Perfume Pen Pals: nu_be


I recently tried the nu_be series, "an olfactory periodic table," which smartly counters the complaint that these new brands put out too many perfumes at once. If anyone criticizes nu_be, it's like criticizing the chemical structure of the whole world. "Too many perfumes? You try living without oxygen!"

My initial perception is unavoidably rooted in each perfume's relationship to its theme: Does Carbon smell like carbon? (Does carbon smell like pepper and sandalwood?) Does Hydrogen smell like hydrogen? (Does hydrogen smell like Fresca?)

Does Mercury smell like mercury? (Does mercury smell like that metallic Sex Pistols perfume by Etat Libre d'Orange?)

I think perfume themes work best for people who wear fragrance as a conversation starter. Our correspondence notwithstanding, I'm unnerved by having to make small talk about my perfume.

If I'm at a gathering and someone asks about what I'm wearing, I'm overcome by hyper-self-consciousness and it's all I can do not to crush the glass of wine in my hand. Or to drop it. The space between crushing and dropping is never narrower than when I'm obligated to talk about the way I smell. It's almost worse than getting stuck in a conversation about astrology.

Hey, why isn't there an astrology perfume series? People love talking about astrology. Inevitably when someone asks my sign, I'll say Taurus right before declaring I don't believe in such things, right before they respond, "Ha, ha, ha, typical Taurus!"

Apparently, my skepticism is built right into my sign and that I have no truck with astrology proves astrology is real. Which I don't believe even when, inevitably again, astrology enthusiasts name several other Taurean traits and all of them ring true. It's so annoying, like being an atheist and having to go to lunch with God every Thursday.

Where did I lose you, KP?

Back to nu_be: I do believe in science and I also believe several of these perfumes are quite good. I like Carbon best, probably because it wears more like a perfume than a concept. Oxygen is notable more for what isn't there (almost everything) than what is (almost nothing). It's pleasant enough but then so is breathing.

Sulphur is thick and spicy, Helium is sweet and feminine, Lithium smells like Dad spilled Indian take-out all over his leather recliner again.

Say, this sag aloo really tickles!

That reminds me...on an episode of Top Chef, the contestants asked each other if you could only eat two foods for the rest of your life, which would you choose? Several said bread and cheese. (Which, by the way, is the correct answer.)

Your forever food.

And while nothing here is the perfume equivalent of bread and cheese, they all beat anything with an astrological sign on the bottle. I don't care how good you tell me it is, on principle alone, I will never buy Taurus perfume. (Though I'd probably love it.)


Still life with bread, cheese and knife by Julian Merrow-Smith via
Taurus by akirathunder via

Prada Amber

A few years ago, I smelled Prada Amber being worn to great effect by an elegant woman at a TV industry party. The party was a "class reunion" of the first TV show I ever hosted in the UK, the notorious pop culture crash called The Word. The Word was live on Channel 4 every Friday night at at 11 o'clock, an hour of the biggest stars, the hippest bands, and the most shocking, tabloid-freak-show studio events.

The elegant woman was Emma, the producer who'd once coaxed a creamy voiceover performance out of me for a Sean Penn interview piece by insisting that he'd been totally flirting with me in the segment. (I'd been under the impression that I'd intensely irritated him with my impudent questions, but maybe Sean's just a kiss-or-kill kind of guy.)

"Kiss or kill? Is that a threat or a promise?"

The Word reunion was a 20th anniversary celebration, and for the first hour or so, everyone was giddy with nostalgic joy at seeing their old friends and colleagues. This so-stupid-it-was-smart show was the first TV job for just about everyone who'd worked on it, and we were all getting misty.

"Remember when 'drunken' Oliver Reed freaked everyone out by acting like he wasn't drunk?"

"Remember when the singer from L7 pulled her pants down?"

"Remember when Kurt Cobain intoned 'Courtney the best fuck in in the world!' right before Nirvana launched into 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'?"

The stuff of legend, all of it.

"Awwww...everybody's here!" cried out Tammy, another producer. "Let's do a show right now!"

But something unexpected happened after the champagne began to wear off. An inescapable melancholy floated in, and became increasingly oppressive. Our gleeful fizz went flat, replaced by a niggling sense of loss -- loss of our youthful hopes, youthful recklessness, youthful youth. Without anyone acknowledging the cloud that had descended, the party emptied out.

But when I hugged elegant Emma goodbye, Prada Amber still smelled good. That, at least, was reassuring.

Prada Amber is available from and from

Perfume Pen Pals: Kerosene Black Vines


I know nothing about most occupations but here's how I imagine roller coaster architects work: they draw up dozens of plans for coasters that are never built because the designs are so unruly, almost every rider would get sick. Eventually, the plans are meticulously reigned in and, because of this, these architects surely see their finished coasters as a compromise.

Promosexual: The Fragrance Lab at Selfridges

Smelling perfume is my favorite self-mesmerization technique. There's nothing like huffing fancy French fumes to still the squirrels running wild in my head. It's a ritual: drain the brain, spray the scent, breathe, allow colors and words and images to fill the mind. And repeat. And repeat.

As perfumer Sophia Grojsman has said, perfume is “medicine for the soul.”

Tom Ford Neroli Portofino

My video review may be about the de-lovely Neroli Portofino by Tom Ford, but this bloggy blurb is concerned with swellegant Tom Ford himself. Specifically, with his declared four-bath-a-day habit.