FATHER, DEAR FATHER

gordons

My own father used to say that his favourite smell in all the wide world was that of jugged hare, on the high side*, with fried stuffing balls and red currant jelly on the side. In a rather more orthodox manner he loved the scent, sight, taste, touch & effect of gin and tonic. And this is how he preferred it to be prepared:

One would take a heavy cut glass tumbler and place it in the fridge to chill and frost an hour or so before serving. This would then be crammed to the top with ice cubes: much as he loved and relied on the gin (apart from 40 days’ regular abstinence during Lent), my father preferred to drink nothing at all rather than liquor without the ice – “lukewarm! Take it away!”. Woe betide him who had forgotten to refill the ice trays. I’d then pour about three fingers of Gordon’s or Beefeater over the ice and tuck slices of lemon down the sides of the glass. These he liked to chew as he drank. Occasionally one might add a sprig of fresh mint from the garden. Angostura bitters were applied liberally to turn the gin blood-red rather than pink, while a dash of Schweppes tonic water (on no account the Slimline version – “take it back!”) provided sparkle. (And of course aerated waters get the alcohol into the system quicker). We always had a case of tonic to hand as Pa required a fresh bottle every time, having a horror of it being served flat. He’d have maybe three of these restoratives nightly before supper, and each one had to be served perfectly else there would be ructions. His enjoyment was derived almost as much from the aesthetics as from the undoubted alcoholic stimulation: “look at that Beautiful Drink…..!!”

F13-CE 200ml PackshotWEB

Many perfumers have paid homage to the great G & T, whether intentionally or not: from Lubin’s self-evident Gin Fizz to Annick Goutal’s classic citrus Eau d’Hadrien which always used to provoke drinks trolley comparisons. Atelier Cologne’s stunning CEDRAT ENIVRANT at Les Senteurs has the exhilarating kick of the fabulous WW1 ‘French 75’ champagne & gin knock-out; while EAU DE CAMELIA CHINOIS breathes a green icy chill from its leafy tea-scented depths. Check out Frederic Malle’s BIGARADE CONCENTREE, too, for a wild high of iced bitter orange, cedar and cardamom, glittering with freshness.

The Sexiest Scent on the Planet straightWEB

Fascinating and inventive, THE SEXIEST SCENT ON THE PLANET was inspired by the ineffable Sarah McCartney’s smelling of the ten botanicals in Bombay Sapphire – and then creating a perfume with her favourites. SEXIEST SCENT, Sarah confides, is “smooth citrus, soft woods, a little spiciness and a dash of vanilla. It’s not designed to smell like gin, just to blend well with it – the ultimate mixer”. It stirs up emotions as well as taste buds, that’s for sure.

GRAIDPL33M

My father’s optimum scent, chosen by his doting son, was GRAIN DE PLAISIR – that extraordinary sweet and spicy woody fragrance which incorporates patchouli, amber, oud, lemon cedar and mint with a unique kick derived from the dry pungency of celery seed, regarded for centuries as one of nature’s most powerful aphrodisiacs. As with many great fragrances, less is more – a drop is all you need for a long slow glowing realisation and a powerful sillage which enfolds you like a flame coloured cashmere scarf. To me there is a hint of barley sugar about it with a faint suggestion of coffee beans: but I have just shown a bottle to a customer who detected the delicious odour of freshly made Pimms, brought out to the lawn in the shade of the cedars of Lebanon. Dad had a great love affair with the Pimms jug of which he amassed something of a collection, so maybe he too caught this subliminal association.

Perfume is in origin a male accessory being worn millennia ago by the god-kings of the ancient civilisations. Perfume was the route to Heaven, burned to please the nostrils of the gods and to call their attention to their worshippers here below. From this use it was a short step to wearing scent as the ruler incarnated the divine in his own society. So there can be no more appropriate gift on Father’s Day to honour the head of your own family and to celebrate his unique role in your life and origins. Younger dads have grown up in an era which has seen a much broader, sophisticated and detailed approach to the wearing and appreciation of fragrance; those of a more mature generation will be intrigued and fascinated by the vast scope of modern perfumery. Select a scent which reflects your parent’s personality and lifestyle with – should you require it – our expert help and guidance. Offer a Les Senteurs Voucher or a Private Consultation for the gentleman to explore our shelves in person, with all his questions answered. My papa was over sixty when he first became bewitched by scent and perhaps he was inclined to overdo the application, spraying and rubbing it very liberally and enthusiastically over his head and neck with great zest and vigour, just as he behaved in most areas of life. He enjoyed making his presence felt. Perfume is a delight at any age and opening a new bottle is as festive as popping champagne. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all our readers!

* he would hang the hare in the coal house for as long as allowed – ergo, until there were protests.

Advertisements

Ask Your Dad!

Guy Robert

When I was a boy there was no Father’s Day (at least in the UK) but now it’s a Big Thing which tries to bridge a great yawning gap in the shops between the window displays of Easter chicks and the ominous threats of “Back To School!”. Well now we’re stuck with this new festival and really, what’s not to like? Men need more celebration and spoiling. So why not make the most of it and treat your old dad to some scent? Though nowadays Dad is more likely to be a Colin Firth or David Beckham type than Wilfred Brambell or Mr Barrett of Wimpole Street. So much the better: the modern man is making up for lost time and enjoying the pleasure of fragrance that so many previous male generations have missed.

My last gift to my father on The Day was a biography of Rasputin (one of his hero-villains: he’d seen the Barrymores in “Rasputin and the Empress” as a child) which made him feel sick. I’d have done far better to have stuck with his regulation Grain de Plaisir, Gantier’s modern take on a eighteenth century rake’s love potion, full of reliable aphrodisiacs such as vanilla, celery and amber: woody, sexy with a dry spiciness and the sweetness of barley sugar. He adored this, preferring to splash it all over (in the phrase of the day) his bald head and face so that it clung to his hats and flannel scarves. He came late to the joys of scent, well into his sixties, but then developed a rapacious pleasure in it recalling the extravagant applications of much earlier generations.

For the whole culture of scent began with men: men as perpetuators of the  life-cycle in their role as incarnators and placators of the gods. The latin phrase per fumus – through the smoke – gives us the clue. The smoke of burnt offerings opening a visible scented path to the skies, pleasing the nostrils of Heaven and linking men with the Divine.The odours of the pyres developed into the sacred oils worn by the King-Priests and thus into secular use by the privileged laity and aristocracy. A leading example of  the old peacock theory – the male in full feather: gaudy, scented and resplendent to indicate readiness to mate and attract the healthiest and fairest of women to ensure the breeding and survival of the fittest. Perfume as an adjunct to divine procreation: the Pharoah fertilising the Nile sanitised in the Christian era into the ceremonies of the marriage of Venice with the sea, and the Russian Tsars blessing the waters of the Neva. An emblem too of the transfer of divine power – British monarchs right through to our present queen being anointed with holy chrism at their coronation.

It is only with modern history (beginning abruptly in 1714 according to the old text books) that the martial peacock alpha-male starts to fade, only to rise again, phoenix-like, some 150 years later. Brilliant colours and flamboyant dress go undercover as industrialisation, urbanisation, the first stirrings of female emancipation and the middle class work ethic transform Europe: perfume for men fades from fashion if not from use. Even Oliver Cromwell (“Lord protect us from Protectors”) had not disdained to anoint himself with unguents of rose and orange flower, but then a certain drabness creeps in as men are tamed and caged by a more sober society.

When Victorian males use scent it has to accentuate not fertile virility but a man’s prowess as earner, responsible worker and sober father. Male scents loose their heady and hedonistic floral and animal aspects and mirror what a man does with his respectably ordered life: he starts to smell of an idealised version of his environment,occupation and pastimes: leather, woods, herbs and citrus evoke agriculture, farming, gardening, travel and the outdoors. Hygiene is another factor: people start to wash their hair and bodies so that fragrance no longer needs to camouflage bad smells but au contraire emphasises freshness, health and a healthy mind in a healthy body. The Fata Morgana of the “natural” perfume is born.

Today, thanks to a succession of social scientific and sexual revolutions,perfume for men is more rich, varied, eccentric and eclectic than it has ever been. At Les Senteurs men account for a good third of our customers; and very eloquent, passionate and well-informed they are too. The taboos are broken, the barriers are down: modern men are realising there is only no such thing as a “correct” or appropriate male perfume. The only essential is that it should amplify, reflect and enhance the wearer, become part of his very essence and personality. Perfume does not make the man…but a man can certainly make the perfume, transmuting it through his own skin,hormonal balance and definition into a unique signature and statement.

Les Senteurs would like to dedicate this blog to the life and memory of a wonderful man and inspired perfumer, the late Guy Robert who died on 28 May. Guy was the grandson, nephew and son of perfumers and of course the father of our dear friend and colleague Francois Robert. One of the greatest creators of the second half of the 20th century, Guy leaves a legacy of superlative richness, elegance and variety. Caleche dominated the 1960’s, to be followed by L’Equipage, two great classic beauties for Hermes. Guy made the original and unsurpassed Amouage, the sublime Mme Rochas and a treasury of exquisite scents which place him among the Immortals of the art of perfumery. Irreplaceable as a great gentleman and individual, Guy Robert will live forever in his galaxy of classic and unforgettable creations.

Image from 1000fragrances.blogspot.co.uk