As I roll myself in bed, equipped with the pungent kind of headache that only gin is able to deliver as well as the sinewy rasp of an evening faultily spent in a smoking area somewhere in the far east of London, elegant whiffs of powdery soap levitate drowsily from my wrists:
Last night I wore Tsar, from Van Cleef & Arpels.
Trying to unzip my eyes open to the rare euphoria of a sunny day in the capital, I might be the victim of a well-deserved hangover: But I have to confess, the puzzled expression I am pretty sure is unravelling on my face right now is owed in part to the flavourless hedonisms of last night, but also, in even greater part, to the olfactive equivalent of Handel’s Sarabande that my skin is currently emanating ever so daintily.
You see, what shocks me is that there is nothing dainty about Tsar: I thought I was channelling my best Patrick Bateman in some high-waisted Yves Saint Laurent suit trousers in mustard, and I like to think I did at some time within the A.M.
Tsar was released in 1989 and composed by Philippe Bousseton. It is a fougère that is beautifully furnished with a classic combo of Bergamot, Lavender and Oakmoss, but instead of having any of the medicinal, aniseedy undertones that men’s fragrances of yesteryear tend to have, it boasts a velvety haze of Pine (similarly to Coty’s Aspen) and what comes across as a slightly acidic Lily of the valley. Overall, it is verdant without being lush.
Purportedly inspired by Czars cavalcading through the frosted mist of a Russian forest, this perfume retains all the romantic connotations of old-fashioned chivalry as well as an expansive, metropolitan gaiety.
In Camp terminology, I would just restrain myself in describing this as more of a Ludwig II of Bavaria rather than a merciless Ivan The Terrible, though: It has the nuclear vastness of Wagner’s Symphony in C major, but it wears much more like a soft Moldau, by Bedrich Smetana.
But how was it to wear this fragrance in a homosexual discotheque in the 21st century?
Bewildering, that’s how it was.
My main idea was to wear a perfume that quite plainly smelled of men (God, how blunt can anyone be?!), without having to resort to sport fragrances or its polar opposite of woodies and ouds. I just wanted to smell like a quiet man with money (which, coincidentally, is how I’d generally like to describe my real life self). What is bewildering about the pairing of Tsar and I, is that we are actually the same age: But whereas I tend to look like a handsomely manicured twink, Tsar has all the grandiosity of a man escaping a board-meeting on his private jet, heading to the Bahamas for the weekend. An unlikely combination that strikes some interesting chords within the broad discussion of sexuality and age.
According to my friends, last night Tsar made me come across as naive: A child who stole a few spritz of his dad’s aftershave to look more grown up. In my case, wearing so classic a Fougère turned into a discerning act of self-objectification where the contemporary homosexual me transforms into a metaphysical Lolito of some sorts.
Fundamentally, the smell of a wolf in sheep’s clothes. Or maybe closer to those stock images of puzzled little babies in clothes many sizes too big?
Ok, I guess I might have not come across as the empowered man about town I thought I was, but to be frank I have nothing against the manipulating ingénue either.
We’re a good pair, Tsar and I.
Now, where in the hell do I find a bloody aspirin?
FRAGRANCE TIPS AND ROUTINE: Tsar wears beautifully on its own, but for daytime I enjoy wearing it over a layer of Alvarez Gomez’s Agua de Colonia Concentrada Body Lotion, to enhance the Lavender notes and make it even soapier.
For dinner, I add a few slithers of attar of roses on pulse points, or, if feeling outrageous, one single spray of Frederic Malle’s Lipstick Rose on my t-shirt. Because who doesn’t love a plot-twist.
LISTEN TO THE FRAGRANCE
Here’s a little musical aid in understanding the sensorial workings of a fragrance like Tsar
By Matteo Sarti