Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Perfumed Dandy’s Sunday Scent… Aqua Allegoria Anisia Bella by Guerlain 

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Well, what passes for a heatwave in these parts has taken us by surprise today.

Twenty six degrees Celsius (I did day a heat wave in these parts!!) and almost unbroken sunshine.

It had your Dearest Dandy out and about enjoying physical exercises of all manners.

What to wear in this weather though? Apart from some rather fetching powder pink short trousers and mint green short sleeve shirt that is…

In the end I settled on this rather splendid scent, a near decade old sometime feature of Guerlain‘s pared back fragrance line.

Aqua Allegoria Anisia Bella.

Too often anise is mixed up with too much of the unrelated liquorice and a whole lot of sugar to create candy store scents that can be cloying to say the least.

Not so here, instead we are offered a green and even moderately sharp rendition of the white flowering star that is both palate cleansing and heat assuaging.

As the initial bite of the prima donna herb subsides, a cast of light florals and mainly greens: a full cassis note and brisk basil, seem to take turns centre stage in an intriguing olfactory version of a modern ballet, all technical verve and puzzling narrative.

This is a perfume The Dandy can imagine many people finding less than pleasant: brisk at the beginning, decidedly cool throughout and with rather an independence of mind.

However, it is precisely these air-conditioned and unpredictable qualities that I find so refreshing on a day that passes for the height of summer in London.

Oh, before I leave you, a quick aside…. these new “Dandy Picks” on a Sunday are to become a new “thing” here.

From next week on The Dandy will be highlighting a perfume of my own picking each week that has caught mine nose.

The emphasis will be on newer scents and the works of smaller and independent line… and I can assure you we will be starting with a right royal treat!!

So I do hope so to see you all on Sundays in the future for a few surprises!

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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The Perfumed Dandy’s Post Cards from The Big Apple… Part One: Times Square and South

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New York is a great big buzzing blur.

After the imperial splendour of Washington DC this vast, vivid, hot, exciting, diverse, dirty, crazy, beautiful city is a smack across the face.

It’s a gutsy gust of sweaty smelling-salts pouring forth under Marilyn’s skirt from a subway vent.

Here are a few photographic impressions… Why not put forward some fragrant thoughts to go with them?

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My goodness, The Dandy‘s feet are sore just thinking of all that shoe leather worn out walking those streets!

So it’s all for the best if I put my pins up and think up some scented suggestions to with these snaps tomorrow!!

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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A garden fit for Isabel… Portrait of a Lady by Frederic Malle The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter 

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At the Regent’s Park in London, nestled below the Primrose Hill where flowers no longer grow.

Between the slight lake, ornamental bridge and ‘alpine’ blooms of a Japanese landscape, near the proper boxed-in beauty of Italian avenues there lies a rose garden.

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Here, between late May and mid September, thirty thousand stems of four hundred different families compete each year in fragrant floral battle.

They are called ‘Song and Dance’, ‘Mountbatten’, ‘Radox Bouquet’, ‘Darcy Bussel’

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…after Broadway shows, royal relatives, soap sud-ed relaxation and retired young ballerinas.

All summer they spread their scents and crowd each other out: corollas inevitably bigger, bolder and more carelessly beautiful than before.

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Join me now at this first flowering’s end, after a downpour has broken the uncommon heat, and in an humidity that humbles.

The flowers have begun their sweet decay. And the thirty thousand’s innumerable thousands of petals are distilled by a climate we despair of into nature’s perfume.

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So many notes in this massed choir and yet they reach a harmony, and sing, if not with one voice, then in a a single accord.

Rose.

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The emotions of the blooming months so quickly passing by pass through my mind: summer fruits and festivals. incense burnt against insects, harvests preserved with cloves and cinnamon and spices in jams, chutneys, pickles: all to warm cold winter.

This is water to ward off long dark nights.

A sketch of nature’s most seductive daughter: Summer.

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Portrait of a Lady is as simple as a rose garden made scent.

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It may carry the notes of various varieties and species, but ultimately they unite to form a fragrance that is pitch perfect.

There are summer fruits here too, crushed raspberries and blackcurrants, their juice released directly onto the prying fingers that try to pick them.

Incense comes and goes and is as much sweet benzoin, spice and sandalwood as it is smoke. It never shouts down the floral heart of the perfume that is so attractive and enduring.

If English Rose is a Lady, this scent is a Royal Duchess, or at least an accurate and charming picture of her.

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But never forget the rose is also the symbol of England itself and no Englishman, indeed no man of any country, should be embarrassed to wear the bloom in his buttonhole and the scent next to his skin.

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Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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Personal reflection… Private Collection by Estee Lauder The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

IMG_20130625_214130 The fragrance of an unforgotten lost friendship.

Of an affair, a life even, left unfinished. IMG_20130625_141230 Some think her distant, cold, uncaring.

You see on that sad day she failed to make any public declaration of her despair, would not permit sugar sweet eulogies to eviscerate the general agony. IMG_20130625_140756 She held and holds herself with dignity and finds herself in turn held in contempt by those who require outpourings of overdone emotion.

They should regard her now, trimming back nettles that have overgrown the grave where her husband lies. IMG_20130625_140922 She visits him regularly but infrequently, scared, not of the nettles’ stings, which are sharp and sudden and suddenly gone, but of the lasting unbalmable burn of loss, as keenly felt now as when he died.

From their cellophane sheath she pulls forth flowers.

Mainly chrysanthemums.

He adored chrysanthemums.

His father grew them in his garden and they reminded him of him.

She wishes it were otherwise, but they remind her only of death. His death.

Where she has unsettled the soil with her effort to hold back nature, the Earth gives forth a bitter scent of itself: of moss and old decaying wood. IMG_20130625_232322 The smell mingles unhappily with the hue of hyacinths and roses, feeble concessions amongst the bouquet to future pleasures indefinitely postponed.

She has started to cry as she knew she would, as she always does.

Gathering together the effects of mourning she returns to the car. Here in salty slightly sweet air that holds gentle sandalwood in it she looks across at his resting place. IMG_20130625_155542 Her tears continue to fall and rain starts from the heavens. IMG_20130625_221251 A scent of solitary sorrow, Estee Lauder’s Private Collection is perfume of private grief and almost immeasurable melancholy.

It takes a green note and makes of it a chord of pure blue.

Marrying nettles and lawn grass with oak moss and earth to achieve a cool, reserved opening of remarkable detached intensity.

What follows is a wall of floral sound.

Most distinct within it the voice of the greenest flower: chrysanthemum. And whilst this is mellowed in time with roses and hyacinth and perhaps a little jasmine, one is never too far away from stalks and leaves and thorns. IMG_20130625_221112 As though the scent senses that all might be about to topple over into melodrama, it seems quite suddenly to steady itself.

Well into dry down it dabs the tears from its eyes and composes a dignified departure of wood, spice and a little musk that feels like dust.

A forbidding but inevitable and immense journey that will ultimately be taken by men and women alike. IMG_20130625_220436

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy. The Perfumed Dandy

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Of farewells and not forgotten… Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part Five : Washington DC

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Our final day in DC coincides with the great return to work.

Memorial Weekend over, we decide to see the memorials themselves, hoping that they will have been shorn the attendant crowds that have flowed all holiday from them like curls from  the head of abundantly haired child.

Yet at the mouth of the narrow entrance to the  Vietnam War Memorial a line has formed even at this early hour of the day.

People wait in relative quiet to file past the shining polished stone with the names of the nearly sixty thousand men, all the dead recorded are men save eight women added after the wall was originally built, inscribed carefully in a sans serif font.

Saddest perhaps are those leafing through the books of names, great telephone directory like lists, looking up the location of inscriptions of people known to them, if not personally then through memory or family connection.

I feel this place deserves a scent, as The Great War Cemeteries of Northern France and Flanders smell of perpetually fresh cut grass and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier carries a feint hint of the gas that keeps the undimmed flame forever alight.

But there is nothing.

Nothing except a sort of anti-smell composed of the cellophane that wraps commemorative flowers too tightly to allow anything of their aroma to escape and the neutral void of over-washed and too neat children dressed in what would in an earlier age be termed their Sunday best.

My memory reshapes around funerals, the interments that many of the deceased remembered here would be denied, and of the flowers that accompany them.

Chrysanthemums.

Chrysanthemums coming flooding into my mind.

Like the great wave of these greenest of flowers that is Estee Lauder’s Private Collection.

Originally intended as a perfume solely for the great lady’s own use, like grief it was initially regarded as too personal for mass consumption.

But over time fallen soldiers and fragrances, it would appear, become everybody’s property.

As I am disgorged at the memorial’s end, I begin to walk away when a young woman, an enthusiastic intern in turns out, grasps my arm. She is working for CBS Radio and would like to know my thoughts, no ‘my feelings’ about what I have just seen.

I mumble a few words about being deeply moved and as I am speaking realise how many men and women there are in uniform all around and how America can sometimes feel like a nation still in arms.

As this realisation dawns, I find myself truly moved, understanding the connection that a country with almost one and a half million military personnel must feel towards its lost and missing in action and the many that face the same fate every day.

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One thing I have wondered at throughout my time in Washington DC is how few churches there are.

The National Cathedral I learn from a map is set apart in parkland someway off from Downtown.

Instead the city is dominated by great pagan temples, dedicated not to gods but men and in a style borrowed from Imperial not Papal Rome.

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The Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials are the greatest of these neo-classical conundrums.

One to remember the man who’s ideas formed the constitution, the other the President who waged a war and lost his life so that the privileges of that constitution could be made available to all men.

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These are places meant to inspire awe and assert America’s importance, in this they succeed in the way one imagines The Forum did when it was complete and functioning and not the ramshackle tourist highway it is today.

The sacred elements of both shrines are the words on the walls, the constitutional pronouncements on the ones the great address on the others.

The profanity is the subtle air of idolatry that lingers in the presence of such massively produced statues of men who were merely Presidents.

These are settings fit only for human not holy sacrements, and so Caron’s Parfum Sacre Intense, a mix of mountains of spice and myrrh, seems a suitable scent to accompany whatever theatricals need to be enacted here to keep the myth alive.

Right up next to the Potomac River, across from Arlington Cemetery, the massive marble slab of The Kennedy Centre, is like an enormous and immovable tombstone resting on its side.

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Its blank modernity is simply too much, too impersonal to remember a far too personable President by.

This block, an audition piece for an interplanetary parliament if ever one is to be built, says nothing of the man who lived in the White House with his young family, his back pain, his mistresses or of the tragedy of that dark day in Dallas.

As a monument it fails for it can never depose from our minds the images of Kennedy’s assassination or especially his funeral.

Jackie veiled, gloved, immaculate in black.

John John in powder blue, saluting the coffin.

The jasmine and animal smell of his mother’s Joy by Patou floating on the air.

The perfume that was once the most expensive in the world worn by the woman who would find solace in the arms of the one of the world’s richest men.

How distant they seem now, as far away as Guinevere and Arthur and the knights of the first Camelot.

How much closer, if not in time then in temperament, the touchingly low key memorial to FDR seems to today’s world.

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Here he is, with his frailty and four legged friend, amongst his words that speak so practically of justice and of real enemies abroad and poverty at home.

Here too is Eleanor, recognised in her own right for her own achievements.

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The first First Lady, but not the last, to hold high office of her own.

I can hear her words being spoken so distinctively:

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

And I dream a carpet of lilies of valley, beautiful on the banks of the tidal basin and the sweet, innocent smell of muguet to mind me on my way. Caron’s soap supreme Mugueut to Bonheur to be precise. The perfume that was her favourite.

It is time to go.

A taxi ride across town to a railway station based on the Baths of Diolcetian conflated with the Arch of Constantine into an epic and enduring gesture.

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Here between incredible columns and beneath vast vaults, I contemplate….

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Why are arrivals always in outrageous technicolor , whilst departing is in invariably merely monochrome?

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Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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Of jungles and joy in Arcadia Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part Four : Washington DC

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The National Gallery of Art is perhaps the most perfect example of the American neo-classical, not just in The Smithsonian, but anywhere in Washington, perhaps even America.

Its collection of paintings is exquisite.

It has a depth and range that few museums anywhere could even begin to aspire to. And unlike say, le Louvre, or even el Prado, its scale is determinedly human. A wing need not exhaust one if approached early and with care.

For The Dandy this treasure chest contained some very special pictures he had his heart set on seeing.

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Henri Rousseau the self taught tax clerk turned post impressionist par excellence, created some of the most outlandishly decorative paintings ever committed to canvas.

His naive shapes in bold yellows reds and especially greens combine to create urban jungles of a distinctly inviting kind. Here lions dance, tigers pounce and apes of all sorts go amiably about their business.

Kenzo’s Jungle l’Elephant is the perfect match for Rousseau’s Parisian rain forests.

Not only for it  too seeks  to summon up the spirit of great beasts, but because it is as well sort of innocent art comprising of vast bold gestures… too much spice at the opening a sumptuous superfluity of vanilla throughout.

Of course there is another fragrance that has had me calling for the Rousseaus before, I even borrowed one when describing Cacharel’s Eden

But that is another story…

Irises and sunflowers are the blooms most associated with Van Goch.

Perhaps because of their ever presence in prints I have always wanted to see his roses.

And here they were.

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In a room devoid of people a profusion of delicate white petals over brimming a simple stoneware jug.

The artist’s triumph to make a daring composition and the approximate figuration of the flowers seem, if not real, then entirely authentic.

No one could accuse Dominique Ropion’s Potrait of a Lady for Frederic Malle of being any the less artful or truthful than Vincent’s still life.

This is scent as tableaux vivant, a shimmering rendition of many roses mixed together in heavy early summer air thick with soft fruit, green shrub and light incense.

Sublime and transportive like the novel that inspired it and the art it echoes.

And I had come to the Gallery in search of an echo.

The mirror of one of my very most favourite pictures.

Fragonard’s Girl On A Swing lives in the precious Wallace Collection in London, but here in Washington on a vast canvas was another girl on a another swing by the same artist…

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Unlike her naughtier European cousin, thrusting herself skywards to give her suitor a better view of whatever lies under her endless petticoats, this innocent American is slicing through the air for her own playful and pre-sexual enjoyment.

A female friend and a small boy are her attendants, exchanging a flurry of flower petals with her. For a moment I fancy them to be the white roses of the room before decapitated from their thorny stems and made make believe confetti.

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Then I have a change of heart and my mind settles on the idea that they are tiny muguet.

And the scent that embodies her lacivious London relative will do for this jeune fille too.

For Dior’s Diorissimo is both innocence and experience, sacred childhood and profane youth.

It is the daintiest sexiest scent that one could ever hope to smell.

The quietness of Washington’s National Gallery sets it apart from the many other great museums I have visited.

Perhaps I was lucky to visit on a holiday that does not attract art lovers, but rather those who have come to remember their loved ones.Whatever the reason, the sense of stillness and peace was overwhelming for one such as I so used to Europe’s sardines in a can temples of art.

The luxury of being in a room alone with twenty great paintings is impossible to overstate.

Again, fantasies of being that railroad magnate tout seul with his private collection return.

The splendour of the Gallery’s winter gardens do nothing to dissipate my delusions of grandeur.

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Resting here on cushioned wrought iron furniture redolent of the orangery or conservatory of some stately home, I mold my musings to a more conceivable dream.

I am in the palm court of a great hotel, afternoon tea is about to be served, I am meeting friends and acquaintances as is our want of a Sunday to exchange witticisms and gifts of our own new poems and publications.

The air is weighed down with the aroma of the luxurious leather luggage that porters steer silently around us, the smell of tea sweetened with syrups and honeys and the light floral fragrance of the vast arrangements that adorn the lobby.

In short the fragrance is Van Cleef and Arpels opulent Midnight in Paris a perfume that some men find too feminine and most women would not think to wear but which is, in fact, pitch perfect for either sex.

I realise quite quickly that I could rest here in my reverie all afternoon, but there are other sights to be seen and I here the call of Congress bidding me to climb Capitol Hill.

Here I enter the fairytale Italian palace that is The Library of Congress.

A palazzo that owes its existence to two remarkable sleights of hand.

The first by a librarian who convinced a reluctant legislature that it should have the right to a copy every book published in the nation, and only when they had agreed in statute, reminded them that they would need a place to keep them all.

The second by an architect who interpreted a brief that stipulated “no unnecessary ornamentation” to mean that every conceivable decorative mode was “entirely necessary” when building the greatest library since Alexandria.

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Bless them both, for they conspired to deliver us a divine space of study and contemplation.

An almost holy home for America’s mountainous collections of the printed word.

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The Dandy feels at home here. My life is spent when not with scent in libraries and so their hushed tones and near silent rituals are as comforting to me as is the liturgy to a man of the cloth.

People often describe perfumes as smelling of old books, when in fact they mean relatively new books: volumes printed in the last hundred years. The real thing, tomes of two centuries or more in age, have no uniform smell, glues and papers and bindings all being so different.

Many will resonate of  hides of their jackets, others of dark undefinable dust. Most commonly though in my experience, incense or even tobacco smoke are the nearest synonyms to the scent of old pages.

Tabacco Toscano Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is perhaps the sweetest and most sincere tobacco fragrance that there is. It sits close to the skin unobtrusively itself, forming not a self-conscious scent but more an environment.

Honestly, this is The Dandy‘s natural habitat.

It is therefore with hesitation and much reluctance that I depart back into the bright sunshine to be greeted with a view that would have made Roman Emperors blush with humility.

Across the massive piazza The Capitol resides like the ultimate palace of a people’s Empire.

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Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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Of Andy Warhol, Art and Imperium Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part Three : Washington DC

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The seemingly endless curve of the circular exterior wall of the Hirshhorn Museum is broken here and there with radial partitions, creating segment-like rooms that conceal surprises.

Entering one such space I find myself face to face with the grand master of Pop Art, a floating torso against a black void rendered in brilliant white and lurid pink paint Andy Warhol appears a dark angel of death.

Staring into his grey eyes it is impossible to put aside thoughts of his technicolor on steroid screen prints of icons from Queen Elizabeth to Elizabeth Taylor by way of Liza Minelli and David Bowie.

Equally, images of his notorious electric chair and car crash series invade the consciousness.

But what perfume would the world’s shyest egomaniac wear?

Of course Bond No 9 have asserted their retrospective right to him releasing a whole range of fragrances alluding to his life, his work, his NYC, none of which, despite their likability, alights on the spirit or the sensibility of the man.

Parfums Andy Warhol too for all their blunt use of their namesake’s most famous works as product packaging, miss the point.

After all Andy preferred to turn packaging into art not vice versa.

So I will choose instead a fragrance I have read filled the air at Studio 54, the New York club that I always feel, after the Factory, to be the master’s natural habitat.

Halston for Woman as was: it goes by different names today and has been endlessly diluted and the composition occasionally disturbed.

Yet in every variation from the genius of the original to the bordering on generic of the contemporary, this is the most bone dry of floral chypres ever to have donned a gold lamme jump suit and stack heals to grace an underlit dancefloor.

Are we still in Washington? Is that Bianca Jagger on a horse?

Perspex discs arranged in improbable suspensions and Sol le Witt’s over bright disco light wall-sized paintings only serve to add to the night club vibe.

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I am sure if music had started to play like Pavlov’s discotheque dog I would have begun to sway rythmically and to worry about last dances, looking cool and getting all my apparel back at the coat check.

As we leave the Hirshhorn, the stuff of coat check dreams appears…

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How I wish I could have taken home from any club of any sort at any time Yayoi Kusama‘s bronzed, rose embroidered manteau, rather than my own affair, no matter how dapper it might have been.

It’s meticulous craftsmanship and eloquent opulence call for a powerfully elegant and self-possessed perfume to go with it.

The baroque intensity of Chanel’s Coco tempts for a moment, then Serge Luten’s Sa Majeste la rose seems perfect.

But reflecting on Kusama’s troubled existence, an uncalm rose seems the only thing, and the medieval splendour of Paco Rabanne’s la Nuit the only one that could possibly do this warrior of the heart’s armour justice.

The National Botanical Gardens

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Outside the air has warmed to an improbable early afternoon high of near ninety degrees.

Of course the logical thing would have been to seek out air conditioning and art once again, but mad dogs and Welsh men go out in the midday sun and so we amble on to the most unlooked for treasure of our trip.

Tucked away in a corner at The Capitol Hill end of The National Mall, The National Botanical Garden is a diminutive delight both inside and out its ornamental glasshouses.

Here plants unfamiliar and familiar-looking but with new and unfamiliar names jostle for our attention in a ready made riot of colours and non-colours.

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Who knew grey petals could be so beautiful?

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One plot of botanical beauties has me rhapsodising once again on space travel, for surely they cannot be of this world…

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Their elongated alien forms exploding here and there into fronds and antenna-like extrusions are the stuff of science fiction fantasy, and yet they sit here quite happily before me bustling up against one another in the breeze in their busy bed.

Immediately Norell by Norell comes to mind.

A now nearly lost vision of the future from a point some point in the middle part of the last century, it is the perfect scent to accompany these tiny Trifids, who sadly have no smell to call their own.

Its hyperspace hyacinth, bright green nettle-like laser beam heart and nuclear charged pepper fired carnation are just perfect for these Star Trek saplings.

Looking above the flowers and into the distance, the most unusual of all the domes that surmount this city comes into sight.

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Like a parliament of an ancient nation or world, the organic form of the angle avoiding National Museum of the American Indian is as inviting and enveloping as a mother’s arms.

Walking towards the sunshine the smell of woodsmoke is on my mind.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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Of Angels, Art and Imperium Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part Two : Washington DC

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Standing tall in the middle of The National Mall, covered in scaffolding, the great obelisk of The Washington Memorial looks like nothing more than a neo-classical space rocket readying for take off.

In the heat and the brilliant sunshine it is easy to imagine being a member of the vast crowds gathered at Kennedy Space Center, waiting for an Apollo to blast off into orbit and onwards to the moon.

To cut through the heat, the tension, the smell of high grade carbon fuel and recapture a certain part of that space age hope of ’69, the icy futuristic cool of galbanum at the heart of Guerlain‘s often-sleighted Chamade seems just perfect.

Best of all, the parfum bottle, at least in The Dandy‘s imagination, is a space vessel that looks capable of travel at many times the speed of light.

The Freer Gallery of Art

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Across on The Other Side from The White House beyond Washington’s Rocket, The Freer, a less visited gem of the Smithsonian is just opening.

We enter through heavy luxurious doors, weighed down with fittings that would not be out of place on the portes of the palaces of haute couture in Paris.

The cool interior, lit by shards of sunshine from skylights high above smells softly of blossom from the courtyard garden I see sitting beyond the equally impressive bronze framed french windows just ahead.

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“You’re the first ones in…” the elderly, deep voiced guard calls half wearily half cheerily and without rising from his chair as we walk past his expansive desk.

Then for what feels like half an hour or more are alone with the art, except for a docent here and there keeping a watchful eye on us as we progress though galleries of Whistler, Asian Art, the famous Peacock Room imported whole from London.

Now I find myself fancying myself a self made railroad millionaire turned connoisseur, travelling the world to bring back precious artefacts to show off in my own art gallery.

In my alternate tycoon’s existence a sharply defined self confidence and sharper suits, my sense of style and awareness of my own power dictate a brisk, bright cutting and animal scent, one that will one day do for a President cut down in his prime.

Caswell Massey’s Jockey Club has been compared with the legendary holy grail of perfumery Coty’s Chypre, sadly I cannot attest to this never having smelt the latter, but that women and men with a taste for a robust piercing sort of smell would do worse than turn to this cologne.

The objects here are lustrous to the point of sensuality.

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The art sufficiently sensuous to evoke an abstract and undefinable sexuality.

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Thomas Wilmer Dewing‘s almost absent women wandering through landscapes that are not even nearly there evoke a sense of otherworldliness, at odds with the sumptuous paraphenlia of royalty, wealth and collecting that populate the other rooms.

As a scent Jour d’Hermes stands as just such a contrast, in its case to the fruit and patchouli and honey and chocolate overabundance of so many contemporary fragrances made for a female audience.

Its sparsity to me is spacious.

Its measured tone translating as a welcome meditation on the nature of perfume.

The Hirshhorn

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Outside, we ready ourselves for contemporary art in the manicured sculpture garden of the cylindrical mass that is the Hirshhorn Museum.

In a tiered rectangle of green, furnished with flowers and shrubs, Barry Flannagan’s outsized hares leap from behind trees, The Burghers of Calais contemplate their terrible sacrifice and an Henry Moore slumbers quietly in a corner.

There is an air of undeniable serenity here.

Bronze against green grass, glistening steel against blue sky.

There is stillness at once with movement.

Shapes form and reform beneath the serene surface of Etro‘s beautifully crafted Palais Jamais, a perfume that contains a story so great it was made a novel about a great hotel.

‘Are chypres the natural scents of sculpture?’  whisper as we enter the Star Trek style museum and await the onslaught of the modern.

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Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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Of Angels, Art and Imperium Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part One : Washington DC

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Some impressions of a city that impressed us much more than we could have expected.

Important and self-important all at once, fitted out in wall to wall marble punctuated by red velvet ropes and heavy curtains.

A Capitol and Capital of Imperial Proportions, like a vast movie set Rome in elongated letterbox Cinemascope: inflated and stretched almost to the horizon and absurdity.

And yet, and yet at once quite profoundly beautiful, marked out everywhere by memorials for lost souls and past presidents.

And the Art so much of it and all around and so very, very good…

1. The Hotel

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The place is vast, as American hotels seem to be.

The lobby long enough to accommodate a golf range if so chose it.

Apparently the Inauguration Ball for newly sworn in Presidents is held here. They must do something right as two have chosen to stay while their own abode was being fixed up.

The fixtures here are something very special, harking back to an age in which gold leaf was elegant rather than merely gauche.

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That peculiar rams head motif on each side of the patriarch’s broad face reminds us how much like rutting goats politicians are: so obstinate and unnecessarily aggressive, and with invariably voracious appetites (for food, for fame, for fornication) .

I reflect on the neo-classical surroundings, the pomp, the powerful people who have been here, their presidential or even imperial ambitions and can think of only one perfume…

Van Cleef and Arpels Tsar.

I wonder if anyone wears this egocentric aromatic fougere extraordinaire any more?

Then a thought occurs: if… when a woman occupies The White House, as anything other than a First Lady, will she be allowed to break perfume rules as well as glass ceilings?

Could she where a fougere herself?

Tauer Perfumes 04 Reverie au Jardin?

Its creamy coniferousness, its resinous, iris and lavender could usher in an entirely new type of perfumed executive power.

2. That House

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Of course the place is terribly grand.

But not ostentatiously so.

It’s nothing that could outshine the megalomaniac follies of the magnates who made their fortunes on the vast continent in the nineteenth and America’s century, the twentieth.

Just modest enough, in fact, to remind the inhabitant that the Commander in Chief is ultimately meant to be a servant  and not master of the people.

So the President may not have anything approaching absolute power, but he is still allowed his toys.

The whirring of helicopters the whole time in Washington bears testament to this.

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On this occasion at least, so the policewoman told me, it was  The Man.

Creating a whirlwind off to visit the victims of a real storm in Oklahoma.

Helicopters, an infrequent sight in London save for the military and police, are synonymous in my mind with war.

With war in Vietnam in particular.

The cinema that retells that conflict has fixed this association.

Helicopters, ‘Apocalypse’ and Wagner.

Strangely, I begin to ponder whether there was a perfume like Worth’s Je Reviens that sweethearts wore to remember their far away soldiers in the sixties and seventies. Or a scent like Shalimar by Guerlain than men brought back as a gift.

Then I reflect that there were no couture houses in Saigon, no Chanel or Guerlain boutiques in Hanoi.

Perhaps the perfume the women left back home wore depended more on their political persuasion than fashion.

Jane Fonda and protesters in patchouli oil smelling as rough and ready as le labo’s 24.

Marine wives holding it together in Avon, or No.5.

A decade later it would have been easy, Estee Lauder’s White Linen.

3. Angels in Leather

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The hum of choppers comes and goes, but the first part of Memorial Weekend is accompanied by the constant roar of engines.

Harleys mainly, but other American motorcycles too.

Men, who when they were considered or were counter cultural, were called Hell’s Angels have descended on the Capital.

From across the Continent they have come on thousand mile sponsored rides to remember the POWs and MIAs as their banners, fluttering along side stars and stripes, proclaim.

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The machines all around smell of petrol and polish, of gasoline and grime-defying sheen.

The men, almost invariably men, that drive them smell of gas, and sweat and unusually of sweet fruity sodas they drink all day through straws from the enormous buckets of sugary liquid they carry around with them.

Only one scent comes to mind.

That of the first mechanised war.

The perfume of petrol and peaches that is The Great Fragrance of the end of The Great War.

The war that was supposed to end all wars but didn’t.

The faded photographs and photocopies of lost brothers, friends and perhaps lovers show that.

All attached with sellotape and tender care to mudguards and windshields of shining machines.

The unmistakable smell of Mitsouko is in my nose and on my mind as we turn and walk towards The National Mall and the formal memorials…

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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The Perfumed Dandy’s Surprise Scent… Private Collection by Estee Lauder 

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Memories are an odd thing aren’t they?

Even those of the happiest times can seem bitter sweet.

So it has been sorting through my snaps of Washington DC.

On reflection it seems a city almost haunted by the past, by lost hopes of optimistic futures and many, many lost lives.

Perhaps it was because I was there over the Memorial Weekend.

Memorial weekend in a Capital of Memorials.

More of that later.

But what perfume can encapsulate this sense of commemoration?

For The Dandy, nothing expresses remembrance better than Estee Lauder‘s contemplation in green chrysanthemum, Private Collection.

So the photograph above of some of the same reflective flowers with the scent on my bedroom windowsill seems just right.

Until later today.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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