I am still "coming down" from the excitement of meeting Olfactoria again yesterday - together with her family this time - but Bonkers is nothing if not chronological, so I will carry on this account of my latest series of work trips with a report from Belgium and France. Nothing much happened in Brussels, except for a major bus-taking coup to my appointment, saving some 55 euros on taxis, which I promptly went and blew on a bottle of Tom Ford Violet Blonde later in the week. Oh, and the fact that within the space of 24 hours I was kerb crawled AND had a teenager give up her seat for me on the Metro. This prompted me to speculate whether I am now on that finely balanced cusp between cougar and care home... ; - )
Then last Tuesday found me in Paris. The day got off to an inauspicious start: I had to get up preternaturally early (for me) and caught a train out to a gritty and rainswept suburb north of the city centre. By 8.40am I was queuing outside a branch of McDonald's waiting for them to open. I was cold and wet to the bone (umbrellas being a liability in the prevailing high winds), and the day had barely begun. At 9am, the drive-by hatch opened (though unfortunately not the seating area), and I enjoyed the freshest egg McMuffin ever made, washed down by a piping hot cup of tea (for McDonald's!). I could even overlook the lack of milk just to have something warm to wrap my hands around.
By 1pm, things were definitely looking up. My meeting over, I was in position in the area around the Gare Saint-Lazare, home to the upmarket department store Printemps, with several more cups of tea inside me and a grim determination not to let the truly diabolical weather get in the way of a good sniffing session. It turned out to be an episodic day - or a "sodding epic" day, to borrow Mr Bonkers' robust phrase - and here are the highlights...
I had visited Printemps on my last visit to Paris in 2009, and remembered that it offered a good selection of niche scents in a compact area within the main perfume hall known as the Scent Room. To be honest, given the rather fluid floor plan, I couldn't quite work out the demarcation between the Scent Room and the rest of the perfume counters, not that it really mattered.
I decided to be quite focused in my approach and spent most of my visit split between the Jo Malone, Dior, L'Artisan Parfumeur and Etat Libre d'Orange counters.
The tea range was nowhere to be seen, and the assistant was tied up with a "proper customer"(!), so I couldn't even blag a sample of Wild Bluebell (to replace the grapefruit one I was given in error in Germany!); instead I contented myself with having a quick and ginger sniff of a couple of the Intense Colognes.
Iris & White Musk
Does what it says on the bottle - pleasant enough, but forgettable.
Rose Water & Vanilla
Thick and throat catching, a bit like one of those treacly Guerlains.
I steered clear of Amber & Patchouli and Oud & Bergamot, as patchouli and oud are not my favourite notes at the best of times, never mind amplified by an "intense cologne" effect!
DIOR LA COLLECTION PRIVÉE
I asked to try a few of the Collection Privée range of which I had read favourable reviews, and the sales assistant also suggested one or two others for me to try.
New Look 1947
I already know and love this one, and cherish my small decant. I picked up the cylindrical 125ml bottle with its clunky magnetic top, fondled it for a bit and put it back again. I don't need 125ml of any perfume, though 150 euros was a reasonable price to pay, ml for ml. I shall wait to see if the lemming gets the better of me, in which case I can always pick it up in London for the slightly lower price of £120. I gladly accepted the sales assistant's offer to perfume me generously around my neck area. In this way she was able to mark her territory and hopefully reel me in to make a purchase later in the day. "With an EDP or EDT you'll find that if you really love it, you will use it up." And despite my collection of bottles now topping the 70 mark, I almost....almost...believed her.
Soft, sheer, barely there, faintly spicy oriental. Very elegant - my next favourite after New Look 1947. I only tried it on card but liked it enough to look up the notes:
Pink Pepper, Bergamot, Spices, Turkish Rose, Amber, Balsamy (sic) Notes, Cedar, Patchouli, Gaiac Wood
Didn't get beyond a tentative sniff of the nozzle with this one. Heavy, spicy ambery, boozy fright wig of a scent. For all I know, the drydown might be spectacular, but I am not sure I could last the course to find out!
A pantomime horse with Juniper Sling at the front end - with the merest hint of Craft, the most metallic scent from Andrea Maack - and Chanel No 19 Poudré at the back end. A very stylish and wearable unisex scent. "Pantomime" is in no way meant as a criticism.
UPDATE: I have now been given a generous decant of this by Tara, and it smells nothing like the scent I smelt in Paris. As a check, I have just sprayed Bois d'Argent on card, which clears up the discrepancy - it is a totally different animal on card, on initial spraying, certainly - then it becomes more like the decant version. On skin this is the faintest leather and honeyed vanilla, while on card the opening was bright and citrus-y with the iris peeking through. How weird!
As I think I said in a comment over on Olfactoria's review of Granville, this scent is forever destined to remind me of a local wine bar with the same name. That aside, it smelt just as I imagined, if not better: that MH Fleur de Sel-like, bracing, aromatic, seaside vibe. Not a genre that is really "me", but extremely well done.
A ho-hum fruity floral not worthy of inclusion in the range, imho.
L'ARTISAN PARFUMEUR MON NUMÉRO COLLECTION
Having torn myself away from a purchase of New Look 1947, I headed over to the L'Artisan counter to check out more of the Mon Numéro Collection, being only familiar with Nos 6 and 8 to date. No 6 was an unfortunate mix of Fleur de Liane crossed with PG Papyrus de Ciane (beware of scents ending in -iane is the clear learning point here!), while No 8 was the pretty iris skin scent I remembered. The assistant tried to nudge me towards a purchase by playing the scarcity card: "This is the one developed for the Japanese market, you know, and when it is gone it is gone. No 10 has already gone, for example."
In fact, the only other ones left to try were Nos 3 and 4, both of which were resolutely not my thing. According to the SA, No 3 contained notes of lavender, vetiver and patchouli, while No 4 had notes of lavender, carnation, spices and muscat. The only useful comment I can add to that is "Yeek!"
ETAT LIBRE D'ORANGE
Moving on swiftly, I had a quick test of a couple of scents in the neighbouring Etat Libre d'Orange fixture: Sécrétions Magnifiques (which I had managed to dodge up to now: in hindsight - or in "nethersmell" - with good reason!), and Bendelirious, of which I had just read a review by the Candy Perfume Boy that day, so it was top of mind at the time - and very much the ditzy, va-va-voom floral he described.
Pausing briefly in the Hermès concession to cadge a sample of Santal Massoïa for Olfactoria (using my tried and tested "boyfriend with upcoming birthday" ruse), I started to wander vaguely in the direction of Place Vendôme. In view of the weather, I more or less gave up trying to navigate, but still managed to pass entirely at random a Maître Parfumeur Gantier outlet, two Guerlain boutiques, one of Annick Goutal, one of Comme des Garcons and one of Maison Kurkdjian.
GUERLAIN BOUTIQUES (and ongoing forensic inquiries about Plus Que Jamais)
I only actually went into the Guerlain boutiques, because I was either familiar with the ranges of the others, or didn't care for them in the main. Well, the former reason also applies to Guerlain, but I was on a continuing mission to find out what became of Plus Que Jamais - or Plus Jamais , as it should now be known since it was discontinued. In both stores the assistants tried to find me a substitute - namely Nuit d'Amour and (most oddly), Jardins de Bagatelle.
Try as I might, I couldn't seem to convey the fact that I only wanted this particular scent, or if I couldn't have it, I wanted to know why it had been axed. One assistant had heard that a specific ingredient in it was now on the prohibited list, so rather than reformulate the scent, they had decided to knock it on the head completely.
I find this terribly sad... If I get a moment, I might ring up the people at No 68 (which I didn't have a chance to visit this time) to see if they can confirm the truth of this. I would also like to know what the offending ingredient might have been that led to the premature demise of Plus Que Jamais, and whether they had had any inkling of the rule change. I sense not, for they can't have recovered their development costs during the scent's all too short lifespan.
Time to dive into another cafe for more tea and homemade creme caramel...
Coming up in Part 2 - the Fragonard Museum, JAR, and IUNX revisited (hard on the heels of Ines and Asali!)
Photo of Printemps exterior from routard.com, photo of Printemps display from parisdeuxieme.com, photo of Jo Malone Rose and Vanilla Intense Cologne, L'Artisan Mon Numéro No 8 and Guerlain Plus Que Jamais from fragrantica.com, photo of Dior Ambre Nuit from aufeminin.com, photo of Place Vendôme by night from destinationsperfected.com - no photos my own on account of the rain!