Olfactorias Travels for a most enjoyable four hour sniffathon in Harrods and Harvey Nichols.
And before the talk on Thursday I swung by Liberty's, where I managed to fit in a fairly businesslike romp through some of the Le Labo range with which I wasn't familiar, including most of the City Exclusives. Poivre 23, the London one, was clearly displayed on the counter on its own, and when I inquired of the sales assistant if I had missed the window of opportunity when the full set was available in the capital, he said that I had, then promptly whipped out the testers in question from a drawer against the wall (see photo). Yay!
Aldehyde 44 (Dallas, Texas)
Notes: aldehydes, neroli, tuberose absolute, narcissus absolute, jasmine sambac, vanilla, musks and woods
A bath bomb of sparkling, granular aldehydes up each nostril - nay, the aldehydic equivalent of an Apollo mission blasted off inside your nose. I did not hang around for the drydown, so I don't know how this went on, however, the general consensus in the blogosphere seems to be fairly positive. The sales assistant told me that Aldehyde 44 was inspired by the perfumer's vision of Dallas as an ultra-modern, glitzy city built on oil wealth, whose citizens are confident, sassy go-getters groomed to within an inch of their life (my paraphrase).
Vanille 44 (Paris - France, not Texas!)
Notes: natural bergamot, incense, mandarin, gaiac, vanille bourbon, muscenone, pipol, hedione
Okay - hold on a minute - how come this has the same number as Aldehyde 44...? That doesn't seem right. Anyway, being the "card-carrying vanilla ho" that I am, I gave this some prime arm space and liked it from the word go all the way to the far drydown, not that it developed much. It reminded me very much of Diptyque Eau Duelle ie a soft, mysterious, woody vanilla that treads that fine line between cheap bath product or foody vanilla and rich, boozy "70% cocoa solids" vanilla for hardcore vanilla lovers (where the cocoa is purely metaphorical, you understand). Yes, this was very nice, very easy to wear, but I don't need it as I already have Eau Duelle and a sample of Creed Sublime Vanille and a decant of Annick Goutal Vanille Exquise - in short, I have all the main congenial vanilla bases covered.
Notes: pepper, cistus labdanum, incense, sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla, gaiac and styrax
Now you will never hear me complain about the presence of pepper in a perfume, whether black, pink, white or blue. I am very partial to the stuff, cliche'd or not. My initial impression was of a strong jolt of pepper, mixed with woods and incense and tingly spice. The overall effect was soft and rather quirky in a luxe pot pourri kind of a way, and I was suprised that I liked it even during this very brisk opening. The fragrance strip does have a lingering note of vanilla on it even now, and I suspect that the rounding and grounding duo of patchouli and vanilla lends this scent its particular charm for me. I wouldn't mind a sample of Poivre 23 in fact, but didn't bother to ask, as in my experience Le Labo are not noted for their largesse in this regard.
Tarleisio's phrase - this is an "intergalactic musty library" scent, if such an image is not too preposterous in itself. But Patchouli 24 is pretty out there, it must be said.)
Gaiac 10 (Tokyo)
Notes: olibanum, gaiac wood, cedar absolute, musk
I was interrupted by my phone going off as I was testing this one, so probably didn't give it my full attention. The opening was woody in a slightly sharp way: I do like gaiac wood as a rule, though it is teamed with cedar wood here, which may account for the initial roughness. Gaiac 10 didn't seem to have any distinctive qualities to it, though I daresay it probably softened down nicely if I had had a chance to revisit the strip much later in its drydown, instead of being on my second glass of white at Nick's talk by that point. The blotter does actually smell quite sheer and pellucid now, which is a pleasant surprise.
Notes: allspice berries, pink pepper, aldehydes, ambrox, clove, pepper, rose, musk, cedar
Now I have sniffed this scent in Chicago with Notes from the Ledge, and remembered it as being a not terribly remarkable peppery, spicy, woody rose. Mindful on the other hand of Olfactoria's recent acquisition of Tubereuse 40 when she was in New York in November, I was curious to try it. I asked the SA if he also had a tester of "the Tubereuse", and he heard "Baie Rose" and proferred a fragrance strip presprayed with the Chicago Exclusive instead!
Oh my goodness - I am ashamed to report that in my nose's eye, believing that I was actually smelling Tubereuse 40, for a few seconds I actually DID smell a languid hothouse floral scent - the sort of warm, heady, moist air that assails your nostirls as you enter the tropical house of a botanical gardens. Now this may not bear any resemblance to the real Tubereuse 40 - a quick glance at Olfactoria's review of this one suggests not - but it was a "genuine false" olfactory impression that was very vivid until the SA dispelled my illusion by explaining that he didn't have a Tubereuse tester and that I was in fact smelling Baie Rose 26...whereupon a whoosh of pepper and wood kicked in!
Belle Dope phantom incense moment with Katie Puckrik in California, which in turn echoed the famous pistachio ice cream incident of my youth, where the waiter brought pistachio ice cream instead of lime, and my father proceeded to make me believe it really was lime to save waste. And it actually did taste of lime as I was eating it, my dad being the Svengali that he was.
So not only is my nose a bit of a blunt instrument at the best of times to start with, but to compound matters it is clearly highly suggestible. Now if I am a typical punter this may go a long way towards explaining why consumers buy a fragrance because - in the heat of the moment and the smartness of the store - they succumb to the persuasive patter of the SA who is describing it in seductively lyrical terms. For that brief window between "spritz on blotter and take bottle to till", that is the customer's olfactory reality.
It's just a little bit scary, don't you think?
And have I missed any more City Exclusive cities that are also in Texas? : - )
Photo of Liberty's from ell brown on Flickr, photo of Dallas from rkrichardson on Flickr, photo of vanilla from JosAclito Tirados on Flickr, photo of pepper from ralph and jenny on Flickr, photo of arch from matt hutchinson on Flickr, photo of pistachio ice cream from kusine on Flickr, Le Labo photo my own