Next stop was Devon, where I stayed with an old school friend who has recently retired to the Regency resort of Sidmouth. Apparently the demographic profile of the town exactly represents how Britain as a whole will look in 2050, when my generation will also swell the bulging ranks of the elderly - if we are still about! It is the sort of place where the fish and chip shops do 'pensioners' specials' and 'senior suppers', and where you are never more than 100 feet from a seller of mobility aids - even the charity and 'pound' shops had a selection, prominently displayed. Well, not 'pound shops' exactly, but those bargain chains that stock a changing kaleidoscope of stuff they got in cheap.
|Sidmouth town centre|
As well as being an architectural delight, and rather sedate and slow-paced - the mobility scooters have a top speed of 8mph I gather, and that's only certain models - Sidmouth boasts a traditional-style niche perfumery called Woodforde & Co, of which my friend thoughtfully apprised me within minutes of my arrival! What a serendipitous bonus to my weather-challenged holiday, and Woodforde's was our first port of call as soon as the shops opened the next day.
Situated in a picturesque spot opposite the church, Woodforde's is run by John and Jane, who made us very welcome. We chatted about the latest releases from the various houses they carried. On the shop's website I found this summary of their brand strategy:
'Sourcing original ranges from small, individual perfumeries that rarely make it to department store shelves, some of our fragrances are the creations of new, up-and-coming perfumers; others perhaps are the neglected classics from small, historic perfume houses that modernity has (thankfully) passed by.'
Just eyeballing the brands in store, I would say the emphasis was more on the historic houses (eg Houbigant, Rancé 1795, Caron, Grossmith, E Coudray, Lalique, Acqua di Genova, Molinard), which felt in keeping with the town's Georgian heritage. Newer brands included Serge Lutens, Annick Goutal, Etro, Juliette has a Gun, Profumi del Forte and Terry de Gunzburg.
So without further ado, here is a brief run down of what I sniffed in store - mostly on card - as my friend stood patiently by...
Carven Le Parfum - a pretty, generic, sheer and slightly watery floral. I was reminded of Balenciaga Paris L'Essence - it was very much in that light register. In hindsight, I do think I should have tried Carven Le Parfum on skin, for Robin (whose taste is very similar to mine) is pretty complimentary here, and counsels against testing this one on paper, where it reads as too clean.
Carven Ma Griffe (reissue) - fierce green chypre in that general 'retro' Fidji / Givenchy III vein. I could imagine this being much like the 1946 original, though I haven't smelt it.
Acqua di Genova Contessa di Castiglione - Lucy Raubertas of Indieperfumes bottled! Well, it has her Facebook avatar on the box, certainly. Woodforde's helpfully explain the background to the scent on their website here.
Notes: bergamot, cardamom, lotus blossum, lemon peel, Turkish rose, redcurrant, violet, white musk, almond blossom
This was an instant 'high level like' for me, and it was the only fragrance I tried on skin. I should have asked for a sample really. I should have had one of my little snap-on vials with me in case the owners didn't have any samples, or the wherewithal to make one. Contessa di Castiglione was a milky, slightly almondy - but not too much, as I don't usually care for the note - delicate floral. A bit like PG Bois Naufragé without the fig or the wood - and with extra flowers. I know that is a totally lame description, but my blotter doesn't smell of anything anymore! But let's just say: 'Lucy, if you are going to be a perfume, you could do a lot worse.'
Terry de Gunzburg Flagrant Délice - check out the lovely metal pebble tops on the bottles - a cunning stylistic leaf out of Armani Privé's book?
Notes: almond milk, mediterranean fig, bitter almond, bergamot, mandarin, redcurrants, tonka bean, white musk
Well, well! Another almond, redcurrant, musk composition - who'd have thought it? And I also liked this one very much indeed - it was the highlight of the line, and were I not in possession of not one but two bottles of Bois Naufragé I would have been very tempted to make a purchase. It had a sparkling quality that Bois Naufragé lacks, giving it a bright, upbeat aspect in addition to the comforting milkiness that I enjoyed in Contessa di Castiglione.
Of the rest, I would like to try Lumiere d'Epices and Parti-Pris again (respectively a spicy orange floral and a big floral oriental). Ever the good sport, my friend tried Parti-Pris on card and likened it to high end bath and body products - which I can kind of relate to - though I liked it as a perfume all the same. Rêve Opulent, a very diffident gardenia scent, also fitted that bill for me. It was extremely faint, and the not remotely the grand kitchen sink production its name suggests. Then the opening of Ombre Mercure reminded me hauntingly of Lalique le Parfum, noted for its bizarre cumin-heliotrope accord. That said, I am becoming increasingly suspicious of card-only trials, so I wouldn't pass up the chance to try this or any of the line again on skin to be sure.
So as with Sidmouth the town, I would like to spend more time with the Terry de Gunzburg range - and the milky almond Contessa / Lucy. ;-) Meanwhile, here are a couple more holiday snaps, as if any further enticement to the area beyond a bijou niche perfumery were needed...
|Elegant townhouse in Coburg Terrace|
|Coastal walk to Salcombe Regis|
If anyone else has stumbled across a niche perfumery in an unexpected spot, do let us know in the comments!