Olfactorias Travels, loyal reader of numerous perfume blogs (including Bonkers!), and all-round good egg. I was very much looking forward to meeting Tara, because we had both separately met her co-blogger Birgit in person, and by the two of us meeting we were "completing the perfumista triangle", so to speak. As in drawing in its hypotenuse, type of thing. And I also wanted to thank Tara in person for the spontaneous gifts of perfume she has sent me over the past year. So did I actually thank her? Oh shoot, I don't remember! Tara, thank you for the Tauer and Dior samples!
We had agreed to meet at the side entrance of Harrods: I said I would be wearing my "good" ie sample-scoring coat, while Tara said she would be in a "dark grey wool" coat. In the heat of the moment, I forgot the words "dark" and "wool", and was flummoxed to find an assortment of 30-something women loitering by the tube entrance, all dressed in grey coats of various styles. It was Tara who spotted me in the end, and in my defence her coat was at the darker end of the grey spectrum, so we agreed to call it quits, and the coat "charcoal".
ROJA DOVE HAUTE PARFUMERIE
Introductions over, we decided to head up to the Haute Parfumerie on the fifth floor without further ado, following that tried and tested perfumista strategy of NOT leaving the best till last, for your nose will invariably have given up the ghost by the time you make it to the last stop on your itinerary. We spent a good while in Roja Dove's - "store" doesn't do the place justice - more like "boudoir" or "plush yurt", thinking especially of the inner sanctum area festooned with banks of plump cushions in jewel colours.
We browsed on our own for a bit, starting with Vero Kern's trio of scents: Tara knew I was keen to try these after reading glowing reviews of the line by Birgit. My expectations were quite low, not because I doubted that these would be exceptional creations - for everything I had read pointed to that - but because I felt they simply might not be my style of scent.
RUBJ was more or less what I expected, and if anything even brighter and juicier. It was an exuberant, tuberose-forward, fruity white floral scent, if such a category exists. It was a little bit like a skankless Roja Dove Scandal crossed with Atelier Colognes Orange Sanguine. On balance, I don't think I would wear it - I might dare to do big florals, but probably not big fruit.
KIKI we more or less glossed over, because we both found the lavender note offputting, but I wondered if it might have had the potential to be a lavender-y Onda.
Next up, Tara was curious to take a sniff of IRISSS by XERJOFF, another rather pricy brand. Now you might think that a perfume with such a contrived collection of sibilant consonants doesn't deserve to be tested, but Tara is a big fan of iris, so we decided to overlook the self-conscious name. The opening of IRISSS was promising, then Tara had some concerns about the level of musk that seemed to be coming through, and I can't recall what her final verdict on this one was.
Stella Pomade. So delighted was she with Roja Dove's custom creation, that she felt it was too good to be reserved for her sole use, and asked him to produce Blessings as a limited edition parfum for her friends. Some time later, she collaborated with Roja Dove on the commercial release of an EDP version, which retails at the very reasonable price point of £75 per 100ml (vs £675 for 100ml of the LE parfum!). Blessings is well worth a sniff for fans of big white florals, and a trace of it still smells pretty on card, over a week later...
Top: Bergamot, Lemon, Mandarin
Heart: Jasmine de Grasse, Rose De Mai
Base: Cedar, Sandalwood, Tonka, Vanilla
Next up, Tara and I chuckled to ourselves as Marcel demonstrated the four new Roja Dove fragrances by lifting the chunky lids of each bottle and inviting us to sniff the insides. For here was yet another "perfume delivery system", to add to the list I compiled with the help of readers in a recent post.
I cannot truthfully remember much about the new Roja Doves, though the Aoud one was refined and elegant, and a far cry from the jarring medicinal quality of some of the bolder Montales. Aoud is the top selling perfume in the whole of Harrods apparently - I suspect by value. For the unit price of the Swarowski crystal-bedecked parfum strength bottle costs just shy of £500 - you would only have to sell one of those for every TEN bottles of a bog standard Versace or Gucci downstairs in the main perfume hall.
Although my impressions of the new Roja Doves are too jumbled to record, I will just list the notes for each, with snippets from the website description, because I know Tara and I did rather fancy at least a couple of them - though I think maybe not the one with the aldehydes, which was a bit more retro in the way I describe above. I have scribbled a note to myself to the effect that DANGER reminded me of MCDI Parfums Promesse de L'Aube (we also had a quick whip through that range!), but based on the notes I don't suppose it should really.
DANGER (rich, soft oriental - fresh, sweet, warm, and sensual)
Notes: jasmine, violet, orris
RECKLESS (sweet floral - sparkling, fresh, warm and sensual)
Notes: aldehydes, rose, amaryllis
INNUENDO (sweet floral - fresh, warm, powdery, and soft)
Notes: violet, orris, musk
If my beloved Guerlain Plus Que Jamais is no more, there may be comfort to be had in one of these, but a retrial on skin is called for rather than the ephemeral impression conveyed by "in-lid sniffing", or even testing on card.
TRULY by Stephen Burlingham, which I had come across in Germany last year. Tara liked its cool greenness too, and (somewhat foolishly) I even got as far as inquiring again about the price of the different sizes. This is because Marcel told us Truly may not be long for this world, possibly because the other two scents in the trilogy (MADLY and DEEPLY) never saw the light of day, and Truly now looks a bit silly on its own. The dull chunky refill bottle seemed the most cost-effective option, which struck me as rather a sad state of affairs. For that is the thing about a visit to the Haute Parfumerie - you have to steel yourself to the fact that many of the perfumes you are likely to covet will forever remain an unobtainable dream - or at best, a glint in The Perfume Court's eye...
We ended up shooting the breeze with Marcel about our fragrance preferences generally, and he encouraged us to try a couple of the new D & Gs and Van Cleef & Arpels Precious Oud downstairs, which struck me as refreshingly impartial of him. We explained that we were both bloggers, and the name "Olfactorias Travels" seemed to ring a bell in Marcel's mind. He thought he recalled a lady called Birgit who had brought a party of people to the Haute Parfumerie, as part of an escorted tour of some top London sights. "She's a travel agent, right?" he inquired. Well, Birgit has many roles: wife, mother, blogger, budding author, resting pyschotherapist etc, but Tara and I were pretty certain that Birgit was not also a travel agent on the quiet, and put him straight on this point. Then we got to chatting about Twitter, which Marcel was quite keen to investigate, and as we said our warm goodbyes, I said I would look out for him on there.
Hmm, I have just had a look and there is a person on Twitter with the same name. However, judging by his hair colour and byline, which references fast food and alcohol (though not in a perfumery context...), something tells me it probably isn't the same chap. But I will keep checking in!
In Part 2: Tara and I go downstairs, brave the tester-toting SAs in the main perfume hall of Harrods, and do more than ogle the high end makeup...
Photo of Harrods from psigrist on Flickr, photo of Vero Profumo range from iiiparfum.com, photo of Blessings from blessings-perfume.com, photo of Roja Dove Danger from harrods.com, photo of Truly from Beauty Affair, photo of escalator from rjhuttondfw on Flickr, photo of Tara my own