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Love books?  Love perfume?

My friend Lilias just sent through this: Paper Passion.

I want to smell it!

Recently I got a small bottle of Comme des Garcons 2 which I adore – it’s meant to smell of Japanese calligraphy ink.

Having never smelled Japanese calligraphy ink, I can’t say if it’s an exact match but it does smell completely gorgeous and makes me think of scribes copying out texts in a temple while incense burns and paper walls glow with the heat of candles.

I think these would make an excellent pair for a poet who loves perfume!

 

My friend The Silver Fox wrote a delicious blog recently about Vera Wang’s Princess Night.  I did give Princess Night a try the other day when i was through in Glasgow and had popped in the House of Fraser’s perfume gallery.  The kind saleslady who accosted me asked what I was looking for, and when I asked for Princess Night she thought at first it wasn’t out yet, then discovered the black glitter encrusted bottle for me.  She sprayed it generously onto a card and waved it in front of my nose – BLACK CURRANT JAM.  I sprayed it all over myself as well – BLACK CURRANT JAM, and much later that evening a friend leaned over and said, you smell like BLACK CURRANT JAM.  Which is not a bad thing to smell of, though I did feel more sticky than elegant somehow.  But it’s really yummy.  Oh yes, and it rather wonderfully brought me back to my days as a student in Bristol, drinking black currant and cider in the student union.

An important aspect of the Fox’s post, I think, is that there’s no point in being snooty about fragrances.  There are great cheap fragrances and awful expensive ones (and this goes for art too of course).  There is a way of making art (and perfume) that comes from an original and beautiful vision, and there is a way of making these things that is burdened by commercialism, critical opinion, supposed views of the masses, and so on, that often ruins the thing.

I’ve been meaning to write about Donna Karan’s Gold perfume for ages.  I’ve discovered, much to my surprise, that in my increasing (let’s not say old yet) age I have gone from being someone who doesn’t like the smell of lilies (fresh, perfume, whatever) to the point of feeling a bit ill over them to someone who LOVES the smell of lilies.  I’m saving my pennies for one day getting a bottle of Frederic Malle’s Lys Mediterranee.  I’ve got a bottle of Penhaligon’s beautiful Lily & Spice, which always makes me think of Marlene Dietrich in a black and white tux leaning against a baby grand, singing some unbearably deep heart-breaker of a tune between puffs of a hand-rolled cigarette.

I love Gold.  It’s one of my most favourite perfumes in my current collection.  I felt a little guilty about it at first, as it was mainstream rather than niche, as I got a couple bottles of it really cheap off eBay, as it seems as if it was being discontinued because of, I don’t know, I’m assuming a lack of sales?

It’s the one perfume that every time I wear it my boyfriend says, “You smell beautiful.”  It gets four stars from Tania Sanchez in the A-Z Guide, and she describes a sense of the perfume cycling ever upwards, “like those audio illusions of tones that sound like they’re climbing infinitely higher even though the series is actually repeating.”  I love that description as I do get the sense of white lily and sweet amber cycling or rotating in a sensual dance throughout the wearing of this fragrance.  The image that always comes to mind for me is of a woman on a pedestal in front of a roaring fire in a massive country mansion.  The woman is in a floor-length gown of white silk.  You see her as you enter the room and she is pale, cool, pure silken sensuality – the white mouth of the lily.  You walk toward the fire, lean against the warm stone of the hearth, and she turns to face you, glowing, golden, her dress now a sheath of dripping honey.  Walk back toward the door, turn, and see her silken whiteness, walk back to the fire, turn, and see her molten, golden sexuality.  That’s what Gold does for me!  The fact that it keeps changing throughout the day keeps me interested, delighted – one minute calmed by the cool white lily, the next warmed by the sweet as honey amber.  Just.  Gorgeous.

I recently got a bottle of this perfume – Cabotine de Gres – at TK Maxx for £11.  I had a quick look at the perfume boards on my phone while I was in the store and saw some good reviews, so I picked it up and took it home.  Then I read Luca Turin’s rather damning review: ‘nasty floral’ in short.  People were describing it as having a sharp green opening, and then warming up with a raisin-y note.  I sprayed it on and it reminded me so much of something from my childhood – I must have smelled it on someone when I was young or something very similar.  From the point of view of it reminding me of something nice from my childhood, of something like my first notion of perfume, I really enjoyed it initially.  My boyfriend said it smelled acidic, but I persisted and enjoyed smelling the raisin-y note an hour or so into wearing.  That afternoon another perfume arrived in the post – “Delicious” Chocolate by Gale Hayman (I find it funny that the delicious is in quotes).  By then I wasn’t really noticing the Cabotine anymore, and I sprayed one wrist with the Chocolate perfume which was really gorgeous – sweet cocoa and warm, fruity tobacco; tootsie rolls and chocolate flowers.  Suddenly, smelling my other wrist, I could really make out the Cabotine and in comparison is smelled incredibly ‘trite and acid’, as described by Luca Turin.  After smelling it next to the Chocolate, I had to sell it on eBay as I couldn’t bear it anymore – all i could smell was that biting acidic note.  All this made me wonder if I really do prefer sweeter perfumes, as most of the ones I really love are somehow sweet; either white lily sweet and spicy or dark, musky sweet.  Anyway, thank goodness someone else wanted it – I love that I can pick up a perfume, try it out and sell it on if I don’t like it.

I’m still not convinced “Delicious” Chocolate is a keeper – in a way it is great – chocolate flowers! – but it also really reminds me of another perfume; Exclamation by Coty, that a friend of mine used to wear when we were teenagers.  It reminds me of my early nineties adolescence in a way I find slightly disturbing.  However, after a long day of wearing Chocolate, my boyfriend hugged me and said, mmm, you smell good – always a positive, and it has the best bottle; super Hollywood bling with a big gold cat on top.  Hmmm, maybe I will hang on to it!

“Delicious” Chocolate really conjures a certain sort of outfit as well – shiny gold leggings, skyscraper high black patent heels, a leopard print blouse, red lipstick, and blonde hair sprayed into some sort of bouffant.  I don’t wear this particular outfit when I’m wearing Chocolate, but I like that it suggests this for me, it fulfills some sort of Lana Del Rey, trailer trash cum superstar fantasy that I can’t quite let go of.  Most perfumes conjure a look or outfit for me – do you get that?

Isn’t it interesting how our appreciation of a scent can be so linked to our memories and experiences.  Have you ever found yourself liking (or disliking) a scent because it reminded you of something or someone?

I’ve been testing some of my new BPAL/Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab samples.  A few thoughts –

1.  Lampades – candied cranberry, great for the holidays but I don’t think I’d wear it all the time.  It is very cranberry; red, bitter and sweet.  A little bit like wearing the scent of a Christmas candle. Coming originally from New Jersey where we have cranberry bogs, I felt a twinge of homesickness when I tried this.   I found it slightly overpowering initially but it mellowed over time and had great lasting power.  I think my sister would really like this and I might pass it on to her.

2.  Empyreal Mist – I love this scent.  Like Lampades, I find its fruity note uncomfortable for the first 20 minutes or so.  It has a green fruit smell that blasts out when I apply it – I thought it smelled of green apple candy, though some people on BPAL Madness! described this note as tart or white pear.  I like it much better as this fades out (fairly quickly) and leaves me for the rest of the day with a gorgeous, close skin scent that smells so luxurious.  I happened to be wearing a white cashmere jumper that day, and if white cashmere had a smell it would be this.  Misty, ethereal, sweet petal-scented musk… something angels would smell of if they got caught in a summer rain storm.  Totally gorgeous.

3.  Marie – One of my gift samples which sadly didn’t work on me at all.  It’s meant to be tea rose and violet.  I’m not sure what tea rose smells like, and at first I caught a tiny whiff of violet like a much less sweet version of Gorilla’s Tuca Tuca, but then it started metamorphosing like a big bad tissue paper-wrapped monster into a horrid soapy rose scent that got worse and worse until I couldn’t even bear it any more.  I’ve read that people seem to have certain BPAL fragrances turning soapy (obviously this was the case with this one for me) or powdery, and assuming this comes down to body chemistry.  I tried a few drops on fabric and that seems to be smelling better, so maybe I’ll just drip this over clothes and enjoy it that way.  It’s meant to be Marie Antoinette-inspired… cake anyone?

4.  Pride – Another love.  This is narcissus and Moroccan rose.  Beautiful, strong.  When I first put it on I thought I almost smelled lemon, maybe this was the narcissus as I don’t know what that smells of.  Then rose, rose, radiating incense rose, really did remind me of a trip to Morocco where I spent some time being washed and oiled in sumptuous tiled baths.  The smell of this perfume took me back to the day I floated out of the bath, massaged and oiled, and wandered around the markets smelling like incense burning in a garden of antique roses in full bloom.

5.  Malediction – My boyfriend nabbed this off me, as he loved it so much when I tried it.  It has vetivert and red patchouli in it, and he keeps saying it smells of cedarwood oil.  It is very masculine smelling but I’d happily wear it with a cosy wool sweater by a fireside, though even happier to smell it on him.  Conjures up viking heroes returning from hunting deep in the forest.

6.  Hurricane – I tried this quickly and again my boyfriend suggested it was more one for him than me – but that never stops me!  I have to give this another go as I didn’t take it all in.  Some other reviews are suggesting a tangy scent that develops either into the smell of rain/after a storm or rotten wood.  I didn’t notice anything rotten about it (maybe that’s a body chemistry thing), more of an increasingly warm, woody scent.  This one is described as light China rain and vetivert.  Will try again and report back.

Still more to explore, what fun!  I really want to try BPAL’s famous Snake Oil as well, when I save up some more for my scent fund, that’s on my list.  The list is so long!  I have just been reading about Onda by Vero Profumo and Chambre Noir by Olfactive Studio on olfactorialist.com, and o how I desire them!

A friend just passed on news about this exquisite sounding new fragrance of the night.

It has a poem that goes along with it:

I wanted to write one in response…

 

Night Flower

 

 

My heart whose petals keep fading, lover can you smell

the pall of death on me?

 

I’m the white star come morning.

Remember my scent in the night,

what joys we had?

The light of darkness a violet

cloak for our tears?

 

And now this crumpled stain,

my heart, my voice,

an echo through the empty house

as sun rises.

 

JL Williams   2011   www.jlwilliamspoetry.co.uk

 

This all feels just right somehow with Halloween around the corner!  Proper gothique.