Monday, 25 May 2015

Through the keyhole...a peek at some of my friends' perfume collections...

Longtime readers of Bonkers will know that I am very hot on perfume storage. Not so much in terms of their organisational aspects - one look at the various containers in which my own bottles and decants are chaotically housed would disabuse you of that notion. No, I am very hot on perfumes not getting hot - or wet, or exposed to light. In other words, the climate control side of fragrance keeping. I have in fact written extensively on the subject, going right back to the earliest days of the blog! More recently, I have also tutted in bathroom showrooms, where the stylists erroneously thought to suggest all manner of riskily moist locations for your perfume bottles - right by the bath taps, why don't you?

Well, I will rephrase that - I used to be a bit of a storage fiend...then when I had my spare bedroom redecorated the perfume fridges - for which I had achieved a certain notoriety in the blogosphere - were retired to the garage on aesthetic grounds, where they are pressed into service every Christmas for the overflow of festive fare. Today, the most protection I offer my collection in its sundry locations is relative darkness, dryness and coolness, though even the coolness is a moot point in summer, as everywhere in the house is probably a bit warmer than what the Osmotheque techies might consider ideal.

An under bed location for the best bottles

Anyway, I put my hand up and say that my own system is somewhat chequered, climatically speaking, certainly when compared with the earnest zealotry of my former fridge deploying days.

But notwithstanding my own flagging standards in this regard, I have continued to champion correct perfume storage amongst my friends (I will resist the urge to call them my 'civilian friends', to borrow Tara's term - oh dear, I just did!) And so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some candid photos of their collections. I'd like to say 'candid Travalo photos' like on Tripadvisor, but sadly there is nary a Travalo in sight here. I wrote asking for snaps of their bottles in their 'natural habitat', ie not staged or posed in any way. In a couple of cases, I took covert shots myself(!) but as I don't plan to 'out' anyone, other than to mention their gender, I don't suppose it matters.

I will group the pictures according to location. Please assume women's collections unless otherwise goes!

Bedroom (dressing table) 

1) Comment by owner: 'In a placing entirely determined by the cleaner, who shifts them around weekly.'

2) A particularly elegant display (see long shot featured at the top of the post), and one that is worthy of two angles, in case anyone wishes to home in on the bottles. What an impressive set of brushes!

3) I thought I would also include the dressing table of an older lady, though this display was in the spare room where I stayed - I would covertly take photos in people's bathrooms, but am not so brazen as to enter bedrooms, even in the spirit of scientific inquiry.

Bedroom (other!!)

4) This isn't technically a perfume bottle collection so much as one of essential oils with the odd vial thrown in, but it was such a novel location that it merited inclusion on those grounds alone!

Again, two shots seemed warranted. ;)

Next up, bathroom storage, still a popular choice despite my best efforts.

Bathroom storage (not around the bath itself, at least, or in the shower)

5) This friend gets extra points - and is totally redeemed in my eyes - for having a colour coordinating bath of exquisite beauty. Like those Nigella bread bins if anyone remembers them, but a bath.

6) A male take on bathroom storage! Here is his comment on his system - echoes of my training may be detected:

'Here they are...the doors are usually bathroom, no direct sunlight.'

7) And another one! Apparently, some of this chap's bottles mostly live in sponge bags, as he is frequently away on business. I know for a fact that he also owns Chanel pour Monsieur, Dior Homme and Antaeus for starters, so they may be on deployment at the moment.

8) Back to women now...A rare sighting of Gucci Envy in this bathroom! Loving the ceramic knob on the cupboard. ;)

9) And now, a look at bathroom storage, Bavarian-style. In a modern bathroom by the looks of things. Abounding in Grohe brassware I have no doubt. Ooh, I spy JHAG Lady Vengeance, NR for Her and Hugo Bosss Femme up there...

10) Meanwhile, this friend's 18 year old daughter keeps her bottles in her bedroom - a location I would also class as 'Other', as it looks more like shelves than a dressing table to me.

Messy, but in an approved room!

The kitchen!

11) And finally, here is a shot of a friend's perfume collection - in the door of his fridge! My work is done here. Why, it's me who needs a refresher course of compliance training...

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Results of the Bonkers milestone giveway!

So, once again the deadline has passed for the latest Bonkers giveaway of a decant of Bright Earth Parfums Eau de Earth edp. In time-honoured tradition, I drafted a list of all the interested parties, and prepared a set of balls of wool to represent each person - you know, like those Lotto bouncy ball-type things but less bouncy. It was quickly apparent to me that the differential sizes could be a bit of an issue in terms of loading the odds towards whoever was the big purple one - or even the slightly smaller purple one - so I abandoned that idea and had recourse instead to, that stalwart virtual tombola for when it is simply too much faff to mess about with more equitable alternatives like hats and bits of paper.

And so, according to, the winner is:


Congratulations, Gil! Please let me have your address details so I can covertly send you your prize to Canada.

Oh, and at Undina's suggestion, I do plan to write a follow up post specifically on people's reactions to the box of Eau de Earth - I held a sort of mini-focus group about it over on Facebook and there was what I can best describe as a 'lively response'.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Milano, The New Classic, and a rainbow range of classic Classics - news Travalos slowly!

Back in February I wrote a post about the chronic difficulty I have when choosing perfumes to 'commit' to a Travalo. In passing, I happened to remark that you don't come across the more vibrant coloured Travalos anymore - the reds and pinks and golds, for example - other vivid shades I am more shaky on, as I may be getting genuine Travalos confused with their many imitators. Anyway, very soon after that post, the PR company which represents the brand offered to send me samples of a couple of new products, as well as pointing out that I was mistaken on the colour front, for the Classic Travalo model is in fact available in no fewer than 10 shades!

So I had this information, and sat on it, partly because I got the urge to blog about other thing first - the German tour and whatnot - but also because I figured that a post about atomisers is a fairly specialist subject, and people might want a little pause before I weigh in with another one. Then, just the other day, Bonkers reader Crikey left a comment on that post from February, with a link to Escentual, and the amusing remark:

'Oh, appears the colours are blooming again.'

Well, as I say, I am not quite sure from the PR lady's email whether the colours went away and have now come back again, or whether they have always been in the range, but I have just been living in a monochromatic backwater.

Anyway, the nudge from Crikey was enough: it was high time to share with people the good news that there is in fact a veritable rainbow palette of Travalos - and maybe there was all along.

The next piece of news concerns two new products in the Travalo stable - The Milano and The New Classic. Well, The Milano has been available in Duty Frees and on board a number of airlines since last October, but presumably it is now hitting the wider retail world.

These two Travalo variants are based around a different design principle, for while they still sit on the top of a perfume bottle and draw the liquid up using a pumping action, the actual cartridge inside the Travalo is detachable. This doesn't mean that any less commitment is involved - oh, no, the new plastic cartridges are not intended to be cleaned out and reused - however, you can take the cartridge of the New Classic Travalo out of its original housing and swap it with the one inside The Milano. (This luxury model bears an uncanny resemblance to the Hermes perfume travel cases, though it retails for £35 and has some kind of leatherette fabric rather than calfskin - it is, however, also available in bright orange!)

Source: Hermes

So yes, The Milano might come into its own if you happened to be in Milan, or if you wanted a more refined-looking style of atomiser to whip out in the toilets of a smart restaurant, say, as you touch up your makeup and reapply your perfume. A little bit along the lines of a lipstick case, not that I have ever used one of those. But in this way you can 'dress up' your perfume in the evening, toggling between night and day in packaging terms. I guess we are back to that Italian perfume I blogged about last year - Social Parfum - that came with a variety of extra boxes you could buy as accessories, and which I dubbed the 'Sindy doll school of perfumery'. Well, this is effectively its little sister, the 'Sindy Travalo'...

Oh, and of course if you had multiple New Classics, you could also switch between them. I wonder if I would swap the New Classics over, say if I wanted to take two scents away with me that both happened to be in silver Travalos before. I could pop one of the silvers in another colour for ease of identification during my trip - and/or a bit of variety. I foresee a problem with that though, namely that I have just about memorised what scents are in each of my existing Travalos(!), and the same would apply if I committed perfumes to a bunch of New Classics some day. Yes, given my aversion to labels, if I swapped the housing on them I could get mighty confused about what was where. ;)

Gargoyle doing the honours again

Additionally, The New Classic has 'a new spray head technology, which produces a finer mist to disperse perfume efficiently over a wider area'. I'll be honest, I have yet to test this out, as I haven't put any perfume in it (commitment problems!), but I'll also be honest and say that I don't think I have any need to disperse perfume over a wider area, though it might be more economical to do so rather than hitting my 'décolleté' (I use the term loosely) with multiple squirts instead. Yes, I think I should conduct some field trials on this and get back to you, keeping an open mind on the matter.

L to R: Classic, The Milano (case & cartridge), New Classic (ditto)

I cracked! I decided that it is half a job if I don't put this claim to the test, so I committed a New Classic Travalo to En Voyage Perfumes Zelda and compared it with a regular Classic containing Kenzo Flower Oriental. Off the bat I must say that I am not wild about the plastic cartridge, which looks a bit cheap to my mind, but not only does the New Classic definitely spray a finer, more widely dispersed mist(!), but it filled up much more quickly than the traditional Travalo, or so it seemed to me.

New Classic - just one spray!
You can just about see in the photos that a larger patch of skin is covered by one spritz, albeit it will be weaker where it lands. So I guess it comes down to personal preference whether you want a light sheen of scent across more of your person or a few stronger concentrations at pulse points. My hunch is that you would probably end up spraying fewer times, so it could be a good way of eking out your stocks if that was an issue with a particular scent, not that the New Classic is being marketed that way.

Classic - look bottom left!

To complete the test drive I then took the cartridge of Zelda out and popped it very gingerly - and with considerable trepidation! - into The Milano, which has a hole at the bottom for the end of the atomiser to breathe maybe, and help prevent collateral scenting of the metal housing. I even plucked up the courage to stick the top back on The Milano, albeit only for a few seconds. I can truthfully say it did not impregnate the Milano housing with Zelda in that time, though I did wonder if repeated use of The Milano with different scents might end up leaving traces here and there.

Then a couple of things bothered me about The Milano, namely that once the cartridge clicks into place, which it does do quite securely, the nozzle swivels round more easily and quickly than you would expect - the full 360 degrees, like something out of The Exorcist. And the overall weight of The Milano troubled me - it is very heavy for its size, and I would not want that weight in my handbag, especially not in a smaller evening purse such as one might well be carrying in the smart restaurant of my imagining. ;)

UPDATE! I have just weighed The Milano (in its empty state) vs a Travalo of the classic kind (filled with perfume) - 58g plays 15g, so a lot heavier all right.

So in summary, I was pleasantly surprised by the faster pump action and impressively well distributed spray mist, but I don't truly see the need to swap the cartridges around into a rather clunky, if undeniably stylish holder.

On a side note, I did really like the layout of the email from the PR company, which looked exactly like a blog post, with the pictures integrated into the body of the text, rather than having to go off and click on some big images in pdfs and what have you.

Look at all those colours! I feel the atomiser equivalent of a kid in a sweet shop moment coming on...! Oh and Crikey, did you place your order yet....?

Thursday, 14 May 2015

An earthy yet unworldy scent: Bright Earth Parfums Eau de Earth review, and another milestone giveaway!

Now that I have been blogging for a while, I find myself at the receiving end of more and more emails from brands and PR companies - and sometimes directly from perfumers - notifying me of this or that launch, or special offer, or what have you. I am genuinely excited to receive news from some of my favourite brands, while tuning out to some of the others, to be honest. These emails often comprise a press release about the fragrance in tastefully lyrical 'PR-esque prose', and usually sign off by asking me to get in touch if I have any queries or would like any further information. I never have any queries or want any further information. Oh, and there may additionally be a pdf containing some high resolution pack shots that they are probably hoping I will use on the blog, but I mostly prefer to use my own, which is more in keeping with my Bonkers 'house style'.

So last month I was quite taken aback - in a good way - to receive a very personal, direct approach from the owner of Bright Earth Parfums - a 'down to earth' approach, if you will. The gentleman in question, Nicolas Fromanger, is a French national living in New York. I was immediately drawn to his surname, which is just a surplus consonant away from Fromager, or 'cheese-maker', a subject close to my heart, having worked for a dairy company and in a specialist cheese shop. I even wrote my postgraduate thesis on cheese. But I digress...Monsieur Fromanger is crucially NOT a cheesemaker, though 'manger' means eat at least. I spy the makings of a fine pun in there.

Here is the introductory email which caught my attention:

"i am French based in NYC, made a perfume 'Eau de Earth', all natural flowers scent, eau de parfum, 1 oz, built like a classic, i would like to send you a bottle, enclosed please find some photos
i just started a small ecommerce, you can find the fragrance at
please let me know where to send a bottle
you are a woman, it was made for you too!!!"

'Do I look small next to these lilies?'

Various things intrigued me about this opening gambit: the reference to the scent comprising just 'natural flowers', the blithe disregard for upper case letters, the fact that Monsieur Fromanger (hereinafter known as Nicolas, as we got quite pally, by and by) was selling perfume on Etsy, which I associate primarily with a myriad of handicrafts - it is where I found ex-Mr Bonkers a zombie sock monkey, for example! - and last but not least, the fact that he assumed that the perfume would be to my liking because I am a woman. With the email Nicolas had sent two photographs of the bottle and its box, posing alongside two different types of lily. A clue to the notes, as I later learnt...It was very much the sort of homemade photo I just said I like to use on Bonkers!, but it is unusual for the perfume brand itself to eschew the glossy hi-res shots of a typical press pack. One photo landed in my inbox on its side, while the other was upside down ;) - and the lilies did rather dominate in one picture, but still. If anything, I liked Bright Earth Parfums all the more for these minor malfunctions.

So yes, this refreshingly unslick introduction to the brand worked like a charm, and I accepted Nicolas' kind offer of a bottle, which duly arrived. Even the packaging was splendidly basic, much as I would expect to receive a used bottle I had bought on eBay or scored in a swap. There wasn't even a note inside, or a comps slip.

The box, sadly, was a disappointment. I had been enjoying the lack of obvious commercialism up to this point, but found I couldn't embrace the dark blue box, with its graphic of the earth seen from space - or specifically the sea seen from space - the photo was given to Nicolas by NASA, no less. The bold graphics put me more in mind of a cigarette packet, or a packet of playing cards - or the box containing a boy's toy or game, maybe. It just didn't compute for me as the container of a perfume bottle...


Luckily, the bottle itself did look perfectly like a perfume bottle, and I rather liked its circular shape, doubtless to denote the earth again, with the swirly white overlay evoking cloud cover seen from space - or, for that matter, the spray from the sea - for the scent itself definitely has a feeling of rain or droplets of water of some kind to it, without being remotely 'aquatic', if that makes sense.

Which leads me neatly on to my experience of Eau de Earth, into which name I feel an urge to insert an apostrophe, by analogy with Eau d'Hadrien, Eau d'Italie. Eau d'Orange Verte, Eau d'Hermes or Eau d'Eden. So that was another quirky aspect to the perfume, come to think of it.

I have given Eau de Earth at least half a dozen wearings now: the first time I sprayed it I was vividly reminded of Bourjois Soir de Paris, on account of a big, sweet, heady, rather vague floral bouquet, that was decidedly retro in style. I thought I smelt violets and also picked up on a powdery cachou note. I have no sample of Soir de Paris to hand anymore, but I remember it as being a bit 'too much', almost headache-inducing, whereas Eau de Earth is way more restrained than that comparison might suggest, being tempered by what I can best describe as a 'rained on' quality, coupled with a sort of flinty, mineral aspect.

My mini of Soir de Paris, sadly no longer extant
I wrote back to Nicolas with my initial impressions, as he had expressly asked me to do. I also quizzed him about the note list (see, I do have queries after all!), which he was reluctant to divulge for fear of "copycats", though over the course of several more email exchanges he did reveal quite a lot about the composition of Eau de Earth, including the fact that it took him a full year to finetune. The main flowers are jasmine and lilies, plus some citrus, while the base is "a classic built like Guerlain, and in between the top notes, the medium and the base, I assembled a few so to hold those 3 basic levels together, and one of the hard part was to recreate the mist or spray smell of the sea, that instant pure freshness that you encounter as soon as you reach or are near the sea!!!"

So I was right about the 'watery' aspect...

Nicolas then suggested I spray Eau de Earth on a piece of paper or card, leaving it in a room where I would walk past it often, to see how it attracted my attention and whether I spotted anything new or different about the scent when appreciated on a different medium to skin, and in a more ambient way. So I wrote back, accepting this challenge:

"I will try that wafting trick to see what happens. Your spray smell of the sea could be what I mean by the 'flinty' / 'mineral' aspect."

Well, I had a good go at this, leaving a folded sheet of paper liberally spritzed with Eau de Earth on the edge of the dining room table, and wedging another piece of paper in a drawer in one of the bedrooms, but I can't truthfully say I noticed anything very much - I really had to lean in to catch a whiff, and it was broadly the same as on skin. And this despite Nicolas' assurance that:

"It is an aerial perfume, it has the ability to spread himself thin into the air and expand to reach for attention and capture it!!!"

Well, I cannot confirm the aerial aspect, but the watery one for sure, and both perfume and creator had certainly captured my attention!

On the next wearing, I was hit right between the nostrils - would that be the septum, maybe? - by a resemblance to Guerlain Apres L'Ondee. There was the same olde worlde, wistful, powdery yet watery feel to it. I was still getting (as it turned out) phantom violet, though wondered if it might be iris. Anyway, the Apres L'Ondee analogy really stuck in my brain, and now that I have worn the two scents side by side about four times, I am more than ever convinced of the resemblance. Eau de Earth is more of a 'regular floral' and less offbeat and anisic than Apres L'Ondee, but the distinction between them is much more blurred when it comes to the perfumes' respective drydowns, and they both have a spookily similar 'atmosphere'. I immediately emailed Nicolas with this latest impression.

It seems my nose was on the money this time, for Nicolas wrote back and said that Apres L'Ondee was "one of the perfumes I deconstructed in order to put together later different parts of different perfumes for a new one!" He asked if I could spot Chanel No 19 for the green accord or Hermes (unspecified) for the citrus combination. I now think the No 19 connection might explain the bee in my bonnet about a violet/iris facet. But Eau de Earth isn't terribly citrusy on me at any point. And I was not able to pick out any Herbes de Provence or cistus, although they are all in there too apparently.

Anyway, so far, so very interesting, especially given the fact that the perfume contains no aromachemicals, only the flowers themselves and alcohol. As for how exactly the flowers have been processed, I don't know enough about it to speculate, though assume some combination of essential oils, absolutes, concretes, tinctures etc.

In one of his later emails, Nicolas reveals more about the idea for Eau de Earth - it was inspired by a chance find in a bazaar in Egypt of a little bottle of perfume which was "very much the smell of the Earth after it rained...that scent could remind you of Apres L'Ondee, because it is one of the closest perfumes that gives you that rainy feeling..."

Importantly, however, Nicolas is trying to break away from the melancholy vibe of Apres L'Ondee:

"it is ephemeral, like catching a glimpse of something that you long for! let say a pang, but with joy! and that is what the Earth is for me!!!"

I will be honest, for me - because of the major similarity with Apres L'Ondee that I just can't get out of my head now - Eau de Earth is more melancholic than not, but that is no bad thing in my book. A 30ml bottle of an all-natural perfume that smells like a Guerlain classic and is selling on Etsy for just £18.27! That sounds like a bargain to me.

The perfume is only available in the USA at this time, though the brand would like to find outlets in Europe.

NOT the Bright Earth bottle ~ Source: polyvore

Oh, and I note that Bright Earth Parfums is going for a more 'earthy' (as in 'raunchy'!) positioning on Etsy, describing it as a LOVE ELIXIR (I see we have abandoned the lower case now!), that is "mysterious and enchanting" and liable to "take you where no women has been before!"

So the packaging and Etsy copy - which is its only sales presence at the moment I gather - are a bit cheap and cheerful / cheesy to my mind, but if you can see past that the perfume itself is quite lovely, in that wistful, attenuated, mournful kind of way.

Finally, I thought that Eau de Earth might be a good - and very rare ;) - scent to feature as a giveaway to mark Bonkers reaching one million page views. I am really busy with work at the moment, so will leave the draw open till midnight GMT on 22nd May. If you would like to be entered in the draw to receive a decant of this (men may also apply!), just leave a comment, explaining why you like the sound of Eau de Earth. I don't wish to overplay the Apres L'Ondee similarity either - for as the scent does draw on elements from a range of other classics, you may well get something else again. NB I don't mind posting to the USA and Canada, using the standard wily ruses to fox the customs officials, but obviously I can't guarantee the perfume's safe passage.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Bonkers has clocked up a million hits!

I was on the phone to Vodafone just now, querying some WAP charges on my phone bill, when I spotted that my blog was only four page views off a million! I had realised over the weekend that this was imminent, and wanted to be around to photograph the moment when the counter clicked through into a number with lots of noughts - just as my brother and I used to eagerly anticipate the odometer in the family car reaching each milestone (quite literally!) of 20,000, 30,000 miles etc. Probably more, as we always had rather second hand cars growing up.

Anyway, it has only taken five and a half years to get to this point** ;), but it feels quite momentous all the same, possibly because of the fact that - so far! - I have been the only writer on Bonkers. And coincidentally, my 500th post was only the other day, which also felt like another milestone.

So I took a wee look at my stats out of interest, and wasn't surprised to learn that one in six of all the hits I have ever received has been on a post about Lidl's range of perfumes! Just on their own, the two posts I wrote on the Coco Mademoiselle dupe, Suddenly Madame Glamour, account for about 1 in 9 of all hits, ie 113,610 between them. The only other post to have notched up a serious amount of page views is one I wrote on a retinol cream, Indeed Labs Retinol Reface, which came in at 23,131. I wasn't expecting that piece to have had so many readers, as there are many noted beauty blogs out there you would think people would find before me. But such are the vagaries of Google!

I will be back shortly with a review of a new perfume that came to my attention recently, from a house that seems refreshingly quirky and trend-bucking in every way...

And meanwhile, it remains to thank everyone who has been reading Bonkers on whatever frequency - including the many thousands of people who landed here by mistake ;) - for taking this tally to its nought-intensive total today! I may well host a giveaway soon to mark this occasion...

**Editor's note - I didn't actually install the Google statcounter until quite some time after I started the blog - I don't recall exactly when, possibly even a couple of years later, when Bonkers was still very small anyway. I was hoping it might manage to pick up past hits retrospectively, what with Blogger being part of Google, but I never figured out whether it had or not, because I forgot to look at the stats until much later, by which time you could no longer tell if this was a complete count or not. So I just accepted its tally as being my total hits, whether from the start or whenever. A bit like a child not being two till it's four, type of thing. Bonkers being Bonkers, you could say that such statistical oddities are no less than you would expect.