by Bond No. 9

Imagine if you will that, after much trepidation and changings of the heart, you find yourself making a somewhat sway-footed entrance into a dark and pulsating psychadellic rave. You thought it through, viewing it from both ends of the moral spectrum, and, having finally pulled yourself together, you suck it up and decide to dare: After all, a walk on the wild side, once in a while, can not do too much harm, and lately, you've been so good. Upon furtively entering, you cannot shake the tingly sensation that courses through your body as you unexpectedly come to face a long, dimly lit set of seemingly unending stairs that plunge sharply down, straight into a riot of flashing lights, deafening music, and a cloud of thick, curiously smelling smoke. Frozen there, you hesitate a moment, turn around, and go back outside. Stranded now in the frozen quiet of a piss laden back alley strewn with rubbish, you look up to see towering high above the roofs and chimneys the ornate and gilded twin spires of a massive cathedral, with bronze cruciforms turned verdant atop their soaring peaks. A panic descends on you: Your taxi has long gone, you're alone, in a strange neighborhood, you're shivering with cold, you want to turn back. Gazing up at the awesome medieval structure yawning above, you hear the echo of an ancient prayer bounce back and forth inside your head: "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on me." And again: "Holy God Holy Mighty Holy Immortal, have mercy on me." A kind of confusion overtakes you--you thought through and put on the outfit, you came all the way across town in the dark dead of winter, ready to let loose, and now you're slowly turning to ice, standing alone in a damp and chill back alley losing your nerve as the smell of urine and the bitter cold bite ferociously at your nostrils. Searching out the saving grace of an errant taxi proves useless, so, remembering the lucky cigarette rule, you reach into your pocket to fire one up, hoping a magical ride home will suddenly appear as soon as it is lit, as often in the past this little trick has done you well. flicking open your cigarette case, a small white pill falls out of it, onto the ground, and you stand motionless watching as it slowly absorbs the half frozen slush of piss and filth at your feet. Damn! In a sudden burst of courage, you bend down, pick it up, and slip it under your tongue, fighting the revulsion of its acrid taste and the nauseating implications of its unexpectedly dank and germ-ridden provenance.
As it dissolves, filling your mouth with a metallic taste, your heart begins to pound wildly from deep within your breast, as the shock of knowing there will henceforth be no turning back sets in. You light that cigarette, if only to alter the vile, acrid taste fast filling your mouth. One puff. Two puffs. You look at it, then flick it away in disgust.
You're going in. The welcome warmth of indoors feels like the embrace of a lover; the steep descent of the stairwell now beckons with heat, light, and fragrant vapors amid swirling beats that pummel and pound through the frozen muscles in your neck, on your face, and through your head like comforting jets of warmth. The air becomes hotter as you descend, each step bringing you closer to the strobing lights and the swirling smoke. Down. Down. Down and you're inside the pulsating music, fear and trepidation forgotten. You step into a grassy confusion of sweating flesh, a forest of sound, feeling limbs like roots encircle your arms, slide around your neck, all joining together to pull you into a phantasmagorical tidal wave of sensation, with all your senses engaged: Your feet feel as though they are walking bare upon a lush carpet of temperate grass, while your hands seem to be exploring, digging through damp depths of soil and earth; your mouth opens to welcome probing tongues, all warm, slick, and furry with minute bristles and delicious pricks. Lift off, and the universe unravels before you. one last look over your shoulder and you have no regrets, no desire to turn back.
Your floating now, through the writhing rhythm of an orgiastic parade of hot, sweating bodies, consumed by the fires of moist, molten flesh, melting, clinging and clamped onto you, alive and deeply breathing in camphorous air forcefully exhaled from the lungs of others, then passed on by you, around and around, over and over, the same vapors grow heavier and heavier with smoke, until your mouth and nose seem to avidly suck in a kind of powder, then syphon in liquid, until you find yourself immersed in a transparent gel where everything slowly plays in to slow mo, and harsh strobing lights previously flashing in vibrant shades now softly twinkle in all the delicate hues of heaven: You're flying now, mysteriously held up by fingers that feel like feathers through pastel clouds of shimmery, gossamer haze. The startlingly novel sensation of just one half gulp of cold, fresh air amid a sudden wallop of hissing silence finds you inexplicably standing again, on earthbound feet, your eyes clamped shut, your arms wrapped around a massive, towering human frame, itself draped in the soft, protective
warmth of a cloak. You open your eyes to find you're being held in the steadfast embrace of a man, all bundled up with scarf, and gloves, your bare hands buried deep inside the pockets of his coat. Looking up you find a pair of piercing blue eyes gazing down at you through the dawning light, and that unmistakeable smile that will form on the lips of a lover newly found. Inside the pocket, where your hand has sought refuge from the cold, you feel a smooth object, mysteriously shaped. Pulling it out, it falls to the ground, into the freshly fallen white powder of virgin snow: A crystal star. Bending down to pick it up you examine it closely, reading the words chiseled there on: H.O.T. ALWAYS.

31st December, 2010

Nuit de Noël by Caron

How heart warming it is to consider that in 1922 Ernest Daltroff called his latest creation "the Night of Christmas," or, as it is said in English, Christmas Eve. The hush that spreads over Paris on December 24th is something one should make a point of witnessing at least once. A certain inference we can make, those of us who have again and again walked through it, sometimes under the snow, is that, in 1922, France was so very much more French. Today and for as long as I can remember, the people of France have shown a very specific "Christmas Spirit," unlike that of other Catholic countries. Apparent is neither Italian exuberance nor any other kind of wild fervor, but more a kind of reverential distance, steeped in formal Orthodox Faith. In France, on the Night of Christmas, there is a sense of holiness that is palpable, and...touching. Caron's "Nuit de Noel" is appropriately dainty in its flight: Strangely evocative of the Angelic, it is the scent of frozen evening air gently wafting through full bodied red roses, somewhat overblown. This chill fades over the course of the flight, giving way to a kind of olfactive Divine Liturgy of incenses, with a resinous benzoin in the staring role. Ernest Daltroff must have suffered from a touch of nevrosis, for there is a kind of chaos remarkable in all of his creations, and not just a small dose of melancolia. Nuit de Noel is united to all the other Carons by it's shady cacaphony of notes, so many that the whole is somewhat perplexing, resulting in fragrances so intricate, they defy analytical description. Where Guerlain was always organic, Caron was kaleidoscopic. The name Guerlain also carried with it, and still does to this day, a vague tinge of bas bleu "compagnard" that Caron could never suggest, thus the myth of "Grandes Dames wore Caron and Coquettes wore Guerlain." Realistically, and from an intrinsically French point of view, this comparison should be interpreted more as "Paris High Society vs. life in the Provinces," or perhaps a kind of self-imposed exile from the norm.
It is safe to say that in 1922, very many considered Caron to be a more informed and refined choice of perfumerie than Guerlain, as difficult as that is to imagine today. When Couturier Patou entered the fragrance arena in the mid twenties, with blends available strictly to the clients of his Haute Couture salons, it is also likely that more Caron devotees jumped ship than did fans of Guerlain. Caron compositions are more like those of Patou, their density and overwrought structure having little in common with "Guerlinades." None of the Caron fragrances have aged particularly well, Nuit de Noel being no exception: There's a depth to it, a kind of neo-gothic romance that's all powder, silk, swan's down and rouge: A very Grande Dame indeed, perched at her dressing table surrounded by dozens and dozens of red roses, burning pastilles and furiously applying make-up, en route, perhaps, to a funeral on Christmas Eve, or so it appears to us today. Then, this emotional and highly dramatic depth was considered the very height of chic, much in the way wan fragrances that smell of watermelon are today. Admittedly, there is something slightly disquieting about discovering a charmeuse-clad Lady powdering her decolletage, arms, hands, face and neck on the alter of a Catholic cathedral in the midst of the solemn and Holy things that manifest on the night of Christmas: Thus is the confusion of Caron, an abstraction born of nevrosity, the hallmark of Ernest Daltroff. No Caron worthy of its name would ever just give itself over, for these are fragrances that could aptly carry the coveted banner of "bewitching." Acting very like the other Caron Greats, Nuit de Noel is a kind of stain: It never goes away-and must "wear off," a process that can last for days, over multiple baths, and noticeably vary each time it is applied: The same bottle of Nuit de Noel may wear differently from one day to the next, inexplicably, surprising the wearer as no other perfume I have ever experienced: Something about it is obviously overly reactive to body chemistry, itself an unpredictable mystery perhaps more easily explained and understood from a purely medical perspective.
Only the flight, a two hour affair, which itself has an identity all its own, could be considered remotely "wearable" by today's standards. For the rest of its 20 plus hours, Nuit de Noel will most definitely not go unnoticed. This is a Great Perfume with complexities that are guaranteed to be misinterpreted and very sadly not remotely understandable to most modern noses: Rather than evoking the sublime and holy hush of a snowy Paris night at Christmas, it may awaken memories of a funeral parlor engaged in a very religious open-casket wake, or, alternately, a silent movie-era vampire drama, both veiled in heaps and heaps of make up, and a dim, candle-lit gloom. A very solemn hymn is Nuit de Noel--and the enigma of a wildly attractive and ultra-chic sensation of a scent, no doubt considered daring and sexy in its time, that somehow ended up being conceivably the perfect choice for a dignified and pious woman in morning desirous of solitude. One of the last commercial perfumes to have retained its bottle and packaging unaltered to this day, and a beautiful bouquet of quiet, introverted thoughts, Nuit de Noel is a treasure for being the very precise illustration of a reverent culture that is out of the question today. Hopefully, we will find it in our hearts to be thankful for it, and, in the True Spirit of Christmas, be wonderstruck, if only for a mere fleeting instant. From deep within the blackness, and through the chill of a cold winters night, a distant and alien star mysteriously shines: Do you see what I see?
25th December, 2010

Mouchoir de Monsieur by Guerlain

Jicky, who was already considered slightly irregular from birth, has a renegade young brother called MDM: He insists it be pronounced "em-day-em" regardless of which country he's tearing apart with his inimitable allure. It is often said that the devil is a charming man--and as many would have it, he can really dance. Accordingly, MDM skips merrily into all the best parties, dancing with all the finest ladies, cavorting with the highest ranking gentlemen; chatting ernestly with interesting-looking unknowns. MDM would never wait in a queue, inexplicably looks dashing barefoot in a running suit three days unwashed, and even more spectacular in black tie: His sartorial choices are always unexpected. MDM is the one who will show up impeccably turned out in a Brown Tux, pulling that off famously. In hushed tones, it is said that he is a bit of a scallywag--yet only the chosen few know of his secret passions, while most everyone else considers him entirely untouchable: A study in blithe well bred aloofness. However; the seemingly distant MDM has been known to entertain devotees with his body in very unusual places, since there are so many admirers, and so little time: He's tall, dark and handsome--and only looks like Sister Jicky in proportion. He has his sister's wildly inbred proportions and singular facial features, but his colouring is distinctly different: Where Jicky got mousey medium ash blonde hair and blue-green eyes, MDM got ebony hair and chestnut eyes along with the family skin, inherently colorless. MDM's thick black hair is so luxuriant that he wears a full beard at all times, allows the hairs on his head to become long and full of ringlets, further contrasting with his sisters fine English straight hair, and staunchly disdains body epilation. He's Jicky's dark, hairy little brother who ravages everyone where ever he goes with no remorse whatsoever. He goes by, and his odor reminds you of his sister, inexplicably detained in a brothel where benzoin and amber incenses and pastilles are burned pretty regularly to hide the smell of Opium. All the family traits are there--MDM is every bit as fascinating as his sister, he's just a rake: He smokes various things, drinks whiskey straight up, and, whilst maintaining an unfailing gentlemanly air, he will shamelessly enthrall fans with his body for hours only to saunter out unbathed looking perfect to meet another one he intends to enthrall in public, never once wondering if a bath would be in order. He carries the smoke aura of his various haunts on his exquisite wardrobe, and always has a bit of a sebaceous smell along with it hovering about his neck: Oh! and, of course, there's also the bit about MDM's handkerchief, which he is never without. The Handkerchief of sir, very obviously soaked in English Lavender, will invariably also contain the remnants of a lover he wiped off with it, and the heady whisky soaked, smoky saliva of his mouth. If you want Jicky to have a louche brother with the morals of a demon who just happens to be stunning and impeccably clothed, never predictable but always polite, even in an orgy or a bar brawl, who's seen at all the right parties secretly en route to the most highly coveted and secretive wrong ones,
then this is your man: Naturally, as would be expected, MDM himself won't be had by just anyone--but one can always try. MDM's wanton ways may work in your favor, but only if you know the right crowd; Even this man's tricks are fallen, penniless aristocratics on a bender. For MDM, the merely average wouldn't ever figure into his considerations: He's perfectly unacquainted with mediocrity and has little time and even less interest when it shows its face. Unwavering in the realm of perfect manners, MDM would never insult you. It would just appear that he hadn't noticed your overtures, especially if they were obvious. Furthermore, MDM doesn't hang around anywhere for too long. Just when you think you might get that chance, you turn to dazzle, and he's gone--leaving behind only his signature waft of scent: the sebum of in-bred aristocratic oil glands scantily moistened with English lavender Water...Very much as happens with Sister Jicky, most can not decide if they find this pleasant, they are simply left behind by it, flummoxed by a kind of fascinated longing......
13th December, 2010 (last edited: 15th December, 2010)

Reed Krakoff by Reed Krakoff

Everything Reed Krakoff does has a very distinct singularity about it. Reactions to his sudden appearance on the luxury market have been equally singular: His clothes, his handbags, all have a distinct lilt of a kind of new modernity very heavily under the influence of the current voque for steam-punk faux neo industrialism, but thankfully, not obviously so: Evoking Bauhaus, a kind of German undertone, and a not particularly easy to define austerity that has had most fashion editors using the words "Military-Inspired" to describe it. It is true that the man has a kind of austerity about him--his entire "universe" is so very sleek, even ironically somehow threatening. Reed Krakoff is a confident designer and it shows in everything he touches; many have equated this very strong hand and specific tastes to a kind of nouveau arrogance. The fact that Reed Krokoff himself is straight, not particularly handsome nor bubbly has not helped to endear him in any way to the fickle fashion press: Were he younger, openly gay and physically attractive it is certain that the world would be screaming about the advent of a new great American Heritage Life style Brand: But they're not. They're saying "How dare he launch such a thing in the midst of a recession." This is so disquieting when considering how all of Reed Krakoff's creations are so exquisitely made--down to the last detail, everything thought out in a very cerebral way, with intelligence inherent throughout. Jean Patou launched "Joy," the most lavishly expensive perfume ever blended, in the middle of the Great Depression, and that was surprising; equally so RK's first foray in fragrance is indeed a kind of nose snub to the perils of poverty. The austerity misinterpreted by many as being "military" in nature actually comes from an apparent love affair the creator has with barefoot boxing and professional wrestling: Explaining why the word "butch" could be applied to many of the visual effects that make up this new and exciting brand; Interesting that it is all directed to women. Very frankly the first high luxury fashion interpretation of "the New Age of Austerity." The fragrance, which is packaged with a refinement rarely seen today, is presented in a way that truly is groundbreaking. One gets to choose the color of the flacon, and each is entirely made by hand, with an emory glass stopper, bottle and stopper individually nestled in an intriguing coffin-like box with secret compartments that hold the juice separately in pyrex vials and a beautiful funnel of RK's signature gunmetal. I got a tester sent to me about a month prior to the launch of this fragrance, and I've been testing it ever since: The first detail that hits you when spraying is a kind of surprise. It smells like nothing else--and in it's flight evokes lead pencil shavings soaked in rose water with a casablanca lily note not too far off in the distance. It's fairly linear, and does not change much during the evolution of the dry down. The main qualities of it are as follows: It's light and fresh, but in a novel sense--it smells herbaceaous and floral in a specifically non-perfumery kind of way; almost shockingly so. To smell it you're somewhat perplexed, wondering if it's "on purpose," or, if it's perfume at all--it smells "real," as if the fragrance it emits is not perfume but some kind of environment. It never gets heavy--and it dries down to nothing the way some of the Classic Guerlain Eaux do, leaving the faintest hint of softness that's barely noticeable and could be mistaken for natural body chemistry. It is compelling mainly for this reason--wearing it makes one feel as if they are carrying a kind of enormous conservatory of flowers and exotic fauna about with them--but never reminds the wearer that it is an actual scent. It's ultra light but remarkable with a very faint sillage that, again, could be easily read as a natural body smell--albeit a really fresh one: It by no means has any sweatiness or funk in any part of its character. To sum it up--Fragrance and Bottle are two different discussions. The fragrance is pleasant, original, but escapes any "genre" classification that is specific. It's watery, clear, transparent, but not in the same way as an Eau d'Issey or a Cristalle or (gulp) CK One. If you like the smell of a wood shop that happens to have an enormous bouquet of casablanca lilies, tea roses and fragrant hyacinths in it and is also equipped with a ventilation system that pipes in medical grade pure oxygen you'll love this. It seems more feminine than masculine but I wore it for several days and never felt fey. Considering all the thought and time that was put into it, a reasonably priced high luxury item if you have that kind of taste and money, and you happen to find the smell appealing. RK will be a love/hate thing there's no doubt: Some people will not understand it at all, mostly because it just doesn't follow any rules and smells like no other fragrance, others will love and cherish it for exactly the same reasons. A neutral for me--but A+++ for effort and fearlessness.
13th December, 2010

Jicky by Guerlain

Ah, Jicky. When one considers all the hundreds of thousands of perfumes that have come and gone, and how their creators labored over them, it's hard to fathom that nobody with a nose that counts in the industry would ever dare to contest the fact that Jicky remains, to this day, a singular study. To properly process the cultural and historical references inherent in this composition, one must have at least a vague understanding of the context that gave birth to it: The World's Fair of 1889, the very one that brought us the Eiffel Tower, the year "The Industrial Age" became an undeniable reality to Western Civilization. Previously, there had been much discussion about industrialism, was it a passing fancy? The 1889 World's Fair in Paris brought the world its final answer: It was The Future. The Eiffel Tower shocked everyone-- viewed as an unnecessary monstrosity by all and sundry--Electricity was feared--photography questioned, The Machine, reviled. All of this came crashing down on Western culture, bringing with it an intense debate....and, amid this tumult, in the "Pavillon Guerlain," a monument to the uncontested, unquestioned, universally accepted and unchallenged superiority of French Perfumery, Jicky is unveiled. As shocking as electricity, as awesome as the Eiffel Tower, as disquieting as "the Machine." To get an idea of just how shocking Jicky was in the year of its advent, one would best be advised to first smell a drugstore bottle of Parma Violets, then maybe a box of Roger & Gallet's "Rose The" soaps: These two scents offer a very good illustration of what had previously been considered "de bon ton" in the category of fragrance. Sweet, snappy, clean, transparent soliflores, or dark rooty spice notes, like bay rhum, were the sole players on the stage upon which Jicky landed in 1889. As it is with all Great Things, most people were outraged. It has been told to me by a very elderly woman I knew many years ago in paris who was there and actually remembered the "Scandale," that the main comment being murmured was: "Ca sent les pieds." (It smells like feet) For those who had more refined senses, the word "Pornographique" was applied. As with all pornography, women were insulted--but men were intrigued. To this day the discussion continues: No other perfume has ever evoked such strong feelings, and none ever will. No perfume today would be conceived with such balance, effortlessly teetering on the brink of the beautiful and the foul, thus delivering in the olfactive a very real illustration of the true meaning of "Je ne sais quoi," that which eludes everyone: Like a forbidden lover, or lethal narcotic that damns you--that drags you through the mire--but to whom you Insatiably lusting after that which you know is your downfall. The secret to Jicky is the very secret of seduction itself: To delight, and to disgust, simultaneously--seamlessly--to attract, and to repulse: Should you? Shouldn't you? The people at Guerlain, and all of the industry know: Though there is much talk about "Mitsouko" being the finest fragrant composition the world has ever witnessed, it is a well kept secret that, were the truth made public, Jicky would bare that banner; Except it won't be known: For such is Jicky. Eternally secret--The Love, the Obsession, forever lurking in the shadows, all the more suave for their shade. Very possibly the finest perfume ever created......Very obviously, distinctly not for everyone.
29th November, 2010 (last edited: 19th December, 2010)

Love, Chloé by Chloé

I must review this fragrance as it is very literally the first new composition launched in the last 10 years that actually matters. In the early seventies, Karl Lagerfeld designed the original "Chloe," with its duel lily stopper and dreamy photos--very nina ricci--but with sex: That was ground breaking for those readers who remember it, This is ground breaking for those of you who don't. Love is absolutely unique as modern fragrances go--it's very distinctly retro--but even amongst the great classics it brings something to the table. The closest thing I can think of to compare it to would be the original L'air du Temps, not the cleaned up shallow version you get today. It quite literally starts whispering and purring at you before you even spray it: One of those rare fragrances that you begin to experience before you even open the bottle. I have a lidded vaporizer flacon on my desk, and for three days i've been getting whiffs of it, without having yanked the lid off or re-sprayed once. Here's what it's about. First, astounding for a "today" fragrance because it's actually pleasant and smells expensive--a small miracle.
It has wild sex-appeal, but it's completely elusive: Lady Gaga could wear this, and so could Queen Victoria. It's ultra feminine, without being cloying or too "white." The main signature of this fragrance is "SOFT." It could have been called "Love's Baby Soft" if that name weren't taken--it's very 70's--like the ad--but also very very VERY sexy and attractive to men: Lesbians, beware--not your scent: Try Comme des Garcons Original.
LOVE just sort of hits the nail on the head--any man who whiffed this would be struggling with his nether regions and their sudden increased blood flow. Like Shalimar, the Oldest Trick in the Book if you want to "get lucky," It's loaded with orris, and the other floral notes are divine: Hyacinth? Very rare in perfumery. If our culture would make room for another forever-type classic, like Chanel No5 or Joy, this would be it: If you ever loved smelling L'air du temps on an auntie or your mother but couldn't possibly consider wearing the current version (which is quite vile) run for this. If you actually dug "Love's baby Soft" when you were 13, go for this. If there's a man in your life, he's not going to know what hit him. If you are a man and you're looking for a man, or already have one--pass. This would never ever work on a man. Chloe Love is most definitely not a unisex composition, and that's precisely what's so daring about it: Love truly is the "Love that dares to speak its name." Not for the butch, the ball crunching, the overly liberated, the gamine, the tomboy--but ABSOLUTELY for a pretty woman who is proud of her allure--and--more importantly, wants to leave a trail of swooning men behind her everywhere she goes. A new classic is born: We'll see how long it stays on the market. Mind boggling in it's sexual power on men--and, best of all, without even a vague hint of "easy."
02nd November, 2010

Kiehl's Original Musk by Kiehl's

You simply must take your brown leather cowboy hat off to Kiehl's for having the raw nerve, independent spirit, and plain audacity to re-launch something so dated as this in such a grandiose way: The bottle is superbly done, the atomizer is perfection, releasing the requisite micro-mini molecular dusting that's in order for a composition of this character, as, character, it has: One is blinded by the light as soon as it goes on--and fairly stoned on the vibe all day, and the best part is still hours and hours away: The mellow night time afterglow that lingers on and on is about as sexy as any perfume could ever hope to be, and there it is: The secret. To kill 'em in the evening, spray it on in the morning. The stale dry down is the main event, for a more mesmerizing end point you will never encounter. Very truly, an oil of love--and, as is the case with love, one wants, quite literally, to lick it up. Conceptually, it's hippie oil--in reality--it's a masterpiece of balance: Neither masculine, nor feminine, nor ambiguous, it just smells good: Smells even better without a shower. Two days unbathed, still works; a beautiful thing. You have just had a marathon session of love making, 4-5-6 hours--you're covered in your lover's DNA, and BAM: one spritz is all you need and randoms will be stopping you on your way home asking what you're wearing. You're on a road trip--you're just perversely toying with the idea of perhaps not showering for a week: it's your friend. A true "skin perfume" that makes the most of your own glandular excretions. Definitely not for the delicate wan flowers out there who "gross out" at the idea of planting soft, wet kisses on the top someone's bare foot. Funky nose snubbing warriors who walk on the wild side--drink--smoke--love a good make out session in a dark alley--eager divers into dirty, spotty sheets--wise crackin' hooligans who can kiss their way into anyone's heart, male or female: here's your scent. Don't expect love at first whiff--but be patient--this is the kind of thing that makes the finest, most revered masterpieces of perfumery seem stuffy by comparison. KOM, ironically, is very French in its total disregard for conformity: It wants to confuse people, and does: Definitely meriting of the word "Original." All the others mentioned, Allyssa Ashley, Jovan, etc--like comparing chalk and cheese. This may be forty bucks an once--but it's fine stuff. This may be synthetic, but it's effective. You are as exquisite as a full blown English rose in the height of summer--you are as dangerous as a renegade libertine with pockets full of drugs and maybe a weapon well concealed somewhere in your stash--you are ready to leave your conquest breathless, covered in sweat, and begging for more. All the while, you are a perfect gentleman, a well bred woman of means. You're none of these things and you defy description: You need a "third box" in the "sex" column. You're your own creation. You are Kiehl's Original Musk. You're insecure and you're not really sure you're all that and you need to try really hard to prove you've got genitals? That's when you spend for Serge Lutens and his MKK. You're aspirational and you love walking around with that Barney's bag? Bust out your Musc Ravageur. You're real and you don't care who notices, you just know what you want and go for it? You are Kiehl's Original Musk: Very possibly the only American Fragrance that would cause the French to become jealous. They won't admit it--and guess what? You don't care: You're too busy having a roaring good time. Spray it once--if you dare--and you'll know you're there.
01st August, 2010

Moment Suprême by Jean Patou

it's amazing to me that mine will be the only review of this singular masterpiece of French perfumery by Henri Almeras. It's difficult to render Moment Supreme in words--it is truly unmatched in history, being a heady oriental that uses lavender of all things as a central theme--Jean Patou's suave answer to Jicky, but so entirely unlike Jicky in all ways--not even related. To find relations, one must in-breed, as aristocrats do: When Jean Kerleo unveiled Ma Liberte in 1987, the boxes designed by then art director Christian Lacroix's assistant Sylvie Skinazi got more attention than the actual fragrance--itself a stunning creation. Monsieur Kerleo told me once that "he got some flack" (or the equivalent in French) for making such copious use of lavender--which by that time was completely out of the question by modern standards, unless you were Penhaligon's, or Creed: The "Don't even counts" by Patou standards. Ma Liberte, and, to a certain extent Patou Pour Homme Prive, also by Monsieur Kerleo, are it's only family relations. Today, Jo Malone's Amber Lavender is the closest by any stretch of the imagination, but a pale, pale suggestion of Moment Supreme it is. To describe MS, one must be familiar with the richness that was the hallmark of all Patou fragrances previous to the house's sale to P&G Beaute Internationale. The original patou's--everyone--had a density that no other fragrance house could imagine replicating, save perhaps for caron, but with none of the emotional confusion and hints of tawdry vulgarity that mark the great Earnest Daltroff compositions Like all patou's, it was seamless--yet facetted to infinity--each layer melting suavely into the next. First spray: Glue. I was always shaken by the Elmer's Glue Kindergarden Paste quality of the flight--very very unusual--but lasting mere seconds, to morph into the softest dry lavender--more english than french--anyone can imagine, the note that is its' signature. One must envision the halcyon days of pre-war Paris--the 30's--to fully put it into context. This lavender, it grows from the unmistakeable "patte" of Patou: like the Guerlinade of Guerlain, Jean Kerleo and Jean de Mouy called their unifying olfactive image "La Patte" (the paw print--literally): Amber/Black pepper/whiskey. It was said that Jean Patou himself, who, from his own family legend, was a lothario like never there was, loved "booze." And women. Jean Patou was decidedly not gay. From Lavender in a pot of booze, it's flight and it's heart, emerge a cloud of rooty resins, which evokes a kind of "Whiskey-Coca" cocktail--Over the course of two months, I sampled and re-sampled at least 10 different vintages to come up with the following analysis: Here's Moment Supreme's menu of delights in order of appearance: Glue. English Lavender. Amber/Black Pepper/Whiskey "Patte," Coca Cola, Benzoin, Beeswax, Orris, Caramel, Rosewood. The bitter end, the very last vestiges of scent, evoke dust, smoke, and sleep. Sampled in Parfum strength, the sillage proper is the main event. Patou fragrances were never, not one of them, conceived to be whiffed too closely, and were very much pre-occupied with sillage: (This is the key to understanding "1000") This is soft, dry, peppery lavender, always, with more or less resin according to the stage of development. People interested in imagining Moment Supreme should wash their hands with Jo Malone's Amber Lavender shower gel: That's as good as it's going to get--This scent is gone, and will never return. If it did, nobody would get it--it's just that sophisticated. Remember, Giboulet's "Caline"? That was Patou's idea of fresh, innocent and young in 1963--by today's standards it borders on pornographic, playboy forest nymphe.. I have no idea how people could qualify Moment Supreme today: it's just that much of a reflection of a time, and a standard of elegance, that are gone--and so very far gone that nobody remembers them: Just like the name says--"Supreme moment in time" captured in sillage--but forgotten, and evaporated, forever.
28th June, 2010 (last edited: 25th December, 2010)