Candy Perfume Boy and Olfactorias Travels.
As it happens, I was down in London the last weekend in April, so Katie and I arranged to meet on the Sunday afternoon for a "senior supper" and a bit of a catch up. I had just clocked her hilarious, no-holds barred article in The Guardian about her meeting with Stephen Nilsen, the perfumer behind Madonna's new fragrance release, Truth or Dare, and a few days ahead of our meeting dared to send a cheeky request of my own.
Katie replied that that would be no bother, but could I please bring a vial with me, as she hadn't got any decanting tackle with her in London. She gave me the address of a club in East London of which she was a member, and said she would meet me in reception, adding that the door was unmarked, but that I should just push it and go on in.
So I got to the address with five minutes to spare, only to find that every single door in that particular street was unmarked, not with building names or even numbers (though I only had the name of the street anyway). Suffice to say that if I was in the signage business, I would give that entire postcode a very wide berth. But okay, I thought, not to worry, I will push every last one of them and see if any yield to the touch and lead into something resembling a reception area. I say "resembling", because East London is noted for its trendy warehouse conversions and other quirky developments, so one should keep an open mind as to the possible layout of any given building.
Shortly after that, Katie herself arrived, and after a quick tour of the building (also a warehouse conversion!), we ensconced ourselves on the squashy sofas of one of the lounges, and proceeded to "download" our news over a late brunch of portabello mushrooms and poached eggs, which we recast as a "senior brunch". This was washed down in my case by a pot of tea, because I had a lot of "catching up" to do on that front too to meet my copious daily requirement.
Before setting out to write this post, I couldn't resist taking a peek at the reviews already out there, which are all favourable as far as I can tell, and with good reason. For Truth or Dare is a cut above your usual celebuscent all right.
As I type I am wearing a number of diva-ish floral fragrances at once to see which ones Truth or Dare most closely resembles. Robin of Now Smell This dubbed Truth or Dare "Fracas Lite" in her review, while Jen of This Blog Really Stinks likened it to "Fracas Candy" (as in Prada Candy).
Notes: gardenia, tuberose and neroli, with jasmine, benzoin tears, white lily petals, vanilla absolute, caramelized amber, and sensual musk
Now Truth or Dare may sound a bit full on, but it really is soft and caressing in a little while, like a musky meringue - the drydown is reminiscent of the perfume Kate Middleton didn't in fact wear on her wedding day, ie the "wrong" batch of White Gardenia Petals that accidentally came my and Birgit's way... I am also wearing "correct" White Gardenia Petals, and it is not much like Truth or Dare - too sharply green, wan and metallic to my nose.
Notes: green notes, citrus notes, lily of the valley, jasmine, and gardenia
Like Truth or Dare, it is a plush white floral blend featuring lily, jasmine and gardenia. Okay, LOTV in this case, but at the risk of playing note bingo, that is still a fair bit of crossover.
For fun, I just tried layering Gardénia Pétale with its stablemate, Lys Carmin, which has a very sweet, gourmand facet that I thought might possibly mimic the edible drydown of Truth or Dare. And d'you know, it isn't a dupe by any manner of means, but there is a marked likeness between this layered combo and Truth or Dare - much more so say than between it and either of the Van Cleefs in isolation. Now Lys Carmin doesn't have the same kind of sweetness exactly - it is too spicy for one, and generally darker in feel - but texturally it is very similar in terms of the fluffy nimbus thing it has got going on. And it adds the vanilla in our note bingo game, and yet more lily!
You may not be surprised to learn that the next day in Selfridges I came this close to buying a 50ml bottle of Truth or Dare, but ended up "fondling and replacing" it as is my practice these days. Even though it cost a mere £25 for 30ml, £32 for 50ml and £42 for 75ml. Clearly the more you spray, the more you save, to annexe Mr Bonkers' beer mantra for a moment. So that is a "Fracas Lite" price to boot!
I don't know what stayed my hand. Quite possibly the bottle, which looks a bit plasticky in reality, and reminds me of a kitschy replica of an altar my dad bought when I was a child - at Lourdes, or somewhere like that selling cheap religious souvenirs. I distinctly remember that this white plastic altar also had accents of gold, plus a red chalice (coated to look like burnished metal and concealed behind a little door, for all the world like a chocolate in an advent calendar). And Madonna was of course brought up as a Catholic, so it is perhaps not surprising that those early influences might assert themselves later - in a scent bottle with ecclesiastical overtones, or the dodgy outfit of her Like A Virgin video.
But meanwhile, I have a bit of my sample left, and thanks to Katie have also inherited a scented candle featuring the fragrance, which would doubtless have taken up her entire hold baggage allowance on the flight home. And if those two things are not enough to sate the Madonna scent lemming, I reserve the right to dare to crack - by which I mean "fondle and take to till" - the next time I am in Selfridges, which may very well be next week...
Photo of East London from macnovel.org.uk, photo of Madonna Truth or Dare from fashionison.com, other photos my own