Twice into the same pond*…

Do you remember those times when all Jo Malone perfumes were done in standard transparent bottles with black and white labels and silver caps? They were absolutely uniformed, and the only visual difference was in the name.

 

Jo Malone Perfumes

 

And then twelve years ago Jo Malone released the Kohdo Wood collection. It was a limited edition collection that included two perfumes – Lotus Blossom & Water Lily and Dark Amber & Ginger Lily. The first one came in Jo Malone’s traditional clear bottle with the only difference that the label was transparent. And the second one… The second one was a perfection: a beautiful black bottle with a black label. Especially cute it was in a 30 ml format. As far as I know, it was the first colored bottle for the brand (Cologne Intense collection appeared two years later).

 

 

I liked both perfumes, but back then I wasn’t familiar yet with the limited-edition concept, so by the time I decided to buy them, both were long gone. I hunted down and bought on eBay Lotus Blossom & Water Lily, but all I could get for Dark Amber & Ginger Lily was a decant. So, whenever I would find myself at a Jo Malone counter, I would be asking SAs about that perfume, telling how great it was and what a pity it got discontinued. For a while it was rumored that Jo Malone would bring Dark Amber & Ginger Lily back… and despite all odds three years later they did! I’m telling myself that my voice (well, multiple voices since I did it at different stores with different SAs) made a difference, and I contributed to the brand’s decision to re-release it. Unfortunately, by that time they’ve already had that Cologne Intense collection with all black bottles and only 100 ml (now they have 50 ml as well), so since they didn’t have that 30 ml black bottle that I liked so much, in addition to my decant, I bought their smaller promotional 9 ml bottle – and it’ll be enough for me for a while.

Several years ago, I discovered that my bottle of Lotus Blossom & Water Lily had turned. Since most of the other bottles that I bought myself, many earlier than this one, were still fine, I wasn’t sure whether the issue was with how the previous owner stored it, or if it was perfume itself that had an unstable formula. And because of that I felt reluctant to buy another bottle from eBay. But I liked Lotus Blossom & Water Lily so much that I kept checking Jo Malone’s site hoping to catch it in their Archives collection. No luck so far. (Did you know about it? Only from their site you can order some of the previously discontinued perfumes, including my favorite French Lime Blossom.)

And then a couple of months ago Jo Malone released two perfumes – Yuja Cologne and Waterlily Cologne.

I couldn’t wait for stores to open (and I was right: you still can’t test any perfumes there) and bought 9 ml bottles of both.

I wrote about Yuja in my In the Search for the Perfect Yuzu post. As to the Waterlily

Do you remember Jo Malone used to release from time to time perfume combining sets with one full bottle of their scent and a couple of small bottles of additional notes that could be layered with the main perfume to create a more unique combination. Those additional “notes” were very nice and pleasant but even more simplistic than the main line Jo Malone perfumes, if you can imagine that. Waterlily Cologne reminds me of those “additional notes.” I like the opening: to my nose it has galbanum in it, though it isn’t listed anywhere (official notes: neroli, waterlily and white musk), but in the development it’s very simplistic and just doesn’t want to stay on my skin. I’ll use up my small bottle, but it’s not something I need in my collection, and it doesn’t remind me of Lotus Blossom & Water Lily at all.

But Jo Malone was adamant to continue tempting me: recently they’ve released two more new perfumes – Fig & Lotus Flower and Cypress & Grape Vine. Not only the first one had that “lotus” part in the name that filled me with hope that this one will be “it,” but also the second one was a part of the Cologne Intense collection, hence a black bottle).

 

Jo Malone Fig & Lotus Flower and Cypress & Grape Vine

 

With stores still closed, I just had to buy those cute travel bottles from eBay. So, was the second time a charm? Not really.

I like Fig & Lotus Flower, especially in the opening. It’s a pleasant and light fig perfume, and sometimes in development I can smell vetiver. I don’t know how lotus flower smells, but in this perfume I don’t smell what I perceive as a lotus note in several other perfumes, my illusive favorite Lotus Blossom & Water Lily included. I also compared Fig & Lotus Flower with my other Jo Malone favorite, Wild Fig & Cassis (also available from the Archives collection), which smells drier and more… grown-up (?) than a bright and uncomplicated new scent. I’ll wear Fig & Lotus Flower from my small bottle, but I don’t think I’ll want more after that.

Cypress & Grape Vine had nothing to do with my waterlily or lotus quest, but since I got it as a part of the set, I tested it as well. It is too masculine for me. Cypress & Grape Vine reminds me of very traditional men cologne. But if anyone likes that style, it’s very tenacious (and not just by Jo Malone standards). I’ll see if I like how it smells on my vSO, though it doesn’t seem like his style.

All-in-all, I should probably stop buying Jo Malone perfumes unsniffed, even in smaller bottles: while I still have many favorites from the brand, I rarely like their new creations. But I’ll be checking their Archives Collection hoping for the return of my original favorite.

 

Rusty and Jo Malone Fig & Lotus Flower and Cypress & Grape Vine

 

Images: Kohdo Wood collection – JM official; all others – my own.

 

* I know that I’ve previously used the allusion to this quote from Heraclitus, but the temptation was too strong.

Interlude Black Iris by Amouage. NEW! NEW! NEW!

Hey crew, It’s Portia in the Sydney spring sunshine.

What a lovely time of year down here. I was in Libertine Parfumerie (Australia’s most respected niche importer and distributor) offices the other day. It was so good to see everyone. Everything is being released by ZOOM meeting now, and we are all sent a package to sniff and join the conversation. It’s interesting but much more clinical discussion and little room for personal experiences or interaction. Got to sniff the new Amouage Renaissance Collection! Can’t wait to write about those for you. Also, I picked up my Press Bottle of today’s extravaganza, Interlude Black Iris. Yes, Amouage has released its first flanker of its most popular fragrance Interlude Man.

 

Interlude Black Iris

From Amouage:

Crafted as an overpainting, Interlude Black Iris uses a refined palette to smoothen the facets of the original creation. A complex interplay of dark stoic serenity and buried vibrant power bursting upwards, into the light…

Top: Bergamot, Rosemary, Violet Leaves
Heart: Orris, Amber, Frankincense, Cistus, Myrrh, Vanilla
Base: Leather, Agarwood Smoke, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Cedarwood

Right from open mixed with the zing of citrus and cool green of violet is the dry, dusty and earthy facet of iris. The opening is so fleeting on me I had to come back for a second and third round to really get an idea of how it flows. In the time it took me to write this paragraph we are already in the heart with all the resins surrounding and lifting the iris. At this point, the iris gets a buttery softness, and the resins start to feel very churchy. The cool heart of a busy, clean church with the memories of a thousands days of worship, incense, woods and their waxy clean/preservers.

I’m not sure if it’s the cistus, leather or oudh that brings darkness and a cold touch of otherworldliness to Interlude Black Iris. It descends like a whisper and then takes the iris to a carroty rootiness. GOSH! So interesting. It’s all this way in that I finally get a whiff of the green, herbal rosemary!

 

Amouage Interlude Black Iris Sept 2020

 

Dry down is a gentle woody melange with some patchouli and iris to give interest. Interlude Black Iris hums away quietly, nowhere near the beast mode power trip of the original Interlude. This is a refined, urbane, sophisticated journey. The word that I keep wanting to write is centered. Without being anything like it, I am reminded of the elegant aloofness and backbone inducing fortitude of CHANEL No 19. This is a much more 21st century niche offering, but the heart, the integrity of the scent seems similar to me.

I can’t wait to hear what you all think.

Portia xx

Portia’s Mid Season Beauties 2020

Portia’s Mid Season Beauties 2020

Hey there crew,

Mid Seasons are my favourites. I love the less extreme temperatures and the chopping and changing. Whether it’s Spring or Autumn, the days play similarly, and I find the same set of fragrances can often get some play. One day hot, next day cloudy, sunshiny days and chilly nights happen in both seasons. It does mean our easy reach fragrances need to be able to fit into more than a single weather mood. So I have a bunch of perfumes each year that are able to cross the borders comfortably. I pop them on the easy access tray with some all-year contenders. This year looks like it’s going to be fun.

 

 

Portia’s Mid Season Beauties 2020

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Review by Narth: Penhalgion’s Belgravia Chypre

I hoped that after a while everybody gets used to seeing posts written by my guest-cum-co-bloggers Narth and Portia, but a couple of times recently when Narths posts were mistaken for mine, I decided for a while to add her name to the titles (and Portia is doing something along the line already) – at least until everyone learns to check the By line (Undina).

* * *

I’ve always been someone who likes strong flavours. If a flavour must be delicate, it should be a work of art to make up for its delicacy. I was raised on robustness; mega garlic and onions, chillies, the darkest of pumpernickels. Food was praised in my childhood for how much of a flavour bomb it was. I didn’t eat sliced white bread until I was at least 15 as this was regarded as poison by one parent and pointless by the other. Why would you eat this when you could eat rye with caraway? Don’t people realize white flour is stripped of all its nutrients?

The last time I was travelling, I had a revelation as I sat in the hostel kitchen and ate my free breakfast. A slice of white toast, spread with margarine (an abomination) and some thin, sugary strawberry jam. At home I would have used butter, and my jam would have been either an expensive brand or, more likely, made by myself and intensely flavourful. Here, drinking some over stewed black coffee and munching away at this testament to blandness, I shocked myself by appreciating the very blandness itself. It wasn’t about beautiful simplicity in food, it was a sudden shift in my thinking from an almost religious belief that all food had to be purposefully wonderful. Now you could say this enjoyment of blandness was a byproduct of travelling, we all know that the McDonald’s breakfast you have at 5am in the airport is the best McDonald’s breakfast you’ll ever have. But it was more than that, and since returning home I’ve found myself enjoying food in a different way. Perhaps, the last snobbery of my upbringing has finally dropped off, or maybe I’m just a lame-o hipster. And of course, I’m still overthinking everything, but that’s what perfume people do. So, has this played out in perfume for me? Not as readily as with food, but there have been a few times my hostel breakfast has come to mind as I enjoy a scent.

Penhaligon’s Belgravia Chypre, a limited edition now making rounds of the discounters, has at its very heart a strange staleness. It’s pretty, clean and patchouli minty. A thin rose, it smells like old musk sticks left in the bottom of a paper bag. Musk sticks for the non-Antipodeans are pink, musk flavoured sweets that people are either delighted by or grimace at the sight of. Found in the corner shops for a few cents each, many an Australian childhood included buying this cheap candy and eating it out of little paper bags. Musk is a strange thing to use as a flavour if you haven’t grown up with it. In my perfume swapping days, I would often include some Musk flavoured Lifesavers as the “extras” in an overseas swap because it is such a surprising thing to try if you’ve never had it before. Belgravia Chypre dries down to a stale paper bag infused with the flattest of musks, and I absolutely love it. It’s become my favourite evening simple scent, when I want to wind down. It often makes me laugh because of that not very good musk note, and I would not wish it any other way. I think they were going for a sheer musk, but if they had achieved that, it would have lost all its personality for me and been just another musky rose.

Do you have any scents you appreciate for their failure to be exceptional?

 

Penhaligon's Belgravia Chypre

 

Penhalgion’s Belgravia Chypre (Fabrice Pellegrin, 2018)

Top Notes: Raspberry, Pink Pepper
Middle Notes: May Rose, Mate
Base Notes: Patchouli, Cistus labdanum

 

Image: my own

Zoologist Bee

Have you ever had a perfume note that was never center stage enough for you? A supporting note that warms, cools or brightens the star of the fragrance. You talk about how much you love the inclusion of that note, how wonderfully it is used! But the more you wear it the more you think: why can’t this note be the star? Always the bridesmaid, never the bride! In Zoologist Bee the main player is honey sodden beeswax, and all the floral attributes serve only to praise and fete the delightful waxiness.

I’ve found beeswax to be an elusive note in fragrance, I can remember only a few times being absolutely delighted by its presence. BPAL and Arcana perfume oils have scents with a beeswax note, but even while smearing on a generous amount of oil, I’ve always wanted it to be more intense. Penhalgion’s Sartorial has a waxy note designed to evoke the wax blocks used with thread by tailors, and I’ve huffed my arm trying to focus on those waxy, wonderful moments. I’ve found many honey perfumes are just sweetness without the wax, which doesn’t work for me. If you eat really excellent cold pressed honey, that wax note will be there.

When I was a child, my Dad would often bring home honeycomb, and I’d sit at the table spooning up great gobs of it, chewing away at the wax until only a tiny bit was left. Sometimes there was even a bee in the honeycomb! It was a far cry from squeezy bottles shaped like bears full of sugar syrup. Zoologist Bee is truly all about the bee and his creations. The floral notes capture that mouthwatering moment you try some fresh from the hive honey and marvel at how many flavours you can taste in it. Orange blossom, pollen, a resinous goodness, honey is a work of art. I’m honestly astonished to find all these beautiful tastes so vividly portrayed in this scent.

 

Zoologist Bee

 

Zoologist Bee (Cristiano Canali, 2019)

Top Notes: Orange, Ginger Syrup, Royal Jelly Accord

Middle Notes: Broom, Heliotrope, Mimosa, Orange Flower

Base Notes: Benzoin, Labdanum, Musks, Sandalwood, Tonka, Vanilla

Bee is quite linear. Potency gradually softening is the extent of the journey. And potent it is, no delicate wafting breeze here. This is a wonderful thing when beeswax is often only a bit player in a vanillic drydown. Is it too sweet? Is excellent honey too sweet? There’s your answer. It’s too sweet because it’s supposed to be. The only thing holding me back from acquiring a bottle is that I have yet to try Hiram Green‘s Slow Dive, another true beeswax and honey scent according to reviews. I’ve sniffed it once, and I suspect it is richer, while Bee is simpler. Both are very appealing, but I probably do not need two intensive honey and beeswax scents. I’m looking forward to our lockdown being over, someday, and being able to take myself off to the perfume shop and have a Slow Dive sniff.

And here’s an odd tidbit about Zoologist Bee. I have accidentally eaten some of this fragrance, and it tastes just like it smells! I honestly think you could make this into a liqueur or a gelato flavouring. This is not the first time I’ve accidentally eaten perfume, and usually it is a vile experience, so I was quite surprised.

 

Image: my own

Mancera Red Tobacco

TOBACCO. We’re not supposed to like it any more because it kills you. Perfume is one of the few places where you can say “tobacco,” and people swoon and discuss exactly what kind of tobacco it is. Pipe, cigar, a fresh rollie (that’s one for the Australian readers). I suspect that in one more generation these nuances will have to be explained as real life associations with tobacco become a thing of the past. That’s an interesting shift for perfumery. Many people are attracted to tobacco in perfume because of warm memories of a father or grandfather; the smell of their jacket, a well fed visit, a dog long passed at your feet.

The cost of cigarettes in Australia is nearly 40.00 for a pack of 30. The government raises the tax on all tobacco products 12.5% every year and the traditional “pack a day” smoker’s habit is a thing of the past. Teenagers no long stand around in clumps puffing away, their parents have long quit, and the scent of tobacco is something you will have to seek out, not have blown second hand all over you. This is, of course, a good thing. Though future perfumers may not be seeking to recreate their own memories, they will still be using tobacco in perfumery because tobacco is delicious.

I have always loved the smell. My dad had a pipe and cigar phase, and I was fascinated by both of them. Once, he let me puff his cigar. It was gross, but the blue smoke and the smell were fascinating. Pipe tobacco was even better . The enjoyment and study of tobacco in all its varying nuances and styles is a close cousin to perfume. While we may appreciate the smell of wine, it’s not designed to fill the air with its aroma the way tobacco and fragrance are. And so, in search of beauty without nicotine I’ve always put my hand up to try a fragrance with tobacco as a note. Most of the time I’ve found it elusive. Smothered by oud, reduced to being a sweet note for vetiver, serving only to brighten a leather and then fade. Shrill. An abstract painting titled Tobakkō. Nothing has ever smelled like burying your face into a fresh tobacco pouch until Mancera Red Tobacco. It has other things going on, but the tobacco note is rich and true, lasting from first spray to drydown.

 

Mancera Red Tobacco

 

Mancera Red Tobacco 2017

Top Notes: Saffron, Cinnamon, Incense, Nutmeg, White peach, Green apple, Nepalese oud

Middle Notes: Patchouli, Jasmine

Base Notes: Tobacco, Amber, Woody notes, Vetiver, Vanilla, White Musk

Red Tobacco is almost a gourmand: it’s so sweet, it makes me think “tobacco milkshake”. This may sound unappealing, but it’s an addictive scent, like tobacco itself. There is a brief fruity phase I’m not keen on, but that doesn’t last long. Saffron and patchouli are wonders here, macerated together like the filling of an exotic pastry. The cinnamon is an absolute joy paired with tobacco. I find myself fantasizing about cinnamon flavoured tobacco and tobacco flavoured spice mixes. And through it all the pungent, warm, appealing scent of a freshly opened pouch of tobacco dominates. Red Tobacco is not for the timid, it lasts all day, and I recommend you have just a wee spritz until your brain gets used to the potency. If you love it, you will love it deeply and be inhaling yourself for hours.

Oh, and yes, it goes very well with a nice whiskey!

 

Image: my own

Lush’s Gorilla Perfumes Tank Battle

How do we assign value to art? Is the value of a piece changed by the value of who offers an opinion on it?

Lush’s Gorilla Perfumes Tank Battle set out to tell a story of how a famous artist’s words imparted value to an outsider’s art. The art itself was the same before, during and after this event. What interested me in this story was that the perfume Tank Battle experienced the same transformation.

Tank Battle was inspired by the battle of Tachowa Covington to keep his home, a literal water tank. Mr. Covington had been living in an abandoned water tank above a Los Angeles highway for seven years, after arduously cleaning the rust inside and painting it. The exterior of the tank was an industrial piece of oversized scrap, left to crumble into the hillside. Dirty, overgrown and difficult to access, no one would have noticed it … until they went inside. Mr. Covington spent his seven years creating a lived-in art installation, packed with found objects plastered together into a bohemian masterpiece. Paintings, sketches and lyrics covered the walls. Every available space was something Mr. Covington had created. He might still be living there, but once he invited enough people and their cameras inside, the eyes of the local government fell upon him. The tank would have to go, living there violated all manner of bylaws, and Mr. Covington would have to leave. As Mr. Covington was not a man of means or influence, there seemed no way to halt the inevitable. Mr. Covington’s art was considered to have no real value and was irrelevant to those seeking the removal of the tank. And then everything changed. The famous and mysterious artist Banksy noticed the tank and decided to use the exterior as a canvas. “This looks like an elephant”, he wrote on the tank, simple words, boldly printed. Banksy’s fame and the monetary value of his works meant removing the tank needed to be discussed. There was a reprieve for a time, but eventually the tank was taken intact to be sold, valued for its exterior alone. The interior art was hauled away under duress by Mr. Covington, moved to a cave, a shed and eventually a tent to be damaged and lost by the weather.

* * *

Lush first launched their perfumes in 2003. They have their own lore and history and many devoted followers. There are perfume people who began their lifelong love of scent with Lush, moving from the soaps to the fragrances and then out into the world of perfume. But for many people Lush is a messy, adolescent looking shop and Lush’s perfumes are not on their radar. Lush, the soap people? If the perfumes smell like the shop, they must be terrible! Tank Battle was not on my radar until the eminent Luca Turin raved about it in Perfumes, The Guide, giving it 4 stars. And suddenly there it was, a remarkable scent. Mr. Turin opined over “the idea of pure brilliance” of combining geosomin and labdanum. And suddenly Tank Battle is being discussed not as a cheap indie scent you might enjoy but as an excellent fragrance.

This is a lot of waffle for a perfume review with not a single mention of what the perfume smells like. It really is quite unique. There’s a not too sweet bubblegum vapour that infuses it, incense, a bit of motor oil and fresh earth. It’s delicious and fantastical! If you were disappointed in Etat de Libre Orange‘s Encens et Bubblegum, this one might fill that need you didn’t know you had until you read the words “Encens et Bubblegum”. It’s a better blended, more vivid scent, and the drydown is very comforting. I would call it an incense gourmand, taking its place next to so many delicious vanillas that play with darker themes. If you’d like to read more about the fate of Tachowa Covington and his tank, this article will fill you in.

 

Lush Tank Battle

 

Tank Battle (2016)

Labdanum, Patchouli, Clove

These are the only notes given, I think a small sniff will show otherwise!

 

Image: my own (Photo taken in Hosier Lane, Melbourne, Australia, famous for its graffiti and found art. Here a googly eye discarded beer can cheer up the winter day.)

Portia and LE LION de CHANEL

Hello Crew,

We’ve had some excitement around here in Australia. The news breaks that CHANEL is releasing a new Les Exclusif, and only the Middle East are getting it. Dubai! Not even Paris by all reports. Oh CHANEL, how well you know us. Suddenly LE LION de CHANEL is hyped beyond the stratosphere. It’s this, it’s that, just wait, you’ll die, it’s their best offering since Coromandel, when can we get it? It’s been a long time since a release garnered so much interest, excitement and speculation. I was agog with lemmings.

The fact that the world has been going through trauma, we’ve been locked down, life has become a very small circle, yet we are attached by the computer & TV to everything that’s happening worldwide 24/7. Watching POC around the world with their friends, families and supporters marching for an equality long denied. Trans people being told, again, that they are not their gender (that doctors and psychologist have agreed they are), and that they deserve to be placed in the “OTHER” category, preferable far far away. A pandemic that threatens lives and livelihoods that no one can seem to get a handle on and that has different symptoms and virility in every person it touches.

We needed a ray of sunshine. 99 years on from the launch of CHANEL No 5. The perfume world has been given something to write home about.

LE LION de CHANEL 2020 by Olivier Polge

Parfumo gives these featured accords:
Top: Lemon, Bergamot
Heart: Labdanum, Madagascan vanilla
Base: Sandalwood, Patchouli

Imagine the love child of CHANEL Coromandel, Guerlain Shalimar and DIOR Mitzah.

The first day I tried LE LION de CHANEL there were a group of about eight perfumistas having our first get together since C19 lockdown. We all had a spritz within about a minute. Every person got a different enough ride that they could have been different perfumes. On some it read crunchy toffee, others got animal resins, there was smoky incense, creamy sandalwood, citrus gelato, caramel. For everyone the timings were different, the depth, warmth, heft and also interestingly, WE ALL LOVED IT! Not one person in the room was less than spellbound.

My personal ride goes something like this. A swirl of pine lime gelato. Labdanum rich amber with a distinctly animalic bent. Creamy sandalwood tempered by a vanilla rich amber that has strong hints of the crackly toffee on the top of a creme brûlée. All day I was getting wafts of the most incredible resinously sweet fragrance out of the blue, and I’d think it was someone walking ahead, on the bus or train or in the department store. NOPE! It was me. The life of the fragrance is unbelievable. I’m still smelling a lived in vanilla and humanity over 24 hours later after running around town all day yesterday and then sleeping till 11 am.

How did I get it? One of my buddies owns a perfume chain here in Australia. His family owns department stores in Dubai, and they are selling LE LION de CHANEL. My buddy saw an opportunity and jumped on it. He brought in as much from Dubai as he could, which wasn’t very much. Last time we spoke he was waiting on a second order. I grabbed two 200ml bottles, and another buddy Matt and I hosted a split. We sold 150ml in 10ml batches at our cost price plus decant bottles and postage from each bottle and kept what was left for ourselves. The spots sold out in less than an evening. That’s why my picture is of a 3/4 empty bottle already.

Have you a lemming?
Portia xx

 

Image: My own

Liquides Imaginaires Desert Suave

For a long time, I had paid no attention to the brand Liquides Imaginaires. There are so many new houses and they don’t all catch my eye. But one day a friendly sales assistant pointed them out in response to my looking at “masculine” scents. I told her I was not impressed by the bottles: I found their pillar likeness oddly off-putting. She was quick to explain that the perfumer was an architect,  the shape of the bottles was representative of fundamental principles of … I’m not really sure what. I have tried to research this architect angle but came up empty-handed. Though I felt zero attraction to the brand, I went home with a handful of samples; and now I own two bottles of Liquides Imaginaires because, damn, they were all varying degrees of excellent. But let me continue with my carping…

The name Desert Suave is so terrible to me I wince at the thought of someone asking what I’m wearing. It reads like google translate had its way with an excellent name in another language. If this had been a bottle covered in graffiti and maybe an animal paste-up (that’s a graffiti term for all you cool cats), then the name would have been ironic. But no, the pillars of serious architectural posturing are not being ironic. Let me assure you though that Desert Suave does smell like the fantasy oasis of the ad copy, perhaps the one Camel cigarettes wanted you to imagine, and it IS very suave. I’m pretty sure Lawrence of Arabia’s corner shop smells exactly like this. Desert Suave is overwhelmingly dates and dried fruit soaked in syrups and orange blossom water. It’s not particularly sweet because this is a not a dessert, it’s the raw ingredients of a dessert and perhaps some truly excellent naan. Cardamom is wonderfully present, as well as wafts of saffron. Apparently, Desert Suave has a toasted sesame seed note that I almost imagine I can smell.

Liquides Imaginaires Desert Suave

This is a very rich scent. Rich is such a beautiful perfume word, don’t you think? It’s different then “dense” or “luxurious” or “multi-layered”. There is not a lot of progression in Desert Suave, but 12 hours later I’m left with a sweet balsam that is most pleasing. I enjoy how literal this scent is, though it is going for a souk vibe, it is highly focused and never becomes just another oriental. There’s no oud or patchouli, just luminous warm resins, dates and dried fruit. If they had upped the cumin, it would have been skank heaven, but I found the cumin almost undetectable. Perhaps they could release a cumin soaked flanker, Desert Siren, so I could again be traumatized by the name but love everything inside the bottle.

I’ve been very happy with this house, and I’m going to continue exploring it, bottle dorkiness be damned!

Liquides Imaginaires Desert Suave (Quentin Bisch and Nisrine Grillie, 2018)

Top Notes: Indian cardamom, Italian mandarin, clove, cumin, black pepper, saffron
Middle Notes: African orange blossom, rose, geranium, date
Base Notes: Spanish cistus, toasted sesame seed, atlas cedarwood, musk

Image: my own

Ofactive Studio Flashback in New York OR Narth’s Time Traveling Adventure

City scents! I think we’ve all felt the attraction. Could this scent transport me to my beloved Marrakesh? Will it be the ultimate armchair travel to exotic places? I have my olfactory associations, whether real or imagined, but I’ve often been disappointed.

I laughed out loud when I tried Santa Maria Novella‘s Alba di Seoul. Perhaps the outskirts of Seoul smelled like this in the Joseon era, all conifers and freshness but Seoul smells absolutely nothing like that today. Does Kyoto really smell like sakura? No, because most varieties of cherry blossom have no scent, and those that do are very faint. But we now have a sakura note in perfume which oft times is just left of peony with a dash of jam. You can bet any fragrance with Kyoto in the name will either be an incense or a light, pretty thing featuring “sakura”, that magical Japanese word.

The first time I saw Olfactive Studio’s Flashback in New York, I was excited. I grew up in New York, and having left it a long time ago, the word “flashback” captures the impact of my olfactory memories perfectly. They’ve faded over the years, but there are some odd smells that make me intensely nostalgic. Bus fumes is one. I associate the smell with the Port Authority bus terminal, a dark and greasy cave of a place choking in diesel. The smell of bus fumes still makes me wildly happy and full of anticipation of traveling. I rarely smell buses where I live now, so these memories have never been replaced with new ones.

Olfactive Studio pairs each scent with a photograph. The photo for Flashback in New York is of the Chrysler building in a blizzard, very atmospheric, but with one sniff the scent flashed me right back to New York City in the high days of summer, a much more pungent season. Flashback in New York smells like fruity garbage, exhaust and the skunky weed that filled the air before the young ones turned marijuana into an art form. The cumin phase is nicely sweaty and I can almost feel the sooty sheen on my face again. My city of Melbourne, Australia does not smell like any of these things. I have not been back to New York City in many years, perhaps it smells very differently today.  I found Flashback in New York wonderfully evocative, a whole bunch of crazy memories flooded me (oh excuse me, flashbacked me) and continue to do so every time I wear it. I went through a sample, and I knew if I didn’t have a bottle I would dearly miss it. It’s the clearest olfactory place memory connected to perfume I’ve ever experienced.

Olfactive Studio Flashback in New York

I’m sure some of you are wondering why you would wear perfume described as fruity garbage and weed. Let me assure you they are my very personal notes, my memories. For you Flashback in New York might smell like clary sage and leather, smoke and saffron and a dose of cumin. The clary sage is dry, herbaceous and tweaks Flashback in New York into something quite interesting. Unlike many of the Olfactive Studio fragrances, this scent has good lasting power. Just like New York, it will make an impression.

Tell me about your favourite city perfumes, which ones really speak of the city to you!

Olfactive Studio Flashback in New York (Jerome Epinette, 2018)

Top Notes: cumin, clary sage, white linen, saffron
Middle Notes: violet, Tuscan leather, jasmine
Base Notes: birch smoke, papyrus, vetiver, tonka bean

Photos of New York City taken by teenage Narth