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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Perfume Protégé Puss - Because It's Never Too Late To Teach An Old Cat New Tricks

Readers of Bonkers about Perfume will be well aware by now that when it comes to being inducted into the sensuous delights afforded by fragrance, Mr Bonkers has thus far proved to be an intractable subject. It is therefore with great pleasure that I announce that our cat Charlie appears to have discovered perfume all by herself. She is 15 and stone deaf, so there would be absolutely no point in trying to promote perfume as a concept to her, as it is pointless talking to her on any subject. Not a day goes by when reprimands about her sitting on unauthorised surfaces (beds, conservatory furniture etc) literally fall on deaf ears.

But no, as luck would have it, Charlie chanced upon perfume on her own. The "tricks teaching" reference in the title was (as ever) just too good to resist. Yes, Charlie has taken to sleeping by the perfume fridge a lot lately, unfazed of course by its intermittent whirr. She regularly blocks me from opening the door of the fridge to take out a bottle to wear, and after entering the bedroom repeatedly to see if she has moved, I invariably end up pushing her out of the way to get at any of the contents. This persistent sitting by the door is a variant on that well known cat ruse of "sitting on important papers" or "half slumping across the computer keyboard", classic attention-seeking gestures to which all cat owners will attest.

Then on Sunday I went into the bedroom as usual and captured the following poses:

1) "So what is this cuboid thing the 'big cat' in the house seems so interested in? She's always taking bottles out and spraying them on herself. It's a bit like the squirty cream she very occasionally treats me to. Hmm, if there is any chance cream could be involved, maybe I should take a closer look..."

2) "Okay, now which one of these receptacles looks most like that Anchor aerosol thingy?"

(Answer - my Kenzo Power miniature, but unfortunately its contours were masked by the box.)

3) "Aha! This one smells of grass, which I like to eat! (It's all I seem to be able to hunt these days.)"
Yes, picture 3 is of Charlie sniffing the rather random place she applied vintage Blue Grass. I did have a series of shots of her prising the door open, removing the bottle from its 'dog-eared' box and spraying the perfume on her hindquarters, but sadly the quality was a bit fuzzy (she didn't half move fast!), so they didn't make the cut...

And I bet you are wondering why she didn't make a beeline for her namesake perfume, Charlie? Well, through an unfortunate oversight I don't actually have any, but if the cat really is developing a genuine interest in perfume, it is the least I could do to nip down Boots and get her her own bottle.


Photo of Charlie (the perfume) from namebrandsperfume.com

Monday, 30 August 2010

Beige - The Sequel: Chums Trousers And The Art Of Sexing Up A Saddo Shade

Yesterday I chanced upon a copy of The Daily Mail - discarded by Mr Bonkers' mother's neighbour (are you by any chance sensing that I wish to put some 'clear blue water' between myself and the source of this publication?). At the back was an ad for Chums trousers, which are described not only as "the ultimate comfort trouser" thanks to their elasticated waistband, but also as affording "at least 2" of extra growing room". Given that the average age of their target customer is probably the wrong side of 50, I am concerned that these men feel that it is appropriate for someone of their age to grow further. I have already had words with Mr Bonkers about this very matter - or rather his allegation that various garments of his have "shrunk" in the wash - which, as any careful laundry fairy knows, amounts to the same thing.

And of nearly as much concern is the fact that these elasticated trousers come in a beige colourway which the manufacturers are attempting to sex up by calling it "sand". Beaches all over Europe are receding with shame at such an association. Fashion-conscious holidaymakers are rejecting bucket and spade holidays in their droves in favour of Center Parcs and mini-breaks in major conurbations.

De-friend Chums without delay! Or if you really must buy some relaxed fit trousers any time soon, at least go for the lovat or navy instead.


Image scanned from The Daily Mail small ads

Friday, 27 August 2010

Eclipsed By Ecru: Scent Strategies To Upstage A Show-Stealing Cardigan

The notion of a beige cable knit cardigan being a head turner may strike you as a contradiction in terms. Tonally speaking, beige may only be a hair's breadth away from its modish cousins, "camel" and "taupe", but it has traditionally been the runt of the neutrals palette. Beige is the colour of choice of those who lack imagination and flair - indeed, the very word "choice" may be overstating the case, because plumping for beige suggests a lack of thought, a lazy, "line of least resistance" option. It is the fashion equivalent of magnolia paint.

Beige also connotes ladies of a certain age who have become invisible. They have long ceased to wear the top button of their shirt undone, if indeed they ever did. It is fawn by any other name, and that way lies no-iron Farah slacks (never trousers) and comfy skirts with elasticated waists. Yes, beige items belong in the small ads at the back of Sunday supplements, along with the offers on Stannah stairlifts and mail order bedding plants.

And though the title of this post reads "Eclipsed By Ecru", eagle-eyed readers will have spotted that that was merely another Bonkers alliterative liberty, for since the 50s, "ecru" has carved out a more stylish niche for itself: it is the unbleached, "milky tea" colour of delicate lingerie. Why, even the name is redolent of gallic raunchiness.

So all in all, beige has had a bit of a bad press - and yet my cardigan (the blandest item in my wardrobe after a clutch of plain white Tees) is almost universally complimented wherever I go: by family, friends, neighbours, dental receptionists, shop assistants, and an assortment of other random strangers. Not by Mr Bonkers, admittedly, but he usually speaks up only if he thinks something doesn't suit me. There again, it could be that the cardigan is in fact so bland that it doesn't impinge on his senses at all. He may be "sartorially anosmic" to its unassuming colour and understated pattern...

Meanwhile, the popularity of my cardigan is bugging me, because I never receive compliments about the perfumes I wear. And even allowing for my modest rate of application, you would think that somewhere along the line in the past two and a half years of daily fragrance wear someone would have said unprompted: "Oh, you smell nice!" I have occasionally elicited compliments from people under duress, by shoving my wrist under their nose and demanding feedback - much as I do with Mr Bonkers - but those results may be a little suspect.

The rivalry between me and my compliment-garnering garment has reached such a pitch that I have been trying to think of perfumes I could wear to offset its appeal. Now you may think that the answer would be a totally over the top, lush white floral of some kind, to knock the cardie right out of the park. The new Lust from Gorilla Perfumes, for example, which is the most obscenely tropical scent I have ever smelt. Or Amaranthine, which is relatively sedate by comparison. Or possibly Carnal Flower or Fracas.

But I think that is the wrong tactic - people could be put off by such powerhouse scents, however well done. The cardigan's popularity is all about its muted tones and versatility as a wardrobe staple - its very beigeness, basically. That is the scent style I have to replicate to be in with a chance of outshining my own outfit.

And before you say "Chanel Beige"!, I don't think that fragrance is quite right either, notwithstanding its on-message name. For Beige is a sweetly honeyed floral, but it feels no more beige to me than Tuberose Gardenia, say, which has the same feminine prettiness, albeit with very different notes. And actually, as you can see from the photo, one of my Beige samples has turned from translucent to amber! So even the colour of the juice doesn't particularly connote beige.

There's a bunch of other scents I quickly dismissed, because although they are in that comforting "mohair sweater" territory, they conjure up WHITE to me, not beige - scents like Perles de Lalique, Acqua di Biella Kid Mohair (thanks to lovethescents for the heads up on this one) and Bvlgari Omnia Crystalline, for example.

No, I think I have found the one...it is beige in colour, beige in smell, and even comes in a beige box!

It is LACOSTE POUR FEMME.

This is a very different scent from Touch of Pink, and could easily have been named Touch of Beige instead.

top notes: Jamaican pepper, purple freesia
middle notes: white heliotrope, Iranian jasmine, hibiscus blossom, Bulgarian rose
base note: Himalayan cedar-wood, velvety skin (sic), Mysore sandalwood, incense

Created by Olivier Cresp in 2003 (one of the noses behind Kenzo Amour and Amour Indian Holi, also Angel!), the "story" behind this scent on Osmoz is as follows:

"A free spirit, the Lacoste woman aspires to be swept away, and acts on impulse. Authentic, open-minded, captivating, a bit wild, she’ll try anything once, and she knows how to take advantage of the surprises life can offer!"

Ignore all the above - this is the scented equivalent of beige cashmere, end of. Yes, Lacoste Pour Femme is a snuggly, slightly powdery scent with a lovely woody/vanillic/incense drydrown. Now ambrette seeds are a note I am beginning to think I must like, though I don't know as I would recognise them if someone slapped a handful of them down on the desk - or their smell, for that matter. Heliotrope, on the other hand, is a note I don't care for normally - I don't get on with Herve Leger, for example, or Barbara Bui, specifically because the heliotrope is too pronounced in those - but I don't mind it here.

I must admit to massive prejudices about Lacoste as a fragrance brand, but Pour Femme is the jewel in its crown. Do they do opals in beige? Okay, then, maybe quartz or the beigey end of pink jasper.

So that is my plan - I will fight fire with fire - confront my cardigan with its scent nemesis, and report back. But hold on a minute....on closer inspection I think my cardigan might not be beige after all. In that photo it looks pretty darn "mink" to me. Or "pebble" perhaps. Why, "mink" is the pale-skinned younger sister of taupe! No wonder my cardie is such a show stopper! I may have to have a complete rethink and look for furry flagstone scents instead. Or if that sounds too hard, I guess I could always just wear a sweater.


Photo of skirt from binbin.net, photo of lingerie from bobbydene.com, photo of Lacoste Pour Femme from parfumuri4u.com, other photos my own.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Fragrance Blotters And Other Absorbing Matters

Regular readers of Bonkers know that I am much exercised by issues of perfume storage in all its aspects. I worry about condensation and heat, about leaky decants and warped boxes. Well, this week I have mostly been worrying about keeping my....paper whatya-ma-call-its separate. I can't believe I have been a perfumista-type person for more than two and a half years, yet until today I wasn't sure of the correct term for those paper tester strips you spray perfumes on in shops to try them. Yes, I have been mightily confused on this point, and some extensive googling has thrown up a bunch of alternatives, all with equal currency as far as I can tell:

FRAGRANCE BLOTTER
SCENT BLOTTER
SMELLING STRIP

I also found one or two mentions each of "perfume test blotter", perfume blotter", "fragrance strip blotter" and "touche à sentir" and "mouillette", though the latter two are of course French phrases not in general use over here - except possibly in very chichi circles. And what these things are NOT called are "fragrance strips" or "scent strips" - I can confirm that both terms refer specifically to those peel off flaps in women's magazines which are impregnated with a scent.

But come on...do you refer to these small, thin absorbent lengths of card - because they are more the gauge of card than paper, and of course sometimes they can be square (Chanel) or oblong - as "fragrance blotters", or even "smelling strips"? The very first phrase I came up with when I sat down to think what I do call them is "perfume tester strips", and that didn't come up anywhere in my Internet research. Terms like "fragrance blotter" and its ilk are simply not top of mind for me. Indeed, I would be more likely to use a roundabout locution, along the lines of: "Excuse me, have you got one of those paper strip thingies I can spray this perfume tester on, please?" But that may just be me...

Mind you, based on a cursory trawl of common search terms thrown up by Google Keyword Tool, it would seem that the public at large shares my uncertainty. In fairness, there were 91 global monthly searches for "smelling strip", but crucially NONE for "fragrance blotter", "scent blotter" or "perfume blotter".

Out of interest, I put the word "mouillette" into Linguee, an online dictionary, and it gave me this translation:

blotter (a special paper strip for testing fragrance)

So, you see, the Linguee people are not making any assumptions either about the public having especially high levels of blotter awareness.

Going back to the Google keyword searches, I suppose you might not expect anyone to be looking for these things at all, as they are usually provided in-store. Even on the swap scene, while a perfume swapper might routinely purchase decanting supplies, there is no obvious need to purchase blotters for home use.

But....and this is a big but....I think I have identified a gap in the market for retail sales of blotter HOLDERS. By this I don't mean the devices known in French as "porte-mouillettes", certain designs of which resemble the smelling strip equivalent of a kitchen knife block. And I certainly don't mean this curious homemade contraption fashioned out of clothes pegs.

No, I mean the little greaseproof?/tracing? paper bags/holders that I was once offered in a branch of L'Artisan Parfumeur in Paris to slip my smelling strips in. The idea is that they preserve the scent for longer and also keep the strips from cross-contaminating one another at the bottom of your handbag, which is the place the strips inevitably end up getting tossed when I go on a serious sniffing outing.

Now at the Roja Dove master class last year - about which I may do a retrospective post some time - one of my suggestions for improving the session was the provision of just such bags, in which to keep the strips Roja circulated of his semi-bespoke range. For these are very rare and special scents, and we all wanted to preserve our tester strips for as long as chemically possible, knowing that we were unlikely to encounter them again. But apart from that one L'Artisan store, I don't remember ever seeing such bags anywhere else.

That said, the principle of the protective bag is perfectly commonplace for other products - that is how you buy a French stick in the supermarket, for example. And let's face it, you're not even likely to have a load of loaves knocking about at the bottom of your handbag. And then you've got things like these eye shadow applicators, which come in an articulated plastic case with a slot for each sponge, a bit like an ammo belt.

Whilst separate bags would work fine, a single holder with compartments for each would be an ideal way to keep all the strips in one place for ease of reference. I also checked out artists' pastel boxes and screw organisers, but the compartments were not long or shallow enough. So the perfect "smelling strip organiser" continues to elude me.

Meanwhile, however, I tracked down a French supplier of "touches à sentir" to L'Artisan Parfumeur, and gave them a call. The first thing I wanted to confirm was the name for these individual test strip holders and it is "étui en papier cristal" or "étui cristal" for short. Predictably, these things are not sold in retail outlets, but only to perfume companies, though the chap I spoke to would have cut me a deal on 500 for 250-300 euros. Why, that is about 45p each! Gallic robdoggery of the first water!

So the search for a suitable "touchebag" - or bags - continues. :- ) And meanwhile, I have got a whole bunch of smelling strips stuck between the leaves of a plain notebook and I am hoping for the best.


Photo of "paddle"-style smelling strips from persephenie.com, photo of "arrow"-style smelling strips from whatwedoissecret.org, photo of improvised porte-mouillette with clothes pegs from bio-byte.com, photo of baguette from durobag.com, photo of make up sponges from blogger-index.com, photo of ammo belt from odsurplus.com.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

"Chanel Singulière" - Part Bare, Part Particulière...

I was very excited to receive my duo of Chanel nail polishes from Lovethescents in Canada the other day, and couldn't wait to try them on. As a chronic nail biter, I have worn nail polish on only a handful of occasions - the last time was about nine months ago. So while I eagerly awaited the package, I set about the serious business of growing my nails - not long, particularly, just fractionally longer than the tips of my fingers. By the time the polishes arrived, three fingers on my left hand had grown to the requisite length, and just one nail on the other hand. Nothing daunted, I followed the old axiom: "Half a loaf is better than none", and applied Particulière to half a hand (give or take).

I then asked Mr Bonkers what he thought of my new, 30% elegant look. I thought that he couldn't not approve of nail polish, as it doesn't smell like perfume. Well, not once it is dry certainly, and while nail varnish remover has a very strong odour - albeit nostalgically reminiscent of the pear drops of our youth - I wasn't planning on exposing him to that. He jokingly inquired if I was trying to camouflage myself agains the newly painted alcoves in the living room. They are indeed a mushroomy colour (slightly deeper than in the photograph), and on reflection, the tricky challenge of sidling up to the arm of the sofa and wresting the TV remote from Mr Bonkers' vice-like grasp might be a lot more manageable now that I blend into the décor more. Even three nails might do it. Or I could wait until all ten are at an optimum length before attempting such a feat.

Mind you, waiting for nails to grow takes even longer than watching paint dry.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Floris Snow Rose: "Spiky" And "Fluffy" Scents Revisited

Hard on the heels of lovethescents' successful custom purchase for me of Chanel Paradoxal and Particulière nail polishes (pictures to follow...), the other day I managed in return to "custom blag" a sample of the new Floris Snow Rose for her. And one for me, as luck would have it. And Snow Rose isn't all that new to be fair, but the tide of new perfume launches moves at a glacial pace round these parts, "glacial" being on the face of it an appropriate image for a scent purporting to be "snowy" and "icy" - of which more anon.

I scoured Google - and by "scoured" I mean I went as far as Page 4, which is pretty darn deep, given that most people click no further than the first hit on Page 1, I am reliably informed by Mr Bonkers' website whiz - and I could not find a single review of this scent. A few short features announcing its launch, with some note information (Now Smell This, The Scented Salamander), but no proper reviews as such. And as anyone who isn't a first time visitor to this blog knows, you won't be getting a proper review from me either. Coming to Bonkers about Perfume for an authoritative critique of a fragrance is not unlike those hapless Japanese tourists who turn up in Stafford town centre, and ask the way to Anne Hathaway's Cottage (Shakespeare's childhood home.....in Stratford-upon-Avon).

But I digress...

Lovethescents' febrile keenness to try Snow Rose piqued my curiosity, and while we don't like exactly the same sorts of perfume (I hope she won't mind my mentioning her greater capacity for booze - in fragrance, obviously : - ) ), there is still considerable crossover between us.

So here is the lowdown on Snow Rose (with note info) from Floris's website:

FLORIS SNOW ROSE

"A sunlit unfolding of warmly scented rose petals crystallised within a winter wonderland.

Icy cool leafy green top notes introduce the rich and vibrant floral heart of rose, enriched with geranium and jasmine. Warmed with soft sweet oriental base notes of vanilla, musk and sandalwood."


While we are here, it might not go amiss to post the notes of White Rose, another scent from the Floris line with a quite different vibe.

FLORIS WHITE ROSE

Top notes: aldehydic, carnation, green
Heart notes: iris, rose, jasmine, violet
Base notes: amber, musk, powdery notes

Both these rose perfumes are powdery, but while (to my nose) Snow Rose falls squarely into the category of a "fluffy" scent - as explored in my earlier post on the subject here - White Rose is definitely a "spiky" scent. In brief, by "fluffy" I mean a comforting and feminine scent that enfolds the wearer in a powdery cocoon. Snow Rose is in the same vein as Parfums MDCI Promesse de L'Aube (if a tad more powdery), but falls short of the marshmallow fluffiness of Kenzo L'Eau Par Kenzo Indigo Pour Femme (this is good). Nor is it AS powdery as M Micallef Note Poudrée or Lorenzo Villoresi Teint de Neige (which is also good).

Important to mention that Snow Rose is also slightly sweet, like some kind of cachou or dainty patisserie, though it stays well the right side of cloying. Snow Rose is also billed as "icy", and the opening green notes are a little on the chilly side, but this wears off in a matter of seconds, or it does on my warm, hormonally challenged, drydown-grabbing skin. It so happens that I am a sucker for vanilla and sandalwood, and the geranium and green notes probably stop Snow Rose from becoming the sticky sweet mess of Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb and its ilk.

Now Mr Bonkers' take on this was most illuminating, and surprisingly near the mark for him - he described it as "sweet and sickly, like a poncy fairy cake". I apologise for the un-PC tenor of his comment, but I was pleased that he picked up on the cake aspect - we will simply have to agree to differ on the level of sweetness. And Mr B has got me thinking now of intricate cake decorations in icing sugar, like the "snow rose" pictured above...

Floris White Rose, on the other hand, is most definitely "spiky", a term I defined in my earlier post as any of the following: "austere, craggy, cold, uncompromising and complex". White Rose has a pinched and aloof quality to it. It is...dare I say it?...borderline "old lady", by which I mean powdery in a frumpy way, rather than in a "vintage" way that still feels current. I think the particular combination of aldehydes, iris, violet and especially carnation (an über spiky note!) give it that dated feel, whereas Snow Rose feels like a classic scent for a modern girl.

Stylistically, I'd say that Snow Rose has a fair bit in common with Agent Provocateur and Les Parfums de Rosine Rose Kashmirie, though AP has a flinty edge to it which Snow Rose lacks, and Rose Kashmirie is spicier. Snow Rose also has little in common with the "disgruntled purple talc" that is YSL Parisienne, one of my major disappointments of last year.

Another powdery, slightly sweet scent which I love, and which I believe pulls off this "one foot in the past, one foot in the present" stunt very well, is Guerlain Plus Que Jamais, but even Plus Que Jamais has a slight hauteur about it by comparison with Snow Rose. So Snow Rose is the best "powdery, classic/modern crossover, girly, slightly sweet vanillic" scent I have smelt. It is guileless and accessible. Perhaps too accessible for some people's tastes, possibly even for mine. Time and repeated wearings will tell..

Now in my "spiky" and "fluffy" post, I riffed off rabbits quite a bit, and the moment may have come to riff off furry creatures again, starting at the most "spiky"/"dangerous" and working down. I may need to annexe a few felines to complete the set...

Floris White Rose - a Snow Leopard

Agent Provocateur - a Lynx

Rose Kashmirie - a Lynx in a Sari

Guerlain Plus Que Jamais - a Maine Coon (a house cat, but only just)

Les Parfums MDCI Promesse de L'Aube - a long haired, non-pedigree white cat (not a Persian, as they can have an "attitude" problem)

Floris Snow Rose - a white rabbit

In short, Snow Rose is no glacial beauty, no Snow Queen or platinum blonde Scandinavian model. It is more like a platter of frozen petits fours, served just before they have completely defrosted. A "Sensodyne" scent if you will. Or a fluffy bunny called Snowy.


Photo of Floris Snow Rose from flickr, photo of Floris shop from flickrivr, photo of white rose cake decoration from partykiosk.co.uk, photo of fairy cakes from elizabethjamescakes.co.uk, photo of snow leopard from Wikimedia Commons, photo of rabbit from flickr.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Rochas Byzance: A Retro Soapfest 'Clouded' In Mystery

When I look back at my relationship with my mother, whom I still miss keenly 11 years on, there are many things I regret. I regret the fact that I didn't visit her more often in the last year of her life (if only I had known that that was the last year of her life - her sudden death caught even her doctors on the hop, as she died with, but not strictly of cancer). She was always so upbeat and independent that it was easy to forget how ill she really was, and carry on with your own life in a fairly normal way. Though perhaps that was how she wanted it...

This may explain why, for example, she banned all visitors on what turned out to be her last weekend - because she had drips up her nose and "didn't look dignified" ie "normal". We had an elderly cat who went off one morning, lay down in the raspberry canes, and died. He appeared to have opted for a discreet exit with minimal fuss or trouble to his owners. I sometimes think of Mother as having disappeared into the raspberry canes for similar reasons, and I regret not overruling her wish not to be seen looking her best at the end. And of course I regret the fact that I didn't just jump in the car on that final morning and drive to the hospital in Oxford, inferring from my many unanswered phone calls to the ward that something was seriously up. By the time a doctor picked up the phone, she had one minute left to live, and I was over 100 miles away.

So that is the big stuff I regret. But there are other, lesser things too: I am sorry now that I never took the time to learn more culinary skills from her (I can make a roux, but man shall not live by béchamel sauce alone), or to learn more about plant care. Or more about her colourful seafaring ancestors. I do know (for I have the tape of a BBC radio broadcast on the subject from 1968) that her great aunt and two male companions (one of them her husband) were the first people to circumnavigate Africa in a small boat - "at a time before such journeys in small boats were commonplace". Mistress of understatement, my mum.

And finally, finally, I regret giving her Rochas Byzance for Christmas once...

Yes, the perfumista person that I have become is a little ashamed of that. I had just started dating Mr Bonkers, and was self-absorbed and distracted. It was an ill-considered, selfish purchase. Selfish because it was the result of a one minute foray in Boots, something quickly grabbed from a heap of seasonal boxed sets. I had no idea what Byzance smelt like, or whether Mother would like it - or whether I would. Yes, to my shame, another motive for buying that particular set was the miniature bottle that was the Gift With Purchase, which I kept...

So it was a lazy and thoughtless gift, which my mother accepted with her usual good grace. But - and this is the $64,000 question - did she ever wear it? I don't know what became of the mini, but I acquired a decant of Byzance recently to remind myself of how this fragrance smells.

Well, on first impression it is a soapy floral number that is rather reminiscent of Rive Gauche - the soapiness creates a "cloudy" aura to it. And whilst not overtly soapy, other similarly cloudy perfumes to mention would be Fendi Palazzo (particularly Palazzo) and YSL Cinema. They envelop the wearer in a perfumey - yet diaphanous - fug. Now I don't mean a cloud of powder, or any kind of fuzzy, aldehydic whooshing geyser type of effect (though there are aldehydes in there), nor do I mean the type of aquatic, freshly vacated shower cubicle sort of cloud either, for which Issey Miyake's scents are noted. Why, they even have one called "L'Eau d'Issey Goutte d'une Nuage", though it was in and out of the shops quicker than the length of an average shower. No, Byzance is a non-powdery, non-water droplet sort of cloud, if that means anything at all to anyone (and it very may well not).

Without further ado, here are the notes for Byzance, which was launched in 1987, the year my mother moved into my old house in Wiltshire, which we co-owned until her death. The noses behind this fragrance are Nicolas Mamounas and Alberto Morillas. Morillas is a familiar name with a string of hit fragrances under his belt, but I had to look up Mamounas, to find he has only created four scents, all for Parfums Rochas. Byzance is variously described on the Interweb as a "floral chypre", a "sharp oriental" and a "semi-oriental". Given the busyness of the note list, I can see why there might be room for manoeuvre:

ROCHAS BYZANCE

Top notes: aldehydes, spices, carnation, green notes, mandarin orange, basil, citruses, cardamom and lemon
Middle notes: tuberose, orris root, jasmine, turkish rose, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley and anise
Base notes: sandalwood, amber, musk, vanilla, heliotrope and cedar.

Once the soapy cloud settles down, it isn't half bad actually, though by no means my usual thing. Interestingly, Luca Turin awards Byzance four stars in Perfumes: The Guide, and he too likens it to Rive Gauche, though I swear I noticed the resemblance myself before looking this one up!

"Rive Gauche with Indian ornaments, like a good French girl playing dress-up..."

He goes on to speak of its original "dreamy, liquid, heavy-limbed feeling" having been reduced through reformulation to "the damp shine of white bathrom tile". Oh look, he is in cloudy territory too, although he appears to lean to the water droplet variety!

So...... did I ever catch a whiff of sillage from my mother that smelt like this? No, I did not. The only other perfume I remember her wearing (by choice) when I was growing up was Lenthéric Tweed, which is a very different proposition. As I wrote of Tweed in a Mother's Day post on Cafleurebon back in May:

"(My mother) loved the West of Ireland, with its craggy landscapes, peat fires and palette of sludgy greys and browns, and a scent inspired by a rough fabric was the perfect choice for her."

LENTHERIC TWEED

Top notes: bergamot, cinnamon and geranium.
Middle notes: ylang-ylang, jasmine, lavender and orange flower.
Base notes: oakmoss, patchouli, sandalwood, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver.

Okay...so there is a bit of crossover there - sandalwood, vanilla and three of the floral notes - but my recollection of Tweed is of a more brisk, outdoorsy, woody kind of scent, while Byzance is the scent of the harem, or perhaps of Roja Dove's sumptuous cushion-stuffed boudoir at the Haute Parfumerie in Harrods.

So, you know, what was I thinking of, giving Mother Byzance? Well, that is just it - I wasn't thinking. How I would love to be able to pick out scents for her now, which I would do with loving care and a modicum of knowledge. Knowing that that will never happen saddens me too.

To sum up, while many perfumistas have written eloquently and touchingly before me about the scents they associate with their mothers, ie the scents their mothers WORE, Byzance is different. Byzance is the scent my mother DIDN'T WEAR. Yet it is inevitably one I will remember her by, because I gave it to her, however carelessly. It is a poignant reminder of all the things I didn't do for her while she was around.

Yes, what my mother really thought of this perfume I will never know. To call it a Byzantine riddle would perhaps be an overstatement, but I can see myself puzzling over the matter for the rest of my perfumista days.


PS Thoughts go out to Josephine of Notes from Josephine, who lost her mother earlier this year.

Photo of boxed set of Byzance from parfumuriok.com, photo of Tweed poster from Cafleurebon, photos of my mother from family albums.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Discount Perfume: Because Cheap Doesn't Have To Mean Nasty... No 1 - Bid.tv

Last night I was zapping restlessly between "Australia's Ladette to Lady", "The Grumpy Guide to Class" and a documentary about Kylie, when I chanced upon the shopping channel Bid.tv, and my attention was immediately grabbed by the bidding frenzy over a job lot of two perfumes. Mindful of the recent hoo-ha over Mary J Blige selling her debut perfume My Life exclusively via HSN, I decided to watch for a moment or two, and found myself compulsively drawn to the action unfolding...

I don't often look at shopping channels, but I quickly twigged to the fact that the sales technique used is a reverse auction, where the price starts high and gets cheaper the more stock they shift. And shift it they did - when I tuned in there were 350 of these perfume duos left, and by the time they moved on to the next item (a 40 piece cosmetics kit that worked out at about 20p per item, and this at the starting bid!), there were about 100 lots left, though not for long I suspect.

"But what were the perfumes?" I hear you ask. Quiksilver Roxy Love (30ml) and Kiss Her (50ml). Exactly - are you much the wiser? Well, I am aware of Quiksilver as a brand of surfing gear, and I have seen Roxy something-or-other in T K Maxx one time (though I have never smelt any of the range), but Kiss Her was a new one on me. It is the in-house fragrance of Kiss Cosmetics, an online beauty retailer which carries a number of low to mid market brands like Maybelline, Rimmel, Max Factor and Bourjois.

The male TV presenter didn't disclose very much about these perfumes - at no point was the viewer given a note list, for example, though I think he referred to Roxy Love as "citrussy" at one point. His patter was so fast it is hard to say for sure. Kiss Her he described as a floral scent that could "go from day to night", but that was about it - or all I took in, at least.

The main sales message he was there to ram home was simply that the two scents were a steal at the price (£12.99 for the pair when I tuned in, falling to £5.99 by the end of the slot) - the subtext being that at prices this low, the concept of an informed purchase becomes an irrelevance... And when viewers did make a purchase, they got a name check on air, and were reassured that they had made a wise choice. It went something like this (punctuation not included, because I don't remember there being any):

"Well done Sarah from Driffield you won't regret it hello Jean from Wigan yours are on the way you can't go wrong John in Coventry your wife will love them what a bargain you've got yourself Barbara in Hull they are only £4.50 apiece now and going fast grab yourself a bargain before they're gone Dawn Sally Rachel hello Gillian Bert good buy only 200 left now this is such good value Jane absolutely mad not to..."

So, given the fact-lite nature of the sales pitch, here's some additional information - firstly, this from Amazon on Roxy Love:

ROXY LOVE

"A citrus-floral fragrance that’s as energizing as a cologne. It blends tea leaves, freesia, peony, citrus, pomegranate and a Bahia orchid note obtained through Scent Trek (headspace technology). Designed by: Antoine Lie, Givaudan."

Antoine Lie is the nose behind the woody woodfest that is the new Comme des Garcons Wonderwood, plus a bunch of other Comme des Garcons scents, including a couple of citrus numbers. He also created a clutch of fragrances for Etat Libre d'Orange, including....drum roll.....Sécrétions Magnifiques! So, you know, visions of grapefruit-scented unmentionables inevitably float into your head as you try to imagine how Roxy Love might smell, assuming it is an example of his best work, which I don't imagine it would be at that price point. That said, the notes don't sound too shabby, even though I have become a crashing snob about peony (with the shining exception of Histoires de Parfums Vert Pivoine).

A big more digging unearths the following - rather more impressionistic - description of Roxy Love from dooyoo.co.uk:

"...woman bathed in an ocean of passion and joy. Flouting (sic) a message of life and desire, Roxy Love is a concentration of tender emotions written in pink floral-citrusy notes against a blue background."

I also found a few reviews on Makeupalley and Fragrantica:

"When I first smell it, it gives me a headache but after a few mins it smelled like lemeon. I was undecided on it but the price and the fressh lemon scent become the reasons that I put it in my collection."

So price was a main driver - she sounds like just the sort of model punter our Bid.tv man is looking for.

Another reviewer captures the effervescent quality of Love with a vivid confectionery image:

"Remember "flying saucers"? The rice paper casing enclosed an acidic fizzy sherbet that could make your eyes cross.....& now I find it in perfume form!"

I DO indeed remember flying saucers, and they are not endearing this perfume to me, ditto the two comparisons on MUA between Roxy Love and Alka-Seltzer.

And then we come on to the larger of the two bottles, the multi-tasking floral, Kiss Her.

KISS HER

Finding hard information on this one presented more of a challenge, as you can see:

"Launched by the design house of Kiss in 2006, KISS HER by Kiss is classified as a fragrance. This feminine scent posesses a blend of: Wet fig leaves, Vintage Mahogany Exotic Black Orchid, Crushed Red Peppercorns. It is recommended for wear."

"Classified as a fragrance" reminds me of the 'damning with faint praise' remarks people used to make when they peered into my pram (I was a very plain infant), along the lines of: "Now there IS a baby." As for "It is recommended for wear", would this be as opposed to drinking it? Running our car on it? Using it instead of mace spray to disarm attackers? And could there be a comma missing, or is there such a thing as a "mahogany orchid" perfumery note? With headspace technology, I guess anything is possible...

Now this scent appears to be below the radar even of MUA, and I could not find the name of the perfumer anywhere. Which I don't necessarily take to be a sign that he is hiding. Reviews were also quite thin on the ground, though this one jumped off the page:

"used this going to work at a mazzios and at the end of the night instead of smelling like onions and pizza i could still smell the perfume!! I always got comliments and the only other thing i use is Addidas and Hiku.. for a little something differant."

Okay, so it is recommended for wear - specifically to mask strong culinary odours. A picture is beginning to emerge.

I did, however, find a more comprehensive note list, which is chock full of what I can best describe as the Chantelle and Kayleigh of perfumery ingredients - things like "sueded frangipani petals", "apple-tini" and more...

Top notes: Apple-tini, Wet fig leaves, Red peppercorns
Heart notes: Red Poppy, Black Orchid, Sueded Frangipani Petals and Calla Lily
Base notes: Amber Crystals, Musky bare skin accord, Patent Leather and Mahogany.

Joking aside, I actually wouldn't mind trying this one, as the leather, wood and fig leaf notes sound genuinely appealing. : - )

Riveted by the sales spiel - or 24Mbps sales babble, more like - it never occurred to me to question whether this combo of two perfumes for £12.99, or even £5.99 at the closing price (plus £7.99 p & p), represented good value. On the face of it you would think so, however, a cursory google of online retailers throws up some equally bargain basement prices for either scent at around the £4.99 mark.

So the moral of the tale is that shopping for perfume on a shopping channel can be thrilling, and if you are lucky your purchase may not even be nasty. But it won't be all that cheap either. Or let's say that the possibility of its not being such a bargain cannot be discounted...

: - )


Photo of bid.tv logo from tvadio.com, photo of bid.tv presenter auctioning other perfumes from img.youtube.com, photo of Roxy Love from aphrodelta.cz, photo of flying saucers from sweetsncandy.co.uk, photo of Kiss Her from fragrancenet.com

Friday, 13 August 2010

L'Eté En Douce And The Gentle Art Of Stealth Perfuming

The other day, Mr Bonkers attempted to climb into an unmade bed - that's "unmade" as in stripped. In other words, no bedding had been put back on following the mysterious business of laundry processing, which is conducted in our house by a team of invisible and recurring fairies. I shan't specify who these fairies are exactly, but let's just say that I bear an uncanny resemblance to every last one of them. Realising his error, Mr B agreed under duress to help me make the bed first before getting into it. I use the word "help" advisedly, as bed making is largely outside his sphere of competence, along with buying the correct sort of aubergines, detergent and ham.

So I took one corner of the duvet and gave Mr B the other to hold and insert in the duvet cover. I had already got my corner all the way in, when I noticed that Mr B was attempting to stuff the top corner of the duvet into the lower corner of the cover.

"No", I said, "you have to thread it through and up to the other end."

"The wheresit?"

"Up there - a place known as 'the top right hand corner'." Sensing my playfully patronising tone, Mr B smiled, but continued to stab the top corner of the duvet into the opening of the cover.

"Well, I just thought you could maybe use a bit of nomenclature", I quipped.

Mr Bonkers laughed good naturedly, and said: "Well, I don't know what 'nomenclature' is, but it sounds disparaging!"

Whereupon we both collapsed in giggles, and moments later the penny had dropped and the corner was correctly despatched to its rightful corner.

Then last night I hatched a mischievous plan - based around the idea of detergent, indeed ...

Knowing that Mr Bonkers eschews all forms of fragrance, lovethescents jokingly suggested once that I apply a bit of cologne to his person while he slept - a practice known as "stealth perfuming". At the time, I thought that that was a bit radical and risky as pranks go, but last night I came up with a more subtle approach, and stealth perfumed the duvet cover with L'Artisan Parfumeur L'Eté en Douce. L'Eté en Douce is one of my most expensive "albatross" scents, bought in an impulsive moment by what Katie Puckrik recently dubbed the "pin the tail on the donkey" method, right before closing time in Bon Marché in Paris.

Notes: mint, rose, orange blossom, hay, white woods, and (shedloads of) white musk

As anyone who has read Perfumes: The Guide will know, Luca Turin famously compared L'Eté en Douce to "laundry-soap-on-steroids", and - despite a pretty linden note in the opening - this perfume is seriously spoilt for me by an insanely high dose of clean musk, exactly like washing powder.

There are three other things I should perhaps mention: firstly, Mr B has remarked that his mother's laundry smells fresher and cleaner than ours - he has even referred to our clean washing on occasions as "musty". Hmmm...those fairies may need a bit of a pep talk on pre-wash fabric softener procedures. Secondly, the last time I wore L'Eté en Douce (admittedly layered over a German body lotion with aloe vera), Mr B actually said I smelt quite nice. Yes, this is the second such instance apart from SJP Lovely - the unifying factor being the scent of soap. Thirdly, L'Eté en Douce (which roughly translates as "summer comes gently") was formerly known as Extrait de Songe ("extract of a dream"), before the clash with Annick Goutal's Songes prompted a re-think. So, you never know, maybe he would actually sleep better as a result of my little experiment...

Given all these facts, I didn't feel too mean therefore when I crept into the bedroom last night - Mr B having conveniently nodded off downstairs in front of "Amish: The World's Squarest Teenagers" - and sprayed his side of the duvet cover a few times with L'Eté en Douce (okay, maybe about 10 or so: mostly outside, a couple inside, and one on the pillow underneath the one he puts his head on).

This morning, agog with curiosity, I inquired how he had slept.

"Very well, thanks."

"Did you notice anything?"

"Like what?"

Which was my cue to come "clean" immediately about the stealth perfuming scam.

"Actually, I did...it was vile....well, not vile, but a bit too much."

"So....did you get a clean laundry smell, then?"

"Yes, and I couldn't work out how."

(I'm issuing those fairies with a formal warning.)

"But you had a good night?"

"I don't know, I was asleep."

On hearing the good news that I had sort of got away with it, I promised Mr Bonkers that I would not pull such a stunt again. And though I may have managed to "waste" a couple of ml in my spraying spree, the albatross remains firmly round my neck. Though on the upside, Mr B is now a competent bed making partner.


Photo of L'Eté en Douce from letsbuyit.co.uk, photo of laundry fairies from woodlandsenchanted.co.nz and artlandmark.com, photo of detergent molecules from elmhurst.edu

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Save Energy! Wear Jennifer Lopez Glow After Dark

Last Friday I took Mr Bonkers' mother to IKEA: partly because I feel everyone should go at least once in their life to this Scandinavian temple of budget chic, and partly to buy a mirror. In the event, I also came away with two bedside lamps for the spare room - of that globular paper kind that has been in vogue ever since the 70s, or such is my hope. Mr Bonkers greeted their arrival with dark mutterings, dismissing them as "studenty" and "cheap", which I took to be a kneejerk reaction to the fact that he had not been consulted in a home furnishings purchase. Now that they are erected, and emitting that cosy, dull glow characteristic of the new energy saving bulbs which have supplanted the old incandescent variety, Mr B has conceded that they are "better than what was there before", namely ripped paper shades of a flower pot shape, but otherwise similar construction and quality.

The lamp buying trip put me in mind of a birthday card I received this year on an energy saving theme. In case the text is hard to make out, the basic premise is that you sit in your living room in the dark, but with an Energy Saver Owl on hand to hoot if it sees something, whereupon you can switch the light back on for a brief moment to attend to whatever it is. The card goes on to mention that glow worms may also be available from your electricity supplier.

And glow worms reminded me in turn of a summer holiday in France just after my final exams at university. The evening I heard about my results, a former Mr Bonkers and I were walking along a country lane at night, marvelling at the myriads of glow worms by the road side. "Since you did so well", he remarked, "if I ask them nicely they might put on an extra bar for you..."

And all this talk of glowing in the dark leads me ineluctably to perfume (at last!), to wit - to give it its full title - Jennifer Lopez Glow after Dark by J-Lo. Thanks to lovethescents for the purse size roll-on of this. I am not familiar with the whole "Glow" line by J-Lo, indeed I only really know Deseo, which I like and own. Glow after Dark is in fact the fourth in the series after Glow, Miami Glow and Love at First Glow. She is clearly on a major luminaire kick here...

I would not say this is a great scent, for it smells a bit synthetic and generic - quite musky (fine) and possibly fruity (less fine) - but as celebrity scents go, it is fairly understated and I could just about see myself wearing it occasionally. For the first time yesterday I actually googled the notes, and was dismayed to confirm the presence of several kinds of fruit - including two about which I am most snobby, namely cherry and passion fruit. For some reason I have it in for peony as well - probably owing to their relentless ubiquity in Stella flankers. And I'd be lying if I didn't say that the respective qualification of the musk and woods as "pink" and "blonde" also troubles me.

Top notes: mandarin, white cherry, passion fruit
Heart notes: jasmine, peony, rose, orange flower
Base notes; pink musk, tree moss, blonde woods, patchouli

Yes, I would like this fragrance more if I didn't know what was in it, that's for sure. But let us not forget the energy saving potential of Glow after Dark. The advertising campaign billed it as “wild. sexy. breathless.”, which is okay as far as it goes, but of much more interest to today's thrifty and ecologically minded consumer is its radiant power, although the exact wattage isn't stated on the label. I wore it all day yesterday - right up until bedtime - and Mr Bonkers and I didn't feel the need to put the light on once. The owl was hooting its head off, mind, and the glow worm on the mantlepiece was on full beam, but they were probably just miffed at being sidelined.


Photo of lamp from IKEA website, card by Sue Cathcart, photo of a glow worm from the BBC website, photo of Glow after Dark from Google images.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Ida Delam Le 6 - The Dirty Half Dozen

Ida is not a common name. When I was a kid, I knew a farmer's wife in Co Down called Ida Thompson, and in perfume circles there is of course Cafleurebon's Senior Editor, Ida Meister (known to many by her screen name, Chayaruchama). But those were the only two Idas I had come across, if we exclude the Hindu goddess, and sundry sacred mountains in Greece and Turkey.

Until, that is, lovethescents sent me a sample of Ida Delam Le 6 as an extra in a swap. This third Ida is the founder of a spa called Le Six, located (quite properly) in the 6e arrondissement of Paris. She has a quirky, primitive logo, that looks rather like a sixth eye, and one of those irritating animated websites with an arthouse film intro, on which you click furiously in a futile attempt to skip it. I never did manage to bring up the perfume page, but I doubt I am missing much, for the website seems heavy on mood creation and light on information.

Of more interest perhaps is this video, which gives us a bit of a clue about the intended positioning of the scent. Extra bonus points for anyone who can identify the precise game involved. Not roulette, rummy or fruit machines is all I could say with confidence. Check it out HERE.

What I take from the video is that the wearer of Le 6 perfume is a risk taker: she gambles, she wears a top hat, despite the very real risk of being mistaken for a bunny girl, and she walks home alone late at night. She also appears to throw her winnings away (assuming those are chips and not a useless jigsaw with some pieces missing). This suggests a complete detachment to material wealth or a supreme confidence in her ability to win her discarded winnings back again. My money's on the latter.

Okay, so.... based on the video do you feel an affinity with this top hatted totty target wearer? Please all form an orderly queue, while I dredge up any other sketchy info on Ida Delam Le 6...

According to The Scented Salamander, who seems to be one of the very few perfume blogs to have featured this scent, Le 6 was inspired by "the personal fantasy of the soul of Gabrielle Chanel having crossed Delam's path one day". Pardon? I don't know about you, but bumping into Coco Chanel is not high on the list of my fantasies... I am not even terribly bothered about meeting Keira Knightley.

And as for the scent itself, it is apparently a "a wink at or homage to" Chanel No 5. So what we have here basically is a self-possessed, A-type gambling bunny girl with classic perfume tastes. Personally I am not convinced that the girl in the video would aspire to wear a perfume as iconic yet conventional as No 5. I see her more in the likes of Armani Code - something she would perceive as mysterious and slutty based on the TV ads - but which the perfume community (or me, anyway!) might dismiss as just another cheap, synthetic take on orange blossom.

Having sampled Ida Delam Le 6 on 3-4 occasions, I can't say that I see much of a resemblance to No 5 - and the notes are very different too, so as winks go, I'd say it's more of a barely perceptible twitch:

Top: almond, star aniseed, aldehyde
Heart notes: absolute of myrrh, iris, violet
Base: musk, vanilla, white amber

Notewise, I see more of a resemblance between this and Creed Love in Black:
Greek wildflowers, violet, Virginia cedar, iris, clove, tonkin musk, blackcurrant, rose

Both fragrances have iris, violet and musk, and - crucially - both have an unpleasant opening. In the case of Love in Black, this has been described in reviews as a "tarry note", which I'd go along with. The opening of Le 6 is more like a musty violet-scented patchouli, even though I see no patchouli listed. But "dirty" or "musty" is the overriding impression. Fortunately, both scents get appreciably better as they develop, but I can't help wondering why perfumers make scents that get off to such a disagreeable start - if indeed they do so by choice. Is it a non-negotiable characteristic of iris (known for its rootiness, which for all I know may be the half-sibling of mustiness)? Ah, but not all iris scents have a nasty opening, so it cannot be iris per se, though iris and violet together may be unhappy bedfellows, or at least until they have got into their stride...

Thinking about it, there are quite a few other perfumes I like a lot, except for their musty and/or medicinal top notes eg Strange Invisible Perfumes Magazine Street, Damien Bash Lucifer #3 and Parfumerie Générale L'Ombre Fauve. Why can't the perfumers sort out the openings of those otherwise great scents? After all, you wouldn't invite guests to a dinner party and line them up against a wall and whip them savagely, before offering round the sherry and the salted nuts as if nothing had happened? Well, not at any normal kind of dinner party, you wouldn't. Does the perfumer think we will appreciate the rest of his/her creation disproportionately if the top notes are downright horrid - ie the olfactory equivalent of beating your head against a brick wall - because "it's so nice when you stop". That remains my working theory until I learn otherwise.

And certainly the latter stages of Le 6 are very enjoyable - a soft, musky, iris-violet accord, warmed by a hint of amber in the base: rich without being heavy or cloying, and neither noticeably powdery nor sweet.

Ida Delam Le 6 isn't strange enough to warrant inclusion in the "Weird Waft Series", but it IS "difficult" and involves "work". And as with my day job, sometimes I am in the mood for grafting, while at other times I fantasise about winning the lottery. And just occasionally I have even bought a ticket, which is a bit of a prerequisite, I suppose. Hmmm...next time there's a rollover, I really should try the top hat too...


Photo of Ida Delam Le 6 from the company's website, photo of Ida Delam from insolitissimo, cartoon of bunny girl from vi.sualize.us, photo of an iris from dreamstime, photo of floral wallpaper from flavorleague

Thursday, 5 August 2010

The World Doesn't Need Another Review Of Nuit De Tubéreuse...

...by L'Artisan Parfumeur, but you knew that anyway.

Because, let's face it, the world really doesn't. Not now, not weeks ago. There are at least a dozen bloggers with more credible noses than mine who have already done a comprehensive job of reviewing Nuit de Tubéreuse, so why, you may ask, am I bothering to write about it at all?

Well, the thing is, I find myself seriously niggled by this scent: both in terms of its smell (I use the term advisedly), and also its "back story". Oh, I do dislike that expression, but there I go using it. My own writing is niggling me now. Okay then - the inspiration for the perfume - namely a "secret summer night in Paris".

I know where Bertrand Duchaufour is going with this idea, for Paris is the quintessential setting for romantic trysts in hotels. I can confirm that this is the case, for I have often heard tryst-like noises emanating from the room next door. I am usually awake myself in the small hours, copying up interviews, polishing shoes, and trying to identify bus connections from the end of Line C on the RER. So the whole conceptual premise doesn't really work for me, though I daresay my jaded view of Paris nights is atypical.

But if I could make the imaginative leap from my drab budget hotel near the Gare de L'Est to the Georges V, I am not convinced this perfume would be conducive to getting jiggy, even in the summer night of my fantasies...

So, turning to the scent itself, I am one of those who get the well documented Juicy Fruit opening - sadly - as I am not a chewer of gum. Nuit de Tubéreuse is cool in an almost mentholated way - orangey menthol that would be - or if not menthol exactly, some kind of austere herbal accord, overlaid with the chewing gum / vinyl note. Or is it petrol? Frankly, it doesn't much matter, as it simply isn't very nice in my view.

It is nothing like Fracas or Carnal Flower, or the coconut-tuberose fright wig that is By Kilian Beyond Love. If you crossed Bond No 9 Chinatown with the new L'Etat Libre D'Orange Like This, then chucked in some random things from your herb rack, you might get a little bit closer.

Notes (from the L’Artisan Parfumeur web site): Cardamom, clove absolute, pink berries, pepper, citrus, tuberose, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, rose, mango, angelica, gorse, palisander, sandalwood, musk, benzoin, styrax

I deliberately didn't read the note list before writing this post, but having seen it now, it is quite clear to me that NdT didn't have a prayer. Not with clove and angelica, gorse and styrax for starters. And who or what is "palisander"? I am thinking quite possibly the hot date - or trystee.

On the sample card, the blurb does speak of "the ambivalence of tuberose", but with that eclectic list of fragrance notes I'd say the whole thing was doomed to be ambivalent, which goes a long way to explaining my chronic state of benigglement. There was a silly scene in Big Brother recently, where a contestant had to make a dessert out of the ingredients left over by two other housemates: pastry, liver, custard and squirty cream. Needless to say, her valiant effort was inedible. But Bertrand Duchaufour has a wide palette of congenial notes at his disposal. Yet he comes up with this forbidding tuberose oddity.

And if I could not "get" Nuit de Tubéreuse, it is not for the want of trying, truly. I have had my sample for about a month, and have worn it on a prime skin site and given it my undivided attention on 5-6 occasions. This is unprecedented behaviour for me with a scent I don't much care for. Normally I would toss it into the "bag of hell" after a single trial if it didn't immediately grab my fancy. But in the case of NdT I stuck with it, in the hope that I would eventually come to like it, or at least understand it better. It reminds me of the novel "Fugitive Pieces" by Anne Michaels, where you are never quite sure where the action is taking place (Toronto?) or who the characters are, and find yourself reading the same pages over and over again.

I persisted with NdT partly because of its "notoriété" (the French word for "famous" seems apt here), and partly because of my soft spot for Bertrand Duchaufour, and a sentimental determination to like everything he turns his hand to. To have been sniffed by the man on not one but two separate pulse points was a curiously bonding experience. : - )

I fear, however, that even a further 6 trials would probably not change my opinion on this one. For all that Nuit de Tubéreuse defies classification, it remains - doubtless on account of the gum/vinyl note - the most "plastic Bertrand" I have yet to sniff. So I am afraid I can't say: "Ca Plane Pour Moi"*...


* (literally "this glides for me", or - more idiomatically - something along the lines of: "this works for me"). Plastic Bertrand is Belgium's most famous punk rocker.)