I am emotional about fragrance. We scent a pathway through our lives, remember to pause, inhale & imprint. Inhale & desire.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Beguiling Vice: ‘Salome’ by Papillon Perfumery

“The long black nights, when the moon hides her face, when the stars are afraid, are not so black. The silence that dwells in the forest is not so black. There is nothing in the world so black as thy hair.”

Oscar Wilde ‘Salome’

A year ago, Liz Moores launched Papillon Perfumery with three extraordinary fragrances, Anubis, Angelique and my beloved sluttish Tobacco Rose. Blended with masterly and sensual precision it was almost impossible to imagine how she had pulled off such a feat of smooth and decadent engineering. Then I had the pleasure of getting to know her through social media, messages, e-mails and electronic chatting. Liz is a very canny user of social media, she is genuinely delicious and honest, fun and deadly serious about what she does. She is her brand, Papillon is Liz, the two are savagely, sexily and magnificently inseparable.
Liz Moores, perfumer. 

Liz’s approach to her scented work is deeply committed and tempestuous. I love the meld of earned graft, home-school aromachemistry and drama she brings to the mixing table. She is a perfectionist with a lovely ability to still acknowledge the eroticism of flaws, she uses the multifarious facets of her charming and layered personality to bear dramatically on the materials and techniques she requires to render her ideas redolent with biography and brio.

She worked insanely hard to get to the point last year when she was ready to launch Anubis, Angelique and Tobacco Rose. Along the way there has been much stress and heartache, temper tantrums, hurling of formulae, diva hissy fits, packaging issues, endless modifications, tears, lot of smoking and vino (hahahaha…) but also much love and support from her ridiculously gorgeous family, daughters Poppy, Lily and Jasmine, son Rowan, cute as a button baby Daisy and dashing hubby Simon. This tight skein of love and coalition from her floral-monikered kids, spouse and the astonishing menagerie of animals that surrounds her in the new forest where she is carefully secluded away has allowed Liz to fulfil many roles all which had fed into her fiercely beautiful work. Mother, artist, perfumer, sensualist, free spirit, friend, bitch, queen, voodoo temptress, lover and glorious generous woman.

Liz & Phanta the ghostly python

The wrapped surround of trees, her semi-wild garden, horses, cats, pythons (including a singular marble toned albino one called Phanta) and owls seems to lend Liz a curious sense of chthonic, oracular, priestess. Ok, one that swears like a docker maybe, but she is profoundly grounded in her details and preoccupations. As I’ve gotten to know her better and we have chatted about different things; her powerful kindnesses and unerring sense of reality and belief in kinship have made me value her friendship like the rarest orchid in the last glasshouse at the edge of the world. 

I met Liz through Twitter after a friend gave me samples of her work with me. I contacted her and she sent me more samples. As I said earlier, Liz is great on Twitter and Instagram, a lovely mix of personal and industry stuff, mingled to demonstrate her particular reflections on the perfume business. I sensed a driving combination of vitality, vice and ambition that I felt drawn to. I knew the fragrances were inherently a reflection of Liz herself, the different facets of her complex vibrancy poured into a collection of reflective and powerful aromas.

Liz & lippy..

While she has the kind of beauty that burns like a lantern in a window drawing the lovesick homeward, you can sense splashes of darkness. It can be felt in the gathering of floral and fauna around her; she needs contact with the elementals in order to create. Yes, there are flashes of urbanity, but Liz Moores is a woman of earth, seed, stem and storm. I recognise a fellow reckless lover and consumer of life. All or nothing. Age tempers us, not completely, but enough I guess to channel the potential recklessness into something more productive.

Wilde's 'Salome' illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley

I don’t think the choice of Salome as a name is accidental, even on a subconscious level; the multitude of myths and interpretations is wide and colourful. Salome is not actually named in biblical sources and there are conflicting and contested opinions as to her various methods and intent.

Nadja Michael as Richard Strauss' 'Salome' in David McVicar's
2008 production, Covent Garden

Whatever the reality and actuality of Salome’s truths, her binding dance for Herod Aptias and the demand for John the Baptist’s head have proved dark and fertile inspiration for artists and writers throughout the history of western art. The lure and power of Salome is the dichotomy of desire and lust vs innocence and sacrifice. A woman must use her veiled charms to arrest and mesmerise an enemy in order to achieve her aims. This is a perfect metaphor of beguilement and lends itself beautifully to Liz Moore’s corporeal relationship with her olfactive palette.

The superlative blending of her work is due partly I think to hard graft and years of instinctual attention to detail, but also I believe to Liz’s inherent comprehension for robing flesh in aromas that enhance our desirability. She is after all a woman of immense sensual presence and charm, unafraid to ally her own personality with her oeuvre.  

Salome is a mirror of its maker, a weapon if you like of controlled seduction. The variations of the Salome myth are legion but the most important message is the erosion and challenge of traditional masculine tropes - kingship, sword, and patriarchy with feminine subterfuge, music, dance, skin and sex. My favourite rendition of the Salome story has always been L’Apparition by the French symbolist artist Gustav Moreau, painted between 1874-76. I went to the Musée D’Orsay in Paris some years ago expressly to see Moreau’s dazzling pastels. They were displayed in a very low light in a contagiously claustrophobic room. The works glittered like vibrant coral and anemone in a shocking blue sea.

'L'Apparition' by Gustav Moreau 
L’Apparition portrays Salome encrusted in jewels like armour, her skin pale and erotic, barely covered by her precious stones, gold and silken threads. She stands in Herod Antipas’ court, her demeanour a defiant stance of sensual icon and powerful enchantress as she seemingly conjures out of thin air a horrific image of John the Baptist’s head, halo-wrapped, eyes wide and staring, neck trailing tendrils of blood like red velvet ribbons. It is an image of extraordinary power, all the more so for the fact that none of the painting’s protagonists seem aware of the floating horror head. Herod seems lost in reverie, a musician and seer staring out at us, frozen in the moment of butchered holy light. Salome herself looks beyond the light, face down, arm outstretched as if caught in the moment of terrible conjuring. Yet her foot is ballet-poised, deliberate, turned to catch the eye of the beholder. Salome is enchantress, witch, sibyl, innocent and whore. Moreau was one of the greatest of all symbolist artists, his world littered with ethereal necrophilia, sadism and morbid glittering imaginings.

L’Apparation is a highly decorative work of pornographic embellishment and conjured texture. Once seen, it cannot be unseen, Moreau’s bold melding of erotic intent, metaphor and chromatic intensity is hard to shake off. He revisited the theme of Salome a number of times throughout his career, but nothing ever really matched the power and effect of this singular work of art.

For me, it is this darkness and ambiguous feminine rage that defines the Salome myth, the bewitching shift back and forth between temptress, mother, virgin and reckless whore. With her new carnal and enslaving scent, Liz Moores has made a pelt of sensual persuasion that we ache to wear. It is mucky and salacious, an immoral funk of jasmine, orange blossom and patchouli lording over the battered senses with sneering porny majesty.  

Liz allowed me the privilege a few months back to sample an earlier mod of Salome. I evaluated it blind; it allows me to formulate my landscapes without the distractions of olfactory maps. I had a sample too of White Moth, a stunning white floral of delicate tiare absolute, beeswax and jasmine with immense ghostly transparency that Liz was battling to balance and harmonise. That was due this year, but will now launch next in 2016, allowing Liz time to breathe and re-design, re-love her haunted bleached ode to night wing and pale bloom.

My original notes opened with:

‘Mod I Leather Floral (….Tack, Lash & Bracken..)

Opens with intent to beguile. Big visceral opening salvo of verdigris leather and mildew bloom.

Can already sense a depth, a rutting smear of animalic (hyraceum..?)in the low bass/base.. I like the pungent verdancy, the vegetal asparagus tone running over copper and mossy stone…..The dampness, the hint of aristocracy and smutty forbidden you have embedded in its code?..

Jan 2015.


I was aware then how much I loved the imminent drag of Diorling and Caron mousse de saxe style of leathered weather, skins buried and marked by countless forest mammals. Reading the notes now, I love that Liz has used carnation, a much neglected bloom, sullied by its garage forecourt and bucket reputation, which used correctly with bravado can be both slut and debutante. The seductive haze of druggy eugenol can sometimes be overpowering and a tad whorish, but in Salome it has been allied to a blistering Turkish rose and burnished patchouli that allow the much maligned dianthus caryphyllus to glitter like blushing lanterns.

Hello Mr Hyrax
This boudoir Wildean reek of carnation lends a perturbing pallor to the early vampiric stages of Salome, a dusty, throat-catching grapple that rises again and again to chime with the styrax in the swelling base. There is a knowing lilt of depravity in the mix, a carnal star. This is hyraceum or African Stone as it sometimes rather euphemistically called. The odour even in trace amounts is pretty unmistakable, faecal, urinous, queer and confrontational. Only someone truly liberated in the art of not giving a fuck could hunker down and relish the abandonment of hyraceum is such a blatant dosage as this.

The substance itself is fascinating; Liz very kindly sent a decant of hyraceum absolute at 10% dilution to Mr E and myself, saying it smelled like pissy fox fur. Ha! How could I resist? Hyraceum comes from the Cape hyrax (Procaria Capensis) a bizarre, rubber-footed, tiny-tusked rock-dwelling native of African drier regions. Its little oddball tusks are the only indication of its distant connection to its nearest mammal relation the elephant. Their odd little feet are rubbery and designed in such a way to ensure they can cling brilliantly to rocks and twist and turn to outrun predators.

Over time, family groups of Hyraxes urinate and defecate in the same collective midden. Over time this petrifies and then this über-weird night-black stuff is excavated and tinctured in perfumers alcohol. How we got to his stage is anyone’s guess but the effect of hyraceum on scent is unparalleled. (Last year’s magnificent Tango by Cécile Zarokian for Masque Milano had the most gratifyingly charismatic howl of hyraceum mixed with jasmine, cedar, cumin and Turkish rose.)

It lends an addictive feral underpinning to scents, an odour of piss on hot mucky fur that may sound unsettling on paper but in epidermal actuality has the tug of forbidden sexual desire. It can have dry tobacco facets and an earthy sweet compost bloom of its own. I think it is a key component to Liz’s sensual building of Salome, the furry scat skank hints at the dangerous seduction beneath the innocent apparel. This is scent as challenge, as weapon.

Salome’s rose is smeared in the African Stone, the effect is that striking, petals furred and avant-garde. There is something a little unwholesome in Salome, but surely that is the point, Moreau’s bejewelled monster was salacious, conjuring up her bloody head, suspended like a glittering terrifying star for all to see. Salome has magnificent tonality and develops very carefully into a lingering leather chypré with echoes of rutting vintage Diorling and the original un-violated Mitsouko. Tendrils of old fumy Caron formulations whisper around the edges too, hints of Tabac Blond and Nuit de Noel, phantom echoes across time to suggest reverence and acknowledgement of technique.

Siegfried Enkelman (1905-1978)
Lydia Wieser in the 'Dance of the Seven Veils 1954

As I drift around the apartment in Salome, I detect a curious briny effect on my skin, bright and textured that helps support the sticky indolic slide of the central floral section into the fearless animalic base. Liz is a woman reflected in this febrile vocation, her menagerie of animals, her fierce love of family and friends, her beauty, non-negotiable passions and allure all mirrored subconsciously in Salome, an external projection of her emotional reactions to herself, her critics and her olfactive development since she first decided to become a parfumeuse.

The original trio are of course exceptional and it’s hard to imagine they’ve only been with us for just over a year. But Salome is a portrait of the perfumer as woman, wanton, desired, powerful, alchemist and siren. The capricious layers of classicism and dirty modernity capture the unique essence of Liz Moores’ talent, an ability to beguile with watchful spirit and masterful bending producing unashamedly sensual formulae that quite simply transform skin into gilded, alluring art.

It was always going to be a tough ask to follow her debut scents, they have been so successful and Liz’s fans are violently loyal. The tapestry of Liz’s social media is stitched and embroidered with colourful, passionate posts and messages of support, reviews and feedback on her work. People seem to live her perfumes, feel the vitality and graft that has been poured into every bottle. Salome is luscious, dark alchemy, reeking of sullied retro years and bold seduction. Overtly and unashamedly animalic, it has a true understanding of coy versus want, that eternal struggle within us all to remain pure and good, but secretly we crave loss, abandonment, disarray and the gratification of sexual control.

Now, all we need do is close our eyes and inhale. 

For more info on Papillon Perfumery, click on the link below:

Fuck-me heels... obvs..

Disclosure - Samples of 'Salome' kindly provided by Papillon Perfumery & photos of Liz used by kind permission of Liz Moores, (apped by Foxy..).

©The Silver Fox

21 July 2105

Saturday, 20 June 2015

The Exquisite Attendance of Sadness: ‘Cio Cio San’ by MDCI

This is my first real opportunity to dedicate a full post to the work of Cécile Zarokian, a perfumer whose work I admire tremendously. She is part of a group of passionate young noses whose olfactory art in recent years has seduced and dazzled me. Working within the shifting and evolving restrictions of IFRA’s annual bell-tolling pronouncements on materials, they choose to see everything as a challenge and creatively, evocatively produce work that circumnavigates the brouhaha and still meets Houses briefs or radiates individuality and sensual signature charm.

I wrote about her work when I blogged on Masque Fragranze back in December 2014. She created Tango for Riccardo and Alessandro and I love it, along with Russian Tea, it is my favourite Masque elixir; it took a few wearings to get there, like meeting someone you weren’t sure about and then you spend all your spare time dreaming about them. In my piece on Russian Tea, this is what I had to say about Tango:

‘The thing that really dazzles me with Tango is how close the formula smells to being decayed and turned. In my scented travels I sometimes come across near empty flacons with the syrupy residue of perfumes lying stickily in the base. These evaporated, reduced, concentrées have strong vintage odours of creosote, face powder and sweet stale gateau. Oddly this is what I detect in the powerful drama of Tango…. It’s a tricky balance, the suggestion of corrosion, whilst surrounding it in swathes of smouldering ambered ardour. But Zarokian knows her stuff and has produced a scent of fire and passionate generosity’.

Cécile Zarokian

Cécile’s versatility is becoming very apparent. She set a very high standard for herself when she created Private Label for Jovoy, still I think one of the finest scents in the House’s complex and sensual repertoire and the personal favourite of Jovoy Creative Director François Henin, who Cécile credits with sincerely helping and supporting her in the early days of her career as an independent perfumer. Patchouliful for Robert Drago’s wonderful Laboratorio Olfattivo is one of the most luxurious and sexy patchoulis in years, intimate and dangerously addictive. You want to keep on spraying until you drown in its warm, leathery embrace. The cinnamon blast at the top is genius, mingling beautifully with the frangipani Cécile walks carefully alongside the gorgeously rounded patchouli. 

Now we have Cio Cio San, the second scent she has created for Claude Marchal’s rather oblique and mysterious niche house MDCI. Cécile also made Nuit Andalouse, launched in 2013, a beautifully constructed gardenia couture gown of a scent with a floating train of shimmering white holiday drenched salicylates. Underpinning this is a bodice of violet and orange flourishes that hold the construction together with grace and delicate pressure. It is a remarkable and perceptive piece of perfumery, ticking floral and holiday fantasy boxes whilst at the same time demonstrating an eccentric decorum that is both graceful and alluring.  

I say mysterious as Monsieur Marchal likes to keep a low profile, no pictures of himself and few interviews, those he does do are very tightly focussed on his beloved House and the fragrances he is so passionate about. He originally has a background in aeronautics, but felt strongly drawn to a luxurious telling of scent, informed by his love of the Renaissance, the de Medici family, the Sun King and a childhood growing up surrounded by objets d’art collected by his parents on their travels.

This obsession with the beauty of classicism, a preoccupation with the luxury of aesthetics and art over the vulgarity of commerce led to the creation of MDCI (Marchal Design et Créations Indépendentes) and the launch in 2005 of Ambre Topkapi, the first MDCI perfume made by Pierre Bourdan. One of the most important tenets of MDCI is the quality of formulae, achieved, according to Claude by placing no limitations on the budgets for raw materials. This freedom of olfactory expression is honed down through the weighing, balancing and harmonising of notes as the perfumes are slowly assembled. It is true that MDCI fragrances have a certain feel, rub and fall through the fingers as it were. They have weight and texture. After all, the House contains Inavasion Barbare, perhaps one of the finest fougère fragrances ever created, a sublime mix of herbs, patchouli and vanilla. So damn sexy on skin, created by Stephanie Bakouche and truly a masterpiece. If she never does anything else again this will be her Catcher in the Rye. My favourite to date is Chypre Palatin, Bertrand Duchaufour’s oddball and subversive attempt to do a chypré without definitive amounts of oakmoss, to redefine the genre as it were. It doesn’t quite come off, but damn it’s so beautiful, plummy, warm and packed full and rosaceous balms and styrax tinted resins that hold the senses in a kind of heady trance.

Each MDCI scent has a presence and personality; they demand attention. Patricia de Nicolai, Francis Kurkdjian, Amandine Marie and Richard Ibanez have all created fragrances for Claude Marchal’s lovely house. In doing so they have endorsed Monsieur Marchal’s rather esoteric brand with some singular and off-piste work. The bottles are well known to perfume cognoscenti for their Limoge tops, modelled in classical forms of soft white bisque paste. These are ghostly pale and beautifully rendered busts of two styles of masculine and feminine heads; one roman style masculine in stern patrician mode and a much softer neo-classical feminine bust with Empress Josephine style allure.

Claude Marchal has gone on record a number of times reiterating his strong feelings about perfumery, that it should be considered more of an art than an industry and that the relentless focus on commercialism is withering away the beauty of his chosen craft. I would agree, but let us not forget that a balance needs to be struck, one side needs the other, art ultimately always has need of some form of commerce, it is the way of things. There are many perfumers in the burgeoning niche world I would consider olfactory artists, creating scents that dazzle and manipulate our senses while still reflecting a pure and deeply personal interpretation of the creator’s vision. But I respect Claude Marchal’s relative silence and semi-invisibility in terms of MDCI. His fragrances speak for him.

He manages somehow to entice or encourage exceptional work out of his collaborative perfumers. Cio Cio San is no exception. It is heartbreakingly lovely, a scent of petal-thrown lightless and thought-provoking introspection. There is giddy joy and rainbow light whilst the settling brings a shadow of sadness, a portend of anguish.

Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is one of the most well known operas in the world, the tragic story of Cio Cio San (Little Butterfly) a beautiful (very) young Geisha in 1904 Nagasaki forsaken by a callous US naval officer. The standard 1904 version is in three acts. It is many ways an appalling tale of deception and xenophobia but for some odd reason our attention is held by the all consuming idealism and rather naïve near obsessional devotion of the eighteen year old Butterfly. 

She has become a geisha in order to provide for her family who have fallen on hard times. She marries Pinkerton when she is only 15, secretly converting to Christianity, which horrifies her family. Pinkerton always knows he will be leaving but tells her:
Oh Butterfly my little wife, I shall return with the roses, when the earth is full of joy and the robin makes his nest’.

She waits. And waits, convinced of his love for her; that he will return and live with her and the doubters around her will be proven wrong. I used to find to find this devotion irksome and weird, but oddly now I find it rather shattering; it’s hard to tell from a psychological viewpoint how much Cio Cio San believes her own myth-making and whether she genuinely imagines Pinkerton will return to her and her blond son Dolore (which translates roughly as pain). I suppose if she ever let go of her dream, let slip the mask of hope, she would fall to the tatami and shatter into a cloud of cherry blossom, white makeup and kimono silk.   

Madama Butterfly (Scottish Opera, Hye-Youn Lee as Cio Cio San)

When Pinkerton does return, it is with his American wife Katie. They intend to adopt Butterfly’s baby and return to the US. It is a dark move, cast into more shadow by Cio Cio San’s delirious excitement that her husband has returned to her..The house must be filled with flowers. Everywhere, as the night is full of stars.

The soundtrack in my head as I write this is oddly not quite the purity of Puccini’s opera but Malcolm Mclaren’s beautiful and ageless Fans album from 1984, fusing 80’s R&B with opera pieces. It was and is still one of my favourite albums; the Butterfly track with Betty-Ann White as Cio Cio San and Debbie Cole as the contemporary Cho-Cho is the standout piece, hypnotic and incredibly moving. Oddly, McClaren chose to shoot the video in a light-drenched Turkish Hammam with splendidly sullen models of the days, heavily made up, lounging, bathing and sleeping as they wait for a mysterious summons. It is a mesmerising video, sulphurous, overtly sexual and soaked in longing.

Malcolm McClaren 'Fans' 
(Silver Fox own collection)

Today's the day when I see clear

A tiny thread of smoke appears

Where blue skies fall upon the ocean

And shake this staid emotion

All the while I sing this song

I see a dot on the horizon

Growing bigger every second

Gleaming white in my direction

Who on earth can it be

Coming up the path for me?

What on earth will he say?

Shall I run to him or run away?

Freaking out he's come to get me

My feet are stuck but just won't let me

Run to him do I dare?

Madam Butterfly don't blow it

Calling Butterfly, Madam Butterfly

That's the name he used to give me

He's my man till the day I die

Oh sweet Butterfly, so sweet Butterfly

She's waiting
, He'll be back,
I have faith in this love track 

Malcolm McClaren – Madam Butterfly, (1984)

Butterfly clings to love and illusion that Pinkerton has returned to her, filling the house and her heart with cherry blossom and various blooms, despite evidence to the contrary - words from her faithful maid Suzuki and the shadowed appearance of Pinkerton’s wife in her garden. The shock of realising who this woman is finally tears her world apart. She realises the truth that her love is a mirage, fracturing in front of her weary eyes. The tragedy is terrible to behold. I have always found the bargaining over her child abhorrent, the conquering of her spirit and shattering of her heart is terrible. The stuff of grand operatic tragedy perhaps but painful to behold nonetheless.

Butterfly reluctantly agrees to allow them to take her child only if Pinkerton come to her himself. After seeing the lengths she has gone to and the love she still bears him, his cowardice overwhelms him. Cio Cio San’s final terrible act is to blindfold her son, place an American flag in his hands and cut her own throat with her father’s ceremonial dagger upon which are engraved the words "Who cannot live with honor must die with honor." She dies. Pinkerton rushes in to find her lifeless on the floor.

As with so much classical opera, the ending is tragic, the heroine is dead having suffered love and misunderstanding. And yes it would have been easy to have done full blown drama in olfactory terms, but Cécile Zarokian is way much too subtle and talented a perfumer to take that that rather obvious route, instead she has chosen to do something more subversive: happiness as augur, a presage of things to come. It is perfection. It would have been impossible for Cécile to have been unmoved by the terrible pain of Cio Cio San and her movement towards death in her flower-filled house. The sudden symbolic shift from the scattering and decorative use of welcoming evocative bloom to sombre funereal offering is both perceptible and dreaded. 

By using the classical sweet ostensibly pretty motif of cherry blossom or sakura, Cécile also lays down more apt meaning for Butterfly’s plight. Cherry blossom in Japan, is hugely significant, a national symbol of artistic nationhood, adorning porcelain, kimonos, lacquer, armour and ukiyo-e, the classical genre painting style popular during the Edo period of Japanese history from 17th to the 19th centuries.  The cherry blossom season is still celebrated throughout the country with reports of blossom-bloom times being closely monitored and reported so people everywhere can enjoy Hanami, a centuries old tradition of picnicking under the trees as the petals fall like snow.  

Silver Fox & Sakura, Edinburgh 2010

In Edinburgh the Meadows as they are known have the most divine interlocking avenues of cherry blossom trees and their blooming is one of my most favourite times of the city’s year. The surrounding green parks are awash in eddies of whirling white and candyfloss pink petals. As the trees bloom so beautifully en masse, sakura has come to symbolise clouds and in turn the ephemeral, transient nature of life. Used in scent it is synthesised but suggests a frothy, faraway candy-floss stained delicacy we seem to be to quite capable of interpreting on some stereotypical cultural level.

Cio Cio San is in many ways a classic fruit drenched floral scent, but this would be doing it a huge disservice. It has immense subtlety and a shimmering vibrancy I found developed into a potent longevity. The opening delivers a potent, bright shot of light from a sweet lime note and yuzu, the Japanese citrus fruit that has a protected national status and only harvested at specific times. The oil yielded through expression is deliciously floral and rounded in tone. Its cost is prohibitive and few houses use it, preferring to cut costs with cheaper synthetic alternatives. The ginger facet is a palette cleansing addition of gari it seems to me, the thin slices of young ginger, pickled in salt sugar and rice vinegar, traditionally served with sushi. Un-dyed, it can be a lovely washed pale pink colour, similar to that of faded cherry blossom. The smell is a piquant meld of sharp, saline and sweetly spiced; something I can really detect against the limey opening salvo of Cio Cio San

It is the entwining of peony and lychee, two symbolically far Eastern style notes that form the heart of this lush formulation. Both accords will be synthetic, but again, created with great care and attention to the delicate fluttering harmony of the overall composition. Lychee, pineapple, cherry, coconut, strawberry etc, these have been for many years the domain of the neon gaudy celebuscent, to add tropical zing and pina colada come hitherness to generic shelf fillers. But occasionally they sidle into rather beautiful scents if used with purpose, intelligence and charm. I was a huge fan of the sadly now discontinued Badgely Mischka original scent by Richard Herpin, a heady delight of oozing red berries and peach that reeked of strawberries and caramel. And Juliette Has A Gun’s Miss Charming has a lovely lychee note mingled with the house’s trademark rose. 

Lychee is a very odd fruit, such a powerfully recognisable scent, encased in its sandpaper casing, wrapped around it’s overtly large glossy seed. There are rosy, aquatic rubbered tones to the smell and sometimes, depending on ripeness, a phenolic, burned facet that some people really hate. Cécile has built a lovely lychee in Cio Cio San, airy, nuanced and blushing with juice, marrying well with the ephemeral oolong tea she has coolly trickled around the floral fruity mix at the heart of the scent. Oolong teas are incredibly varied and dependent on the drying process and amount of oxidisation the raw leaves are subjected to. In Cio Cio San, it seems to impart a whisper of floral smoke.  

Under the lychee, the peony has the feel of smudged make-up, a little post-party, still pretty, but in need of repair. All these floral touches have elegant gradations of chromatic olfaction, edges bleeding into one another with sweet grace. The woods and musks are less interesting but still slow down the dispersion rates of the overall composition imparting Cio Cio San with some serious longevity. I really love it, the mix of fruity floral exuberance and blatant plasticity I find just so compelling on my skin. I can’t stop spraying it. At times the lychee emotes like freshly unwrapped white plastic vending machine cups. 

It is the very giddy nature of Cio Cio San’s florality that makes it so tragic; it is the moment when Butterfly defies her own sense of inner logic and the warning signs around her and fills her Nagasaki home with flowers, love and joy. Her beloved, long-awaited Pinkerton is back for her and their son. It is an intriguing moment to capture; generally it is her tragic suicide that demands attention and terrible though it is, it is after all inevitable, foreshadowed by her father’s seppuku dagger in Act 1. There is almost unbearable poignancy in the bright, piercing happiness of Butterfly’s bloom-laden bower. Despite the ecstasy, the shadows to fall are terrible indeed.

Cécile Zarokian’s masterful, sympathetic and let’s not forget, feminine handling of darkening luminescence and obsessive devotion is divinely executed and demonstrates once again why she must be considered one of the most versatile and imaginative perfumers working today.


20 June 2015

Disclosure – Bottle of Cio Cio San kindly sent by MDCI, opinions my own.

To find out more about MDCI, please click on the link below: