Tag Archives: Chanel

Sculpture and scent…. The Perfumed Dandy Picks Fragrant Pairings for Chihuly

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Sounds a little like a tongue twister that title, no?

Thank you for all your magnificent olfactory recommendations for aromas to match Mr Chihuly’s creations.

Here are some thoughts of The Dandy‘s

Blue

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Red Danders, Night Club , Nineties

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Animal

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Amber

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Green Anemone

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Head of Narcissus

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Chandeliers

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Lights At The Odeon

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Vessels

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Writhing Smoke

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Medusa

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The Kick Inside

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Hyacinth

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Period.

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Departure in Glass

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Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, just occasionally, scents were paired with sculptures?

They do it with music… a string quartet here a jazz band there.

Why not a flacon, a bottle or atomizer to keep the noses amused?

Do tell what you thought of my humble offerings.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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Unsatisfactory engagements… Coco Noir by Chanel The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

“For Chrissake don’t put your elbows on the bar!”

Chrissy catches the articulations of Claire’s arms in the palms of her hands, cupping them centimetres from the sticky surface below, just before they make contact.

“That counter’s as tacky as fly paper” she says.


“And you’ve no idea who or what’s been on it.”

Claire is crestfallen to have been interrupted in mid-performance of her favourite expression of exasperation: elbows plonked onto whatever object, table, shelf, bed, bar, presents itself before her; face flopped into tulip-ed hands, fringe forward, eyes wide, lashes fluttering occasionally.

It is a look she fancies gives her the air of a gamine sixties pop starlet: a singing Twiggy or the English Francoise Hardy.

Sadly this is a delusion she has carried around at least the last two decades, for in reality she began by looking like a petulant schoolgirl protesting to be allowed stay out an hour later and now resembles a prematurely ageing trophy wife angling for a new kitchen.

Chrissy crosses herself for harbouring such malevolent, ungenerous thoughts, even if they are a good deal more than half true.

“Why the hell are we meeting here anyway?” moans Claire in an upwardly inflected whine that is the aural equivalent of the recently aborted head-flop.

Intended to be youthful insouciance all charming and cool, it is plain irritating and anachronistic on a woman of nearly forty.

“Can mannerisms be described as mutton dressed as lamb?” Chrissy wonders to herself.

Why are they here?

Claire is pre-occupied, as ever, with her phone: tweeting or texting or mailing or participating in whatever new activity she’s found this week and finds preferable to actually engaging with the world, the person, in front of her.

Why are they here, in this creepy basement Soho bar, near where they used to work together a dozen years ago?

Why does this place still exist with its outmoded list of once chic twists on classic cocktails, its black décor lacquered with human sweat, spilt drinks, tears, broken emotions and other human secretions?

Why are they still friends?

Outside it’s Spring.

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Bright, too-white-to-be-Summer sunshine is illuminating pretty girls in this seasons stand out colour coats and encouraging advertising boys who have been working on their bodies all Winter in gyms to roll up sleeves and remove jackets to show hard curves under fitted shirts.

In here it is perpetual Autumn. A twilight world where overgrown adolescents pretend after a youth they are not yet prepared to admit they have lost.

Lost boys and girls listening to music from seventeen or more years ago, sipping sugary solutions that were once edgy and are now no more than safe.

Freelancers playing hooky from careers that never truly came into being. Well dressed, almost well paid, just comfortable enough to be prepared to ignore to pain: things just aren’t everything they’d hoped for.

Things aren’t anything like they’d hoped for.

Why are they here?

“She’s here!”

Claire, sees her first, rises from her stool and snaps Samantha on her phone as she descends the stairs.

They all air kiss.

“I’ll post it” she says referring to the image on the glowing screen.

“After I’ve done some work on it, of course.”

Chrissy just feels sick as they order three dirty martinis and get ready to talk about old times.

Coco Noir by Chanel is a truly pathetic perfume.

Worse than that, it is a downright depressing smell.

Devoid of ambition, imagination, flair, flamboyance, elan, emotion, wit, style or substance it is a cynical, puerile, joyless piece of olfactory junk.

This is a lowest common denominator fragrance by numbers.

To offer a description is almost to flatter it.

Linear and, in terms of projection, strong.

It lasts a long, long time.

Sweet, cheap, fruity, patchouli, plastic balsamic with cellophane bagged spices.

References abound to other past ‘triumphs’ from the House of Chanel, all post No. 19, of course.

Yet they are in-jokes, self-parodies almost, painful self-inflicted pastiches.

Really, why did they bother?

Can’t Chanel do any better?

When did they last do any better in the mainstream?

Not a happy experience, and to my mind no pleasure, guilty or otherwise at all, The Dandy genuinely couldn’t wait to get it off my skin.

That said, after a short break for ho-hum reasons, it is so very good to be back again.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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Hollywood Roses: Vickie, Betty and… L’Interdit by Givenchy The Perfumed Dandy’s Happy Birthday Festival of Flowers

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Today, dear friends, we celebrate four roses:

Three human, one scent. all fragrant!

The first is photographed above.

This is her public image (borrowed or real we cannot say).

She is the simply too beguiling Vickie Lester purveyor of archival and antique images from the silver screen machine at her internet emporium the equally Beguiling Hollywood.

Do take a peek there we promise it’s most awfully good.

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Quite apart from the magnificence of her web domain, we celebrate Ms Lester’s upcoming publication of her work of fiction…

It’s In His Kiss

…many pages of which have been previewed to our delight on said wonderful site.

Oh yes, and Vickie’s celebrating a birthday too, so The Dandy does hope she’s settling down to tea and cakes (plural) just about now!.

As those of you who are regulars here will know, it’s not often that The Dandy takes a moment to highlight an un-perfumed personality. But really Ms Lester (and her real life self) are truly something special.

A rose the midst of the thorny business that calls itself show!

Which brings us to my second pick:

Betty White.

Why? Why not!?!

After all, how many people born before Chanel No 5 was publicly available still have a flourishing career?

How many stars have been so versatile, from presenting six hour live television shows six days a week to immortalising women of an age previously almost invisible in film and tv?

For being an icon of self-effacing, self-amused, determined dignity she’s an eternal Rose, but let’s not forget for nearly twenty years previous she was, with Lorne Greene in tow, the television queen of Pasadena’s Rose Parade too:

But where’s the scent today Mr Dandy dear?

I hear you holler.

Stop right now, that kind of screaming is strictly…

For it is the perfume that Hubert Givenchy de Givenchy wanted to name after his muse and the world’s favourite gamine star but was forbidden by Audrey Hepburn from doing so, thus giving the fragrance its monicker.

A floral aldehyde starting crisply: metallic as the snap fast of a handbag clasp, a seque into fruit cocktail rose made up with iris powder, a dry down into sweet sandalwood, talcum musk and the merest hint of grass and salt and earth.

L’Interdit is the very epitome of middle last century chic.

Refined, reserved, starched: a work of crafted artifice.

Like Hepburn in Hubert by Avedon.

Roses all.

Perfumed and perfectly delectable.

Happy Birthday our very own Hedda!

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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What to get for…? Liu by Guerlain The Perfumed Dandy’s 12 Days Before Christmas Part I

Born wealthy and gasp-inducingly beautiful she is, naturally, a difficult woman to buy a gift for.

From a distance, at a champagne reception gleefully devouring mini crème brulee canapes, she might be mistaken for a cousin, maybe two.

She shares their sparkling eyes and effervescent conversation, stage whispered between slightly parted pearlescent teeth.

But beneath the fizzing small talk and latest fashions she runs to greater depths.

She is less likely to cut a dash on the social pages, has no ambition be a couturier’s muse.

At the opera she doesn’t take a box, but can be found on the balcony amongst her musicologist friends.

She is happiest here, analysing the soprano’s coloratura technique, dissecting the dense prose of a nouveau roman or hunting down meaning in a vast abstract expressionist blur.

On a personal level some, most people, find her spikey.

Her razor sharp mind, mildly acid tongue and brutal directness is not to metropolitan high society’s taste.

She lacks manners they say, missing that what she has in quantities is grace.

Presents though, are a problem.

She is a likely as not to dismiss a diamond ring as ‘porn star bling’, return or send to charity unwanted silk scarves, the marks she says of ‘grand bourgeois conformity’.

The thought, you see, as always, is the thing.

So from six weeks out you begin to worry, with a fortnight to go you find yourself approaching mild panic.

For she’s not too grand or contemporary or unconventional to accept a token of affection at this time of year.

She expects it, sets up an annual ritual of exchange, makes of it a tournament of the interpersonal talents.

Who knows the other best? Who can read the other’s desires perhaps better than they can read their own?

Who loves who most?

It is a high takes game. She knows it, thrills in it.

If you had the money some Van Gogh irises would do, except you haven’t and she’s already set to inherit two.

A first edition of someone French and middle century would suit, but she’d end up donating it to a public library so it could go on show or better still be auctioned to buy hundreds of books more decidedly lower brow.

Jewellery? No.

Why buy her dresses when she’s happy in her relatives worn once cast offs?

A holiday?

She once asked “why would anyone want to take a break from their life if they actually enjoyed it?”

Then, some lucky Friday, a memory comes clattering like a subway train into your suburban station mind.

A smell.

The smell.

The scent of her mother.

She came from the same country as all those testing books, translated everything silently, internally to the language of Collete, Robbe-Grillet and Duras.

She had the aroma of a woman who had grown up in perfume.

Layer upon layer of fragrant complexity.

Depths exceeded only by her personality.

Why had she to die so soon?

Salt and pepper haired in an immaculately laundered white cotton shirt, tailored indigo jeans and burgundy patent brogues the parfumeur is not what you expected.

He has the air of a contemporary artist scrubbed up for a private view.

Earnest and almost scientific he approaches her apartment with an attitude composed of reverence and exacting curiosity in equal part.

He notices the roses left to dry in a baccarat vase on a book shelf, the well-used kitchen its refrigerator full of fresh herbs, rosemary to the fore.

He draws a finger across an antique amber dish and inhales the dust that collects there.

“Are there photographs?” he asks, innocent of the inevitable torture of the words.

If you had thought, for just one moment you could have found back copies of fashionable magazines of a few decades ago, scanned images of her radiant face peering out from gallery shows and gala nights.

You didn’t think.

The thought is everything.

It’s thought that counts.

Of course you know where the private family shots are. In a side drawer in the bureau in the bedroom.

Such an intrusion.

In the balance you weigh whether such an attack might be borne, the heavy price for a truly personal perfume.

The tiny key turns stiffly in the centuries old lock.

You hand him the bundle tied with a crimson ribbon.

The artist’s eyes follow every contour of her face, the cut of each dress, the angle of her smile, the curls of her hair.

Nothing betrays his thoughts, no flicker, grimace or raised brow.

Finally, after what feels like a feature film’s worth of time, he lifts the photographs to his nose and then returns them.

In turn you replace them, still unsure of your Faustian pact.

“It will take a month” he says unemotionally.

“But that leaves no time for me to try it before.”

“A month.”

In the end you elect for a plain flacon.

The Lalique bottle would have been too much.

Besides what a shame if she decided to smash such a thing of beauty.

So here it is, a simple glass cylinder in an unremarkable black box.

After making love, an uncommonly quiet city in the background, and a breakfast of scrambled eggs on buttered brioche toast, the moment arrives.

Your two hands outstretched like a Japanese assistant proffering an exquisite purchase, she accepts the package.

She opens the box.

Unscrews the cap.

Sprays the scent first into the air then onto her wrist.

Silence hisses.

A tear wells in her left eye.

“Maman”

She slaps your face, right side, hard.

For the first time you catch a little of the scent.

Perfection.

A pause.

“I forgive you.” She says.

Then…

“I saw. You left the ribbon untied.”

Liu by Guerlain is an elegant, unshowy aristocrat of a perfume.

It is a scent in possession of a certain near perfection born of impeccable breeding.

An apocryphal story has it that Jacques Guerlain and Ernest Beaux set each other a friendly rivals’ challenge. The man from Chanel would create an ape of Shalimar, while Jacques would formulate a fragrance to match the formidable No. 5.


Only the winning perfume would be available for public consumption.

Liu triumphed.

Whether this tale has any foundation in actual fact is largely irrelevant, it is, aesthetically speaking, the truth.

While it would be fantastically simplistic to describe this composition as a straightforward cross between Chanel No. 5 and the original Shalimar, there are undoubtedly strong elements of both in its lineage.

The opening is all aldehydes of the sparkling Champagne (no Prosecco please) variety. It is an expression of such opulence and self-confidence that even the familiarity of nearly ninety years leaves the pleasure of it undiminished.

What follows though is surprising, not the customary floral explosion or even a civet-driven walk on the animalic wild side. Instead, though not the full accord, we are presented a pared down version of the house’s eponymous luxuriantly enveloping vanilla signature: what I might call a ‘Guerlainette’.

The interplay between fizzing modernity and plush comfort is quite entrancing and would be enough to sustain most scents, for Liu though, it is merely a stage.

Next, the florals arrive: desiccated rose petals, dusted with iris and darkened with oakmosss (really, the last of these notes is not listed but there’s at least an allusion to it there).

Then an herbal twist, rosemary is prominent, but I sense too a bouquet garni that includes other savoury elements made slightly indistinct by a composition as fantastically complicated as Duchess’s family tree.

Then the ‘Guerlainette’ returns, then the initial fizz bursts forth again.

The impression of each of these many twists and turns is entrancing, but taken individually these moments, though awe-inspiring, do not encompass the majesty of the work of art as a whole.

The individual parts of Liu are superior to most modern perfumes, yet they are but movements in a symphony of scent.

Acts in an olfactory opera

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This is a perfume to give to a woman, or a man, who has everything.

Happy first day before Christmas.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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Memories stored away… Coromondel by Chanel The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

A small city surrounded by wild countryside and coasts.

Outside the music store Autumn turns to Winter.

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In its window the all year around promise of prospective presents massed within.

I am eight, perhaps nine, it is an indeterminate Saturday in the interminably long weeks between a birthday and Christmas, a day about to be made distinct in memory.

I have been brought to peruse the selection at this specialist supplier of stringed instruments.

We have arrived, after an apparently epic journey, on a day as wet and unwanted as a discarded handkerchief, cool but not cold enough for snow. Our old car’s windows are misted by hot breath and my mother’s rose perfume.

We park just across the street so that everything can be seen as we wait for the rain to stop.

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With my sleeve I swab away the condensation from the glass pane on the passenger’s side and perceive the name: Polge & Co. and the words that ring excitement out of my slight still-young spine: violins, violas, cellos, double bass.

We make a run for it.

The door rings open with a high melodious chime.

Inside, I am in a rhapsody.

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Rails and rails of naked unstrung maple and spruce bodies await my passionate gaze..

Too soon though my open-mouthed awe is disturbed.

The owner: sharp featured despite his age, grey hair down to the shoulders and a black polo neck up to his chin, raises a mug emblazoned with an engraving of Beethoven I recognise from text books.

‘Welcome’ he half sings half shrugs.

I catch a draft of the medical citrus and honey of the hot cold remedy he is sipping, and something else that smells a little like a spirit cabinet.

The doors to this other sense now opened a swathe of scent descends on me.

Everywhere the smell of wood, the spice of bright varnish and most of all the resinous sweetness of treatments for bows: blocks and blocks of near transparent rosin lined up in row upon row grace a glass cabinet.

These semi-precious pre-stones glow in the soft tungsten light but are a barrier between me and the ultimate objects of my fantasy.

A hand upon my shoulder. The shopkeeper is knelt by my side.

‘And what are we looking for today, Sir?‘ I hear the smile in his voice and breathing in partake his prickly dark perfume, that now, in age, I know to have been patchouli.

‘He wants a fiddle!’ my mother laughs, gently mocking my absent grandfather’s turn of phrase and, unintentionally, her own innocence.

The next minutes, maybe ten, maybe twenty, forty an hour even, pass by as if a single moment. A symphony of sincere salesmanship and the faltering first steps of an eager nascent connoisseur.

The deal is done before the negotiations have even begun. I turn around with a flourish and hold the instrument first aloft then tight to my chest.

My mother is at the counter, sipping coffee with the ‘&Co.’ owner who has emerged , from the secrets of the backroom beyond.

Even my child”s eyes see he is young and handsome, all dishevelled in a cloud of incense and what I’ll learn at college is cannabis smoke.

He calls me over, winking above my head at his long haired lover.

He hands me a mug, this one has Mozart on and is filled with milk and honey.

He smiles and reveals from behind his back a conjurer’s clenched fist.

He turns and unravels it to reveal a white chocolate mouse and raises his eyebrows in silent invitation.

I look up and my mother nods happy consent.

I taste the creamed vanilla in the air before the morsel arrives in my mouth.

Then another fist appears.

It unwraps itself and unveils a second sweet rodent.

With aplomb and a tiny splash that sounds ‘plop’ it drops into my drink.

I wait for it to sink and melt before I take a swig.

I sit and drink and smell, small and observant.

Three Magi, first with warm musky felt, then fuchsia tissue and finally waxed brown paper wrap my new musical joy.

A freshly minted case must wait for another winter.

Drawing up ready for our departure I inflate my lungs and fill them with the last breaths of the owners’ and the store’s aromas.

The door opens with the same tuneful peel. My brown paper package in hand I ache anxiously for Christmas morning so that I may open my prize and play this scented song again.

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I feel no cold, no rain, though the weather has not changed.

Chanel’s Coromandel is as melodious and soft as sweet music.

A swift and citrus allegro opening of orange and neroli quickly negotiates into a second movement mostly played andante.

Here sweeping string section notes of vanilla, benzoin and incense are prevented from becoming sickly by brief interludes of a pizzicato patchouli, an accord that will eventually form part of a darkly honeyed harmony.

And whilst in dry down this smells more of imaginary bitter white hot chocolate than anything else, the quality of the ingredients, a strong backbone of hardwood and the skill of the their blending ensures that this is more refined music emporium than corner shop or candy store.

Two parts gourmand, three resin, tree and herb this is a nostalgic, near-edible memory made scent.

Yes, something of a white chocolate madeleine moment.

Unisex? Undoubtedly.

Wearable? Oh yes. On high days and holidays to make up for a warmth the weather lacks and when in the mood to remember.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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Aide de camp… Cuir de Russie by Chanel The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

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He is an angular officer of the Tsar’s cavalry mounted on the back of a black thoroughbred horse.

Worldy, sensual, rough and exotic.

Yet at once, so you like to imagine, he has his vulnerabilities.

Imperceptible to others, he offers you, you fancy, glimpses of tenderness, hints at a struggle within vast and unending as the Russian Steppes themselves.

He is hide: black, burnished, animal and unclean.

He is not the polite, precise, bridled up leather of French equipage: a decorative saddle or bag fit only for fops on manicured ponies.

He is military leather, hardened by battle and burned birch.

A boot of a man, impervious to the elements and sentiment, unyielding and unconscious of compromise.

But wait, something does indeed reside beneath that apparently impenetrable surface.

With St Petersburg and the unconquerable splendour of Empire so too must come the soft underbelly. The Caucuses, the conquered kingdoms of Mohammedans, Cossacks and Stans.

A stolen kiss deposited at the back of his neck finds it redolent of the souk: cardamom, the charcoal burner of the water pipe and its sweet and flavoured tobacco, a slow cooking stew of meats and fruits and spices.

Retrace his steps. In your mind retrace his steps.

Travel through the bazaar of boots and belts and bags, cured to disguise from whence they came. Beyond the army supplier’s oleaginous smiles and eternal deals, without the Medina’s walls: here resides the truth.

The Tannery.

It’s filth, it’s excretia, it’s putrefaction. Its peerless beauty.

The inevitable and unbearable pain that brings forth such beauty.

And it is all too much amongst the stink of the skins.

He raises a pomade of flowers and bergamot to his nose, hoping hopelessly to ward off the evil.

Spinning on sculpted heal, turning his back on what actually is, he lights an old pipe with Spanish tobacco and departs in search of solace, anonymous sex and narcotic amnesia.

He will be yours for a moment, an hour, a day perhaps.

Then the next he will be another woman’s, another man’s and then another’s.

And so it goes on, inevitably, the decline into dust.

He is the angular officer of the Tsar’s cavalry mounted on the back of a black thoroughbred horse that every man and every woman wants to be or be with.

Cuir de Russie, even in its current, tamed, “dressage” form is an epic among the cuir class of scents.

Smoky, spicy, dirty, animal, burnt, hurt, floral, haunting.

This is perhaps the most anthropomorphic fragrance ever created.

A portrait in perfume of a leather-clad lover from the last days of imperial Russia.

A hopeless, joyous, pyrrhic but not-at-all pointless passion.

Perverse passion.

As with every aristocrat of a declining Empire, this officer is open to offers from anyone… at the right price.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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All the fun of the fair… Last of the Summer Scents Part II An Essay in Fragrances and Photographs

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A public holiday in London today… the last one of the Summer.

The last one in fact until Winter is with us and we celebrate Christmas.

So what better way to go out than with a bang, a whoop, a scream, a whirl and a whoosh of steam?

The whoosh in fact of Carter’s Steam Fair which took up it’s customary place on ‘the East End’s lungs’: Victoria Park today.

Do enjoy the colours, and a few perfumed proposals, some serious, some just fragrant fun… just like the fair itself.

The Swing Carousel

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The Spitfire

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The Motorcycle Carousel

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The Dodgems

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Ice Cream Van

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The Octopus

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Candy Floss?

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The Shooting Gallery

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The Motorcar Carousel

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Cuddly Toy Prizes

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The Coconut Shy

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The Grand Carousel

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So there we have it… a few scented snaps.

I wonder whether all the connections are evident?

Perhaps some are a little puzzling.

But then The Dandy does like a riddle…

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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Summer’s lease… Cristalle by Chanel The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

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Before the warm season ends, seize the chance.

Throw open shutters for soon they will be closed against the sadder colder months.

Let sunlight in.

Squinting in brilliance perceive a sea of lemon trees: leaves waxy, elliptical fruit vivid in their summer coats.

Pause to take in clear air still sharp with morning’s first coolness.

A crisp white cotton shirt on yesterday’s browned skin will guard against today’s rays.

Descend stairs and enter a world beyond the darkness within.

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A garden.

Here dew-dusted wild grasses are balm to life-sore, care worn feet and high, cultured hyacinths kiss breezes that caress a face that once turned from the wind.

A peerless note of Jasmine rises like a song from your host.

Working in the grove, she thins the crop to ensure a sweeter, more bountiful harvest and treats deciduous mosses cruelly to keep them from claiming too much ground.

You walk into the middlemost part of the citrus forest to be alone with sunlight, fruit, wood, flower, grass.

To be alone with sunlight.

To be alone.

To be.

Cristalle is the cleanest, purest and, perhaps, most piercing of the fragrances from the house of Chanel.

Like the atomically ordered masses from which it takes its name, it is easy to perceive, its lines clear and sharp, its heart transparent, legible.

So much Sicilian lemon and citrus bergamot to start, then hyacinth and the characteristic ‘Chanel Jasmine’ as recognisable in its own way as the ‘Guerlainade’.

Wild grasses and cut wood follow, then bark and moss compete with the higher notes that, on my skin at least, are never quite ready to let go.

It may be that over-familiarity with this journey from fruit to flower to stem and soil has made it contemptible to us.

And yet in this shimmering semi-precious gem of a perfume the classic narrative is magically rendered.

This is a real life fairytale of a fragrance.

Not gooey and hopelessly Hollywood saccharine, but sharp, taut and in the best possible way very Brothers Grimm.
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Be sure not to disregard this Mediterranean marvel, to do so would be a great disservice both to it and to yourself.

For days when a clear head and a good conscience are required, this fragrance, be you man or woman, is a wonderful tonic.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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