Over on Katie Puckrik's hugely entertaining blog, "Katie Puckrik Smells", there's a discussion going on at the moment about whether the new Cartier X L'Heure Folle fragrance smells of "repulsive rotting fruit". I can't comment on that particular scent, not having smelt it yet, but I was instantly reminded of a very unpleasant experience involving a tester of Mona di Orio's Nuit Noire and a trigger-happy SA...
We have all passed through department stores and airports and encountered the SA loitering with intent, holding a tester of a new fragrance release. She may proffer you a pre-sprayed paper strip from a fan of the things she prepared earlier, or ask if you would like to test the perfume on skin. These promotional staff can be a bit pushy at times, and you may feel as though you have been pressganged into trying something that is unlikely to be your cup of tea, like (in my case) the latest D & G range, Armani Idole or some Z-list celebrity scent.
But worse, far worse than this modest level of hustling, was the time I was forcibly perfumed in Paris by a SA recklessly toting a tester of Nuit Noire. I had already been out sampling for several hours at this point, and every inch of arm and hand was already spoken for. So when the SA asked me not if, but where I would like to try this scent that she was clearly on a mission to push or bust, I replied that I didn't really have any space left. Then before I could blink a spray struck me smack in the clavicles, then I was hit again, and again, until the SA had fired about five squirts around the entire circumference of my neck and upper chest (it was summer, so my scoop necked T-shirt gave her a reasonable target area).
It didn't take long for this miasma to reach my nose: a disagreeable blend of the abovementioned rotting fruit and spices - and civet - which is a Room 101 note of mine, as you may know. Nuit Noire is a heavy, cloying fragrance, conjuring up hot, sticky nights in exotic, far away places, all infused with a distinct air of menace. Pleased with her handiwork, the SA exclaimed brightly: "There! You will smell this one more than all the rest! And I've put enough on to last at least eight hours!"
And she had as well. Very quickly I started to feel nauseous and headachy. Out in the street, I felt trapped by my own sillage - victim of the scent equivalent of "necklacing". I stumbled to a cafe and went to the bathroom, where I tried to wash the stuff off. I stuck my neck under the tap and rubbed vigorously with a bar of unscented soap. I wasn't very successful and the headache soon turned into a migraine, whereupon I retreated to my hotel to lie down and wait for morning, by which time the stuff would surely have evaporated.
Nuit Noire? Black night indeed... And Mr Bonkers is also quite safe - I will continue with my strategy of soap gentrification, but I promise not to "stealth perfume" you any time soon!