Tag Archives: Guerlain

888,246 Poppies, Time to Remember The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

Ceramic poppies at the Tower of London

One hundred years ago today, The British Empire, as we were, took the fateful decision to enter the conflict then ensnaring Europe.

The war that would come to be known as The Great War.

More than four years later, at the point of armistice, 888,246 men of that Empire had been killed, just one part of a horrible total of ten million soldiers sent to their death by the combatant nations combined. As though this were not tragedy enough, up to a further seven million civilians had perished of causes from starvation to fever, Zeppelin attack to war atrocity.

An unsatisfactory and unstable peace brought officially into being in 1919 at the Palace of Versailles would see the world consigned to return to all encompassing destruction within a generation.

The Great War would become the The First World War as a second conflict of even greater size and scale eclipsed a disaster that had seemed impossible to outdo.

What has perfume to do with all of this?

After all it is a trivial, ephemeral, petty plaything for the empty-headed. A poor cousin of fashion, a distant relation of interior design.

Nothing more and probably much less than olfactory decoration.

Not at all.

If scent is art, as I believe it is, then it has the ability to reflect the sentiment, the sense of an age whether that is destructive awful, or insatiably consumerist or unstoppably hedonist or all three, each because of the others.

And so it is with perhaps the most inspiring perfume there ever was, and is.

So, today, 100 years after that most ominous of political announcements I’m reprinting my review of the fragrance that makes me think most often…

Mitsouko Parfum

Half her world, or so it seemed, came to give their lives at Verdun.

But what she got, was given or perhaps took was freedom.

So if she chooses now to smell of petroleum and peach schnapps and drive cars and boats too fast, surely we can all understand a little why.

She parties hard, lives each day, they say as though it were her last on account of lives that did not fly, men who died in trenches to move lines on maps and bleed angry armies white.

Yesterday, ambulant driver, she scuttled back and forth through filth ferrying human shrapnel to medical ward ammunition dumps.

Today, she presses her foot down hard on every kind of accelerator, sprays on every sort of new scent, tries on every type of new sex, but nothing brings erasure.

About her person she still smells iodine and the moss that grew everywhere no matter how cold or wet or hot and dry or lonely it became.

Others fancy that the War will pass from memory, its greatness given up to greater sadnesses yet to come.

Its sorrow so it follows will be surrendered to gentler Orientals, when in desperate-to-forget dancehalls grass makes way for hay, bitter oranges for sweet ones and lilacs for irises.

But for her, with her name that recalls the other side of the world and its war, that future happiness will never happen.

Tomorrow will be as today is and yesterday was: a machine age tragedy in three acts played out over petroleum gas and peach schnapps.

Mitsouko is peerless.

It was the perfume to end all perfume.

And though it could not hope to be that, it remains the greatest of them all.

Some sniff it smells of automobile gas, others pretend to perceive only peaches.

Truthfully both parties are in part true. There is an essence of petrol in the stronger concentrations, but this is a kerosene to carry away souls not some dirty old diesel.

And the peach is the antithesis of soft, sugared, supermarket-sparkling clean soft fruit: it is an ageing momento mori too fleshy, flabby and fast on its way to mould to be too long of this world.

Then there is the moss, which is at once warm woodland floor and dank winter tree bark, which pervades every part of the composition giving lie to the idea of a flat Earth in fragrance.

The grass here is not green but dry and yellowing, the spices subtle yet, in the cinnamon especially, sometimes deceivingly strong: seeming to come and go from the scene.

Flowers play a very second fiddle, only lilacs catching the melody upon occasion to give mournful orchestration too the whole piece.

And quite an astonishing piece Mitsouko is: perfume’s first unquestionable masterpiece.

Talking of male and female here seems silly and frankly insulting.

Does Guernica have a gender?

Guernica II

 

 

On a personal note, dear friends, work on The Great War and other matters have been keeping The Dandy very much otherwise engaged of late. This is likely to be the case for a little while yet, though I will be contact by means of briefer, summer-friendly, image-led epistles in the very near future. 

On which note, the first image above, I should say, is of The Tower of London, where 888, 246 ceramic red poppies now swell the moat to commemorate those who gave their lives the conflict now passing into more remote history. 

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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A Dozen More Fragrant Reflections On Paris… The Perfumed Dandy’s Picture Postcards

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Sweetly Smelling Friends

More moments from my recent sojourn across la Manche.

And the aromas to match.

Empty Streets, Vivid With Colour

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Gold and Bright : Caron / Montaigne

Surprisingly Modern Gothic

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Smoke From The South : Comme des Garcons / Avignon

Open Mouthed, Green Door

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Drumbeat Knocker : Guerlain / Chamade

Flowers On A Window…

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Are They Geraniums? : Creations Monsieur Dior by Dior / Dioressence

Chandeliers, Balconies, Boudoirs and Love Affairs

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Consummative Kisses : Jul et Mad / Amour de Palazzo

The Gate To The Archives

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Key To The Past : Jardins d’Ecrivains / George

Pink Parisian Roses 

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Pale, Almost Without Smelling : Fragonard / Emilie

Palace Garden

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Brought From The Chateau : Sisley / Eau de Campagne

Modern Maghreb

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Marrakech Leather Souk : LT Piver / Cuir

Left Bank Child In A Labyrinth

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Juvenile Intellectual : Byredo / Baudelaire

Art Deco Temple

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Angular Aromaticals : Guerlain / Vega

The Opera In Bronze

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Music, Sculpture, Scent : Lanvin / Arpege

Too much to divert one.

Yet all paths seemed to lead to the same place.

Where? We shall find out in a flight of three scented letters this week.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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A Dozen Fragrant Reflections on Paris The Perfumed Dandy’s Picture Postcards

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Dearest Scented Ones

Before all memories of The City of Light slip from The Dandy‘s mind to be supplanted by other travels, some images, and aromas to recall the magical Gallic capital.

A Store Fit for a Distinguished Visitor

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Perfume for a (Naughty) Boy : Histoires de Parfums / 1740

Grand Green Interior

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Chartreuse Blast : Balmain / Vent Vert

Then We Talked Only of Red Clay

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Now It’s All Grass : Nez a Nez / Foret de Becharre

Stone Roses

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Slate Grey and Pink : Lyn Harris for M&S / La Rose

The Decadent Entrance

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That No One Forgets : Guerlain / Shalimar

Garden Square, Imperial Past

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Equatorial Imports : Coqui Coqui / Tobaco

The Stairway From So Many Scenes

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Old Romance In Black and White : Cartier / Baiser Vole

Arcade Contemplation

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Honey Coloured Thoughts : Maison Francis Kurkdjian / Absolue Pour le Soir

Exercise in Colour

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Sharp Lines : Jean Louis-Scherrer / Jean-Louis Scherrer

Extraordinary Procession

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All Human Life is Here : Etro / Royal Pavilion

Where Seurat’s Swimmers Swam

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Sadness in Blue : Hermes / Eau de Narcisse Bleu

An Inky Light

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As We Write, Longhand : Comme des Garcons / 2 Silver Words Comme des Garcons

That has set me trawling through the thoughts, more images will follow.

Then a puzzle… where did my voyages take me?

And what perfume, finally, did The Dandy purchase…?

Until tomorrow.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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Salty, scented air… The Perfumed Dandy’s Seaside Postcards

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Dearests

The Dandy has been away… again, I know, c’est trop…

In fact I’m only treading toes for a moment in old London town before I depart in the morning for The City of Light.

But before I head off across the Channel, a moment or two to share some images and scented impressions from a few days just past beside the waters at Brixham.

Azure Pool

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Sharp Cool : Shay & Blue / Sicilian Limes

The Ragged Rocks

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Stone White : Comme des Garcons / Odeur 53

Persistent Purple

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Rock Lilac : Balmain / Jolie Madame

Bright Boats Bobbing

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Insouciant Sailors : Worth / Je Reviens Couture

Stalwart at Slumber

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Seadog : James Heeley / Sel Marin

Cliff-top Flower Meadow Miss

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Gone With The Breeze : Guerlain / Flora Nymphea

Fierce Green

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Alive or Machine? : Robert Piguet / Futur

Flowers By The Sea

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Among The Herbs : Miller Harris / Fleurs de Sel

Night Swimmer

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Mysterious Skin : Hermes / Eau des Merveilles

Sunset Pilot

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Hitchcock Stranger : Guerlain / Vol de Nuit

A Paris with The Dandy maintenant.

When I return, in a touch over a week, a clutch of scented letters will be yours, plus a very special aromatic encounter with a new and wonderful novel and, I’m sure, a postcard or deux.

A bientot!

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

 

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Sapphire and steely… Chamade by Guerlain The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

Vogue cover greeen

That day, late spring, she wore a satin trenchcoat in a shade just north of turquoise blue.

Indigo jeans and silver shoes, and, under her heavy fringe, those same steely grey eyes that can see straight through a glassy lens to you.

When she looks in your direction, be it across a room, or out from a magazine, she breaks the rules: she watches you.

Vogue cover Penn

The observed becomes the observer: the unmoving girl in the photograph who holds your gaze no matter how you wriggle; the clotheshorse on the catwalk who stares you down every time you eye her hemline.

She won’t blink first. She’s frozen. Crystalline.

“She’s not a model, she’s a work of art.” Andy said, or would have done if he wasn’t already good as dead.

The hyacinths were past their prime when they came to take her away, the flowers’ scent, almost fermented, was at its strongest: sharp, high, piercing as one imagined her scream might be, except of course, she would never scream.

They rapped the door three times and hollered, got ready to barge it in: a show of strength for assembled tv crews no doubt.

But no one seizes her moment.

Vogue pink sunshine

They pull back to charge and just then in full maquillage she opens up the entrance way and steps out into the day, a feint smile on her plush flesh-toned lips, her horse-hair mane of chemical blond glistening in the newly golden sunshine, its rays dappled through the lilac tree to form a pool of light that serves as her spot, a pale pink rose in her buttonhole, a purple patent Kelly bag thrown across her arm.

She has been surveying them all the while on security, waiting to steal the scene with her entry.

The plan was always to become famous first, then notorious, to use cool and stardom as a cover for as long as possible and then make infamy the tool to spread the message.

The Officer in Charge isn’t.

Porcine and perspiring, his efforts after dishevelled police inspector chic wilt in her shade.

Confronted with his prey – beautiful, implacable, perfectly presented – he panics just a little, mumbles his way through the statement of arrest, wishing the media would melt.

She meets each camera’s gaze as she has a thousand times before. Showing no more emotion than if she were selling a Saint Laurent or parading a Prada.

Vogue lips and eye

She has no problem with hollowed out: devoid of care, devoid of remorse… emptiness is all the same. She does it electrically.

And, besides, she’s waiting.

A shot, muffled only by the proximity of the body it enters.

A thump, said body hitting the floor. Andy. Upstairs.

Confusion. Journalists and cameramen on the deck too. Some police begin to go inside, then hesitate, withdraw: waiting for his word.

“Hadn’t you better go up, there’s a man dying in there.” Her marquise diamond cut voice.

No concern at all. The practised, callous warmth of a thousand interviews. Pleasant, carefree, casual and deadly.

He gives the order to go inside.

She smiles.

“Stop!”

He screams: urgency and saliva ejaculating at all at once.

A hail of bullets like a drumroll ricochets through the house.

Vogue cover red

Andy’s jam now. That was always part of the plan too. That nothing should remain of the cold hand that created the scheme.

She’s all that’s left. Upright, flawless, ready for a close up, chaos all around her.

She could be here to sell you soap flakes or sell your country down the stream.

Everyone wonders if she’s wired, fears more surprises: death, an explosion, carnage.

She’s a swan. Gliding across the surface of their pond she’s just made choppy. Underneath she’s working overtime, her heart beats like a machine gun. This is how she imagines love must feel.

Vogue unspent summer

Head high, back straight: sense the invisible thread pulling the body into the vertical: that’s what they said in ballet school. She assumes her position, her poise, her pose.

She’s already ready, in the dock of public opinion and awaiting trial.

Only one possible verdict.

Guerlain-Chamade-Extrait

Chamade by Guerlain is a scent of international espionage.

The perfume of a spy: at turns sophisticated, razor sharp, ice cold, sensual, faux shy, sly and insinuating.

This is a fragrance never to be fobbed off or thought lightly of, it is an odour that means business, serious business: affairs of state and matters of import.

This is not a Bond Girl’s bombshell, it is a complex, subtle and strategic scent as impressive for its structure as it is awe-inspiring for its intelligence.

Diana Rigg as Mrs Emma Peel in The Avengers

The opening accord of aldehyde, galbanum and green is one of the most seriously cool and alluringly aloof in all perfumery.

It is froideur made fragrant.

Soon hyacinths, at that moment when they can no longer be tamed, intrude.

Their smell is overpowering, glamorous and artificially natural, lent kerosene power by the lingering chemical taint of that sparkling opening rocket blast burst.

There is a slow segue into softer florals: rose touched with lilac and muguet, yet the sharpness of the start, the hard-headedness of the hyacinth, the rasp of galbanum does not dissipate until we are well through the main part of the perfume’s heart.

Then a wonderful coup de theatre: everything turns from surface and sheen, steel and violent style to manicured, almost polite seduction: with a reveal the Guerlainade appears as if from nowhere, the wings perhaps.

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Slowly at first and then onto centre stage, a more balsamic than usual take on the house’s ‘superior crème brulee made aromatic genius’, treads the boards.

It’s as though the perfume knows that to win hearts as well as minds it must show a gentler side, some feather down cushions to mellow the angular geometry that has gone before.

A sympathetic appearance in the witness box and an appealing back story to get the remorseless criminal off the hook.

Though if this perfume were to be charged with ruthless, electric, sublime beauty then the answer must be guilty, guilty, guilty.

Chamade is that rare thing: a shimmering, transcendent scent of enduring, yet somehow untouchable, pleasure.

Chamade ad

Sometimes dismissed as a perfume of the middle rank, perhaps because it deceives simpler minds with its intended duplicities, this is a fragrance of the first order, an enigma within a mystery wrapped up in a miasma.

Glory in it before it gets too hot.

It’s good to be back.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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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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Is it even acceptable to receive scent…? The Perfumed Dandy’s Fragrant Forum

Friends, Fragrance Fiends, Lovers everywhere

These next twelve days , will, so a friend at one of the world’s very most famous department stores tells me, represent the most frenzied period of perfume buying of the entire year.

More scent will be sold than on all the advent days in the immediate run up to Christmas.

More bottles will be boxed, wrapped and dispatched than for all the birthdays in the year combined.

And for why?

Well, St Valentine’s, bien sur!

It is the doing of that old King of Hearts himself.

So this week a simple, well near simple question.

Do you like receiving scent as a gift?

Has The Dandy gone mad? I hear you ask in turn… for are we not all more than a little partial to perfume to say the least.

But consider this proposition…

How do you feel when someone buys you a scent unsolicited, as a surprise, that you haven’t chosen or at least advised on?

Ah! A little tougher now perhaps? Or perhaps not. Possibly we’re an easy going crowd, happy to have our senses tingled by the tastes of others…

Open to olfactory experiences from all directions!

Do tell. Do.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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Industrial Perfumes The Perfumed Dandy’s Unusual Weekend Break

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The Dandy was away at the weekend.

Though this time I found a succour in an unusual setting.

Not the countryside where I normally seek repose, but amongst the great rusting remnants of the original epoch of industrialisation.

To Manchester.

Cradle of the first wave of the factory age, which they tell us may now be coming to an end.

It’s viaducts, locks and piers, great mills and brick warehouses, unwanted freight railways and miles and miles of canals are the Roman ruins of the future scattered about us today.

If only we take the time to look…

Then it got me thinking, something I once read… could there be such a thin as Industrial Perfume?

Purple Under Sides

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Estee by Estee Lauder

Shop bought glamour for stolen kisses and unwise fumbles under the freeway flyover.

Oakmoss. Aldehydes. Coriander.

Steely hearts and unheard squeals.

Something Old, Something New

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Calandre by Paco Rabanne

Aluminium stiletto heels grind make up powders made of sacred glass into disco floors in warehouse clubs.

No one cares. They dance till dawn.

Hidden Green, Never Seen

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Futur by Robert Piguet

Antique idea of l’avenir that never came to pass.

Chartreuse no parts chlorophyll three parts chlorine.

Toxic temptation.

Flash car, fire escape...

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Mitsouko by Guerlain

Petroleum and decaying peach. The high life and the backstreet.

Perfectly tuned engine. Runs like a dream. Ride anything but smooth.

Castles In The Air

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Eau de Campagne by Sisley

Grab a bit of country air where you can find it.

Canalside, you can be lord of the manor, raise tomato plants and basil bushes.

View your lemon trees from castellated towers. Sundays only.

The Sea, Wholesale

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Womanity by Thierry Mugler

Crude humour. Blue joke.

Well told. Widely copied.

In questionable taste.

Games Without Frontiers

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Les Jeux sont Faits by Jovoy

Rum for Dad. Gin for Mum. Mother’s ruined already.

Heady, fruity cocktail consumed in a smoke filled bar.

Followed by a curry.

Saturday night on a production line.

Once More Under The Bridge, Dear Friends

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Higher by Dior

Merry on perry for the first time.

Electric shell suits fizzing static.

Zips slip easily, tongues entwine.

French kissing in a Northern style.

Printers’ Ink, Queen’s Cream

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M/Mink by Byredo

Liquid words with raw honey.

Crude oil of the mind.

Hot metal. Cool fumes.

An eclectic Monday to start a somewhat unusual week *he winks*.

Hope you like the snaps and scents.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

 

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An Old Acquaintance Ne’er Forgot… Parure by Guerlain The Perfumed Dandy’s Scent Today

New Year. Old Love.

This coolest of chypre roses was neglected in life and soon passed away.

Yet since Parure was discontinued demands for its return have grown to a clamour

So much so that in the recent poll of what The Dandy should wear on Christmas day this lost Guerlain classic tied in first place.

What better way than to start the new year proper with a piece of perfume history and something of a mystery!?!

Following its selection by your good selves, The Perfumed Dandy will now take a few days to deliberate and cogitate the merits and mischiefs of this fragrance fair or foul and will, in due course, provide his report on relations with the new discovery by means of a scented letter.

Another opportunity to place a new perfume on The Dandy‘s skin will arise with the next instalment of The Perfumed Dandy’s Hit Parade.

In the meantime if you would like to thrust forward a fragrance for future fame on The Hit Parade simply visit ‘Suggest and old scent or recommend a new one’ and leave your suggestion there.

Have an especially fragrant day.

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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