A diplomat’s scent.

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I really don’t know why people are making such a fuss about No 5. Okay, it has been the world’s best selling perfume since 1921, Marilyn Monroe wore it, apparently mostly when naked and in bed, but so did the doyenne at my very first agency, and rest assured, although she was the sweetest person who used to feed me with biscuits, I’m pretty sure no one pictured her in bed, let alone naked. Anyway, I digress as usual, my point is, I like Ernest Beaux’s No 22 from 1922 so much better. And like Karl Lagerfeld, I only care about my opinion. No 22 is like dessert. A very fine dessert, that is. Made of tuberoses and vanilla, cream and candied roses, with a little whisky in the cream, a single malt of course, even a harsh one, Lagavulin, just a tiny dose, a hint, but enough to add the strangest depth to it, transforming the femininity of all those fragrant flowers into a gentleman’s dessert, into some sort of diplomat cream, I once made one, a so-called crème diplomate Couloubrier, but it turned out as a real culinary disaster, marshmallows are sour in comparison, only my father who has the world’s sweetest tooth, would eat it, but that’s another story, where was I? Right, No 22. To put it in a nutshell, this perfume is an olfactory diplomat cream, and as this dessert was named after the famous Russian diplomat Nesselrode, known for his love for English puddings and desserts, No 22 is quite a manly scent. One cannot be any manlier than a Russian, can one?

F. Scott Waugham

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It was a page that I didn’t turn, the one in W. Somerset Maugham’s novel “On Razor’s Edge” that had his narrator guess who designed his hostess’ elegant dress this time, this time being an afternoon in late 1920s Paris. Lanvin or Chanel? The dress turned out to be by Jeanne Lanvin on the following page, but I had already drifted away, to a world where Coco Chanel was alive and kicking, where I, the 14 year old that I was, was strolling through Paris, from couture house to couture house, stopping at Cartier and Goyard, sniffing my way from Guerlain to Caron, not buying, just looking, with my coral cigarette holder, the one I knew from Saki’s unbearable Bassington, wearing one of the exquisite shirts I had borrowed from J. Gatsby, and with a best buddy next to me, some partner in crime, like Sebastian Flyte’s companion Aloysius, a teddy bear friend, serving as alter ego and advocatus diaboli at the same time.

F.Scott Fitzgerald, W.Somerset Maugham, Evelyn Waugh, and Saki – these were not only my favourite authors for their exquisite stories, but more importantly, these refined guys introduced me to style in such a convincingly romantic way, that I was changed for life. Mousey will confirm all of it.