If there are ethnicities represented in the world of perfume, then the dominant one these days is probably Arabian, possibly Saudi, more probably the UAE, but either way situated on the Arabian Peninsula. Possibly it has to do with the abandonment of so many natural materials that Western Europe via IFRA restrictions has espoused, although of course all Montales and Amouages sold in France have to comply with those restrictions.
But the style is one that I find intermittently rather heavy. I appreciate the richness of the scents, and there is no mistaking their opulence, but what I really want is…well, something Japanese.
I’ve been living with a large sample of Guerlain’s Tokyo for well over a month now, and that is very pleasant and low key, a fine choice for those evenings when Japanese or Chinese food is on the menu – as it often is – but my Japanese kick doesn’t end there. I’ve taken to Molton Brown’s Toko-Yuzu in a big way for the last year or so. It’s just a shower gel, but is such a fresh juicy one, that it’s perfect for mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed- a recurring theme with me- unfortunately. So I use the Yuzu and hey presto am on my feet, it even smells good for about twenty minutes after the shower and that is about as much as anyone can expect of a shower gel.
I’m also a fan of Fresh’s Sake bath. This is great in place of a loofah, with some baking soda mixed in as an impromptu exfoliant, and although I’m not sure that I’d want to smell like sake per se, it’s fine for use in the shower, and leaves behind that pleasant Japanese scent, so discreet, it’s almost not there, hovering in the background like a Geisha at a business meeting.
This discretion is what these scents are all about, an unobtrusiveness that is very graceful and considerate of everyone else. These are not big scents at all, but they have a unique presence and they’re uniquely soothing. In contradistinction to the Arabian aesthetic which tends to go big before going home, they are quiet to the point of self effacement, but are still detectable, and they get along singularly well with most things I choose to put on later in the day.
Emeraude is a very good partner for Tokyo, though who would have guessed that? Gardenia scents, and Hermes’ Elixir des Merveilles, go well with Tokyo too, and also with the Yuzu. They’re fine choices for the finicky workplace because they are so low key; it’s hard to smell them at a distance, but you can smell yourself, which is the only point of this exercise, a personal esthetic that defies overstatement. Like Origami, or Ikebana, these scents are a ritual that you perform for yourself, and if the rest of the world enjoys it too, so much the better. But to begin with, this was always something very close to a secret.