|Traunsee aka Cookie Queen country, Austria|
Right, so this is the time of year when - as sure as hydraluron is the Rolls-Royce of plumping agents - I can be found still awake at 2am, endlessly googling holy grail night creams that are within my budget, suitable for oily skin and for layering over nocturnally applied serums; that are pampering, thick but not too claggy, and also safe for use on the delicate eye area. And yes, as you can imagine I am still looking, though wondering about possibly giving Olay Regenerist Night Recovery Cream a try.*
And it is also around this time that I can be found rootling in my holding pen / 'purgatory punnet' of skincare products, which I am as hesitant to sling as I am to wear - for a variety of reasons from allergies to oiliness to lack of SPF to out of dateness (and everything in between). But then in a sudden access of thriftiness I invariably fish a couple of moisturisers out, and as long as they don't look like they need to be stirred with a stick, I reincorporate them somehow in my day or night regime. The Dr Lewinn's Eye Firming Cream may yet be for the high jump, mind, on account of its weird, glue-like consistency, slight sting and disconcerting shimmer, which doesn't even disappear on application.
|All that glistens is not good|
Yes, New Year is very much a time of navel gazing, generalised anxiety, and tentative steps towards self-improvement. I plan to drink less alcohol and eat less sugar, yet on Jan 1st I found myself knocking back several admittedly microscopic hobnail goblets of sherry, and dispatching a whole Double Decker in the time it took me to fill my hot water bottle. So that's going well...
I must say that having finally made my highly considered sherry purchase - I went with a Fino in the end - I am disappointed. It is supposed to be 'dry and crisp', and instead tastes flat and faintly sweet, and to all intents and purposes like a bottle of regular wine that has been left open for days. Plus I copped for a wholly undeserved muzzy head after both the times I drank it. In googling how Fino sherry is meant to taste, I chanced upon this tip for identifying 'off' wine:
"If it smells like sherry and isn't sherry, it's probably turned."
So sherry is meant to resemble wine that's turned - and that's a good thing?**
In summary therefore, my New Year was marred by a disappointing choice of festive tipple, dogged by the usual intimations of dermatological deterioration, and to cap it all, my SOTD to kick the New Year off felt all kinds of wrong - none other than EL Intuition, a rancid bottle of which was the only perfume to my name at the time when sudden onset perfume mania struck back in early 2008. As soon as it landed on my skin I recoiled from its discordant grapefruit-forward fuzziness, but my friend Gillie - who is not one for insincere blandishments - turned up shortly afterwards and spontaneously said I smelt nice. We reckon it must have been some felicitous accord of the perfume and the two slices of wheaten toast I had just finished eating.
|I should intuitively have avoided this|
To reprise the theme of New Year resolutions for a moment, I think I might be better off setting the bar a little lower than something related to my alcohol and sugar intake. Consequently I am also resolving to 'use a teapot more often' and 'finish off at least one of the serried skittles of shower gels ranged round the end of the bath'.
And no New Year's post would be complete without a retrospective review of the perfumed year. Or something loosely perfume-themed by way of round up. It is a while since I abandoned my 'Top Sniffs and Nasty Niffs' format, quite simply because I hardly test any new launches these days - hey, I am barely aware of what they are. And I don't even remember everything I have smelt that was new to me, regardless of its year of launch. So a very lopsided rest of post this will be, but here goes...
Roja Dove Danger
I broke my cardinal rule of not blind buying this year when I sprung for boxless, topless bottles of this and Innuendo in a recent Roja Dove 'outlet' sale. (I already own Scandal and drew the line at 'Mischief' on egregious name grounds alone.) Though actually Tara and I did sniff Danger and Innuendo four years ago, and I was sure I had liked them back then. The reviews I could find were favourable in the main, plus my friend Sam Malone, who knows my taste well, said they were both very 'me'.
And so it proved. I liked Innuendo a lot, while Danger was the one that really hit the spot. It is is like a high quality Samsara, with a lovely soft citrus-vanilla-sandalwood vibe, but without the animalic aspect of Shalimar, say. Samsara is the best reference point, but lose the screech. I'll say this about Roja Dove's range: though the regular prices have skyrocketed since I bought Scandal, his perfume always smells high quality. You are never aware of the aromachemicals within, which is not the case with some niche lines. When I told Tara about my Roja Dove haul, she mistakenly read that as 'hall'...whereupon we spent an amusing moment mentally redecorating my (sparsely furnished, predominantly cream and terracotta-toned) hall in an opulent fusion of Chinoiserie and Swarowski bling, featuring black lacquered cabinets, ornate mirrors, and a giant crystal chandelier.
Papillon Artisan Perfumes Salome
If Liz Moores had a quid for every blogger who has included this fearless fandango of filth in their 'Best of 2015' lists, she could buy another horse - or at least another playmate for Jicky, Mimi and Bengal 'studmuffin', Thunderbolt. And Salome is also one of the standout scents of 2015 for me - for nostalgic ancestral reasons, and because it was a surprise grower. I have come such a long way in terms of perfume tastes since my days of being 'VM I hate civet' on Basenotes. Now I have morphed into 'VM I even embrace fossilised hyrax excrement'. Who'd have thunk I'd learn to love funk?
This wasn't love at first sniff - indeed, as Birgit and Tara are my witnesses, the opening on my skin had a bit of an austere, haylike facet that I really didn't care for to start with, though the cosy tonka drydown always appealed. I have since tried WHITE in winter and it is playing much more nicely on my skin from the off, and shaping up to be a cold weather staple.
Giorgio Armani Privé Myrrh Impérial
Uncharacteristically for me, I actually did a bit of airport duty free sniffing at Charles de Gaulle(?) and was reeled in by this soothing oriental blend of myrrh, benzoin, amber and vanilla. I have yet to acquire a sample of it, so that can go on my list of moderately achievable resolutions for 2016!
By Kilian Beyond Love
I had a surprise rapprochement with this heady, gourmand, tuberose soliflore and soon sprang for a purse spray of it on eBay. 2015 has been a bit of a year of tuberose exploration in fact. Please don't ask me what else I have tried - though I did buy a bunch of tuberose scents in Bloom in May, I do remember that.
4160 Tuesdays Goddess of Love and Perfume
I have Bonkers reader Crikey to thank for alerting me to this scent, her favourite and mine of Sarah McCartney's new extrait strength Crimes of Passion line. It is an unctuous fruity chypre with a cocktail of fruit in it including peach, so I really shouldn't like it, but I do. I thought it might be a bit like Mary Greenwell Plum, but it's smoother, more velvety, and with more heft. The full-on fruitiness is cut through with yuzu and grapefruit (though happily I don't compute the grapefruit in isolation) and the musks and vanilla round and soften the whole composition out. I bought myself a purse spray for Christmas!
Azzedine Alaia Alaia Paris - a scented 'WTF!' moment
I have read a number of very positive reviews of Alaia Paris and happened to be given a sample by a friend who picked one up in a shop. I have worn it three times now but am still waiting for the 'WTF' moment to become an 'Aha!' one. The opening on me is some kind of clean, abstract, aqueous floral, a bit like Hugo Boss Femme if anyone remembers that, then it quickly segues into a warm, musky, woody base with a liberal sprinkling of pepper. The base is pleasant but unremarkable, while the opening leans more generic. My nose was never that great at the best of times, and I honestly think I am losing the plot with this one. Why, I can't even be bothered to doubly double dot my 'i's!
Then I turned for help to Robin's review on NST, as my taste has historically been quite closely aligned with hers; thankfully she has nailed Alaia's kaleidoscopic will-o-the-wispiness:
"...fresh, airy, mineral, peppery, warm, all at once. On paper, a chilled watery citrus aspect is more noticeable than on skin, and the pepper seems even more dominant."
So I was right about the pepper at least. Robin goes on to say that she feels this would be an inoffensive general purpose scent that has more gravitas than your average designer offering. So the fact that I find myself underwhelmed by a perfume that five years ago would probably have been just up my street is perhaps indicative of the fact that my taste has moved on to scents that make more of a statement. Like suddenly trying to appreciate the delicate flavour of semolina or junket when you have been living on nothing but curries.
Regular readers know that I take a disproportionate interest in perfume packaging, and my impromptu award for this goes to Anya McCoy, for her adorable orange, bias-beribboned purple box of samples. Of these, my favourite was her Ylang Flower Tincture - sadly lost in my stolen luggage in the summer - but I remember it as a juicy, tangy tincture of ylang-ylang, for that's exactly what it is!
|An Orangeman's delight!|
People highlights and perfume-related angst
At the risk of sounding like a cracked record, it is the encounters with fellow perfumistas that really excite me these days, rather than sniffing new perfumes. To be honest I worry slightly that while I like all the scents mentioned above - like them a lot even - they aren't transcendental as such. I saw a post on the Facebook fragrance site by a chap who had smelt a Micallef perfume recently and actually cried because he had found his holy grail vanilla. And he's a grown man! So I wonder if I have simply tried too little this year for the odds of an epiphany to be stacked in my favour, or whether I am too hardboiled, or have just reached a more mellow phase in my hobby where nothing is going to get my heart racing. I am racking my brains to remember if I have ever felt completely transported by a scent - you know, a feeling of being utterly blown away. I'd like to think so, but as I sit here I can't connect with any such feelings from the past. Even my all-time favourite scents don't move me now to that degree.
So between my lack of nasal nous (which has bothered me for a while) and this new concern about a lack of emotional sensibility, I am starting to wonder whether I should stick to travel writing, where I started out - it does periodically creep back into the blog, after all. Or maybe only write about perfumes if there is a glaringly obvious humorous angle. At times I am perilously close to feeling like a fraud, or at least to someone hanging onto their credentials as a perfume blogger by their fingertips. Particularly as I am no longer bothered to seek out new releases by and large - or even read about them! Apologies for that potentially rather maudlin digression. I guess alarming levels of introspection go with the territory at New Year. ;)
But back to the more upbeat topic of the people highlights...!
These were meeting Val the Cookie Queen, not once but twice this year during the German and Austrian tours of The Monochrome Set. Her epic feats of roadying on her home turf in Ebensee truly saved the day. To that I would add having Sabine and Tara come to stay at my house in August, meeting Liz Moores at Papillon HQ in October, and variously hooking up with Tara, Birgit and Liz in London in March.
|I have organised my stash since Tara's and Sabine's visit|
|Card from Carol A Spiros - perfect match for my new glass cat!|
And the final 'people highlight' is simply carrying on my existing friendships in the blogosphere. I value that network of like-minded friends more than I can say.
Oh, if I may be allowed an animal highlight, no prizes for guessing who that might be...;)
|Truffle Ganache Salome Bonkers, in her younger kitten days!|
2015 also found me on a bit of a knitting craze: scarves, wristwarmers, legwarmers, a greyhound coat(!), and now vintage looking headbands. I promise not to turn Bonkers into a knitting blog, but as I have said, I do feel at a bit of a crossroads in terms of my interest in perfume. Not my love of it per se, but my quest for novelty, certainly. Then I did manage to sell a few albatross bottles in 2015, and to tidy and reorganise my collection, which has helped me focus more on - and appreciate - what I have already, whilst still remaining open to the odd new thing that crosses my radar. Liz Moores' upcoming White Moth fragrance sounds like my cup of tea, for example, and I am also curious about Vero Kern's new tobacco scent.
|Mary, sporting her new coat, which took months in the making!|
Make up highlight
If there is one item of make up I would like to lob into this look back at 2015, it is a Rimmel Colour Rush Lip Balm in the shade Not An Illusion, which I saw Lisa Eldridge wearing on one of her many inspirational videos. It's a warm, reddy-browny-nude that would be flattering on a lot of people I imagine, and which has a cupcake-y vanilla scent that I don't find at all unpleasant, quite the reverse. I also like the fact that even when the balm wears off it leaves a stain, which none of my other lipsticks do, rather needing constant reapplying. And this Rimmel lip balm is only £5.99. No, that is Not An Illusion! Definitely something I chuck in my handbag and find I am using as a default for any outfit that doesn't call for pink lipstick - it has temporarily knocked Burberry Nude Rose and Copper Mist off their YLBB perch, to give you an idea.
So there you have it - a very mixed bag of a 2015 round up that runs the full gamut from dodgy sherry to bargainous lippy and existential angst. Do please share your highlights of 2015 in the comments - scented or otherwise - I bet I have forgotten a ton of things!
*UPDATE - the latest bout of googling has led me to order a tub of Super Facialist Una Brennan Rose Hydrate Peaceful Skin Night Cream!
**UPDATE - I managed to enlist a friend's help to test the sherry, who pronounced it to be fine, but not as flavoursome as some Finos she has known. I promptly rehomed the bottle with her and may yet buy myself a bottle of Amontillado, even though the holidays are well and truly over.