BEAR WITH ME ~ 24 Old Bond Street by Atkinsons 1799

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The coach for London, top heavy with luggage and all but two of its passengers clinging to the roof seats trounced violently south from Cumberland. It swayed and dipped like HMS Brunswick in a storm causing all topside to take on a very unflattering shade of Neptune green. All aboard were extremely relived to see at long last London appear along the hazy horizon. A Miss Herbert thanked God silently into her handkerchief and the country Parson beside her let loose a curse of such vulgarity that the coachman blushed.

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The reason for all this discomfort and the subjects of the Parson’s curse were traveling quite comfortably in the compartment below.

A young gentleman with all his dreams of success in the capital wrapped up in his breast pocket inside his treasured floral recipes. A tub of rose scented bear grease balm separated him from a large ferocious looking Bear. The young gentleman’s name was James Atkinson and the bear was George.

“I still say James I should have sat up on the roof.”  George said being quite the gentleman bear. “That poor lady up there in the wind and the rain, you know she lost her bonnet along with her breakfast just past High Wycombe and it’s all because of me.”

James smiled at his very best furry friend who, it should be noted only spoke to him when no one else was around.  “It’s not your fault that people do not trust that you are quite well behaved in company George. Oh I say! Look! You can see the spires of the city!”

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They each popped there heads out of the windows on either side of the carriage to get a better look.  Miss Herbert who just happened to look down at that moment let out a shriek at the sight of George and promptly fainted onto the Parson’s lap. A farmer in the flanking field dropped his scythe and rubbed his eyes at the sight of a bear in the passing coach.

“Are you excited James?” George asked as they both settled back into there quite comfortable seats.

“You know I am George. An entire new life is waiting for us in London. Together you and I will create a new world of bouquets for the ladies and gentlemen of quality. The old Eau de Colognes of the Continent will rule England no more.”  He patted his breast pocket.

“I have faith in you my friend and I know that together, you and I will take the city by storm.”  George said with a growly grin.

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And in due course James and George did even better than their dreams dictated. Within weeks at their new shop at 44 Gerard Street the pomades, balms and fragrances created form James recipe book began to catch attention. It was George who stood by the door and greeted every patron and in so doing created a sensation. But the real stars of the day were the new and very British fragrances created by James Atkinson.

For London society it became quite the most popular thing to “Brave the Bear” and visit the perfume shop. There they sampled and wore such delights as The British Bouquet, The Sandringham Bouquet, Woodland Bouquet. And over time the luminaries of the age became patrons of James Atkinson. Beau Brummell the first Dandy of the day, was a fan and in turn introduced Atkinsons to his friend the Prince of Wales who was also called George (Prinny to his nearest and dearest)

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“A little too much powder your Majesty…”

In 1826 Prinny who was now King George IV granted a royal warrant to Atkinsons making it the perfumer to the King and Court. There is a rumor that at this time the gentleman bear George was presented at court where at the royal ball he danced with the seven year old Princess Victoria. It is reported that she said many years later of the encounter. “We found Georgie to be quite fuzzy and a fine dancer.”

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Young Victoria

In very fact the young Queen Victoria, whose wedding bouquet inspired the creation of The Nuptial Bouquet by James was enamored of Atkinsons. Napoleon was a fan boy. By 1832 when the new shop at 24 Old Bond Street opened  others who fell under the olfactory spell where the Who’s who of the 19th century, Duke of Wellington, Admiral Nelson, Lady Hamilton, Prince Tomasi Di Lampedusa, Queen Margherita di Savoia, the Tsarina of Russia and Sarah Bernhardt.

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That Hamilton woman and Lord Nelson

They caused a scandal but they smelled great doing it.

When George the gentleman bear passed from the realm in 1835 everyone who mattered attended the funeral at St. Paul’s. He had come to London with his friend James find fame to make there fortunes. And indeed that’s exactly what they accomplished. The fantasy became real and the reality became legend.

Isn’t it amazing what a man and a bear can do?

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ATKINSONS BEAR

It is very exciting to discover that the famous and venerated old British perfumery of Atkinsons founded in 1799 is reborn in a re-launch of the house this year. The line has just arrived at Barney’s NY in San Francisco and I was amazed by the beauty of each and every one of the five fragrances in the line. They are as follows, (The Legendary Collection) The Odd Fellows Bouquet, The Nuptial Bouquet, The British Bouquet, Fashion Decree Woman, and from the Emblematic Collection, 24 Old Bond Street.

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24 Old Bond Street is a gorgeous Oriental, smart, and captivating fragrance.  Sartorial beauty and elegance are the order of the day with this masculine Eau de Cologne. It opens with a bracing, invigorating blast of Gin like Juniper that sinks swiftly into a mellow tea note. Here we are reminded of the British Raj and a time when the colonial empire turned under an ever shining British sun. This tea spiced with juniper melts into a lovely subtle English rose bringing a touch of Tudor spring to the elixir. With the tea at the fore and the rose and juniper at the aft we stay here for a comforting while until from below comes a lovely boozy whisky. This is a fine whisky note aged in old English oak barrels, to a rich smoky beauty. Whisky and cigars in a Mayfair gentleman’s club is the final scene we are left with in the dry down.

The entire life of the cologne is brief but glorious. It is after all an Eau de Cologne in the old style and one should not expect a wild bear of a fragrance. This bear is a gentleman not a beast. The sillage is moderate and I in fact like it that way. 24 Old Bond Street is a ideal after bath or shower cologne that will add a perfectly executed beginning to any gentleman’s (or ladies) toilet. It also comes in a Bath and Shower Essence, a body lotion, soap and scented candle.  It is a personal and up-close eau de cologne that inspires confidence and maybe a bit of romance as well.

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Atkinsons at Harrods London

borrowed from Atkinsons Facebook page

So if you are in the mind to “Brave the Bear” do visit Atkinsons 1799 and explore this marvelous historical house re-borne.

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24 OLD BOND STREET ~ FIVE GOLD STARS *****

ATKINSONS WEB PAGE: http://www.atkinsons1799.com/

LIKE THEM ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Atkinsons-1799/176796825822798

THE PAST IS TOMORROW ~ Vesper by MIKMOI

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“Diamonds are forever, but we both know I am not.” He whispered to her just as the evening prayers began in St. Marks. Tiffany let go of his hand and turned to look at the dark waters of Regent’s canal which ran past the old church under a bridge on Prince Albert Road and into Regent’s Park. .

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“I know James, I’ve always known.”  She sighed and squared her shoulders. “I guess I’ll go back to America.”

“I think it would be best darling. I’ll make all the arrangements. Thursday I have to go to Istanbul on a job and maybe St. Petersburg. Can you be ready to leave on Wednesday?”

“Yes… Maybe you can send me some remembrance of you from Russia with love?”  She turned and smiled against the dying light of the early autumn sky. A diamond bright tear quivered in the corner of her eye.  She quickly wiped it away. “I don’t believe in God, but somehow I feel like praying. Will you walk me to the door of the church?”

“You don’t need to pray for yourself.”

Rather than answer him, she took his hand again and walked with him to the entrance to St. Mark’s.  She turned to him on the steps. “My prayers won’t be for myself, they’ll be for you my darling Mr. Bond.” She smiled, brushed a lock of his hair way from his brow then turned and disappeared into the sanctuary.

He stood on the steps of the church for a few heartbeats. He didn’t want to send Tiffany away but he knew it was just no good. It hadn’t been good since Royale-les-Eaux and the woman who had killed  the last shred of humanity in him. He turned from the church and started to walk along Prince Albert Road toward his flat. Beneath the twilight twinkle of the heartless stars that watched over London he pushed the memories that French town on the English Channel as deep into his soul as he could.

He had no remorse, guilt or moral compass when it came to killing a man, or a woman. That’s what made him a perfect agent for Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  He was afraid of no one. Except that single stiletto sharp memory, that haunted his dreams. Not every night and not always remembered but it was always near. There was no quantum of solace to be found in his dreams when her specter arose to slash at his armor with half remembered kisses and bloody sweet lies.

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In a weak romantic moment that night in the Casino he invented a martini and named it after her. These days, these nights, he never drank that bitter cocktail, Now it was just vodka, vermouth, shaken well. Not stirred to distraction which he would be if he didn’t stop thinking of her.  It nagged at the edges of his mind, the unshakeable fact that he was sending Tiffany away as he would any woman who came too close. It would be just so with women until the day of his death.  Because of the woman he met at the Casino Royale he had to kill love as surely as he would any enemy who threatened to expose him. But tonight she wouldn’t die twice.

Bond turned toward the oncoming headlights on Prince Albert Road and flagged a cab.

“Where to sir?”  The cabbie said bright as a penny.

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“Dukes Hotel.”

A quarter of an hour later Bond was seated at the bar in Dukes. The barman at attendance smiled warmly.

“Good evening Mr. Bond. Will it be the usual?

“Not tonight Alessandro, I need to kill a ghost, put an end so to speak to being the property of a lady.”

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(Photo of THE Allesandro at Duke’s Hotel stolen from dukeshotel.com)

Ah…I see, you haven’t had one of those in quite a while, let’s see, three measures of Gordon’s, if I am not mistaken, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, and then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Have I got it?

“Got it.”

The lemon peel like a sparkling golden eye at the center of the cocktail winked in the low light of the bar as Alessandro placed the drink on a crisp napkin in front of Bond.

He looked at it and then as Alessandro stepped away he realized it was no use.  She would never let him go. Before he lifted the glass to taste one last time her poison he said her name very softly.

“Vesper….”

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From the first moment I first saw the bottle of Vesper the unisex perfume by MIKMOI last March at the San Francisco Artisan Fragrance Salon I was captivated by the polished beauty of the Italian made flacon and enchanted the perfume that it held within its impressive form. (When you look down through the bottom of the bottle there is a charming surprise.)

I asked its creator Mik of MIKMOI if he had named it after the evening prayer practice in many Christian churches or if he had christened it after Vesper Lynd the heroine in Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale”. I was delighted when he said.

“It is named after both the prayers and the woman.”

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Vesper has a sensuality that bleeds into a reverent introspective and contemplative feeling of soft dreamy layers like sea fog on a summer evening.  It is both a prayer and a remembrance of something precious that is past away and lost forever. “Vesper” is simply a beautiful perfume. And running below its beauty like a subterranean river is a touch of Japanese style and elegance.

The opening is as sharp as the fist sip of a martini and indeed there is a delicious note of Lillet in the opening. Lillet is a French aperitif that is used to make a Vesper Martini and quite nice on its own as well. There is nothing boozy or blowsy about this note, but rather urbane and stylish. It brings in a French perfume feeling to the rather surprising center notes to come.  The liqueur sharpness is quickly gone and replaced with a rich green fig note which deepens into the Lillet and enhances the elegance of this perfume. The fig is our fist hint of the East as we slowly move away from European tradition toward something new.

In the center a sophisticated and very cool Baccara rose unfolds like beautiful origami flower with ribbons of soft supple suede trailing from her long graceful stem. Here it moves toward a more Japanese feeling in it subtle play of notes. There is really a lovely soft green accord that plays over the rose and suede making it very distinctive and unusual.  In the base come the prayers on tendrils of twisting smoky myrrh, and frankincense coiling over the delicate amber. These incense notes with the amber can be both European cathedral and Shinto temple. It is all in your perspective on how they will play out for you.

The sillage is not overwhelming nor should it be. This is something as subtle as geisha’s glance across a fan and as beautiful and layered as a fine Kimono. On my skin the perfume lasts about eight hours moving very close to the skin at about three hours in.

Vesper begins in sensuality and ends in beautiful reverent place of meditation. A most unusual journey for a perfume and in so I find that Vesper is a really gorgeous fragrance.

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(Vesper photo MIKMOI)

Vesper by MIKMOI Five Gold Stars *****

Where to purchase Vesper and other perfumes by MIKMOI: http://www.mikmoi.com/

(Vesper and Bond ~ Bojrk “You Only Live Twice:)

THE SCENT OF DANGER ~ Eucris by Geo. F. Trumper

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East of Las Vegas, the sky was a sharp steel grey and a tinge of crimson bled across the serrated tops of the western mountains. The windows of the Sands Hotel were hermetically sealed against the approaching furnace of the Nevada sun.  Tiffany languidly rolled over in bed and looked at the man from London sleeping next to her. He wasn’t her type, hard body, forceful, coolly sensual, and hot with a revolver. He was a professional killer. In short he was a man. She had her reasons for not liking men much; men had ruined her and had set her on a path that ultimately put her here beside him. But somehow this man intrigued her. What was it about him that made him different? What made her…like him?  The sex had been hot but that wasn’t it. She pulled the sheet up over her breasts to cut the shiver from the air conditioning and tried to figure him out.

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Tiffany leaned over to press her nose against his shoulder and breathed in his slightly salty masculine aroma. She closed her eyes and tried to place the fragrance he wore. It wasn’t something she had ever smelled before. There was oakmoss and some currant berries and just a hint of jasmine.  Most of the men she had dealings with from London diamond smugglers  to the pit bosses in Vegas all reeked of cheap cologne. This guy smelled nice. Like a gentleman. She had no dealings in her line of international crime with gentleman. She smiled and thought about how he had silently killed that man in front of her back in Amsterdam. So quick and nearly bloodless it was. He was no gentleman really, just a bloody cold killer.

As she ran her ring finger up his forearm to the forked veins of his bicep it hit her. Only while he slept could you see it in his face. A woman had ruined him. Of course that is what had intrigued her about him. He was just as damaged as she was. Because of the past both of them had shut down their emotions and were on autopilot. Neither of them knew how to land the plane.

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He opened his arctic blue eyes.

“Are you hungry?” He said with just the whisper of a smile at the corner of his right eye.

“Ravenous.’ She leaned over him to the night stand on his side of the king-size bed  and picked up the phone receiver. “I’ll order breakfast. What would you like?”

“Orange juice, three eggs slightly scrambled, toast with orange marmalade, a large portion of bacon, and espresso with cream. Got it?”

She smiled. “Got it.”

As she placed the order with room service he looked her up and down and, then very slowly pulled the sheet down to her waist to reveal her appetizing curves. She smiled and pulled the sheet back up.

“Now it’s time for the truth Mister, what is your name really?”

In one panther move he rolled over on top of her and nibbled at her ear and whispered.

“The name’s James……..”

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(Artist Frank McCarthy)

*******

James Bond most famously wore Eucris by Geo. F. Trumper in Ian Fleming’s “Diamonds Are Forever.”  For Bond fans its being in that book set it apart as a glamorous masculine fragrance from 1956 on.  A masculine scent for sure but guess what? Tiffany Case would smell smashing in this scent too. A splash or two behind the ears and on a décolletage cascading with Cartier ice, a glass of champagne and voilà, magic.

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Created in 1912 by the famed London gentleman’s barbers you can bet that at least one bottle went down with the Titanic. It is a classic woody floral musk scent that when worn is sublimely rich and sophisticated in a very old school barbershop manner. That can be a good and refreshing thing in the world of today’s gourmand and oud craze. At over a hundred years old it is still a star in the masculine fragrance firmament.

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It opens with the pungent slightly animalic bite of black currant, sweet caraway and earthy coriander. Then up from the bottom right though the mid notes comes the killer beauty of the oakmoss. It grabs the jasmine and lily of the valley in the mid note range and turns them on their ears giving them a toughness they rarely display. These flowers transfigured by the oakmoss are the Bond Girls of the scent, beautiful, tough and slightly dangerous.

The dry down is all creamy sandalwood and musk, clean and sophisticated to the end. The Oakmoss holds on and never lets you forget who is boss in this fragrance.

Eucris lasts around ten hours on my skin and has a respectable silage of about three feet in the fist few hours and then six to twelve inches in the dry down. It isn’t shy but it is discrete in its style and allure.

The wonderful thing about Eucris and many classic old perfumes and colognes it that they carry a history, a life of there own over the decades and many stories along with them. If handled and nurtured with love by the houses that created them they can be as lovely, exciting, sexy and relevant today as the day they were first un-bottled and enjoyed by the public.

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Eucris by Geo. F. Trumper Five Gold Stars *****

(Please note that the story above is not an excerpt from Ian Fleming’s wonderful “Diamonds Are Forever” but simply a figment of my over active and romantic imagination.) 

APPOINTMENT AT TYBURN ~ Eau Sans Pareil by Penhalagon’s

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Midnight bells rang far off in the midst of London’s slumber. Wary and alone Maryanne Stewart pushed herself to walk faster past Marble Arch toward her home on Connaught Square. She was almost there.

“Stand and deliver, Madame!”

Startled by the demand in a rich ringing baritone, Maryanne turned in the fog to find that there was no one there, she was completely alone.

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The street lights on Bayswater Road glowed like warm fuzzy fireflies in the thick hanging fog. The light they shed barley made it to the sidewalk below them.  So thick was the murky night that she could barely see across the road to Hyde Park. She shivered and pulled her muffler closer to her chin and turned to walk on.

As she crossed Edgeware Road to the little traffic island a vaporous figure  emerged before her in a swirling black cap and a three cornered hat. If sky blue were flames he carried them within his eyes.  What burned there was all that was visible of his face above the black silk kerchief that covered his nose and mouth. He held two Pirlet flintlock pistols aimed right at her heart. Maryanne’s mouth flapped open to emit only a chilled gasp.

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The man took two steps toward her, lowered his guns and laughed. “I will do thee no harm Milady, nor shall I take thy coin purse or jewels. Such beauty as you hold within your face makes a beggar of any man you look upon. Believe it honest and true, I have never clapped eyes upon, nor am I likely ever again to behold such a woman as you in this life or the next.” His devilish eyes fell to her mouth. “What I will take with great pleasure and at any cost be it gold or the hangman’s noose is a kiss from those perfect lips.” He doffed his hat and gave her a courtly bow.

Maryanne looked him up and down then narrowed her eyes. “Get out of my way!”  She took a swipe at him with her tote bag and to her surprise it sliced though him creating a rolling wave of vapor which slowly and amazingly found its way back into his form  She looked from side to side to see if she were truly alone and the only person on the street to witness this apparition. A buss trundled past with only the driver on board.

The man pulled his kerchief down around his neck to reveal a face unsurpassed in the realm of male splendor. He leveled his gaze upon her and gave her a dazzling smile. “If not a kiss, then what say you to a midnight ride with me on the back of my horse Black Bess?”

“Look here Mr. Ghost, I am tired and I want to go home. Besides hasn’t anyone told you it is not only very rude to frighten people but also quite out of fashion? Now if you will excuse me?” She stepped boldly forward and walked right through him. Half a block down the street she looked back. He was gone.

Along Stanhope Place Maryanne heard the clip clop of horses hoofs. She turned her head slowly to the left. There following along on the street was the apparition and its horse, the huge beast snorted and its eyes glowed with the banked embers of hell. Black Bess no doubt.  Once again the specter doffed his hat and bowed from the saddle. Maryanne sighed and turned her nose into the air and walked on. Black Bess and her master kept pace. When she reached number 20 Connaught Square she unlocked the front door and stepped inside. As she shut the door on the street she saw that he was still astride his horse in the middle of the street, watching her house with those eyes. Incredible eyes they were she had to admit with a slight shiver and a smile to herself. That night she kept the lamp on beside her bed.

By morning she had convinced herself that the entire thing had been a dream. On her way to Selfridges for a bit of shopping  she came to the traffic island where she had seen the ghost the night before. As she waited with the morning crowd for the light to change an odd feeling came over her. She turned around. In the center of the island there was a plaque.  She had steeped over hundreds of times  without ever reading it. Round and set flush with the sidewalk it simply read: “Site of Tyburn Tree”. She covered her mouth with both hands in shock. Of course, Tyburn, the place where criminals where hung in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Among the many who swung from the three cornered gallows was the Highwayman who rode a horse called Black Bess.  What was his name? Her mind reeled as she shut her eyes and his face appeared once more before her. Of course! His name was Dick Turpin the most famous Highwayman of them all. And on this very spot, April 7, 1739 by His Majesty George II order Dick Turpin was hung untill dead.

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For the rest of her life when she walked alone Dick Turpin always gave Maryanne Stewart safe passage home. Whether she noticed him or not, she never made mention to anyone.

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*****

Olfactory artist, Beverley Bayne’s  2011 creation of Eau Sans Pareil for Penhalagon’s is sparkling if fleeting cocktail for the end of summer in a haunted garden. A watery right bright effusion of Aldehydes open the composition with a basket filled with fruits. Bitter Neroli meets up with the sweetly tart Kumquats; Mandarin oranges do their thing with the help of a whispering pineapple. More whispers of the sun on a southern slid toward autumn is found with a little cypress, pink pepper and a very light honey sweet Tagete flower.  All of this is just a momentary introduction to a great big boisterous raspberry. The opening is promising for those who are looking for a light fruity Eau de Toilette that acts more like cologne, a beautiful melancholy ghost to follow you from summer into fall.

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In the heart the fragrance it moves from the fruit garden to the flower garden and in this transition it drops very close to the skin. Maybe too close to the skin for some.  Light lily of the valley, a delicate ylang-ylang bring soft caresses to a sleepy Jasmine. There is a touch of spice from clove and tangy thick Liquorice that gild a lovely late rose of summer. Under this rose there is a grounding earthy orris root to remind you that all things must return to the earth. It swirls around nicely and then evaporates like a ghostly ectoplasm to the dry down.

Here there is the haunting in the dying garden. The spirits of Patchouli waft over a dry, dry vetiver. Tendrils of vanilla tease a shy spectral Amber as together they float over a parched Cedarwood. Laudanum and Oakmoss are shrouded in a ghostly musk.  The sprit of the fragrance crosses over to the next world at about the fourth hour.

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As an Aromatic Fougere is it very soft and pleasing. I find it to be too wispy for my taste but still lovely in what it does. It is sold as a masculine fragrance but pushing that nonsense aside this fragrance would work well on a woman who is looking for a fruity floral that is not in the least bombastic but rather hauntingly beautiful.

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Eau Sans Pareil by Penhalagon’s  3 gold stars ***

(Why only three gold stars? Beautiful as it is, like summer Eau Sans Pariel fades much too quickly. )

 My sample of Eau Sans Pariel came with my August Olfactif delivery. I am so impressed with this sample service from every aspect, themes (August is all about the last days of summer) packaging and their wonderful website and blog complete with interviews with the perfumers. I encourage you to try Olfactif, a must for any perfume aficionado.

CHARLIE AND THE KING OF ENGLAND ~ Clive Christian No.1 For Men

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What a nose she had! That was the first thing that he thought. His last day in London found Charlie Finn staring at the stone image of Queen Elizabeth I in her tomb behind the altar at Westminster Abby. He bowed his head to honor her memory and marveled at how unlike Bette Davis she looked.

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Queen Bette I of Hollywood

   Though he found Westminster Abby to be magnificent in its soaring dark gothic splendor there was one place he wanted to see more than this, or any building in London. Inigo Jones Banqueting House of Whitehall, the only surviving building of the old Palace of Whitehall. Over his two week stay in the capital it had been his intention all along to see the magnificent building but somehow it eluded him. Today was his last chance.  The structure in the center of London possessed a stunning and even tragic history. The most memorable story to come from this Palladian beauty was the fact that on the 30th of January 1649 King Charles I stepped from the central window of the house out onto a massive scaffold to be beheaded before the citizens of London. With the loss of his royal head England was plunged into a puritanical period where fashion floundered and fun fell from favor.

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CHARLES I by Anthony van Dyck

Three heads are better than one.

  After party pooper Cromwell fell came the glamour and glory of the Reformation in which Charles the II took the throne with panache. Fashion ruled the day. Theaters were reopened and most shocking of all, women were allowed on the stage! London became such a hot spot that it burned to the ground in 1666.

Upon leaving Westminster Abby, Charlie checked his watch and saw that he only had fifty minutes to find the Banquet House, see it and then meet his travel partner William for lunch. He knew he was close but not too sure of the exact location. He stepped up his pace as he headed down Parliament Street past Downing.  When he reached where he thought it should be he was at a loss to recognize it. Standing in front of the Royal Horse Guard surrounded by picture snapping tourist he looked at his watch. 40 minutes left. A very tall, handsome British Solder  a few paces to his right was speaking to some South American tourists. Charlie caught his eye and smiled.

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The Royal Horse Guard

“Pardon me,” he said in his flat California accent. “But I am looking for The Banquet House of Whitehall and I can’t seem to find it.”

The guard with the cornflower blue eyes nodded and smiled. “You are nearly there. It is right behind you sir.”

Charlie looked across the street and there it stood, grand indeed but smaller than he had expected it to be.

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The Banquet House Whitehall

“Well if it had been a snake it would have bit me.” He thanked the guard and planted his feet in the direction of his destination.

Charlie trotted across the street. There was a little black wrought iron gate with gold Tudor roses on the corner that led to the entrance. Above the door was a black bust of Charles I looking dashingly handsome and equally tragic. Charlie crossed the threshold of the gate and stopped dead in his tracks under the gaze of the King.

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“The Banquet House is closed today for a private event.”  The sign stood just beside the open door.

Charlie couldn’t believe what he was reading. His last day in London and no chance left to see what he had been looking forward to for months. As he stepped back onto the sidewalk he remembered all the wonderful things he had seen and resolved that they were indeed memorable. Not seeing the Banquet House would give him a good reason to plan another trip to London. But still he was disappointed.

He walked slowly down the street toward Parliament looking up at the windows of the building. When he came to the two center windows next to the lonely only tree on that stretch of the sidewalk he stopped. This was the spot where it happened. The world and time telescoped and he could see the King as he stepped out of the window onto the scaffold. Only a few steps from his end he looked so very tired. The crowd was suddenly silent as he placed his neck upon the block. The axe rose. Charlie closed his eyes against the horror of the fall of the axe.

A cold shock of wind from the Thames rocked him and he opened his eyes to look down at his feet. There under the edge of his shoe was a blood red paper carnation with a tin foil stem. The kind people used to wear on Memorial Day back home to remember those who had fallen in war.  Charlie bent down to pick it up and in so doing understood that this was far better a memory than if he had seen the inside of the building with its magnificent ceiling and beautiful design. It was a sign from the King.

Charlie looked up at the windows again and nodded. “Rest in peace your Majesty.”

“Who are you talking to?” Charlie turned to see his friend William standing behind him.

“King Charles the first. Oh Willy you will never guess what just happened.”

“Well knowing you and your wild Irish imagination I can just about guess.”

 Red Carnation

************

I did not loose my head over “Clive Christian No.1 for Men”.  This perfume, this house is legendary for having a reputation of being the most exclusive and expensive perfume in all the land.  Regal and extravagant in its presentation in a Baccarat crystal bottle topped with a five carat diamond it is indeed a very beautiful package fit for a king.  It received the 2006 FIFI award for packaging and presentation and deservedly so. Alas I found what comes in that sumptuous bottle to be an empty olfactory experience. The banquet hall is deserted. The king is dead.

clive-christian-no-1-perfume-imperial-majesty-edition-in-box

Royal presentation of Clive Christian No.1

It is not a bad scent by any means but simply ordinary and fleeting at best in longevity. On my skin it dies in its youth lasting at most an hour. At these prices heads should roll for not living up to the hype.

The house claims to use the very best and most expensive of ingredients and I am sure they do but these notes do not come together with anything original, memorable or remarkable. The fragrance opens in a citrus and spice blend of lime, Mandarin Orange, grapefruit, and cardamom, nutmeg, artemisia, caraway that comes off to me as a simple orangeade soda pop.  This fizzles out within seconds of hitting the skin.

The central notes of rose, lily of the valley, iris, ylang-ylang and heliotrope is simply a floral muddle to my nose. It struggles to bloom only do wither into my skin so swiftly as to make it near impossible for me to explore and enjoy what should be happening at this point. There is hardly a dry down where there are supposed to be notes of vanilla, Virginia cedar, vetiver, Tonka bean, musk and sandalwood. My skin very rarely eats a fragrance alive but on every testing of No.1 it swallowed the fragrance in one hungry gulp.

There are other Clive Christian perfumes out there to be explored and I do hope to find one that is more giving and generous than No.1 has proven to be. We shall see if the house of Clive Christian does have a perfume worthy of a king’s ransom. If not, then off with his head!

 imperial-majesty

CLIVE CHRISTIAN NO.1 3 BRONZE STARS (TWO FOR PRESENTATION, ONE FOR FRAGRANCE)

IT’S ALL ABOUT ME ME ME! ~ My Interview on The Perfumed Dandy.

“To the women of America… no make that, to the women everywhere!” Maggie Prescott

Maggie Prescott

I am a Sunday Supplement! I am so flattered and honored to be the subject of an in depth and entertaining interview by The Perfumed Dandy.  His very first interview ever. So if you want to know more about ME ME ME, pop over to his wonderful blog and take a peak behind the curtain at the wonderful wizard of Ahhhhs.

LINK:http://theperfumeddandy.com/2013/02/17/fragrances-latest-star-lanier-smith-of-scentsmemory-the-sunday-supplement-interview/

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TRIP BABY! ~ Ulysee by Vicky Tiel

She is the inventor of the mini skirt, the only American woman in history to have a couture design house in Paris which is still producing clothes today after forty plus years. She put Elizabeth Taylor in her first caftan, and thus became the designer to the jet setting glitterati of the 60’s right up to the celebrated stars of today.

(CAFTANS FROM X,Y, AND ZEE 1972 ~ ELIZABETH TAYLOR)

This is Vicky Tiel and this is her one and only fragrance creation for men. Ulysse comes with this great history and pedigree and at a very reasonable price. As a mater of fact this brilliant wonderfully layered nearly symphonic scent is a steal at twenty dollars for 100 mil.

Rich, exotic, mature and no doubt inspired by Tiel’s several odysseys on the Mediterranean abroad the Burton’s yacht Kalizma. You can smell the crisp salt air of the Mediterranean sea blending with citrus aromas of Italy opening with neroli, yuzu, and Greece with the mignonette and Mandarin and lime blossom. As you sail along with this fragrance the spices of the Near East nutmeg, hawthorn, trefele and sesqui woods and those of the islands of Cypress and Crete, clover carnation and lavender rise up to meet you in pure splendor. It is an olfactory voyage that unfolds in surprising richness over about a seven hour dry down of patchouli, rich resinous benzion, musk, vanilla bean and Kiawah tree moss.  It smells so very expensive!

(VICKY TIEL WITH ELIZABETH TAYLOR LONDON 1972)

Ulysse is an overlooked masterpiece and I have to again thank MisterCrazyLegs over at Fragantica for his guidance to this discovery of a Homeric inspired treasure. AND the Bottle! Deeply carved bas relief crystal like glass is so unusual in its unique beauty against the stark sleek design of so many other designer’s bottles. Like some ancient glass found in a Hellenistic tomb. It is a classic little treasure in and of itself.

(CAFTANING AT MALCOLM FORBES VILLA IN MOROCCO)

I really love this fragrance and look forward to many more voyages of adventure with Ulysse.

FOUR GOLD STARS ****

(CLIPS FROM “X,Y,& ZEE ~ SWINGING LONDON LOOKS 1972)

LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON ~ Barneys New York, San Francisco

Spending the afternoon with Hilary Randall in the perfume department at Barneys New York ~ San Francisco is like spending the afternoon with Audrey Hepburn. An afternoon of charm, grace, beauty, a bit of a “Charade” in Paris with a little Holly Golightly on the side. It’s love in the afternoon perfume style!

It all began when my best buddy Lane and I were planning an afternoon of lunch n’sniff for this weekend.  The Union Square jaunt was centered on picking up the next big ticket on my perfume parade, Les Exclusifs de Chanel Sycomore. The boutique has been out of the travel size for a few weeks so they advised me to call ahead. I had saved up my pennies in anticipation only to hear when I checked in on Friday that it would be another week until it came in. Lane and I agreed not to let this little set back detour our adventure and agreed to meet Saturday morning anyway and make a day of it.

We timed our trip downtown so precisely that we ended up meeting on the M Ocean train on Muni. The plan was lunch first then a bit of perfuming.

“Let’s go to Barneys now and do lunch after” Lane said as we surfaced from the Powell street station into one of those glorious October Saturdays that seem like summer will never melt away into the rains of winter.

“Yes and we can say hi to Hilary” I agreed.

 

(BARNEYS NEW YORK ~ SAN FRANCISCO)

   As we crossed Market Street dogging the Giants fans running amok with the hordes of last minute tourists I recalled that it was only last week that I had popped into Barneys to say hello to Hillary whom I had met last month at the Diptyque Premier of Volutes.  She had greeted me so warmly the week before, as if we had known each other since the fall of the French Monarchy at Versailles. In the course of that visit she introduced me to L’Artisan Parfumeur, Arquiste, and Aedes de Venustas. She is so incredibly knowledgeable about perfume and the history of it. All aspects really that she is, simply in my eyes the Muse of Perfume at Barneys. (Everyone that I have met there are expert in their department that is one of the things that makes Barneys so interesting and a pleasure to visit.) As I left that day I was loaded down with a captured cache from a hijacked caravan of exotic niche perfumes. (Reviews forthcoming naturally) When I shared the samples with Lane last week at work he returned them to me with one mysteriously missing. Aleksandr by Arquiste.  He had fallen in love with this perfume based on the last day of Aleksandr Pushkin’s life. Russian fumehead, DrBatson’s review at Fragantica even says that it smells like winter in St. Petersburg Russia. Well if that is what winter smells like in St. Petersburg book me a flight!

(THE GRAND STAIRCASE AT BARNEYS)

    We entered Barneys and as always were greeted by warm smiles and friendly hellos. As we descended the last steps into the subterranean perfume vault (like a wine cellar, cool with no sunlight to harm the perfumes) we heard our names and turned to see Hillary beautifully dressed as always coming toward us with outstretched arms.  I told Hilary about the missing vile of Aleksandr. She laughed and we were off for the next forty minutes on a wonderful tour of the treasures of the fragrance world. We heard the stories of the histories of the various perfumes and the noses behind them. Lane became enamored of Oranges and Lemons Say the Bells of St. Clement’s by Heeley of Paris (Like Worth, another Englishman making good in Paris)  That has to be the longest name for a perfume I have every heard.

 

    On the way to L’artisan Parfumeur for my sniff beyond Saville A L’aube  (oranges, incense and corn tortillas)  we took a side trip for a test of Fredric Malle’s Portrait of a Lady. (Glorious but I am no lady) and in the mix we discussed how Americans love the clean scents and in Europe it is more about diversity and skank.  Hilary mentioned that the French have a saying when a fragrance is too clean like fresh laundry. “il n’ya pas de cul.” She said and then translated with “Pardon my French.”  At the end. In the 19th century as she told us, it was like this “Good girls wore light florals like orange blossom, and the bad girls wore tuberose and jasmine to cover up how busy they had been with their clients.”  I mentioned to Hillary that I like the heavy Orientals, like I said before, I am no lady.

Then it was on to L’Artisan Parfumeur where we revisited Saville A L’Aube. Yes we agree the three of us that there were corn tortillas at the top, the best and freshest in the land. I mentioned that I had heard about Dzing and Hillary smiled with a knowing nod. “Yes a trip to the Circus, sawdust, and leather and even a bit of the animal cages” she said.  I loved it…It was a trip to The Pickle Family Circus indeed! Then somehow we ended up at Al Oudh.  Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. Yes I heard bells!

 

Hilary by now had us loaded with samples just when beautiful Adrienne whom we had also met at the Volutes opening arrived to take her to lunch. We agreed to all take a lunch break and meet back in a few hours.

After lunch and much smelling of wrists over sandwiches Lane and I dropped in to Diptyque to say hello to Madeline and thank her for the invitation to the holiday candle event this Wednesday. Madeline is so much fun to pop in on and always has something new and interesting to show you.

On the way back to Barneys we passed Mr. Jacqueline’s but had no time to stick a head in the door and take a chance on hello. Next time Monsieur Andre.  When we reached Barneys I knew it was decision time and it was between the Circus and Sex…Dzing and Al Oudh I tested my wrist and clearly those bells were still ringing off the harnesses of the caravan camel’s carrying the rare and wonderful Al Oudh from the East. Lane was leaning heavily toward the Oranges and Lemons etc. and while Hillary and I agreed that Dzing was for Spring and I bought my bottle of oud scented dreams Lane caved in and bought his Bells of St. Clement’s. Hilary decanted a sample for him. Spritzed him and his Barneys bag then did the same for me. There were hugs all around and a lovely goodbye until we meet again. (And that will be very soon for Hilary has invited Lane and I to a very Special Event next month which my friends will be a secret for the time being. But one hint…. There will be nothing old about this new look coming to San Francisco this November. So stay tuned.)

 

(WALL OF SCENT AT BARNEYS)

Lane and I ended our day having coffee and croissants in the window of Tout Sweet overlooking Union Square recalling what fun we had on our olfactory adventure. And on the way home as I walked though Patricia Green along Octavia Street I realized that an afternoon with Hillary was even better than spending an afternoon with Audrey Hepburn.

“YOU SIR, ARE NO GENTLEMAN!” ~ Dunhill for Men by Alfred Dunhill

 

Dunhill for Men by Alfred Dunhill of London speaks softly of waking in Mayfair on the street where she lives.  It is a glimpse of young men down from the country stepping off a train at Victoria Station in a cloud of steam. It is Kensington Gardens in the fog and Belgravia in the spring, Harrods at Christmas, and the British Museum anytime. It is very upstairs behind closed doors, it is Ivor Novello, David Niven, The Duke of Winsor, more than any of that it is Bond, James Bond. Quintessentially British and completely undeniably dangerous.

The first spritz is an eye opening surprise of English lavender, Amalfi lemons, nutmeg and geranium. A short overture that momentarily off set me but then the curtain rose on splendiferous evolving notes of iris, a perfect English rose set near a bed of carnations near some stunning woodsy notes.  A glorious jasmine entwines the rose and one would be near swooning if it were not for the fact that the leather comes up fast and gives all these flowers a commanding macho edge.  It all becomes intoxicatingly masculine without being over bearing. This was the moment I fell in love with Dunhill for Men.  The dry down is a class act of citrusy vetiver, rich sandalwood, heady oak moss and refined Virginia cedar. A dash of old Tonka bean vanilla encased in fine tooled dark leather that is sublime.   It is a very adult masculine fragrance of supreme urbanity and sophisticated charm. Indeed old school, in fact old world and that is what makes it exciting and challenging. Created in the twilight of the British Empire in 1934 Dunhill for Men is a time trip back to an age of elegant sartorial grandeur. But yet there lurks just below the surface that danger that draws you in with a promise of adventure and sex.

This is a fine rich introduction for young men to the sophisticated possibilities that lie beyond the fads of today. Not “Fresh”, not “Clean” but rather it smells like a man. A little dirty, a bit animalistic, and very dangerously sexy. Dunhill is the scent for the kind of gentleman who is really not a gentleman at all. He is a man who knows his way around the casino at Monte Carlo as well as he does the back alleys of the Wan Chi in Hong Kong.

I put it on at six in the evening and when I woke at six the next morning it was lingering still and daring me to have another go. As dangerous as that may seem, that’s just what I did.

Five platinum stars *****

(Photos from Eon Produtions / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / Colombia produtions of “Skyfall” staring Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem. Directed by Sam Mendez. Trailer: http://www.skyfall-movie.com/site/ )

ZOOM ZOOM! ~ Jaguar for Men

Word association, Jaguar, what do I think of when I hear that word?  The first thing that comes to my mind is not elegance, speed, sleek design, or tradition.  What comes to mind for me are years of mispronouncing the word!  Not until I was in college did I discover that it is not pronounced Jag-Wire. It was pointed out to me by my good college buddy Kent, “The word is Jag-You-Are.” So there you are…or at least here I am, all these years later I still have to remind myself how to say the word.  Oh the humiliation.

(HUMBOLDT STATE  DORMS)

Second association: a weird little night club I visited in Guadalajara in 1971.  El Jaguar pronounced by the way, L Ha-war. It was bright red circular arena that you descended into on narrow stairs. Hot orange and red lights heated the dance floor in the center. It was like dancing in a chili bowl inside an oven. For some reason I ended up there one night, a little tipsy and dancing alone in that flame hot arena. Oh the humiliation.

Third association: the H R Owen car dealership on Old Brompton Road in London.  Every morning for two weeks while I had my breakfast, I studied it from my holiday flat on Wetherby Place at the other end of Rosary Gardens. Oh how nice, I thought each morning, how nice to have a cozy Jag-wire…Jaguar dealership at the end of the street. Not until the last day of my visit to London when I walked to the end of that block did I discover it was not a Jaguar dealership at all, but a Ferrari showroom.  I really should put my glasses on right when I get up in the morning. Oh the humiliation!

(MY HOLIDAY FLAT AT THE END OF THE STREET)

Finally I think of my brother’s racing green 1990 Jag xj6 which my niece drives on occasion to school. She hates that car. It seems some teenagers don’t like to get too much attention.  When my niece drives that beautiful car the kids at school notice….BIG TIME. All together now, oh the humiliation!

So with all this baggage behind me I eyed my new acquisition of Jaguar for Men. The beautiful racing green bottle is of a deco design in a reminiscent shape of an old radiator topped by a silver cap.  I turned the key on this baby and it stared up right away with out a sputter. No humiliation here! On first spritz you are met with fresh citrus notes of orange, mandarin, grapefruit, and bergamot. These fade very fast to the lavender, green notes, cassia, basil, anise, and thyme which in turn linger only for about ten minutes.   Then the motor of this scent begins to hum as you speed along the green country roads of the imagination. Up come the middle notes of cyclamen, nutmeg, carnation, gardenia, cinnamon, jasmine, caraway, sage, rose, geranium and fir. Coming at you so fast like a spring wind in the face with the top down at 65 mile per hour.  At cruising speed you enter the deep and solid dry down.  With traces of the trip trailing behind you the wonderful tobacco and leather are now the majors of the landscape of this scent. They find support in Moss, sandalwood, cedar, amber and musk that just bring a balmy glow to the fragrance. Confident, strong, and entirely masculine and mature this is the best part of the whole Jaguar or Men experience.

(EVEN JAMES BOND FLIRTED WITH A JAG IN “DIE ANOTHER DAY”)

This Jaguar lasts a long time on my skin. The silage is very good. And the best part of this wonderful fragrance is that is won’t cost you very much. The investment I made on this Jag was a mere eighteen dollars. A great sent doesn’t have to be expensive. Go ahead. Take this Jag for a spin, you know you want to. Just one little warning though, you will get noticed and unless you are my niece, that is a good thing.

FOUR GOLD STARS ****

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