I went out to Germany and back yesterday for one meeting. I don't recommend it - I was up and abroad (quite literally!) before I was properly awake. And that is such a quick turnaround that you are never quite “in” the foreign country in question. There is a slightly unreal quality to the day’s events, which started for me when the alarm went off at 5.20am - a time which is just as much a foreign country to me as where I was headed...
And it seems hard to credit that I was wandering around the duty free perfume hall of Birmingham airport at 7.30am! That’s a full hour before I normally think of opening my eyes – and sometimes even when I do, I promptly think better of it again.
All of which is just to explain that I was in a bit of a daze yesterday as I cruised the fragrance fixtures on auto-pilot. Yes, I can say with authority that I have no interest in testing perfume, or giving it much thought at all, before the "nine o’clock watershed" – a.m., I mean. Yet even in my dopey state I couldn’t fail to spot a very good deal on a set of Prada Candy perfume and body lotion, and on cue I did that picking up and fondling routine again before putting the box back on the shelf. It wasn’t so much the price as the weight I baulked at, given that I was going to be on foot all day. Also, this week I have already treated myself to a hot pink and black satin Candy iPhone holder(!).
This irresistible and impractical accessory was a GWP on a large bottle of Candy that was going for a whopping 89 euros at Schiphol airport last weekend. I wrestled that lemming to the ground and beat the life out of it with my boarding pass, but the hankering - for the free gift at least - remained, and I didn’t hesitate when I saw it for sale separately on Ebay the other day for just £14 delivered. So that is my fix of Candy for this week. Now it won’t protect my iPhone against any impact stronger than a stray hair or bit of lint, but I will of course put it in a case first before putting it in this pretty pink padded apology for one – what my late father would have dismissed as a “frivolous fabric frippery”. (And before you ask, my penchant for alliteration is genetic.)
UPDATE - the iPhone doesn't fit! I shall have to use this frivolous fabric frippery flop as a soft glasses case instead. My specs are black, so they match at least...
Going back to my meanderings in the fragrance aisles, as on my last visit I skirted round the Chanel Les Exclusifs counter, keen to dodge another close encounter with Jersey. Then, directly opposite the Chanel section on a prime “end of gondola” position, a new range of perfumes from bath & body brand Molton Brown suddenly caught my eye. Five squat, rectangular, stippled glass bottles, not unlike a dumpier version of Boss Orange For Men.
Behind the bottles was a line of trumpet-shaped flowers made of wood, with a wooden pole-cum-stamen poking out from inside each one. As my visit to IUNX Parfums was still fresh in my mind, I immediately picked up the first wooden flower and stuck my nose in it. It didn’t smell of anything. Feeling a little foolish, I went and grabbed a load of fragrance strips from the Escada counter and set about testing the Molton Browns from the testers instead. First impressions - based purely on the presentation, and also factoring in the self-consciously quirky names – were that this was going to be a me-too exercise in Tom Ford PC / Armani Privé territory, just as the latest D & G numbered collection always struck me as a very poor rip off of Chanel Les Exclusifs. In its own product segment of bath and bodycare products Molton Brown is pretty high end. However, as I stood in front of the fixture armed with a fistful of fresh blotters, I couldn't get my head around the notion of Molton Brown as a credible perfume brand, any more than I would a scent from Bayliss & Harding, though I would be happy to receive a gift of liquid hand wash by either brand.
So I embarked on my sniffing session in a somewhat cynical frame of mind, compounding my general lethargy and desperate wish to be back in bed. Of the five scents in the Molton Brown range, I quite liked one, disliked one a lot, and could take or leave the other three. That said, I could see them appealing to some people, even in perfumista circles. So please do take these mini-reviews of the range with a big handful of salt, as the sampling circumstances were massively stacked against it!
Soft, peppery spice – a homoepathic version of Marc Jacobs Bang – busy, without enough going on, if that is not a contradiction in terms.
Woody scent with an offbeat vegetal note – a bit like PG Papyrus de Ciane, but not as bleak.
Woody, fruity, leathery number. (My second “favourite”.)
Incense? and flagstones overgrown with miscellaneous herbaceous matter from the contents of a counter top compost bin. This one reminded me a bit of the cool dead stoniness of Pierre de Lune by Armani Privé, with added vegetation and more fight in it.
A light, vaguely fruity floral. It had stylistic echoes of Xerjoff Lua ie pretty, but not original enough to be in keeping with the other scents in the range.
UPDATE - I wrote up my impressions of the Molton Brown scents over a beer and another exceptionally creamy bowl of soup(!) at Frankfurt airport. I didn't get a chance to google them till I got home, whereupon I discovered that the collection is in fact called Navigations Through Scent, and has a whole story behind it comparable in its complexity and detail to the Scents of Time range.
Yes, turns out each scent has its own geographical associations and "mood board" of sorts: here is the one for Apuldre, which represents LONDON VIA KENT, and was the one I actively disliked:
May Contain Mischief
"Twilight on a summer's day in the garden of England. Picnic blankets on fresh cut grass. Fizz and gin. Irreverent. Cheeky and a bit mad."
Notes: juniper berries, wormwood, cedar wood, violet leaf absolute, modern leather accord, styrax absolute.
I'll give 'em a bit mad! Look at those notes - with wormwood, styrax and leather it was never going to be my glass of G & T. And Juniper Sling it ain't neither, but it gets brownie points for weirdness. In fact it is not unlike that scent I once likened to "sticks of celery peeping coyly through a freshly creosoted fence" - Unicorn Spell by Les Nez, that's the one.
I have also since come across proper reviews of two more from the line (Lijiang and Iunu) on Candyperfumeboy here.
Now I don't know if my reaction to these scents would have been more positive had I known IN ADVANCE about the idea behind the collection and the theme for each of the five scents. The Molton Brown website sums the range up as follows:
A brief history of perfume,
told through five distinct fragrances.
From lost worlds,
along ancient silk and spice routes
to a brave New World.
Hmm, quite possibly, as the colourful imagery in the press material and the exotic associations with the four other countries - China (Lijiang), Egypt (Iunu), Canada (Rogart) and Indonesia (Singosari) - do rather get you in the mood for an olfactory adventure. And to their credit most of them smell original. But they still weren't for me - not at that time of the morning, and probably not ever.
Additionally, I sniffed two new Florises.
FLORIS MAHON LEATHER
Too "Rawhide" and chaps. I know I wasn't at my best, and it is a masculine, but the opening seemed a bit rough.
Watery floral with top notes of peony and rose, and a heart of yawn-yawn. Sirena it may be, but it most certainly isn't calling my name.
On the way home, I spent four hours hanging around Frankfurt airport. It wasn't so hard to do, as they make the travelling perfumista feel right at home!
Photo of Rogart bottle and poster from Molton Brown, photo of Floris perfumes from Fragrantica, other photos my own