Victoria and I had thought of spending the afternoon of our day together at Senteurs d’Ailleurs, a high end fragrance and cosmetics store in Brussels, but we ended up not leaving her flat! So after checking out of my hotel the following day, I set off in the car for Place Stéphanie, and instantly regretted my decision to drive. For I soon became snarled up in traffic gridlock caused by the inevitable road works and diversions everywhere I turned. My satnav was in meltdown and I wasn’t far behind it. In the end, I conceded defeat and abandoned the car in a side street. More by luck than judgement, Senteurs d’Ailleurs was only about 10 minutes’ walk away, and soon I was browsing the fragrance fixtures of its cool, onyx-clad interior.
A BUNCH OF MOSTLY OUD-Y THINGS
As with my visit to La Place Vendôme, I have kept the scent strips from that day, and it is apparent from the scribbled names on them that I mostly smelt a bunch of oud-y things. This is not because I am particularly partial to oud as a note – on the contrary – but because most of the new scents that I spotted happened to showcase the blessed stuff, so I sniffed them merely in the spirit of getting with the program, as it were:
The Different Company Oud Shamash
The Different Company Oud for Love
Byredo Oud Immortel
Byredo Accord Oud
Maison Kurkdjian Oud
Heeley Agar Wood
Tip for The Different Company – if you want to be different, maybe lay off the oud next time…?
I also tried a couple more Byredos that were new to me (Mister Marvellous and Seven Veils), plus the clean and forgettable Pure Virgin from The Different Company. None of these featured oud as far as I recall, but that alone was not enough to endear them to me.
MONA DI ORIO ETOILE DE HOLLANDE
My other important discovery in Senteurs d’Ailleurs was Mona di Orio’s Etoile de Hollande, a refined and retro woody rose in the general vein of Lyric Woman / Portrait of a Lady / Guerlain Rose Nacrée du Désert - which is to say, not really my style. But I could appreciate its elegance nonetheless, and there was a certain piquancy about trying a scent with Holland in the name in another one of The Low Countries... : - ) Plus the blotter smells rather wonderful nearly three months later...
Notes: Bergamot, White Peach, Heliotrope, Bulgarian Rose, Turkish Rose, Geranium, Clove, Patchouli, Cedar, Vanilla, Bezoin, Ambre, Balsam
One thing that struck me during my visit to Senteurs d’Ailleurs is that when I was alone at the back of the store, one of the staff immediately found a reason to come and fiddle with the stock in that section, possibly because they didn’t trust me not to have one of the testers away in my copious tote bag, or so it seemed to me...they did let me take photographs, mind, so credit where credit’s due.
ANNICK GOUTAL NEROLI & NUIT ETOILEE
Next up I popped into Annick Goutal over the road to try out one of Victoria’s favourite scents, Neroli, which – as she explains in a review of this scent from 2011 - she appreciates for the delicate interplay of neroli and orange blossom absolute:
“Orange blossom is darker, richer and more voluptuous, while neroli is greener and fresher. Their complementary qualities make for a particularly multifaceted orange flower accord. The composition is accented with aromatic basil and bergamot, while vanilla and cedarwood create a smooth, polished base.”
I could see why Victoria was so taken with Neroli, and wouldn’t have minded a sample of it, however, my main focus on the sample scoring front was to blag one of Nuit Etoilée instead, despite being rather intimidated by the beautifully made up sales assistant. I got lucky! I was delighted to find that I liked Nuit Etoilée very much. The minty opening was shortlived – and it didn't even bother me it as I'd feared it would. Also, despite the resinous notes of the base, the overall vibe of the scent was very refreshing and crisp, clean and citrusy, and I would defy anyone not to like it, which I don’t say of many scents. I thought it would be more “Blair Witchy” like Ormonde Jayne Woman, but not at all. For a forest-inspired scent, there was an unexpected softness rather than a prickle of pine needles. It was a “forest scent for wimps”, just the way I like them…
PARFUMERIE GUTMANN, WAREGEM
When I finally managed to drive out of Brussels – after a catalogue of wegomlegging woe, the tortuous nitty gritty of which I will spare you - I made it to my next port of call, Waregem, just before the shops closed. There was a rather gaudy funfair in full swing in the market square, but I headed straight for Parfumerie Gutmann, drawn to its window by this remarkable mannequin, a novel window dressing idea designed to illustrate the Guerlain fragrance, La Petite Robe Noire. Though in my view the frock, which had been carefully studded with miniature perfume bottles of every brand and shape, was a work of art in its own right... For when it comes to choosing a perfume to accessorise your little black dress, don’t believe anyone who tells you "less is more".
Place Stéphanie 1A
Tel: +32 2 511 69 69
Photo of Etoile de Hollande from Fragrantica, other photos my own.