Luca’s Rose Garden

Nombre Noir by Serge Lutens

If black can have a smell, it might as well have a number.

Today, we sniff the great and near-mythical fragrance, Shiseido Nombre Noir.  This fragrance, which was, for a long time, the favorite fragrance of perfume critic Luca Turin, is something of a legend in the fragrance community.  I consider it an honor – a very lucky one – to be able to sniff this perfume and describe it for you.

We were discussing this scent on Basenotes, when somebody mentioned having seen it recently.  Thinking it might actually be out there, I wandered around on the internet,  looking for various bits of information.  At one point, I found some information on the website of the decanting and sample service, Surrender To Chance.  And then I noticed that the fragrance was actually for sale, and that I could get 1/4 mL for only $20.

Shocked!  Shocked, I say!  Shocked that we could actually get some of this to smell.  Shocked even more that we could actually afford it.

In any case, we will now begin the ceremonial sniffing of this legendary fragrance.

Knit, mi amiga – this one’s for you!

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My first chore is to open the mailer from Surrender To Chance.  A hideously efficient affair, it forces me to cut the stuck plastic outer layer, at the joint, rather than try to tear at the adhesive, which appears to be stronger than the plastic itself.

The package opened, I take my first whiff.  A tiny bit of odd fragrance – familiar but distant in my memory – only makes me more doubtful.  I have no idea what it is – only that it is strange.

A tiny espresso candy wrapper falls out of the pack.  WTF?  Looking back into the pack, I am relieved to see that there is more.  Somebody has a sense of humor.  At least it wasn’t coffee beans.  Unwrapping the rolled-up receipt, which smells even stranger, a tiny bit of taped padding falls out.

Nombre Noir Sample

Full Sample Worthy!

Well, this is pretty much the moment of truth.  If the odd, screeching, mothball fragrance on the paper is Nombre Noir, this is going to be a serious WTF.

Cautiously, I open the small package by cutting the tape.  I open one end of the polystyrene puff-bag, and out pops a small vial, containing a surprisingly but reassuringly yellow liquid.

Nombre Noir Sample.

Nombre Noir – the real deal.

Cool.  We have arrived.  The sniff.

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Sniffing around the seal of the vial, I detect something warmer than the cold mothball fragrance on the paper.  My instant impression is White Rose Natural by Shiseido, which I am very, very, very fortunate enough to own.  That is one of the most amazing fragrances ever.  But the tiny whiff of *something* just brought that to mind instantly.  Not really in any fair way, but I am faithfully recording my thoughts.  WordPress is my lab notebook.

OK.  Here goes.

I crack open the vial, and sniff intently for half a minute, then close the vial.

The fragrance IS somewhat reminiscent of White Rose Natural, but it is clearly less rosy.  It is odd, but the oddity is subtle and beautiful.  It has something vaguely reminiscent of my wife’s beloved but rather baroque rose fragrance, Fleurs de Bulgarie, by Creed.  That sort of ornamental rose from days gone by.  But just a touch.  A smidgeon, so to speak.  The Victorian ornateness is gone, but the class remains.  Impressive.  The fragrance is both warm and chilly.  I like it.  The cool stuff that infested the receipt and package is there, but it is balanced by something warm which makes it veer into guy territory.  I can see how Turin fell for this stuff.  It’s very “Serge” – that restrained, bizarre, humorless affect that the SAs in the Lutens boutique supposedly adopt – it’s all there.  I want to laugh out loud at it.

OK.  Time for a REAL sniff.  Let’s put some on paper.

Shiseido White Rose Abstract.  My review in 4 words or less.

Sorry – this is a beautiful fragrance.  If the best whiskey ever was a rose, this would be it.  Kinda like Jack Daniels in rose-space.  Yes.  I want to go back in time to my Ph.D. party, where I had a fifth of Jack Black, and wear a black turtleneck, a pair of sleek, black, smooth-rimmed Chanel glasses that won’t be cool until 30 years later, and just REEK of this stuff.  My whole life would have been different.  I’d probably be some sort of horrible lefty academic with three divorces, a bunch of respectable papers, and I wouldn’t know shit.  But for one magic moment, I would have been in perfect sync with this amazing fragrance.

Damn.  I have a black turtleneck.  All I need now are the Chanel glasses, a shave, mom jeans and a dye job.  NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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

I swear to G_d, I need a character who wears this fragrance.  Even Joey Waters cannot wear this stuff.  He has a Chanel poster in his studio, and the model wearing the glasses looks like the guy who wears this fragrance.  Snake walks in, and is always in awe of the “Chanel dude”, and wonders which Chanel fragrance the guy is wearing.  It’s Égoïste, but when he’s not on the job, he wears Nombre Noir.

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

OK.  Back to reality.  Sorta. The Égoïste reference was not for naught – this stuff actually bears a certain similarity.  Imagine taking “Bois Noir“, as it were, and removing the woody crutch needed to make Égoïste a guy frag.  Now – as you do that, the ornate rose starts coming back, and the “Noir” starts to fade, but somehow keep it there, until the guy who’s wearing it becomes painfully cool, because he doesn’t care that there is only a small bit of what is needed to keep all the girls guessing whether he’s wearing one of their scents, probably poached from the vanity of some lucky lady who traded her reputation for a night with the guy.  Égoïste, not on steroids, but on some kind of androgynous miracle drug.

You know – I think I can back away from this scent enough to be clinical, and explain the Turin love.  This is a “guy wearable” rose, but it’s HOW it remains guy-wearable that is what is so amazing.  It sacrifices none of the greatness – the smoothness – the elegance.  But it still says “You can wear me, guy, if you have something about you that makes the Daniel Craig version of James Bond respect you, because THAT is what kind of scent I am.”

One of the secrets of this stuff, I am realizing, is that it uses the spicy/peppery trick that Le Labo Rose 31 uses, but at a much more subtle, almost imperceptible level.  The texture of the spice is so fine-grained, that it seems almost harmonic with the rose.  Just BRAVO.  I see this as somewhat analogous to the vetiver fascination in Portrait of a Lady, also one of the great fragrances of all time.  It is the judicious offsetting of rose with a textured sort of spice, wood, or similar stuff, that makes people say “Yeah.  That’s cool.  And a GUY can be cool, wearing it.

There is also a Platinum Égoïste thing going on.  If that one had been just a bit more rosey, and less of a fougère, it could have captured the high-pitched rose in this one.  Just sayin’.  I never really got WHY they named Platinum Égoïste Platinum Égoïste, but had they made Platinum Égoïste more obviously rosey, it would have made tons of sense.  Oh, man, this fragrance is inspirational.  How the fuck would I know how to correct a fragrance from the brilliant Jacques Polge, were it not that this mythical fragrance sitting in front of me had the answer?

OK.  I’m done here.  As Nombre Noir fades, it falls apart, ever so gently and ever so respectfully.  In its wake, it leaves that cool, fresh, smooth, mothball base note, like a soprano fading out.  The rose goes out on a high note, so to speak.  An intertwining mix of freshness and gamma ray rose.

Why they got rid of this – wow – who knows.  Does it matter?  But honestly, I think that somebody could make something like this again.  White Rose Natural has some essential element of this stuff, and that one is NOT gone.  Expensive, but not gone.  This could be done.

I leave you with a final thought.  Why I will never seek a real bottle of this stuff.































Additional References For Those Interested In Nombre Noir:  (see Chapter 1)

Appendix I – The Next-Day Drydown

And here you thought I would be cheap and try to get a second post out of the part where I actually have time to look at the entire development of the fragrance.  Never!  This entire review must remain in one place.  Some would argue, so that it’s easier to take out the trash, but still.  We shall not make you chase down the complete set.

The way this odd fragrance falls apart is by divergence into it’s light and dark halves.  Strange as hell.  The dark parts are there, but their integration with the bright, fresh, high-pitched stuff seems to vanish, leaving the parts more easily discernible.  It’s difficult to get a handle on the dark parts – to some extent due to olfactory fatigue.  After taking a break and coming back to sniff this, there is a dark fruitiness in the base that is very enjoyable, and presumably makes for the name, but perception of it is difficult and its presence tenuous.  It falls away at the drop of a hat.  There is also the omnipresent, bright freshness.  And, somewhere between them, an abstract, tonal floral accord that is the true greatness of this fragrance.

OK – now I’m really done here.  Enjoying the fact that my touristy long-sleeved T-shirt from Desert Rock Sports in Las Vegas is not a black turtleneck.  But those Chanel frames.  Damn, they look good.  Maybe I’ll work up a belch, just to be safe.

Posted in Art, Fashion, Fragrance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Going Postal: Addressing the Perfume Mailability Problem at USPS with Technology

USPS Mailability of Perfumes

Yes, Virginia. You can mail fragrances without lying. And the USPS is now helping you to do it.

I will admit that I’ve been a merciless critic of the USPS in regard to fragrance mailability.  When it was pointed out to me on Basenotes that it is far easier to mail fragrances in China – as in RED CHINA – than it is in “red, white and blue” America….. well, that was the point where I basically decided that I would not bother to live in any country where I could not mail fragrance.  And while it was looking pretty grim for continuing to live in Uncle Red’s Cabin, here in the good old USA, I have good news for more than just my beloved family members, who all love our current location dearly.  You, too, can now mail fragrance in the United States.  And you can do so without having to lie about it.

So, the executive summary version is that the USPS did something right, by using technology to help interpret their own rules.  You can leave with that thought, if you’d like.  But if you care about certain things – fragrance, sharing fragrance, and truth – then I think you deserve the full story.

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Where do I begin?  I could go on forever.  But let’s try to do it in one sentence.

You have always been able to mail fragrance domestically in the United States, but the damn rules are so complex, ever-changing, and impossibly worded, that almost every single postal employee was under the impression that perfume simply could not be mailed, thereby inducing millions of honest Americans to LIE about whether their packages contained fragrance.

Yes.  The rules are so bad, that – refusing to lie – I was once forced to call a variety of USPS and DOT officials, from my truck, in the Post Office parking lot, to ascertain whether I could either mail fragrance, or have my biggest-ever blog scandal scoop.

Sadly – or gladly, depending on your point of view – the truth was that I could mail my fragrance samples, and the clerk was – more or less – wrong.  Somewhere between “restricted” and “forbidden”, somebody either wasn’t getting the message, or wasn’t actually supposed to get the message.

Generally speaking, your fragrances can always be shipped domestically by ground.  Up to a shockingly large quantity.  With a simple “ORM-D” marking on the parcel, that can even be drawn by hand.  You can start to read all about ORM-D here, although once you go down the rabbit-hole of regulations, you will surely begin to freak out.  That link drops you in the middle of the rules – something like opening an organic chemistry book in the middle.  If you follow it long enough, in multiple directions, you will eventually discover the rules for packaging your fragrance.  Or at least the probable rules.  I’ve actually gotten slightly different rules from different officials.  So it’s a mess.  I don’t dare quote the packaging rules for you, since I have multiple versions.

But it gets worse.

The situation is so bad, that in one of my many frustrated readings of the regulations, I discovered a 30-mL small quantity exception that – as far as I can tell – nobody is even telling us about.  Not only would the small quantity classification seem to cover almost all reasonable quantities of fragrance samples – it seems to be a very preferable alternative to ORM-D classification because – shockingly – it would allow your small samples to travel by air, domestically.  However, in trying to determine which one trumps the other – small quantity or the USPS “simple dictum” that no flammable materials can go by air, I am simply running into a brick wall of logic.  The regulations as posted online clearly are not giving us the full story.

Worse still, I think I have an idea WHY they’re being a bit coy about letting us know our rights to mail things.


Yeah.  Fragrance is suffering because of the drug wars.  OY.

Unfortunately, even correcting things online would be yet another waste of our tax dollars.  Why?  Because ORM-D is going away, to be replaced by something new, which is supposed to allow harmonization with international regulations.  That something new was supposed to arrive here in January of 2013, and then January of 2014, according to one source I found, but was apparently delayed.  However, you can see some of the new labeling requirements here.  Try to make sense out of it.  I dare you.  No – I double dare you.  Because, quite honestly, I cannot tell you whether I will be able to mail fragrance a year from now.

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Every trip to the post office for the last six years has been a nightmare – a gauntlet of bureaucracy, as a lone redneck perfumisto, insisting on telling the truth about his fragrance parcels, had to run a gauntlet of underpaid fellow citizens who were simply doing what they thought was their duty, honorably and professionally enforcing a lie.

So – imagine my surprise when I mailed my most recent package of fragrance samples to a fellow Basenoter.  Instead of the usual problems, when I was asked if my package contained anything liquid, fragile, or potentially hazardous, and I answered (more or less) “yes”, I was directed to a signature pad and a stylus.  With the message (roughly)….

Does you package contain lithium batteries, paint, perfume, matches, etc.?

To which I answered…


Does your package contain hazardous materials?

Now I have to admit that I talked to the clerk, just to make sure, and for alcohol-based perfume, the answer is still…


Done.  Same price by weight as my non-fragrance mailer, which I sent at the same time.  Both were projected to make it to my friend 3 days later.  The fragrance package actually did.  And the non-fragrance package actually arrived in only 2 days.

Although I had marked my fragrance package ORM-D and SURFACE MAIL ONLY as usual, there was no checking for it.  There was no special tagging or labeling of the fragrance package.  Instead, it was all done electronically.  The “hazardous” package simply went by ground, as a USPS First Class Mail Parcel, while the other, non-hazardous package – presumably – went by air as the same thing.  Now I have to caution you that the ORM-D rule probably still applies, but the clerk did not seem to care about it.

The bottom line:  The machine has taken the job of interpreting arcane postal rules away from the clerk.

Shocked.  Shocked, I say.  Shocked, that our government did something so sensible to solve a problem.   Shocked enough, that I think this is worth examining in some detail.

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There is a techie demi-god named Tim O’Reilly, of the animal-covered IT books variety, and no relation to Bill O’Reilly, who is a big advocate of using technology to solve government’s problems.  Many of us – and that would include ME – are very wary of technology in government’s hands.  But sometimes, you just have to admit that it can and does solve problems.  We just have to be careful – to remain questioning, in order to remain free.  To do that, we have to KNOW what the truth is supposed to be.  But as long as we do, it makes sense to use technology to help us rule over ourselves more smartly and more honestly.

Let’s take our simple example of perfume mailability.  Can we make it Orwellian?  Absolutely.  We’ll simply add the Overton window to it.

What if – once we have a friendly, never-mistaken computer asking us about perfume in our packages – we start changing the laws that we are no longer looking at?  What if the computer, one day, says that our package weighs a bit too much, even though we could have sworn that we mailed a 4.2-oz bottle yesterday, and now the limit is 3.4 ounces.  That’s the way these guys work.  “They” will lull you into easy compliance, and then start changing the rules to fit their control agenda.  You are the frog.  They are the human.  And the pot – that is now everywhere.  No pun intended.

Or the government could simply inspect the package in mid-route, and determine which labeling regulation the civilian failed to perform properly.  Is it ORM-D, or the fancy new label?  Or WHICH fancy new label?  Who the heck knows?   Just BUST THE PERP.  Who is probably just a little old lady, but hey.  Maybe she’s in the Tea Party.

You could be suspicious of the government here, and I would argue that you should be.  But I also have to give somebody in the USPS credit, because if you look at the bottom of the picture above, located on the web right here, under the “Restricted” tab, there are links to the text of the regulations, here and here.  So if you don’t believe the interpretation by software, you can go to their website, and view the regulations themselves.  You can do exactly what the requirements analysts, programmers, and quality assurance people did.

Ghastly regulations, as demonstrated above, I will admit.  But at least they’re trying.

So let’s say that you’re in the Post Office, and the software mistakenly tells you that you can’t mail something.  I’m an IT guy.  I can tell you, most assuredly – software lies all the time, and fixing that is what pays my bills.  But I can also tell you, most people are going to believe it.  And most people will do what they were doing before – coming back a week later and lying about whether their package contains fragrance.  Of course, now their lie is actually caught in data, but you might say that the government’s lie – innocent as it may be at the programmer level – is caught in algorithm.  And here you thought Al Gore Rhythm wasn’t a dangerous thing.

Still, there’s something beautiful about that.  One lie undoes the other until they both go away.

Anyway, I think there’s a bigger lesson here.  Sometimes, technology can keep us free, if we use it correctly.  And a big part of that, is using it for truth.

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PS – Just to make this perfectly clear, I am strongly recommending that all you good folks out there start telling the truth about your perfume when the little YES / NO thing flashes in front of you.  Just in case the guv ain’t doing this for YOUR benefit. 


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Additional References:

(1)  Appendix A:  Hazardous Materials Table:  Postal Service Mailability Guide

(2) Postal Service Table Entry For Perfumery Products


(3) Appendix D:  Hazardous Materials Definitions

(4)  CFR Hazardous Materials Table

(5)  CFR HazMat Table Headings

CFR HazMat Table Headings

CFR HazMat Table Headings

(6)   CFR HazMat Entry for Perfumery Products

CFR HazMat Entry for Perfumery Products

CFR HazMat Entry for Perfumery Products

(7)  UPS International Shipping of Dangerous Goods, Including Perfume: PDF File

Posted in Blogging, Computers, Fragrance, Internet, News and politics, Science, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Adventures of Hinoki Oh

Hinoki Oh on her iPhone

Puppet fashionista Hinoki Oh on her iPhone, confronting an anonymous NSA/TAO operative impersonating one of her attending kuroko.

This post was inspired by the amazing and unique Comme des Garçons fragrance Monocle Scent One: Hinoki.  Everything you are about to read is true.  As determined by a secret court that you cannot question, using secret law that you are not allowed to know.  Dig it, baby.  New world order.  The real question is – who’s the master of it all?

Ah-ah-ah!  Not tellin’!


When a star is born
They possess a gift or two
One of them is this
They have the power to make a wish come true

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do
Fate is kind

She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of their secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do

Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of their secret longing
Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true


OK, peeps.  Jiminy Stinkbug here.  Yo.  It’s time to tell you a story about a wish that comes true.  Dig it.

There was this Asian chick – see?  She had a Japanese mother and a Korean father.  But that’s not all.  She was a PUPPET.  A big – and I mean BIG – f***in’ puppet.

Hinoki Oh

Hinoki Oh doing another blogger meet-and-greet for Missoni and Target.

Yeah.  I TOLD you she was big.  But see – that wasn’t the problem.

Hinoki had a wish.  Which wasn’t what you might think it would be.  She didn’t want to be “real”, cuz – hey – she already was.  And she didn’t want to be human, because she thought that being human was TOTALLY over-rated.  But she did want to be in a J-pop or K-pop girl band, because – well, c’mon, man!  BECAUSE.  Ya know?  Yeah.  In fact, it was her greatest dream to be in a band like this one:

The trouble was, she had a manager.  [I almost typed that she had a ‘manger’, but that’s a different story of innocence.  And since the NSA’s underperforming ‘watch while you type’ software is currently not on my computer, I have to tell them about all these beautiful little coincidences.  Although they may be back on WordPress.  Who knows?  It’s a secret.  We’re not allowed to know how we are policed, much less have actually voted on it.]

Now, the manager liked her just where she was.  Actually, he would have liked to have helped her reach her dream – to rise from a giant puppet fashion blogger to a giant puppet J-pop star.  But dreams like that are risky, and payoffs from mysterious agencies, helping to save the world from the risks of giant puppets – well, that’s more of a sure thing.  Money in the bank, you might say.  And who’s gonna show up at your door and complain about the mysterious money, when the people who show up are the ones who gave it to you?  Yeah.  That’s sorta how it works.

So the manager told her something designed to keep her from leaving.  He said that, as an inanimate object, she would have to work really, really hard to be as honest as a human.  And once she was, THEN he would help her get into a pop band.

Hinoki decided that she had to do everything she could to help her reach her goal.  First of all, she replaced all her wooden parts with real hinoki wood.  So when people like my wife said things like “creepy giant puppet smelling exactly like Japanese bathtub rich people having but not so often any more” – well, that’s because Hinoki not only replaced all her wood with real hinoki, but she also sprayed herself with ridiculous amounts of this fragrance:

MONOCLE Scent One: Hinoki

MONOCLE Scent One: Hinoki. Hinoki Oh’s scent of the day, every day.

Mmmm, mmmm, good.  I had forgotten how good this stuff is, until a friend asked for some, and I figured it was time to break it out.  There is this odd kind of lemony freshness that sometimes accompanies coniferous woods, and THAT is what you get with Hinoki.  The opening is a very bright, and completely unique woody note – the closest thing I’ve ever smelled is the impossible-to-find Etro Mahogany.  But there you have it.  That is what Hinoki smells like.

Now, Hinoki the fragrance is kind of linear, but that’s OK – if you have to be stuck on anything, being stuck on good is good.

But not everything is stuck on good.  And when the reach of your tailored access operations exceeds your grasp of their consequences, you may just get yourself into trouble.  Case in point – Hinoki Oh’s iPhone.

Hinoki loved her iPhone.  It’s something of a marvel of human ingenuity.  It’s the product of trust.  That’s why it works so well.  The people who want to build something trust each other, and they don’t trust the people who love the lie, because lies always destroy in the end.  Although we’ve had some post-Snowden doubts about the iPhone, Hinoki can tell you this.  They had to attempt an “interdiction” to try to get on her iPhone 5 recently.  See the fascinating picture above.  She’s, like, “Why are you doing this?”  But she never got an answer.  They could have just asked her.  But no.

Answers.  She needed to know.  And that’s where I come in.  Jiminy Stinkbug.  Not to be confused with Jimmy Carter, who’s actually one of the few really decent human beings.  Even though I totally disagree with much of his politics.  Or maybe all.  It’s hard to tell.

As a stinkbug, I don’t have much of a conscience.  But what little there is, is simple and well-defined.  Eat, sleep, dream strange dreams, enjoy the beauty of the universe, and try to hold down a job.  Make little stinkbugs, or go through the motions just because it was over-designed to make sure you’d do it a lot, which is kinda beautiful in itself.  Start off blog posts talking like a dude and end up talking like this.  Whatever.  It’s all part of being a stinkbug.

However, I ran into a bunch of people who don’t actually exist, although they are virtually indistinguishable from others who did exist, and don’t anymore.  Imaginary people.  They’re almost as interesting as dead people.  And almost as smart.  Case in point – René Descartes.  Talk about an amazing dead person.  Trying to deal with whether the universe is a simulation centuries before there were even the beginnings of the possibility of DOING simulation.  Pretty cool.

So anyway, as Hinoki Oh’s conscience, it became my duty to deal with this iPhone stuff.  Personally, I prefer to stay as far away from this crap as I can.  But Hinoki – I mean – even if it wasn’t my job to watch out for her, you just can’t let bad things happen to good puppets.  And Hinoki is almost as sympathy-engendering as a Hello Kitty plushie, so there you go.  Dude’s gotta help her.

But what stinkbug could call himself a true stinkbug if he actually solved the problem himself?  Nah.  That’s work.  I’ve got enough of that already.  So I handed her off to somebody else.


“WHOA.   Holy sh*t!”

“Sumimasen.  Wuruf-san?  Ohayo gozaimas!”

“Holy sh*t!  I’m sorry – I’m forgetting my manners.  Come in.”

“Thank you, Wuruf-san!”

“You might have to stuff through the door-frame just a bit.  There you go.”

“Ah.  That is much better.”

“Just one question.  You really are a giant puppet – right?”

“Yes – I am true puppet.  These are my kuroko-chan.  I need them to move me.”

“OK.  Just checkin’.  At my age, it’s hard to tell where peyote ends and dreams begin.  You’re kinda in between, so just wanna make sure.”

“Please forgiving my intrusion.  My friend Neil…”

“Don’t mention it.  He told me all about it.  You’ll have to forgive the condition of my trailer.  It got kinda cold last night, so I let the dogs all come in and sleep by the stove.”

“I like dogs, but have to be careful.  Many dogs want to bite me.”

“Sister – I have no doubt AT ALL.  I will bet there is no end to your stuffin’.  Please – take the couch.  I think that will work.”

“Domo arigato!”

“Your boys there will just have to do what they can.  And watch it with those damn sticks, fellas.  We’re kinda short on lightbulbs here.  Especially since they started forcing us to use the damn expensive swirly idiot jobs with the grid-communicated back-door on/off-switch that the NSA knows about, and the Chinese one that they won’t discover until it’s too late.”

“Wuruf-san, that is what I want to talk about.  Neil says the man who tried to get my iPhone from me was from NSA.  I am so scaring.  I am trying to be good person so that I can join all-girl band someday.  If the NSA trying to investigate my iPhone, then maybe I am criminal?  If criminal, I am never becoming all-girl band person.”

“Yes.  OK.  You’ve come to the right place.  First of all, you don’t have to worry about the iPhone.  Just because the NSA wants to be on your iPhone doesn’t mean you’re a criminal.”

“I am so relieve to hear that, Wuruf-san.  Thank you.  Very much.”

“Not at all.  You see, now that the NSA investigates innocent people and lies about it, you don’t have to worry.  Just knowing THEM, I know that you’re probably innocent.  But I have even better news than that!”

“Ahhhh!?  Tell me, Wuruf-san!  What is good news?”

“As an inanimate object, you are fundamentally incapable of dishonesty.”

“I am not sure I am understanding.  I am working on being more honest, so that…”

“You can’t.  You can’t actually be any more honest than you already are.”


“And not just that.  You can’t be any less honest, either!”

“But manager told me that I need to be more…”

“He lied!”


“He’s human.  He lied.  It’s as simple as that.”


“You see – as an inanimate object, nothing you do can be intentionally erroneous.  Which makes YOU better than all of us.  Even the NSA!”


“Man, I love it when giant puppets make that sound like Japanese women discovering that Obamacare didn’t get destroyed when that damn website crashed.”

“So I can be….?”

“Yes.  You can be in an all-girl J-pop OR K-pop band.  Just the way you are!”

“GOODY!  Wuruf-san – you don’t know how much…”

“Boys – just keep her on the couch.  I have enough woman trouble with the dog and my wife’s ghost.  Don’t need to be adding a giant foreign puppet to that mix.”


And so all’s well that ends well.  Wolf went on to teach Hinoki Oh that just like rock spirits, the universe without people is fundamentally correct.  But he added that the error that humans introduce is really just the same as malfunctioning cognitive robots, so one could argue that they’re fundamentally correct, too, and that their errors are just a byproduct of autonomic choice.  In either case, forgiveness is a good idea.

Hinoki Oh went on to join a girl band a lot like this one.   We like to think that she adds an element of reality and honesty.



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We Interrupt This Blog

…for this important message.

We regret to inform  our few readers, that we are unable to continue our series of reviews, Letters to Primrose.  We may resume reviews of these scents at some time in the future, but due to circumstances beyond our control, we are unable to review them now.  We thank you for your interest, and hope that you will tune in again, in the future, when we are able to return to this blog.  Until then, keep it fragrant, and spray on!

Posted in Blogging, Fragrance, Internet, Uncategorized

Heavy Prada

Prada fashion backpack purses

Heavy Prada, and some more heavy Prada to carry it in.

A tale of two Pradas.  Both heavy.  Both rich.  Unlike lighter fare that we have come to expect lately, these two Pradas – one old and one new – are heavy, heavy, heavy.  And great, great, great.  Primrose sent me a tiny sample of one, and two big samples of the other.  If you’re looking at things like Infusion d’Iris and Luna Rossa to characterize the house, then the lug-soled behemoths that Primrose sent me would both definitely march in under the radar.  But if you remember that Prada doesn’t just make styrofoam orange sneakers and a gazillion variations of ephemeral, pointy-toed women’s shoes, then the similarity of style to heavier Prada fare – bold and just slightly unconventional – makes a kind of characteristic Prada statement.


Prada Cuir Ambre Parfum, Alternative Medium

Prada Cuir Ambre Parfum. Heavy, but not too heavy. Feminine, but not girly. Srs, but not too srs.

I’ve been sniffing Prada Cuir Ambre Parfum for days – mostly because the sample immediately broke when I opened it.  Vide infra.  I had to soak it up quickly, so I used the one thing that was right there – the handle of the blotter.  I literally soaked the paper in the parfum, which dried into it quite nicely.  It is probably the most heavily scented blotter I have ever had in my possession.

Prada Cuir Ambre Parfum is a serious leather, but not THAT serious.  It’s actually hard for me to describe that, other than to say that the disaster of a broken sample vial turned out not to be a big disaster.  It wasn’t much more than a minor annoyance – the same sad loss as a small spill of Roja Dove’s Diaghilev.  Like that one, the sorrow of losing some great fragrance, but also the joy of fate making me turn a great fragrance into a parfum d’ambience.

My reference for a strong and excellent leather parfum is Chanel’s Cuir de Russie.  There are striking similarities, to me, between the Prada and the Chanel.  The overall feel if very much the same – a kind of powerful yet feminine vibe that comes from amping up both florals and leather until you have something that just smells rich.  The main difference here is that the aldehydic, no.5-like quality of CdR is replaced here by a very prominent metallic accord, which may be a sort of “bruised” iris or a facet of heliotrope.  Whatever it is, it kind of ruins things for me.  I’ve been smelling this all week, and while the totality is pleasant, it’s just not my bag.  The metallic note is fascinating, and may be the hook that makes this thing irresistible to somebody else, but it’s a deal-breaker for me.

This stuff is fairly hard to get – and that explains why I’ve never even heard of it.  But there are some great reviews out there, including one by Primrose herself.   Here you go!

Marina –

Primrose (Basenotes) –

Parfumo (no reviews yet) –


Prada Amber Pour Homme Intense, Alternative Medium

Prada Amber Pour Homme Intense. Get on your bad motor scooter and ride, baby.

Primrose also sent me two samples of Prada Amber Pour Homme Intense, not knowing that I already had a bottle.  No problem – I love the stuff.  This is glorious fragrance, for which I can thank Indie_Guy over at Basenotes for pushing me over the fence on the buy.

I was never too thrilled with the original Amber Pour Homme.  A soapy little mess – nice, but not essential – the bottle was always the best part for me.  I almost fell one time, when a pure-metal flacon sitting in Sephora nearly captured my heart.  But really, that’s just like buying a boot for the buckles – not very wise.  So I abstained, and managed to stay that way.  My greatest respect for Amber Pour Homme came when SculptureOfSoul (also over at Basenotes) produced a wonderful set of graphics, describing the olfactory relationships of the various current Prada fragrances with regard to aspects such as iris and amber.  Fascinating, but it probably made me want to get Infusion d’Homme, as opposed to Amber Pour Homme.

But as part of the wave of “Intense” and “Extreme” men’s fragrances that hit us in 2011-2013, Amber Pour Homme Intense is probably one of the very best examples.

Prada Amber Pour Homme Intense.  Per se.

Prada Amber Pour Homme Intense. Per se.

This scent is rich, complex, and non-redundant in the market.  It’s an oriental, but it’s not just another oriental.  Where everybody else seems to have abandoned the gravitas of the old orientals, this one does not – not one bit.  It really seems novel compared to what’s out there, and to anything in recent memory.  Best of all, this scent seems to target all the people who didn’t like the original.  I almost bought this at first sniff in Sephora.  It was only by virtue of a fair amount of resistance, that I held off for a few weeks before taking  one home.

The scent is very distinctive.  One of my coworkers  wears this fragrance occasionally, and it smells dynamite on him.  I sometimes hesitate to wear it myself, because I want to let my coworkers have their own 5-star signature scents, and if they have to poach a bunch of great scents from my well-cheated wardrobe to do it, then power to them.  I can defer to any of hundreds of other great scents.

I love the way Prada puts the star naturals right on the front of the flacon.  Brilliant.  IFRA can force us to put a bunch of sexless chemicals on the box, but Prada has the BLZ to put the very best and most “diverse” naturals right on the bottle.

In English:  Italian Bergamot, Resin of Myrrh of Somalia, Indonesian Leaves of Patchouli, Vanilla “Surabsolue” of Madagascar.

Clearly it’s all there.  The overall complexity of the composition seems to indicate that there are plenty of naturals in the mix, and both myrrh and patchouli seem to stand out.  Yet it’s easy to love, and I suspect that the vanilla has a lot to do with that.

Persistence is good – this lasts all day or all night, depending on what you need.  Concentration is excellent – you don’t need to douse yourself in the stuff to get decent sillage.  The base keeps going forever and holds its form.  A little booziness is lost, but not all of it, and the sweetness stays with it admirably.

Most of all, the fragrance smells a deep reddish purple, as advertised, and as supported by the bottle glass.  There are not many deep reddish purple fragrances out there.  I’m not exactly sure what makes a fragrance smell that color, but don’t worry.  When you smell this, you will realize how wonderfully different it really is.

I hope that Prada never takes this one out of the lineup, but if they ever do, I advise all readers to please buy a bottle.  This fragrance needs to stay out there, and to stay loved.

It’s a keeper.

Prada samples and bottle in box.

This post, in a single picture.

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Goldilocks and the Three Leathers

Three sirens from the Ballet Comique de la Reine

In which our lucky surfer dude meets three “sireens” bearing leather fragrances. Roll your eyes if you must, but don’t make the mistake of pinching your nostrils!

“Once he hears to his heart’s content, sails on, a wiser man.
We know all the pains that the Greeks and Trojans once endured
on the spreading plain of Troy when the gods willed it so—
all that comes to pass on the fertile earth, we know it all!”

                                                              -The sirens’ song, Odyssey

To the sound of a backhanded bong, gurgling its fragrant bilgewater across the floor of the surf shack, our hero did awake, smilingly, from his terpinoid bliss.

“Dude!”, he said to the dog.

“Verily, I did dream of meeting some righteous babes today!”

At this exclamation, the blond-haired man’s fluffy white dog barked up a storm and wagged its tail, for the shaggy beast had yet to meet a woman who did not hug it mightily upon meeting.  Bearing, as it did, a great likeness to those dogs which are called teddy bears, the man’s furry friend was surely woman’s best and most instant friend as well.

“Let us walk along the beach and see what the day brings – shall we?” said the man.

“Woof!” said the dog.

And off they went, in search of pleasures unknown, but likely tubular.

At first – nothing.  Just the usual ambergris and gold coins – useful for paying for sundry herbal items, but of little interest to a charmed beach hippie.  But then he saw it, laying on the beach.  Neither fish nor fowl, it made strange growling noises at him.

Armani Cuir Noir, transformed to mermaid-space.

Armani Cuir Noir, transformed to mermaid-space.

“So whatcha gonna do, sailor boy?”

To which the dog did bark most furiously.

“Whoa.  That’s funky.  Ahem – I do say, he does not normally act that way.  And who do we have the pleasure of addressing, if I may so humbly ask?”

Giorgio Armani Privé Cuir Noir.  But you can call me Noir.”

“Indeed it is a pleasure to mee…..”

“You think I’m sexy – right?”

“Well, yes, but….”

“And exotic – right?”

“Oh, yes.  I’m not really sure if you’re…”

“Leather.  And spicy.  And I last a looong, looooong time.”

“What’s that smell?”

“Saffron.  You like it, don’t you?”

“Yes, but… oh, man.  There’s something about you that makes me feel like the cops or something.  You know that feeling?  Kinda like you’re trouble.  No chill, no way.”

“You want to come live with me forever?”

“Like – can I take a rain check?  I wanted to get in a little surfing this afternoon.”

“Human.  You don’t deserve me.  Enjoy your floating board.”

And with a flip of the black leather tail fin, Armani Cuir Noir disappeared into the ocean, as mysteriously as she had appeared.  For although our hero would never see her again, he would never forget her either.

Giorgio Armani Privé Cuir Noir

Giorgio Armani Privé Cuir Noir. Powerful and mysterious, like fragrances of yore.

Continuing his merry stroll along the beach, Goldilocks and his fine furry friend perchanced upon a wrecked wooden ship – ancient, old, dated, not very recent, and pine nut barnacle-encrusted.  In the water behind, stood a young and beautiful – but very unfashionably dressed lady.

L.T. Piver Cuir as a mermaid

L.T. Piver Cuir. Historical leather. Very out of style, and very awesome.

“Whoa!  I like your bikini bottom, sister.  It looks like a….”

“It’s not a bikini bottom.”


L.T. Piver Cuir.  But you can call me ‘Lieu’.  It’s short for Lieutenant.  It’s a joke.”

“Like, OK.  Not sure I get it, but that’s cool.”

“Have you ever dated a mermaid?”

“Not really.  I mean, I went with a lifeguard for a couple of years, but we broke up.”

“So what do you think of older women?”

“How old are we talking?”

“Four.  Maybe five hundred years.”


“Just kidding.  A little over a hundred.  But I pass for a lot younger.

“Totally.  I thought you were twenty-something.”

“Thanks.  I do lie about my age, but not when I’m serious.  And I’m serious.  We should get together.”

“Ahem – you know – I would say, like, totally, except that I really think you should meet this dude I know.”

“Redneck Perfumisto?  Yawn.  He just wants me for his collection.  He thinks I’m ‘special’.  Sorry.  I want somebody who loves me utterly and completely.  I deserve that much.”

“Totally!  But, like, I can never be ‘that guy’.  Know what I’m sayin’?”

“Yeah.  I know.  Who was I kidding?”

“I really think you should think about Red.  He said you were like a leather version of Vintage Tabârome.  He says you’re even a bit like Vol de Nuit.”

“Flattery.  Sorry.  I want to be worn to work.  I want to be taken to restaurants – on cruises – even Arctic expeditions.  I don’t want to sit on the shelf.”

“Arctic expeditions?”

“OK.  Maybe that’s a bit extreme.  Maybe an adventure vacation in Siberia.  With a guide.”

“Cool.  That’s totally doable.  You’ve got that birch thing down!”

“You sure there’s nothing?  We could be happy.”

“Like, just – it can’t work.  Trust me.”

“Maybe I can let Red keep me, and have some French lovers on the side.”

“There you go.  That’s not bad for over 100.”

“Take it easy, kid.  You’re a good one.  You’ll find happiness.  You deserve it.”

And with that, L. T. Piver Cuir bent over backwards, and disappeared into the quiet water of the shipwreck, with barely a ripple.

L.T. Piver Cuir

L.T. Piver Cuir

Leaving the shipwreck, our hero tarried along the beach, happy that he was still available, but sad he had still not found true love amongst the leather-finned sirens of the sea.

Throwing a frisbee to the dog, it sailed a bit over the snapping jaws – only to be caught by a lovely young woman, who looked remarkably like the man who had thrown it.

Ann Gérard Cuir de Nacre.

Ann Gérard Cuir de Nacre.


“Good catch!”

“Thanks.  You’re from the surf shack down the beach – aren’t you?”

“Totally.  Do I know you?”

“I’m the third mermaid from this story.”

“Whoa.  Heavy.  But light!”

“Totally!  So what do you think?”

“You’re most awesome!  Kinda girly, but in a good way.  Kinda hip, but still classy.  The leather’s there, and in a big way, but it’s not everything.”

“Not too sexy?”

“Nope.  And I mean that in a good way.”

“Not too old-school?”

“No way.  A little bit boho is never old-school.  Starbucks, or the ballet.  You’re cool everywhere you go.”

Ann Gérard Cuir de Nacre

Ann Gérard Cuir de Nacre. Wear it with either.

“Listen – about this whole live-in-the-sea-forever thing – you know, I’ve got my legs already, and I’ve been thinking…..”

“Rain check?”

“Yeah.  That would be totally awesome.”

“See?  We really were made for each other!”


And with that, our hero learned the most important fragrance lesson of all.   You don’t have to own them all – even the ones that were made for you.  A great fragrance is still a great fragrance when you set it free.  In fact, it may be an even better fragrance, the next time you run into it.


PS:  Many thanks to Primrose – the Basenotes Dandy of Leather – for providing me with samples of some of the world’s most amazing leather fragrances.

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Cuir d’Iris: Pierre the Purse Snatcher

Pierre Guillaume Cuir d'Iris

Pierre Guillaume’s Cuir d’Iris as seen from the olfactory receptors

Panic turns to joy
Pierre didn’t steal her purse
Just its quiet song




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