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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Design Your Own Perfume Event: 30.1.10 - "Charleston" and "Voodoo"


In my excitement over the Ivana scent sighting, I omitted to update readers on Thursday's pointy stick procedure. Although painful, it was a rip-roaring success - "roaring" being the operative word - for the world seems eerily noisy now. The keystrokes on my PC sound like castanets and the traffic outside my window is frankly deafening. Additionally, my sense of smell has been fully restored to its previous sketchy levels, so yesterday afternoon Mr Bonkers' mate Beet (sic) and I set off in good heart for our perfume workshop.

It was hosted by a lady called Vicky, who is a franchisee of a company called The Perfume Studio. As well as offering small, private consultations such as ours, she organises larger parties, including corporate events. We sat at a huge table in her dining room, which was covered in a feathery white cloth, immediately creating a relaxing, spa-like ambience. Her supplies were stored in a white concertina-style chest of drawers, and the 18 blends we were about to try were placed at the head of the table.

Taking the blends (or accords) in turn - and starting with those which were options for the top notes before moving on to the heart and base - she handed us freshly dipped paper strips for each one, asking us to sniff them one at a time and tell her what scenes or memories they evoked for us, ideally without looking at the name printed on the reverse!

The six top note blends were: CITRUS, GREEN, AMBER, ALDEHYDIC, HERBAL and FRUITY.

The eight heart note blends were: GENTLE FLORAL, HEADY FLORAL, FRESH FLORAL, FLORAL FLORAL, ROSE FLORAL, TONIC SPORT, SPICY and OZONIC.

The four base note blends were: MUSKY, WOODY, BALSAMIC and MOSSY.

We both found it harder than we thought to identify notes in each blend, and despite the fact that I sniff perfumes every day for fun, I dropped some real clangers... In the case of Citrus (the very first blend we smelt), I detected lime, whereas it turned out there was pretty much every citrus fruit BUT lime in it. : - ) In the case of the Green blend, I envisioned a walled kitchen garden, and Beet got a wood or an orchard, so we weren't too far off conceptually there at least, but we had no clue what was in it. I was on the ball with the Gentle Floral accord though, detecting freesias straight off, and my finest moment was spotting tonka bean in the Balsamic blend - the first client ever to do so, apparently!

I also insisted that the Spicy blend smelt "just of flowers", which foxed our hostess for a moment until it was established that she had given us the wrong touche by mistake. But, these small flashes of accuracy notwithstanding, overall I was pretty rubbish at the note-guessing game, considering how much of a workout I give my nose, and was scarcely more accurate than Beet, who just splashes on cologne occasionally like a normal person. It was tremendous fun though. As we completed our sniffing in each of the three main groups (ie top, heart and base), we discarded the strips we didn't care for so that by the end of the exercise, we had a more manageable number of blends from which to compose our masterpieces...

Between us, we used 12 of the total of 18, deffing out FRUITY, FLORAL FLORAL, FRESH FLORAL, ROSE FLORAL, OZONIC and MOSSY. The Mossy one comprised patchouli, oakmoss and a few other interesting bits and bobs, and if I had just had the courage to blend it with the musky-woody Musky blend and the vanilla-containing Balsamic one I might have ended up with my very own knock off of PG L'Ombre Fauve, but I bottled it - in the sense of chickened out, that is - for it struck me as too high risk a strategy. Added to which the deal was that we should pick at least ONE blend from each group, with no limit to the maximum you could have, so my L'Ombre Fauve pretender would have required a distinct bending of the rules.

When we had selected our shortlist, Vicky went away and made our chosen blends up into the finished perfume, in more or less equal ratios (the blends already included the correct ratio of alcohol). I chose seven: two top note, two heart and three base note, whereas Beet went for nine in total in a three, three, three formation. Had either of us been football fans, we might of course have been tempted to go for a more familiar four-four-two formation. : - )

I got to choose one of a range of prettily coloured metal atomisers (I picked apple green), while Beet was assigned a very manly atomiser in graphite grey. Men get 30ml, women 20ml, because the women's fragrance is EDP versus the men's EDT. Inside the presentation box was included a white feather, spritzed with our new creation. Oh, and we had to name them ourselves: I chose "Charleston", which I associate with secret walled gardens glimpsed through wrought iron gates, while Beet called his cologne "Voodoo", on account of the remarkable black art by which he had arrived at it.

Here are our basic compositions - for mine I took more complete notes on the precise components of each accord:

CHARLESTON

Top

CITRUS (bergamot, lemon, grapefruit, mandarin)
GREEN (hyacinth, green lemon, petitgrain, green teas, boronia)

Heart

GENTLE FLORAL (white and red freesias, black and green teas, cyclamen)
HEADY FLORAL (gardenia, ylang, orange, carnation, tuberose)

Base

MUSKY (sandalwood, musk)
WOODY (sandalwood)
BALSAMIC (vanilla, tonka bean, can't remember what else!)

Now I know that that looks like an awful lot of separate notes, but it doesn't smell anywhere near as busy as it reads on paper! I would characterise Charleston as a soft, green floral, a sort of hybrid of Diptyque's Ofresia and AG Eau de Camille or Chanel Bel Respiro, if that doesn't sound too grandiose a comparison. Just as Eau de Camille has syringa and greenery, and Bel Respiro has hyacinth and greenery, so this Green blend - which sets the tone for my composition - has hyacinth and greenery too (well, green things, anyway, to use the term "greenery" in its broadest sense). It is a flat but decisive "greenness". Modern and stylised as opposed to the life-like thicket that is MH Fleurs de Bois. Other green scents which flitted into my mind as having a similar modern feel to their greenness - though not the same notes - are: DSH Cyan or Celadon, and CdG Calamus. Oh, and there is a shedload of tea in my scent, as you can see....much of it green, indeed.

VOODOO

Top

ALDEHYDIC (rose, jasmine, aldehydes)
HERBAL (don't know, but think Eau de Sisley No 1 - juniper etc?)
AMBER (with hint of leather?)

Heart

HEADY FLORAL (as above)
SPICY (the full Christmas pudding - opoponax, clove, you name it)
TONIC SPORT (another herbal, astringent, "male cologne" accord - with ginger?)

Base

MUSKY (as above)
WOODY (as above)
BALSAMIC (as above)

Beet's smelt like a more feminine version of Habit Rouge EDC, ie more floral - but also more herbal - though still very classic. It did not smell like a designer men's cologne at all, but instead it came off as positively Guerlainesque or Caron-like, which I attribute to his cunning choice of ALDEHYDIC. He was more daring than me in his combination of blends, and is the hands down winner in the originality stakes!

Beet's scent has also set me thinking how mine might have smelt if I had substituted the Aldehydic blend for the Green. Rose, jasmine, citrus, gentle and heady florals, balsamic woody base....I might have come up with my own take on my all-time favourite, Guerlain Plus Que Jamais. Mind you, at the time of the workshop, I had discounted the Aldehydic blend because it smelt quite potently fizzy on the touche, however, as Beet demonstrated in his composition, sometimes an ingredient that isn't terribly compelling in isolation can add something really special to the overall result. Like an egg in a cake.

In hindsight, perhaps a refinement of the creation process might be to make small samples of a shortlist of compositions - what I believe are known in professional perfume circles as "iterations" : - ). I guess the hostess would have to limit clients to one or two options tops, or the process could get totally out of hand with people failing to make up their minds. After all, I am called Flittersniffer for a reason.

As things stand, it is quite a leap of the imagination for the average participant to go from half a dozen scent strips to the finished article, whereas when planning a fragrance purchase one would live with a sample for a while before buying a full bottle - in theory, anyway. So this is a bit of a blind "buy" in that sense, though the uncertainty as to how the end product will turn out is also a huge part of the fun, so I am undecided on this point. And any provision for intermediate samples would need to be carefully managed so the whole process wasn't hopelessly derailed.

But if I cannot contain my curiosity, I can always purchase another voucher so I can go back and make the "Guerlain that got away"...

Friday, 29 January 2010

Olfactory Bling - Subliminal Scent Sighting Of Ivana Trump With Ferre Rose EDP

In the Venn diagram of fumeheads (Blob A) and fans of our UK Celebrity Big Brother (Blob B - or should that be BB? or CBB?), the infinitesimally small intersection may well have been as exercised as me last night by the perfume Ivana Trump was liberally spraying on just before her eviction. It was a pretty subliminal shot, mind, but the low slung rectangular bottle, the pink juice and the distinctive chunky, squared off top made me think that it had to be Ferre Rose EDP by Gianfranco Ferre. I briefly touched on this scent in my Choco Chanel post last December, describing it as a "foghorn rose", if my memory serves me. Ferre Rose is the epitome of obvious femininity, which kind of fits the persona Ivana presents.

However, given her location in New York with its myriad upscale shopping outlets - not forgetting her squillion dollar fortune - a bottle of Ferre doesn't quite fit the cost profile somehow, even if it DOES fit a plausible scent profile. But I don't know another bottle out there with exactly that top. I just googled "Ivana Trump perfume" and fetched up her own fragrance line called "Haute Couture", however, none of those bottles look like the one on Big Brother!

Perhaps Ivana chose to take the Ferre Rose into the house rather than risk travelling with a more prestigious / expensive scent from her personal collection (her own range appears to retail for c$30 a pop)? I mean, look what Stephanie Beacham did to that vase Ivana won in the spoof Scandinavian awards ceremony? Dropped it on the floor and smashed it to smithereens, no less, for those who haven't seen the show, never mind that it was made of sugarglass and the ceremony was fake. Imagine how much more damage you could inflict in a butterfingers environment with 50ml of sticky pink juice? No, perhaps Ivana deliberately selected the most cheap and cheerful scent she owned, knowing that it would have to take its chances in the communal bedroom which she shared with muscle-bound hard man Vinnie Jones and cross dressing cage fighter Alex Reid (to name but two of her house mates).

The notes (in case anyone is interested) are:

Top notes: peach, mandarin, pomegranate and watermelon.
Heart notes: Rose, freesia, Japanese gardenia, orange blossom, hyacinth.
Base notes: cedar wood, amber, vanilla and sandalwood.

My, what about that fruit salad opening! And the tricky, potentially sickly trio of freesia, gardenia AND hyacinth (on top of the rose). Hyacinth needs a lot of greenery if it is not to act as fragrant chloroform, but foliage couldn't have been further from the perfumer's mind. Just checked - the noses were Alexandra Jouet and Francis Kurkdjian. Alexandra Jouet is noted for Chopard Wish Pink Diamond, which is all you need to know about her part in this really. As for Francis Kurkdjian... well, it is to be hoped that he was on his lunch break during most of the creative process.

I plan to do a post sometime about the scents celebrities really wear, but for now, I will leave it there. I may or may not be right about my hunch, but regardless of what perfume Ivana Trump was wearing on eviction night, I would just like to say that she was a gracious and dignified participant, and all round good egg. Even if she does wear sunglasses indoors.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Ormonde Jayne Tiare - Small SPLAT Review


Well, after pleading extreme fed upness and a chronically dismal quality of life, I managed to convince the doctor this morning to make me a pointy stick appointment tomorrow, even though he had no slots free for the foreseeable future. My glum faced look must be more compelling than I realised.

So from tomorrow, we hope that my sniffing faculties will be restored, in all their delineated, differentiated and nuanced glory (well, back to what they were, anyway). But today my sample of Tiare arrived from those nice people at Ormonde Jayne and I couldn't wait to try it. The girls had run out of official samples but agreed to my offer to send them an empty 1ml vial and a funnel, so now at last I am able to test this major lemming, belatedly and in my own impressionistic and extra blurry way.

For reference, here are the notes:

TIARE

Top: Mandarin, Orange Flower and Sicilian Lime
Heart: Tiare, Freesia, Water Lilies, Jasmine, Orris and Ylang
Base: Cedar, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Moss and Musk

When I first heard about the impending release of Tiare, I focused completely in my mind on the Tahitian gardenia note, imagining it to be how I hoped Un Matin d'Orage would smell, ie a watery, sheer, green tropical floral reminiscent of a hothouse in a botanical garden. Un Matin d'Orage started out promisingly, not unlike the gardenia equivalent of Carnal Flower, but became sharply sour and indolic on the drydown, rendering it sadly unwearable. And as it turns out, Tiare is like neither my imagined nor the real version of Un Matin d'Orage...

Tiare is still sheer, but not remotely tropical to my nose - or so ethereally so as not to register on a catarrh-compromised nose. The citrussy opening flows into a light, refined, green floral, anchored by a whisper of moss. It is elegant without being standoffish, and could be worn on pretty much any occasion other than "downright scuzzy" or "on the pull". Comparing it to the other exotic florals in the OJ line - such as Sampaquita and Frangipani - I'd say it was much more "intellectual", thanks to the moss. Moss is a jolly severe note, I have decided. If I had to pick one look to epitomise the person wearing this scent, it would be geek glasses and a pencil skirt, so we are clearly a million miles away from Polynesian flower garlands. I realise now that Tiare ACTUALLY smells exactly as I hoped EL PC Jasmine White Moss would, however, JWM was way too mossy for me, even more mossy than Cristalle, with which I have also seen this scent compared. A comparison of notes shows Tiare to have SEVEN notes in common with JWM (if orange flower equates to blossom, which I don't see why it wouldn't).

ESTEE LAUDER PRIVATE COLLECTION JASMINE WHITE MOSS

Top: Mandarin, blackcurrant buds absolute, Sambac jasmine absolute, bergamot, galbanum
Heart: Indian jasmine absolute, orange blossom, ylang-ylang
Base: Patchouli, white moss mist and vetiver.

If you were to liken Tiare and JWM to those novelty Bavarian weather houses, JCW would be the man and Tiare the woman, for there is a definite "his" and "hers" quality to the duo. By a weird coincidence, I sprayed Stella Nude on my wrist in town today, just below the Tiare test area. Back home, I was googling the notes of Stella Nude and found a review of it by Robin of NSTperfume, directly under her review of Tiare. (Twilight Zone!!). Stella Nude starts out as grapefruit soap, but quickly goes splat and ends up as a soft, faintly soapy skin scent, and the FEEL of it (not the smell, before anyone throws their copy of Perfumes: The Guide directly at my head) is similar to Tiare - ultra smooth and silky, like a satin slip shimmying off a well moisturised thigh.

Patty, in her review on Perfume Posse, states that she is "not the queen of the mossy greens", and likes, but doesn't love Tiare. D'you know, I think I could grow to love this, because the moss is so beautifully soft and unobtrusive.

And I bet you are all curious to learn Mr Bonkers' verdict...

When first applied: "Extreme craft shop!"
After an hour: "Like the bowl of pot pourri half way down the craft shop behind the didgeridoos."

Well, we can completely disregard that, I think. He is clearly playing to the gallery. Oh, and his view on Stella Nude? "Better, because you can't smell it so much." I despair.

I will end with this fascinating titbit from "The Tahiti Traveler" website on the ways to wear a Tiare flower in your hair, and what each position signifies:

"Worn behind your right ear, it means you are single, available.
Worn behind your left ear : you are married, engaged or otherwise taken.
Worn behind both ears : you are married but still available.
Worn backward behind your ear : you are available immediately."


I like the sound of Nos 3 and 4! Maybe "on the pull" is a possible scent occasion after all...

Monday, 25 January 2010

Scents Going SPLAT! - A Temporary Phenomenon?

Since Christmas Day I have been suffering from blocked ears and sinuses. One ear is so bad that it constantly booms, and when I eat, it sounds like a ballet of twelve JCBs in my mouth, which as anyone from round here knows, has actually been performed. On Wednesday, heartily fed up and having tried a futile and mimsy succession of remedies involving drops of one sort or another, I am seeing the doctor again. It is my intention to lie on his couch and not budge until he has done his worst with A Very Pointy Instrument.

During this time, I have also noticed that perfumes are behaving oddly on me - they are not mutating through the usual sequence of top, heart and base notes in the expected time frame of 20 mins, 2 hours and up to 8 hours respectively. Instead, right after I have applied them on skin, all scents are going SPLODGE SPLAT, before dissipating within a few minutes into an indeterminate blur, which is more akin to the scent's drydown if I had to place this mess.

I am quite chagrined at the turn scent events are taking. Suppose you went to see a play and instead of a Prologue and Four Acts, for the same ticket price you just got the last half hour of Act Four. You would be confused, wouldn't you? - and struggle to pick up the plot. And you would probably want your money back.

Now, I cannot say whether this disappointing telescoping of scent development is attributable to my present ear problems or not. I think I can still smell - but maybe I can't. After the doctor has done his worst, I should be in a better position to say, one way or the other.

But what is slightly troubling is the thought that this SPLAT business may in fact be a permanent shift due to my changing hormones. I do have an acquaintance who is roughly the same age as me, about whose Venus Fly Trap skin I have often joked, without it ever occurring to me that I might be like her down the line. For this lady's skin used to grab the top and heart notes sharply by both lapels and ingest them instantly, before allowing the base of a scent to linger a while in a somewhat dazed and confused state. Much like this Ferre by Ferre EDP I am currently wearing, in fact. Two minutes after application, it is anybody's guess what is in it, though I know for a fact that iris is a key note somewhere, leading some people (though not me, even with my previously intact faculties) to dub this the Poor Man's Iris Poudre.

This possible association with the menopause is rather worrying, for it is a process that may take some time to run its course - 10 years or more, according to people I have spoken to - and I am just off the starting blocks. My extensive reading on the subject has uncovered a plethora of unpleasant symptoms, most of which I have experienced, but there doesn't seem to be an official listing for "Perfume will become prematurely indistinct on skin", which to any perfumista is of equal if not greater concern than the flushes, insomnia, mood swings and dry skin.

I simply couldn't be doing with this SPLAT business for the rest of my 50s or even beyond, so for now I am putting all my hopes in the doctor's pointy stick.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Of Mice And Men...

In my local paper last week my eye was caught by a startling headline:

"NOSES MAY HOLD CLUE TO DEMENTIA"

"Loss of smell may be an early indication of Alzheimer's disease, research suggests.

Scientists found that changes linked to the most common form of dementia begin in mice in an area of the brain responsible for recognising smells.

The physical symptoms coincided with impaired olfactory, or smell, function. Affected animals had to sniff odours for longer to remember them than healthy mice. They also had problems differentiating between smells....

...Reduced smelling ability in the mice was linked to the appearance of amyloid plaques - sticky lumps of protein in the brain. Daniel Wesson, from the New York University School of Medicine, said: 'What is striking in our study was that performance of the mouse in the olfactory behaviour test was sensitive to even the smallest amount of amyloid presence in the brain.'"

I have to say that this article rang immediate alarm bells with me. For Mr Bonkers has a very rudimentary sense of smell, and has HUGE difficulties distinguishing between different scents. Hence his dismissal of 90% of the perfumes to which I expose him as smelling generically of "craft shop" (meaning that vague scented candle/pot pourri/room fragrance smell you find in shops that sell jewellery, homewares, teddy bears and general fripperies aka "stuff"). The very few variations on this broad category are: "fly spray" (Jasper Conran Mister), "nice soap!" (SJP Lovely), "craft shop with the window open" (some very attenuated Giacobetti number) or "the garden at the back of the craft shop" (MH Fleurs de Bois).

So I am not saying that Mr Bonkers has no sense of smell at all, just that it is - in the vast majority of cases - a bit of a blunt instrument. So on the basis of Mr B's results in my own "olfactory behaviour tests", it might not be a bad idea to get him some puzzle books and flaxseed oil in the first instance. If he persists in rudely dissing everything from Chanel to Ormonde Jayne and Penhaligons to Parfumerie Generale as "craft shop", I may reserve the right to check out the EMI units in our area. : - )

Mr Bonkers? Not yet, I hope! Though the words "petard" and "hoist" spring worryingly to mind...

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Scent Crimes Series: No 7 - "Binning" The Classics

The other day I helped a fellow shopper in Asda to find a packet of polenta, and thought as I did so how much our small market town had come on in recent years in terms of the range and quality of food items available. You can now also get Dr Karg crispbreads from Germany, which are not just sprinkled with pumpkin seeds, but have molten Emmental drizzled on top. Our Marks & Spencer does a nice line in Gastropub meals, which you could almost pass off as your own, and the new deli in town stocks every kind of arcane condiment you will ever need - and many you won't.

All of which scene-setting helps to explain why I was so disappointed with the response of my local department store to a question about Guerlain posed by a friend of mine. The store has a sleepy, oldfashioned air about it, admittedly, but stocks a wide range of designer fragrances, so when she reported the following exchange it came as a bit of a shock.

Friend: "Hello there - I am looking for a bottle of Mitsouko."

SA: "Mitsouko?"

Friend: "That's right - by Guerlain (pronounced in a perfect French accent). Do you have their range?"

SA: "Oh, you mean Gear-LANG (with the emphasis on the second syllable). No, no, we don't - that stuff is like...really...OLD."

Friend: "Er??" (stunned mumble)

SA: "Right. I mean, you could try that discount chemist further down the high street - they have bargain dump bins by the till with remaindered and old stuff in them. And it is quite cheap too. That's the only place I can think of."

The chemist in question did indeed have such a bin, containing dusty minis of Joop! and Calvin Klein, boxed sets of Coty L'Aimant, Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds, Elizabeth Arden Red Door and Sunflowers, all nestling amongst bumper packs of tissue and facial wipes.

Strangely, no Guerlain.

I don't know why, relatively speaking, the supermarkets in our town should be so gastronomically advanced, while our department store is such a backwater on the perfume front. Actually, it is a backwater on EVERY front, so I can kind of see why Guerlain might not consider such a store to be a "good fit" for its portfolio.

I think, though, that the house veers too much the other way ie towards exclusivity. Even the largest and most prestigious department stores in the UK do not stock anything more exotic than the likes of Apres L'Ondee and Chamade. You have to go to Paris or North America to find the full range, including my favourite scent of all, Plus Que Jamais. The shipping rates from France are punitive, mind, as I have inquired.

So yes, the most important message in this post turns out to be that Guerlain should be more widely stocked. Not necessarily in my town - but a few major cities in Britain would be a start...

Monday, 18 January 2010

The Top Sniffs - And Nasty Niffs! - Of 2009

Yes, I know that is an appallingly tabloid-esque headline, but as I am very late to the party with my 2009 scent round up, I figured I needed to go with an attention-grabbing headline. There again, regular readers of Bonkers about Perfume will know full well by now that they are not automatically going to get a considered and impeccably researched review of the latest releases, whether at the time of the launch or indeed ever. What they can count on is a lucky dip, a potluck supper - albeit one made with a packet sauce. For I am arguably the convenience food equivalent of the perfume blogs, the redtop newspaper - with apologies to Ines and her "All I Am - A Redhead" blog!

Right, so where was I? Hopefully off the hook now for posting this on 18th January. Nor is it probably necessary to go into much detail about most of the scents I have chosen, for they have been extensively covered by people with better noses and a more felicitous turn of phrase than me. So here goes, and I reserve the right to toss in a few sub-categories along the way as the mood takes me.

OVERALL TOP SNIFF OF 2009

Penhaligon's Amaranthine

I am probably the last to include Amaranthine in my top ten of last year, though I was one of its "early adopters" back in August when I first smelt it, and I have been doing my darndest to spread the word ever since! A lush tropical floral which manages to be simultaneously green and sheer; comfortingly milky, but with a dark side.

TOP TEN SNIFFS OF 2009 (in approximate order of preference)

Penhaligons Amaranthine
Hermessence Vanille Galante
Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise
Tom Ford White Suede
Prada L'Eau Ambree
Kenzo Eau de Fleur de Magnolia
Miller Harris Fleurs de Bois
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire: Muguet Blanc
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire: Bois d'Iris
Natori EDP by Natori

RUNNERS UP

Guerlain Idylle
Versace Versense
Issey Miyake A Scent
Acqua di Parma Magnolia Nobile
Eau de Sisley (2 & 3)
Helena Rubinstein Wanted (surprise, slightly naff pick!)

Well, what do the scents in these winning categories reveal about my taste, I wondered to myself? With the exception of Amaranthine, they are all pretty polite fragrances, I suppose - several I would even go so far as to describe as "skin scents". I would also observe that I seem to like vanilla and musk notes, also lilies, ylang ylang and magnolia. Citrus should be light and not too astringent. And I like my amber to be a quiet purr at most.

OUTRIGHT NASTY NIFFS OF 2009

Boss Orange (furry orange squash/cordial)
Prada Infusion de Fleur d'Oranger (as above)
Gucci Flora (this should have been light and inoffensive throughout, but the whole thing got hijacked by an unpleasant earthy patchouli note about half way through)
Comme des Garcons Daphne (an unpleasant woody spicy accord)
Armani Idole (headache-inducing pear drop note!)
Viktor & Rolf Eau Mega (as above)
Marc Jacobs Lola ("not good", but my mind has blocked out the reasons why, suggesting it really wasn't very nice at all)

RELEASES I DID NOT CARE FOR PARTICULARLY

Here are some of the (mostly niche) releases from 2009 that were too "difficult" or just not my style. The list also includes a number of scents which I expected to like but didn't, on each of which I have included an explanatory note.

DelRae Mythique
Amouage Epic Woman
Amouage Ubar (re-release)
SL Fille en Aiguilles
AG Mandragore Pourpre
Parfums d'Empire Wazamba
Byredo Baudelaire
Hermes Eau de Pamplemousse Rose
Hermes Eau de Gentiane Blanche (flat, cold, depressing, blue-grey musk)
EL PC Jasmine White Moss (I think I am fundamentally not a moss lover, Cristalle aside, though I had high hopes of this one)
AG Un Matin d'Orage (spoilt by the indolic ending, otherwise it would have had my name on it)
Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte (way too sharp and acidic)
Miss Dior Cherie L'Eau (green colour gave me heart, but it too was overly shrill and tart)
YSL Parisienne (disgruntled purple talc)

SCENTS I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO HAVE TRIED BUT DIDN'T

Ormonde Jayne Tiare (current top sniff list lemming! This sounds like my sort of thing...)
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire (ie the others in the line)
L'Artisan Havana Vanille (mainly because it is by BD!)
Maison Kurkdjian range (especially APOM and Lumiere Noire pour femme, because of good reports from the Basenotes event with FK that I missed)
Ineke Field Notes From Paris (because of Robin's recommendation on NST)
The Different Company Oriental Lounge (because of the name really : - ) )

I am quite pleased that the "missed" list is as short as it is. This is either because my frenetic interest in sampling is finally starting to plateau or because of a faulty memory, or a bit of both.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Scent Crimes Series: No 6 - Opaque Perfume Receptacles

In choosing the title for this post, I could have said "perfume atomisers", as these are the receptacles which bother me most - I am thinking specifically of the little spray vials you get in carded manufacturer's samples. However, my bottle of Creed Love in Black is also opaque, as is Love in White, though I don't have that one. My Bal a Versailles is in a white and gold bottle, and other opaque brands I can think of are Keiko Mecheri and Juliette Has a Gun, though I don't own anything from those lines either. Several of the Bond No 9 line are in opaque bottles as I recall, not that I would be especially tempted to buy any of them even if they came in clear glass with measurement markings printed down one side. And there are doubtless many more examples of the phenomenon - Habanita by Molinard just popped into my mind, also Tom Ford, Narciso Rodriguez and the Piguet range.

What prompted this "rantlet", for in all honesty the opacity thing is more of a "scent niggle" than a "crime" as such, was the fact that I wore a sample of Guerlain Idylle the other day from a little white vial, and couldn't work out how much was left in it. I shook it a few times to try to work out the remaining level from the noise it made, but with so little in there to start with you can't really deduce much by sound alone. And this also begs the question: when I bought a job lot of six of these vials from an Ebay seller, were they in fact all full to start with, as stated?

Going back to my Creed bottle, I have swapped and given away a few decants from it, but if I were ever to swap or sell the remaining bottle (offers welcome, by the way!), I wouldn't have a clue how much is in there to put in the description of the item. Which - with such an expensive scent - is pretty fundamental information. Holding it up to the light doesn't help, and the shake test only suggests there is "quite a bit still in there". So if anyone wanted to carry out a series of "fill level scams", opaque receptacles are definitely the way to go!

I am sure I have seen a bottle - possibly a men's one - where the front and back were opaque, but you could clearly see the fill level down the sides. So that is not a bad compromise, if you must do opaque at all, and personally I favour translucent every time.

I also think that opaque bottles/vials look cheaper somehow - not the Piguets or the Tom Fords particularly, but those JHAG ones look a bit basic. They could quite easily be Aussie shampoo...

So as with politicians' expenses and perfume reformulations that are sometimes slipped past us as soon as our backs are turned, when it comes to the the design of perfume bottles and vials I would like to call for greater transparency!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz And The Parallel Universe Of Perfume Acronyms

Last night Mr Bonkers and I were having one of our disputes over who owns Charlie, our cat. These regularly arise following any kind of misdemeanour committed by the cat, in this case vicious leg kicks to my hand as I tried to administer her ear drops. "Look what your cat has done!" I yelped, startled by the sharp pain of her frantic clawing. Later, once I had calmed down and dabbed some TCP on the scratches, for some reason we got to wondering about whether the cat was listed in her vet's record book as belonging to one or other of us.

The cat's entry clearly showed that she was mine, registered at my former address. But suddenly my eye strayed to the topline information about her:

Name: Charlie
Date of Birth: 1995
Sex: F
Breed: DSH

Breed: DSH??? DSH can mean one and only one thing to me, namely DAWN SPENCER HURWITZ Perfumes, the niche label with a bias towards natural ingredients based in Colorado. So what on earth did DSH mean in the context of a veterinary record? And then the penny dropped......DOMESTIC SHORT HAIR....

I laughed and laughed at the incongruity of this alternative version of the acronym, and it wasn't long before I started to think of other abbreviations of perfume house names that had very different "mainstream" meanings.

So here we go - it was harder than I thought, and I am still stumped with lots of them, also the two character ones don't offer such rich pickings. Please feel free to chip in with your suggestions.

Maitre Parfumeur & Gantier (MPG) - Miles Per Gallon

Strange Invisible Perfumes (SIP) - Self Invested Pension

Etat Libre d'Orange (ELO) - Electric Light Orchestra

Parfumerie Generale (PG) - Parental Guidance

Serge Lutens (SL) - Service Level / Second Life (the game)

Ormonde Jayne (OJ) - Orange Juice / "OJ" (Simpson)

Frederic Malle (FM) - FM (radio wavelength)

Keiko Mecheri (KM) - KM (kilometre!)

Lorenzo Villoresi (LV) - Loan to Value (slight cheat!)

Black Phoenix Academy Lab (BPAL) - very, but not quite BOPAL in India (not an acronym, admittedly, but I reserve the right to make up the rules as I go along!)

Estee Lauder Private Collection (ELPC) - Entry Level People Carrier (okay, okay, I know I am getting silly now...)

Parfums MDCI (don't know what the MDCI stands for!) - Management Development Centre International (first outright cheat through googling - this is a centre of postgraduate learning in the Gulf, apparently).

Any more for any more?

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Design Your Own Perfume Invitation! - 23.1.10

For a milestone birthday last May, a friend bought me a voucher entitling two people to attend a workshop where you design your own perfume, bottle it, and even name it, all in the space of an hour! : - ) Clearly the creative process will have been compressed somewhat, with a few shortcuts taken, rather like the scent equivalent of a Betty Crocker add-an-egg cake mix. As the brochure makes it clear:

"Your signature blend will be formed from your choice of 18 exquisite blends....Each blend has been designed by a master perfumer famed for creating many of the fragrances that sell from high street shelves."

Once you choose your particular combination of blends, the consultant hosting the event will give you a choice of 20ml bottles and blend it for you. Then, having chosen a name for your new scent, you receive a certificate with the name on it and a list of the ingredients, so that you can go back in theory and obtain a top-up.

Also included in the experience is the option to purchase related products such as atomiser bottles, bath oils or creams scented with the fragrance you have just made.

The workshop will take place on 23rd January (Saturday) @ 12pm. As this invite is for two, and as the perfumista friends I know offline live too far away to attend, I thought I would offer the other place in the first instance to anyone out there in The Midlands, who could get to a location near Rugeley on the outskirts of Cannock Chase on that day.

Please contact me if you are free and interested, using the contact form at the very bottom of the home page. I will keep the place open till the weekend - in case people don't see it immediately - and if there are no takers, I will see if there is anyone in my "non-fumehead" circle of friends who might wish to go instead. Obviously I would rather someone came along who was "of the faith", even if we don't know each other!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Transcendental Experiences of 2009 - Meeting Bertrand Duchaufour


I still intend to compile a round up of my favourite fragrances from 2009, even though it is 10 days into January and a number of other blogs I follow have already covered this topic in spades. But at the end of the day these kind of polls are by definition a personal selection, so no two "Best Of" lists will be quite the same. And most of all I would like to do one as an aide-memoire to myself, my memoire being pretty shot at the moment.

But I am parking that idea for now, as I will need to hunt down a definitve list of all scents released in 2009 first before selecting my favourites, and thought I would turn my attention to another highlight of that year, namely my encounter with Bertrand Duchaufour. (With apologies to those of you to whom I related the story at the time!)

Back in the summer at one of the Basenotes mass sniffing events in London, we had been treated to a preview of the new Penhaligon's scent, Amaranthine. A number of us (including 100% of the women in the party, notwithstanding the fact that it was 11am in the morning and we had barely sipped our first glass of champagne of the day!) were dumbstruck at the perfume's originality and sultry beauty. Even the Penhaligon SA famously described it - without blushing - as "f***able". Then in September, one of the organisers of that event tipped me the wink about pre-launch parties for Amaranthine on consecutive nights in October at two of Penhaligon's London stores. Bertrand Duchaufour, the perfumer, would be in attendance to answer questions and autograph bottles. In a heartbeat I had booked my train ticket and arranged to stay at a friend's.

It was a wild, wet, autumn night, which meant that I arrived looking distinctly dishevelled and windswept, but on a selfish note, the weather also kept the guest numbers down, so it felt even more of an exclusive event. Ironically, my name wasn't even on the guest list (an administrative error, as I did book my place!) so I technically gatecrashed the party. : - ) When I arrived there was no one else there, and in the one and a half hours I stayed I split my time between talking in French to BD in bursts, then withdrawing if another guest walked in, and either talking to the sales assistants or a lady lawyer who worked next door, who had just popped in to see what the craic was. For obscure medical reasons she had no sense of smell whatsover (lending a darkly humorous touch to proceedings!), but wore Angel anyway for the hell of it.

I was so starstruck to be in the presence of one of the Premier Division of Noses that I cannot recall exactly what BD and I talked about, though I mentioned his recent Fragrantica interview with Michelyn Camen, where he went on record as saying that Dior Homme was the scent he wished he had created. We talked about my dislike of civet, which I wrongly referred to as "la civette" instead of "le civet". The French eat ragouts of "civette", which is a fawn. So I was basically talking about extracting a skanky musk from up Bambi's bottom! Then BD spoke in English when the lady lawyer joined us, and we evened the score in terms of linguistic near misses when he spoke of a gourmand perfume (probably Angel!) having "tasty notes".

BD also gave me a detailed run down of the notes in Amaranthine, of which there were predictably quite a few more than published - I remember tuberose and gardenia, and a whole clatter of spices that I have forgotten now. He explained his concept as being a creamy, white floral hung on a "green skeleton" and then dirtied up a bit.

It goes without saying that I bought the perfume, which BD dedicated to me in a silver pen - sigh! As importantly, he SMELT me several times on both arms - one wearing the parfum and one the EDP - and said that the scent smelt on me exactly as he had envisaged. It was gratifying to hear that I had textbook skin! : - )

I left on a cloud from which I have probably not yet quite come down. Amaranthine was my favourite launch of the year back in August when I first smelt it, and having met - and crucially been sniffed by - its creator, that top spot has been resoundingly confirmed...

Friday, 8 January 2010

Unidentified Perfume Object - Blue Grass (Or Is This Just Fantasy?)

The other night, both still in our pjyamas in the evening due to his and hers colds of depressing tenacity, Mr Bonkers and I were watching some footage of a Queen concert from Christmas Eve, 1975. This got me wondering what I was doing on that day, aged 16 as I would have been, and eagerly awaiting my haul of presents on the Big Day.

Well, according to my five year diary from that time, the first part of the day of the gig doesn't exactly make great copy, for I apparently "felt dizzy" and "hoovered my room". Things pick up momentum later on when I read a novel by Colette, decorate the tree and attend a carol concert.

Then my eye strayed to the entry for Christmas Day, where I list my gifts:

"Budgies (green and blue), white gold ring, writing paper, jigsaw, Goodies File, Hardy books, book token, perfume, hair curlers, handbag. Sung Eucharist at St George's. Turkey inedible. Did jigsaw. Named budgies Thaddeus & Joshua."

Well, after my successful mastering of turkey roasting this year, I would be quite interested to know why the turkey was inedible in 1975, for my mother was a pretty accomplished cook. But even more intriguing is the reference to receiving a bottle of perfume - at age 16!

This all took place...er...34 years ago...and I have no recollection of being given perfume, let alone wearing it. I have been puzzling over and over as to what it could have been, and so far have only come up with Blue Grass as a possibility, as that was the signature scent of my English teacher at the time, whom I considered to be the last word in elegance and style. But other than that, I am frankly baffled...

Anyway, in pursuit of my youth I have ordered the very bottle pictured from a vintage seller, for just £9 including postage. It is an original from that era, and I am fully prepared for it to smell more like silage than grass. The plus side will be to own a period bottle of what may have been my very first scent!

And I will leave the last line to Queen, from the track Killer Queen, Sheer Heart Attack being the first non-compilation album I ever bought...

Perfume came naturally from Paris (naturally)

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Calendar Idea - With Perfume Bottles, Not Naked Firemen!

I am looking despondently at the complimentary calendar on my office wall, courtesy of a curry house in Birmingham. It's big, it's glossy, it features a different curry ingredient every month - January seems to be star anise - which I am guessing from the shape, not being much of a cook from scratch.

It is okay, but it doesn't move me, and I want my office calendar to be tasteful, colourful and MOVING! Past art calendars that fitted the bill have included Rennie Mackintosh, Paul Klee and William Morris, but I couldn't see any this year that I liked particularly.

So this morning I googled "perfume calendar" and "perfume bottle calendar" and the best I came up with was the Events Calendar of the International Perfume Bottle Association, which is something entirely different indeed. Yet when you think of the combined membership of sites such as Fragrantica, Basenotes, Nstperfume, PerfumePosse and so on, what a large target market that would be for a perfume themed calendar, selling for £10 or $15, say?

It could showcase a beautiful bottle for each of the past twelve decades (just about - we may need to resort to Jicky to make up a quorum!), which would be like that beautiful coffee table book by Roja Dove, The Essence of Perfume, effectively turned into a calendar.

Or I could see one comprising just Lalique bottles, or Baccarat bottles, or Bohemian crystal flacons, or pretty atomisers with puffers, or a mix of all four. Or you could have just Guerlain bottles of whatever provenance, or just "vintage" bottles from wherever, or "drugstore classics" (for a laugh and a bit of nostalgia!), or an iconic scent created by each of twelve well known perfumers, or one created by a perfumer in each of twelve countries (if there are as many nations of noses!), or even portraits of the twelve perfumers themselves, holding one of their creations - after all, there are quite a few of them who are easy on the eye and/or my personal heroes!

What do you reckon, folks? If it seems like a goer, I might start googling some calendar manufacturers next. I shan't suggest doing one of "naked perfumers" at this stage...

Monday, 4 January 2010

What A Lovely Surprise! He Thinks I Smell Nice - Wearing Perfume...


Still suffering from this painful blocked ear, and nearly didn't bother wearing perfume yesterday, then thought a dab or two just might cheer me up. So after a bath I applied the remains of a tube of Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely scented body lotion, sprayed the EDP on top and, freshly anointed, went downstairs into the living room, where the conversation went something like this...

Me: "Now you smell this, because it is a perfume I put on about this time a year ago and I am sure you said you quite liked it. Possibly because you couldn't smell it?"

Him: "Well, that's funny, because just as you walked into the room I was going to say that for once you do actually smell nice."

I proffered my wrist.

Him: "Yes, okay, it is a bit faint, but it smells of an expensive soap."

Which all figures really, when you think that my partner liked the fragrance of Heyland & Whittle Tea Tree soap on my hands, and has submitted to the recent soap gentrification programme more compliantly than I could ever have hoped for.

Now SJP Lovely is classed by Osmoz as a "floral woody musk", so maybe I should try him with a few more in this family? What he appears to be picking up on as "soapy" is what I would indeed call "clean and musky", as I don't generally like perfume that smells "soapy" in that aldehydic, sneezy way. Anais Anais is a case in point, or Serge Lutens Fleurs de Citronnier, which I so wanted to like on account of its pretty name. I also don't care for fragrance that smells soapy in an out-and-out detergent sort of a way, such as the new Byredo Blanche or L'Artisan's L'Ete en Douce - I agree with Luca Turin that the latter is "laundry-soap-on-steroids".

The funny thing is that SJP Lovely was the first full bottle I bought after this perfume hobby took a hold, so as far as my partner is concerned, I could have stopped right there! Well, Lovely is nice, but no more than "nice", and sometimes you want to smell of something a little more dangerous than soap...

Sunday, 3 January 2010

In Sickness And in Death: Reasons To Be Scentless

Yesterday was a bad day. I woke up around 2pm, checked a couple of blogs, then felt so unwell that I went back to bed again, stirring briefly to read a bit of the weekend papers before again retiring to bed. I am currently suffering from swollen lymph nodes due to some kind of localised infection, blocked and sore ears and sinuses, headache and queasy stomach. I think some of those Christmas leftovers should simply have been left, rather than eaten... The sensations in my head were the worst part, though: it was so stuffed up that it felt ready to explode at any moment, and I would happily have agreed to have it chopped off. Though I might have regretted it later. Or not, as my partner helpfully pointed out.

I felt so out of sorts that I didn't apply any perfume yesterday, and believe me, I have to be really unwell not to do that. Last year's bout of flu was another occasion, plus the odd day written off to a migraine. A head cold doesn't normally deter me from applying scent, as I rarely lose my sense of smell, and don't feel quite as under par as I did yesterday.

I was trying to think of what other events apart from illness would deter me from wearing perfume. A really bad argument with my partner would - and has! Also the death of a close relative, though I lost both my parents pre-perfume mania so I cannot test that one out for real. The day my partner's father died I wore Ralph Lauren's Notorious, so he cannot have been close enough, plus I was in another part of the country at the time, which distanced me somewhat from events. Both my partner's mum and I wore scent to the funeral - Burberry Women in her case and PG Brulure de Rose in mine - but maybe scent on even such a sad occasion is only like adding a final touch to your outfit, and as such is a mark of respect.

I think if there was a nuclear holocaust I might also forgo perfume. I might even not get washed. How funny that an ear nose and throat ailment appears to have mushroomed into a consideration of perfume usage in apocalyptic scenarios. Clearly, this ENT business has affected my sense of balance...

Friday, 1 January 2010

A Musky Misadventure And The Virtues of Being Vertical


I am going out tonight with two female friends (the last of the festive shenanigans before I completely collapse from a mixture of staying up till eyeballs-on-stalks-o'clock, drinking too much and eating elderly leftovers). I fully intended to wear Penhaligon's Amaranthine, but managed forcibly to perfume myself whilst not splitting an infinitive (notwithstanding yesterday's disturbing tale of third party acts of fragrance GBH). All I did was pick up a silver atomizer of Ava Luxe's Gardenia Musk to examine the remaining level, whereupon the juice proceeded to dribble all over the desk and both my hands. So there was nothing more for it but to smear my neck in the stuff too and resign myself either to a novel layering experiment later on or a jolly good scrub in the bath.

Up to now I have stored my small decants and atomisers in a recumbent position in a couple of boxes, and it never occurred to me that they might leak while lying down. After all - at the risk of being indelicate - our menfolk typically take a leak in a vertical position. But perhaps my system is flawed after all. Though I am not sure that the atomizers would all stand up nicely if I tried to make them do so, owing especially to their varying heights, and possibly also to their differently shaped bottoms. Plus I would need a specific quorum for them to be packed so tightly that they stayed wedged upright. And the overall height might no longer fit the drawer/fridge shelf where they currently live. And I wouldn't be able to read the labels as readily, which are on their sides.

I'm making a strong case for the horizontal, aren't I? But be assured that the next atomizer that leaks will prompt a major Logistics & Materials Handling review.