My Monthly Six post was put on hold last month due to my blog redesign. If you have moved houses recently you will know how time consuming it is to pack your life away into boxes and then unpack it again at the other end. Moving blogs across cyberspace is a similar thing. Changing service providers, shopping for a new theme, learning how to use the new theme and then reformatting content and resizing images is a little bit like choosing a new neighbourhood to live in, finding a vacant house and then unpacking all your boxes to see where your belongings fit. Things are back to normal now, although I’ll admit to having a few messy boxes left to unpack. For now I am hiding them in my blog’s basement away from readers’ eyes!
For my February Six I have brought together six items that are currently top of mind. I am writing this post from New Zealand so you will notice that some of this month’s selection has a distinct kiwi flavour, or perhaps I should say odour.
1: Pohutakawa Honey
Due to strict laws prohibiting travellers from bringing foreign honey into Australia, I only enjoy New Zealand honey here in New Zealand. Manuka honey, well known for its dark golden colour and medicinal properties is available in Australia but many of the lesser-known varietals, specific to New Zealand are not imported. My favourite is a pure white honey produced from pohutakawa flowers. The purest comes from beekeepers that maintain their hives in remote areas such as Auckland’s volcanic island, Rangitoto. Here, the bees are limited to the island’s flora so the keepers have more control over the pollen source and this guarantees purity. The aroma of honey is complex and can be described as leathery, sometimes animalic, balsamic and like sweet-candy vanilla. Beeswax absolute is appearing more and more in niche perfumery. My most recent purchase that lists a honey note is Intrigant Patchouli by Parfumerie Generale; a sombre, elegant patchouli with a contrasting sweet animalic facet.
2: A Pohutakawa Flower
Pohutakawa is a native New Zealand tree that is commonly found growing along the country’s coastal areas. The tree’s fiery blooms leave no olfactory impression but the visual impression is lasting. Pohutakawa is also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree because it blossoms during the festive season. Maori fisherman wait for the tree to flower as this is their sign from nature that Kina, a native New Zealand sea urchin, is red, full and sweet. Kina is a local delicacy that is best collected during the low tide for the three days that follow a full moon. Maori legend tells of Tawhaki, a warrior who climbed to heaven, seeking help to avenge his father’s death. He fell to earth and the pohutakawa’s crimson flowers are said to represent his blood.
3: Keiko Mecheri: Tangeri
For me, leather perfumes generally fall into two categories. They can be opulent, layered beasts that smell of horsehair, moss and woods. Or they can be burning, sticky tar-like odours that have an austerity about them. Chanel’s Cuir de Russie is an example of the first, and Tom Ford Tuscan Leather is an example of the second. Keiko Mecheri provides a third style of leather I haven’t encountered since Helmut Lang’s Cuiron (2002). Described by Keiko Mecheri as intensely masculine, a unique definition of Dandyism, Tangeri is a bitter leather perfume that warms up on skin thanks to notes of white incense and musk.
4: Meta-Luxury by Manfredi Ricca and Rebecca Robins
Like niche, luxury is a highly overused term in today’s consumer retail environment. Luxury’s definition is often unclear. Most would accept the term can be used to describe a mechanical watch with a highly complicated movement, the result of generational engineering expertise, yet the term luxury is also used to describe brands that allow their perfumes to be sold in chemists and low-end department stores. In terms of price, exclusivity and the buying experience, there is a gulf of difference between these two items. Meta-Luxury is a book that sets out to define this gap and uses the notion of knowledge, purpose and timelessness as a form of criteria to define luxury in the 21st century. Throughout the book, there is a sprinkling of biography’s and interviews with various craftsmen and artists, all are leaders in their field. Representing perfume, Francis Kurkdjian discusses with the authors of Meta-Luxury, his own thoughts on what makes a perfume luxurious.
‘Luxury is not a question of price, but a ratio between price and quality. And … of timing. Take a bottle of Krug, which I consider as one of the best champagnes in the world: serve it at the wrong temperature and … you see, it’s more about preciousness and timing than anything else’- Francis Kurkdjian, Meta-Luxury
5: Christian Dior: Les Creations de Monsieur Dior
Why am I so fascinated with pre-1980s perfumes, particularly classic chypres? I am not entirely sure; it could be something to do with the thought of chypre styled perfumes becoming the next fragrant dinosaur, set to fossilize in the sedimentary layers that lie above outlawed nitromusks. Perfume legislation has gradually diminished the amount of oakmoss perfumers are permitted to use in their formulas and this has had a substantial effect on dependent accords such as chypre (a balanced blend of oakmoss, woods, resins and citrus). On my way to New Zealand I purchased this miniature set of Les Creations de Monsieur Dior perfumes from Sydney Airport duty-free. Avid vintage collectors would attest to the fact that these classics have all undergone facelifts to comply with current allergen legislation, so even this collection of miniatures I purchased at the airport is the result of extensive change. Be that as it may, this set still offers a fragrant journey to bygone years even if Dior’s mossy and muguet notes have been carved down to a minimum or the questionable ingredients have been replaced with risk-free substitutes. Les Creations de Monsieur Dior contains three classics and one contemporary Dior perfume underpinned by a theme of flowers. Diorella is one of my favourite feminine perfumes that a man could wear. Eau Sauvage fans will enjoy what Diorella offers, the honeysuckle heart notes are certainly a novelty in men’s perfume. Dioressence is the house’s first oriental perfume created at the end of the 1970s. Its smouldering chypre accord is less pronounced if you were to compare it with the original Miss Dior. This mossy layer envelopes the amber accord and Dior’s signature bright florals, which feel like pure sunshine. Diorissimo is an ode to Monsieur Dior’s favourite flower, lily of the valley and like many of the Dior classics; perfume master, Edmond Roudnitska, constructed it. Forever & Ever Dior is an ozonic floral and the fourth in the set. Just between us, I would much rather see Eau Fraiche as the fourth, or even better, the original Miss Dior, which always looks so lonely on Dior’s counter. These days she is more like Madame Dior considering all of the children she has given birth to.
6: Baby Light My Fire Candle
World is a well-known name in New Zealand fashion and this weekend I visited the most recent addition to the World family; a 4th beauty boutique in Auckland’s inner suburb of Mt Eden. This suburban retreat is nestled amongst a cluster of design stores that includes Pencil, a stationary store created by the daughter of the brand owners, Francis Hooper and Denise L’Estrange-Corbert. I liked and purchased this candle for a few reasons. Baby Light My Fire is a curious odour that reminds me of dried rose petals, floor polish and freshly brushed teeth. This candle has no branding on the glass pickle jar it comes in so I asked the store staff for information. He made a phone call and informed me the candles come from a newly formed Auckland group trading under the name, the Black & White Candle Company. I searched and I could not find any mention of them online and no website. New Zealanders are obsessed with being underground!