Lush’s Ladyboy (2011)

Lush Ladyboy, 30ml, EDT
© Victor Wong

Q: Who would wear the perfume “Ladyboy” (2011)?

A. A transvestite
B. A feminine acting young man
C. Women who are curious
D. None of the above
E. It doesn’t matter

Actually, the question should be, why would anyone name a perfume “Ladyboy” when it should be named “Grandpa’s Banana”. “Ladyboy” is the first perfume that I have ever smelled that contains a banana note. I knew about this before smelling it, and I was expecting a gourmandy, sweet, ice-cream float perfume, but I was dead wrong. The perfume is serious, unexpectedly mature, and crazy strange. It has chamomile, oakmoss, labdanum, seaweed, violet leaf – the ingredients of a classic vintage perfume or a niche perfume that sells for $150, but due to the tragic incident of a technician accidentally dropped his banana while looking down the mixing tank, the perfume becomes a totally different concoction. It smells likes giant violet leaves losing their water content, Taiwanese prune tea and finely aged banana essence.

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Byredo’s M/Mink (2010)

© Victor Wong
Byredo M/Mink, 100ml © Victor Wong

I come from a big family; I have eight siblings and I am the youngest. My mother told me that my father remembered only my eldest sister’s birthday because she was his first-born kid. And I will use this as an analogy to M/Mink. I remember it as my first true love to niche perfumes for it has given me much surprise and disbelief.

When I started exploring niche perfumes, I was much more careful with my money. (Oh it hurts as I write this.) I would do a lot of research, read a lot of reviews, beg for samples, wouldn’t stop thinking about certain perfumes before making a purchase decision. M/Mink was particularly hard because I was more considerate to people around me, as I know it is not a friendly scent. (Yes, that means I am no longer a considerate person.) I remember reading a review by someone who said, “Bravo to Byredo for making this brave scent, but I would not wear it because I don’t want people around me to suffer.”

So let me describe what M/Mink smells to me. It smells like Chinese calligraphy ink and sun-dried seafood. Both are part of my childhood, believe it or not. When I was in primary school, we had had Chinese calligraphy lessons. Every week I would bring my brushes and a semi-leaky ink box with a screw-on lid in a plastic grocery bag to school, and inside the ink box there’s a big piece of cotton soaked with ink. I don’t know what ink is made of and what makes it smell that way, but the smell has forever been etched in my brain as one of my childhood scents. Calligraphy lessons were both fun, dirty and messy; they provided me necessary breaks from some of the regular academic lessons that I couldn’t catch up with.

M/Mink also smells of sun-dried seafood, which is inseparable from traditional Chinese food culture and ancestor worshipping rituals. (Yes, a few decades ago it was completely normal and grand to gift a wedding couple a box of sun-dried sea scallops.) When squids, octopi, abalones, sea scallops, shrimps are being sun-dried, they release a very pungent fishy sweetness, almost like honey. I remember walking down a street in Hong Kong with a nickname “Seafood street”, and it just reeks. Not a dirty, bloody butcher shop kind of reek, but a dense salty and sweet, oceanic smell. M/Mink has a heavy dose of beeswax, which is considered very animalic, may be that’s why it reminds of sun-dried seafood. The combination of ink and seafood smell is just crazy but I yearn to wear this scent whenever the weather starts to chill down.

I have just written more than I typically do, and interestingly, I think I have just discovered a new-found passion for writing (Please excuse my grammar mistakes.) Anyway, I am happy that Byredo has made this unusual perfume. Ask for a sample when you walk by a Byredo counter!

Robert Piguet’s Futur (1960, redesigned 2009)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

The original Futur was introduced in 1960 by Robert Piguet, and I imagine they wanted to market it as “a perfume from the future” but you can smell it now!

I have never smelled the vintage version, but I bet it doesn’t smell like any contemporary perfumes, which are supposed to be “the future”. In 2009, nearly 50 years later, they relaunched Futur with a new formula. I blind-bought a bottle because I wanted to know what a “revived future perfume” would smell like.

Futur smells like nothing I have ever smelled; it is a cocktail of different era and genre. It smells retro but not vintage; it smells green and cedar-ly like a forest but the flowers are bigger than the trees. It is just f**king weird to me. It reminds me of Bandit, not of the smell, but under what occasions I would wear it and leave home, which is none. But, I do wear it at home frequently, for its strangeness and addictive quality when you know it well enough.

Again, I showed it to my coworker, and he said, “Why would I want to smell like a hospital?” I looked at him and said, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

Issey Miyake’s Le Feu d’Issey (1998)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

Cute Flame

Le Feu d’Issey by Issey Miyake was a blind buy, and an expensive blind buy. But the way Luca Thurin described it made it irresistible and possibly justifiable.

I don’t know why they named it “The Flame of Issey”, but to me, it’s more like “The Milkshake of Issey”. Very unique, very sweet, and very unusual. And the bottle design is just one of a kind, like the evil computer “HAL” in Stanley Kubrick’s movie, 2001.

Bulgari’s Black (1998)

Bvlgari Black 75ml
© Victor Wong

I suggest people getting a bottle of Bvlgari Black for their perfume collection before they vanish completely in the market. It is a very unusual perfume.

I bring a different bottle to work almost every week for “show and tell” and the coworker sitting in front of me, who has a very specific taste, (or I should say, a very limited palette for perfume. His fav is Lacoste’s Generic EDT) takes a sniff, and shakes his head and says, “Not for me.”

One day I brought in Bvlgari Black and he instantly liked it. (To my surprise.) His father owned a metal workshop, and when he was a kid, he frequented that place and remembered the smell of oil for machine parts lubrication fondly. And not to mention that he is a cycling nuts, who loves the smell of rubber tires.

He asked me if he could borrow it and bring it home and ASK FOR HIS GIRLFRIEND’S APPROVAL. I asked, “Does your girlfriend ask you for approval when she gets a new perfume?” Well, we all know the answer. (Anyway, her favourite is Flowerbomb, which my coworker doesn’t like.)

Long story short, they both love it, and he is heading to the discounted perfume shop that I go to all the time to get a bottle. I told him to ask for a tester bottle because that could save him 10 bucks as he totally doesn’t care about packaging. Sometimes I feel like I am living in a totally different planet.

Etat Libre d’Orange’s Charogne (2008)

Etat Libre d'Orange's Charogne.

Etat Libre d’Orange’s Charogne.

The top notes are very beautiful florals… when all is dissipated, the unusual leather, incense, cardamon take control and turn the scent completely odd and old-smelling, like a bouquet of wilted flowers stuffed in an antique leather luggage. I wear it occasionally.