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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bond, James Bond

By Linda

Because I’m a complete geek as well as a perfume geek, I was so excited to see Vesper Lynd’s personal effects near the end of Casino Royale and recognize a fragrance bottle. The handful of personal items, a tumble of things from her purse, expressed so concisely and in a few, elegant strokes just who she was. I am a harsh critic of movies and found myself really delighted by this clever visual haiku, this allegory of personality. (What might it say about me if my purse contents were shown? Oh dear, oh dear.)

Of course I looked up the fragrance, Santa Maria Novella’s Melograno. It opens with a blast of citrusy, sharp aldehydes and progresses to sexy hints of incense, leather, and (yes, I do barely get) pomegranate along with the aldehydes and musk at the impressively mossy drydown. It is sweet and, after the rather piercing opening, rather tender, despite its assertive sillage. The overall impression is somehow penitent of its worldliness, as of skin impeccably scrubbed with expensive soap and then powdered into forgetting it is damp and breathing flesh.

Like the fictional Miss Lynd herself, it is not exactly what I expected. It suits her to a T: clean and proper as can be, but musky beneath the surface; simultaneously tender and sharp; severe, but with hints of ripe sensuality. Melograno does not suit me: it is both too sharp and too sweet for me, and I am no penitent. However, there are some days when I crave its strangely tart and squeaky clean dry down.

I also looked up James Bond’s rumored choice of colognes: Floris No. 89. No. 89 reminds me (quite delightfully) of Ivory soap upon the open – again, soapy clean, with traces of citrus, lavender, bergamot, rose, and nutmeg. It evolves slowly and seamlessly, exposing its other notes seamlessly … dangerous ylang and neroli, and finally the downright animal sensuality of its oakmoss, sandalwood, and musk dry down. Like Melograno, No. 89 is quintessentially English perfumery, and surprisingly tender.

Whether or not the attribution of No. 89 as James Bond’s signature scent is apocryphal, it does evoke Mr. Craig’s moody depiction of character quite brilliantly. It starts out tidy, clean, and impeccably classic – even retro. Steadily, it slips its chain and becomes larger than life… surprisingly vulnerable and brutally seductive at once and by turns, this one fairly howls at the moon before it’s done. I find No. 89 completely desirable but not always manageable, as I discovered one day when I wore it to work and the rather rutty oakmoss and musk made themselves known.

Like the characters they adorn, both scents are surprisingly similar on the drydown. Both feature drydowns of powdery oakmoss, sandalwood, and musk, with his & hers accessories – acid elegance (powder, aldehydes, and incense) for her, classic male grooming (lavender, cedar, and vetiver) for him. If you want your secret agent scent tart and stern, give Melograno a try. If you prefer it deep and a little edgy, your poison is No. 89 instead. I find it endlessly fascinating that, as Casino Royale so piquantly explores when the two agents meet and verbally joust on a train, two distinctive characters can turn out to be so similar and yet so vividly themselves.

Please be kind and keep the comments as spoiler-free as possible for those who have not seen Casino Royale yet. (And if you haven't, oh, please do. Aside from being stone cold gorgeous, Daniel Craig has a genius knack for the character.)

Image by Greg Williams.

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Blogger Flora said...

I always notice things like that in movies too. Now I am am craving that delicious Melagrano... :-)

I keep meaning to see this, and I really must do so soon. I really like Daniel Craig!

12:20 AM EDT  
Blogger Carol said...

As a longtime Bond fan - especially of the Ian Fleming novels, which are very much of their time, but quite well-written - I enjoyed Casino Royale and found Craig's Bond true to character. If you haven't seen CR yet, I highly recommend it. I was disappointed in Quantum of Solace (too much action, not enough repartee for me!), however.

And the Melagrano sounds both lovely and entirely appropriate for Vesper - must get a sniff of that. Mr. Fleming frequently mentions specific fragrances in the books; Vent Vert and Guerlain's Ode are a few I remember. A sample of Ode has been sitting on my wishlist at The Perfumed Court for months. Maybe it's time to get it - and go reread a Bond thriller or two. Thanks so much for the post!

8:58 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes! I though Craig made a terrific Bond, and took the character back to the "manly man" style of Sean Connery. He's a keeper. I liked Roger Moore, but his Bond became a bit campy.

Have not seen Quantum. Loved CR but didn't hear much good about QoS.

9:19 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I adore Casino Royale and in fact, found this post via a Google alert (for Daniel Craig or Eva Green or both). I had wondered at some point what perfume it was in that shot of Vesper's effects, but never kept that thought in my head long enough to research it -- and now the answer is presented to me in wonderful detail! Thank you!

10:46 AM EDT  
Blogger Ducks said...

I thoroughly enjoyed Quantum, but I agree, it has a very different feel from most Bond films. The characters felt quintessentially Bond but they were always in motion, rarely in conversation. That said, I liked it very well as an action flick too.

Flora, I find Melograno totally fascinating -- the tartness of the scent keeps me coming back even though it's not "me."

I haven't sniffed Vent Vert or Ode, Carol -- do let us know if you try them. I spent a lot of time with my mom's collection of Bond novels when I was in high school and I feel like I ought to look them up again!

Anonymous, yes! That grittiness is what I love about Bond. Roger Moore was too silky for my taste (and the jokes WERE campy!)

Welcome, Chasarumba! I hope we see you around more!

11:18 AM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...

The name Floris 89 comes from the Floris Shop (at number 89 Jermyn Street) in (ironically) the St. James section of London.

It is literally JUST around the corner from both St. James Street AND Old Bond Street. Hmmmmm (check it out at

You are spot on in referring to Floris 89 as Bond’s “rumoured” scent of choice.

Reportedly, Floris No. 89 was indeed the personal choice of Ian Fleming but not necessarily by 007. In the novels, there is no mention of Bond wearing that cologne specifically, though there is mention of him shopping at Floris. Which is enough apparently for Floris to start using the advertising slogan, "For the James Bond in every man."

In addition to the fragrance(s), Floris also sells many men's grooming and toiletry products that would appeal to her majesty's metrosexual super spy, so assuming that he wore the fragrance is somewhat conjecture.

Fleming went into great detail to describe Bond's 'man's man' accessorizing - how he likes his martinis, that he wore a Rolex watch (switched to Omega in recent films thanks to product placement revenue) etc. So many hardcore Bondians have assumed he wore no cologne or at least no one specific fragrance ... or Fleming would have shared that fact with us...especially (as pointed out by Carol) Fleming did not hesitate to mention by name, the fragrances of various Bond femme fatales.

Most people are acquainted with the film Bond(s) more than the novel Bond. In many ways, the cinematic Bond is as different from his literary counterpart as say the comic book Batman was from the campy TV series Batman.

Although Timothy Dalton attempted to restore the Fleming (brooding) Bond, most seem to feel Craig is the closest Bond to the books since Sir Sean. But apart from the ‘bit of rough’ that he brings to the role, it can also be attributed to the writers who finally got away from the Moore/Brosnan innuendo-laden Bond.

Many of the Bond films share the name with a Bond novel (such as “The Spy Who Loved Me.”) but after the title, all similarity ends.

For those who wish to be (and dress) more like Bond, may I suggest:

1:00 PM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

I definitely need to resniff No. 89 w/ James in mind. SMN Melograno is one of those scents I very much admire and would love to be able to wear, but when I do have it on, I always find myself glancing around, looking for the woman who is wearing it - someone much more elegant and proper than I am. Haven't seen Casino Royale (despite being a huge Bond fan), so am very curious now as to what Vesper Lynd is like. Must see it ASAP. And, speaking of scent in movies, I recently rewatched Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and noticed that in the scene where Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn are talking in the bathroom as he shaves, there are Dior bottles on the shelf. Couldn't focus in to see which they were, but plan on trying to figure that out next time I watch it.

3:53 PM EDT  
Blogger rosarita said...

Well, personally I find Daniel Craig's Bond sexy as all get out. Spending a few moments contemplating how he smells is giving me a bit of the vapors. I feel I must excuse myself and go find my fan; great post as always. :)

5:54 PM EDT  
Anonymous ggs said...

Melagrano-- it's a favorite of dear friend & perfumista Carol Sasich of the WAFT blog, who is especially fond of the SMN Melagrano soap. We were lucky enough to tour the SMN factory in Florence with the Sniffapalooza group. They still craft all of their products in small batches, with natural ingredients, all hand boxed and labeled... It's a kick to see.

I imagine James Bond wearing Amouage Jubilation XXV... although I suppose in the heat of summer, the SMN namesake cologne would be just the thing. Or perhaps SMN's Nostalgia, which is supposed to be the scent of a vintage racing car ;)

10:35 PM EDT  
Blogger Ducks said...

Mr. C, fabulous comment -- perfectly distilled Bond lifestyle. Thank you! I was a little too lazy to get into some of that myself. ;)

Elle, oh, do see it. I think you will like it. And smelling No. 89 with James Bond in mind does change my perceptions, I freely confess.

Rosarita, woo woo! Me too.

GGS, wow, I have never tried the soap and I wonder if it might suit me more? As for your scent choices, they are delicious.

11:28 AM EDT  
Blogger waftbyCarol said...

I do love the Melograno soap and the shampoo and the bath oil..LOL...glad to see it getting some love .
Gotta go see Bond !

12:13 PM EDT  
Blogger TheReviewer said...

Great post. I don't have a purse, but if I did it would be pretty scarce, and that probably says alot about me as well. lol. Anyway, thanks for the post. I don't collect perfume, but I do collect James Bond Action Figures. I guess everybody has there own passion. lol.

12:12 AM EST  
Blogger Phil said...

Lovely post, I was always curious about Vesper's choice of fragrance. May go and smell it out for my significant other.

As a long time user of No. 89 I couldn't agree more about your review. I've always thought it suited me, and couldn't really say why, but now I have a few things to go on. :)


7:53 AM EDT  

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