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Tokyo Milk is a line of inexpensive fragrances of which I’m totally unfamiliar save for one—Ex Libris, a decant of which was sent to me by a reader (thank you, Karen). I was hesitant to review it at first, mainly because I can’t tell whether it’s a discontinued fragrance or not—the Tokyo Milk website lists it as “out of stock,” and though a cursory search seems to show it as being for sale at Amazon and another perfume discounting site, when I actually clicked on those sites it doesn’t appear to be available.
But if you can find Ex Libris, and if you happen to love cedar perfumes, then this is quite the steal: $28 for a one-ounce bottle of parfum concentration fragrance—which is primarily the reason I’m reviewing it. Tokyo Milk Ex Libris isn’t complex—or even unusual—and the brief list of notes that the perfume company advertises for this scent makes me want to heave a grumpy sigh (because they don’t list cedar, and this is predominantly a cedar scent with a bit of fig). But what I like about it is the fact that it basically upholds its creative premise while offering a pretty decent sillage and surprisingly good longevity for a very affordable price. If Ex Libris is representative of the Tokyo Milk line, then it seems to me that it’s a line worth checking out.
Ex Libris is the Latin phrase meaning “from the library (of)”—the phrase one finds on bookplates to indicate the ownership of a book—and this fragrance smells, if not exactly like a book, at least representative of a certain type of library: one that is patrician, that has wood-paneled walls and tomes of hardbound books printed on old paper that is satisfyingly thick and a bit sour when you first open them—and one in which a servant will eventually deliver a tray with fruit (a fig or plums) to snack on.
Fig leaf, magnolia, bronzed musk and cardamom are the notes that Tokyo Milk lists for Ex Libris, and though perfume companies rarely reveal all the notes that go into a fragrance (for good reason), I think they do the consumer a disservice by not mentioning cedar here. Cedar is evident from initial application, although it initially is coupled with a citrusy top note in such a way that, for a short time, Ex Libris really does remind me of the slightly musty and vinegary odor that issues forth from very old books. As the citrus note fades, the cedar note strengthens to the point that one really must be in the mood to enjoy it—it can actually smell a bit like hamster-cage cedar for a while—but if the wearer is just a little patient, he or she will soon be rewarded with the sweetness that follows. Certainly the most delightful and surprising element of Ex Libris is the gentle, figgy sweetness that gathers when one least expects it, such that it almost feels like Jeeves has arrived on the scene in that almost-clairvoyant manner he has, bearing a small tray with fruit. Prior to looking up the notes for Ex Libris, my thought was that this delicate smell was plum, but no, it’s fig, a note with which I’m far less familiar despite having eaten fresh figs. (By the way, fig leaf, which is listed as one of the notes for this scent, is said to smell green but with sweet facets hinting at milk and coconut, according to osMoz.com. And cardamom seems to be a note often paired with fig leaf—judging by other fig fragrances I’ve seen—making me wonder if it helps to create the scent of the fruit. I can often detect cardamom in a scent but am not able to do so here.)
Other than to say that the sillage for Ex Libris is lovely and noticeable, and that the wear time is a good five or six hours, I’ve pretty much summed up the scent.
However, being the kind of person who can’t resist the opportunity to plug a great book, how about I recommend one? One that’s rare in the sense that it has flown under the radar of the reading public.
Most people, when they think of the greatest works of literary erotica, think of the works of Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller (as well they should), but one of the most exquisite erotic novels ever written is James Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime. Published in 1967, A Sport and a Pastime is set in France in the 1960s and its story reveals the quiet beauties of the provincial towns of that country as it follows the almost year-long affair between Phillip Dean—a recent Yale drop-out who follows the beat of his own drum—and a young French girl named Anne-Marie. The writing is spare and carefully measured, the story is as moving a love story as one will ever find, and the myriad ways in which two willing bodies can intersect is explored with a sense of quiet intoxication. Because the story gets told by a third-party, a narrator, this device has the effect of making the reader feel very much like a voyeur—which makes the sexual acts (and the other interactions between this couple) seem quite private and all the more real.
It’s a cult novel, much as Tokyo Milk is a cult perfume company—and at the same time it’s a classic, at least in the eyes of that small segment of the public that has read it (John Irving put it on a pedestal by featuring it in his novel, A Son of the Circus).
By virtue of its undiscovered-gem status, A Sport and a Pastime seems fitting of the Ex Libris Suzanne Keller bookplate I’d slap on it if I was fortunate enough to own it in hardback. As it is, I’m considering spraying the front pages of my paperback edition with some Tokyo Milk Ex Libris parfum and slapping one on anyway.
Or having Jeeves do it—as soon as I can locate him.
Tokyo Milk Ex Libris parfum is advertised at the Tokyo Milk website as being “out of stock” as of this writing. It’s normally priced at $28 for 30-ml. /1 fl. oz. My review is based on a sample provided by a very kind reader.
Image Sources: photo of the sexy librarian is one I found at duckofminerva.com; photo of A Sport and a Pastime cover was stolen from stevenwbeattie.com, and photo of Tokyo Milk Ex Libris perfume is from Frangrantica.com.
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May 15, 2012:
From the Library of You Know Who:
Tokyo Milk Ex Libris Parfum and A Sport and a Pastime