The Greatest Perfumes Never Made – Bulgakov The Master and Margarita

Recently I started re-reading Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. This masterpiece novel had left so many visual impressions on me, that I wanted to visit them to put them back in the right order so to speak. The book seems to be made out of images, one stronger than the next; Behemot the speaking, gun carrying and chandelier swinging cat, Satan himself in the disguise as ‘professor’ Woland, a ‘magician’, the naked broom-riding Margarita as the Master’s mistress, Pontius Pilate and Yeshua a Notsri (as themselves). There’s even a short cameo for the atheist head of the literary circle called Berlioz, which makes me think of the ‘programme’ symphony, Symphonie Fantastique by that composer, which ends with a 5th movement called “Songe d’un Nuit du Sabbath” (Dream of a night at the Sabbath).


I shall not attempt at a summary, (I was personally sold to this book by the thought of a speaking cat), but the main story lines are that of Woland and his gang creating a mayhem in 1930s Moscow, that of Pontius Pilate and the trial of Yeshua a Nostri, and that of Margarita flying off to Walpurgis night and ultimately succeeding in being rejoined with ‘the Master’.

There are a few passages of scent, but to me by far the strongest is the start of the second chapter, when Pontius Pilate is suffering a terrible migraine, and describes the smells around him.

“In a white cloak with a blood-red lining, with the shuffling gait of a cavalryman, early in the morning of the fourteenth day of the spring month of Nisan, there emerged into the covered colonnade between the two wings of the palace of Herod the Great the Procurator of Judaea, Pontius Pilate. More than anything else on earth the Procurator hated the smell of attar of roses, and the omens for the day ahead were bad, for that smell had been haunting the Procurator since dawn. It seemed to the Procurator that the smell of roses was being emitted by the cypresses and palms in the garden, and that mingling with the smell of his escort’s leather accoutrements and sweat was an accursed waft of roses.image
From the wings at the rear of the palace that quartered the Twelfth Lightning Legion’s First Cohort, which had come to Yershalaim with the Procurator, a puff of smoke carried across the upper court of the garden into the colonnade, and with this rather acrid smoke, which testified to the fact that the cooks in the centuries had started preparing dinner, was mingling still that same heavy odour of roses.
“O gods, gods, why do you punish me?… No, there’s no doubt, this is it, it again, the invincible, terrible sickness… hemicrania, when half my head is aching… there are no remedies for it, no salvation whatsoever… I’ll try keeping my head still…”
Cypresses, palm leaves, leather, metal, sweat, smoke and above all; roses.
After my many attempt at finding the right rose, I feel that with perhaps exchanging sweat for warm animalics, this could be the foundation for rather a great dark rose.
A link here for the 5th movement of Symfonie Fantastique
pics mine, The Master and Margarita excerpt in the translation of Hugh Aplin.

A Rose (by any other name) – Or et Noir Caron (1949) modern extrait version

After searching high and low for my rose fragrance, I finally found it in Or et Noir*.

Caron has done several rose-centric perfumes, and I must confess that the lack of availability has made me unable to smell the ones which actually carry ‘rose’ in their name. Parfum Sacre and even Nuit de Noël are also amongst the ones mentioned when the talk is of ‘dark’ rose perfumes, however for me, as much as I love them both, they are neither that dark (more cosy in my book) nor strictly rose focused enough to be called rose-perfumes. Or et Noir is what the others aren’t, it’s both a rose perfume and deserving of the black name. (How often can you say that about a perfume called something with Noir? – Coco, Sensuous, Crystal et al) Knowing of its own worth, it was even deemed unnecessary to name it after its prime ingredient, the queen of flowers.

Starting off with fiercely high-strung metal, and thorns to draw blood, Or et Noir makes sure you do not mistake its rose for ‘pretty’. imageIn fact, to me it’s exactly its bright sharpness which makes it dark. The best way to describe it would be to compare it to another Caron classic, Narcisse Noir, where the ‘noir’ is more about the poisonous pull than about any typically ‘dark- notes’. In the same way the gold metal is also the black, as if it was a tattoo of a dagger through a dark rose.

It’s as if there’s some magnetic rejection between the lemony metallic scent of the geranium and the green slightly sour deep red rose. Different twists on similar scentsations vie for attention, and only as the rose wins the battle over the geranium, does it allow itself to soften up, open its petals and become a huge single rose attracting rays of golden sun and honeybees alike.

As the sun loses its power, a carnation starts casting its peppery shadow over the Caron rose, until completely covered, and the rose takes on the same dark hue as the carnation itself. Together they darken, sweeten and wither until mossy earth peeks through. I’ve seen people mention amber, but this is no amber rose dry down, this is a rose with all imaginable hues of darkness and light, gold and black. Or et Noir.


“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.” Nietzsche.


*A huge thank you to dear STC <3


Or et Noir was made in 1949 by perfumer Michel Morsetti. I own a large decant from TPC. Pictures are mine.



Musketeers – Aramis (1964) and Balenciaga Portos (1980)

Ivanhoe, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Musketeers. I must admit I loved watching the old costume movies and still am partial to any re-remake.

imageThough an avid reader, I never bothered reading any of these, surely in this case part of the (guilty) pleasure is in watching handsome bearded men in leather suits playing cloak and dagger.

Leather, men and musk is what it’s about today. I’ll start with the beast that is Aramis (in its current formula), so unashamed masculine, that I have no trouble seeing the musketeer straight off his horse from battle. The opening is herbs and there’s cumin, and then there’s some more cumin, perhaps you take cumin with that? I was pretty choked that in this combination for once the cumin doesn’t at all remind me of Chicken Jalfrezi take-away, it actually smells ‘masculine’, like fresh sweat from someone you like. (As opposed to stale sweat from someone you really don’t like!)image It’s in the company of wormwood and leather that cumin becomes more of a handsome French musketeer, than a Barbarian (Musc) Koublai Khan. Also consider, which Khan would have added a little green freshness and jasmine? Yes, in Aramis it’s all there, ending on soft bed sheets of (an uncanningly deep and authentic smelling) oak moss and musk.

I struggle to call it animalic because it’s more about human skin and testosterone than any animal I can think of. Even the warmth it exudes is something which spells more Musketeer than Musk deer to me. It says: “just a kiss”, but don’t believe a word Aramis says.

While I wouldn’t put it past women to wear this, it would probably be the equivalent of men wearing Vintage Rochas Femme ( pre the cumin stuff that is ’89). On anyone who can wear Aramis, I bet it smells sensational.

Notes: artemisia, bergamot, cinnamon, gardenia, pelargonium, patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood, leather, oakmoss, amber (from fragrantica)

Portos EdC, was first introduced to me by a lovely Italian perfumista. A much overlooked fragrance which is no longer in production but can still be found online. imagePortos is much prettier than his fellow musketeer and much more obviously unisex. Wormwood, bergamot and especially geranium makes for a floral and lively opening. The absinthian mixes with minty-rose softness and becomes bittersweet, a little Dandyesque perhaps. As the opening wears of, a smooth leather and castoreum (beaver) becomes more evident. The base is rooty green, warm and velvety of vetiver, musk and moss.  The earthy oak moss lasts all day.

So is Portos an old-fashioned gentleman? More likely it’s a cologne for anyone tired of fruits, aquatics or blonde woods. I think on most people it would even wear a tad sweeter than on me, making it just too cool as a women’s fragrance. A player and a dreamer is Portos, I think he wouldn’t mind sharing his cologne.

Notes: artemisia, cumin, bergamot, coriander and galbanum, jasmine, geranium, carnation, cedar, patchouli and vetiver, castoreum, leather, moss, musk, myrrh, incense and labdanum (from fragrantica)

Musketeers from 1921 Douglas Fairbanks Sr silent film, 1973 Richard Lester film and the 2014 BBC series.

Main Musketdeers are mine. Aren’t musk deers the cutest?



Perfumed Plume – award winner at CaFleureBon

I’m very excited to tell you that Cafleurebon just won an award with my piece called Perfume as  Opera . The Perfumed Plume – awards for fragrance journalism, is a new award similar to the UK Jasmine Award and the French Prix Jasmine. Read more here.

The category was:
Visualization of Scent Stories – Overall Design Presentation: ÇaFleureBon Perfume as Opera Madama Butterfly and Turandot.

Thank you Michelyn Camen for putting my story and visuals forward and believing in me. And thank you to the Perfumed Plume Awards, I feel honoured.

Coffee Time – Sebastiane Espresso Royale and Reliquary Perfumes Café la Nuit

Only thing worse than your computer crashing once, is your computer crashing twice. And how about that second time being just after you’ve put the final dot in a post, and for reasons unknown the file has disappeared. Hours I spent in vain because I refused to believe that it had not been saved somewhere in the depth of the hard disc, but alas! Rant over, and many, many espressos later I’m trying to recreate my coffee post.

I was encouraged by a fellow perfumista and several online reviews that Sebastiane’s Espresso Royal would be worth a try in my ‘search for the perfect’ coffee perfume (to quote Undina).

Espresso Royale does what it says: it smells of coffee. It is an espresso with hazelnut praline. Its hazelnut sweetness reminds me of Italian Gianduja and goes down perfectly with a good espresso. I would say that the sweetness to coffee ratio is 50/50, but thankfully it never feels like a Tall Hazelnut Latte. The espresso stands its ground with a dark roasted bean even when the hazelnut gets a little help from caramel and tonka bean. The perfume feels quite linear to me, but as it evaporates I start getting a mere hint of cinnamon and butter, as if the praline had been exchanged for a Belgian speculaas. The dry down is coffee grounds, but the sugar has been consumed and the overall feel is less foody, more just comfort-coffee. In case you were in doubt this is definitely a Gourmand perfume, and even if I absolutely love both hazelnut praline and espresso, for me personally perhaps Espresso Royale is a little too much so. However, if you are a gourmand perfume lover looking for a true coffee note, this one must be tested.

Notes; Whiskey, coffee, hazelnut, caramel, tonka bean.


The indie perfumer from Reliquary Perfumes wrote and asked me if I would like to sample a few of her fragrances, and one in particular was instantly of interest to me; Café la Nuit, inspired by the famous Van Gogh painting La Café la Nuit.

The coffee note in Café la Nuit is one of the most natural and authentic I’ve come across. There’s not even a hint of coffee aroma chemical which I’ve found in so many coffee perfumes (A*men coffee, New Harlem a.o). The opening is like dark chocolate and espresso with crisp sugar, and it reminds me of another favourite chocolate of mine ‘Pocket coffee’.pocket coffee 1

There is the merest hint of lavender to lift this perfume oil out of ‘straight-up-gourmie’ territory and into something which although dense still somehow feels like it has a little more ‘space’ than your typical chocolate-gourmand perfume. Later enters a lovely smoky note changing the feeling of the coffee from a tasty dark brewed liquid to the roasting of beans, of cafés and perhaps even a cigarette… This is dark chocolate and black coffee in various shapes and forms. The coffee not only stays as the heartbeat throughout the composition, but manages to change character, going from buoyant to pensive as the night falls at the Terrace Café.

Notes; orange, cinnamon, lavender, espresso, café au lait, cacao, spilt sugar, tonka bean, vanilla, smoke.

Now I better get this published before more posts are lost, perhaps I should reward myself with a coffee afterwards.

Both perfumes can easily be enjoyed together with this little number;

Natalie Cole ‘Coffee Time’

Coffee time
My dreamy friend, it’s coffee time
Let’s listen to some jazz and rhyme
And have a cup of coffee

Let me show
A little coffee house I know
Where all the new bohemians go
To have a cup of coffee

Greetin’ time
The music box is beatin’ time
It’s good old fashioned meetin’ time
So grab a chair and take me there
‘Cause that’s just the place I’m at

Coffee time
My dreamy friend, it’s coffee time
Let’s sing this silly little rhyme
And have a cup of coffee

Hey, greetin’ time
That music box is beatin’ time
It’s good old fashioned meetin’ time
So save me a chair, I’ll see you there
‘Cause that’s just the place that I’m at

Coffee time
My dreamy friend, it’s coffee time
Let’s sing this silly little rhyme
And have a cup of coffee

We’ll have a cup of coffee
Just a little bit of Java
Yeah, we’ll have a couple of joke
Don’t you know?
‘Cause it’s coffee time


I bought the Sebastiane sample, the Reliquary sample was given to me by the perfumer. Pocket coffees photo didn’t have credits. Feat pic is mine as are my opinions.

Pink Elephants on Parade – Maria Candida Gentile Elephant & Roses (2015)

The release of Elephant & Roses by indie perfumer Maria Candida Gentile conjured up such a beautiful image, I knew I would have to explore it. As MCG’s perfumes are not that easy to come by it took me some time and in the meantime I read other reviews. As far as I remember most talked of an animalic rose, so I was wasn’t prepared for the make-up’y powder puff in an old-fashioned green-room that first hit me.circus girls2

I’ve seen people talk of all the things that perfume and elephants makes them associate, for me it’s my first ever visit to the cinema. I can still remember how it felt when Dumbo’s mother was locked away for protecting her little baby elephant with the big ears. Another thing that stayed with me, was the surrealistic sequence of pink elephants singing; “Look out! Look out! Pink elephants on parade. Here they come!” And it is the visual for me when I think of the name Elephant & Roses.

Wearing it, and testing it over the last weeks, the perfume slowly opened up to show many more facets than my initial impression. So for instance the opening thyme makes for a welcome change in the top note repertoire, and is a lovely companion for the pedal point of the vegetal muskiness. The rose is very mild, the greenness hidden in the opening thyme and its softness disguised within the make-up powder. The heart of the perfume feels part rose, iris (not mentioned), hair and a swan down puff. And underlying always the musk. I believe it’s mainly the costus I smell with the hint of ambergris, the costus with its weird and wonderful herbal furry feel. The base sees a little saw-dust woodiness added, but all in all there’s nothing growlingly animalic or wild boar sweaty about it, even the elephant is not in the room, so to speak. The powdery musk feels a little sweet and intimate, politely naughty rather than dirty.

If the ‘animal’ part of Elephant & Roses has scared you off, I’d say it shouldn’t, it’s less zoo, and more the vintage dressing room of a circus princess, and perhaps even not so very far off my first association of the Dumbo circus.

Although I have a few powdery perfumes, nothing comes close to this little number, and its distinctive perfumer’s stamp has made me very curious to try and retry Maria Candida Gentile’s other fragrances.

Do you know her fragrances, and do you have favourites or some you are curious to try?

Feat picture is mine, Dumbo still from film from Walt Disney Productions, circus girls 1930s didn’t have a credit. Sample of Elephant & Roses bought by me.


Stepsisters – Guerlain Mahora (2000) and Jardins de Bagatelle (1983)

Luca Turin’s most hated Guerlain until Champs Elyssees and Mahora came along was apparently Jardins de Bagatelle (1983). Whilst calling Mayotte (renamed 2nd version of Mahora) ‘dreadful’ and a ‘nasty floral’, by the time he came around to writing The Guide, he deemed Jardins de Bagatelle ‘the best of a lousy lot’.

It might look like it’s hard being Cinderella, but if we turn our attention to the stepsisters for a moment; they clearly have a terrible mother, the ultimate anti-role model, telling them that only materialistic things are worth pursuing, playing them out against each other to get the prince (not for love but for the mother’s ambition of social-climbing), even letting them self-harm, self-mutilate in fact, to reach that goal. How misunderstood these sisters are…

Take our two stepsisters, white florals Mahora and Jardins de Bagatelle. They have heard it all, been shamed and despised but they are still here* (one went to the numerologist, but if it helps?)

Mahora, the younger of the two, is a loudish, creamy white floral. And although you won’t find the famed guerlinade here, the vanilla/ ylang combo still feels so trés Guerlain. Created in 2000 by Jean-Paul Guerlain, Mahora was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The anorexic juices of the 90s still casting their goth-like shadows, Mahora was just not trendy. It’s a big bold sunny perfume with an easy digestible tuberose at its heart, a tropical ylang-ylang with a touch of coconut. The added sugarcane sweetness from a triumvirate of orange blossom, vanilla and sandalwood, makes Mahora a sweet hedonistic dream under a tropical sun.

Given as an option to wear for a night out, a friend (who would normally wear Hermessence, and who didn’t know Mahora in advance) chose this one, and called it sunny and sexy. Just saying…

Donatella Versace, as sported by J. Lo, gets loud and glamour on us, 2000 with a hint of 80s?

Jardins de Bagatelles EdT (Jean-Paul Guerlain) opens on a mixture of bright pearly aldehydes and neroli, giving it an edgy vintage vibe. After that there’s an ‘every white flower under the sky’ with a wink at the 80’s perfume feeling, which ingeniously is actually almost subtle, certainly if compared to its ‘death by silliage’- contemporaries. It never stings your nose, or delights in indoles or rubber, but stays a glamour filter photo as it folds out its fan of flowers; gardenia, rose, orange blossom, tuberose, magnolia, ylang-ylang, orchid, lily-of-the-valley and narcissus. The flowers are kept in check by bits of metallic sheen. Surprisingly the woody base shows signs of nectar and adds extra depth at the end. Although both Mahora and JdB share the parentage and the white florals, they are two completely different characters. I would call JdB sunny too, but there’s no tropical heat, JdB is a temperate day with little bursts of sunshine. JdB has a mixture of retro and wannabe 80s pop idol about it. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

1960s phenomenon goes 80s in the Screwball Comedy in Desperately Seeking Susan

If you are into retro or white florals in general don’t miss out on these too, in my opinion they are both more innovative and have more heart than many new ones in the genre even if they might at the time of their release not have lived up to the expectations of the Guerlain classics; L’Heure Bleue, Shalimar, Mitzy etc.

In the end, I believe that little by little perfumistas who have perhaps never read Mr Turin’s damning review, or who smell them by chance, open their hearts to their beauty, perhaps after all these years of misunderstanding, finally the sisters know themselves, and are happy with themselves, they are not trying to be their amazing stepsister Cinderella in the castle, they just want to be loved for what they are, and guess what? I for one am ready to embrace them.

Do you have a secret stepsister love? How do you rate the two Guerlains, if you know them?

Winners of my little birthday draw: I chose to do two drawings as you can see from my Random lists; and the winners are Esperanza who chose decants and Tara a print. Thank you very much all for taking part 🙂







*At least they were when I started writing, according to M Guerlain blog, Mayotte is now DCed, if you, like me, happen to like it, grab a bottle while you can.

Celebrate Good Times – Chanel Sycomore (2008) and Nez à Nez Marron Chic (2010)

I was going to publish a post on some Guerlains today, but given the ’Monsieur-Guerlain Bloggate*’ I decided to wait with that one for next time.

Today is my birthday, the day where it’s even better than usual to have a lot of lovely friends older than yourself, being able to tell you that 40 is indeed the best time of your life, the new 30, the new black, the cat’s pyjamas etc. and who am I to argue with wise words of people who have lived longer than I.

I decided that it’s also a time in your life, where you happen to have accumulated a lot of the things already, so my wish list was for 2nd hand and homemade items, which worked out a treat, people coming up with all sorts of lovely things. Recently, I have even realised that I’ll probably not need back up perfumes of anything, save perhaps one or two favourites, and this together with my special occasion made me decide to do a little draw today, see the bottom of the post for this.

I had hoped to wear a special second-hand item on the eve of the party, but alas, it arrived late. I have had a complete crush on Sycomore of late, and this was the item I purchased from a ’wunderbar’ German perfume enthusiast.

Chanel’s Sycomore (perfumers Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake) is that rare thing for me; a tough rather than masculine vetiver. I do love vetiver, but all too often it ends up smelling too much like after shave on me. This is a general issue with very dry and woody fragrances, they won’t really warm up and bloom on my skin, so finding one that does, a fragrance to embrace (what the h… – channel even) your inner Dietrich/ K. Hepburn/ S. Weaver et al. is rare for me. Perhaps it’s not least due to Sycomore’s floating quality, that it never becomes harsh. Its mixture of green woodiness, autumnal forests and camp fires just swirls around and becomes your fragrant aura, more than an actual perfume. What a turn-heads perfume for both males and females. The published notes are; vetiver, sandalwood, aldehydes, tobacco and violet. And let’s ad a signature song, for fun and straight out of my b-day playlist; Talking heads- Take me to the river, ultra cool and timeless.

sycomore marron


What I actually wore is a trusted go-to special occasion perfume of mine, and it never fails to deliver a certain ‘ooh-la-la’ –effect, or a feeling of a constant inner purr if you will. It’s the now DC’ed Nez à Nez perfume Marron Chic (Karine Chevallier). The regular reader of The Sounds of Scent will have one guess as to its main note. However, it isn’t as easy as that. Kumquat crosses wires with iris and chocolate and it’s not entirely pleasant, in fact had it not been for the look on the SA’s eyes when he sniffed it on me, it would probably not have gone home with me at that point. Like most of my best-loved perfumes, Marron Chic needed to ‘click’. The gourmand flair is something I am not always easy with, but here it’s not something you gluttonously eat, it’s something you crave and desire. The resins and labdanum ease the transition from the iris heart, and a subtle vetiver in the base creates a bit of an antipole to the ‘thickness’ of the other notes. Notes; kumquat, orange blossom, hesperidic notes, iris, cacao, karo-karounde, violet, benzoe, labdanum, vetiver. The purring soundtrack: Postmodern jukebox; All about that Bass.

And the little B-day draw: Draw closed there will be one winner, but since in so many countries you can no longer send or receive perfume you can choose between either a decant of my two birthday fragrances OR a personal drawing of your favourite perfume (or favourite 2 perfumes, depending on which you choose) – yes, done by me in the style seen here:boadicca, micallef sergeserge bas de soie

All you need to do is answer the following question in the comments and tell me which price you’d prefer to win. Make sure you comment from an e-mail address that I can contact.

What are your favourite special occasion fragrances?

*Read more here

Read Suzanne’s beautiful review of Marron Chic here

Pictures are mine.

Bowie, Suffragettes and April Aromatics’ new release Purple Reign (2015)

I was just sitting down to write this post, when I heard the sad news that David Bowie had passed away.

Despite it being a chock, it might not have hindered my writing had it not been because ever since I first sniffed the final version of Purple Reign back in December, the song accompanying me upon wearing it, has been curiously not the classic Prince song but David Bowie’s Suffragette City. And so it became a different task altogether, more melancholic and slower than I could have anticipated. Suffragette City is from Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album.image

”Oh don’t lean on me man, ’cause you can’t afford the ticket
I’m back in Suffragette City
Oh don’t lean on me man
‘Cause you ain’t got time to check it
You know my Suffragette City”

The suffragettes, which are in the title of the song, even if what the song is actually about seems to be still up for discussion, would make the colours green, white and violet their own, the first letter of each colour making up the same letters as those of the slogan; Give Women Vote. To begin it was a secret language; women would wear jewellery in these colours, ranging from the more affordable enamel jewellery to the stones emerald, diamonds/ pearls and amethyst to signal their stand point to other like-minded.



Purple Reign is about purple flowers, but to me it feels also very emerald-green and even has a pearl like lustre, reminding me of Suffragette jewellery. It also feels to me like the most ‘natural’ smelling perfume yet from the hand of perfumer Tanja Bochnig, which I feel like stating here as a guide for how to understand my description below. Obviously a natural powderiness is not like that of powder bomb Teint de Neige, and the faint lilac is nothing like the photo-realistic but also screechy flower created in a lab. The palette here seems to embrace the natural materials, removing itself from the ideals of non-natural perfumery entering into its own natural habitat.


The purple in the opening is like the scent of ‘ploppy’ unseeded sweet grapes. Later on it is purple like tiny glimpses of amethyst through the fragrance, a jasmine dressed up as a lilac sniffed in the distance. A tiny bit of powder, like dry ice lighted up purple at a concert, more than actually sweet.

The green of the violet leaf together with the natural osmanthus gives the perfume a sort of muted emerald haze experience, like walking on fluffy clouds in a green dream. Not green as in acidic, fresh or grass-like, it also doesn’t smell of moss, yet has some of the quality of touching moss on a spring day.

Pearls like dewdrops and a feel that the fragrance has lustre between the layers of natural ingredients, each adding their additional hue in the Reign of Purple.

Notes: Natural Lilac tincture, Violets, Lavender ,Osmanthus petals, Jasmine flowers, Orris Root, Opoponax.

Perhaps due to its focus on heart notes Purple Reign changes with its surroundings, on some it will turn sweeter, powdery, on some greener perhaps floral.

I’m thinking how someone wrote about David Bowie that he had been compared to a Chameleon, but he didn’t change with his surroundings rather the surroundings changed with him.

Purple Reign is unisex as when David Bowie takes on Ziggy, The Thin White Duke or any of his other androgynous disguises, not least the (much maligned) Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth, and it is as this reincarnation of Goethe’s Erlkönig, with heartfelt lyrics, that he croons:

“It’s only forever, not long at all…”



Pictures are mine, collages made by me with various photos.




Perfume, Perfume and Money to Buy More Perfume- No 1 Frankincense Neal’s Yard Remedies

Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.


I’ve had all the best of intentions and even loads of ideas, but it seems my head has been too crowded to get any of those down on virtual paper.

To get a sense of calm and focus there is nothing quite like the scent of incense. After I worked out that I am actually allergic to the smoked version of frankincense, I’ve kept a little distance from incense perfumes, but of course incense perfume need not smell smoky at all. In fact incense has that wonderful cool, clean property and can be anything but smoky and indeed very soothing.

As today is Three Kings Day (Epiphany) it gives me another good reason to get out my incense perfumes; Frankincense, gold and myrrh, and gives me the chance to share one of my favourite perfume picture captions.

three kings caption

Before Christmas I did some rehearsals out in a somewhat alternative space, meant for independent theatres as rehearsal space. Now, of all places where I might encounter perfumes I did not think to do so there, least of all perfumes of quality which I hadn’t even heard about; Pure Essence Eau de Parfum No.1 Frankincense by a company which I only knew for its skin care, Neal’s Yard Remedies.

Obviously, I had to test it.

The perfume is natural and 97% organic, and it struck me that a lot of the (soli-) incense perfumes that agree with me are natural. I already wrote about the cosy Winter Kitty and the enlightened Calling all Angels, and I’m sure there are many more which I have forgotten at the moment. In the mixed category I especially admire the ascetic Armani Privé Bois d’Encense and the swirly smoke of IUNX’s L’Ether, however I feel that in natural perfumery incense tends to smell less smoky and have a more zen-like quality.neals yard

On to Pure Essence Eau de Parfum No.1 Frankincense* which opens on notes of neroli, bergamot and pepper. It’s a pleasant, albeit familiar, start which quickly gives way to the crisp incense. Incense with its dry tartness should perhaps come across as distant or overly sharp, but something about it here is mild and forgiving. Perhaps it’s the lavender which makes it so, even if I wasn’t overly aware of the lavender in the fragrance itself. Reading the notes I was surprise to find a simple recipe yielding a graceful composition. The base notes are patchouli, vetiver, myrrh and balsam copaiba, but neither patch nor vetiver are very pronounced. Rather, the base is a mild soapy myrrh reminding me a little of the soapiness of Serge Lutens’ La Myrrhe. The resins are balmy enough to give the base depth, warmth and perhaps even a golden hue to the lightness of the myrrh. Overall there is a perfumeness and light which incense perfumes often lack. I was not only surprised at finding this little gem, but even more so at how it found its way into my perfume heart; Frankincense, Myrrh and Gold all in one modest little perfume.

As it is the last day of Christmas you can listen to the recitative about the presents from the Three Magi and the following Choral from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio here.

Happy New Year!


*My review is based on the bottle in the picture found in the bath room at the studio. I don’t know if it has changed over time, or of course when the bottle was bought and donated to the light and humidity exposed bath room ;-). I do think I will get myself a bottle sometime in the future, and will update if the new bottle is in any way different.

As always feature picture and photo by me.