Olfactory Events. "Inaugural" is rather a grand term to use perhaps, but the session was held at the New Cavendish Club off Oxford Street, a renowned private members' club which has the facilities and ambience of a gentlemen's club, but which I learn in Wiki was originally in fact for ladies only!
Well, on the evening of Nick's talk there was a respectable smattering of men at a quick eyeball, helped no doubt by the fact that Olfactory Events is associated with Basenotes. Grant Osborne was there, multi-tasking as official photographer, court (as in Twitter) reporter and wine waiter. And very nice wine it was too.
For readers not familiar with Nick on Facebook, Twitter, his own blog G & T & That, or the one he co-writes with Lila and the Candy Perfume Boy, Fragrant Reviews, Nick spent 10 years in fragrance sales at a branch of Boot's in his home town of Bristol, before landing a plum job with niche perfumery Les Senteurs in London last August, since when he hasn't looked back.
American Idol levels.
Nick had set out his bottle collection on a table in the corner, and he and Lila sat in front of the imposing fireplace and adopted a sort of chat show format, with Lila in the role of host. Nick talked through each of the fragrances he had selected: how he came to find it and at what point in his life, a bit about the notes and the nose who created it, and also what associations it conjured up for him. It was a very informal affair - with interjections and questions from the floor, including a lot of ribald free assocation: "It's the citrus that keeps on giving", "it smells like a boudoir-y temple" etc, which was a source of much merriment.
Bought by Nick's mum for him at the tender age of 11, because he had seen Paula Yates describe it in glowing terms on The Big Breakfast. Comments ranged from "soapy fougere" to "freshly washed man" (which isn't actually much of a range come to think of it!), and there was speculation as to whether the formulation might have been changed since Be was launched - I remember it as being more citrus-y, but I could be wrong.
This was the scent which tipped Nick from regular cologne-wearer into raging perfumista. It was one of the first perfumes to feature oud, and was accompanied by a very raunchy press campaign. Whipping out his iPad, Grant stepped up to yet another role (props / special effects) and googled an example of a poster ad for M7 with a reclining male nude, whose focal point was nicely showcased, let's just say. Why was I not surprised to learn that there are 165 positive reviews of M7 on Basenotes? : - ) Okay, I jest, for it was a pretty ground-breaking scent at the time. One audience member described it as "borderline between chemist and sweet shop", and "cherry lips" (a confectionery line that may only resonate with British nationals over the age of 40) were also mentioned, but not in a bad way.
Nick considered Beyond Paradise to be one of the best feminines to have come out at the time (2003). Created by Calice Becker, it is characterised by an accord called "Eden's Mist", after the Eden Project in Cornwall, the largest indoor rain forest in the world. For Nick, Beyond Paradise conjured up a tropical island with a waterfall (think Herbal Essences shampoo adverts), and smelt of hairspray and violets. Nicola Pozzani, the Synesthetic Provocateur who led the Le Labo workshop I attended last year (though he now has his own company, SSENSE), pointed out that Beyond Paradise was Estée Lauder's "anti-J'Adore" release, while Luca Turin describes it in Perfumes: The Guide as a "balanced abstraction" rather than a representation of a tropical flower. I wasn't too sure about it myself - I think I prefer Lalique Flora Bella as balanced abstractions go - but I could see where they were coming from.
COMME DES GARÇONS MAN 2
This was the "boudoir-y" or "sexy temple" alluded to above. Created by Mark Buxton, who is also the nose behind Le Labo's Vetiver 46, it has notes of incense, vetiver and mahogany, and if my scribbles serve me, Nick's interest in this scent arose out of his liking for the original Gucci pour Homme with its combo of incense and cedar. This was pronounced (I think by Nick) to be "smoke on the skin", and it was the perfume I chose as my free sample at the end of the night, along with the one of Escentric Molecules 01 which we all received, courtesy of Lila.
Created in 2008 by Thierry Wasser - his first scent in his role as Guerlain's in-house perfumer - Guerlain Homme reminds Nick of a holiday in Australia, specifically Bondi Beach, and marked the start of his love affair with mint. To give you an idea, he is a born again fan of FM Geranium pour Monsieur. With one or two exceptions, the general view of Guerlain Homme was favourable, not least because the mint note is not of toothpaste proportions. "It's controlled mint!" piped up Tanya from the front row. With the help of Grant's iPad, we looked at yet another raunchy ad, this time a TV spot for Guerlain Homme. It bore the tag line "For the animal in you" and starred the obligatory hunky, pec-rippling male model and a full complement of big game animals.
GUERLAIN VOL DE NUIT EXTRAIT
One of Nick's Ebay bargains, two blotters sprayed with the parfum version of this classic scent from 1933 were reverentially passed around. It was not to everyone's taste (a bit dense, a bit aldehydic, a bit dark maybe), and we agreed that you need to be in a kick ass mood to wear it, but it spoke hauntingly to us of a bygone era of glamour and formality - and who knows, maybe someone had wafted it in the very function room in which we were sitting, at some point in the last 80 years...
CHANEL NO 19 EXTRAIT
We smelt the actual bottle top of this one, and the fact that I haven't taken any notes about it except the phrase "recent formulation" says to me that there wasn't a lot of discussion on the subject. I recall it as smelling like No 19, only more so. Hey, what do I know? I'm a Poudré girl, so shoot me!
I introduced Nick to this one, to which he kindly made reference: we did a swap when he was still in Bristol and in return I got my hands on a sizeable decant of Diptyque Eau Duelle, which has now grown into a full bottle! Nick described Cuir de Lancôme as having "plummy leather" and "powdery amber" facets, and it was news to some of us that a leather note in perfumes is created by boiling birch tar - obvious, when you know how! Nick placed Cuir as somewhere between chorizo (this is not good) and luxury leather, and I would agree. It is quite full-on and slightly rough round the edges but I do love it myself, and would have chosen it as my free sample if I didn't already own a bottle (with annoying wobbly top).
GUERLAIN SPIRITUEUSE DOUBLE VANILLE
This was a Christmas present from Nick to himself, as he is a lover of vanilla in fragrance. Now I too think of myself as a bit of a "vanilla ho", not least because my less offensive nickname at school was Vanilla Mutton, however, I realised from testing this scent that I prefer my vanille to be single - or "simple" as the French might say. Or maybe I could tolerate it at double strength, but not with boozy notes thrown into the mix. Saying that, Tara tested this the following day on skin in Harrods and it wasn't half bad on her, but on the whole I give alcohol in fragrance a wide berth - of the beverage variety, I mean, as opposite to its important carrier role.
After the session, Grant topped up our glasses and we milled around, chatting to other members and inquiring about their own "scented journeys". By a strange coincidence, I found someone with the same thyroid condition as me, and we had a good old chin wag about symptoms, dosages and pill chopping tactics. It was nearly 11pm by the time the last of us rolled out of the club - and in my case, straight into KFC. (Note to self to insist on breast next time.)
So yes, a great night was had by all and thanks are due to Nick, Lila, Grant and Escentual, who stumped up some free testers. Was this "olfactory event" worth the voyage from Stafford? You bet it was, and I have already booked to come down for the next one...
Photo of the New Cavendish Club from whoseview.co.uk, photo of Eden Project from Karen Roe on Flickr, photo of leather ornament from TheWristbandit on Flickr, photo of monosodium glutamate from dltq on Flickr, other photos my own.