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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Bonkers Is Off Again...!

Just a quick word before I shoot off on the next work trip to Germany and Switzerland. I would firstly like to thank my 90th follower for rounding the total up to a nice number, and presumably squaring up the edges of the avatar mosaic. I intend to hold a prize draw (cash in on those bingo searches, why not?!) if and when I hit 100.

I am going to be away almost the whole time between now and Christmas, with short and fairly frantic pitstops at home between trips, so posting will doubtless become "spotty" (I believe this is the correct technical term). Or even spottier than of late, say, for the last two weeks have been largely taken up with appointment-making and travel plans. For anyone who follows me on Facebook I will probably manage to maintain some kind of tenuous stream of drivel over there, though the jury is out as to whether that is a good thing.

While I am away, Mr Bonkers has been instructed to keep a watchful eye on the plants and on Charlie Bonkers, whose incipient incontinence issues gave me cause for concern this weekend, spectacularly derailing my progress through the "to do" list.

Which reminds me - what shall I do with the three parsnips in the fridge?


Photo of Stafford station from flickr.com

Friday, 25 November 2011

Google's "Go-Faster-To" Perfume Blogs: Play The Predictive Search Results Game!

Things have been a bit hectic here lately with preparations for a series of back-to-back, multi-modal(!) trips to half a dozen countries (ie the usual bonkers fare : - ) ). This week I also learnt that the electrical signals in my heart are taking a cheeky shortcut which needs further investigation, while my blood is showing signs of intolerance to alcohol entirely disproportionate to my intake! This corpuscular phenomenon needs me to knock back (as in reduce, not swig) my nightly tippling for a while and see if that makes a difference. And then as any Facebook followers may have clocked, Mr Bonkers and I argued live on my wall about which of us needlessly put a Tupperware of mixed nuts in the fridge. Looking back, I am just grateful I didn't have to cook a full turkey dinner as well.

Although I haven't had time to do much blogging recently, I did want to fit in a quick post before I go off on Sunday, and decided to take an aspect of what could loosely be called "social media rankings" as my theme, not least because - as will become apparent - it is the sort of piece that quite literally writes itself... ; - )

In a previous post I puzzled over my involuntary classification in Wikio's Beauty Blog league table. Another possible indicator of a blogger's cyberspace status relates to predictive search results, ie how quickly Google anticipates the particular phrase for which you are searching, in this case a blog title.

According to an article in The Daily Mail, Google discovered that the average search request takes nine seconds to type, then on average users spend a further 15 seconds deciding which result to pick.

Here Google sings the praises of its 'Instant' facility, launched in 2010: "'Instant' takes what you have typed already, predicts the most likely completion and streams results in real-time for those predictions - yielding a smarter and faster search that is interactive, predictive and powerful."

Well, I would have predicted that it is predictive, if it is predicting predictions, but no matter...

This new technology allegedly saves the user between two and five seconds, collectively equating to eleven hours of user time every second!

As for my own blog, I have noticed lately that when you type in "Bonkers about" - on my computer at least - "perfume" is the second suggestion after "babies", quickly followed by "bingo" and "buttons", ie the name is slowly climbing to the top of the predictive tree, though babies will be very tough to topple.

However, if you only type in "bonkers" you get "bonkers beds", "bonkers lyrics" and "bonkers Swindon" in that order - which is odd, as I used to live in Swindon! If on the other hand you go as far as "bonkers about p", you get "perfume" first (yay!) and "parties" second. Now I suspect that my blog is higher up the rankings on my own computer than it would be on someone else's, so if anyone fancies inputting any of these bonkers combinations and seeing how much lower I am ranked on their system, I would be curious to know if my theory is correct.

But having one's blog title readily suggested by the searchbots is only half the story, for it all depends how unusual your name is in the first place. The more common the terminology in the title, the longer it will take Google to come up with it, while blogs like "Cafleurebon", "Persolaise", "Olfactarama" and " Olfactorias" (before you even get to the "travels" bit) are pretty much googlewhacks. Now it doesn't mean that those unusual names were chosen by the blog owners for that specific reason, though in the case of "Cafleurebon" I'd put money on it, as they are very SEO-savvy.



And then just the other day Tarleisio changed the name of her blog from "Scentless Sensibilities" to the more esoteric title of "The Alembicated Genie": while the "The" doesn't get us much further than a clutch of British newspapers ("The Sun", "The Guardian"), "Alembicated" is a direct hit!

So for a laugh I played around with a handful well-known perfume blog names and present the more amusing results below. Note that this list is by no means exhaustive, plus there may be a UK or European bias, so if anyone comes up with other entertaining alternatives in their corner of the Interweb, do let us know!


Bloody Frida (keyword "bloody")

Bloody Mary
Bloody Sunday
Bloody disgusting
Bloody Mary recipe

A cocktail of violence...!

Redolent of Spices (keyword "redolent")

Redolent definition
Redolent synonym
Redolent in a sentence

People are clearly struggling with the meaning of the word "redolent"...

Undina's Looking Glass (keyword "Undina")

Undina
Undinal
Undina yacht for sale
Undina for sale

More a yacht than not, it would seem.

Scents of Self (keyword "scents")

Scentsy
Scentsy
Scentsations
Scentsational

Bad pun central!

Candy Perfume Boy (keyword "candy")

Candy
Candy bar
Candystand
Candy bar girls

Confectionery, billiards and a TV show about a famous lesbian bar in Soho - something for everyone there, I sense!

Now Smell This (keyword "now")

Now
Now 79
Now magazine
Now that's what I call music

Now that's what I call a perfume blog!

Katie Puckik Smells (keyword "Katie")

Katie Price
Katie Price Twitter
Katie Waissel
Katie Melua

Pipped by big jugs and vocal chords!

Beauty On The Outside (keyword "beauty o", because the first result with added "o" was so great)

Beauty of annihilation
Beauty outlet
Beauty of Bath

And finally, I am pleased to say that in the case of its own predictive search service, Google doesn't deliberately skew the results in its favour. I put "Instant" in and got:

Instant display
Instant payday loans
Instant loans
Instant messaging

For yes, in the grand scheme of things - and particularly in these recessionary times - "instant loans" are much more important than saving yourself a couple of seconds...


Photo of babies from pixdaus.com, photo of bingo from tutor2u.net, photo of face made of buttons from lisakokin.com, photo of Bloody Mary from like-a-boss.org, photo of Undina yacht from britishclassicyachtclub.org, photo of the Candy Bar from flickr, photo of Katie Price from theprivateplatecompany.com

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Long Term Perfume Loves - Er....No - Just This T-Shirt Dress!

When I met Jan Evoud Vos, the founder of Puredistance, in Holland last September, I asked him what colognes he had worn before creating his own range of perfumes. I remember being struck by his answer, namely that he had worn Chanel Antaeus for the past 30 years, and currently toggles between that and his own scent, M. 30 years? Antaeus must be impressive stuff to inspire such unswerving loyalty. And 30 years is such a very long time compared to the paltry three years of my own interest in perfume - serious interest I mean, as opposed to my fairly indifferent, casually monogamous relationship with fragrance down the years.

So I decided to write a retrospective post, examining my chequered perfume-wearing past prior to my epiphany in January 2008. I shall look for any patterns in the fragrance styles I was drawn to, or reasons at least for why I wore what I wore. There is certainly no long term perfume love to mention, and I have owned so few bottles between the ages of 18 and 48 that it is possible to call each and every one of them to mind. I will group these scents by "reason for acquisition" rather than listing them in chronological order, though that would have been easy enough.

Unsolicited presents from boyfriends

Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps
Halston Woman
Chanel No 5

SA-driven impulse buys at airports

Lancôme Trésor
Thierry Mugler Angel
Estée Lauder Intuition

Purchases prompted by a wish to be vaguely in tune with the Zeitgeist

Cacherel Loulou
CK Eternity

Purchase prompted by a wish to emulate my very cool lodger, Caroline

Givenchy Ysatis

Purchase prompted by a wish to enhance my pulling powers during a decade of peak opportunity

Lancôme Magie Noire

And that is it!! Magie Noire is probably the only purchase I made without reference to outside influences, and the only scent that truly "spoke to me", and which I wore because it made me feel fantastically alluring. This is doubly curious(!) because of the presence of civet in the composition. Although I have recently come round to animalic notes a bit, it surprises me that I should have liked Magie Noire in my youth - or Ysatis for that matter. I have managed to acquire vintage samples of both scents and the civet note is quite pronounced. They will have of course been reformulated since, however, so maybe it is the more modern synthetic musks that my nose finds disagreeable.

Are there any discernible patterns in my "scent cv"?

I think not, though the position is slightly skewed by three of them having been gifts. That said, my two favourites - Magie Noire and Intuition - were both orientals, my hands-down favourite fragrance category today.

Do I own any full bottles of these today?

Yes, I rebought Intuition at the start of my hobby, the 2001 bottle having long since gone rancid on the bedroom windowsill. I felt that a fresh one should serve as the cornerstone of my new hobby, for this was the only scent I owned when sudden onset perfume mania struck. I should point out, however, that I now count this purchase amongst my early mistakes: I liked Intuition because I had virtually no other reference points in terms of oriental scents, but I find it a bit annoying now, like Stella spoilt with an overdose of grapefruit.

Apart from Intuition, which others do I not like very much anymore?

Probably all but Ysatis and Magie Noire, notwithstanding the presence of civet in both. Trésor and Angel might be all right from a great distance. L'Air du Temps is a "lesser worse" carnation scent, but the note leaves me cold. Loulou is a migraine-inducing abomination, No 5 too aldehydic and sweet, and Halston I have no recollection of at all, though nothing I have read about it in reviews suggests that I would have liked it much, though I was very fond of its donor.


So I am curious to know whether anyone out there has worn a particular scent for 30 years - or since they were a teenager, say, so as not to exclude people on ageist grounds.

And for those of you who only discovered perfume relatively recently - and I know there are a few of us - is there any rhyme or reason to what you used to wear before your conversion to full-blown perfumista?

And finally, I may not have a long term perfume love, but I do have this T-shirt dress - photographed down the ages by three different boyfriends, rather fittingly in Greece on each occasion! I loved it so much that I have been known to wear it all day, go out to dinner in it in the evening, sleep in it, and get up the next day and repeat the procedure. You may be pleased to know that my long term T-shirt dress love is about to be slung...

Top photo - Santorini (1987)



Nisyros (1992)



Tilos (1996) - am hoping you can't see the cellulite at this resolution!



Bedtime wear only (2011)

Photo of Halston Woman from yesterdaysperfume.typepad.com, photo of Magie Noire from ebay.co.uk, photo of Intuition from perfumela.com, other photos my own

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Little Book Of Perfumes - The 100 Classics: My Unclassic Taste, And Judging A Book By Its Cover

I have had The Little Book of Perfumes for some time now, and a number of excellent blog posts about it have already appeared on the likes of Olfactarama, Perfume Shrine and Now Smell This. Additionally, Robin of NST hosted a readers' Q & A session with authors Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, which made fascinating reading, even though my own - admittedly rather trivial - question wasn't featured(!), of which more anon.

So given that there are a number of reviews of The Little Book of Perfumes in circulation, most people will have caught up with the fact that this compilation of 100 classic scents is a sample of previous reviews featured in Perfumes: The Guide, and has not been revised to include any new five star perfumes which may have impressed the authors since, which I suppose I had half hoped it would. Turin and Sanchez weren't given any "additional advances or royalties" apparently to produce The Little Book of Perfumes, though I assume they will get royalties of some kind for this latest reworking. I am sure the new publication will do very well for them: it is such a slim and attractively produced volume that I can see it making a perfect stocking filler for perfumistas and "regular" perfume wearers alike.

In her introduction to the book, Sanchez explains the premise on which the featured fragrances were selected:

"The fragrances reviewed in this book are not the greatest of all time - instead, they are those that struck us as far above their peers in quality, inventiveness, or straightforward beauty..."

In addition to the introduction, the extra content includes a few new lists, such as Turin and Sanchez's ten "Desert Island" scents, plus lists called "Best bang for your bucks" and "Best big ticket splurges". I wish! (And instead of star ratings - for these perfumes are of course already the crème de la crème - there are handy $$$ codings to indicate price bracket, like the ones you might find in a restaurant guide.) Then there is a chapter on The Osmothèque museum, together with reviews of four extinct and much lamented scents that the authors would love to see revived, and a chapter on how to beg, borrow or buy perfume samples prior to taking the full bottle plunge, complete with useful names of sources like Luckyscent and The Perfumed Court.

But the main difference between the presentation of reviews in Perfumes: The Guide and in The Little Book of Perfumes is that the wicked humour is confined to some of the updates on reformulations, which have been added beneath a good third of the reviews. So for anyone missing the glorious trademark vitriol of Perfumes: The Guide, they will still find the odd gem in here:

"It's not Joy, but it's not sadness either."

Plus there is Sanchez's dissenting view of Etat Libre d'Orange's notorious Sécrétions Magnifiques, which she would have excluded from the book, but was overruled by her other half(!):

"...absolutely revolting, like a drop of J'Adore on an oyster you know you shouldn't eat".

For the most part, though, the tone of The Little Book of Perfumes is appreciative, and the authors do in fact consider some of the reformulations to have been a change for the better; then with other scents they feel that the perfumers in question have done a good job of "damage limitation" in difficult circumstances (ie working within the constraints of the IFRA restrictions). And in some cases the fragrance may have been radically - and on balance regrettably - altered, yet Turin and Sanchez judge the new version still to have considerable merit.

So as you can imagine the market researcher in me couldn't resist totting up the scents in The Little Book of Perfumes to see to what extent I have "classic" taste. First of all, I had to take out the 15 perfumes I have never tried, and the four included in the Osmothèque section, which obviously I couldn't have tried either, which left 81. Of these, I like just 26 (c32%), split equally between "like a lot" and "actively like but am not that wowed by".

Now I know there are quite a lot of men's fragrances in here, but still... This means that out of the universe of scents I know, I only love 16% of the ones Turin and Sanchez do, which isn't a very high number for someone purporting to be a perfumista. And of only one of them do I own a full bottle (Bvlgari Black). But I am not troubled by this - I like what I like, and there it is.

For what it's worth, here is my "like a lot" list (which is not totally set in stone and also includes one or two perfumes that I probably "admire a lot" rather than love as such):

Bvlgari Black
Chanel 31 rue Cambon
Chanel Bois des Iles
Chanel Cristalle
Chanel Cuir de Russie
Chanel pour Monsieur (on a man)
Dior Homme (on a man)
Guerlain Apres L'Ondée
Guerlain Chamade
L'Artisan Dzing!
Ormonde Jayne Woman
Parfums MDCI Promesse de L'Aube
Tauer L'Air du Désert Marocain

And finally there is the matter of my unanswered question over on Now Smell This, which relates to the covers: they are different in the US and UK editions, plus the lining paper inside the cover is lime green in the UK version and hot pink in the American one.

"What was the thinking behind the two covers/liners then? Why would two versions be necessary? Was this focus grouped in advance? : - ) "

This question continues to puzzle me - did someone take a stylistic decision that Americans would prefer the dotty design, while Europeans would appreciate the gold squiggles and etchings of perfume bottles? Are Americans more drawn to shocking pink than acid green? The most likely answer is simply the fact that the publishers are different: Penguin US and Profile UK respectively, so perhaps each house wanted to "leave its stamp" by differentiating its version of the book from that of the other company.

Would the authors have preferred a uniform "livery", or didn't they have any strong feelings on the matter? I have to say that both designs look attractive, though I prefer the European version. My promised complimentary copy from Penguin US never made it through, so I haven't been able to take close up photos of the alternative design.

Also, what was the thinking behind cutting the paper of the book on the bias (which I assume happened with both editions)? The paper is shaped like a sort of trapezium, which I have never seen before. Is this a random mould-breaking act? Does it perhaps connote Incan temples and associated notions of worship and gods, as befits these classic, "best of" fragrances? Or did the chappy at the printer's operating the guillotine (in both continents) simply have a wonky eye, much like the proof reader who failed to spot "DAZZINGLY" in the quote from India Knight on the UK cover?

Question time....

So for those of you who have a copy of The Little Book of Perfumes already, what % of scents that you know do you like/love? Which are they?

And for anyone reading, which design of the book do you prefer? Is it the one available in your part of the world, or do you have intercontinental leanings?



Photo of US copy of The Little Book of Perfumes and photo of Bvlgari Black both from Amazon, photo of Sécrétions Magnifiques logo from faconalmode.blogspot.com, other photos my own.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

David Beckham: A Premier Division Perfumer Right Under Our Noses!

A friend has just sent me a link to a remarkable scoop on the UK online satirical news site, Newsbiscuit, dubbed Britain's answer to The Onion by the Laugh Lines Blog of The New York Times. In this article, international soccer superstar and sometime underwear model David Beckham talks about the intensive training he has put in over the years to become a top nose...to go with his killer right foot, "impeccable pecs" and Goldenballs.

I am kicking myself that I managed to miss this before...

And he even mentions civet!

"Speaking to industry journal Heaven Scent, the tabloid favourite exclusively revealed: ‘People think it’s easy...they don’t realise the backbreaking hours of work you have to put in to get this good. The years I spent elbow-deep in civet, coming home stinking of musk and lavender, awash with essential oils. Those were tough days for a young man.’"

Here is a link to the full article. Having now learnt of Beckham's years of dedication to his fragrant craft, I shall certainly upgrade my view of the for Him stable of Intimately Beckham Men, Intimately Beckham Night Men, Instinct, Instinct after Dark, Instinct Ice, Instinct Intense, Pure Instinct, Basic Instinct (I may have made that one up), and a couple of others that boldly broke with the tradition of having names that consistently include the words "Instinct" or "Intimately", typically in a nocturnal setting.

Speaking of instincts...on a whim I looked up my diary entry for the day David Beckham was born: May 2nd, 1975.

The bits I can make out are as follows:

"Moving averages. More scansion. Coal. German conversation instead of German. Mum scalded herself on hot toffee. Vicky wrote in my autograph book."

Should "coal" in fact read "goal"? Could it possibly be a strangely garbled prediction of England's 5-1 win over Germany in 2001, a side captained by David Beckham? And does the reference to my autograph book herald the fact that one day Victoria Beckham, former Spice Girl, fashion designer, mum-of-four and wife of Goldenballs, would launch her own perfume range, including the tellingly named Signature for Her? And might the unfortunate incident involving my mother and a boiling can of sweetened condensed milk presage a future flanker from our husband and wife duo featuring a caramel note?

About as likely as the next Beckham baby being called John, I'd say...


Photo of David Beckham from newsbiscuit.com, photo of Signature for Her from fragrantica.com

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector Daily All-In-One B.B Blemish Balm Cream Review - A Palate-Cleansing Scentless Post

In a comment on my previous post, Katie Puckrik teased me about the ambitious scope of my two hour speed romp through Zurich's finest perfume outlets:

"Judging from the amount of perfumes covered in this post, you have fully lived up to your Flittersniffer moniker. I'm wondering if your Miller Harris ennui had something to do with the fact that you'd already given the best of your love to the 79 fragrances previously sniffed."

I realise that my sniffathon in swish Swiss shops was the perfume equivalent of a supermarket trolley dash, but that is the thing about living in the sticks, as I do most of the time: when you are lucky to find yourself in one of Europe's scent meccas, you want to pack as much in as possible. But between the afternoon in Zurich, the session in Parfumerie Hyazinth in Basel, and the cafe grab-fest that preceded it, I guess I am feeling a bit sniffed out now, while readers' heads may also be spinning. And so I decided to take a break from perfume and write a palate-cleansing post about a beauty product instead.

This is also a cynical move on my part to boost my flagging Wikio Beauty Blog ranking, given that I managed to acquire this mysterious categorisation in the first place. And ideally, I guess I should be taking a chocolate-based beauty product as my subject matter, the better to bolster my emerging Klout reputation for chocolate-themed writing. Quite by chance, I did once feature such a product following my initiation into eyebrow waxing, but you can't pull a stunt like that off every day.

So in the meantime I would like to sing the praises of a new all-purpose beauty product that is getting rave reviews in the media, and of which I received three complimentary samples at the time of its launch: Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector Daily All-In-One B.B Blemish Balm Cream. The name of this cream is a bit of a mouthful to put it mildly, but then this is a multi-tasking product with a lot of benefits to convey!

In a nutshell, Garnier B.B Cream (as I will call it for short) is a light foundation and moisturiser combined that hydrates the skin, evens out blemishes (thanks to its mineral pigments), and gives reasonable yet sheer coverage. It has SPF 15 sun protection and is ideal for people like me who dislike the faff of a multi-stage beauty routine.

Here's the official blurb on this product:

"B.B. creams (short for Blemish Balm) are hybrid products which combine the benefits of skincare and make-up in one.

Initially developed by a German dermatologist in the 1950s to soothe skin and provide coverage, B.B. Creams were made famous in South Korea by an actress famed for her beautiful skin."

Now as a rosacea sufferer, I have been loyal lately to the very wonderful (leaving aside the matter of the missing "u") Revlon Colorstay 04 foundation in Sand Beige, which is just a foundation, but covers redness brilliantly and stays put - and stays matte - all day long and all night, should your lifestyle happen to be a tad more exciting than mine.

Given my usual levels of spot outbreaks and ruddy complexion, I wouldn't have touched this product with a bargepole, for I can no more entertain a product offering merely "sheer coverage" than I could wear a diaphanous blouse without a camisole underneath. As it happens though, the launch of Garnier B.B Cream coincided with my skin being in a very good phase (for me). And so, sold on the convenience of a foundation and moisturiser combined, I did not hesitate to apply for my trial pack of three samples, and tested Garnier B.B Cream every day for about a week. I applied it all over my face instead of just to my nose and chin, as I do with the Revlon foundation to avoid too heavy and mask-like a look.

Well, the first thing to say about the Garnier product is that a little of this goes a very long way, and I got about three days' coverage out of a single sachet. I can only imagine that some users have Very Large Heads and/or a worse distribution of blemishes than even me on a really bad day.

The second thing to say is that Garnier B.B Cream goes on beautifully smoothly and does indeed "melt into the skin" as the sales bumf claims.

"Feel the sensation of the light texture that instantly melts into your skin."

It genuinely is a lovely feeling, doubtless due to the moisturising component of the formulation.

You can build up a bit of coverage in key areas, and Garnier B.B Cream does even out skin tone up to a point, but I don't suppose it would conceal my bad outbreaks of spots or redness - it would be hard to top Revlon Colorstay on that score.

And yes, my skin does feel very soft to the touch with the blemish balm on - "luminous" might be stretching a point, indeed it looks a little greasy if anything, at least initially - but the sensation on the skin once the cream has been on for a while is luxuriantly smooth. So my oily skin does present a bit of a challenge, but I patted powder on top and that takes away most of the greasy aspect. That is the only negative point I can think of really, and for anyone with dry skin Garnier B.B Cream could be just what it is crying out for.

So whilst I wouldn't wear this product on a bad skin day, on a good skin day it is a jolly useful all-in-one product. Like those lipsticks known as YLBB ("your lips but better"), this tinted moisturiser or hydrating foundation or whatever you want to call it in the end is YSBB ("your skin but better"). I shall certainly be buying a tube when I have used up my samples.


UNPHOTOSHOPPED SCARY CLOSE UP ALERT!!!

Just to clarify, in all three photos this is Garnier B.B. cream immediately after I put it on and before applying foundation (ie when at its most shiny!)




And hold on a minute - I just applied some Garnier B.B Cream to the back of my hand to watch the seamless blending in action again, and something prompted me to sniff it. I can report that the blemish balm does in fact smell (very faintly) of something, which I hadn't really noticed before: a vaguely lemongrassy, spa product-type fragrance. A less herbal, more lemony Clarins Eau Ressourcante maybe - something in that ballpark anyway. Now I see that Clarins Eau Ressourcante includes notes of sarsparillia, robinia and longan, and am frankly none the wiser.


Photo of B.B cream from Superdrug blog and Garnier campaign, photo of Lycon wax from Ebay, other photos my own

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Solo Sniffing In Zurich: Armani Privé La Femme Bleue, Hermès Santal Massoia, BLOOD Concept, And The Sample-Scoring Power Of A Good Coat

After meeting my perfumista friends in Basel, I headed for Zurich, and spent a couple of hours in the Bahnhofstrasse (Zurich's "Golden Mile" in perfume terms). I retraced the steps of my ill-fated sniffathon with Potiron last summer, when I was suffering from a humdinger of a migraine aggravated by the blistering August heat. On this occasion it was a perfectly crisp autumn day with a slight nip in the air, and my head was as clear as the blue sky above me.

I only had a couple of hours before continuing my journey to St Gallen, so I was pretty focused in my sniffing tactics, deffing out the less upmarket options, and targeting instead the smarter department stores (Globus and Jelmoli), along with the niche perfumery Osswald and the Hermès boutique.

GLOBUS

As soon as I entered the cool slate-grey interior of the store, I had vivid memories of being violently sick in the ladies' toilets on my previous visit. As it happens, I had occasion to use the facilities this time, and revelled in how well I felt by comparison!

Fending off the sales assistant who did her damnedest to sell me a boxed set of Valentino Valentina, I had a quick whiff of Annick Goutal Mon Parfum Chéri, par Camille. I don't know if it was the EDT or the EDP, but it was a patchouli-fest that I felt had the potential to trigger another headache, something I was determined to avoid at all costs.

Moving on, my eye was soon distracted by the new Limited Edition release from Armani Privé, La Femme Bleue... Its polished gleaming flacon stood in splendid isolation on a plinth, like an ancient rune crossed with a bluebottle. The blue theme is linked to Armani's Spring/Summer Fashion Collection, which is inspired in turn by "the Tuareg woman, a blue nomad crossing the desert". What between this and Vivienne Westwood's Anglomania, I seem to be bumping into a number of scents aimed at the travelling woman, even if my wardrobe is somewhat lighter on navy ensembles than your average Tuareg.

The sales assistant explained that the production of this perfume has been limited to 1000 numbered bottles for "1000 exceptional women" - exceptional no doubt, because any woman who wouldn't flinch at dropping 400 euros on one of these bottles clearly has money to burn. I must say I spotted a fair few likely candidates cruising the Bahnhofstrasse.

Note listings vary for this scent: the SA mentioned iris and chocolate, while Perfume Shrine also lists woodsy notes, incense and vanilla. The overall vibe of La Femme Bleue is of an elegant, soft powdery oriental: I liked the teaming of the cooler, more severe iris with the warmer, cosier gourmand notes of the chocolate and vanilla. In hindsight it seems fitting that I should be featuring this and Valentina in the space of a week. For it appears that while my Wikio Beauty Blog rating may be languishing in the lower quartiles, I now have an up and coming chocolate Klout reputation to maintain!

The other notable fragrance I sampled in Globus was Prescriptives Calyx. I made a point of reminding myself how this scent smelt because of a chance remark by a reader of my Illuminum White Gardenia Petals Review:

"My bottle that I bought in late April must be from the second 'duff' batch, and I actually like it much better. I described it at the time as being like Prescriptives' Calyx, and as not smelling of gardenia at all."

Well, the opening of Calyx reminded me very much of the official version of White Gardenia Petals - the same tangy, green, airy and almost watery vibe. I wouldn't say I got gardenia in the opening particularly, but there was a definite similarity in the tart, metallic, juicy greenness. Then blow me if the later stages didn't remind me equally markedly of the wrong version of the Illuminum fragrance! - the more softly floral, musky variant. So that was all very strange, and now I would like to get my hands on a sample of Calyx to try the side-by-side comparison at more leisure.

JELMOLI

After Globus, I popped into Jelmoli, the Harvey Nicks to Globus's Selfridges. I whizzed through the niche area, quickly testing Guerlain 04 London, the latest in the Les Voyages Olfactifs Series.

Notes: sheer rose, violet, warm cardamom with sour gourmand nuances of rhubarb.

The SA mentioned the rhubarb note and also tea, those two quintessentially British food- and drinkstuffs...! (Well, I'll given them the tea.) When I sampled it on card I thought I got a huge and offputting whoosh of grapefruit, but maybe it was the "sour gourmand nuances" of the rhubarb. :- ) Incredibly tart, certainly. Despite the SA's best efforts to woo me with a complimentary bottle-engraving option, I moved on to the Tom Ford counter and tried Jasmin Rouge on a card. It was a rich, spicy floral, not really my thing, but better than expected. For some reason I thought it might be an animalic monster like Rochas Femme.

Next up was the Jo Malone counter, where I really liked the new Wild Bluebell cologne. It had all the soft fragrance of the flower without the sharp tinny quality of the Penhaligon's version, the only other bluebell scent I know.

Notes: clove, jasmine, bluebell, lily of the valley, persimmon, eglantine, amber and musk.

Working my good coat for the first time, I boldly requested a sample and the sales assistant opened her drawer without demur. Imagine my disappointment to realise later that she had given me a sample of Grapefruit cologne (presumably in error). Grapefruit, of all things! (Note to self to read the name on the vial before leaving the store...)

Still in Jelmoli, and on a sample-scoring roll, I went across to the Chanel sales assistant and played my "on a mission for a friend who is keen to try this scent and lives in a remote rural area" card, in a bid to wangle a sample of Chanel No 19 Poudré. I was passed over to two other SAs before the drawer magically opened again, but this time I was in luck and got Poudré and not Idylle or Mademoiselle.

In another part of the Guerlain area I was lured over by the curious spectacle of the SA fluttering a clutch of oversized feathers in garish colours that put me in mind of a burlesque dancer. Moments later, I was myself peeping coyly out from behind a feather pre-sprayed with Nuit d'Amour, a rather lightweight floral oriental.

Notes: pink pepper, lychee, rose, violet, rose, iris, sandalwood, musk

Nuit d'Amour was launched as an Exclusive just a year after my - and now also Olfactoria's! - beloved Plus Que Jamais. Sadly, given that Plus Que Jamais has been discontinued, Nuit d'Amour doesn't share the former's affecting Guerlinade base, but has more of a contemporary musky drydown. It was pleasant but not particularly memorable, and went a bit soapy in its later stages. As we were playing the dance of the giant feathers, the SA explained that Nuit d'Amour was partly inspired by a Klimt painting depicting a redheaded lady and a boa. This unexpected variant of the fragrance blotter suddenly made a lot more sense!

I also had a sniff of Liu while I was there (oh, dear me, no!), and clocked the sparkly Christmas edition of Vol de Nuit Shimmer Powder with a gimmick-hardened eye, before briefly scoping the designer fixtures. Here I was mildly intrigued by Givenchy's Dahlia Noir, mainly because of its film noir connotations, but the SA was unable to tell me anything about it or its key notes. "We have so many perfumes on the shelves", she sighed, with a dismissive sweep of one arm, adding helpfully: "You could look it up on the Internet?" So I did, and can report that the notes are nice enough if not groundbreaking.

Notes: mandarin, pink pepper, mimosa, rose, iris, patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla and tonka bean.

I don't remember Dahlia Noir very well except as a pleasantly smooth modern chypre of some kind. Significantly though it lacked the plasticky note that spoils a lot of Givenchys for me, and that alone made me sit up and take notice. Here is a good example of the "least worst syndrome" in action which we were discussing the other day! Well, that is not quite fair, as I did actually like Dahlia Noir, so you could say that my favourable response was amplified to "like a lot", as opposed to mere indifference being upgraded to "like".

HERMES

My next port of call was the Hermès boutique, scene of my finest moment of working the good coat in pursuit of samples, in this case the newest addition to the Hermessences range, Santal Massoia. I played the same "friend in remote location" card, giving it a further twist of "with upcoming birthday", and the ploy worked better than my wildest dreams. For the assistant popped not one but TWO 4ml vials into one of those little orange holders, so that I wouldn't have to go without a sample myself. How thoughtful of her! And what a shameless display of low cunning on my part!

I couldn't find a definitive note listing for Santal Massoia, but there is sandalwood and massoia in here, obviously, and beyond that we have this description of the scent from Jean-Claude Ellena himself.

"There are linear, vertical woods like cedar, and others that are horizontal, round, supple and velvet-smooth, such as sandalwood and massoia. With this understanding in mind, I composed this enigmatic, inviting yet distant perfume of milky woods, with its unusual, pungent hints of resin and dried fruit, and familiar smells of dulce de leche and flowers."

Well, having tried Santal Massoia on skin now several times, I don't think I need to add anything more to Ellena's description, for this surely is "enigmatic" and nuanced milky woods. There's a slightly darker, spicy edge to it, but none of that "trapped in a tea chest" vibe you sometimes get when you put two types of woods together in a fragrance, especially if one of them is cedar, which can come off as quite rough and scratchy. Texturally, Santal Massoia reminds me a bit of Etro Etra, which has pepper and sandalwood and is also very smooth. Much as I love Etra, Santal Massoia smells more subtle and "luxe".

Now I did find that Santal Massoia doesn't last very long on me, but I rarely mark a perfume down for that, and will be happy to reapply it from me and my imaginary friend's generous vial allocation, which more than paid for the hideously expensive left luggage lockers at the station...

OSSWALD

Rather foolishly - a bit like our MO in Basel - I left the most prestigious perfume store to the end, by which time I had used up most of the prime skin sites, and damn near exhausted both nose and brain. So my sniffing in Osswald was more perfunctory than it should have been, and I kicked myself for not heading there first.

I noticed on this visit that Osswald now carries the full range of Illuminum scents, and had a quick check of White Gardenia Petals (correct, greener version!). I also sniffed the four scents in the BLOOD Concept range, which is founded on the rather offbeat notion of choosing scents to match your blood type. However, I gather that crossover is by no means discouraged, as people may be drawn to the characteristics of a different type.

Well, I have no clue what blood type I am, but I only remotely cared for O, the original blood group. (This was once again very much on a "least worst" basis, I should make clear!) As for the official description of O by Giovanni Castelli and Antonia Zuddas, the innovative duo behind BLOOD Concept - why, I certainly didn't see that one coming... : - ) They might as well have called this scent The Marquise Of O!

"It had to be the most intense and wild compared to the whole range. We wanted roots, cuir and wild berries, a carnal and sexual composition of raw elements. When getting into its whiff, people should think of sex, raw and instinctual sex."

Notes: thyme, raspberry, cyperus esculentus, rose hips, leather, birch, cedar wood, metallic notes

Hmm, I wonder if I actually am O... If you read the potted history of blood group evolution on Fragrantica, I sound more like A or B really, as a vegetable-eating person who toggles between a travelling and sedentary lifestyle.

"(After O) Then comes A, when people started to eat vegetables and get more sedentary. Then B, when people started to travel and mix habits and foods."

For descriptions of all four scents, check out BLOOD Concept's Facebook page. As I say, I really didn't like any of the others - they were just too weird and disagreeable. So if you ask me - and as it proved with the Andrea Maack range - this range is another example of a quirky concept taking precedence over wearability. And coincidentally, like a couple of the Maack scents, all four of the BLOOD Concept scents contain metallic notes, though that is no more than you would expect really, given what they are! : - )

In Osswald I also tried the new Miller Harris La Fumée and La Pluie (which smelt much as their names suggest, but didn't wow me particularly), and had a quick sniff of the nozzles of the Olfactive Studio range, which weren't my thing at all. However, I quite liked one of the bafflingly various Biehl Kunstwerke range, a pretty white floral called mb01 (I always have time for another take on tuberose gardenia, or any loose variation on that theme).

Notes: bergamot, mimosa, blackcurrant, tuberose, gardenia, champaca, jasmine, amber, musk, sandalwood.

Then I couldn't help liking the ultra-cute packaging of Swiss range YsUzac (though the four scents left my - admittedly by now deeply jaded - nose unmoved). All in all though, it was a good couple of hours' work, what with the samples of Santal Massoia and Chanel No 19 Poudré, after discounting the Wild Bluebell wild card sample that wasn't. Sadly that is all the time I had, having lost a good 20 minutes out of my schedule when I got sidetracked by a large branch of Zara. I ended up trying on an armful of trousers, which collectively failed to fit in every way imaginable. There was also a set of Zara fragrances I could have investigated, but on such a day that would have been above and beyond the call of duty.




Photo of the Bahnhofstrasse from sengers.ch, photo of Globus from buildingtechnologies.siemens.com, photo of La Femme Bleue from giorgioarmanibeauty.com, photo of Calyx, 04 London and Biehl Kunstwerke mb01 from fragrantica.com, photo of Wild Bluebell advert from jomalone.co.uk, photo of Klimt painting from canvasreplicas.com, photo of Dahlia Noir advert from blog.purentonline.com, photo of Hermès store from global-blue.com, photo of Hermès bottle from the company website, photo of Osswald perfumerie from abelerbro.com, photo of BLOOD Concept logo from artnectar.com, other photo my own (taken by hotel receptionist whose hand could have been a bit more steady).

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Meeting The Swiss Perfumistas (Again!): Part Two - Parfumerie Hyazinth, Andrea Maack Perfumes, And The Man With 20 Bottles Of His Favourite Scent

This might be a relatively short post (as my scented travelogues go), simply because the present-opening ceremony and perfume grab-fest at the Roter Engel cafe had left all our noses completely sated. But no visit to Basel would be complete without at least a token sniffing session at Parfumerie Hyazinth, a short stroll from the Marktplatz.

Given that half the store's compact interior is already allocated to cosmetics, Hyazinth is all the more remarkable for the extensive range of niche lines carried, including two of my favourite discoveries from 2011, Carner Barcelona and Puredistance. The shelves are stacked literally from floor to ceiling, and on any given section of the fixture there will be at least three niche fragrance ranges below shin height that are all too easy to miss. One of these was Odin: thinking that Potiron might like a couple of scents from this house, I inquired of the sales assistant if they carried the brand, only to find the complete range just north of my left ankle. Potiron was in fact quite taken with 01 Nomad, so my hunch proved correct.

I decided that my nose was too jaded for me to adopt a scattergun approach in my sampling, so I pretty much focused on one range, Andrea Maack, and left it at that. This artist and founder of Iceland's first perfume house has been on my radar for a while and I was intrigued by the blunt monosyllabic names of the individual scents, that match the dour, craggy (and collapsed bank- and ash cloud-overhung) image I have of Iceland.

Additionally, their quirky ring seemed ideally suited to the homeland of Björk, to whom I am often compared. Not for my song writing or singing ability, obviously, but for my looks and occasional propensity to wear outlandish outfits. Several Facebook friends have been egging me on to replicate the famous swan costume, but my progress is slow on the feather gathering front. You wouldn't credit how many of my old pillows appear to be polyester.





So I started out sniffing these Andrea Maack scents predisposed to like them, not least for their pleasing white granite tops, reminiscent of the better end of Magnet fitted kitchens.

Here are my mini-reviews, which should be taken with a pinch of volcanic dust, because my nose was severely challenged by this stage. Moreover, these are no ordinary perfumes, but were created as olfactory interpretations of a series of drawings, as stated on the perfume house's website:

"...the challenge for the perfumers was to reflect on Maack's intricate pencil drawings and turn them into
olfactory experience, making only one version of each."

In an interview last year with Jill Singer of Sight Unseen magazine, Maack explains (somewhat tellingly) that she never set out to be a perfume house per se, adding:

“The next step is to do something more with the drawings, perhaps turn them into textiles. The point is to take my artwork and mass distribute it. It doesn’t really matter what the product is.”

For each of the scents therefore, in addition to listing the fragrance notes, I will extract or paraphrase parts of the website copy about the premise or concept behind it.

SMART

Premise: Smart started with a delicate pencil drawing and was developed for an art exhibition - its inspiration comes from an empty white gallery space.

Notes: Violet leaf, jasmine, sandalwood, vanilla, white musk, buckskin.

I see exactly where Maack is going with this "empty white gallery space" idea. This scent was so light and gentle as almost to defy my nasal receptors. I thought no scent could be too subtle for my tastes, but this one was quiet to the point of mute. I'll call it "soft violets smelt from outer space on a cloudy day".

CRAFT

Premise: Craft stands for Couture Art and "was created for a museum show to enhance the experience of a unique work of art, a hand made sculptural dress made from original pencil drawings". I'll skip the description of this as "a godlike scent" for a "once in a lifetime experience".

Notes: Aldehydes, elemi, cold metal, ice, cedar wood, patchouli.

Craft smelt unpleasantly metallic and cold. Verdict: resoundingly Not A Perfume, though I realise that these scents are not supposed to conform to most people's idea of what a "normal fragrance" should smell like.

SILK

Premise: "The idea of Silk is to enhance the feeling of wearing a perfume - its powdery, airy, earthy, leathery aura makes you imagine a silky smoothness caressing your neck."

Notes: Violet leaves, freesia, lime tree, linen, magnolia, Spanish cistus, earth (ground), papyrus, vanilla, amber.

Well, Silk does more or less deliver on the smooth texture front, however, the consensus of our party was that Silk smelt like a cheaper make of perfume than one would expect for the £85 price tag. Alicka61 was reminded of an Avon scent, which pretty much killed this one stone dead.

DARK

Premise: Dark is "a take on the classic rose note, a bloody, flowery, leathery, seductive perfume with a purpose".

Notes: Yellow mandarin, pink bays (berries), petitgrain, lemon tree, aldehydes, rose, metal, green apple, ambergris, orange blossom, Virginia cedarwood.

I didn't care for Dark, which seemed a confused mix of different scent styles. My notes on the day state: "sharp metallic floral citrus", and both the notes and the website blurb confirm the presence of a "heavy" metallic note which brings an "unexpected surprise". Well, I am sorry but I am not a fan of heavy metal in fragrance as in music, and this dark galvanised rose scent is no exception.

SHARP

Premise: "Sharp was made for an art exhibition to accompany an artisanal dress with drawings carved into the material, creating a repetitive signature pattern."

Notes: Orange blossom, angel skin (pardon?), sweet vanilla, white musk, soothing softness (you are kidding, right?).

Notwithstanding the patently silly note list, this is the scent out of the five which a) I could clearly smell, b) contained no discernible metal note and c) most resembled a "normal" perfume that cost a bob or two. Now it is perhaps wrong of me to look to these "olfactory exhibits" for a fragrance to which I can personally relate, but I can't help thinking whenever I sniff ANY scent, however avant-garde its origin: "Do I like this and would I wear it?"

With Sharp the answer to both questions is yes, and I am pleased to report that it isn't the least bit sharp. Ha - there's another "unexpected surprise"! Sharp is a sweet vanilla and orange scent, and we all thought we had smelt something similar before, but couldn't put our fingers on it. I think it may have reminded me of a less spicy Fendi Theorama, or Ajne Bloom de Nuit or quite possibly Givenchy Organza - it had that "thick" vanilla oriental quality to it.

So in summary, the Andrea Maack perfume range was not an unqualified hit with any of us, though I do admire the concept behind the project of creating scented versions of art works in other media. Yes, I really want to buy into the names of these scents, the bleakly atmospheric backdrop of Iceland's lava fields, the geological packaging - and the quirky Spirograph prints and spiky paper dresses which inspired the range - but I just don't want to smell like most of them.

Finally, this latest visit to Hyazinth was notable for a chance encounter with an American customer, who was standing in the middle of the store regaling a group of friends with a tale of how he loved a particular men's cologne so much that he went and bought a further 20 bottles of it! Well, clearly I couldn't let the matter rest there, and - after first excusing myself for my involuntary eavesdropping - asked him what this extraordinary scent was which had prompted such a stockpiling frenzy. Remarkably it turned out to be a mainstream men's scent, Zino by Davidoff. I made a point of trying this scent when I spotted it a couple of days later in a department store in St Gallen, and have to report that it was a fairly generic woody spicy number, somewhere between Marc Jacobs Bang and D & G By Man. Ah well - serves me right for asking...


Photo of Parfumerie Hyazinth from stoffe.ch, photo of Iceland's lava fields from boddie.org.uk, photo of Björk from gawker.com, photo of Andrea Maack range from the company's website, photo of girls in Andrea Maack dresses from whats-wrong-with-the-zoo.com and trendhunter.com, photo of knives from jayfisher.com, photo of orange and vanilla from hookah-shisha.com, Andrea Maack publicity shot from grapevine.is, photo of Zino perfume from beneash.com, other photo my own.