Wednesday, 8 February 2012
A Knightsbridge Sniffing Blitz With Tara Of Olfactorias Travels: Part Two - Harrods Perfume Hall & Harvey Nichols
When we finally found the perfume hall, there were a number of tester-toting promotions girls loitering with intent in the main walkways, but we managed to dodge all their proferred blotters and homed in on a few specific brands of interest: Guerlain, Cartier & Dior, as well as checking out the new exclusive range of Dolce & Gabbanas which Marcel had mentioned, and - despite all our best intentions - getting waylaid by a limpet-like sales lady at the Bond No 9 counter.
Once again, please take all these observations as broadly indicative at best, as they are based on fast dwindling recall and faded smelling strips...
I was keen to try Angélique Noire from the L'Art et la Matière range on skin, having famously smelt it on Birgit in Austria in December, and been struck by how glorious it was on her. The notes look deceptively simple - angelica, bergamot, vanilla - yet the overall effect is complex and I'd almost say "rich". I liked the opening of Angélique Noire best - it struck a nice balance between the flinty greenness of the angelica and the creamy warmth of the base, but as the scent wore on it got just a tad boozier than I would have liked, as if someone had slipped a bit of Spiritueuse Double Vanille in there while my back was turned. Tara, meanwhile, sprayed SDV on her own arm and it was quite pleasant on her, especially the later stages, but still too boozy for my taste. We also tried Oriental Brûlant from the Elixirs Charnels range on card, which I can't remember clearly except that it wasn't on fire or in any sense as full-on as you might think, and I would like to try it properly some time. I have now clocked the notes and am not surprised I liked it, notwithstanding the presence of styrax, which I associate with some fierce scents - here it is muffled in fluffy dessert ingredients. (I keep coming back to vanilla fragrances...!)
Notes: tonka bean, almond, vanilla, styrax, clementine
Next, Tara and I were keen to do a systematic sampling of the Les Heures scents, as we had each smelt some - though not the same ones. To this end, a flower-shaped Baiser Volé blotter (aka "Cart-ier Wheel") was pressed into service - now that I am aware of there being more elaborate styles of perfume cards, I have started to see them all over the place... : - ) We managed to spray a different scent on each of the six tips of the flower's petals, for which it was ideally designed! My memory is very hazy of this range, except to say that L'Heure Convoitée was a definite no-no for both of us on account of its pronounced carnation note, while L'Heure Défendue was a double thumbs up on account of its chocolate note, something of a "Must-have" in any Cartier scent collection...
Tara has just been in touch with some more thoughts on the range:
"I already liked L'Heure Fougeuse and L'Heure Brilliante (the gin one)... We didn't care for the lychee one (L'Heure Diaphane) or the new carnation one. The Mysterious one didn't come across on paper, but I understand it's incense so should try it again. The 13th hour was just birch tar and not much else."
Aha - I had forgotten the gin one - I feel sure I must have liked it though! : - )
It was at the Dior counter that Tara's effortlessly nonchalant sample-scoring skills were deployed to great effect, for she managed to procure us each two large sample pots: Ambre Nuit and Milly-la-Forêt in my case, and Milly-la-Foret and Eau Noire in Tara's. I wasn't particularly bothered about trying Milly-la-Forêt, but the SA seemed keen to further its cause, and having tried it, I can see that it needs all the help it can get. Am retesting Milly-la-Forêt as I type, and it is a quiet inoffensive floral with a pronounced citrus opening, which could easily be a designer release - very nondescript!
Then I wore Ambre Nuit all day yesterday, and have decided that I like it as much as New Look 1947. It is an understated blend of soft amber, rose, wood, and a light dusting of spice. For occasions where L'Air du Désert Marocain or OJ Ta'if might feel a little "out there", I can imaging that Ambre Nuit would make a great substitute.
Tara and I couldn't quite remember which of this new range Marcel had asked us to look out for, but I thought it was the patchouli and vetiver ones, while Tara thought it was one of the florals, so we tried the lot anyway just to be sure. They all struck me as well made, and with the exception of Velvet Patchouli I didn't dislike any of them, and would happily try the whole lot again in a more leisurely fashion. It is true that by this point in the afternoon our noses were feeling a bit jaded to say the least, and we hadn't even been to Harvey Nicks yet! I think I liked the florals Velvet Love and Desire best, followed by the orange-y Sublime and the woody Wood(!).
Here is a link to an overview of the range (with note listings) from NST. They definitely felt of a higher quality to my nose than that numbered collection, that has always struck me as a poor man's version of the Chanel Exclusifs.
So as I explained above, Tara and I were reeled in by the Bond No 9 SA, who seemed hell-bent on finding a fragrance from the line for each of us to love, even though we were privately convinced that if it hadn't happened yet it probably wasn't going to happen. In fast and furious succession we were given at least seven scents to try - I am confident of that number, as I have the frisbee cards to prove it. It doesn't really matter now what we tried (though I think Chelsea Flowers was deemed to be the "least worst", and the Harrods amber one that smells like hot and sour soup was in there too). The best thing I can think to say about the range is that the blotters would double up as serviceable emergency coasters. And also perhaps serve as a desktop model of Swindon's notorious "Magic Roundabout", teaching learner drivers the correct way to negotiate its convoluted series of wheels within wheels. I speak from experience, having passed my test there myself!
TOM FORD COSMETICS & BURBERRY BEAUTY
The other thing Tara and I did in Harrods is a considerable amount of ogling of high end make up. More than ogling in fact, because at the Tom Ford counter I volunteered my services as an eyebrow model, so Tara could see the effect of brow pencils in different shades, with a view to getting one for her mother. She chose one called Espresso in the end, which was pronounced the closest to her mum's hair colour. It had all sorts of ingenious compartments, integral sharpeners and general built-in wizardry. Which is the least you would expect for what is clearly the Rolls-Royce of brow shaping tools.
a post on Katie Puckrik Smells. We lingered so long in fact, and looked so simultaneously eager and forlorn - for Burberry lipsticks comfortably bust the twenty quid barrier, costing nearly twice as much as I have ever paid for a lippie - that the very kind SA gave us not one but a total of three sample sets between us, comprising four different shades each! Three because the unstintingly gallant Tara scored me a second one with yet another disarmingly casual point-blank request, along the lines of: "So would you have another of the cards with Rosewood on it for my friend to try, because it isn't on the one you just gave her."
But the time and the free samples will not have been in vain. I have been conscientiously auditioning all eight of my own samples, and feel I am definitely moving towards a purchase - and possibly falling down the rabbit hole of luxury make up more comprehensively. Have got my eye on some Nars, Chanel and Sunday Riley eyeshadows as well...
Nothing much to report from this last stop on our itinerary, for we were both starting to flag now. As per Marcel's instruction, we sniffed Van Cleef & Arpels Precious Oud - which had just come in that day - and whipped through some Piguets that were unknown to us both, including Douglas Hannant (not a men's scent, as the name might imply), which Robin of NST has aptly termed a "diet Fracas".
And by then it was 7pm and I had to head back to Euston, so we parted at the barrier in Knightsbridge tube station - at the barrier rather than downstairs between the platforms, because the turnstile rejected my Oyster card! A small technical hitch at the end of a very full and fun afternoon with Tara. And with my Oyster card now flush with credit, I look forward to doing it all again sometime!
Photo of Harrods from Wikimedia Commons, photo of Angélique Noire from laroshe.ru, photo of D & G Velvet perfume from fragrantica, other photos my own