As regular readers know, I travel extensively with my work - indeed I am off to Germany again in a couple of hours - so there will be the usual posting break on Bonkers. One of the perks of all this business travel has been the chance to meet some of my virtual perfumista friends in person: in Germany, Switzerland and the USA so far. But recently it came to my attention that there was another perfumista on my doorstep in Stafford! He contacted me through the Basenotes forum (where he goes by the name of Ralph), and we met for coffee on Saturday. We chose the steps of the art gallery as our meeting point: I said I would be carrying a bright orange Ormonde Jayne bag(!), but thanks to our highly attuned powers of fellow fumehead detection we recognised each other instinctively without the aid of props. : - )
It was a bright, sunny day, and we headed for Starbuck's round the corner, where we whiled away a pleasant couple of hours sitting outside in the main shopping thoroughfare. As is the way with these things, we got straight down to business and it wasn't long before the table was covered with bottles, decants and vials - and the entire smellable length of our arms in various scents - much to the bemusement of the people at adjacent tables.
Ralph had brought along a number of samples for me to test blind and try to identify, a fun challenge at which I failed dismally. Two of these were Montale Black Oud and L'Etat Libre d'Orange Fat Electrician - the oud note smelled familiar, but I couldn't put a name to it(!), though I could at least pick out the vetiver in the sublimely silly Fat Electrician.
Meanwhile, I was keen for Ralph to try three perfumes that I thought were on the turn or completely off: a mini of Jo Malone Lime Basil Mandarin, one of The Different Company Osmanthus, and a bottle of Floris Night Scented Jasmine. The Jo Malone we decided was not off after all, just unpleasantly basil-y! My mini was probably a bit long in the tooth, and it is possible that the basil had become more pronounced over time, but we concluded that the main problem was that it was simply not very nice to start with.
The tests with the Night Scented Jasmine and the Osmanthus were most illuminating. I had given up on the former because it had an oily, alcohol-y smell, and on the latter because of a synthetic, plasticky note. We conducted a side-by-side test, which had the added variable of male versus female skin.
To our surprise, on Ralph's skin both perfumes positively bloomed - the Night Scented Jasmine was a sumptuous floral, while the Osmanthus was fresh and fruity. Needless to say, they were both rehomed immediately. They were later joined by my albatross bottle of Juicy Couture Dirty English, which was like Caron Yatagan on me, but much softer on Ralph's skin. Indeed, given his leaning towards powerhouse fragrances like Aramis and Kouros, it wouldn't have mattered if it had smelt more strongly of Yatagan on him!
So that was all very interesting and satisfactory. After two rounds of drinks at Starbuck's, we sat on a shady bench in the churchyard of St Mary's for a little while, before grabbing a bite to eat in the Soup Kitchen, Stafford's oldest tea rooms, dating back to the 16th century. I had their last portion of soup, while Ralph opted for a sandwich, followed by a cream tea split between two. Well, just a single scone to be precise, because the ones from the Soup Kitchen are noted for being monstrous, tottering Towers of Pisa. We sat by the window upstairs in a relatively secluded spot, where we could carry on the serious business of spritzing and sniffing without raising too many eyebrows.
Four hours simply sped by, and then it was time for me to do some errands in town before the shops closed. Oh, and special commendation is due to Ralph for his tea assembly skills at Starbuck's. As reported in past posts, I am very particular about how my tea comes, and my worst nightmare is a barista pre-adding copious amounts of milk before the tea bag has had a chance to brew; sometimes up to 50% of the liquid content has been cold - or, bizarrely, hot - milk in tea made for me by cafe staff. Ralph, on the other hand, brought me a mug with a tea bag floating in it, plus a small measure of cold milk on the side. Result!
Now, I have just been looking at Basenotes to see if there is a search facility that would enable members to find others based in the same town. I tried inputting "Stafford", but the first hits were for Lee Stafford, the celebrity hairdresser, so I sense that this very specific functionality I have in mind may need more work. I did note that there are currently 53,304 members of the site, with approximately one in ten active (5,162).
So you never know...chances are, there's a Basenoter living near you too!
Photo of Soup Kitchen from stafford-towncentre.co.uk, photo of basenotes logo from basenotes.net, photo of Floris scent from florislondon.com, photo of St Mary's from staffordtown.co.uk, photo of Starbuck's mug from blog.epromos.com.