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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Perfume Lovers London's Maiden Meet-Up: Nick Gilbert - A Voyage Round My Collection

Last Thursday saw the inaugural meet-up of Perfume Lovers London, a non-profit making social group for fragrance fans founded by Lila Das Gupta of Olfactory Events. "Inaugural" is rather a grand term to use perhaps, but the session was held at the New Cavendish Club off Oxford Street, a renowned private members' club which has the facilities and ambience of a gentlemen's club, but which I learn in Wiki was originally in fact for ladies only!

Well, on the evening of Nick's talk there was a respectable smattering of men at a quick eyeball, helped no doubt by the fact that Olfactory Events is associated with Basenotes. Grant Osborne was there, multi-tasking as official photographer, court (as in Twitter) reporter and wine waiter. And very nice wine it was too.

For readers not familiar with Nick on Facebook, Twitter, his own blog G & T & That, or the one he co-writes with Lila and the Candy Perfume Boy, Fragrant Reviews, Nick spent 10 years in fragrance sales at a branch of Boot's in his home town of Bristol, before landing a plum job with niche perfumery Les Senteurs in London last August, since when he hasn't looked back.

And before I get into my account of the talk proper, a word about the name of the event may be in order: "A Voyage Round My Collection". For it struck me that a lot of people in Perfume Land are on voyages of some kind at the moment: there's Olfactoria's Travels, while the byline of Bloody Frida's blog is "a perfume journey". And the Candy Perfume Boy recently wrote about "10 Things I Have Learnt On My Scented Journey". So you know, quite a few journeys all told. And of course I do a fair bit of travelling myself. But even factoring that in, the current traffic patterns are still well below American Idol levels.

Nick had set out his bottle collection on a table in the corner, and he and Lila sat in front of the imposing fireplace and adopted a sort of chat show format, with Lila in the role of host. Nick talked through each of the fragrances he had selected: how he came to find it and at what point in his life, a bit about the notes and the nose who created it, and also what associations it conjured up for him. It was a very informal affair - with interjections and questions from the floor, including a lot of ribald free assocation: "It's the citrus that keeps on giving", "it smells like a boudoir-y temple" etc, which was a source of much merriment.

So here in brief are the "stops" on Nick's tour of his collection, based on my scribbled notes, so apologies in advance for any material inaccuracies!

CK BE

Bought by Nick's mum for him at the tender age of 11, because he had seen Paula Yates describe it in glowing terms on The Big Breakfast. Comments ranged from "soapy fougere" to "freshly washed man" (which isn't actually much of a range come to think of it!), and there was speculation as to whether the formulation might have been changed since Be was launched - I remember it as being more citrus-y, but I could be wrong.

YSL M7

This was the scent which tipped Nick from regular cologne-wearer into raging perfumista. It was one of the first perfumes to feature oud, and was accompanied by a very raunchy press campaign. Whipping out his iPad, Grant stepped up to yet another role (props / special effects) and googled an example of a poster ad for M7 with a reclining male nude, whose focal point was nicely showcased, let's just say. Why was I not surprised to learn that there are 165 positive reviews of M7 on Basenotes? : - ) Okay, I jest, for it was a pretty ground-breaking scent at the time. One audience member described it as "borderline between chemist and sweet shop", and "cherry lips" (a confectionery line that may only resonate with British nationals over the age of 40) were also mentioned, but not in a bad way.

ESTEE LAUDER BEYOND PARADISE

Nick considered Beyond Paradise to be one of the best feminines to have come out at the time (2003). Created by Calice Becker, it is characterised by an accord called "Eden's Mist", after the Eden Project in Cornwall, the largest indoor rain forest in the world. For Nick, Beyond Paradise conjured up a tropical island with a waterfall (think Herbal Essences shampoo adverts), and smelt of hairspray and violets. Nicola Pozzani, the Synesthetic Provocateur who led the Le Labo workshop I attended last year (though he now has his own company, SSENSE), pointed out that Beyond Paradise was Estée Lauder's "anti-J'Adore" release, while Luca Turin describes it in Perfumes: The Guide as a "balanced abstraction" rather than a representation of a tropical flower. I wasn't too sure about it myself - I think I prefer Lalique Flora Bella as balanced abstractions go - but I could see where they were coming from.

COMME DES GARÇONS MAN 2

This was the "boudoir-y" or "sexy temple" alluded to above. Created by Mark Buxton, who is also the nose behind Le Labo's Vetiver 46, it has notes of incense, vetiver and mahogany, and if my scribbles serve me, Nick's interest in this scent arose out of his liking for the original Gucci pour Homme with its combo of incense and cedar. This was pronounced (I think by Nick) to be "smoke on the skin", and it was the perfume I chose as my free sample at the end of the night, along with the one of Escentric Molecules 01 which we all received, courtesy of Lila.

GUERLAIN HOMME

Created in 2008 by Thierry Wasser - his first scent in his role as Guerlain's in-house perfumer - Guerlain Homme reminds Nick of a holiday in Australia, specifically Bondi Beach, and marked the start of his love affair with mint. To give you an idea, he is a born again fan of FM Geranium pour Monsieur. With one or two exceptions, the general view of Guerlain Homme was favourable, not least because the mint note is not of toothpaste proportions. "It's controlled mint!" piped up Tanya from the front row. With the help of Grant's iPad, we looked at yet another raunchy ad, this time a TV spot for Guerlain Homme. It bore the tag line "For the animal in you" and starred the obligatory hunky, pec-rippling male model and a full complement of big game animals.

GUERLAIN VOL DE NUIT EXTRAIT

One of Nick's Ebay bargains, two blotters sprayed with the parfum version of this classic scent from 1933 were reverentially passed around. It was not to everyone's taste (a bit dense, a bit aldehydic, a bit dark maybe), and we agreed that you need to be in a kick ass mood to wear it, but it spoke hauntingly to us of a bygone era of glamour and formality - and who knows, maybe someone had wafted it in the very function room in which we were sitting, at some point in the last 80 years...

CHANEL NO 19 EXTRAIT

We smelt the actual bottle top of this one, and the fact that I haven't taken any notes about it except the phrase "recent formulation" says to me that there wasn't a lot of discussion on the subject. I recall it as smelling like No 19, only more so. Hey, what do I know? I'm a Poudré girl, so shoot me!

CUIR DE LANCÔME

I introduced Nick to this one, to which he kindly made reference: we did a swap when he was still in Bristol and in return I got my hands on a sizeable decant of Diptyque Eau Duelle, which has now grown into a full bottle! Nick described Cuir de Lancôme as having "plummy leather" and "powdery amber" facets, and it was news to some of us that a leather note in perfumes is created by boiling birch tar - obvious, when you know how! Nick placed Cuir as somewhere between chorizo (this is not good) and luxury leather, and I would agree. It is quite full-on and slightly rough round the edges but I do love it myself, and would have chosen it as my free sample if I didn't already own a bottle (with annoying wobbly top).

GUERLAIN SPIRITUEUSE DOUBLE VANILLE

This was a Christmas present from Nick to himself, as he is a lover of vanilla in fragrance. Now I too think of myself as a bit of a "vanilla ho", not least because my less offensive nickname at school was Vanilla Mutton, however, I realised from testing this scent that I prefer my vanille to be single - or "simple" as the French might say. Or maybe I could tolerate it at double strength, but not with boozy notes thrown into the mix. Saying that, Tara tested this the following day on skin in Harrods and it wasn't half bad on her, but on the whole I give alcohol in fragrance a wide berth - of the beverage variety, I mean, as opposite to its important carrier role.

Although it didn't figure in the talk as such, we did also chat a bit about the nature of Iso E Super in our Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 sample. Tanya (who's proving to be a bit of a wag!) described it as the aromachemical equivalent of a "woofer", because it enhanced other components in a formulation (assuming there are any, which is famously not the case with Molecule 01). Neville went a step further by dubbing it "the monosodium glutamate of perfume", which had us all in fits of laughter.

After the session, Grant topped up our glasses and we milled around, chatting to other members and inquiring about their own "scented journeys". By a strange coincidence, I found someone with the same thyroid condition as me, and we had a good old chin wag about symptoms, dosages and pill chopping tactics. It was nearly 11pm by the time the last of us rolled out of the club - and in my case, straight into KFC. (Note to self to insist on breast next time.)

So yes, a great night was had by all and thanks are due to Nick, Lila, Grant and Escentual, who stumped up some free testers. Was this "olfactory event" worth the voyage from Stafford? You bet it was, and I have already booked to come down for the next one...



Photo of the New Cavendish Club from whoseview.co.uk, photo of Eden Project from Karen Roe on Flickr, photo of leather ornament from TheWristbandit on Flickr, photo of monosodium glutamate from dltq on Flickr, other photos my own.











Sunday, 29 January 2012

When Continents Collide: Sampling The Le Labo City Exclusives In London, And My Shamefully Suggestible Schnoz

I have just come back from two days in London. No, that is not strictly correct - it was 29 hours in London - but it felt like two full days and more, as I packed a lot in. The night I arrived I attended Nick Gilbert's talk: "Voyage Around My Collection" (the first event of the newly formed group, Perfume Lovers London), then the next day I popped into Seymour Place to check out the new branch of Les Senteurs and watch Nick at work, before meeting Tara of 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!

I would like to stress that I smelt these scents (except for Vanille 44 and Baie Rose 26) "exclusively" on card, and didn't even stop to note down my thoughts as I sometimes do, but am relying on my short term memory to conjure them up again in my mind. Moreover, though I kept the blotters carefully segregated in a clear film wallet, I can't truthfully say that most of them have retained enough of their scent to act as an aide-memoire today. And obviously that was the first port of call on my London visit, and I have smelt a TON of stuff since... So please take these mini-reviews as impressionistic jottings that give you a rough indication of whether a particular fragrance was a thumbs up, a thumbs down or a maybe.

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.

Poivre 23 (London - England, not the one in Kimble County, Texas again!)

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.

(On a side note, as it is not a City Exclusive, I even surprised myself by not hating Patchouli 24, a five star Luca Turin scent I had not dared to try, ever since LT likened it in "Perfumes: The Guide" to the smell of decaying books and chemicals in a lab at Moscow State University. I can totally see where he is coming from with this description, as the opening is very medicinal. The SA said he likes to spray Patchouli 24 on his scarf before he goes to bed, so that it is at the optimum stage of wearability when he gets up the following morning. And sure enough it is as odd as three, but by no means ghastly as I expected - more hauntingly weird. Definitely a dusty library vibe going on, in fact I would go so far as to say that - to adapt 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.

Baie Rose 26 (Chicago)

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!

I was suddenly transported back to the 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

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Lenthéric Tweed: Am I Fabric-ating False Memories Of My Mother?

My mother would have been 92 this year. That is old, but by no means unusual these days: my aunt is 91 and my dad's cousin just turned 92, and celebrated by selling her life's work of paintings in one go (76 at the last count!).

But sadly, my mother died 13 years ago today, when she was 78. She had really hoped to make it to 80, but it was not to be. I miss her as keenly now as if it were yesterday. In a post in 2010 on Bonkers, I wrote about my mother's death and reflected back on her "scented past" - pretty threadbare basically - and not helped by a thoughtless Christmas gift of Rochas Byzance from me. I thought it worth linking back to it on this, her "anniversary", as Bonkers was even smaller back then, and some readers may have missed it. Apart from anything, it is notable for being a rare example of a Bonkers post written in a sombre and largely unfacetious tone.

Since I wrote it, I sought out a purse spray of Lenthéric Tweed, which is the perfume I think she wore of her own accord. I certainly remember seeing a chequered tin of the talcum powder, and had a notion that my mother also owned the perfume. I am not sure of the exact vintage of the one I managed to find on Ebay - it may not be quite old enough - but it certainly doesn't smell contemporary. It has that forbidding, rather manly, chypre quality to it of its Lenthéric stable mate, Style, or perhaps of Cabochard. I say "chypre" - Fragrantica describe the base as "oriental" - and looking at the notes it does seem to have a foot in both camps. I couldn't find a single "proper" review of Tweed, which in itself may be significant.

Top notes - bergamot, cinnamon and geranium
Middle notes - ylang-ylang, jasmine, lavender and orange flower
Basenotes - oakmoss, patchouli, sandalwood, benzoin, vanilla and vetiver

Hmm, the notes do look a bit austere to me. I was going to say "dog's breakfast", but that might sound disrespectful. I sprayed it on last night and again this morning, and it wasn't for me. I could imagine it being the signature scent of a very strict maths mistress with her hair scraped back into a bun, if she wore any perfume at all. Though that wasn't my mother at all - quite the opposite. I don't mean she couldn't count or anything - I am talking about the severity aspect. There again, Tweed does smell outdoorsy and a little masculine, and my mother loved the rugged scenery, rough fabrics and sludgy colours of the West of Ireland, which I think it does rather conjure up. And I am probably being unfair to it - Tweed is just of its time, and that style was simply too green / sharp / mossy for my taste.

So I don't really want to associate Tweed with my mum after all. Or maybe just the talcum powder, which I think was innocuous enough. And nor do I want to associate her with Rochas Byzance particularly. And when I cleared out her house I also found a bottle of Opium, which still smells good today. How did she come by that? I will never know.

So I guess I will just have to accept that I have this passionate perfume interest now, and I also have many happy memories of my mother. However, good - and genuine - perfume memories of her may forever elude me.


Photo of tweed fabric from harristweedshop.ocm, other photos my own

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

KLOUT: A Force To Be Reckoned With Or Kommercial Klaptrap Koncealed As Kudos?

I used to do Pilates. Then in December, my instructor upped and emigrated to New Zealand, and I haven't done any exercise since. December was probably also the last time I did any "klouting" to speak of. For anyone not familiar with Klout, it is the latest social media craze. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, where you can have actual conversations (after a fashion) with other members, the way you interact on Klout is by awarding...well, klouts...to other people whom you consider to be influential in a chosen field, be they journalists, TV presenters, bloggers or whoever. A klout is like a token of approval, a recognition of merit, and the more you receive, the higher your ranking on an index that runs between 0 and 100.

But awarding klouts to other people is just one way in which your overall Klout score is calculated. A raft of variables is taken into account, including numbers of @mentions, retweets, likes, and comments.


As Klout explains on its website:

"The Klout Score measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage you influence others. The Klout Score uses data from social networks in order to measure:

True Reach: How many people you influence

Amplification: How much you influence them

Network Impact: The influence of your network"

Note the phrase "drive action"...It is significant and I shall come back to it later.

I just checked and my own score has gone up 3 points (to 50) since I last looked. Yes, people have kindly carried on klouting me while I stopped dead in my tracks six weeks ago. So why did I do that? Well, partly because I was travelling most of that month, but also because I started to doubt the meaningfulness of the whole Klout system.

For starters, my fields of expertise or influence include Perfume and Travel & Tourism (which are fair enough, given the focus of Bonkers), but also Chocolate, Weddings, War, and to a lesser extent Hot Chocolate, Toolbar and Cougar. Okay, weddings...hmmm...that might be something to do with my posts on Kate Middleton's wedding scent, Illuminum White Gardenia Petals. But war? And hot chocolate? And toolbar??? It is baffling.

So that was one thing, and another flaw as I saw it is that it is considered good form to klout back people kind enough to klout you, so to a certain extent the mutual klouting cancels itself out, like when you retweet somebody's blog post and they return the favour. Ironically therefore, my being paralysed with indecision lately and failing to klout anyone in return may explain why my score has risen in the interim.

But the main reason why my confidence in the Klout system faltered is the fact that notable blogs, personalities or organisations such as Now Smell This, Katie Puckrik, Chandler Burr and Roja Dove, Andy Tauer and Ormonde Jayne, IFRA North America and the Fragrance Foundation (to name but a few) - none of whom were registered members, but who had managed to clock up Klout scores anyway - had rankings that were behind my own. That's like saying a marathon runner isn't a sports person because they've never entered a 1 km fun run wearing fancy dress. As a measure of influence - even confined to social media - Klout's net was surely way too narrow.

And then, out of the blue, right around the time I was having my dark night of the soul about the fallibility of Klout's measurement methods, I received an email from Katie Puckrik herself, congratulating me on my ranking and explaining that she had just signed up, having read about Klout in a "well-placed article" in the NY Times. However, her early enthusiasm was already tempered by a reservation about which social media were being analysed, Katie being of course famous in particular for her blog and her YouTube perfume reviews.

Katie: "...unless I'm mistaken, they only seem to take Twitter/Facebook into account, at least judging from the stats they pull up. I have a sneaking feeling that my YouTube activities aren't factored into my ranking."

So I wrote back, explaining my own misgivings, and a Klout-centric "Perfume Pen Pals" exchange ensued. Katie sent me the link to the article in the NY Times, which further confirmed my surprise that I had such a high score - a score that would gain me admittance to exclusive society bashes in Manhattan, no less - which seemed a very silly state of affairs, given the relative nobody I actually am.

Vanessa: "Well, I found that NYT article really quite surprising - in a strange Emperor's new clothes kind of a way. At 47 (my Klout score at the time, not my age), I might just be admitted to those velvet rope do's - seems quite topsy turvy really."

Katie, meanwhile, wrote to Klout, inquiring about the basis of the rankings, specifically whether her YouTube and Blogger presence was factored into her overall score.

It sounds almost too good to be true, but the person who replied to her email was called Kameron (with a "K"!) Maybe all the staff have to kloutify their Christian names as a condition of working there... : - )

Hi Katie

I apologize for the delay.

At this time, the only networks that contribute to your Klout score is Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare and Google+. The other networks that you can connect for your Klout profile, we are still testing.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

Thank you,
Kameron

So far, so lopsided. I had not even heard of Foursquare, for instance, so how influential can that be? And Google+ is pretty new.

Vanessa: "...YouTube is absolutely massive - think of the reach and impact of those viral clips of cats playing the piano etc that are seen and circulated by millions. How is that not influence? And what about the luminaries who are very influential, but do not engage with social media particularly - like Luca Turin? At least I don't think he does, whereas I have seen photos of Andy Tauer's hotel rooms in London and Chicago, and one of a chicken in his oven."

And then I started wondering about what Klout is trying to achieve at the end of the day, and have a feeling it might be something to do with linking up influential people (as determined by Klout) and brand owners.

"Free Stuff

Klout Perks are exclusive products or experiences that you earn based on your influence. Influencers have earned sweet Perks like laptops and airline tickets."

Sweet perks, eh?

"Don't Stress

You have no obligation to talk about the product. You're
welcome to tell the world you love it, you dislike it, or say nothing at all."

No worries - I had no intention of stressing!

Then in the FAQs on Perks we learn more about how their location is determined:

"Often companies are interested in giving Perks to influencers in a specific neighborhood. For instance, pizzerias in North Beach don't care how influential you are if you live in NYC. We look at a collection of data to determine your location, including the zip code that you put in your Klout profile, your Facebook location and your Twitter location (don't worry, we never share our data)."

Well, hold on a minute...the Klout people don't appear to have determined my location very closely. The only perk I have earned so far is a $10 voucher off an online sports gear company that I have never heard of, and which I can confirm is nowhere near where I live and exert my all-important influence... ; - )

And finally, when you click on the "Business" tab of the Klout website, the full purpose of the scheme becomes apparent.

"Klout measures influence based on the ability to drive action, not potentially misleading metrics like follower or friend count."

"Drive action" is the key phrase here - it isn't about driving action for its own sake but ultimately - or so it seems to me - about driving consumer purchases.

"Klout has analyzed over 85 million people on major social networks, and is used by over 3000 brands and applications."

And now for the bottom line:

Your customers don't trust advertising, they trust their peers and influencers. Get your product into the right hands and let them do the talking for you.

So by engaging with social media generally and by busily klouting one another and increasing our scores, we are grooming ourselves to become better brand ambassadors for a host of consumer products, like self-fattening farm animals.

Katie: "There I was thinking it was a simple aggregator, ranking influence in a social stock market kind of way, when in fact it exists primarily to make Klout bigger. And in such a clever way, because here we are scrambling around to get Klout to acknowledge us, while all they are interested in is that we acknowledge it."

So tell me, are you bothered about "doing the talking" for a pizzeria in North Beach or wherever you may live? And if consumers don't trust advertising, having seen how we may be being used as brand "mules", do you still trust Klout?

Now I gather that HR Managers are starting to look at Klout rankings as a measure of what sort of "mover and shaker" a job candidate might be. Perhaps they are the new gap year or Duke of Edinburgh award. So I am not saying that an individual might not benefit in terms of career advancement or admission to fashion shows and the like on the strength of his or her Klout score. However, fundamentally it smacks to me of a peer network marketing scheme built on vanity.

In fact, on an impulse I just googled "Klout" and "vanity", and found an article describing it as the "ultimate vanity metric". So there you go - there's an actual term for it!

And to everyone who has klouted me up to this point, thanks for that, as I know it was done in good faith and I appreciate the support. Only now I am not so sure that Klout has all the klout it's kracked up to have. And neither does Katie, despite having a "K" in her name...


Photo of Klout screen from offthegrid-pr.com, photo of graph from ubergizmo.com, photo of chocolate from en.wikipedia.org, photo of Katie from beauty-video-tutorial.com, photo of Katie Puckrik Smells from handpickedmedia.co.uk, photo of velvet rope from howtobeamoneymagnet.com, photo of cat playing the piano from curezone.com, photo of pizza restaurant from foodhoe.com, photo of Klout logo from level343.com

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Top Sniffs - And Nasty Niffs - of 2011!

This is my third "Top Sniffs and Nasty Niffs" post on Bonkers, and I note that I am a little earlier with it this year - I just snuck my 2010 list in at the end of January last time.

I will follow more or less the same format, and as ever the same caveats apply:

I haven't smelt most of the 2011 releases

Yes, once again I've looked back at the Bible which is Now Smell This's compilation of releases, and there are loads of fragrances I haven't tried in both the niche and designer categories. There are simply too many perfumes coming out each year to track. And even though I try to be quite focused in my approach, I still can't keep up with the new launches. For example, there has been a lot of excitement on the blogs this year about Aftelier Secret Garden and DSH Pandora, neither of which has crossed my path (not that I think they would appeal particularly, but still).

And I was in Zurich twice this year - including in Andy Tauer's mate's shop(!) - but there was neither sight nor sound of The Pentachords. Nor did I manage to catch up with Sonoma Scent Fig Tree, Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée or Ambre Nue, Myrrhiad from the Huitième Art range, Blask from Humiecki & Graef (though the name alone is reeling me in), Byredo Seven Veils (another teaser name!), Neela Vermeire's fun trio or the Agonist line, to name but a few.

On the other hand, I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to sniff the 2011 ranges from Blood Concept, Olfactive Studio and Andrea Maack, as well as the latest launches by Parfumerie Générale, Miller Harris, Armani Privé and Hermès. Moreover, thanks to the good offices of fellow bloggers, I was sent samples of some other hard to come by scents like Diane von Furstenberg Diane and Cartier L'Heure Fougueuse (thanks, Natalie and Suzanne!) So I haven't done too badly all things considered, greatly helped by my peripatetic job.

It is only my opinion

It is always worth repeating - especially when I get to the "Nasty Niffs" section - that this list is based on my own highly subjective and somewhat shy and retiring taste. If readers have an idea of the fragrance styles which appeal to me, they may find these assessments (or flippant nuggets, as many of them are) helpful in the overall mix of views, to compare against those of bloggers with markedly different taste from mine.

WARNING - "BEST OF" LIST REGURGITATION ALERT!

Yes, I am sorry - it is not intentional, and I deliberately haven't looked at any "Best of" round up posts since they came out (which is a while ago now), but inevitably there will be major crossover - if not quite complete congruence! - with other bloggers' top scents. So apologies in advance for any sense of "déjà lu" readers may experience.


OVERALL TOP SNIFF OF 2011

If I confine myself to scents actually released in 2011, once again it is a dead heat between two contenders, this time a niche and a designer one...(You didn't shoot me last year for indecision, but feel free to take a pot shot now!)

Amouage Honour Woman

A heartbreaking white floral blend showcasing a prettily sexy tuberose note, balanced with an astringent dash of rhubarb, and seguing into a moody incense and vetiver base. Guaranteed to make the wearer feel pert, alert and a shameless flirt. What's not to love?!



Prada Candy

In her review of Prada Candy on Grain de Musc, Denyse Beaulieu quotes Marian Bendeth, the global fragrance expert, explaining the rationale behind the scent: "It's for women in their 40s who are freakin' out!" Denyse goes on to add her own take: "a few grams of sweetness in a brutal world are nothing to sniff at", and I couldn't agree more. Trust me, I've tested it and Candy also works a treat for the over 50's.



Between the caramel and vanilla it has a sweet and girlish facet that may well represent lost youth (apart from anything, we children of the 60s ate far too many sweets, as evidenced by our amalgam smiles forty years on). Meanwhile, the fluffy benzoin serves as - no, I'm not going to say an angora sweater or a cashmere stole - Candy is more enveloping and protective than that. It's a flak jacket or a 13 tog duvet to wrap yourself in on the sofa while watching Desperate Housewives. For you are insulated from the ills of the world while wearing Candy, even the dispiriting realisation that it is downhill from here - dermatologically and in most ways, really - all the way to the free bus pass (assuming that that perk, like pensions, is not deferred till we are dead).




TOP SNIFFS OF 2011 (NICHE)

Amouage Honour Woman (see above)

Hermès Santal Massoia (ghostly milky sandalwood - blink and you'll miss it)



Armani Privé La Femme Bleue (not enough chocolate, but the gleaming bluebottle's bottom of a bottle cuts it a lot of slack)

Penhaligon's Juniper Sling (thirst aid for a heatwave)



By Kilian Sweet Redemption (the tail end of an Indian summer)

Serge Lutens Vitriol d'Oeillet (the carnation version of Bas de Soie, and I don't even like carnation)



TOP SNIFFS OF 2011 (DESIGNER)

Prada Candy (as above)

Bottega Veneta EDP (apricot suede mist - how Daim Blond should have smelt instead of being "suede-scented white noise")

I bought Mrs Bonkers Senior Bottega Veneta for Christmas, taking her full bottle collection to three: Coco Chanel, Burberry Original Woman, and this one. Now it so happens that Michel Almairac, the nose behind Bottega Veneta, also created Burberry Woman. How many other people can claim that two thirds of their perfume collection is by Michel Almairac?



Tom Ford Violet Blonde (more a case of Iris & Jasmine Blonde, but that's fine by me)

Cartier Baiser Volé (lipstick, powder and lilies in HD, 3D and any other "D" that is well-defined - "DD"?)

L'Agent Provocateur L'Agent (Betty Boo in chaps)



Balenciaga Paris L'Essence (cut glass & green violets)

Thierry Mugler Alien Le Goût du Parfum (anything crossed with Butterkist is likely to be an improvement on the original)

Oscar de La Renta L'Esprit d'Oscar (fizzy orange marmalade)



Elie Saab EDP (radiant, relentlessly girly and happy clappy - the Alpha Movement of modern chypres)

Estée Lauder Wood Mystique (entry level oud)

Diane Von Furstenberg EDP (broadly in Violet Blonde vein, but without the gilded bird cage-cum-retro radiator-cum-hand bell bottle)

Chanel No 19 Poudré (No 19 for wimps - thank you, Chanel!)



It is interesting to see that more of my favourite releases fall into the designer category, whereas last year things were pretty evenly balanced. In the perfumista community, I am probably one of the bloggers with most time for designer scents generally, and my list will inevitably reflect that. However, my selection is even more skewed towards the mainstream launches this time, because frankly they just happened to be very good in 2011.


TOP VALUE SCENT OF 2011 AND POSSIBLY ALL TIME!

Lidl Suddenly Madame Glamour (superb Coco Mademoiselle dupe - weaker, but at 1/15 the price it would be churlish to complain)




FAVOURITE NEW DISCOVERIES FROM PAST YEARS

Christian Dior 1947 New Look (Birgit, bottled)

Had I discovered this in 2010, it would have pipped Eau Duelle off its perch to tie for joint first place with PG Bois Naufragé. Elegant, cool and poised, with a tangy hint of ylang ylang infusing a layer of cold cream.



Puredistance1 (luxe fruity musk - plush yet airy - truly a "1" off)

Cartier L'Heure Promise (the wispiest iris scent, ever)

Stephen Burlingham Truly (a luxe fruity green musk)

Carner D600 (dark, woody gourmand)

Guerlain Cologne No 68 (powdery iris and citrus - and 66 other things, obviously!)

Lostmarc'h L'Eau de L'Hermine (scintillating lemon musk)

Lostmarc'h Ael-Mat (Brittany, bottled)

Amouage Lyric (I take back - take away? - my previous curry slur)

L'Artisan Parfumeur Mon Numero No 8 (scrubbed up iris)

Mona di Orio Musc (another sparkling musk, with a subtly animalic base)


OUTRIGHT NASTY NIFFS OF 2011

Chanel Jersey (being poked up the nostril with a pointy sprig of lavender)



L'Artisan Batacuda (barracuda?)

Annick Goutal Mon Parfum Chéri (patchouli squared, with a bit more added for luck)

Love Chloé, Eau Intense (Chloé + Intense = Tautology)

Most if not all of the Blood Concepts.

(Now I am not above a gimmick - hey, I like the free toy in the box of cereal as much as the next regressive 50-something - but puh-lease! If I wanted to smell of my own blood, I would take up self-harming.)

The more metallic end of the Andrea Maack spectrum. (I clearly have issues with metal.)


RELEASES I DIDN'T CARE FOR PARTICULARLY

As in past years, here are some of the (mostly niche) releases from 2011 that I didn't like as much as I expected to, or as much as other people did, or both.

Tom Ford Santal Blush (90% santal, 10% blush)



Parfumerie Générale Indochine (Posh Spice with a weedy voice - sorry, Victoria!)

Serge Lutens Jeux de Peau (games involving jam-smeared bread boards will only end in baby wipes)

All of the Olfactive Studio range.

(These may in fact have been nasty niffs, but my recall is a bit fuzzy, so I am giving them the benefit of the doubt and upgrading my reaction to mere indifference.)

The other Andrea Maacks that didn't feature a prominent metal note.


RELEASES I THINK I MIGHT HAVE LIKED IF I COULD HAVE GOT MY MITTS ON THEM

Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée (If you can have such a person as a "card-carrying vanilla ho", that would be me, so this is a must-sniff)



Atelier Cologne Ambre Nue ("naked" sounds so much more promising than "sumptuous, rich, treacly amber with a weird herbal note")


RELEASES I DOUBT I WOULD HAVE LIKED BUT AM CURIOUS TO TRY ANYWAY

Serge Lutens De Profundis (sometimes you should stare into the abyss)

DSH Pandora (I may regret opening the box, but I'd do it)

Vero Kern Onda (epic old school chypre by all accounts)

Aftelier Secret Garden (I appear to be one of the few not in on the secret)




RELEASES I BET I WOULDN'T HAVE LIKED AND HAVE NO CURIOSITY ABOUT WHATSOEVER

Far too many to mention, but they cover the whole spectrum from "kitchen sink" niche scents to Hello Kitty Noir and Benefit Ring My Bella.




Actually, I take it back - that bottle is knock-out!


HAVE I MISSED ANYTHING? LET ME KNOW!



Photo of I Love Candy from purpleibis2.spreadshirt.net, photo of Glut book from kaboodle.com, photo of repetition poster from nhsdesigns.com, photo of Amouage Honour Woman from parfumsraffy.com, photo of Prada Candy from ftape.com, photo of Hermès Santal Massoia from makeuptalk.com, photo of Juniper Sling from popsop.com, photo of Bottega Veneta from le-citydeluxe.com, photo of L'Agent perfume from agentprovocateur.com, photo of Esprit d'Oscar from amazon.com, photo of Chanel No 19 Poudré from fragrancesandbeauty.com, photo of Lidl perfume from hellocotton.com, photo of Dior New Look 1947 from fragrantica, photo of Chanel Jersey from herworldplus.com, photo of Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée from ateliercologne.com, photo of Aftelier Secret Garden from fragrantica.com

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

2012: My Bonkers List Of Perfume Resolutions And Why Nobody Needs Two Daisy Bottle Tops

So if Twentieth Night was on Saturday, that must make today Twenty-Third Day, which you could say is a bit late to be making New Year's Resolutions, perfume-related or otherwise - I have almost certainly broken a few before they are even made. Ah, but it is only 17th January though, which doesn't sound so far behind the curve of resolve.

I am very boring when it comes to resolutions in my offline life. Every year I recycle the same old suspects, knowing full well that I probably won't keep any of them much beyond the end of the week. I am attached to this particular set of goals, not least because several have synonyms that rhyme:

Drink more (not alcohol, ideally) - hydrate

Use that body brush from two Christmases ago - exfoliate

Floss more - extricate

Cook more dishes from scratch - marinate and gratinate

Stop pretending to be an American by farting about on the computer till 2am, and get to bed at a sensible time, preferably on the same day as I got up - stay up less late

Eat more fish - eg skate and whitebait

The only resolution I have adhered to from this list is the one about eating more fish (though not the regul-at-ory varieties, admittedly - more your cod and salmon).

So given my dismal failure rate with run-of-the-mill New Year's Resolutions, you would think I could do no worse by setting myself some perfume related ones, so here goes:

Grow my nails

I am an inveterate nail biter, and find it increasingly difficult to prise off the stoppers on 1ml plastic vials. (Apart from which, I have two pots of Chanel Particulière and one of Paradoxal that are about six shades behind the current fashion because I haven't had a complete set of nails of the requisite length since 2009.)



Give up 2.5ml glass atomisers as a bad job

The problems I have had with this particular atomiser style and its so-called "snap fit" mechanism have been well documented elsewhere on Bonkers. Recent retrials have been just as messy and hopeless, and it is time to admit defeat. I know that it is all about the knack - hey, I have the knack - and still it doesn't work two times out of three.



Keep the office tidy

What's that got to do with perfume, you may ask? Well, a clear desk would be conducive to work, and if I don't work I shan't be able to support my perfume habit in all its manifestations, from financing new bottle purchases to decanting supplies and perfumista meet-ups. Today I started the big tidying operation in earnest, proceeding inch by inch, like police conducting a fingertip search or archaeologists on a dig. Intriguingly, amongst the effluvium of printed matter of every kind, I found laminated visitor badges from factories in Slovenia and Poland that I must have forgotten to return on my way out.

And in case anyone is curious, the Slovenian for "visitor" would appear to be:

OBISKOVALEC



Buy what I like, and deal with it

I have given up all resolutions along the lines of: "You must drain all your samples before you buy a full bottle", or "you must wait three months from the onset of the lemming before acting on it, in case it goes away again" - or even the "no list-skipping rule" whereby you buy the bottle you had in mind to buy, and don't allow yourself to snap up something else that you have only just taken a shine to, which then jumps to the top of the queue. All these rules are so easy to break that I will not restrain my spending, just live with the guilt that will inevitably follow. In practice, I am buying far fewer full bottles than I did in the first two years of my hobby - maybe not more than one a quarter? - and have of course largely perfected the art of the "fondle and replace manoeuvre".



NB Perfume sample travel bags are one exception to the above licence to spend. I am the Imelda Marcos of the perfume sample bag, owning at least seven or eight of the things, yet I only ever take one with me on even the longest of trips. Perhaps we perfumistas crave an endless variety of these bags instead of shoes or handbags, but personally I don't think I should be encouraged. Verdict: Stay out of T K Maxx!



Plough through my pending pile of perfume books

You know how it is - nice "literary" books pile up on the bedside table, like Lisa Chaney's biography of Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life, Damage Control by Denise Hamilton or Le Parfum by J-C Ellena, and then on an impulse I will go and buy the latest Kathy Reichs with "bones" in the title, and all my good intentions to read these more worthy tomes go out the window. In fairness, I have actually read Le Parfum now (it was slimmer than a Mills & Boon, luckily), so I may be able to make short work of The Alchemy of Scent, with which I understand it has a large amount of overlap.



Don't keep a scent diary

Okay, so this is more a case of letting go of a resolution previously held. For I did make a note of my SOTD up until April 2011 - quite religiously in fact - and have scarcely been back to see what I wore on "this day last year", type of thing. Nor can I be bothered to count the number of times I wore x, y and z scents, to see what styles or individual perfumes I am particularly drawn to. It isn't that I wouldn't find such information interesting - I would, and I admire the likes of Undina for her detailed analysis of her own scent behaviour - but I just don't have the energy to crunch the numbers.



Lose the nose bag

On the shelf above my head is a brown paper bag that looks like a nose bag. It contains a jumble of un- or once-tested scents waiting for another trial and review of their long term category status. It is the perfume sample equivalent of Guantanamo Bay or a prison wing full of lifers on appeal, and this unfortunate state of limbo mustn't be allowed to go on another year.



Don't keep perfume boxes in the fridge

Cardboard is hygroscopic - those wavy boxes with blurry lettering and tide marks are trying to tell you something.



Next up: the "YOU WILL NEVER HAVE A USE FOR THIS - SO WHY ARE YOU KEEPING IT?" series:

Empty manufacturers' sample cards

There used to be a vial of perfume in there, but it has either been used up or transferred to a travel bag, where the card would be a bulky inconvenience. Once a bulky inconvenience, always a bulky inconvenience. Verdict: chuck!



The innards of Serge Lutens boxes

Serge Lutens boxes have particularly complex internal architecture, on account of the fact that they come with both screw top and interchangeable atomiser. If the innards of the box have managed to strike out on their own, it is time to set them free.



Empty atomisers impregnated with a particular scent

Wash or let go? I decided - against all my instincts - to try washing the more expensive atomisers in this motley collection of empty perfume decants. Will let you know if it works. They may be soaking some time...



Futile funnels

Narrow, with a short stubby neck that is neither use nor ornament. I'd be better off throwing away these pointless funnels and using that nice plastic bag for something else...



Multiple bottle tops

There is a reason for how I came to have two tops for the same bottle. See if anyone can guess - it can be like one of those lateral thinking puzzles, you know, the ones involving a chair, a noose and a block of ice, or where a man cuts off his arm and sends it to another man in the post.... : - )



Upping the ante further, I appear to have about 14? atomiser tops to fit just one remaining bottom in this spiral 10ml size. How on earth did that happen? And why am I hanging on to the other 13...?





Photo of shopaholic from glamriah.com, other photos my own