The next two days were very mixed weatherwise: Sunday was spent watching old films and knitting hats for my hosts - my friend's husband actually wanted his! On Monday the weather was glorious, and in the morning I was taught how to use a log splitting machine and store wood in a large converted dog kennel - my spatial awareness has come on by leaps and bounds as a result. ;) That afternoon we went for a spectacular coastal walk, and on the following day everything was open again, so we could hit the town's shops in earnest - not least Woodforde Perfumery, the Les Senteurs of East Devon. I was eager to see what new lines or individual releases the store had got in since my visit last July - or indeed, what perfumes that were new to me I had missed last time.
|Do those Amouage factices look big to you?|
As ever, my friend hovered patiently beside me as John, one of the owners, passed me blotters. I had a good old go of sampling a couple of ranges: Profumi del Forte and Agonist. Profumi Del Forte I had tried in Berlin in 2011, when nothing had particularly caught my fancy, but this time John was steering me towards scents in my preferred fragrance families or ones which he felt were a bit distinctive or original.
Note to self to write the names on the blotters a bit more legibly next time, but I appear to have tested a whopping total of 11. Apart from anything else I was struck by how many begin with 'V' (almost half!), which to my mind compounds the confusion already surrounding those perfume houses with 'Profum-' in their name:
Fiorisia / Frescoamaro / Roma Imperiale / Tirrenica / Vittoria Apuana / Versilia Aurum / Versilia Platinum / Versilia Vintage Ambra Mediterranea / Versilia Vintage Boisé / Forte by Night Bianco /150 Parfum
My favourite was Forte by Night Bianco, a powdery, musky, vanillic floral that was pleasant without being groundbreaking. There were one or two oddball marine scents in my selection, namely Frescoamaro and Tirrenica (I have written 'dentist' on the blotter of the latter, a reference to its sharply spicy quality rather than a reminder to myself to change my appointment, which I do also need to do). One or two others I could imagine being quite nice on a man, though I can't for the life of me remember which now. Only one fragrance smelt 'mainstream' rather than niche - another musky floral called Fiorisia. I accept that I may have tried all the perfumes too quickly, and made very snap judgements based on the opening notes on card, so if anyone has a favourite from the Profumi del Forte line - on this list or more generally - I would be interested to know if I have overlooked a gem.
Agonist, meanwhile, is a tortured Scandiwegian house of which I have only recently made the acquaintance. This is thanks to Neil Chapman's recent talk for Perfume Lovers London on vanilla scents, in which he featured the 'Play-Doh cathedral' that is Vanilla Marble. Now I had a chance to try most of the range (Liquid Crystal, Black Amber, Dark Saphir, Isis, Solaris and The Infidels). My overall comment is that they shared a house style that I would describe as rather 'cold', clear and edgy - as befits their gloomy Nordic ethos, I suppose - but only one attracted me on a visceral level. This was The Infidels, which was also Jane, the other owner's personal favourite of the line. She kindly let me sniff it from her own personal bottle, as they were out of testers, and I tried both The Infidels and Solaris (a curious rhubarb and grapefruit number) on skin.
The Infidels had a number of distinctive phases, all of which I enjoyed, and though I can't do it justice retrospectively, I did read a number of reviews while its vestiges were still on my skin, and would align myself most closely with this one from Kevin of Now Smell This. The Infidels was elegant and subtle at all times on me. Steve of The Scented Hound wasn't so impressed, however, and found it too hippie-ish for his taste, while Kafka was afflicted with a Juicy Fruit chewing gum note that I must say I didn't detect at all.
Ref the list below, these are very much my kind of notes, though I could manage fine without all that provenance information, to be frank. The blackcurrant was very well behaved - Kevin refers to it as 'blunted', ditto the cumin. This duo of notes is mentioned by several reviewers, although I didn't pick up specifically on either - this may be precisely because the blunting was so expertly done. ;) I was just aware of a spicy citrusy opening with a vaguely fruity facet, followed by a patchouli interlude, segueing into the smoothly sensual woody-amber drydown.
Notes: pink peppercorn, Sicilian lemon, cloves, Indian davana and elemi, May rose, Turkish rose, Sambac jasmine, Egyptian jasmine, Burmese magnolia, iris, Comoros ylang-ylang, Somali myrrh, opoponax, patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver, cistus, Peruvian balm, Lebanese cedarwood, Virginia cedarwood, Indian amber, Bourbon vanilla
|John holding Absolument Absinthe and its vibrantly green leather case|
If The Infidels was the scented highlight of my visit, in terms of sheer novelty value it was another line that wins the prize: Absolument Parfumeur and its flagship scent, Absolument Absinthe Le Parfum d'Interdits, which contains two banned substances we were told - absinthe and cannabis! Well, I can't comment on the banned aspect, as I haven't been keeping up with the ins and outs of the latest IFRA regulations, but it felt quite daring to try this perfume, and the name 'd'Interdits' certainly fosters the impression that this is risqué stuff! Absolument Absinthe is a briskly herbal / green scent and was a surprise hit with my friend, who had only been testing the odd thing along the way. She also quite liked Absolument Homme, which had a marked tobacco note.
Having exhausted our noses' capacity - and pausing for a moment on the way out to admire the humungous Amouage factice bottles in the window display! - we spent the rest of the morning poking around the many independent shops in Sidmouth, which offer some pretty decent gifts and souvenirs, as well as seaside clothing brands like Seasalt and Fat Face.
And there was one more bonus scent experience to come, as the smell of freshly made fudge lured us into Roley's Fudge Parlour! We both ended up sampling and buying some...the lemon meringue variety, studded with fizzing white bits infused with 'natural lemon oil from the Mediterranean', as the owner took pains to point out, was an absolute taste sensation. If I needed another reason (and I don't) to return to Sidmouth with its sleepy, sedate charm, the lemon meringue fudge was right up there with Ladurée's best macarons, and a shade cheaper at £1.70 for 100g...
Ooh look, I see they do online sales too...;)