I am not sure I am wholly comfortable with the new ownership by Esteé Lauder, and one or two of the recent launches such as Plum Blossom have had that mainstream floral, ozonic, Herbal Essences vibe going on. However, when it comes to getting under your feet and in your face, the Jo Malone concessions simply can't be beat. As a result, I always start off any sniffing session with the latest half a dozen or so scents from the line, somewhat queering my nose in the process, and end up being a bit cross with the brand on yet another count. It probably taps deep into some childhood shame about spoiling my appetite by gorging on wine gums right before dinner.
All of the above notwithstanding, I have taken the trouble to conserve my smelling strips, so I can tell you that I tested:
Velvet Rose Oud
Amber and Patchouli
Oud and Bergamot
Saffron Cologne Intense
Rosewater and Vanilla
|Sneaky shot of the niche area while the security man was on his mobile|
Amber and Patchouli was rather pleasant, in a L'Ombre Fauve-Lite kind of way, and I would happily have worn either the Saffron Cologne Intense or the Oud and Bergamot if someone gave me a sample. None of them blew me away though, which seems to be rather the trouble with the house these days. I cut my niche teeth on Jo Malone, and it seemed ever such an exotic and prestigious brand back in 2008 when I was stalking Ebay for minis and 30ml bottles of just about any scent you care to name (except Grapefruit Cologne, obviously). Yet most of the recent launches seem to me more like casually shuffled olfactory building blocks, cobbled together in the spirit of: 'Oh, have we put rose with oud yet, or what about vanilla instead? Or shall we take a punt on both?' Maybe the whole layering concept underpinning the Jo Malone ethos has backfired on them by fostering a perception in the customer's mind that no single perfume is a viable entity in its own right.
|Having a tea - and teal - moment|
Having got up to speed with the JMs, I took my slightly compromised nose over to the Frédéric Malle stand, where the sales assistant let me make my own sample of Dries Van Noten using one of the test tube-style receptacles which Freddie (another Freddie!) of Smellythoughts recently put me onto. They are wide at the opening and taper to a point, perfect for spraying commando. (Sorry, I seem to be rather partial to that word at the moment.) My pride at having successfully negotiated this DIY sample favour was quickly dented by the SA chiding me for thinking Dans tes Bras didn't smell of very much. She proceeded to drench an embossed blotter with the fragrance, which was my cue to agree that it was (of course!) rather a strong scent after all. Or it was on card, certainly. Now I didn't care for the opening of Dries Van Noten (which it's taking all my concentration not to call Denise Van Outen); it was very peanut brittly in the manner of SL Jeux de Peau, but I have yet to do a proper test and pay attention to the drydown - the reviews seem to indicate it is likely to be very much to my taste.
|Denise Van Outen, looking uncharacteristically moody - Source: The Randomizer|
I paused momentarily by the Diptyque counter, and sniffed the new summer scent, Eau Mohéli, a perky violet leaf-spicy-greenish number built around a central note of ylang-ylang. I swear the sales assistant never mentioned that key fact, for I am sure - ylangoholic that I am - my ears would have pricked up if she had. Whilst refreshing, this scent again failed to move me particularly. Patty of Perfume Posse hits the nail on the head when she says in her review: 'It’s crisp, which feels weird for a ylang fragrance.'
I stopped by the Serge Lutens area briefly to try Fille de Berlin, whereupon the assistant promptly extended a blotter. I inhaled deeply. 'Hmm', I mused. 'This is nicer than I was expecting, sort of fruity and more floral.' The assistant loitered for a good couple of minutes, observing my reaction, before blurting out: 'Oh, I do apologise - I've given you Datura Noir!' She quickly proffered what looked like a white spectacle-cleaning cloth, and which was pre-sprayed with Fille de Berlin. The spicy opening knocked my head off and slew the lemming in one seamless swipe, however the drydown - a whole week later! - is characterised by a tender, realistic rose note. As with Dries Van Outen, I think I need to conduct a proper test.
The highlight of my sniffing in Printemps was my systematic sampling of the latest Private Blends - that's the Jardin Noir and the Atelier d'Orient Collections, plus I also tried Sahara Noir for good measure (incense on steroids, but I sensed it might be lovely after a day or so). As ever, Tom is keeping up the 'noir' theme I note, though it was nice to see him breaking away from references to 'wood' and 'oud' in the titles. I liked all the Jardin Noir scents, with Jonquille de Nuit and Lys Fume stealing the show. The Atelier d'Orient scents were more disappointing - and a little bit odd. Plum Japonais in particular was a 'me-too' car crash version of Féminité du Bois, to be perfectly blunt about it.
The very lovely sales assistant, who bobbed and smiled like a sleek black moor hen, made me up a sample of Jonquille de Nuit, which I would liken to DelRae Début but without the indolic drydown. As I went to thank her, I peered at her (generic) name badge and said, with only a trace of mischief in my voice: 'And you would be...hold on...Tom Ford! Why thank you, Tom - it was very nice to meet you.' To which she replied, grinning broadly: 'I am also Julie.'
The rest of the afternoon passed in a haze of wandering. I ambled down rue Cambon, stopping for a cup of tea and a blotter consolidation session in a cafe opposite no 31. Then I dropped into IUNX to pay a social call on Ron the manager. I explained that I had still to make a serious dent in the Eau Frappée light sabre I had bought on my visit in 2009, and that even if I had fallen for the latest release, L'Arbre, there was no way I could accommodate another whopping truncheon in my fridges.
As it turned out, L'Arbre was a spicy woody scent that might have made a better candle or room fragrance. Ron showed me some photos on his phone of this year's Christmas window display, which had been a huge hit with the Japanese apparently, a steady stream of whom had paused to take photographs of the curious and colourful playplax edifice. Except it wasn't playplax as such, though it was evidently a close relation, prompting Ron and me to reminisce about playing with the toy stuff as kids.
I was starting to flag by now, but took a peek inside a Dior store, where the assistant had a particularly sparkly smile.
|The ultimate way to curb snacking?|
Hey, look - I still have the 'his and hers' egg cups to prove it!
Coming up in Part 3 - another perfumista meet-up or two! The picture below is a clue, but I should point out that the cat in question is an impostor...